Yesterday was a tough day. I took my 12 year old yellow lab, Bo, into the vet’s office. He has been suffering with cancer for about nine months now. We had been treating it with pain medication to make him comfortable, but in the last few weeks he started developing a lot more tumors on his skin and some were starting to bleed. Even though Bo’s demeanor was always happy and glad to see me, he started giving me these looks like he was suffering. This prompted the trip back to the vet to get a more objective opinion.
Well, the news was not good, but expected. The cancer had spread rapidly and the tumors on the outside likely mirrored ones inside his chest and on his organs. It was time to let my buddy rest. He would have kept going as long as he could just to be with us, but I didn’t think that was fair to him.
I took him home and told Diana the news. After feeding him many of his favorite treats, laying in the grass on the front lawn together like he loves to do, we gave his brother Aussie (our Australian shepherd/Queensland healer mix) some time to say goodbye, and headed back to the vet to give Bo the peace he deserved. It was a hard thing to do, but in the end, when his muscles relaxed, I could see once again the care free face of my good friend and companion of 12 years. All of the tension and pain that had built up over the last nine months just melted away and he was at rest. I will miss him more that anyone will ever know.
Since leaving the vet’s office, I keep thinking of what a loyal and loving dog he has been. He was always there at the door to greet me and was always excited to go anywhere with me. In the last few months, he no longer could bear to walk more than a few hundred yards and more than once, I had to carry him home on my shoulders when we would walk too far. He gave everything of himself to me and Diana. My only regret was that I couldn’t see life as simply as he did. I let work and other preoccupations get in the way of those simple but loving moments when we would be reunited at the end of the day. How many times did I simply walk past him on my way in the door or simply give him a pat and go on to do something else.
Maybe that was what God wanted to teach me through our life together. That a dog could love so much and ask for so little yet be content, should be a lesson to us all. As I struggle to find a new job and set out on a new chapter in my life, God wants me to see that it is the relationships with Him and other people that make all the difference in life. Could it be that we love our dog’s so much because they are such an accurate reflection of God’s character?
I have many, many fond memories of Bo. I drove through a blinding snowstorm to pick him up from a farmer in Iowa when he was eight weeks old. I had fifth pick of the litter, but since nobody else showed up, I had my choice. Bo was one of the two strong males in the litter and would certainly have been picked by someone else had the snow not kept the others away. I’ve always thought that was God’s hand making sure e would be together.
When I was dating Diana, Bo would hear her car in the distance and would run to the window, excitedly anticipating her arrival long before I knew she was near. He taught her, to her own surprise, that she was indeed “a dog person”. When Diana would leave to go home after a date, Bo would give me these looks that very clearly said, “don’t screw this up. I want her to be my Mommy”. He loved her just as I do, from the moment we saw her. On our wedding day, unprompted, he followed us down the isle after we were pronounced man and wife and proudly took his place in our newly formed family.
Bo was a gentle and loving dog. He was loved by everyone he met. Our friends, neighbors and even people we met while out on a walk, all knew him and loved him. Just outside his last trip to the vet, a little girl came up to pet him and he gently allowed here to hug and squeeze him without a bit of resistance. The two little puppies in the waiting room at the vet could probably sense that something was wrong, but they licked and played with Bo like he was their best friend. Up until the last, he was making new friends.
I could probably go on forever about Bo. He has put more smiles on my face and warmed my heart for twelve years now. I will always think fondly of him and remember the good times we had. I love him with all of my heart. He showed me how to open myself up and love more deeply. I don’t know if dog’s go to heaven, but I certainly see God’s hand in his creation and I’m sure God would not want love like that to cease to exist. Just before bed last night, I looked at the side of the bed where Bo normally would lay down, and pictured him laying next to God’s bed in heaven. He is certainly worthy in my eyes and I pray that he is running, playing and making new friends in heaven right now.
I love you and I miss you Bo. You have blessed my life more than you could ever know. You have made me a better man.