Some may recall that over the summer we thought Buddy beagle was not long for this world. Miraculously we saw him through kidney failure in May (when he ate the underwear and got ill). That was the time we had the cell phone on vibrate during the LTSG graduation service because we just weren't sure he would pull through. Then we saw him through liver failure this summer right around when we were headed to Lutheran Summer Music, and we were afraid we woudl be called in Minnesota with bad news. Each time he pulled through and we changed what he could eat, and dealt with medications. Last week he developed gastroenteritis, and it was back to vet before it was time to be at LTSG, then home to make new special food and administer meds and re-work the schedule between my beloved and I for seeing that Buddy got his several small meals a day and meds. But each time he has rebounded.
As Buddy has aged, his walk has developed into the stiff walk of the person with arthritis, or hip trouble. Turning around had become a process. We began carrying him up and down stairs to avoid a fall after a couple wipeouts on the hardwood floors. We changed the height of his food bowl so he could eat more easily until he decided he preferred to just lay down and eat. I chuckled as he developed a new strategy for relieving himself when he was too unsteady for the tripod. He kind of looked like a ski jumper just before the lunge off of the ramp.
Yesterday, I was doign some much needed housecleaning after we got some new storm windows installed. As I was working I realized I heard toenails clicking up the stairs, and suddenly there was Buddy having climbed the 16 steps without assistance. While I was surprised to see him, my mood quickly changed as he promptly settled down on the freshly laundered linens. I have always been his human Mommy, but this was not a good time or place for him to pick. I encouraged him, OK, shushed him out into the landing and got back to my work.
However within a minute I heard panting and howling and scratching of nails on the floor. I came around the corner to find Buddy splayed on the ground, trying desperately to stand, in distress, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, and going to the bathroom.
It became clear that he could not stand, the back half of his body appeared to be useless. And my always unflappable beagle was now moaning and howling and drooling.
Of course it not easy to deal with vet issues on Sundays, but we are blessed with a local vet who has a love of beagles, who agreed to meet us at the animal hospital in 15 minutes. We loaded Buddy onto an old sleeping bag and made the trek, with me sitting in the back seat with him, just like when my kids were little.
After lots of poking and prodding and listening, it seemed that he may have had either a blood clot break loose, or an embolism, and we need to make a decision. It is time to say farewell to a much beloved friend before heading off to seminary for the week.
Last night I realized that though it drives me crazy and interrupts my sleep, my beagle's snores were not a part of last night. There was no little old man on the pillows next to our bed, harumphing through the night. The silence was deafening. This morning I kept thinking I would hear the clicking of toenails on the floor that lets us know it is time to get up and take Buddy out. As I cooked in the kitchen, I realized that it did not matter that I had dropped food on the floor, no one was there to fight me for it, or clean it up either. There was no faithful friend, under my feet, threatening to trip me as I move from room to room. No clanging of the food bowl craning for that one..last..bit that was missed, as though somehow more would materialize. There will be no tufts of grass brought in from the romping on one's back in the yard on a warm day. No squirrels will be sent scurrying by the wheezing bark of our sentinel.
The one thing that I do have though is the tricolored beagle hairs that follow me everywhere, seemingly selectively shed so that no matter what I wear a little bit of Buddy can be ever with me.
I remember one of the hardest things when our last dog died. The sympathy card from the vet, telling us how much our pet meant to them over the years too, and the sadness of knowing that they mean it. And another collar and foodbowl will go in the basement- we cannot get rid of them, though we don't really know why we keep them. And the empty crate will stare at me like the empty chair of Tiny Tim.
After I wrote this the vet called to say Buddy had just passed away in his sleep. While I am sad for this leaving, I am grateful that we did not have to make a decision for him. Farewell, faithful friend.