Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.– Anonymous
Two years ago on October 6th I had to say goodbye to a very special friend. When I was newly divorced, he was my companion and kept me from being lonely. When my daughters moved 600 miles away from El Paso to San Antonio, he consoled me. When I was critically ill, he sat at the foot of my bed for hours making sure I was OK. He shared the good times with me and endured the tough times. He helped me raise kids, provided them entertainment, and all the time showed constant unconditional love. What a friend huh?
But as with all lives, they cannot last forever. My friend was well over 100 years old when he drew his last breath. He was almost blind, he was arthritic, and started having seizures. In his last illness I basically spoon fed him, cleaned him up after his messes, and just held him in my arms to enjoy the last bit of comfort of his presence. As I stroked his face and watch him draw his last breath, I could not have helped but wonder – Am I doing the right thing? Should I let the doctors give him whatever medications he needed to keep him going? Or was that just selfish? Did he not deserve to die with dignity, and not covered in his own filth? Can I just let him go like this? As I drove away from the hospital after his passing I cried big old sobs like I hadn’t in years. I knew that there would be a longing in my heart that would not be easily filled. That seemed like the longest drive I can remember. My wife Molly was at my side as we watched all this unfold, he had been a huge part of her life, and “our life” as well.
I know the quote I listed at the beginning of this blog talks about “some people” and not specifically about a dog. Anyone that knew Viking thought he was partially human anyway. He sat on the sofa with his butt on the seat and this front paws on the floor like a human. He watched TV with the rest of us, not just sitting there enjoying our company but actually watching the screen and barking at the animals. As a puppy (which for him was the first 7 years of his life) he stole food (goldfish crackers, chicken wings, pistachios and an entire jar of peanut butter) like any other hungry kid or teenager would do. He could sleep for hours or stay up most of the night when my girls had a sleepover.
Yep, Viking was a true friend. He was someone who I could rely on for loving me despite all my faults and human inadequacies. He didn’t just leave a footprint in my heart, he stomped a big old hole. I miss you a lot my dear old friend.
“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson