I said goodbye to a friend this week. He was one of the greatest beings I have had the privilege to know—canine or human. Most people love their dogs, so these feelings are not unique, but that in no way diminishes what he meant to me.
He was the first to make my friends feel welcome, and the first to make those that may threaten my family feel quite unwelcome. He slept outside my kids’ bedroom door at night and by their beds when they were sick. He had endless patience with them as they have grown. They have never known life without him.
The first few years of his life were not good ones. He came into my life starving and abandoned on the side of a dirt road. I was told he would not recover from the condition he was left in; that I should not become attached, because he would not live more than another week. Instead he lived almost ten more years, and good ones. Almost all of my adult life up to this point.
I found out last Monday that he had a giant tumor in his abdomen, well hidden by his deep chest (he was half grey hound). The tumor was pressing against his internal organs, halting digestion, and causing kidney and liver failure. His quality of life was already rapidly declining, and there was little to be done.
So, the tough decision had to be made to put him down. It was tough not because it was difficult to decide—I did not want him to suffer—but because of how much it hurt knowing he would be gone. That night we ate roast beef, shared a brew, and went outside as often and for as long as he wanted. I stayed by his side after his many years of faithfully staying by mine.
Returning to the veterinarian’s office in the morning was the longest short drive of my life, yet still seemed to pass too quickly. Thankfully the process didn’t take long, and he did not seem to experience any discomfort.
His body has been donated to the veterinary medicine program at the university, which seems appropriate. Oliver’s last act of service.
Sometimes Doing the Right Thing Goes Wrong
My sister recently broke up with her boyfriend and due to some shitty circumstances has been without wheels, making the whole process quite a bit more difficult. Wanting to help, my dad finds a cheap vehicle that will suit her needs, fixes a couple of little issues it had, and has it in mind to bring it to her.
The only problem? She lives down in the Anchorage area— roughly 360 miles south of the town where he and I currently reside. My assistance is requested, and we make plans to caravan down and carpool back. No big deal; just 12-14 hours of driving to and from.
My dad and I met up at a predetermined location, fueled up, grabbed the necessary sundries, and set out into the night.
And directly into a torrent of freezing rain.
Initially we pressed forward, but every turn on that dark road brought worse conditions. Visibility and traction were diminishing by the minute.
Finally I hear, “I’m losing control back here,” over the radio, and I know our noble quest has been cut short.
“Alright, let’s turn it around,” I reply.
Attempting to come to a full stop revealed just how dangerous the road had become as we were failing to find a safe location to begin our retreat. Eventually we find a straight stretch of road long enough to see traffic coming from either direction, turn around, and slowly make our way back.
Doing the right thing did not go as planned, but over-confidence or under-awareness might have exacted a high price.
Not wanting to let the night be a total waste, we head over to a bar to shoot some pool. The lively atmosphere was cathartic, and we parted ways in agreement that we made the right call. Earlier in the week I made the decision to end a life, and tonight our decision possibly saved one.
An Uncanny Coincidence
A couple hours after making it home I realize that I left my card at the bar.
After briefly weighing the risk of additional drive time in the rain, I decide to return to the bar for my card. The roads are bad, but there would be fewer vehicles to contend with than in the daytime.
In those couple hours the world had transformed into an enormous ice skating rink. Driving was a little dicey, but walking was flat-out treacherous.
As I carefully shuffle toward the bar entrance I notice a couple ladies standing outside the door, and I make an offhand joke about the danger of my predicament. I did not take a good look at them due to the task at hand of not busting my ass on the ice, but when I made my way past them the one nearest to me asks, “Hey, what’s your name?”
I reply and finally look over at this point to see it is an old friend from my days in long-term care!
Yeah, yeah, small world, small town and all, but I have not seen her in years. More than that I recently learned she had been diagnosed with cancer, so this friend from an old life has been in my thoughts.
She wastes no time in telling me that she’s going under the knife soon, and will be cancer free post surgery. What fantastic news I would not yet know of if anything had happened differently tonight.
And so I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to do the right thing, thankful that it went wrong, and thankful that I made a rookie mistake.
In the grand scheme of things, getting the good news a little earlier does not change much, but I cannot shake the feeling of significance. It causes me to ponder the nature of coincidence. I know some people say there are no coincidences, and others say chaos reigns. Most probably think little of it at all.
I am not sure which direction I lean toward, but my mind is open.