This is dedicated to all of you who have lost a pet . . .

I will never forget my second date with my wife, Chris. I don’t remember it because it was so romantic or that we went to a great restaurant and had a wonderful time. I remember it because of Hawthorne. Hawthorne was a large (100 pound plus) yellow lab with a personality to match his size. As I arrived at Chris’ townhouse in my car, she was finishing taking him for a walk. Just as I pulled up and started to say hello, another dog without a leash ran right in front of my car. Instinct took over and off Hawthorne went, right after that dog! Only problem was that Chris was still holding onto the leash. She had no chance of keeping Hawthorne from running after that dog. Down she went. Since this was only our second date, Chris tried to do everything she could to fall down as gracefully as possible. But there was only so much she could do, and grace was not in the equation. There she was; sprawled out on the grass. I must say, once I realized it appeared that she was not hurt, it was funny to see. She got up; brushed herself off and finally got Hawthorne under control. As I would come to learn, Hawthorne was not chasing this other dog out of malice. He was just having fun. But in the process, as we would learn later, he pulled Chris down so hard, that she ended up tearing her rotator cuff which later required surgery.

By the time Chris and I met, Hawthorne was already 6 and a half years old. Fortunately for me, I missed “the formative years”. These were the years when Hawthorne was difficult to handle. Chris told me many stories about how Hawthorne ate a water heater, wall paper, and all sorts of other high jinks. By the time I came into his life, he was a calm, sweet, loving dog; our second date notwithstanding. As Chris and I continued to date and eventually got married, she moved into my house with Hawthorne. I had always wanted a big dog like him. I had a fenced in front and back yard so that he could go outside and just hang out there.

During the nearly 5 years that Hawthorne was in my life, he would come to be my best friend, a truly loyal and trusted companion. He and Chris made up my family. We also developed routines which became a part of my everyday life. Every morning I would wake up; he would meet me at the bottom of our steps waiting to go outside. He would be standing there with his “I have to go outside and pee” dance. I would open the door and get the newspaper which would be resting on the front lawn; while at the same time he would rush out the front door to go to the bathroom. He followed the exact same path out of the front door every morning. In so doing, he actually wore a path between two bushes. Then it was time for us to eat; Hawthorne was always first. He would gobble down his food in a matter of a few moments; always the same way – as if he was starving. Whenever, Chris or I were “really” hungry; we were “Hawthorne Hungry”. He ate twice a day. (That does not include the copious amounts of treats or biscuits that he got from us, well mostly me, throughout the day). Dinner was usually when we got home. However, if we were home with him, like on the weekends, usually around 3 to 3:30 p.m., he would let you know that he was “Hawthorne Hungry”. He was ready to be fed. When I would come home after being away from the house, there he was at the door to greet me. Whenever, we would watch T.V. on the couch down stairs or eat dinner, he was always sitting at our feet within arms reach. As Hawthorne got older and we knew that his time with us was coming to an end much sooner than later, as an extra treat for him, Chris and I decided to let him on the bed with us at night before we went to sleep. Many a night, Chris and I would watch T.V. upstairs while lying in our bed with Hawthorne right there between us. If it was on a Friday or Saturday night, Chris and I would often joke that when we were younger, we would be out some place having fun. However this was our quiet family time. Truth be told, there was nothing better than that time together with my family, Chris and Hawthorne.

My father-in-law best described Hawthorne as a “gentle giant”. Being over 100 pounds, he looked intimating; until you got to know him. During the time that he was in my life, I never once heard him growl. In fact, Chris told me that the only time she remembered him growling was when he was at a dog park and another dog – how do I say this – tried to “mount” him. I can’t say that I blame him for that. He loved sitting in the front yard on cool days. He would usually sit in a spot. It was “his spot”. He sat there so often that he wore a brown patch in the front yard. I used to stand by the window in my house and watch him just enjoying his time in the front yard. It would bring a smile to my face when he would inevitably roll over on his back and wriggle around on it. Our mail box is right by the front door inside the front fence. So I used to wonder if our mailman ever saw Hawthorne in the front yard and decided not to deliver our mail until he went inside. One day I got my answer. Hawthorne was in the front yard and the mailman walked right through the gate and delivered the mail. I went outside and let him know that Hawthorne wasn’t aggressive; he had nothing to worry about. The mailman looked at me and told me he was well aware of that. Hawthorne, he said, was his buddy. I would often see random neighbors and small children come up to the fence and pet him. Hawthorne would walk up to the fence and just stand there with his tail slowly wagging and let them pet him. That was truly Hawthorne’s favorite past time. I don’t think I have ever seen a dog who loved to be petted as much as him. When we would be sitting on the couch; sitting at the dinner table; or laying in bed; it didn’t matter, he wanted someone to pet him. And like all dogs, once you started petting him, you couldn’t stop. If you did, he would nudge you until you started again. When he was at the dog park, he was not so much interested in interacting with the other pets as much as he would greet the other people so that they would pet him.

Because he loved being petted or touched by people, he loved going to the vet of all places. Most animals that I have owned in the past got real anxious and nervous when it was time to go to the vet. All pets seem to have a sense that they were going there. Hawthorne seemed to know when he was going to the vet too, but he loved it. He would get out of the car and just head right for the front door to the vet’s office, and go right in like he owned the place. Often times he would stand on his hind legs and greet the receptionist at the office. He was like Norm from Cheers. Everyone at the Florida Veterinary Clinic in St. Petersburg knew his name. He would be greeted and petted by everyone there. And when he was examined, he was in his glory. The more the vet techs and Dr. Anthony touched him, and it didn’t matter what they were doing to him, the more he enjoyed it.

Of course the flip side to not being around for “the formative years” was that my time with Hawthorne would inevitably have to end much sooner than I would have liked. As Hawthorne started creeping toward 10 years old, Chris would remind me that he wouldn’t be around much longer. I would usually tell her I didn’t want to talk about that. I would rather just enjoy the time that we had left. Frankly, at that time, Hawthorne seemed fine. The end seemed so far away. Hawthorne loved getting a biscuit after he went to the bathroom outside. He would run inside the house and go straight to the jar on the counter and politely wait for me to give it to him. I would usually flip it in the air and he would snag it as his jaws chomped shut. Then about a year ago, we noticed that he was going outside to go to the bathroom a lot more than usual. At first we thought it was his way of getting extra treats. Then we noticed that he was drinking a lot more than usual too. So we took him to see Dr. Anthony. After testing his blood, it was determined that he had a kidney disease that would get progressively worse and ultimately be fatal. We knew then that his days were numbered. However, after the initial shock of the news and providing him with medicine, he seemed to be doing well.

Dr. Anthony told us, at some point, he would deteriorate quickly. During the later part of last year Dr. Anthony’s words unfortunately came to fruition. Hawthorne started having accidents inside the house. As time went by the frequency of his accidents increased dramatically. By the end, when we were home with him, he was going to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. Chris and I knew it was time to put him down. This decision was not taken lightly; nor was it easy to do. We struggled with it. The most difficult thing for me personally was the fact that despite what was going on with him physically, he was still Hawthorne. He still had that wonderful personality. He didn’t appear to be in pain, but his quality of life was now the issue. Before we made the ultimate decision, I made an appointment with Dr. Anthony. I needed to hear from him that we were doing the right thing. I have to say, I thought Dr. Anthony was going to equivocate and tell us that it was up to us to make that decision. But to his credit, he didn’t hesitate one bit. He came into the room and told Chris and me that we had done everything we could, and that it was time.

The appointment was on a Friday. Chris and I decided to do it that day so that we could have the weekend to deal with his loss and get it together to work the following Monday. Chris cried during the appointment with Dr. Anthony. I didn’t. She told me early on when it was becoming clear that we were going to have to put Hawthorne down, that she didn’t want to be there in the room. She would understandably be too upset. I always knew that I was going to be there with him when he was put down. Chris and I spent the afternoon with him. We said our goodbyes in our own way and then I took him to Dr. Anthony’s. I wasn’t in the office for a minute, when I lost it. I was very surprised that I did that. But it hit me at that moment how much Hawthorne meant to me and how much I loved him. It also hit me how much I was going to miss him. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

It has now been more than a week since he’s been gone. It is taking time to adjust to his absence. I used to carefully put my feet down when I was sitting on the couch because Hawthorne was always lying right underneath me. I still carefully put my feet down. The other day, I came home and he when wasn’t in the house, I instinctively looked at the front door to see if he was waiting to come inside. I feel off kilter in the morning because I no longer have my routine with him. I used to go to the gym after work, but I usually went home to feed him and let him out first. I caught myself doing that the other day until I realized that he wasn’t home to be fed or let out. He is no longer there at the door when I get home. I no longer see him outside in the yard. Yet “his spot” is still there. He is no longer there to pet or to sit on the bed with us as we watch T.V. He no longer follows me around the house or out into the yard.

You don’t realize how much your dog is a part of your life until he is gone. He had a large presence in or home and it is much quieter now, but not in a good way. I know as time goes by the pain and sense of loss that we feel right now will subside. However, he will always be loved and missed.

Hello world!

November 4, 2009

 

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