This post is No.3 in the Unpublished Series. It was written in November 2008. There have been a number of tweets recently by @kcb1720 as her own dog was slowing down. He passed on yesterday and this made me think of Boddington. As the last para says…. It brings emotion to me even now reading this post but I did find it a very helpful experience to write up my thoughts at the time.
Yesterday was probably one of the hardest days of my life by making the decision to allow Boddington to be put to sleep.
Boddington was my wife’s dog and we got him as a pup in 1996 just after we had moved to our first home together before we were married. My dog had also come with us. Boddington came from the same breeder and quickly became devoted to the older dog. He followed him everywhere and would not be without him. If left alone he would howl the place down.. even if only for 2 minutes. We had to have a piece of hardboard across the kitchen to keep the dogs penned in one end whilst we were out or in bed. This worked for a while. My dog was rather bemused as if to say “Why are you doing that?” but simply accepted it. Boddington on the other hand fostered ambitions to defeat this obstruction. Driven mostly by the fact that the big recyling bins with the dog food in were on the other side. It didn’t take him long and we came home one afternoon having tried a sample seperation by taking mine out on his own to find the house silent. What was this? No howling dog? No… no howling dog. He had managed to get over the board and spent the following 20 minutes with his head in the recycling bin. He was absolutely full to busting and lolling on the kitchen floor in a “I can’t move I’ve ate so much and I think I may be ill ” kind of fashion. This soon became his trademark.. his stomach.. along with trying to get on your knee for a cuddle no matter how big he got.. or how muddy he was!
As he grew and developed he never lost interest in food and would often sit and stare at the plates left on the dining room table long after everyone had finished. Sometimes up to 2hrs later he would still be sat there safe in the knowledge there was something up there and he wanted it. This was characterised beautifully when I took him to training classes. We had moved by now, got married and picked up a third dog. Bod was a bit of an add on at classes really as I primarily went to the club with the puppy. However, he was regularly used as a demonstration dog in the beginners class. This was because he would be very good at walking to heel. The trainer would call me and Boddington out to demonstrate what they should be aspiring to. Boddington would duly walk perfectly to heel around the square. Everyone would look on in admiration and the trainer would point out how close he was to me, how he turned at the same time as me and was always looking up at me for the next command. Everybody was impressed. Although in reality I knew all he was doing was following the smell of treats in my coat pocket and looking for his next one! It’s that stomach thing again…. not uncommon with Labs.
Like all Labs Boddington had an afinity with water… he couldn’t keep out of it. Walking along the canal would always become a swim even if he couldn’t get out afterwards and had to be dragged by the collar. The beach though is by far his favourite and would enjoy nothing more than chasing rocks and sticks. Rocks were a particular problem in that he expected them to float. He would swim around and around looking for the rock that he had no idea had sunk. On one occasion I mistakenly threw a rock out at John O’Groats. Big rollers were coming in and it took a bit of effort to get the daft mutt back who was all for swimming out to the Pentland Skerries to find it!
Bod’s other big talent was tennis balls. He could find tennis balls in the field adjacent to our local tennis courts like the best trained search dogs. He was so good that we had to have a policy. Only when we had thrown 10 back into the courts could he take one home as a reward. The house was absolutely littered with tennis balls which showed 2 things. Bod’ was really good at finding them and the tennis players are pretty bad at keeping the ball in play!
Age gradually started to take it’s toll and Bod’ became a proper old gentleman except of course when he had the opportunity to pinch a piece of toast out of the hand of one my unsuspecting daughters! He had a very very thick coat and it was possible to pull out big chunks of fur. He liked nothing more than lying in front of the fire and being plucked! This was not something to try and explain to friends on the phone after a glass or two of wine… “I’m in front of the fire plucking the dog!… Really open to too much misinterpretation!!
Bod’ settled into his old age quite gracefully and was quite content to lie in front of the fire and chill (if that’s what you can do in front of an open fire?). Though he would soon get up and move if we put logs on. Too much spitting and cracking for his liking. He also became a bit nesh of the weather. Opening the back door in the morning to go out in the rain for a pee was not on. He’d simply look out then look up as if to say “You’ gotta be out of your mind. I’m not going out there”. He’d promptly go back to bed.
Over the last few weeks he really started to slow down and his breathing became short. The vet checked him out and sent him home but I think we knew then that the end was coming. Over the last few days he simply stopped eating… which was really NOT Bod’. Eating was his whole existence! I spent all day yesterday in pieces waiting to take him to the vet in the early evening. During the afternoon we sat in front of the fire. Me reading and Bod lay with his head in my lap quite happily being fussed. In many ways I was willing him to die there and then. To pass away peacefully in his sleep and quite selfishly allow me to avoid making a decision later. Bod was having none of that though and pushed me to my emotional limits later on.
The day ended at the vet with the outcome we had all pretty much expected. Sitting on the floor in the consultation room with his head in my lap again as he slowly drifted off to sleep was probably the saddest, most upsetting and loveliest thing I have ever done. I had to be with him and couldn’t have left him in the hands of strangers at his final moment after all the fun and happiness he had given to us.
The positives are that he is no longer suffering and we will see him again when our time comes. The house feels a little emptier now and we have to make sure that Moss gets lots of attention so he doesn’t become anxious. So far he is doing admirably. The nice thing the vet said was that by making the decision to let him go you are giving him something. Something we humans cannot give to ourselves. After all the love and fun that he has given to us we could do something for him to ease his discomfort and allow him to simply and quietly withdraw from it all and go to sleep.
People who have never had dogs or cats for a long time sometimes find it difficult to understand why people get so upset when they lose one of their animals. The bottom line is that they are part of the family. They go places with you, they go on holiday with you.. Boddington even came on our honeymoon ( including throwing up in the back of the car 3 times in one day!!) and they are always there. When they are gone they leave a very big hole.
We shall miss him very much and I suspect the tears that are rolling down my cheeks as I type will return many times over the years to come.