I sit here on the couch, a swathe of afternoon sun cutting a line across the lounge. Out the window, across the wetlands and to the far motorway I see a steady stream of cars moving up and down, oblivious to the major trauma me and my friend have been through on this otherwise quiet spring Sunday.
Unfortunately my good friend didn’t make it and I’m looking across at his lifeless body, curled up in his bed. His eyes are still half open and ears perked, as if at any moment he’ll pop his head up, looking around for the source of the cooked bacon smell that’s come his way.
But he won’t. Not now. Not ever. And it breaks my heart just thinking about it.
Harry has been a part of my life for almost 16 years. We got him as a puppy, a long-haired Chihuahua, part Bichon, and one of six in his litter. We often think back to that day and wonder if we should have adopted his sister at the same time. I think too of the rest of his family, where are they now? It seems sad separating siblings like that but we hope they all had a full life like Harry.
Right from the start Harry was energetic. He never sat still. Being fast and small meant he was hard to keep up with, let alone reel him in for a quiet cuddle on your lap (much to my wife’s disappointment). But it suited me and my active life and many times he would run beside the bike on our regular walks to the big tree (no mean feat for a small dog with short legs!).
Even into his sunset years he had the vitality of a two-year-old, zooming around, doing laps in the backyard, racing towards bacon treats and BBQ leftovers or racing away from big, scary dogs. Wherever he was going he was going there fast. Even though he was barely 5kg and small enough to carry in one hand, vets would often comment on how muscular he was. He very rarely got sick, and aside from checkups and vaccinations never went to a vet.
In fact, he was barely any trouble at all. I know what it’s like to say goodbye to a dog that has a lot of complications and it’s no lie to say there is some relief mingled with the sadness – no more daily pill routines or complicated care arrangements – but with Harry he was easy. He was pretty much self-sufficient, never annoying, never demanding – you get the idea – and it just made it that much harder to let him go.
And even though he spent much of sunset years curled up in his basket by the fire, it’s amazing how much I miss his presence. In fact, I had to agree with a study I read some time ago explaining that you actually slept better with a pet in the room. When he was snoozing away in his little bed beside my bed, it definitely had a restful effect on me, watching his steady breathing, rhythmic chest rising and all curled up – I’m feeling sleepy even thinking about it.
I sure am going to miss him.
But I guess, in the back of my mind, I knew this day would come. While watching him sleep, I knew there’d be a time when he would have taken his last breath, and slowly turn cold and lifeless. As hard as it was to be reminded of that we did bring him home from the vets, all curled up in his basket, eyes half open as if fighting off the sleep that was coming. We placed his basket in the usual spot for the afternoon, as another way to ease the letting go that would soon be final.
Come sundown it was time to lay him to rest. It was a beautiful clear evening and I cradled Harry as we both watched the sun dip below the horizon, a little cliche but I did it all the same. I carried him out and we walked his usual trek from our place to the big tree – except it was the first time I had to carry him, and the first time he wouldn’t come back – everything seemed so final. The whisky tribute I brought with me wasn’t enough to suppress the tears, and I balled my eyes out as I buried him.
I miss you so much Harry. We shared a lot of good times and you made me a better person. You taught me a lot about living in the moment, enjoying the present and getting excited about little things like bacon treats and bbqs.
I’ll miss our walks, our mooching around the garden, you trying to jump into the hammock. I’ll miss just sitting, and you snoozing nearby – you’ll never know how good that was for me, and how soothing it could be when things got stressful.
I know I wasn’t the reason for you coming into this world but it sure feels like it was meant to be. We both loved you as best we could, and we hope we gave you a good life. Your pictures will stay up on the wall and I’ll think of you every time I’m having bacon and eggs, feeling guilty for eating your share. I know you’re dead and buried in the cold, dark earth but to me I feel your spark, ever hoping that one day I’ll meet up with it again.
I love you lil buddy, you were a ray of sunshine, and trust me, I’ll miss that more than you’ll ever know.
Harry suffered from a severe reaction to a prescription of Meloxicam from the local vet. While the dosage suggested was correct based on his weight, administering the drug to him for longer than just a few days broke down his internal organs. The emergency vet we took him to advised that normally Meloxicam (also known as Metacam, an NSAID), which is given to dogs to alleviate arthritis, would only be given for up to three days – our local vet didn’t mention this. By the time the symptoms of a toxic reaction were showing (after seven days) it was too late. We trust vets to give us reliable advice but they can make mistakes – it’s worth even getting a second opinion sometimes.