Anyone who has suffered the death of their dog knows what I've been through these past 24 hours; and anyone who's ever had to make the decision to euthanize their beloved pet knows the agony I've been through the past several months.
Spencer was more than just a pet; he was a family member. He was 13 years old, well past his "best by" date and making the decision to have him put down yesterday was agonizing, but we couldn't endure to see him suffer anymore.
Spencer was a dog for all seasons. When he first came to our family he was 10 months old; fully grown and full of energy as Labrador Retrievers at that age usually are. He was a perfect playmate for our boys who were then 12 and 14. The boys soon learned how to "harness" all that energy. They would strap on their roller blades, put Spencer on a leash and yell, "Go, go, go!!!" Spencer would be off, tearing up the road next to our house with one of the boys flying behind him at the end of the leash. It was a two-mile run round trip and Spencer wouldn't even be out of breath when they returned.
More than anything, Spencer loved to play. Whenever a guest came to our house he'd greet them at the door by throwing one of his many stuffed toys at their feet, entreating them to throw it for him by barking at them until they gave in. He could retrieve endlessly. I never had to worry about entertaining the small children of guests because Spencer would play with them for hours. They would climb all over him and he never got tired of it.
Spencer had strange notions of when it was time for me to play with him. I guess those times coincided with anytime I'd stand still in one spot. Every morning while I stood at the bathroom sink to apply my make-up was playtime for Spencer. I'd be trying to make-up my face and would suddenly feel a furry toy land at my feet. If I didn't immediately pick it up and throw it down the hall I'd get barked at. And of course, once was never enough. It always took me twice as long as it should to get my make-up on in the mornings.
In his prime, Spencer was an ardent hunter. Once again, it was just a big game to him and another chance to play. He would patiently wait in the goose blind for hours with my husband, whining happily as he'd hear a flock honking overhead and bringing back every bird that was shot down. On unlucky days when nothing was shot down to be retrieved, my husband had to endure Spencer's dirty looks.
Since I was the lone female in the household, Spencer appointed himself as my protector. He would stay close to my side. When working in the studio I had to be careful before rolling back in my chair because more often than not, he'd be lying right behind me. He'd also sleep on the bed beside me whenever my husband had to be out of town. Spencer loved to lie underfoot while I'd be cooking dinner, of course that had more to do with hoping for a hand-out than playing protector. All I'd do is tell him that he was in my way and he'd sigh, get up and move to a new spot. He seemed to understand our everyday conversations and later we discovered that he even understood some words when we spelled them; like t-o-y-s.
Spencer was a great traveler; especially when he got to have the whole back seat to himself. He would get really miffed if he had to share the seat with anybody or anything. Once I had to share the backseat with him and he kept pushing against me as if to get me out of his way! But, when he had the space to himself he could travel for hours and you wouldn't hear a peep out of him.
He also didn't like the wind in his face. He'd never stick his head out an open window of a moving vehicle and when traveling in an open convertible he'd crouch down as low as he could go and only peek out when we'd reached a complete stop. So un-Lab like!
Over the past nine months Spencer's old bones just started to give out. We had to give up our long walks together, and I missed them; especially our walks on the beach. In the past few months it was proving even too difficult for him to walk around the house. He'd fall down a lot and spend most of his day in a deep sleep in one spot. Getting him to go outside proved to be very challenging. He didn't want to move and even his very active tail had stopped wagging. When he stopped responding to our voices and lost all interest in eating we knew the time had come.
The big sleep came very quickly and painlessly and I take solace in knowing that he's no longer suffering. My husband was very good about removing all of Spencer's belongings from the house save one. At my request, he kept Spencer's teddy bear in our bedroom. Of all his many toys, Spencer's favorite was his teddy bear. It served not only as a play item but as a security blanket as well. He traveled with it and it went with him whenever he needed to be boarded. Now the teddy bear stays on the bench above the place where Spencer's bed used to be to remind me of his faithful companionship and wonderful spirit. I'll miss him greatly. In time my heart will ache less but I'll never forget what a wonderful dog he was and how much joy he added to our lives.