Today I said goodbye to my Australian shepherd, Brody. Brody had been failing over the last couple of months, he could no longer hear, or not well, anyway. At first I thought it was his old trick of selective hearing, but when it got to the point where he would lay on my feet wherever I was because he didn’t want me going anywhere without him (a rarity) as he loved going for rides. He would rather sleep in the car for 2 hours than be home without me.
The last few weeks he had this occasional cough and gagging that would last a couple minutes. He would also naw at his paws which I first thought was senility, now I know different. Brody had congestive heart failure. He was overweight, by my doing. Always the herder, which is exemplary for his breed, those days ended months ago from his arthritis. He still carried his toys around. If you told him to go get “hedgehog” or one of the other many toys he had, he would go fetch out of his basket whatever toy we asked him to get. He knew them all by name. He also knew who gave him the toys as when they would come visit he would go grab whatever toy they had given him over the course of their relationship. When I say this dog was intelligent, I mean intelligent. In his earlier years when he would chase tennis balls, and very rarely miss, or fly through the air with the greatest of ease to catch a frisbee. That was his “job” and he loved his job. One day when we were at my shop he was outside, a friend drove in and had a tennis ball over their tow hitch/ball, he took it off and brought it to me, dropped it and went running, preparing for the timing to successfully catch it. In his prime he knew such commands such a left or right. On the rare occasion he missed the flight of the tennis ball, typically because momma was a klutz and would sometimes throw it way out of whack, we could direct him to it several yards away with those commands.
As a puppy he loved to swim. Summers he would go swimming in the local fire pond almost daily. He also thought my friend Mark was his chew toy when he was itty bitty. He loved my nephew Ajay like no other, Ajay spent a lot of time with him, including giving him rides and bringing him home treats when he would stay with me.
He was a celebrity, so to speak. My shop and studio was right beside the post office. He would sit outside with my mom and greet people as they went in and came out with their mail. He was inundated with treats which we had to put away and stash because of how many he received. At Christmas time he wore a bell around his neck and would jingle as he greeted. That bell hangs from my corkboard at my painting station. Years later after closing my studio we were riding in The next town over. when we went by the high school Brody was hanging out the window, he always rode shotgun with his momma. Kids that I didn’t even know we’re yelling “hi Brody!” He knew more of my neighbors and better than I did. On his birthday my mom would put out a sign and he had visitors all day, again bearing presents. Yes, Brody had birthday parties. He always received attention when we were in the car or walking, as he was a striking dog, and many people did not know of his breed. He would be appalled and discusted if someone walked by the car and did not acknowledge him…….
He was one bossy Aussie, he demanded much of my time and attention to the point where in his younger years if I had work to do I would call my mom and ask if she would babysit, which she loved to do. He loved to go visit her. My friends all found it so humorous that I had to get a babysitter so I could actually work. He loved my mom and her neighbor and friend Helen. He would run over to her door and bark or talk loudly until she let him in. Minutes later he would join me and my mom in her apartment. When we went to McDonald’s, yes, he got burgers in occasion, he wouldn’t touch the French fries we would always try to feed him until all the meat in the car was gone. You really had to see it to believe it, and anyone who saw it couldn’t believe it. In summers he would delight in kids size vanilla creamees, another treat he enjoyed. This dog lived a privileged life and he deserved every bit of it.
When I took little Lilly in, he didn’t like it when I was going across the road feeding her, or searching for her, but the minute she came into the house, he took care of her. They were busom buds. Oh, he was boss and she had limitations. She was NOT allowed in the front seat of any car, even if he was not there… He was my bossy aussie. I could go on and in, he was an important member of my family and a wonderful companion who traveled up and down the East Coast with me. He would lay with me if I were upset, but nonetheless force me to keep moving when I wanted to lay it all down. He licked away tears, pleasuresd in laying beside the tub when I took my bubble bath, though in younger ages he would drop a tennis ball in the tub for me to throw. Trust me, my baths became much more enjoyable the older he got!
I have known the end was nearing, spent many nights sleeping in the floor beside his bed, comforting him like he always did me. It has been the past couple weeks that his health started to decline. I would pray every night to God asking him to for him to give me strength and courage to do the humane thing when it was time. My mother and I had a pact that we would make the decision together. As difficult as it was, this morning we both agreed, it was time, before he started to suffer. This morning I found him in the kitchen floor, unable to get up, though he did when friends came to help me, but he could only take few steps and then have to lie down.
Just yesterday we visited my brother in his family, all whom Brody has played an important role in their life. When I would travel teach he would stay with my mom, and if my mom was traveling with me, he would stay at my brothers and I would receive text pictures if him dressed up in whatever my niece decided. Hats, sunglasses, shirts, tutu’s. he was an extraordinary dog who brought joy and laughter to many. He will be missed by many. He exceeded any and every expectation I ever had of him.
Lilly and I are both grieving, our hearts have a giant hole in them that nothing can fill. I know from the many losses in my family and life that life goes on. The sun will rise tomorrow, birds will be chirping, and while my heart will still be broken, I will do my best to focus on all the unconditional love and friendship he granted me with. In time our hearts will not hurt so much, the sting will get less each day and I shall never ever forget or put pictures away of my beautiful baby boy.
When arriving home from the vets in which I stayed with him til the end and more, I immediately put all his toys and dishes in bags, which totalled 3! I am keeping three of his favorite toys which he has had for 10 years or more. He loved his toys and for the most part, he took good care if them. Those toys now reside in my memory bureau which all my most prized possessions reside, none of which are worth anything to anyone but me. I have learned that holding onto possessions does not take pain away, it really only adds salt to the wound. He is forever etched in my mind and in my soul. I am learning to be kinder to myself. Seeing his dish and toys only serves to remind me of him being gone, not the good memories that I hold dear. In the spring my mom and I will bury his ashes under my designated tree if life, where my other animals ashes are buried and where wild flowers are planted in memory of Jim, Brody’s dad.
I am grateful for all the difficulties that have occurred in my life as they made me strong…still emotional, but strong, as today I was strong enough to make the difficult decision and carry him to his last gift from momma…the gift if no suffering, the gift of peace. He was too good of a dog to give him anything but.
Thank you all for your kind words and prayers, I have no doubt it helped give me the strength to follow through with this. Thank you to Patti, Don, Maddy, and my mom for helping this morning. I hold such gratitude and love in my heart.
Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest, today was no exception, and though I walk with today with a broken heart, I walk without any regrets, I walk with peace in knowing I did the right thing. I am glad I gifted him with bones and treats, even though he gained weight, as he so enjoyed it after his herding days came to close. I wanted only the best for him, I wanted him to be happy and he was. That dog didn’t spend one day or night in a kennel, and I have traveled all over the country for work. He was always spoiled, doted on, and loved. I am grateful that last year, though very difficult and trying for me, I was able to spend so much time with him. I enjoyed every minute of it. I will cherish those memories. I was also able to get closure in the past week by sleeping with him on the floor (he used to sleep with me in bed but could no longer jump up into it). I spent nights holding him and reviewing his life with him. He had a great life. It is never long enough, but he had a wonderful 12.5 years.
He will never be forgotten, he cannot be replaced, but he will live in forever in my heart. How fortunate a woman I am to have been gifted with this incredible dog, my furry son. How fortunate I am to have been there with him as he took his last breath. He knew I was there, I was holding him, talking to him all the way.
It takes strength to decide to put one of your pets down, but I must tell you, find the strength to do so if you want to. You will not regret it, I promise.