Twenty years ago I met a man. He was a kind older man who owned a dog. The dog wasn't his originally, but instead, was his son's dog. His son had been killed prior to my meeting this man, and this dog, a Labrador named Blue, was the last connection he had to his son.
That dog was his world. He walked it faithfully twice daily, and sometimes more if his legs would let him. He had had polio as a child and, while he could walk, he had definite issues with walking and it was painful for him. He took the best care he could of that dog. That was how I met him.
He brought the dog into the veterinary clinic I was working at at the time. We met a time or two there, and then I moved on to other things in my life. About 3 years later, we met again. He was a new client and I was a new employee at another veterinary hospital. And Blue was 3 years older.
Blue developed a few medical problems and we saw Blue numerous times. I got to see this man's devotion to this dog. I got to see the love he had for this dog. It was amazing and heartwrenching. I could see the writing on the wall...Blue's time with the man wasn't much longer.
Blue was sick. Very sick. The decision was agonizing for the man. If he chose to euthanize Blue, then he was severing the only tie he felt he had left to his son, now several years since gone. But if he let Blue die on his own, he knew Blue would be in agony, and he knew that wouldn't be fair to Blue.
After long talks with the doctor, he made the decision. He was heartbroken. The whole office was saddened to watch the man say goodbye to his friend. There wasn't a dry eye to be found.
Over the following few months, the man came by the office to visit. He asked me questions about Blue and whether he had made the right decision or if he had made the decision too soon, or too late.
At Christmas time a woman came into the clinic and wanted an 8 week old lab puppy euthanized because she couldn't find it a home and she was going away for Christmas. I was flabbergasted. It was Christmas eve and she couldn't find a puppy a home? We refused to euthanize the puppy, but did offer to take the puppy in to find it a new home.
A call placed to the man brought thank you's but a no, we don't want a puppy. And then 15 minutes later he was stopping by, just to see the puppy. He met the puppy and visited it for quite a while. As he left, he asked for reassurances that it wouldn't be put to sleep, and I told him that the puppy was quite safe. He said thank you and left. 30 minutes later he was back with a box, asking if he could take the puppy home.....
I helped him with Blue (Blue 2 to be exact) personally over the years. Not long after taking Blue II home, the man's wife called me and begged me to take Blue II in to housebreak him, and when I agreed, she asked that I not give him back until he was housebroken. I did. He stayed with me when they went on vacations and I even took him through obedience classes so that he and the man could go on walks together. I watched Blue grow up. I watched him mature. I watched him devotedly give everything he had to the man, and watched the man absorb it.
When Blue II was just 9 or 10, he developed a severe heart condition that couldn't be controlled with anything that we tried. And the man tried everything. But to no avail.
The man swore they wouldn't get another dog. And then there was a phone call from his wife. He had gone to a farmers market and came home with a dog. Thus, Blue III came to be.
Blue III grew to be HUGE. He was, at his peak, 100 lbs or more. The man walked him faithfully and cared for him, giving him all he needed. And then the man got sick.
He was in the hospital for several days following a massive heart attack. Then, we heard that he had died.
We continued to care for Blue III. The man's wife brought him in and made sure he was cared for with the best possible medicine. He was, after all, her connection to her now late husband.
Each time she brought him in, she said "Do anything you need to do to get him well!"
Until, anything we did to get him well, wasn't enough. This week, liver cancer was the diagnosis. We had fought a good fight, but there was nothing else left to do.
I was asked to be a phone witness to her authorization to euthanize Blue III. I got on the phone to make the confirmation. She said yes, this is what needs to be done. It is the same decision I had to make with his master, and it is the right one to make. I cannot allow Blue to suffer any more than I could allow his master to suffer. Please, take care of him.
And so, with so many tears in my eyes that I almost couldn't see what I was doing, and with Blue's head on my knee, I helped the third Blue over the rainbow bridge.
As he took his last breath, I felt a chapter of my life coming to an end.