“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe, we are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.”-Roger Caras
It’s been too hard for me to write this post until now. Every time I thought to, my eyes filled with tears and my head became dumb, and lost for words.
On Friday we said goodbye to Charlie, our old and faithful dog. It was his time, but he needed help to go. It happened so quickly, this sudden down hill, and though we’d known it was coming it was still a shock when suddenly we were confronted with the truth of our old friend being at the end of his days.
Last Tuesday Ben and I went down to Byron Bay for an early dinner. I’d been busy preparing for my retreat – the farmhouse was full of herbs and crystals, and I couldn’t even see the kitchen table. So we headed out to a favourite Thai restaurant. We were only gone an hour and a half. When we came home, Charlie didn’t come to the door to greet us. He lay awkwardly on the mat outside our bedroom door, wagging his tail half-heartedly, a look of great shame and embarrassment in his eyes.
His back legs had failed. He couldn’t get up. In less than two hours he went from being a mobile dog, to a crippled and helpless animal.
Ben lifted him up and we took him outside for a wee. He couldn’t stand at all. We checked him all over for ticks, but I could see (with my damned psychic eyes that sometimes see too much) that there was a tumour in his spine that was causing all the problems. Ben brought him back and put him on our bed, and Charlie looked up at me with these soft brown eyes and I could feel him pleading. Help me.
We patted and cuddled him and then put him down in his bed beside me, and I gave him some healing before we went to sleep. The next morning it was almost as if nothing had happened. He tottered to the door at the sound of breakfast, and then he managed to wee by himself, and bring himself to sit back beside me as I worked. Ben and I convinced ourselves he had fallen awkwardly or just strained something.
That afternoon I walked down to our machinery shed with Bert, our younger dog. Ben and I wanted to go down to the river flats and inspect some work we’d had done. As we stood talking, Charlie appeared in the shed. It was a big walk for him, and we were delighted to see him. When I opened the door to the ute he shuffled over, and we let him sit in the front with us, while Bert rode in the back.
We ended up down by the river. Bert ran around madly, swimming and exploring. Charlie walked gingerly down the slope with me, had a drink, and lay down near the water’s edge, a big smile on his face. We had a lovely afternoon, and it felt just like old times – the four of us all doing adventuring things and being together out in nature.
That night we had a barbeque tea and Charlie got lots of treats. It was a gorgeous day all round, and we all went to bed happy. The next day I headed up to Brisbane very early, grateful that Charlie was resting but okay. He had given us such a scare.
But then on Friday morning, just before I started a busy day in Brisbane, Ben rang. His voice was choked with tears. Charlie’s back legs had gone again, and Ben had not even been able to hold him up without causing him pain. He’d had to wee lying down, a massive indignity for Charlie, and he was whimpering with discomfort when Ben moved him.
We both knew. It was time. We’d always said that we would never let our dear friend suffer. So Ben called the vet to arrange for him to come to our farm late that afternoon, and I meanwhile ran around like a mad thing trying to get everything done, and feeling heart-broken and on the verge of useless tears all day, away from my loved ones when all I wanted to be was home.
It was such a strange drive from the city back to our farm. Friday was the most perfect of days. Sunny and warm, a bright sky, a gentle breeze. The whole way I kept thinking that it was Charlie’s last day. It seemed odd to know that, and I wondered if he knew too. The knowledge sat so big in my chest that my throat was full with the grief of it.
Charlie was lying on our back veranda. I sat down with him and he licked away my tears. I felt so much love pouring from him, and I thought it was odd that it was him who was comforting me. He and Bert kept licking each other, and the atmosphere was one of great love and calm. We all knew he was ready to go.
The vet came an hour later, as the sky was beginning to soften. We sat Charlie on the daybed between us, overlooking the green garden and the jacaranda tree, and we held him gently in our arms as the vet administered an overdose of anesthetic. It was a quick and painless passing.
We buried him up in the orchard, between two blue-gums that the koalas love. It looks down over the back of our cottage, and I have a clear view of his resting place when I stand at my kitchen sink. As we stood around, suddenly lonely and lost without him, some magpies flew down and sat above us, and burst into song. We felt like they were singing him home. It was a fitting end for such a wonderful friend and companion.
It still feels strange to be without him. I miss his head in my lap when I meditate. I miss him sitting at my feet, and sleeping beside me on the floor each night. I miss his wisdom and his great presence. But oh, I am glad to have loved such a dog, and to have been loved in return. I’m truly blessed to have known him. Goodbye, dear friend. I love you, Charlie Dog. Rest in Peace. ♥♥♥