Goodbye to an Old Friend
We knew the time was coming. If we’re being honest, we’d known the time was coming for awhile beforehand. We’d even made jokes about how we were going to have to “pull the trigger” imminently. When that moment finally came, though, we were surprised at just how hesitant we were to do the right thing.
On March 30th, 2013, my wife and I put our dog Karley down. Karley had been a member of our family from even before the two of us were technically a family. Karley was my wife’s dog. She had started out her life as my sister-in-law’s puppy. Then she spent some time with my wife’s parents. Eventually, when my wife got her first apartment by herself in Indianapolis around 2003, she asked my in-laws if she could have one of their dogs to stay with her in her apartment. It was a security concern, combined with a desire to simply not be alone in the apartment. She had a choice between their two Golden Retrievers, Scooby and Harley. They were both around 4 or 5 years old at that point. Scooby was considered the “better” dog – he minded better, he was less temperamental and frankly, he was a bigger, stronger dog. However, my wife was in a pretty small apartment, so it made more sense to take the smaller of the two. So one weekend she came and picked up Harley, switched out the H for a K, and thus Karley and Holly became roommates.
When I came into the picture, Karley and Holly already had an established relationship. However, it only took a few times of me being on “potty” duty, as well as a few trips onto the couch in defiance of Holly’s attempts at training, for Karley to accept me as part of the picture. By the time we got married in 2006, I’d like to think Karley had become as much of my dog as she was Holly’s.
It’s funny, most people talk about their dogs like they are their children. Karley, though, never felt like she was our daughter. Even as a “younger” dog, she always acted like an old dog. Instead of feeling like our child, in so many ways she felt like an older aunt or grandmother that was “putting up with us” while she stayed in our home. Some of the things that reinforced this:
- Karley was never shy about letting you know she wanted to go out. She came to the couch and started barking at you, letting you know it was time to go out, whether you were ready to take her or not.
- Same thing when she was hungry or thirsty. She was going to let you know that you needed to get to work.
- Karley did NOT enjoy being outside. This became especially true as she got older. In Cincinnati, we had a great big back yard that most dogs would enjoy exploring. Even if were were outside with her, Karley wouldn’t be out for more than 10 minutes before she was at the backdoor wanting to go back inside.
- Karley had no qualms about sleeping the day away. We never tired of laughing at her when, after walking in the door, we’d hear the “thump” of her hitting the floor, knowing that she’s spent the whole day on the couch or, especially in Cincinnati, laying in our bed.
- Karley liked to play fetch; or, rather, she liked to play “you throw it, I’ll chase it, but once I get it, I’m just going to lay down and you can come and get it and throw it again.” She pretty much played by her own, lazy rules.
In the summer of 2008, we shook her world up a bit. After coming back from trips to Africa and China, we arrived home with a new puppy (Hol had just read “Marley and Me”, and I was given a puppy or baby ultimatum – I went with puppy). Bella became a part of our family, and instantly became Karley’s shadow. Whereas Bella loved Karley and would follow her everywhere, Karley treated Bella with a loving indeference you’d expect from an old aunt. Bella would love to play with Karley, and was always jumping on her, biting at her scruff. Despite the lack of effort she’d put into it, you could tell Karley was enjoying playing back, “growling” at her and pushing Bella away with her paws.
For all of the things above, though, the one thing you always knew about Karley was how much she loved. She never met a stranger she didn’t want to saddle up to. If you were sitting in a chair or couch, she would shove herself in front of you, demanding for you to pet her. If you were laying on the couch, she was agitating to be allowed to jump up there with you, saddling up next to you sprawled out, her head as close to yours as she could make it.
Over the last few years, there were plenty of signs that her time with us was winding down. She had a few spells of bladder control that had us taking her to the vet to see if she was ok. She couldn’t jump up as well anymore. Over the last year, she developed a tumor on her back leg that grew to the size of a mini-football, and eventually, by either arthritis or cancer from the tumor, her back legs started giving out.
It was this last bit that eventually caused us to have the serious discussion. Around the last weeks of March, her back legs quit on her again. This caused her enough pain that she gave up eating food for the most part. She’d drink a little water, but she was entirely immobile. Eventually, she couldn’t even stand on her back legs to use the bathroom, and I was having to carry her to and from the “dog spot” at our apartment complex. Eventually, I had to tell Holly that we only had one humane option left.
I didn’t expect how hard that final day would be. I’d always known I’d have to be the one to make the call; Holly loved too much, and it hurt too bad. However, in those final moments at the Humane Society, as I was holding GVH and Holly was saying her tearful goodbyes, I broke. I broke hard. I balled harder than I’ve cried in a long time. We were grateful for the chance to say good-bye as a family.
When I walk in the apartment today, it still doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel the same, not seeing her jumping off the couch to come say hello (or rather, “get me my food, dummy!”). When we get up in the middle of the night, it’s strange to not have her on the ground, tripping us up.
Goodbye Karley, a.k.a. Harley, a.k.a. Karleybear, a.k.a. KB-in-the-place-to-be. You are missed every day.
Thoughts at the closing bell:
- The Tigers are off to a great start, and are living up to their pre-season hype as the favorites in the AL Central.
- Mad Men and Game of Thrones are also living up to their hype. Some people have complained that Mad Men is off to a “slow start”, but I’ve enjoyed both episodes to start the season.
- At the end of work this Friday, I’ll officially be on vacation for a week! We’re heading down to Pismo Beach to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for a whole week. My plan? Beer, Bourbon, and the Beach. That is all. God bless America.
- Tonight, I’ll be heading to Cliff House in San Francisco for the University of Montevallo’s first ever alumni event in the Bay Area. I helped organize the event along with Tracy Payne-Rocko from the University’s Alumni office, and I am so proud to help Montevallo’s alumni association spread it’s reach across the country. I bleed purple and gold (mostly gold).
That’s all for now, kids. One love to you all.