Yesterday was one of the hardest days that I have had.
As a pet owner, we know the day that we bring home our new puppy, that we are bringing home a little buddy or lady that we’re going to love and adore. I wasn’t there when Tess brought home Stryker for the first time, but I only could imagine how proud she was to have this handsome boy ride with her on the way home and watching him wiggle and look up at you with those sweet big eyes. All throughout his life, he could steal your heart just by looking at you, but as a puppy he was mesmerizing. He was forever handsome with his buff colored hair, his giant paws, his freckles, his big nose, and his wonderful demeanor.
I met Stryker when he was over two years old. He was a Cocker Spainiel who was clumsy, floppy, and made the best sounds when he ran or drove his head in for a cuddle or scratched his back on the floor, grass, or bed. He was immeasurably sweet, with cuddles for days, and trusted you with everything. I used to have problems with picking him up sometimes because he would go limp, but even then, he would go along for the ride.
Just watching Stryker run was one of the best moments I experienced. Ears flipping, thud after thud from his big paws, and running with complete joy. I loved to see him be free and happy. I loved his tail wagging non stop, and I liked how even while being groomed his tail would wag, or at the vet he would never stop. Other dogs could growl at him and he would be oblivious. Stryker lived in the moment and was never not jolly.
Stryker was sweet, but could be a bit aloof as well or seemed that way. He marched to his own beat, moving along, licking bowls, sniffing around for treats or one kibble that made it’s way out of the bowl. Sometimes he liked to stay out longer then the rest of the dogs as well. I remember calling him over and over again, he’d perk up, and walk in. If one was in a hurry it made be frustrating, but looking back, I would give any moment to have him ignore me while he sniffed around the tall grass portion of the yard. My buddy loved being outside and during the last year of his life, he once sneaked out just to roll around apart of the yard. I remember the anxiety as I was afraid I lost him, but he quickly came up when I yelled treat.
One of the honors that I have in my life is that I am surrounded by dogs and have made dogs my passion. I admit, with that being said, I fill my cup with so much love for dogs that it nearly overflows. I cannot think of a metaphor or words or even a proper sentence for how I feel about dogs. Dogs are everything I would aspire to be, noble, kind, sweet, trusting, living in the moment and appreciating it. Enjoying a snack or a meal like it’s the best thing in the world. Enjoying that moment of affection like there is never a greater thing that they could experience at that moment. My buddy was all of those things and more. He was always happy, always jolly, and lived life like few others could. His tail only stopped when he was sleeping and then when dreaming of whatever, whichever, and whoever, would periodically start up again. I wish my old phone worked because I once had a photo of when he stuck his head into an empty coke box and got stuck for a moment, Tess and I quickly ran over to get it off, he just stood there wagging his tail like crazy. That is the kind of dog Stryker is. I don’t think I would ever stop bragging about Tess and I’s dog Stryker.
The hardest part about about being a dog owner is watching your best buddy decline. Styker had vestibular last year that was particularly hard on him. He could no longer jump on the bed, so we ended up getting him stairs, then he could no longer get off the bed (he didn’t use the stairs to get down) without possibly hurting himself, so we got him a bed and a blanket next to the bed. I really loved when he would get my attention on my side and I could pick him up and cuddle with him all night. Slowly Stryker began to lose weight, move slower, his hearing began to go and he eyes became cloudy. Then his hips started to have issues. It’s tough to watch your dog and their decline, but we made adjustments to make sure we could ensure his quality of life would never wane. If he couldn’t jump on the couch we could lift him, we added a step off our back door so he wouldn’t have to make a big jump to use the bathrooms.
It became harder and harder for him to hold himself all day to use the bathroom, his appetite began to wane, and he started slowing down and sleeping more and more.
This past Monday my wife and I had the discussion about our little buddy and we spoke about the days that would work for us to put him to sleep. On Tuesday I worked for four hours before I could make the call. I had to give the local vet some information that I held back tears for and while they asked me to hold a moment, composure left my voice and I had to cover the receiver so I wouldn’t choke up into the microphone. The date was set and it became real.
We decided the next day in the afternoon. He woke up slowly to us being home, Stryker had fresh bacon for a final meal, we wrapped him up in our arms and carried him to the SUV and Tess held him like she did all those years ago for the first time. But as a parting reminder of the dog that Stryker was, he kissed Tess on the face while she was holding him and we had a drive that I never wanted to end, other then giving my buddy reprieve from the pain and discomfort he was feeling.
Tess and I said our good byes as best as we could and our little buddy Stryker left the world. Saying good bye to Stryker was so difficult, and as pet owner understands, it’s apart of what comes with bringing them home. The proud feeling we have when we bring them home is apart of the heartbreaking feeling when we take them to their final resting place.
Dogs have a way to leaping into our hearts and filling our lives with so much joy, that it’s hard to love them like they do. We all get that special dog in our lives that is especially hard to let go. We would of done whatever it took to keep our dogs with us, but the hardest part of owning dogs is also letting them go.
I’m writing this to help with my own grief, but hopefully someone can read this and find solace that being heartbroken when saying good bye is normal. It’s a sign of how much we love them and cherish their short wonderful lives. But I also know that dogs like Stryker also loved us back so much. He showed us everyday through constant action. Styker could stare at you and look into you and you know that he adored and loved us. To those who have never had to put a dog down or had a chance to own a dog, despite this post, do not know what you’re missing. Your dog will love you so much that their body wags and wiggles trying to contain it. Their love pours into you and fills you up and then fill you again and again. If you’re happy or sad, smelly or clean, your dog will love you and never waiver. Despite all of our flaws and imperfections, you dog will love you and your family without question or second thought.
That’s why despite making that heartbreaking drive and trip to the vet is worthwhile. I believe I speak for so many pet owners when I say that it’s better to have your heartbroken then missing out on owning a dog. I was lucky that I had that dog who loves us to the moon and back a thousand times, who loved his life, who loved cuddling, and loved running through the fields with the soft grass under his paws. Dogs love how they run, full on and never slowing down. We can learn so much from dogs.
I hope this story can help someone as my heart was broken when I typed all of this out.
My parting quote is from the Wizard of Oz.
“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” ...
If you own a dog and have the chance to have to receive that dogs love, you’ll have a good heart and you’ll have an experience that words are not big enough to describe but only you can feel.
Give your dog an extra pet or a scratch today from us.
Take care and I hope this can help at least one person,
Your friend, Chris @ Pets Plus