“kwhiggy gone wild” is not feeling so wild today. I said good bye to one of the most faith companions I have in my life (only topped by my husband!), my golden retriever named Buck. He was laid to rest yesterday as his blood cancer overtook him.
The last 3 months have been like hospice care for Buck. We knew he had a ticking time bomb inside of him when the doctor saved him once from a bleed out. It would be only a matter of time before he would have a second bleed out and then we would have to let him go. So in the time we had left I have taken every day and loved him completely and unequivocally in ways busy life kept me from doing before. I walked him gently around the Bay and made him whatever food his body could tolerate. We communed together.
This dog of mine came into our lives uninvited. I had promised Zoe when she was 3 years old she could have a dog when she was eight years old. At the time it was a brush off, thinking no kid will really remember this promise. We were on overload with the adoption of my son who was complicated even at the age of 12 months. Yet Ms. Zoe sharp memory is a primary trait of hers even at a very young age. She forgot nothing and counted the years and hours before she could get a dog.
Now I still did not let her count down make me really think we were going to get a dog. Jim was not in favor of the chaos a dog might bring into our lives. I had a demanding job, but truth be told, I always have a demanding job! So anyway, I mentioned to my Pastor’s wife Zoe’s countdown towards a dog, and she said: “Oh Karen, I have the perfect dog for you!” And silly me, I went to go visit this dog who was one year old and needing another home. He was beautiful, house trained, and ready to go. All I needed to do was convince the husband we should do this…
Well, the husband said yes, if we could do it on a trial basis, and if he blended in okay, Buck was ours. I knew it would take me to tend to Buck’s needs in the beginning. The family giving him up would be willing to take him back after a week if there were troubles. I told the kids we were babysitting him for the family. And so our adoption of Buck went nine years ago.
Mr. Buck loved me through and through. Each night he would come to my bed and say good night to me. I would pet him and say good night and he would plop himself beside my bed. If for some reason my daughter took him for the night I could trust he would be beside my bed in the early morning ready to go for a walk.
Early morn walks were around 5 a.m. We knew the newspaper carrier and would say hi to him I would let him off leash illegally in the Bay to let him run. Three days a week he would go running with me. If I had extra time we went down to the lake, and if we really had a lot of extra time he got to go into the lake.
Buck was a food thief. In his well days if we did not put food in the microwave he would go for it. One time we had three loaves of bread on the table and he ate them all, bags and all. I am not sure how he survived that!
My fine dog had a nuzzling nose. He would use it get my attention. He also would lovingly use his tongue to kiss me as his mommy. His earnest love touches me.
Zoe, my daughter, used Buck as her wake up alarm for school. Each morning I had to bring Buck into her room, ask him to jump on her bed, and have him nuzzle with her. He would obediently do so, and sensed Zoe’s need for his attention. Buck was also Zoe’s antidepressant. No matter what Zoe dealt with in terms of school expectations, which she takes seriously, Buck could get her through them. I am not sure how I will deal with her in these next few weeks. I wish I had a magic wand to help with the grief.
Mr. Buck in the end did feel like he was in hospice care with us. I also felt as I every day communed with him I communed with my dad, who died a year ago. Dad was a dog person and he loved Buck. He would be grieving with us if he was still alive, and we got the same time to say good bye to dad that I got to say to Mr. Buck.
Pausing to say honorable good byes is also I ask in life. I got to do that with Buck. I think he knew it. We had simple time together that was our own. I also encouraged my daughter to do the same. There was no sugar coating that Buck was going to be with us for a longer period of time.
Yesterday I woke up at 4 a.m. and Buck was not beside my bed. He was in my daughter’s room and could not move. I tried to move him and he looked at me sadly as if to say, “mom its time”. I got him some how to go downstairs and once downstairs he did not move physically again. I woke up Zoe to say good bye. She knew and her whimpers of pain were excruciating as she said good bye to Buck. As my husband said, this was the hardest thing to feel.
I decided to take my time to get ready and allow Zoe time alone with Buck. He looked at us helplessly like he wanted to make things better but could not.
It was a hard decision to wake up my son to say good bye to Buck. His response to feelings are to be angry. And he never does it well in the morning. But Buck was his dog too. So we woke him up. It was a good decision. He said good bye to Buck. Jim and I had to get a blanket under Buck and were struggling to figure out how to carry him out to the car. To my surprise Nick got on gloves and skillfully helped us take Buck out to the car. He then told me he would come with me to the clinic. My boy was becoming a man as he made a decision like this. The “becoming like a man” would manifest itself in interesting ways as I went into the clinic with Buck.
So I got to the clinic which is a few miles away and they helped me take Buck in. Nick said he would stay in the car while I was saying my good byes to Buck. I left the keys in the car so he could listen to the radio.
Saying good bye when you have walked a road knowing it was imminent is easier, if there can can be any “easy” way to do it. Buck was wrapped in one of our comforters. The doctor confirmed he hardly had any blood pressure left, and said we did the right things completely. Before we administered the drug, I give him my fond farewell and asked him to say hi to dad and mom in heaven. I also let him know he was the best for me and the Higgins family. The most uncomplicated one of the bunch. He looked at me with his all knowing eyes and was ready to let go.
The drug that stopped his heart did it instantaneously. I hugged him and said good bye with no regrets for the life we had together.
So I go back to the car, and as I get in my 14 year old son says: Guess what mom, I drove your car! He was bored as I was inside the clinic and so in an empty parking lot he went backwards and forwards and around the parking lot. Guess who is going to hide her keys from now on!
Buck was a gift from God to the Higgins family. His memory will be eternal in our hearts. I do worry about my daughter. High School demands are hard and Buck helped her. Her cat Freddy is like a dog and thank god we have him, but he is not the big hearted spirit Buck is. It will be in our destiny to get another dog but when and how is up for grabs. And there is debate on what kind of dog to get.
For today I do not have to answer that. I just need to grieve and honor the memory of Buck as best I can. It’s the circle of life which is pretty powerful some days. But reminds me, Buck lives in me. He lives in me and all the Higgins family. For that I am grateful.
Rest in peace, Mr. Buck! We love you!