Ten years ago, on July of 2010, we brought home the sweetest, cutest little puppy; our very first dog, a yellow Labrador. There were three puppies to choose from, and after an hour of playing with all three, the girls chose the runt of the litter. He was so much smaller than his siblings, but they all looked like their momma and dadda. He was loved the moment he pulled the Velcro tie off my daugher's shoe. We named him Skipper on the long drive home.|
I guess he was like any lab, very food motivated and full of energy. We took him to puppy training, and then he graduated to dog training he was so good that the instructor asked for him to be part of a special dog class that she taught. He was part of that class for a year.
At around 5 years old, he finally started settling down a little bit. But you could always get him to "get closer" during heal, or fall down when calling out "Bang." Especially if you had a little treat.
I don't know how he knew not to go "potty" in the house, and he would usually seek our daughter Gloria out to let him outside. Normally he's outside, but when it gets either too hot or too cold outside he became an indoor dog. When he would come in he would have to do the rounds looking into every room to greet everyone in the house, greeting the members of his "pack." Then he would settle down and lay at my feet.
Skipper was a defender and protector of his pack. One day, when my older daughter took him out for a walk, a loose pitbull approached them from behind, and Skipper defended her against this intruder. The pitbull ended up backing away and leaving them alone. We would leave Skipper in the house with my 14 years old daughter when my husband and I would go out for an hour for lunch. Having him with her made her feel so safe. Also not too long ago, my husband was digging in the garden in the heat, and Skipper was right there, hearing him breath heavy as he was digging. Skipper got up, stepped into the hole my husband was digging, and just stood there, forcing him to stop digging. When my husband looked up, Skipper gently licked his face and would not move out of the hole. So my husband stopped digging, and sat down in the shade to eat an orange, and realized he was overheated. Skipper could see it and wanted to protect my husband. For me, you would find Skipping following me around the house, right behind my knees all the time -- his wet nose occasionally pressed against the back of my leg.
A few months ago, my husband noticed that Skipper kept "clearing" his throat. I took him to a local vet, but after a two-minute exam, the vet rushed me out, saying it was probably a virus that he has gotten over, because she didn't hear anything in his lungs. I didn't like that answer. I called my mobile vet, and she came to the house. She actually took several different angled x-rays of Skipper's chest, and had us sit down on the front porch to deliver the bad news. He has lung cancer. And she can see in his sternum that there is something wrong with the bone, so she's pretty positive that he has bone cancer that spread to both his lungs. She prescribed medication telling us the cancer is pretty bad and he has about 2 months to live. She said to give him whatever he wants, and to make the rest of his life as comfortable as can be.
Skipper started looking more and more sick with each passing day. The coughing wasn't very bad at first and I kept thinking he wasn't very sick, that he has only lived 10 years, and he should be with us at least 4 more years. Can we please have 4 more years with our "handsome man" -- our first dog? Can I see his muzzle turn gray with age? That answer, it turns out, is no. His energy had faded because his lungs are not working right. He seemed confused, as I'd catch him looking at me with those soft brown eyes, silently asking, "Why don't I feel good?" It broke my heart every time I look into his eyes, because I knew what was in store for him.
There is one small gift cancer gives. It gives you the opportunity to prepare and to say goodbye. The vet said we would know when it was time, and that time came. It came 6 weeks after his cancer diagnosis. My husband and I had to make that heartbreaking decision. Our handsome man doesn't have to struggle to breath anymore. The mobile vet came to the house, and in Skipper's own home, where he was comfortable and not stressed, he was put to sleep with his pack lovingly around him. Ten years to have such a wonderful pet just doesn't seem long enough. But then again, would any amount of time been long enough?
Is it worth loving a dog so much, only to have so much hurt when he passes on? I wasn't sure of this before we got Skipper. I knew the day would come when we would have to put him down, even while we were picking him out at the breeder, and I was afraid of that day in the future, afraid of the hurt. I don't know why Skipper chose me as his favorite, but he stole my heart that very first day. I wanted to guard my heart, not get too close to this dog, but he made that impossible. Skipper has taught us a lot, but one thing he really showed us, dogs give genuine, unconditional love to their "pack." He had love in his heart and you could see it shining out of his warm, caring eyes. Even though he was a very strong dog, full of energy, he treated us gently. We treated him gently. I am sure he knows that we loved him, just as I am sure he loved us."
Rest In Peace Skipper. You were a "good boy".