There's no easy way to lose your best friend! But, if I had to choose the way it would happen, I would choose it to happen after a long healthy life as it did for my best friend, Joey, which gives me great comfort. He didn't die too young. He wasn't sick for a long time. He didn't suffer greatly. It wasn't an extreme emergency when we had to put him a down. I got to really say goodbye. But, no part of questions whether it was the right time to put him down when we did because it was so clear it was his time. Here is our story:
I got Joey when he was a few months old. I was only thirteen at the time and we had another dog, a 10 year old Border Collie, who was my other best friend. My parents made me work to "earn" Joey and it took me a long time, but when I finally had, it made him all the more special. Our Border Collie was determined to make sure that Joey knew she was in charge and she tried very hard to show her dominance. But she couldn't because he was too easy going. Nothing bothered him. He was go with the flow about everything. He'd jump into the pool and the Border Collie would go nuts barking at him and trying to herd him out of the pool, so he'd come out. She'd grab his ear and try to show "see it's me forcing you out," but it was really him just not caring and doing what she asked. This was the way Joey lived his life. No matter where I took him, everyone commented, "I've literally never met a HAPPIER dog!" It was very fitting that Joey's tongue was so big that it hung out of his mouth and pretty much guaranteed that he looked like he was smiling all the time. HE WAS ALWAYS HAPPY!
Despite having bad allergies, he was otherwise never sick a day in his life until the end. Two years ago Joey started developing a lump on his side. The vet did some tests and found the growth to be benign. We went on and Joey was fine, but then around last Spring Joey had an episode where his back legs gave out and he couldn't get up. But, a day later he was fine. Time went on, and then it happened again. The vet couldn't find anything wrong with him except that his muscles were atrophied from age and possibly something neurological because he had slow reaction time to flipping his paw back over when the vet turned the pad away from the ground (something that should be instantaneous). This continued where he'd be fine, then all of a sudden fall (not often), and then be down for a day, before being fine. To show exactly how energetic this old dog was, it's important to point out that most times he fell it was because he was skipping and jumping and basically doing back-flips because he was so excited when I walked in the door. I have videos (which I will treasure forever) from just a few months before we lost him where he's racing back and forth in the backyard and jumping around so excited.
But one night at the end of August, he just laid there. He didn't try to get up and greet me. He didn't lift his head. He didn't smile. I don't remember a time ever where Joey didn't look like he was smiling! I went over to him and tried to give him water, which he gobbled up, spilling most of it, which wasn't like him at all. I put his head in my lap, and then the tremors started. It seemed like he was having a seizure. We rushed him to the emergency room. It turned out that the growth was a tumor in his liver, which had hemorrhaged (that had been what had been happening each time he fell, too, but he'd been able to clot well and that's why he'd recovered so quickly). He'd lost a lot of blood and was going into shock. We decided that the best thing to do was to have them stabilize him and keep him comfortable, but not resuscitate him if it came to that. We didn't want to put him through that. We knew the next 24 hours would be crucial and I was sure I would lose him. If I'd lost him that day, I would have had so many regrets. No saying goodbye. No time to prepare. But, he made it through like a champ and WAS FINE 2 days later. We put him on a chinese herb that helps prevents hemorrhaging and treasured every day left with him. I moved myself onto the couch beside him and never left his side except to go to work (he didn't need that at first, but I needed it). It was truly some of the most genuine bonding we'd ever done. He'd always been so happy and easy going. I always knew how much he loved me, but he'd never needed me... he was happy no matter what, if I walked away, he was still happy, never needy. But at this time, it was like he knew every second was precious and he was as glued to me as I was to him. He was still so happy, but now with a neediness.
Then, two months later, we saw him declining. It was nothing so drastic as falling and being unable to get up, but we saw his body slowly shutting down. I took him to the vet often, but they kept telling me he wasn't in any pain. The big worry was that the tumor would hemorrhage again, he'd bleed out, and it would be very painful. I knew I couldn't let that happen and I watched him like a hawk. On his last day, I came home from work, and he came to lay down with me. He put his head in my lap and I don't know how I knew, but something about his body language told me it was time. We took him to the vet, he climbed into the car on his own. When we got there, all of a sudden he couldn't walk. We carried him in. His body was starting to shut down. We spent a half hour to an hour saying our goodbyes with my whole family surrounding him. Then, with all of us petting him and kissing him, the vet ended his suffering. I don't regret staring into his eyes the whole time to make sure I was the last thing he saw and he knew I was with him, but his eyes going lifeless continues to haunt me.
I am so grateful for my best friend. I learned so much from him about how to approach life with a happy, nothing can get me down attitude. I am so grateful to have had those two months where I knew I was going to lose him and could show him how much I love him (not that I for a second doubt whether I showed him every day of his life). I am so grateful that the end of his life was painless. I could see the times when he was in pain, but they luckily were few and faded quickly. I am so grateful that he had the opportunity to show me how much I meant to him and how much he appreciated me. I am grateful for every single thing having to do with that puppy of mine (they're always your baby, even when they're 15). I will continue to be so grateful to him the rest of my life.
If you'd asked me in October if I'd be ready to be thinking about getting another dog this soon, I would have thought you were crazy. I'd have thought I'd be reeling over my loss. But I'm not in mourning. I miss him (every second of every day), but everything happened exactly how it should have. He lived an incredible and long life and left a very big hole in my life that I need to try to fill again. So, here I am on a Golden Retriever forum researching leads for breeders and looking for my next best friend, not to replace Joey, but to fill empty shoes. I'm a teacher and I'll have the Summer off, so June would be the perfect time for me to get my new puppy. So I'm looking for a great litter in Southern California that will be born in April. I also plan to get my next dog certified as a therapy dog to work with children (Joey couldn't because of his allergies, despite his perfect temperament). I'll be happy if my next dog makes half as much of an impact in my life as Joey did. He was the perfect dog!
Anyone have any leads for me on specific breedings I should look into? I have a few breeders I'm talking to based on some lists of great breeders posted on here, but at this point nobody knows how many puppies there will be or if the girl even got pregnant. Thanks so much to any help you can offer! I'm nervous and excited. I haven't had a puppy in 15 years!