Saying Goodbye

Doug didn’t know how he’d be able to live after today. Bear was sick and there was now no other choice but to bring him into the vet one last time. The appointment was set for three in the afternoon and Doug had already spent the nigh petting his best friend, and he made a promise that he wouldn’t leave his side for the rest of his life.

It was easy to see the connection that existed between the two. Even though Bear weighed close to 110 pounds, he had still managed to lie himself lengthwise across Doug’s lap with his head resting gently on his left leg at just the right angle where they could see each others eyes.

This could have been a heart-wrenching day if Doug wanted it to be. But he didn’t want to cry in front of Bear — there would be plenty of time for that in the upcoming weeks. Instead he wanted to talk to his dog, his best friend, and recount some of the best moments they had spent together over the last 13 years.

“You were only a year or two old when we started our one on one hockey games. You had a little too much energy back in those days, and your fur was a little darker than it is now. But I’d still beat you from time to time. You were the best goalie I’d ever played against though. I’d heard of some goalies swallowing up pucks before but I bet you’re the first one who tried to digest them as well. I think we should have probably formed a duo though. I’ve seen lots of other pairs out on the skating rink that weren’t half as skilled as we were. You had the intimidating size and I had the finesse to take on any challengers.”

Doug sat silently for a few minutes as Bear slept in his lap. Cancer had really taken any energy right out of him and the myriad of surgeries had left him hairless in many spots. But still, Doug saw the five year old dog he had put into a contest at a country fair. And still, Doug remembered how proud the dog had been when he was awarded Best Overall Dog — even though there had only been four dogs entered.

“You walked around the fair with your head high as could be. I swear if you could have walked upright, you’d have been taller than me that day. The only reason you even won was because you gave the judge the biggest kiss I’m sure she’d ever had. You nearly knocked her right on her ass. Thank god they weren’t judging best overall on behaviour — just sloppy kisses and thick fur.”

By this point, Bear was regaining a little bit of his energy, and he popped himself off the couch, leaving big patches of his black fur behind. He made his way over to his water dish, trying not to whimper at the pain the cancer in his bones was causing him. Promises or not, Doug couldn’t stop the tear from spilling out of his eye and down his cheek as he watched his best friend slowly lower his body to the ground so he could rest his weary bones while he drank.

“You want something to eat with that buddy?” But all the dog could do was turn his head slightly. The eye contact alone was enough to let Doug know that no matter what he cooked up, Bear’s stomach wasn’t likely going to take it.

Doug got up and got them both something to eat. What the hell he figured; let’s give the big guy a meal to remember. He threw two steaks on the grill and smothered them with as much barbecue sauce as they could handle. Ten minutes later, he two expertly prepared pieces of meat ready for consumption.

“Here you go Bear, eat as much or as little as you want — it’s the best I could do for yeah. If I had ice cream, I’d serve you up a bowl of that too. Just like the time at Andrew’s birthday party where you somehow managed to eat up all the ice cream from the counter while we all sat outside unsuspecting. Or, that time you acted the early bird and beat all of us to the Easter egg hunt, literally finding and eating every one of them foil and all.”

Doug’s heart was now starting to beat faster and faster and he felt like taking all the clocks off all the walls and burying them outside. With only two hours until he had to be at the vet’s, he was beginning to have doubts on whether or not he should even go.

“Maybe we’ll just stay here buddy. What do ya say? I’ll take some sick time at work and you and me can just hang out and watch TV for the next couple of month. Just think of all the times we’ve spent here in the last couple of years. We’ve seen the Sens make a run at the Cup, we’ve seen Tiger win everything and we’ve event seen the Penguins get back to their glory years. I don’t think I want to watch anything without you here Bear.”

But looking at his friend, he knew that he couldn’t do this. As faithful a companion Bear had been to him through both broken bones and break-ups, he couldn’t ask his dog to live through debilitating pain just so he could ease his conscience. He wanted him to feel as restful as possible so he gently picked him up and brought him over to the couch for one final sleep. He brought up all the toys he had ever played with — rawhide bones to tug-of-war ropes to an old chewed up Frisbee. Of course he realized these were more for his own comfort than for Bears, but he wanted to remember his dog for the energetic mate he was for the first 12 years of his life.

“I may not get the chance once we get to the hospital so I just wanted to tell you I love you. And I want to thank you for making the last 13 years fly by. We’ve had a lot of good times and I’ll never, ever forget you Bear. So what do you say we take one last walk? And after that you’ll never feel the pain again.”

Bear spent what little he left in himself waging his tail in approval and the two walked towards the car until they got to the stairs. Here Doug picked up the big dog and sat him into the seat beside him, and strapped him in so he wouldn’t be jostled around on the ride. They rode with the radio off, Doug preferring to listen to Bear panting beside him until they got to the parking lot of the vet’s office. Unbuckling his friend, Doug picked Bear up again and carried him to the front door.

“I’ll be with you the whole time, and you won’t feel a thing.”

The look in Bear’s eyes made it obvious he knew what was going on and luckily also showed that he was thankful for it. Mercifully, there was no wait to get him into a room once he was inside and the vet left man and dog to themselves for one minute before he came back to put Bear to sleep.

“Looks like we did get one last chance. I’m not leaving you today Bear. I’ll have my hand right on your head the whole time. Now why don’t you try and get some sleep now. I love you.”

And the vet walked in and looked Doug in the eye, looking for the acknowledgment he would need to proceed. And with tear-filled eyes, Doug nodded his head and the buried it in the fur on Bear’s stomach. And there he stayed until the laboured heaves stopped.

Doug stood up and gave his friend one last pat and kiss on the head and made sure to burn into his mind how peaceful he looked — this is how he wanted to remember him forever.

The End

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