(aka Racha of Jam-Polka)
One more loss to cap off the year.
We got Roxie right after I got married. The poor girl was about 10 weeks old, caged and on display in the veterinary supply store next to where I work — the last of her litter to not have a home. I had just lost my last dog at the time and was hesitant to get a new one so soon. But my wife, Vanni, and I somehow both felt that the puppy was for us. I’ve also wanted to have a Golden Retriever since I saw a picture of it in an encyclopedia when I was a kid. But I still hesitated and said, give it a week. If she’s still there, then she’s ours. And she was.
She was a hopeless guard dog — even worse than my previous, a Labrador. She’d rather be sleeping on the bed next to us rather than watch over the doors and gates. Gentle, but big and clumsy. Most of all, friendly to a fault. It’s just as well. She was right there when Aidan was born. And I could not have asked for a better companion to my son in these formative years — extremely patient through all of Aidan’s rough play. Never did she fight back, even though there were a few times I wished she just shoved Aidan back. Because of Roxie, I will always make the argument that Golden Retrievers are among the best dogs for families with babies and toddlers.
These last few days was hard. Roxie has a chronic condition, which could have been avoided had I known early on that she should’ve been spayed as soon as I gave up on breeding her. That is my greatest shortcoming as her human. I started worrying last Christmas Eve. I offered her a chunk of ham (hey, it’s Christmas), and then she turned it down. It’s never a good sign when a dog who loves eating rejects what would otherwise be snatched from my hand in a split-second. She turned for the worse soon after. A few days ago, she went outside the house and refused to go inside again. That’s when I knew it was just a matter of time.
I couldn’t sleep last night (and still haven’t as I’m typing this), as I kept hearing my dog whimpering in pain for a second night at the garage, her chosen spot. Roxie has always had a high threshold for pain, and to hear her like that was heartbreaking. I knew it was time, but I wish I was able to make it painless, as it was with Raiko, the German Shepherd we got almost the same time as Roxie, who passed much earlier. So, I sat by her, told her I was sorry, thanked her for being with us all these years, and told her it’s ok to let go. She responded by weakly wagging her tail. Then I went inside for a cup of tea and sat here in front of the computer. This is where I heard her last cries and gasps at around 3AM.
There is no chore I hate more than burying a dog. And it didn’t help that Roxie was my biggest one ever. I haven’t been feeling well myself these past few days. My trusty bareta is also missing. But somehow I managed. I laid her close to Raiko’s spot. If there is a doggie heaven, I hope they’re both up there, free of pain.
I don’t know how Aidan will process this when he wakes up later. He doesn’t remember Raiko. But Roxie was his everyday companion all his life. I, on the other hand, have had dogs for as long as I can remember. Losing all of them and burying maybe half of them myself has somewhat desensitized me. But Roxie was perhaps the most important one I’ve ever had. So, this loss hurts.
I’d never say never, since I can already imagine what I’d look for, if ever. But I feel that it’s going to be a while before I consider bringing another dog in the family. If that time comes, hopefully, I can do better.