Bear was a dog that we adopted from a group called “Stop the Suffering” that rescues dogs from shelters. He had been left outside on a 6 foot chain year around and mistreated in other ways as well. When he first came to us he would not even look you in the eye or look up when his name was called. I am glad to say that after being with us for 5 wonderful years, he had become quite accustomed to (and enjoyed) the love (and bacon) that our family showered him with. He was a sweet old soul that has suffered immeasurable cruelty in his long life but did it quietly and did not allow it to make him anything other than a big bundle of fur that everyone wanted to pet and love on. Every one of our kids’ friends loved Bear and always stopped and petted him when they came in the house. He never made a nuisance of himself and rarely get up when folks came in. This is mostly due to the fact that he as nearly blind and mostly deaf. When we adopted Bear, we did it to give him a home full of love and try to make up for all the years of mistreatment he had suffered…and we accomplished that.
Bear’s health had been failing and his back legs were causing him great pain and he had a number of cancerous tumors as well. He was on 3 different medications and our goal was to keep him comfortable until he passed. When I arrived home last night, I knew something was wrong. After he ate he began to pace around the house and whimper. When I bent over to pet him, his entire body was shaking and he was panting furiously. Lisa arrived home from her show in Indianapolis just about that time as well. I had Bear outside to let him get some fresh air and he actually began howling. This was pretty incredible because Bear rarely barked. My guess is that he was beaten by his previous owners but he had only barked maybe a couple dozen times in 5 years and when he did it was a more of a yelp than a true bark. I can tell you that I had never heard a more mournful sound than his howl and it was obvious he was in a great deal of pain. Lisa and I came to the conclusion that we needed to call the vet and see if he would be able to meet us. It was a tough decision but we knew it was the best thing for him. The vet said he would meet us at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.
We gave Bear some more pain meds and he eventually fell asleep. We told Grace and called both Zane & Zach (they were away working and at college respectively) and told them as well. Lisa & I were awakened around 3 a.m. when lights came on downstairs. I asked Grace what she was doing and she said getting a drink but when I came out into the living room, she was sitting beside Bear stroking his head. I turned and went back into the bedroom and a few minutes later the lights went off and I heard Grace go back upstairs.
When I awoke the next morning and walked out in the living room, I saw a nest of blankets next to Bear and found out that Lisa had come out during the night and laid down with him for some time as well. After everyone said good-bye, I carried Bear out to the car and nestled him into the front seat in his favorite blue blanket. I carried him into the vet’s office and laid him on the table. The vet knew it was time and let me know the process. He would give Bear and tranquilizer and then administer the other drugs after that. He assured me it would be quick. As he prepared, I just kept stroking Bear’s head and telling him it wasn’t going to hurt anymore and soon he could rest. I could feel the tears running down my face as I talked to him. At one point I put my head on his and told him I loved him and that it would be over soon.
After he had passed I carried him back to the car and brought him home. I carried him and his blue blanket out the corner of the back yard under some trees. I then began to dig his grave. I had thought about where to bury him since his health began to fail and thought this would be a nice spot for him to rest. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was shining for the first time in weeks. I was talking to him and crying intermittently as I dug. I laid his blanket in the hole, placed him on it, and the covered him up with it. After I finished, Lisa came out and we talked for a few minutes and let our Odie (our other dog) run around the yard.
It is now 10 p.m. and I have cried 3 or 4 times throughout the day. There were various “triggers” and am sure I will for several days like when I come home tomorrow and realize he won’t be prancing around when I call for “Bear-Bear”. The truth is that while we did give him a home, he gave us much more. He taught us that regardless of what happens to you, you don’t have to let it make you bitter. He showed us that you can change and learn to trust people even after being beaten and abused for years. He taught us how to live and, more importantly, how to die. After the vet administered the drugs, he told me that Bear was tough and he kept fighting till the end. Bear never quit. Even when his legs wouldn’t respond, he kept trying to run…he would never give up.
We gave Bear a home but he gave us so much more.