We had to put our 14 year old Golden Doodle, Juneaux, down today.
I’ve been numbing myself to the impending task for weeks, since her back legs stopped working and she couldn’t find the will to eat her favorite foods. And the deed was done in a side room of the veterinary clinic, slightly cozier than the exam rooms. A mural on the wall depicted a dirt road arcing into a forest, a happy place for dogs. Enter the room, wait for the first sedative to take effect, then watch as her shallow breathing dried up completely, and the flutters of her chest stilled.
In and out in a half hour. I cried on the way home, but not much. I could feel the tension rising in my body. This isn’t going to be an ordinary day.
Back home, the reminders have to be removed. Pack up her food bowl, and the dog-bone shaped matt it rested on to catch kibble shrapnel, and drips of water lapped from the adjoining bowl. Wash the three, plush, puppy toys she carried around like her babies, whimpering as she shuttled them from nest to nest. Our youngest son wants us to keep them as part of a shrine for the dog.
Juneaux was really Brian’s dog. At age 3 he began pestering us for a dog. He would run across the cul de sac to play with a neighbor’s Black Lab, and return home every time asking when we were getting our dog. My wife and I were both resolutely in the “never” camp, until he came home bawling one day.
“Sheenah’s moving!” Sure enough, the neighbors had their house on the market. A “For Sale” sign stood in the front yard, and Sheenah the Black Lab was not long for the neighborhood. Brian was distraught for days, begging and pleading with us to get a dog. “I can’t live without Sheenah!” A tad melodramatic, but there was also a special and real love that Brian had for this dog, which he had for no other person or object in the world. We finally agreed to get him a dog. Within two days of bringing Juneaux home, the “For Sale” sign came down across the street. I am not sure if I’m imagining it, but I could almost swear I saw 4 year old Brian slipping a little money to the Bugenhagens, after we got Juneaux. Sheenah stayed until she died, and her replacement Black Lab lives across the street to this day.
I know I’ll hear her bark tonight and wonder why Juneaux isn’t returning the call.
Throw the dog beds in the garbage. Remove the child safety locks from the garbage door under the sink. We haven’t had toddlers for a dozen years, but that damn dog could pry open the cupboard and spread garbage throughout the house.
Place all the waste bins on the floor again. She had a nose for protein, so any tissue with a dab of blood, a blown nose, or… well you get the idea… any Kleenex carelessly discarded would be eaten and a day or two later I would be elected to draw it out of her rear end, like starting a lawn mower. Remove the bells on the back door frame. We taught her to ring whenever she wanted to go out. The older she got, the less often they were used for the intended purpose. I think she started taking satisfaction knowing she could make one of us leap from the couch whenever she rang, even if she’d then circle away from the door and lie down.
I won’t miss the post-winter “Poop Pickup Party,” a semi-annual extravaganza resulting I a thirty pound bag of frozen poop-sicles. I won’t miss her throwing up an entire pumpkin in my car, or her attempts at painting Jackson Pollock paintings — that day she exploded all over the living room carpet, and we got new hardwood floors.
But every night at 10:00 I know, for a while, I’ll reflexively call to her, “Juneaux! Out the front door, let’s go.
Potty, potty, potty!” and she would go on command. I’ll miss her pressing her head on my leg, as I eat an avocado toast sandwich, the amount of pressure increasing with every bite that I don’t share with her. I’ll miss the way she sidled up to us as we sat on our couch, positioning the EXACT section of her back that needed scratching in front of my dangling hand.
But more than anything else, I know I’ll miss watching Brian hug that dog, the mystical bond strengthened year on year between a boy and the dog he loved. Juneaux, I’m glad we had you for so long. And Brian, I’m glad you were so persistent about bringing her into our lives.