Caleb the dog died Sunday, March 10, the first day of daylight savings time in 2013. Caleb was a Golden Retriever and I raised him from a pup. He was born on April 30, 2001, which means he was close to 12 years of age when I asked the vet to put him down.
Caleb was a very active dog throughout his life and right up until the beginning of his last week. He enjoyed trips to Gyro Park and the beach at Cadboro Bay. We, meaning Caleb, me and my other dog Jack, went to the beach every morning, and when the days got longer we went out again after dinner. Caleb enjoyed chasing the ball and meeting his dog pals. He liked to meet new people, being a very sociable type of a dog.
On Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8, I left Caleb at home and took Jack to the beach on his own. I did that because Caleb was raspy and out of breath. Caleb lived in his dog house in the back yard of my Cadboro Bay home, and on Thursday and Friday Jack and I left him lying on the grass enjoying the sun and the mild March Victoria weather.
On Friday, March 8 I took Caleb to the local veterinary clinic two doors down the street from my house. The local vet moved to our neighbourhood from South Africa in 1998, and set up his practice. He lived upstairs in the house with his young family, and operated the veterinary clinic out of the main floor. I attended their son’s Bar Mitzvah in 2007. The local vet is my friend and he attends to all my animals. In March he and his family were in South Africa, so on Friday, March 8 Caleb was examined by the locum, a polite and earnest young man. The locum took blood and advised he would contact me on Monday, March 11.
On Caleb’s last night I didn’t sleep well. Caleb was lying quietly in his dog house at midnight when we all went to bed. His doghouse is dry and well insulated and Caleb slept there on all but the rare double digit sub-zero Victoria nights. He loved his house. The evening of March 9 was mild, maybe 6 degrees out.
At 7 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, I checked on Caleb first thing. He raised his head and wagged his tail, but it was at that instant I knew this affliction was nothing that he was going to just shake off. I went for coffee and a think. Then I returned home, phoned the Central Veterinary Hospital downtown, and explained I needed my dog looked at right way. The nice young lady on the phone told me to come right down, and that they would have a gurney ready in case Caleb had to be lifted out of the truck.
I took Caleb’s leash and hooked him up. He left his doghouse with a certain level of enthusiasm, but by the time we’d walked 50 feet down the driveway to my 2004 Ford F150 pickup he was winded and wanting to sit down. I lifted him into the truck cab and got him settled on the passenger side of the bench seat.
We drove to the clinic and, again, Caleb was ready and willing to leave the truck and walk through the door with his tail wagging. In the reception area, however, he needed to sit, and then to lie down. Two young assistants cooed over him and loaded onto a gurney and wheeled him away. I was told to sit down and wait.
In due course the vet on duty showed me the x-rays. Advanced cancer, spread to the lungs. Options? We could try chemo, but the quality of life would not be guaranteed. I decided to ask he be euthanized. I called my sister to come and be there with us. We all went into a special room, Caleb on the gurney, Susan and I on foot. A half an hour went by. I cuddled Caleb and talked to him. He knew why we were in the special room and I know it was all good with him. A half an hour later it was all over. I will receive his ashes eventually, and they will go on the shelf with the ashes of my other Goldie, Cairo. Cairo died in 2008. He was only 8 when the cancer got him.
As a breed the Golden Retrievers are known for intelligence, and for having a sweet and accepting nature. I will definitely be adopting another dog, probably another Goldie.
The trick is to focus on the 11 years of fun and good times, rather than dwell in the black hole into which I descended on Thursday, March 7, and from which I began to ascend as the vet administered the Euthanol on Sunday, March 10. For it is watching those we love sicken and wither, not the moment of death or the aftermath that is so painful. In the black hole we are invited to face, and accept, this sweet life’s transitory nature.