Here’s the song reference.
Our venerable dog, Bo, appeared ready to shuffle off this mortal coil yesterday morning. When I awoke, he was gasping for breath, unable to stand, and totally uninterested in food and water. He had a couple of strokes at the beginning of the year, and we were cautioned a few months ago that his days were likely numbered. As a result, when there’s been a family event out-of-town that necessitates an overnight stay, we’ve generally chosen to split the family, so that one of us can stay here with the elderly gent; when Great-Grandma left us in April, Manie took the girls in one car, and I followed for an up-and-back-in-24-hours with the boys.
He slept through most of yesterday, and I tearfully informed the tribe that we appeared to have reached Bo’s final hours. Baby Guy found these tidings fairly unimpressive, probably because to him, they were incomprehensible. Mr. Man was uncharacteristically quiet, Beanie offered that she was happy for Bo, as we was going to Heaven and would see all of the people she loves and misses, and Bugaboo burst into tears.
With the exception of a very brief errand, we stayed home yesterday. Bo’s breathing calmed before the kids awoke, so no emergency calls to the vet were necessary, and Manie and I decide that watchful waiting was the best approach to take, so long as our old fellow showed no further signs of distress. Bugaboo, after giving Bo a teary hug and kiss, went into her room, retrieved her favorite blanket, and tenderly covered Bo with it. Once Mr. Man and Baby Guy were down for their naps (ostensibly – the noise level from their room throughout would indicate that little if any napping actually occurred), I permitted Bugaboo and Beanie to have a rare TV afternoon, so they could spend lots of time close to the ancient wonder who has been their knight-protector from the day they were born.
We proceeded through the day with very little movement from Bo, although he would smile in his sleep (a trademark behavior of his for over a decade) whenever one of his tiny people cuddled close or petted him. He didn’t eat or drink, save for once around lunchtime and that with a great deal of assistance, but he was peaceful and in no apparent distress. Bugaboo raided the bookshelves for every dog story she could find, sat close to him and read him every single one of them, and Beanie sang him little lullabies when she could pry Bugaboo away from the spot by his ears. It took no small amount of effort to convince the two of them to go to bed last night. They wanted to stay with Bo.
After we finally got them settled into their beds for the twelfth and last time, we decided to see if Bo was willing or able to awaken. Manie sat gently on the floor by him with a little dish of water, a can of Mighty Dog, and a baby spoon. Bo raised his weary head enough to empty the little water dish twice, then happily accepted several spoonfuls of food. Not much, but enough to make us happy, and the food and water stayed down. As Manie headed back towards the kitchen with the bowl and spoon, Bo attempted to rise, but couldn’t quite gain his feet unaided. Manie put a supporting hand under Bo’s once-burly chest, and the old man stood, grinning. We helped him to the kitchen for more water from the “real” water dish, then Manie carried him downstairs for a quick visit outside. All systems, as they say, were “go.”
As I type this, my old friend, who has been with me since before I met my husband, is resting comfortably under my favorite Orioles blanket, having accepted a small serving of puppy treats and a mighty drink of water. Every day, we assess whether his declining health and strength constitute an inconvenience to us or suffering for him. For love’s sake, we can live with an enormous amount of inconvenience – and we can rejoice in being so inconvenienced for one more day.
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for creating dogs, and for whoever it was You inspired to turn them into our friends. Thank You for Bo, who has loved and guarded all of us with all his might since You sent him to me in February of 2001 as a helpless, fluffy puppy, and who is now teaching all of us a most valuable lesson: that love creates joy, not burdens. Lord, I am humbled by the hearts of Your blessings, who, instead of complaining that their furry friend is taking up the good spot in front of the television, bring him their best blankets and read him their best storybooks. Please help me guide them by my example as they translate that practice into wholehearted love for all of Your people, and imprint upon all of our hearts that what is merciful is not necessarily what is expedient.