Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend
Wednesday was a pretty rough day for me. One of my dogs has been battling cancer in his mouth. The battle is over now. Humphrey was close to 16 years old, which is a pretty good run for a stray puppy who showed up outside my parent’s door one afternoon. It seemed more like he adopted us than the other way around.
The vet estimated he was about 4 months old at the time. He was nervous around everyone but our family, but otherwise seemed to be in fair health. We put up signs, but no one claimed him. I’m convinced that someone abused him and tossed him out of their house. Maybe so, but it was better for him and my family that he showed up.
My father was retired and slowing down. Having a young dog around was just what he needed. For the few years my father had remaining, Humphrey was a good companion while Dad had his morning coffee out by the pool.
My parents didn’t call him Humphrey, though. They had a hard time agreeing on a name for him and it got to be something of an issue. When I visited one day, my mother happily told me they found a name they could agree upon for him — Cosby. So why do I call him Humphrey? Because that damn dog kept humping my leg. The furry little bastard would hump damn near anything in sight for years. When my father passed away and he proved to be too difficult for Mom to handle, I took him in and just called him Humphrey from that day forward. That was ten years ago.
Humphrey eventually learned to get along with women, but he never trusted a strange man. It wasn’t malice, but fear, that got him riled up. That’s why I presumed he was mistreated as a pup. Otherwise, he was about as mellow as a Black Lab Retriever could be. When something struck a nerve in him, his Chow side of the mix came into play.
Unfortunately, I never got a good photo of him. This shot above in my parent’s back yard is from 2007. He’s so dark that he just seems to absorb light. Even his tongue was black. That’s also frustrating because one of his favorite places to nap was in the dark hallway leading to my home office. More than once I’ve tripped over his body, hidden in the shadows. About all you can do is mutter “damn dog” and continue where you were going.
He had surgery to remove the cancer from his mouth, but it was malignant. Although I was happy I didn’t have to say goodbye to him on the day I learned about it, I also knew that day would be coming soon. For a while, he seemed quite resilient after the surgery. His appetite was voracious and the vet assured me that was a good time. It meant blending his food up into the consistency of gruel, but he lapped it up and wanted more. At least he did until the other evening.
He showed no interest in food. He barely drank any water. The next day was the same. This once energetic dog was trembling, barely able to move. I knew the time had come. It’s not an easy thing to say goodbye to him. I already lost my father. Now this was another piece of him going away. The vet examined him and even he was shocked by Humphey’s passive nature (he was a bit of a difficult patient). He couldn’t eat. He could barely drink water. It was difficult for him to move. We agreed the time had come to put him to sleep.
I got in the front of the table and kept eye contact with him the whole way, constantly scratching his ear the way he likes it. Humphrey left peacefully.
My golden retriever, Zach, is feeling a bit down today. I’ve tossed the ball for him a few times and gave him a rawhide bone, but he’s shown no interest in it. I’m sure he understands that Humphrey isn’t coming back. I’ll probably spoil him for a few days with attention and food, but I also know that I need to find him a buddy for the times when I’m not home.
This cycle continues. It hurts like hell when you have to say goodbye to an old friend, but the good times far outweigh the difficult days like this one.