37: Losing Boomer

37: Losing Boomer

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Losing Boomer

If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness.

~Marjorie Garber

As anyone who has lost a family pet knows, grief can throw you into a tailspin. We recently had our fifteen-year-old Chihuahua put to sleep. Boomer wasn’t really my dog. He belonged to my wife, Linda. Still, I found myself pretty choked up the day my daughter Emily and I took him to the vet to be put down.

At times, Boomer was not an easy animal to live with. He barked at strangers, turned up his nose at dog food, and relieved himself on the floor instead of bothering to go outside. A difficult dog, yes, but since his death it’s become even more difficult to live without him.

Our family developed a love for Boomer the day Linda brought him home. He was a complex creature, capable of rich and deep emotion. Boomer had a personality with strong and weak points. He also had an incredible patience with children. Our two-year-old son would sometimes grab that little Chihuahua’s ears and yank on them until he yelped, but he never snapped.

Boomer may not have been my dog, but he was an excellent running partner. At that time I was a member of Six Rivers Running Club, training for marathons seven days a week. I did most of my running in the mountains behind our home in McKinleyville. Boomer always accompanied me.

I’m not talking a short jog in the forest, here. I mean ten, sometimes twenty miles. How could a small dog run that far? I’m not sure. He must have had a special running gene other Chihuahuas didn’t have. My friends called him the Olympic marathoner of small dogs. Together we slogged through mud, wind, heat, and hailstorm. We scampered up mountains so steep they would make a Kenyan distance runner cry uncle. Boomer didn’t have an ounce of quit in him.

That dog was treated like a king at our house. Lots of food, a warm bed, and oodles of affection. Linda and I pampered him more than a four-star hotel concierge. When Boomer wasn’t sneaking scraps from the table or snatching a cookie from the hand of an unsuspecting child, he was eating steak, ham, and turkey for dinner. Begging for tasty tidbits was his favorite pastime.

When Linda died of cancer Boomer mourned right along with us. He lay in his bed and, shockingly, refused to eat, no matter what kind of tasty morsel was placed in front of him. If there is a God, I suspect He created dogs like Boomer to remind us exactly what unconditional love is all about.

After my daughter headed off to college a few years later, the relationship between man and Chihuahua continued to grow. Though I still refused to call him my dog, Boomer was always there for me, through good times and bad. I took him for walks, gave him treats, cleaned up his pee, and held him in my lap at night.

Then Boomer had a stroke and his health began to fade. Walking became a problem, and his appetite began to diminish. Before long, he completely stopped eating. That’s when Emily and I decided to put him down. It was a very difficult thing to do. Boomer had been with us for a long time. He was also our last living link to Linda. It was another heartbreaking hurdle for our family to overcome.

A storm blew in the morning we took Boomer to the vet’s office. Rain was coming down in buckets. I was grumpy and out of sorts that day, and I foolishly snapped at the poor receptionist who asked me to fill out a few forms.

“Dad, you sound like a cranky old man,” Emily whispered. I apologized and confessed that the thought of watching Boomer die was just too agonizing for me. I’d been through the death of a loved one before. I wasn’t sure I could handle the grief again, that period leading up to the last exhale that is so excruciating, so unbearable. Emily understood.

The vet came in to administer the anesthetic. I massaged Boomer’s head one last time and stepped out of the room, leaving my daughter to shoulder the burden. I was glad she had the strength to be there with Boomer in those final moments, to ease his passage. I was proud of her.

On the ride home I thought about how much happiness Boomer had brought to our family. I reflected on what a gift he had been. The tears came when I finally understood that Boomer had actually been my dog all along. I’d somehow just failed to realize it.

~Timothy Martin

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