We lost another of our furry kids, yesterday. We had to say goodbye to Bishop, affectionately known as “Bubba” — our big, adorable, loving Australian Shepherd. He was just short of fifteen.
It’s never easy. It doesn’t get easier, no matter how many times we do it. We are faster to acknowledge the inevitability of the end, but that doesn’t make it less painful.
We had seen it coming for a more than a year. Bishop’s hind quarters were gone. He was riddled with arthritis up and down his spine. We had him on the highest doses of pain-killer he could tolerate. Watching him move stiffly around trying to navigate the six steps to the front landing and the doggy door was painful to see. We aging humans have our own arthritis to deal with. It’s one of the many perils of aging, so we empathized with Bishop, wincing as he laboriously got up from his bed and finally, to his feet. Still, the big guy didn’t moan or whine. He always had the sweetest smile, even when the pain was obvious.
He still loved to romp and run around the front yard with our two Scotties, Bonnie and Gibbs, though he almost never barked anymore. He was their pal and protector. He was their Bubba. Once in a while, he forgot he was old.
The inevitable manifested itself in several ways. Bishop used to almost inhale his food and he swallowed his treats whole, immediately asking for more. Lately, Bishop seemed less interested in food and ate slower and slower. Treats didn’t seem like a big deal to him. During the past week, we found a few pools of vomit around the house and outside. We thought maybe Bishop had eaten some of those gypsy moth caterpillars that have plagued us. But Bonnie and Gibbs seemed okay and they routinely scour the front yard for goodies.
It got dramatically worse over the last two days. I had to coddle Bishop to eat his food and he couldn’t finish it.
Yesterday morning, we found large pools of strange colored vomit all around the house and outside. Bishop was slowly moving as we cleaned up and assured him it wasn’t his fault. He had a look on his face that made us feel guilty. As soon as we had everything cleaned up, Bishop was sick again.
The big guy was drinking lots of water and minutes later it turned into the sickly, yellow-green masses on the floor. Bishop couldn’t hold anything in.
We had a quick family consult. Marilyn called the vet, then cancelled our other appointments. During the phone conversation with the vet, we looked at Bishop and the mess on the floor. Not going to wait.
Bonnie tried to block our way out the door. She has never done that before, but she was trying with every ounce of her little body to keep us from leaving with Bishop. How do they know? Gibbs began to howl and bark.
The 25 minutes drive to the vet seemed forever and I not so silently cursed the plodding traffic and stupid drivers. Bishop didn’t make a sound in the rear seat. No whining. Not even panting. Nothing.
It was an endless wait at the vet’s office until we were called in. Finally, it was Bishop’s turn.
Lots of questions. The Vet had a sad smile on her face. She said it was probably some kind of tumor because of his age, his breed, and the symptoms. Marilyn struggled with her answers, keeping it together. Bishop looked at us with that sweet smile.
Finally, came the moment I dreaded. I stumbled, mumbled — stupidly asking, as if I didn’t already know — if this meant we were not taking Bishop home. The vet looked at Marilyn and me. I looked at Bishop.
Marilyn signed the paperwork while I sat on the floor and played with Bishop, face-to-face with nose-to-nose exchanges of affection.
We declined to stay with Bishop when they put him to sleep. Been there and done that too many times. Could not bear to do it again. It’s heart wrenching, especially with a dog as sweet as Bishop. We also declined to keep his ashes. We already have quite a collection.
The vet finally led Bishop slowly away. I couldn’t look back as we left the examination room. It was the longest drive home. Marilyn and I kept reassuring each other we had done the right thing.
We’d wanted to give our Bubba this final summer. A few more weeks to play with Bonnie and Gibbs. A few more pictures photo bombed by Bubba who never met a camera he didn’t like. We knew, without saying, he’d never make it through a winter but we hoped he might have this last summer and autumn. It was not to be.
In the end, it’s not about us or how we feel. It’s your dog who lets you know when. And for Bubba, “when” was yesterday.
Bubba understood. He was a very good boy.