Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.
Last month our family said goodbye to our eleven-year-old, black Labrador. It turns out Ranger had cancer. We got Ranger from a local Lab rescue in 2007. He was looking awfully stressed out because he was surrendered by his owner that very day. I sort of had my doubts about him. I gingerly approached him. He barely paid attention to me. Finally, he inched toward me when I scratched under his chin.
We took a chance and brought him home. I prayed that this would work out. I had a one year old at home, and it would not go well if Ranger didn’t like little toddlers. In fact, it all turned out very well.
Ranger became my constant companion. Late night snack? Ranger was there. Lounging in front of a movie? Ranger was there. Walks around the neighborhood with the children? Ranger was there. When late-night feedings robbed me of my sanity, Ranger was there. Even crazy mood swings didn’t scare him (but it did scare my husband). He was unflinchingly loyal. Ranger was with us for 2190 days, 5475 diaper changes, and 730 late night and early morning feedings.
Sometimes, I forget that he is gone, and I mistakenly look to to his favorite lounging spot in the middle of the family room. I didn’t realize just how comforting his presence was until he passed on. I came across one his old toys the other day. Ranger adored his toys. Every so often would steal a stuffed animal from the nursery, but he had the good sense to leave the favorite toys alone.
In the last few months, stopped playing with toys, and he didn’t want to chase his ball anymore. His eyes looked disoriented. Our last walk was painfully slow, and he didn’t seem to know why we were out walking.
Saying goodbye came faster than I thought it would. Ranger was down to 65 pounds (he looked horrible for a dog that used to be at 90 pounds) when we said goodbye. I cried for days. When I thought I was done, someone gave me a card with the rainbow bridge poem in it and I found that there were more tears inside me.
Everyone, at some point in his or her life, should experience loving an animal and being loved in return. More than once, if possible. I look forward to our next furry addition, whenever that will be.