Well... it was bound to happen, sooner or later. And although I started personally witnessing his deteriorating health about a year back, the rest of the family had yet to witness it. Being retired the past decade, and being the primary caregiver of our two dogs since then... I started picking up on his peripheral neuropathy setting in two years ago. I had no idea that his health would deteriorate so quickly.
The dog that used to chase rabbits in the backyard with a vengeance, the energy he once had when going down the stairs to the backyard.... jumping from the top of the stairs, landing in the mid-stairway landing, then jumping again to the ground some several feet below, as though he were possessed... but in reality - expressing the joy of freedom of being unleashed and running freely... the times that I witnessed him frolicking and playing at the nearby lake, unfettered by a leash, just enjoying life as a younger dog who, back then, enjoyed his health to the fullest....
My Bandit... Our Bandit.... our kids' first dog who gave us so much joy and so many memories over his 13 years of life....
We will be putting him down after Thanksgiving.
I've known for several months that his life was nearing the end, as I witnessed his energy and mobility gradually deteriorating from that of an energetic, lovable dog to that of a pet who simply no longer has the energy or desire to celebrate the arrival of family members at the front door... as if to say, "I would love nothing more than to meet you upon arrival with my usual, gleeful joy of your presence, but I simply cannot. I wag my tail to show that I still love you, but I'm no longer physically capable of getting up and showing you how much I love you like I used to be able to."
Our last visit to the local vet a few weeks ago was quite surreal, and quite sobering for my son and wife. I'd been dealing with his inability to control his bowels for a few months, knowing that his days were winding down. Although it frustrated me to no end to have to clean up after him - I still kept him around just so my wife and kids could enjoy his last months with us. When the vet told us two weeks ago, "you'll do well to get him through Thanksgiving" - that became my primary goal.... that I could somehow, humanely, keep him around long enough to enjoy a last holiday with the entire family present.
It really sucks knowing, however, that in approximately 2 weeks - I'll have to take him to the vet to have him put down. He's been such a great dog. Actually he's been more than that - he's been a part of our family for going on nearly 14 years. My kids cannot remember what life was like without him. It'll be bittersweet for sure, for me anyway. Happy that he's no longer dealing with the pains that come from a life that probably lasted a few months longer than it needed to, but also sad that the guy who used to greet me at the door every single day of his life, tail-wagging, as if to say, "where in the hell have you been! I missed you like crazy!" will no longer be with us.
So here's to you, Bandit... my mixed-Lab of 13+ years. I hope you enjoy the last two weeks with us, and I do hope there is a heaven for dogs.
Because you deserve to be there.