One Last Walk

 In Adventures, Family

Yesterday we said good bye to our dog, Brady. We had 11 great years together. There was a snow storm the night we brought him home from the pound as a puppy, and it seemed almost symbolic that we had our first significant snow fall of the season on the day we had to lay him to rest.

I took these photos of him yesterday during our final walk together around the lake where I trained him as a puppy. It’s probably been 5 years since I’ve taken him here. The tumors on his leg have taken a turn for the worst these past few weeks, but on this walk, nothing was stopping him. When I opened the car door, he leaped out like he had two-year-old hips again.

Brady and I use to go to this lake every day after work for his first few years, then occasionally as he got older. There’s a leash-less area for dogs, so I taught him how to heal, come, sniff out pheasants and retrieve them. He was a natural. I’m not much for hunting these days, but I always take him out when I can to chase birds.

Yesterday I started the day cooking him bacon and eggs for breakfast. Then steak for lunch. We hung out all day. I offered him a beer, but he wasn’t feeling it. The anxiety of the inevitable outcome weighed heavy all day. I feel like he could sense it, too. I didn’t want this walk to end.

We made a few laps around the trail, and I wanted to take one more, but our time was up. For the last 50 yards, I yelled, “heal up!”. We walked the final stretch side by side. One last time.

We loaded in the car, and I took his collar off. It was time. I gave Brady a pep talk. Told him it wouldn’t hurt. Told him we will always remember him; that our kids would always remember him.

I have lost some dogs as a kid, but never was I in the room when they took their last breath. Never was it my decision. This is part of what we sign up for when we choose a dog. It’s an extraordinary painful responsibility once the threshold tips; a moment we hope will never come. The day does come. Then the hour. And then the minute.

Walking in to the vet was very hard. I stood for a minute in front of the receptionist as she waited for me to announce why we were there. No words came out. I looked at my wife, and she couldn’t muster any words either. I finally choked out, “Brady”. That was enough for her smile to fade. She knew.

They led us into a room with a table lowered to the floor with a blanket. The vet assistant came in, and took Brady for his catheter. Brady put out his paws, and refused to follow her. She pulled again. No budge. Brady knew. I said, “come on, boy.” and led him forward. He trusted me and followed.

He came back in limping with his catheter in place. The Vet came in and told us what to expect. His tone was as delicate as a funeral director’s. He left to give us some more time. My wife and I crouched down, and said our good byes.

I stood in front of Brady, my face to his face. I was the last thing he saw as he took his final, deep breath. It was peaceful. He was now pain-free.

It was a sorrowful end to a beautiful chapter in our lives. Brady was family. He was our child before we had children. When we did have children, he was their best friend.

Brady was a great dog. He knew all the tricks. He could sit, shake, heal, lay, roll over, play dead, speak, crawl, and even whisper. He was fearless jumping off docks, even though he was a surprisingly terrible swimmer. Brady loved chasing pheasants. For Brady, “bird” was indeed the word.

Him and I have walked many, many miles together. Yesterday’s last mile is the one I’ll remember forever. It was the way I always imagined sending him on. It was imperfectly perfect.

Rest in peace, Brady. You will be missed. You will be remembered.