Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Then There Were Two

[ed: I started this post on the 17th of November, with Ralf's body in the back of the van]

It never gets any easier. Our sweet boy Ralf went to college today, with a push from us. You would think after 8 graduations, I might be inured to it. I think I'm happy that I'm not. With Bob it was easy to see she was ready to move on, and I spent the day with her, then took her to the vet to be put down. Harry bled out after surgery. Rosie did too. They were hard because of the suddenness. We sat up all night with Madeleine until she died, mostly quietly. The others were harder or not, depending on the circumstance and whether they felt they were ready.

None of them was easy.

Ralf, though...there were some possible treatment options. He had good stretches of a few hours. But really. When I got home, he used to get so happy and whirl around, barking (we think that's how he injured his shoulder, but it's really who he was). He used to bark at horses, applause, and fake bird noises on TV, standing indignantly with his ears forward and his nose an inch from the screen. He hadn't heard birds in a year, though there'd been plenty to hear. He couldn't stand up on his own, and in the last couple weeks couldn't even get into a sitting position. He'd been reduced to lying, with his head on a pillow, snapping in pain when we would get him up, and staggering around panting. Steroids might have helped, but for how long? It was mostly clear what he wanted, so we gave it to him. We are blessed to have Rachel Bergman in our lives.

We took on Ralf back in 2002, as a foster dog, because we've got a soft spot for collies. He was 6 years old, 105 pounds, and crazy. Then Jake got so sick, and the only people who wanted Ralf were families with small kids, not the carpenter-guy-who-would-take-Ralf-to-job-sites that we thought he deserved. When we finally got out of that crucible 3 months later, we had a 4th dog.

Through the not-quite-9 years he was with us, he taught us about patience, the importance of food, love, silliness, joy, and endurance. We endure without him now, even now, occasionally expecting to see him, or hearing his soft meef. When he came to us, I repeatedly said I didn't want 4 dogs. But really. Who was I kidding? I want him back.