"Let's get a dog", I told Bill 11 years ago. "We should get a Pug". He was reluctant at the idea of a Pug since he thought they were ugly. I had grown up with Pugs most of my life and loved them from their smooshed, snorty faces to their curly tails. Even though the answer was no, I kept pressing, being the person that I am that always tries to get my own way.
One afternoon on my lunch break at the law firm, we decided to kill some time at a nearby pet store. This store had some cool animals, like monkeys and sugar gliders. We had always laughed at the joke of getting a monkey, but this day we never imagined walking out with a Pug.
We saw him and knew from the moment we took him out of his kennel to play that he would be a part of our family. It was love at first sight for Bill as he played with the little roly poly Pug with a bulging Buddha belly that looked like he swallowed a tennis ball.
That name suck with him. Buddha.
Saturday morning Buddha wasn't doing so well. I was getting ready for a writing group meeting and while curling my eyelashes, Bill came into the bathroom to break the news. "I don't think Buddha has much longer. He's really struggling". Tearing up, because we've both known for some time that this day was coming, I came downstairs to asses the situation. Buddha was laying on the laundry room floor with extremely labor breathing and couldn't move. Bill propped him up on his legs, they quickly gave out and he left a puddle on the floor. It was not good.
In the last week or so, we've noticed that Buddha's arthritis was getting worse. It was difficult for him to walk from the laundry room to the back yard and he mostly just sat all day. Each day he moved slower and slower. In the last two days, Bill noticed that Buddha wasn't eating much. His food bowl was still full after a few days which is the typical food-strike he pulls when Bill is out of town, but that wasn't the case now.
We knew we had to make one of the most difficult decisions of our lives.
I asked Bill if he wanted me to stay at home rather than go to my meeting. He urged me to go but to take Logan with. Carter was sleeping and Bill was going to take some time to figure out what we should do and where to take Buddha. He spent some one-on-one time with our crippled, aged old man of a dog while Carter slept and Logan was clueless about the situation that lie ahead.
The meeting was a nice distraction, as I'm pretty good at shoving my feelings deep down to focus on the tasks at hand. Only when asked about my day did I cry about knowing of the upcoming death of our family dog. I'm not good at keeping secrets and have never really been one to say that everything is fine when it's not. So with tears streaming down my face, I told them of the situation at hand, moved on and got to work.
I came back with text messages from one of my sisters asking what was going on with Buddha. I knew that Bill must have made a facebook update about the situation and hoped that Buddha had passed naturally in the few short hours we were gone. He was still there in the laundry room, in the exact same place as he was before I left, only this time in a pool of urine and still panting heavily. He was dying. Slowly.
I arranged for someone to watch the boys while Bill and I took Buddha to the University Vet hospital to be euthanized. Before we left, I sat with Logan at the kids table, in a kid-sized chair and talked to him about what was going on. I told him that Buddha was really sick and that we were going to take him to the doctor. But Buddha was so sick that the doctors wouldn't be able to fix him so they were keeping him and taking him to a special place.
"You know when you squish a bug and it dies?" I asked Logan. "Does Buddha have bugs in him? Does he have butterflies in his stomach?" he asked. "No, Buddha doesn't have bugs in him. But he's sick." I tried to explain, realizing that Logan was too young to understand what was going on. "Buddha is so sick that he's not going to come home from the doctor. He's going to die." I tried to explain matter of factly so I wouldn't scare him. "Oh, we're going to get another dog!" he responded. "No, not right now, Sweetie Pea" I assured him. "Not for a while..."
On the drive there, the moment was filled with silence. I sat there cinching my seat belt tighter and tighter to somehow secure myself into my seat more than I already was. Thinking about our life with Buddha, Bill and I didn't say anything to each other and Buddha didn't bark his usual excited and worked-up barking that he does when riding in the car. He knew this time he wasn't going to the park. And we knew that this was the best decision for our silver-faced Pug.
Bill went into the hospital to check Buddha in while I sat with him in the trunk of our Outback, lined in a tarp and with him wrapped up in a flannel sheet because if his loss of bodily functions. He continued his labored breathing while I sat stroking his ears and wiping his face with the blanket. While sitting with him, a couple walked out of the hospital in tears, sobbing, because they had just faced the same situation. I could only turn my head and cry as I heard the woman weeping as her husband held her tight.
Bill soon came out with one of the hospital workers and picked up Buddha from the back seat of the car. Both mourning, we walked the walk of sorrow to the exam room with our dying dog. After paperwork was complete and they had checked him out and prepped for the procedure, they brought Buddha back in the exam room and we sat with him on a gray padded mat on the floor and him wrapped in one of the hospitals' forest green heavy blankets that he was still leaking through. They had an oxygen tube for him to help his labored breathing. I twirled his ears and Bill pet his head as we sat together sobbing and comforted our first dog onto whatever place we go to next...
We picked him up from the pet store the day we moved into our first apartment together. Buddha was with us on Day One. He grew up with us. He was there waiting for us when we got home from our wedding. He was there for every wild party we had, Buddakan, aptly named in honor of him and the fortunes that came from the Chinese fortune cookies plastered all over our front door.
He was there in the best of times and in the worst of the worst. He rode trucker-style when we moved across the country from Vegas to Portland where he had a back yard to run around in (and get fleas for the first time). He was a good traveler when we moved from Portland to Denver for a better life and once more when we moved from Denver to Fort Collins for the sake of our family, always barking excitedly for the joy ride he was experiencing.
He was there when we brought Logan home from the hospital, wagging his tail and sniffing the newborn baby swaddled in the pink and blue stripped blanket. He was the best babysitter, racing me to the crying baby Logan in his crib, being the shadow dog that he was. He mourned the loss of his play pal Beck, our Beagle who passed shortly before moving to Fort Collins and was there to welcome another newborn baby, Carter.
He was there as "Buddha pillow", always ready to cuddle on the futon and wedged perfectly by the arm making a soft chubby pillow during TV times. He was there for entertainment, getting dressed up in ridiculous Halloween costumes, doing tricks and his peek-a-boo howl. He was also smart and did things as he wanted, but was surprisingly obedient. We talked to him like a person and he understood every word we said to him.
Buddha was our first family dog and his loss hurt us so much. Although we know we made the right decision, it doesn't make it any easier. We came home from the hospital and took care of the kids as usual, taking them to Chuck E. Cheese since that was the plan for "family fun day" and Logan didn't comprehend what was going on. As mourning parents, we have to still take care of our kids just as every other day, regardless of explanations of crying and feeling sad that Buddha was sick and gone.
Going out in the back yard that night brought tears to my eyes again, feeling his loss as he used to sit with us on the deck. Writing his eulogy sent me in tears for most of the night. The morning after was especially hard for Bill now that there wasn't our dog to let out in the morning.
There is an emptiness in our hearts and in our home.