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A Tale Of Two Deaths – Part 1

June 8, 2017

Both were very close to me when I was a child. I made the decision in both cases to end their lives. In one case it was gutwrenching, one of the hardest things I ever had to do. In the other case it was easy, almost a non issue.

I was 16 years old. Old enough to drive. With my older brother recently leaving on a mission for the LDS Church, it was my dog. I’m not sure how much time other people spend naming their dogs, but we hadn’t give much thought to naming ours Tuffy. It was because as a golden retriever mix, his hair was somewhat whispy. It had tufts. At least that was the thought behind his name. I don’t remember when we got him. My mother married when I was 11 and it was sometime after that. I just remember him always being there.

We’d moved a lot prior to my twelfth birthday. In fact, I attended 5 different schools in the 5th grade. Moving to Olympia, WA at 11 represented a stability that I hadn’t experienced before. We moved and we stayed. My mother married the man who would later adopt me and we stayed. We got a dog and he stayed.

It’s important for a boy to have a dog. I feel bad that allergies keep us from having a dog now. My sons are spending the summer taking care of their sister’s dog. My dog went nearly everywhere with me as a boy. My first job was working at a horse stables just a half mile from my parents’ house. Tuffy attended with me. We lived in an area with many trees, forests, lakes and ponds. It was a great place to grow up and Tuffy was by my side daily.

And then he started to have a problem with his skin. It wasn’t too serious at first. His back would get a little irritated and he’d bite at it as if trying to catch tiny bugs. Baths helped somewhat and we assumed it would clear up after we started treating him for fleas. Instead it got worse. The vet thought perhaps it was an allergic reaction. He suggested we try brewer’s yeast in his food. He wouldn’t eat it. He continued to get worse.

We realized it was time to start talking about ending his suffering when he got to the point he couldn’t walk from my bedroom at one end of the hallway to the living room at the other, without stopping to scratch and bite at the soars on his back.

He was my dog. So, I’m the one that made the sad drive to the vet’s office. I handed his lease to the doctor, gave him a final hug and numbly walked back to my car. Even now, 40 years later I can hear his questioning bark as I left that day.

Woof. Where are you going?
Woof, woof. When are you coming back?
Woof, woof, woof. . .don’t leave me here.

Dogs can teach boys a lot of things. They can teach responsibility. They can teach companionship. They can teach the value of friendship. The hardest lesson that they teach is how to say goodbye. How to look at someone you love and cherish and know that you have to let go. Nothing goes on forever. And growing up means learning about death and dying.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about another animal that I was close to, that I spent time with daily and I made the decision to end his life. But, I had a much different reaction.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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