~2000 to 2018
It is with a heavy yet grateful heart that I sit at my computer to write.
Our dearest, toughest, bestest canine friend left this Earthly world for the next chapter in his journey.
Buck came to us in July 2009. He was walking in the Saratoga 4th of July parade with his human helper, Cheryl Bressler. She was trying to find him a forever home as he had been living in the Casper shelter for more than a year. Gracelyn was in the BOB (our version of a jogging stroller) waving her flag, and I was peering up at the hot late morning sun wondering if I’d put enough sunscreen on her face and mine. I glanced back at the parade and there was a chocolate Labrador Retriever staring intently right at me. AT. ME. The Saratoga parade is not huge, but it is a community gathering so there are always many, many people lined up on both sides of the street.
Buck stared at me. And kept staring as his human, Cheryl, walked on down the street. I couldn’t get the look from him out of my mind. He had keen, brown eyes that seemed to be trying to get something across to me.
We left the parade, walked home (because in Saratoga you can do that) and I called Greg to tell him about the chocolate Labrador with the intense eyes. Then I called Cheryl to find out details. She said he was staying at the small shelter in Saratoga, by the police station. We could certainly go pick him up and see how he did with us for a day or two.
Gracelyn and I headed over. Buck was beside himself! He jumped as high as the gate latch, all four feet off the ground at the same time. Briefly, I wondered what I’d gotten us into. But his exuberance at being with humans was, well, charming. We got him into the car and home and into the yard where he could meet Timmy, our aged Springer Spaniel. They got along famously. Greg drove up to meet him and we both decided that night Buck was not going back to the shelter.
And so began our life with Buck. He was nine or 10 years old, per the shelter papers, and had been surrendered because he “ran away.” Hmmm…we had a fenced yard, what could go wrong? He was positive for Giardia and weighed only 57 lbs with raging diarrhea. Again, what could go wrong?
Many, many breakouts later (including being picked up by the Saratoga policeman that Greg subsequently sweet-talked into giving him back to us) and over a year of ground hamburger and baked sweet potatoes and Buck was well on the way to health.
We left Saratoga and moved down to the ranch where Buck quickly set up a morning routine: scout the fence line for break-ins from the coyotes, head up the mountain to do Lord knows what and eventually sun himself in the yard.
He became a foster parent to our missing Max. They were best buddies and Buck taught him everything…including how to roam up the mountain and across the river. Not such a great lesson and Max didn’t come home one day.
Buck became a foster parent once again when we brought home Aengus, a sort of step-brother to Max (same mom, a year later). He dutifully taught him how to lift his leg and to roughhouse. All within a fenced yard so no checking the fence line down by the barn or heading up the mountain.
The last few winters have been pretty hard on our Buck as his hips have protested the cold and ice. Each winter I thought was going to be the last, but by some miracle, Buck would make it, the snow would melt, the sun would warm the ground and he’d be out there laying in the grass that was trying to sprout. And we’d go through the summer, then the fall and I’d dread the winter coming, knowing it would be so difficult for him to manage on the snow and ice. But he just kept going, our own Energizer Bunny. Never complaining, always with the wagging tail.
No matter how cold or how much snow, every time I’d return home from a weekend of work, he’d come to greet me on the path to the door.
The last month though Buck seemed to not be Buck anymore. Sort of a shell of his former self. Old age does that, shrinking the physical body, clouding the senses. He slept a lot, but was also uncomfortable a lot.
I procrastinated. I did not want my rescued chocolate Labrador with the intense brown eyes to leave me.
I know about death of beloved canine companions. I have lost several. Each one left an indelible mark on my soul. And a hole in my heart when their Earthly journey was through.
To me it seemed that Buck was hanging on, holding on with what strength he could muster. I just couldn’t figure out why. I wondered if maybe he was waiting until our missing Max came home. I wondered if he was waiting for us to find another little buddy for Aengus.
I never wondered if he was holding on for me.
It finally came to me last night, that maybe, just maybe, he WAS holding on for me. For me to be alright with him leaving. For me to be OK with him moving on. For me to accept the Circle of Life and understand that he had been on this earth 18 or 19 years, much longer than normal for Labrador Retrievers, and that it was simply time for him to go. That his body couldn’t handle much more…he would do it for me…and he had been doing it for me, but it was costing him.
So, with a heavy heart yet a so very grateful heart, I gave him the gift of death today. At 3:00 pm, Buck left his physical body. And left a hole in my soul.
My chocolate Labrador with the intense brown eyes was a spiritual being having a canine experience. And wasn’t I the lucky one to be able to share it with him.
Thank you Buck for your time here with us. Thank you Great Spirit/Great Mystery/the Universe for the gift of his life.