Farley’s first ride with us was in March of 2009, two weeks after Yankee our twelve-year-old Lab passed. I thought I’d never want another dog after losing him, but I found the emptiness in our house and the loneliness in my heart that only a pet can fill too much to bear. So, I began searching for a smiling rescue dog. Smiling and large were my only criteria, because Yankee had always smiled for his pictures and was a big boy. When I happened upon a big, floppy-eared, smiling Farley, I knew I’d found another best friend.The shelter volunteer brought Farley out to meet my husband Bob and me. He sat in the dry dirt of the yard as I knelt hugging him. I couldn’t control my tears as I repeated, “He’s the one. He’s the one.” Farley gave me kisses and smiled the whole time. We were overjoyed when we found out we could take him home with us that same day.He hopped into the back seat of the car like it had always been his ride, and I climbed in next to him. He snuggled up to me and put his head in my lap. He knew he was going home.Farley was born in that shelter. He had been adopted and then returned when his mom and dad had a human baby. Although he had been a resident there for a while, he knew that shelter wasn’t home. He was a year and a half old when we found each other.
When we pulled into our driveway, he got up, tail wagging, excited to explore all that waited for him. He hopped out of the car and raced to the front door, his long legs allowing him to reach it well before we did. When he turned to look back, I could hear him say, “C’mon, Mom we’re home!” It was as if he had always been ours and our home had always been his.
Farley’s last ride was yesterday. Two years after being diagnosed with cancer and given three-six months to live, the disease had finally won. In July of 2017, he’d had a rare cancerous tumor removed. After we received the diagnosis and prognosis, we tried to make his last months all he could want them to be. In October of that year when he turned ten, he had a whole slice of pizza (not just the crust), a few sips of beer with his dad (he loved using his long tongue to lick inside the bottle after Bob drank it), ice cream, and homemade doggie treats. We wore birthday hats and sang to him.
Maybe he thought, “Why would I want to leave this? Things are getting REALLY good!” He showed no signs of sickness after that. He spent the next two years playing with his canine sisters and friends, snuggling his own humans and any other human who would allow him to, running and barking in his yard, and enjoying tidbits of bacon and cheese now and then.He knew he’d been given more time and was determined to make the most of it. He appreciated all of the small joys everyday life brings–seeing the people you love when you wake up in the morning, not wanting for food, shelter, water, or love, feeling the sun on your face or a cool mist on your back on a hot day, long afternoon naps, and knowing tomorrow would bring more of the same. He lived each moment to the fullest. Then, one day during a routine brushing, Bob felt a new tumor. He had been our miracle dog, defying the odds, but in the end he still lost.We made the journey to the vet’s office the same way we first brought him home. I sat in the back seat petting his ears, his nose. I told him the pain was going to stop. But, this time he didn’t snuggle into me. He struggled to keep himself in an upright sitting position and looked out the windshield. Toward the end of the fifteen-minute ride, his back end began to give out. His hips and legs could no longer sustain his declining weight even while sitting. Just as he had on our first day, he knew he was going home. Bob carried him into the office. Dr. Williams spoke with us and examined him. She presented a variety of options, but we knew only one was the right one for Farley. We had to let him go.
We sat on the floor with him. I held his face in my hands and we looked into each other’s eyes. I kept my eyes on his even after he was gone. I wanted him to know he was going to be okay, and so was I.Of course, I’m not. But, I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I can suffer the loss of losing my beautiful boy, because I know he is not suffering. I will never have another dog like Farley, but his sisters Sasha and Sadie are here to comfort me.As every dog-lover knows, we learn so much about life from our furbabies, and each one teaches us something new about ourselves, each other, and the way life should be lived. Imagine if humans were as loving and looked forward to the good things to be cherished in each day. What a wonderful world it would be.
“Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.” ~W.R. Purche