Bob the Dog, our beloved livestock guardian, has had a recurrence of the cancer we treated last spring in his neck.
We had hoped he’d outlive the cancer, but sadly, it was not to be. I had noticed a couple of weeks ago that the little lump of scar tissue where he’d had the tumour removed felt a little bigger, but I wasn’t quite sure. Then, on New Year’s Eve, he came to the door to say hi and I went out to give him a hug and I checked, like I always do.
The lump was the size of an egg.
I called our lovely vet, Dr Sarah, and left a message that we’d need to make arrangements to help Bob cross the Rainbow Bridge before the tumour could cause him more discomfort. Given the rate of growth, Dr Sarah said maybe a week, ten days at the outside … and so on Wednesday this coming week, Bob will go to sleep for the last time, here at home, near his sheep and his people and his pack. It is the last kindness we can give him, and his years of service have earned a comfortable, peaceful end, at home in familiar surroundings.
The livestock guardians do not travel well. They fight being loaded into a vehicle. They are terribly uncomfortable inside a building. We won’t make Bob’s last moments a trial for him … the vet will come here, and we will put a blanket on the ground by the hay bales up near the sheep, and hug him and hold his head and his paws while he breathes his last. It’ll be very, very sad … but it’ll be okay.
Bob’s been suffering from the cold this year in ways I’ve never seen before, and I’m thinking it must be related to his illness. The other day he was by the door shivering, his teeth were actually chattering in the cold. I grabbed his collar and dragged him up the steps and inside, which he was not too pleased about, but when I served him a bowl of heated Dog Food Soup (with bacon grease, yum!) he was much more okay with the whole thing. He wandered around, wagging his tail, coming over for hugs and pats, and stayed until he was good and warm. Then he stood by the door again until I let him out, and he bounded off to see the sheep.
He’s still his old happy self … although tonight when we came home, I thought I detected a bit of sorrow about him, a bit of heaviness. Maybe he knows he isn’t well. Only two more days, and the tumour is still beneath the skin, though it has hardened and is definitely still growing, I think the timing will be all right.
We will miss him very, very much. He’s been a good dog. He guards the sheep, licks the lambs clean when they are born, and is good to the people. Once, when Smaller Boy was still very small, he had an egg to give to Bob, one that had cracked in the coop and couldn’t be used in the kitchen. The little boy held out his little hand with the egg in his palm and said “here, Bob.” Bob put his giant mouth right over the boy’s whole hand … egg, hand, wrist, everything … gently slid the egg off and left the hand untouched. Eyes huge, that small boy was amazed at this giant dog having just about swallowed his arm! More than once, when I have been overwrought with trauma memories or emotional upheaval, I have gone to sit on the stairs and cry out my anger and frustration and fear … and Bob has come to lick the tears from my face and shove his head into my lap and comfort me.
He is a fantastic dog. We love him very much. We love him so much, that we will let him go in peace. I will cry big tears, but it will be all right. It is the way of things for dogs to go before us, sadly … but it is worth the pain, for all the love and joy they bring us.
My Gram said that she was certain there would be dogs in heaven. It is easy to think of her waiting there at the pearly gates with Ebony, the little black cocker spaniel who loved Gram so much and guarded her as her mind failed with the brain tumour that took her life … and with Dax, the Akita who loved me through the loss of my daughter Jessica, and with Duggan, the goofy beagle who rehomed himself to love an old lady through her last days.
Bob will go to join them this week, and I expect that some fine day, in that place where there are no more tears at all, I will sit on a golden step and Bob will lay his head in my lap and tell me how happy is to have me home.
We love you, Bobby. Thank you for everything.