We’ve all heard the saying that a dog is man’s best friend. It turns out it’s a dog’s best friend too.
Last week we made the painful decision to have our 14-year-old dog, Amigo, to the veterinarian’s office to help him peacefully pass from life into death. His quality of life had dipped dramatically in recent weeks, as a growth overtook his hind leg and made it painful for him to walk.
We all miss Amigo, a reddish-brown golden retriever who lived up to his name every day; he truly was a friend. We brought him home around the time my wife and I married, and he watched our children grow up. He was so patient and gentle as our daughters tried to ride him, dressed him up and even danced with him.
We’re all grieving in our own ways the loss of a great friend who was always there to comfort us on bad days and celebrate with us on good ones.
That leads me to Brother, our 7-year-old golden retriever. He and Amigo became fast friends back in 2012, with the new puppy dragging some more energy out of our laid-back elder dog. When you saw one of them, you usually saw the other one, frolicking in the back yard, resting on their bellies in our driveway or relaxing on a carpeted floor.
It turns out proximity must not have been all they had in common. Ever since the van returned without his pal inside it, Brother’s been in a funk. He has less energy, less appetite and less joy. He just looks sad.
Brother’s ears perked up, and he jumped off the floor recently when I mentioned the name Amigo out loud. Perhaps he thought he’d returned. Perhaps he just felt nostalgic. When he realized his buddy still wasn’t returning, he came over to me and stared up from his mourning eyes.
I pet him a bit and talked to him. I know some folks don’t think dogs understand, but I completely think they do. I told Brother I knew he missed Amigo, and so did we, but Amigo was in a better place now where he could run and play. Brother sighed and laid back down.
Later that morning, we received a card from our veterinarian’s office, offering sympathies for our loss. It included the poem “Rainbow Bridge,” and one line made me think about the special bond these two canines had.
“The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind,” the anonymous poem reads.
I hope the poem is true. I do hope the dogs do run and play on a bridge just this side of heaven, waiting for us to walk them across that rainbow bridge one day. I hope all dogs get another chance to frolic and play together.
I hope this as much for Brother as for anyone, as that dog’s best friend has left our home forever.