I had to put my dog, Bas, to sleep the other day. I woke up in the morning and found him lying there, and he didn't know where he was, he couldn't see or hear. He couldn't stand up.
He didn't want to drink water, he didn't want to eat. It was time, and I knew it. I was telling him that it was okay, it's okay, buddy. And my shoulders started heaving and the sobs started coming and then my son yelled, "What's wrong with Bas?" and he started crying when he saw him. So I picked him up and usually he'd squirm around when I did that but this time he just let me carry him. I set him outside with my wife while I called to find an emergency vet to take him. I walked to the truck to get the back seat ready for him and I punched at the air as hard as I could out of life just being the way it is and goddam that's my best friend lying there.
I put him in the truck and we went.
So I took him to the emergency vet and I carried him into the examination room because he couldn't walk and I was petting him, waiting for the assistant to come in and give him a shot to make him sleepy and I was looking Bas over. His elbows had no fur on them, he had all kinds of screws and a rod in his shoulder. He had a tumor on his side that had progressively gotten bigger over the last few months. His hips were shot. They collapsed on him at times when he was running and it took him forever to get up the basement steps. He had all kinds of scars and his muzzle was gray.
He'd been on a downward slide for a while, and I knew that it was coming. He'd retrieved the night before, he got that in. I was even able to take him swimming last week, and although he couldn't find the bumper that I threw for him, he loved being in the water.
And I started thinking that he did it right. He crushed life. He went as hard as he could for as long as he could and he wore everything out that he had until there was no more to give, all of him was spent and he never once held back. He was loyal, hard as nails and brave. He used it up, he spent his life hunting and running and swimming and breaking through brush and flooded timber marshes and never hesitated, not once. Full speed into the water, full speed into the brush.
One time he made a seemingly impossible retrieve on a duck that landed in flooded timber and I didn't even see where it went down after I shot it. When I saw him swimming back to me, I blew the "come" call on the whistle and then he sat next to me with the duck in his mouth and I was so proud of him that I yelled, " Good boy!" , and with that, he got excited, jumped up and hit me in the chin with his hard ass head. I still had the whistle in my mouth and my two front teeth chipped off in the perfect shape of the whistle that I still had in my mouth. It was worth it though. What a good boy.
Another time I was goose hunting with some other guys and their Lab's. We shot a goose, but it was just wounded and a wounded goose is pretty nasty. One of the guys sent his Lab out there after the goose and that goose hissed and reared up and that Lab came running back into the blind without the goose. So then I sent Bas. He hit that goose full speed and sent it flying and proudly brought it back to me, tail held high in the air. I was yelling,"Did you see that? What a tackle! Like Dick Freakin' Butkus!"
He retrieved his last goose two years ago. It was wounded also, but Bas tracked it down and brought it back. He wasn't as fast as he once was but he was still a retrieving fool and get this- he was so happy to go get that goose that when he was sitting next to me with it in his mouth, he was actually whining with joy. The boy loved doing what he was bred to do.
It is weird thinking of life without him. Dogs become family and they put up with you through all of your moods and they can tell when you need them and they can tell when you just want to be with them and not anyone else. I never could imagine life without him and I am trying not to think about it too hard right now, I am trying to put it deep in my head where I can store it and not get sad and choked up because hell, if you think about it, he had a great life, he did it right, like everyone should do it. Dogs are something, man. You read all these books and everyone speaks of about being present and in the moment and damn if humans don't struggle with that a whole bunch. Not dogs, and certainly not Bas. Right now was all that mattered and right now is all that ever should matter.
After putting Bas down yesterday, my 10 year old son and I loaded my other Lab, Storm into the truck drove down to Maryland to my buddy Steve's farm. Bas loved it there, it is a retriever paradise. My son and I started fishing but something didn't quite feel right to me, so I stopped. Now , I never stop fishing. But I needed to work something off, and Steve had a huge pile of oak stumps and I put my rod down and asked Steve if I could split some of that wood. We went up to the top of the hill and I split the wood for about an hour. And Bas' face would come into my head once in a while and I'd hit that stump harder when it did because it started to mess me up inside and when I was done I was soaked in sweat from head to toe, I could wring my shirt out with the sweat that I accumulated. I love that kind of work, and I didn't want to sit around feeling sorry for myself for not having my buddy around anymore, I wanted to work those tears out in sweat.
When Steve and I were done working, we walked into his garage and we sat down he grabbed us both two ice cold beers and we toasted to Bas.
"Here's to Bas. He was a good boy."
Damn, I loved that dog. Here's to you, Bas.