As I look back, I see he’d been aging for quite a while, the wonderful English Springer Spaniel I’d had since he was a pup. Two summers ago, he began to tire out on our mile and half walks through the subdivision. Last summer, he no longer followed me the whole time I mowed the back yard and he was slow to get out of the way when he did follow me. The more I think about it, the longer the list gets – all the things he used to do and wasn’t doing any more.
As I look back, I see how God prepared me for what was coming. Earlier that week, he literally bounded into the living room one evening. My first thought was that he was having a seizure of some kind! I followed him as he pranced through the house and enjoyed the momentary return of the “life of the party” dog he’d been for fifteen and a half years. That Friday, I had gotten an email of happy dog pictures, and it occurred to me that Buster Brown was no longer as happy. Once again, I prayed that God would just take him in his sleep. I did not want to have to make the decision to put him down – I wanted God to do it for me.
Buster Brown was incontinent at times and that same Friday morning, he had soaked his dog bed overnight. That evening I came home to his worse mess – one that required a complete dog bath. Saturday morning, his gait was off and uneven – he fell several times. So I called the vet and made the appointment for later that morning. I looked Buster Brown in the face, and told him I was sending him home to God. I had mentioned it to him several times before, telling him that if he was in pain, he should let God take him home to heaven and I’d understand. Before, he had always turned away quickly in disgust, but this time he turned away slowly in resignation.
Friday night and Saturday morning, I was mad at God – really mad. I had asked Him to take Buster Brown in his sleep and He was making me go through the pain of making the decision and the phone call. I was in the bathroom later that morning when I heard the word “resolution” in my spirit. Yes, I had always hoped for resolution and complained about not getting it. I never got to say goodbye to my mother or my ex-husband before they died and I wasn’t with them when they left this world. I was at my father’s side to talk to him when he was dying, but he wasn’t responsive and he didn’t die until the next morning. Now, with Buster Brown, my beloved friend, God was giving me the opportunity to experience the closure I had never known.
I carried him that morning – the one and only time he let me carry him. I carried him to the car, to the vet, to the scale and to the office. He didn’t protest but for a wiggle or two. I held him the whole time – the one and only time he let me hold him in my lap for more than a few seconds. He didn’t even want to pace or go exploring. I told him how good he was, how much I loved him, how grateful I was for him. I felt his breath stop and then his heart. He died in my arms. I looked one last time into his eyes, and although the cloudy cataracts were no longer visible, the life was gone from his eyes and I cried harder.
I felt guilty and unsure of my decision to put him down. I wondered if I had done it out of impatience and for convenience. As I went to bed that night and began to read the novel I was in, I came to a part in the story where the main character’s parents travel to see him and spend time with him, because the father has a bad heart and is dying. The father tells his son it’s his time to die, and I knew God was telling me that it was indeed Buster Brown’s time to die. The doubt and the guilt vanished. Sunday I had my lunch outside and was reading a magazine where the introduction from the editor was a piece about how they put their dog down. Another confirmation from God, just for good measure. What a tender God that cares so much to comfort and reassure us about what we feel deeply! What a wonderful God who designed and arranged the perfect match between a dog and a person! Farewell Buster Brown, this woman’s best friend. I’ll miss you.