We said goodbye to Penske a couple weeks ago. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone. He was with us for 16 of his 17 years. I remember when he was a puppy – or puppy-like anyway – with so much energy. If you didn’t take him to the dog park literally every day, he’d be crazy and annoying. He absolutely loved playing with other dogs. We’d go to the dog park and he’d wrestle happily with a likeminded dog for an hour sometimes. It’s funny that I didn’t realize how transient that stage is at the time – like a toddler’s antics. In later years, he got into fetch, and he always loved hiking and running with us. He ran many a mile with Jonathan and I in his early and middle age. Eventually, he couldn’t even keep up with Jonathan’s slowed running pace of 10 or 11 minutes per mile, and his exercise was downgraded to walking. Even then, as a senior citizen he had lots of good years hanging out in the yard, going for walks with us, wolfing down his kibbles and treats and chewing his bones at night.
He had some rough spots – a cancer surgery and multiple dental surgeries caused by issues that had arisen before we got him. When Jonathan first took him to the vet, the vet told us his jaw had been broken, and he’s lost several teeth, which caused problems down the road. Other than that, though, he was mostly healthy throughout his life.
Eventually, we had to stop taking him on our family trips because he started getting sick and unhappy in the car. The geographical area in which he lived just got smaller and smaller. At the end, we wouldn’t even take him on short trips in the car, unless it was essential (think vet). The distance he could walk from our house decreased, until I had to carry him home on our last walk. I still regret that. I think I pushed him too hard on that hot evening, and I wish I hadn’t. I was kind of obsessed with keeping him mobile, as I figured loss of mobility would mean the end.
We always said jokingly, though it wasn’t funny at all when it finally happened, that we’d know he wasn’t well if he ever turned his nose up at his food. And eventually he did reject his kibbles. We tried wet dog food, which worked briefly, then human food, and eventually I would sit next to him on the floor and hand feed him so he wouldn’t have to get up. He couldn’t drink, though, without standing and bending over. For a while, we could help him to his feet, and he’d be ok, but then he got to the point where he’d stagger and be unable to walk in a straight line even after we helped him to his feet. It was so sad to see. Aging and nature are just absolutely brutal.
Jonathan really didn’t want him to die after an emergency trip to the vet, potentially in pain. He’d always hated the vet. We found a service that would come to our house, and I remember him lying there and having my hand on his furry flank while he breathed in and out. The person injected him, first with something that made him sleep, and then a second injection that stopped his heart. I just wanted to say, “Wait! Stop! Do we have to do this now? Can’t we wait just a little longer?” Watching the light go out in his eyes is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. The picture is of me sitting with him a couple days before he died.
Honestly, I didn’t know it would be this hard. Penske was like my first child, honestly. Caring for him in the last months was so hard because of his incontinence (and inability to stand on any easily cleanable smooth surface, like a tarp or hard wood floors). But now that the immediate stress is gone, I just miss the younger, healthier Penske that was such a companion to Jonathan and I for so many year.