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Goodbyes are tough. We all have to swallow them, even if they stick halfway down the throat.
We said goodbye to Dyna last month. The brindle Boxer with unrelenting good will and boundless energy. She was six years old.
The life of a dog owner is filled with joy, frustration, love and sorrow—and it comes with an expiration date. These shedding critters that we invite into our homes—and watch make them their own—are with us for a set, short amount of time.
This specific story is about that aforementioned Boxer puppy who we brought home when really I didn't want another dog.
I had (and still have) Steve, now a 12-year old Jack Russell terrier who is friendly to all but would be just as well if he and I lived on a deserted island together—provided that he got to sleep in my makeshift bed.
My wife's high school friend bred Boxers and a litter was on the way. I was hesitant but conceded as long as I got to pick the pup out. We made the near hour drive to check out the group after they had arrived but I already knew which one I wanted.
The dogs were of a good bloodline, from Hawaii of all places, and most were a mixture of brindle or brown and white. One was almost all brindle with a couple of white patches. My decision was made up before that somewhat pointless trip.
It was pointless because you can't learn much about a dog when it is six weeks old, but not so because my wife got to catch up with an old friend. Our decision was confirmed and we would be back a couple of weeks later to pick up the newest addition to our family.
Dyna, who was named after a motorcycle I used to own, was the quickest dog I'd ever seen (or heard of) when it came to house training. One accident, maybe two, after the nine-week old pup joined our home.
She latched on to Steve quickly and became his sidekick, sleeping partner and subservient in many ways. All it took was for that 15-pound terrier to glance at the 55-pound horse and she would bow out and away from the food dish.
She was good, unassuming, loving and her under-bitten stare would evoke laughter, joy and love.
That is, until it didn't. Dyna had cancer, and I didn't see it. Though I should have.
A close friend pointed it out on a visit. "Her teeth are sideways," I said. "Yeah, I know. She's a Boxer."
That wasn't it. He pointed out that one of Dyna's teeth was pointing almost at a 45-degree angle out of her mouth. I decided we should have it looked at during her next vet visit.
It was about three weeks later that my wife noticed Dyna's snout looked swollen. I hadn't noticed but it was fairly obvious once pointed out.
She'd probably just gotten stung by something or had an issue with one of her teeth. One trip to the vet revealed that Dyna had a tumor in her gums and that a specialist would need to be called in.
The veterinarian wouldn't go on-record without the specialist coming after the weekend, but the prognosis was pretty clear and we had sold ourselves on the idea that this would be the last couple of days with our girl.
It was a great weekend for her, from my eyes at least. In two days, she got to eat more human food than she ever had in six month's time and she even got a little bit of low-point beer that I snuck her. Dead dog walking was my mindset.
On Monday, the specialist gave us the worst good news we'd ever heard. Surgery was the surgeon's recommendation, believe it or not. Putting Dyna down was not an option because of her age and happiness.
This woman obviously didn't know dogs. She definitely didn't know Dyna. That tough girl would have done anything for a pet and a cuddle and getting those from new people at the vet's office would have made that poor girl grin through the worst.
What she didn't consider was that Dyna had been noticeably chewing with one side of her mouth for a couple of days, and definitely the rest of that weekend.
But the plan was to remove a quarter of my dog's face because the surgeon already could tell that the fast-moving tumor had made it into the upper mandible bone. Yes, surgery that would start at around $2,000. And that would not include any facial prosthetics that Dyna might need after such an operation.
In the nicest way possible, we told her that that would not be an option. She could give no guarantee that this would fix the fast-spreading issue. And she could give us less of an idea as to Dyna's quality of life after such an operation took place.
We were met with an unfortunately cold and calloused rebuttal that seemed more intent on shaming us for our decision than treating either pet or the owner, even implying that we wanted to put our dog down.
She's gained three pounds since she was here three days ago. We were told as a reason to qualify extending her life and someone else's bottom line. See dead dog walking.
I was furious. My wife, heartbroken. I vowed to never return to the vet I'd used for over ten years. Worst of all, we were a bit lost. We weren't going back there, but we didn't no were else to go.
Luckily, some Google research and a solid day of perusing reviews led us to a close-by vet clinic with smart, even-keeled doctors who treated both the pet and owner and aren't solely driven by their bottom line.
The first visit (without even mentioning that we have been anywhere else) ended with a somber, yet sincere diagnosis. The idea of surgery was deplorable but the bedside manner was wholehearted and appreciated.
Dyna was loved and taken care of, and now she is missed. I will always regret not taking her on more walks, or making more time when I could have—and even yelling at her when I shouldn't have.
But I will never regret the choice to ease her pain. I will never regret the choice to say, "Goodbye."