Nearly eight years ago, I wrote a message titled simply Goodbye, Old Friend. You may still be able to find the original elsewhere online, but I have also added it here, because I didn’t ever want to lose it, so I recreated it here
The gist of the story was that I had to make the decision on whether it was the right time to put our dog to sleep. I grew up with Ruf-ce-Tuf, but I hadn’t lived with him for a number of years, so while it was a tough call, in retrospect it wasn’t as bad as it might have been in some other situations.
Recently, it was time to make that decision again with another friend – my buddy Ray. Some of you may remember Ray, as I’ve posted about him before, perhaps most memorably just over three years ago when he got a slick new haircut for the summer and looked like a puppy again. That was a good day. A really good day.
Unfortunately, even then Ray was on the old side. Larger dogs don’t tend to live too long, and by our best estimate he was probably about ten.
I was on my way to work one day a bit more than five years ago when I first saw Ray. He was stumbling across Rama Road, and very likely wouldn’t have lasted much longer. It was pure luck – though I’m sure that most people would claim fate, or a larger presence of some kind, was at work, simply because I rarely took that route, and the fact that Ray even made it across the road in his weakened state at rush hour was something of a miracle. He made it to a side road, and I had to pull over. I’ll do that for most any animal, but seeing him just about broke my heart. I called to him and he paused for a moment, but he was intent on not stopping. I think that he thought if he did he wouldn’t be able to keep going. I had to physically get out of the car and block his path to really get his attention.
Even though I was driving our “family” car (a Nissan Maxima), I had to help Ray climb into the back seat. I immediately took him to the vet, and everyone there fell in love with this poor guy, seeing how tough a life he had already gone through. He had lost most of his hair, and obviously was in no small amount of pain. But he wasn’t ready to give up. We fed him, gave him some water and after a steroid shot, before long he was on the road to recovery. His hair started coming back and what do you know – it was like an entirely different dog had joined our family. Even though I had just met him, he was soon lying under my desk at work, happy to have found a new place to call home.
Because I found him on Ray-ma road, because my wife likes Everybody loves Ray-mond and because he was a St-Ray, we called him Ray. Our other dogs have longer names, and often will actually have middle names. But Ray just fit him perfectly. Once in a while I might even call him Raymond, but even that just seemed like too much. Ray was a perfect name for him, and he was just right for us. This old soul came into our home and took care of us, and we of him.
At first, he lived outside with Tigger, but before long we discovered that one of the problems was that he couldn’t take the heat. He started losing his hair again. So we moved him inside, and gave him another steroid shot. The hair came back, and after a few special baths to help with the itchy skin that resulted, he did just fine.
Ray perpetually had ear infections, but all-in-all, he didn’t do badly. We had to keep a close eye on what we kept near the edge of the counter – one day we left a little too quickly, and came back to find a pumpkin butter cake completely gone. We hadn’t even been able to taste it! But Ray sure seemed to like it. He also liked to get into anything that made noise – plastic grocery bags or variety packs of chips were his favorites. Anything that he could nose to the edge – and over – were perfect for Ray.
Over the last few weeks and months, Ray really started to go downhill. We had to help him up, and as many larger dogs do, he developed some breathing problems as well. He couldn’t hear well, and he could barely see. But because he seemed to be okay, we held out hope that he was enjoying life enough to stick it out. Finally we decided that the time was close. And over the last few days, his breathing really became labored. Ray never completely lost it – he didn’t deteriorate to the point where we simply had to do something, and for that I am thankful.
The memories that we have of Ray are almost completely good ones. Even when we had to help him get up, or the occasional time we had to clean up after him, aren’t bad. We will always have good memories of Ray.
As a family, we decided to take Ray to the vet yesterday, and as a family we sat with him. Even the staff at the vet came in to say goodbye to our friend. They had an ice cream there, and they mixed in some dog food so that Ray could enjoy one last treat. To the end, he was able to dig in. It was classic Ray. As we held him, the vet gave him the shot that allowed him to finally sleep in peace. I know that one day we’ll see him again, resting gently in the shade under a cool breeze. Probably eating pumpkin butter cake. Until then, I know that I’ll miss my friend. I can already feel how the house is different without his presence here. But I know he’s better off.
We love you Ray.