Thursday, February 22, 2007

Saying Goodbye To A Good Friend (And Running Partner)

I used to have this great running partner, the best kind: energetic, fun, always up for a few miles no matter what the weather. He was young, just a teenager, and he could literally run circles around me, but he never minded that he was so much faster than I was, and I always felt great when I ran with him. Now he's an old man, almost 100, and he can barely limp around the block. His hearing is going, his eyesight too, hips are arthritic and mostly he sleeps. When he sees me pick up my running shoes, he sometimes gets momentarily excited, forgetting that he'd be wheezing before we hit the corner stop sign.

There are few beings on this earth as unerringly kind, forgiving, loving, protective, humbling, thoughtful, and faithful as my friend Sabre. I love him so much. The hardest thing about loving a dog though is that their life is lived on fast-forward. Just as you get used to their puppy antics, they're heading into middle age, and by the time you take for granted that they'll run another 10-miler tomorrow, old age is just around the corner. Then it's here.

Today we took Sabre to the beach for the last time. I have to admit that I've been secretly hoping he'd die peacefully in his sleep, because this is a decision I didn't want to have to make for him, but the time has come. My husband got him for my birthday the year we met, and that was fourteen years ago. We have had Sabre as our constant companion for our entire married life, and the kids have always known him as their friend and protector. If you ever wanted to see an agitated dog, all you had to do was have one kid running in one direction and one in the other. As a herding dog, Sabre's one life mandate was "look after your flock" and he would anxiously sprint from one to the other if they were ever separated. On family hikes with friends, he would constantly run from the front of the line of hikers to the back, ceaselessly ensuring that we were all safe and accounted for. Though he now walks with difficulty, he still followed the kids everywhere they went on the beach today, no matter how long it took him. Even now, I think it is his noble sense of duty that keeps him hanging on, long past when it seems that his body should be giving up. I'm pretty sure that in his doggy mind, he's convinced that he simply must look after us or some great harm will fall upon us. He has kept us safe for all of these years, and sometimes when I look in his eyes I know he will not let go, no matter how much pain he is in, if only for this reason.

So the time is upon us when we have to make the decision to say goodbye. There is not a dog on this planet who has had a better life, been more loved, gone to more beaches and forests and snowy mountains, camped with and been loved by more kids and adults, been cherished more by his family. If you look back through our family photo albums he is a constant, always by our sides. He's lying next to the kids as they read a book on the couch, he's next to the campfire or walking next to us, no matter where we are. Sabre's spirit has touched everyone he has met. Even walking him down the street, people would stop and comment on what a kind face he had, what a gentle spirit. If you are reading this blog and have a prayer or a good thought to send this way, let it be that I have the strength to say goodbye to a good friend who deserves an easy and peaceful end to a life well lived.

10 comments:

TJ said...

i'll be keeping you, your family and sabre in my prayers robin.

Nancy Toby said...

That's a beautiful tribute! Rest well, Sabre.

Donald said...

These situations are so heartbreaking. I'll say a prayer for you.

Sheila said...

You gave me a good cry. Pets are THE BEST. Rest in peace, Sabre, and you, heal up.

TriGirl 40 said...

Robin - Sabre sounds like a beautiful animal. Glad he has lived with such a wonderful family. This final phase is so painful, bittersweet, challenging – but you are filling it with grace and love. You’ll all be in my thoughts. Hugs to you all – especially sweet Sabre.

Bike Chick said...

It is very hard to let go of a dog so well loved. I hope you are doing well. I know Sabre felt your love.

momo said...

this is such a wonderful tribute. i wrote about my dogs recently and it is amazing how they are your family. i never thought that could be the case, not having had them as a child.

hugs to you and your family.

theseamonster said...

I stumbled onto this but felt compelled to say that this was a very touching post about Sabre. I really wish the best for you and your family during this time.

Saying goodbye to a friend like that is so hard (we lost 3 of our 4 long-time dog friends).

We found that, for us, our kids, and our dog Tiger, a new puppy really lifted everyone's spirit.

I named him Kona:
http://www.dogster.com/dogs/424464

Robin said...

Thank you all for the good wishes, it's going to be a tough week...

That little pup Kona is so cute, a great mix of breeds (Sabre is half lab and half Australian Shepherd, a terrific mix of brains and heart).

Julie B said...

I am so sorry that you have to say good-bye to Sabre. I am sending thoughts of strength your way. I have a best friend and running partner in a certain Border Collie and know that some day I will have to make the same decision.