Over 16 years ago a little poof ball came into our lives. We named him Chance. He was one of the best things to ever happen to us. He was our chance to raise him completely together, on our own and in my eyes, a way of redemption.
My wife and I were together for about 10 years when I had to put my childhood dog down about 18 months earlier, just before we moved to Idaho. Moe was 16 and my best friend but wasn’t treated well but my family. When I moved out on my own, I treated him like a king but I always felt guilty for not being able to protect him when I was younger. I think that’s why I sought a chance for redemption.
My wife’s childhood dog, Sassy, passed away unexpectedly from cancer about 8 months later. They were never apart and shared a personality. It was hard. We were still mourning Moe and now we lost her too. We felt alone. Our childhood had officially gone, leaving a hole in our lives.
After six months I started thinking of getting another puppy. I didn’t really feel ready and neither was my wife. We looked around, met some pups, fell in love with them all and eventually decided on an Australian Shepard breed. We met with a breeder and visited the litter. We decided on a small, gray merle pup but it didn’t seem interested in us. In fact none of them did except for this one little fat, puffy, brown and white guy with a spot on his head that kept pushing his way to us. He chose us and we accepted. They were only four weeks at the time so we had to wait a bit longer before taking him home.
Chance was cute and cuddly, loving, playful, silly and smart. Always found his way out of a crate. Potty trained himself and never used the bathroom inside. A star pupil in a doggy training class. A first place champion kisser in the Valentine’s Day doggy kissing contest. A great Hide-and-Seek player! And an excellent trainer!
Over the years we made many memories. Tossing him in a snow bank to watch him dig out and run back to me to do it again. The way he would climb into our hoodie for comfort. The way he would drop to the ground in a platypus position so I can pull him around with his tug toys. How he would lay on the back of the couch like a cat. He wouldn’t fetch but instead played ‘keep away’ with us, showing off his great football moves. His favorite place in the world was always right in the middle of us.
A few months before his 15th birthday, he lost his sister, a Red Australian Cattle Dog named Spirit. They grew up together and had many adventures throughout the years. Chance and Spirit were inseparable. They had to be together on walks and car rides. They played keep away from us and each other. When they played tug, he would drop into his platypus position and she would drag him around the room. They were silly and both had their quirky personalities.
Chance had struggled with depression since Spirit passed. She was gone and he wasn’t accepting our other dog Koko that we got several months before Spirit got sick. He perked up at times but was never really the same. I understand. He lost a part of himself just as I did. He loved her, played with her, tolerated and protected her.
Over the summer he would perk up some. Towards the fall, after he turned 15, he started having a hard time walking. We thought it was because of arthritis. It seemed to depress him again. He would eat less and was losing weight. We didn’t think he would make it through the holidays. But he surprised us and bounced back.
In January we took him to the vet hoping for a different medication to help his arthritis and his appetite. Instead, we found out he had a tumor on his liver, pushing on his stomach. It was devastating. We didn’t know if we had days, weeks or months. We felt helpless but we loved him and cherished the time we had left.
In the beginning, Chance would have some bad days but bounce back to being his old self. The bad days grew over time. In April, we thought it was the end. He got a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop and kept getting worse. We rushed him to the vet. They were closed for a meeting but when they saw me yelling and covered in his blood they let us in for emergency. It wasn’t our usual vet so we filled them in on his condition. They stopped the bleeding. They could feel the tumor and thought it may have ruptured and caused the bleeding. There was nothing more we could do. They said it’s probably his time and another bleeding incident might not stop. We took him home and prepared for the end.
Chance wasn’t ready to go. He bounced back and hasn’t had any more bleeding since. He just wasn’t ready to go yet. We continued the back and forth routine of good and bad days. We played ball and took him for rides. I looked into his eyes as the bad days grew and he let me know that he’s still not ready.
As his 16th birthday approached in August, he struggled more with walking and standing. However, he had no problems doing his favorite activity, being held! So, we got him a wagon. We pulled him around all over and he laid in it while we worked. He loved it!
It’s the middle of October. Lately the look in his eyes has changed to tell us that he’s tired, he’s hurting…..he’s ready and he’s ok. There’s no good time to lose a loved one but the holiday season seems to make it harder. He loves Christmas. Laying under the tree…ripping open presents…waiting for Santa Paws. But that’s two months away.
We’ve never put the Christmas tree up before Halloween but we decided to bring Christmas to him. We made his final vet appointment for November 16th with his favorite doctor. Until then, he gets to experience one final Christmas, complete with lights, decorations and presents. We have time off so we can be with him…holding him…loving him. It’s so hard…
Why does it have to end? We only have a short time with our pets and during that time they become our children. We would do anything for them, even die for them. 16 1/2 years is a long time but still not long enough. We love him so much.
We are so fortunate to have over 16 years with him and even more so that we were able to work from home over the last few years. While the pandemic was difficult for many, it gave us the opportunity to spend more time with Chance and his sister Spirit, especially in their final days. They will forever be in our hearts, never forgotten. As time goes on, we will think of them and smile for it is only their body that is gone.
Rest now my dear Chance. Join your sister, run and jump together again and watch over us. We will miss you, always.