Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One journey ends...

Way back in 1995, as I was preparing to graduate from college, I was looking forward to getting my first dog. I had wanted a dog for a long time, but couldn't convince my parents! My boyfriend at the time got me a Jack Russell Terrier as a graduation gift, though I didn't actually get him until October (it took a while to find just the right one). I named him Foster, after the Australian beer, since I love all things Australia.

Foster lived up to his breed's motto of "big dog in a little body". And he was smart! Some of my fondest memories of his first year were of him chewing through the plastic mesh on the baby gate that we had used to confine him and meeting me at the front door! He also used to climb up the TV table, through the open bookshelves and onto the desk to chew the erasers off of pencils. And his first experience in the snow was hilarious. He couldn't see over the snow banks, so he spent his time hopping up and down to see where he was going, and to find a place to relieve himself. During that winter, Foster went to work with me at a local animal hospital almost every day.

When Foster and I moved back to Tennessee, we entered a new phase in our relationship. We had done some initial obedience training in Connecticut, but he was stubborn enough that he just wouldn't listen when off his leash. So we found a new trainer, a great trainer, and finally got Foster to the point where he would come to me if off-leash. I also discovered his love for retrieving things out of water; ponds, streams, pools, whatever.

Fast forward 13 years, and this past summer Foster was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer: extra skeletal osteosarcoma. He was given two weeks to three months to live. At first, he showed no signs of illness, except for the large tumor on his left hip. He ate and played like normal. Every few weeks his health would decline a bit then level off for a few more weeks.

A few weeks ago, I read an article in the New York Times about euthanizing a pet. which helped me realize that I needed to let Foster go when he was still enjoying life rather than when he was miserable. And so I had planned for his last day to be this week, so that he could spend Christmas with our family and my in-laws. I was still coming to terms with that when I realized last Tuesday night that he was very uncomfortable. He looked to be in a great deal of pain on Wednesday morning and I could not justify making him wait five more days to have some relief just so that we could have him for one last Christmas.

So on Wednesday morning, two days before Christmas, I put my beloved friend to sleep. It was as calm and as peaceful as I could ever have hoped for and I know that the time was right. What I hope for Foster is:

~ A big patch of sunshine that never shrinks, for sleeping in
~ A pond or lake or something else to swim in, preferably with sticks or leaves to retrieve
~ Legs to cuddle up against and
~ A floor covered with soft fluffy bedding to lie on

I learned so much from Foster (aka: Frosty, Floster, Frosty Pasta Dog, Pasta, and Little White Dog) that I will take with me as I raise future dogs, and for that I am thankful. Rest in peace, Foster. You are much loved and missed.

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