Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bart: The Best Black Lab Ever

faith·ful /ˈfeɪθfəl/ [feyth-fuhl] adjective 1. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant: faithful friends. 2. reliable, trusted, or believed.

Today was a really rough day! Today was the day a piece broke off my heart as we said goodbye to our constant and faithful friend, Bart. Our black Lab was a parolee from the Lucky Dog program at our local prison when we met him eight years ago and at just over one year old he was all puppy. This gentle giant had been trained by his handlers to commands. He knew how to sit, lie down, and stay but since we treat our animals like part of the family we promptly began to undo most of that early training. (Why should the animals behave better than the people?)

Bart's natural affection led him to accept all people and other animals. He delivered love and kisses to everyone! When strays showed up and stayed to live, Bart didn't discriminate. He accepted Bubby,our stray dog, and Meow, our stray cat, as equal brothers.

Bart never tired of his favorite pastime; retrieving tennis balls and kong. His energy for this sport was boundless. Even in his later years, when he was beginning to be plagued with stiffness in his joints, he would fly down the stairs of our two story deck when we hit a fuzzy green ball off the end of a tennis racket into the cedar trees surrounding our home. His love for this pastime was with Bart to the end, so we buried him with a tennis ball.

Bart's downward spiral began with a bloody nose that became more persistent. Our first trip to the vet revealed normal blood work, strong heart and lungs, and no definitive reason for the nose bleed. We doctored him with a round of medication and nose drops but the nosebleeds worsened. After another round of medication, we resorted to taking Bart to Kansas State Veterinary Clinic in Manhattan, Kansas where he was diagnosed with nasal carcinoma. A week later, Bart's bleeding had increased to the point he was having trouble lying down because he had so much blood draining down his throat he was becoming congested. That is when we made our decision to end his suffering before it became severe.

The hardest part of losing this big, black, beast was his boundless energy even moments before his death. He did everything we asked of him; jumping up into the back of the pickup, sitting quietly and patiently, and trusting us to make his end of life decision. My final whisper to him was, "We love you so much! Please,meet me at The Rainbow Bridge!" With that, our wonderful veterinarian held our trusting and faithful companion and helped him die with dignity and no pain.

It is a tribute to Bart that when I posted the news of his death on facebook , our two dog sitters both called and cried with me on the telephone. I have had people say, they would rather not have a dog again after losing one. I know I'm not ready for another dog yet (none could ever replace Bart) but I do know I will always have dogs in my life. The positive effects of having a dog far outweigh this pain I feel right now. They provide unconditional love, joy, loyalty, companionship and an unrelenting faithfulness for as long as they are with you. The lessons they teach us in life and in death are something we can all learn and benefit from. Barty, I love you and I will see you at the Rainbow Bridge!