In April of 2013, Trevor and I took in a hospice foster dog. We named him Ducky because his tail looked like a platapus. We expected him to live a week or two and figured we could give him a safe, loving home until it was him time to go. He had come into the shelter as a stray, no one claimed him. He was about 16 and in pretty bad shape – his teeth were awful, he was blind in one eye and had bad arthritis. He wouldn’t be adoptable and instead of just putting him down, they asked us to take him. Here is the story of our meeting.
Within a week we started calling him Poppy because this old guy acted like a grumpy grandpa. He stomped around, demanded to be fed, held, let out, let in. He was quite a character. He liked to be held close and would jump up on the couch, the coffee table or my lap. We quickly grew to love him. He was pretty confused for a while, not sure where he was and who we were. That changed over time – he soon realized that we were his family and that was that.
Many times, we thought it was the end for Poppy. I was out of town for work and Poppy wouldn’t eat. Trevor just wanted to keep him alive until I got home – we didn’t want Poppy to die without both of us by his side. Trevor gave him some cat food and Poppy loved it. The brand of food was called “Fussy Cat” and that became his nickname. Fussy cat ate his cat food diet for several months until he decided he didn’t want it anymore and we switched him back to a dog food.
At first, Poppy would jump on and off the deck by himself. His joints were pretty stiff so he kind of threw himself off the deck and hoped for the best. After a couple months, we didn’t make him jump off or on anymore, we helped him. At that point he would come to the deck and put his chin up while he waited for us to come get him. If we didn’t do it soon enough, he would stomp around the yard and then come back to the deck. Recently he stopped doing that – he would just wander around the yard in circles until we came out to get him.
Most days we expected Poppy to die in his sleep. When he woke up from a deep sleep he was always a little surprised that he was still alive. “Is this heaven?” he would say as he stumbled to his awakeness.
Through it all, he loved to be held close. Poppy’s best times were when I would sit in the sun or lay on the couch and just hold him. It was those times when I knew that he knew we loved him. He knew he was our family and that he was safe with us. It was those times when I was overcome with a feeling of peace and the realization of my purpose here on earth. I knew it. Poppy knew it. These last few weeks, I’ve been spending as much time as I could holding him close and telling him how much I loved him. I’ve also been telling Poppy about doggie heaven – how the others who have gone before him will be waiting for him, how he will be restored to good health and he can run and play just like he did when he was younger.
We have known this old guy was going downhill the last couple weeks and were just waiting for him to give us the sign. I was out of town last weekend and when I got home Monday night, I knew. I picked up Poppy and he looked at me as if to say “Don’t leave me again”. And I knew it was time. We decided to give him this week to enjoy eating some super yummy food and being held close in the sun. He has enjoyed it but has also made it clear, he is ready to go. His time here is done. 17 years is a pretty good run for a doggie.
I don’t know what the first 16 years of Poppy’s life were like, but I know that this last year has been full of love and comfort. He could have died in the shelter, alone, last year. So many others die alone. But because he came here to be with us that didn’t happen.
Today, Poppy went to the Rainbow Bridge. We held him close one last time as he took his final breathe and slipped away into the next life. My heart is both full of love and broken into pieces. I loved him, I’ll always love him and I will miss him terribly. It was an honor to be with him at the end and I am proud that he was a part of our family.