He wandered into our lives on April 8, 2000. I was driving my wee daughter home from St David’s Preschool and there was this very gentle, Rottweiler/Lab standing in the middle of the road about a half a block from our house as if waiting for us to stop. I did, of course, stop, and he let me lead him to our home where he immediately climbed the stairs and curled up in the corner of my daughter’s room. That became his spot.
As all three year olds must, my daughter named him. We’d had a carpenter working at the house with a huge Rottweiler named Bear. Our founding looked similar but smaller so he received the name “Bear Cub.” Nicknames Osito and OhSoSweeto quickly followed.
He was the gentlest soul. You see, at first, I was afraid to keep him because I thought Rottweilers were dangerous. It’s an image problem. (If there could ever be a class action lawsuit by dogs, I think Rottweilers might singlehandedly bring down Hollywood.) But I have never known a more gentle, family oriented dog than Bear Cub. In fact, he was the one that hid whenever voices were raised. He hated arguments, thunder and fireworks. What he loved was dinner time, snacks, snuggling, walks (not runs) and making sure the kitchen floor was spotless. He was truly a dog that liked comfort. And love.
Two weeks ago, he had a few strokes. Over the next week, we tried steroid shots but, on the fifth shot, when he tried to nip the vet, I said, “Let’s stop.” He was willing to keep trying but I realized that I was pushing and really, the dog who liked comfort didn’t like to be pushed. About the only thing that would cause a growl and a nip was pulling on his collar to make him go someplace he didn’t want to go.
An animal can’t tell us, “It’s time to go, Mom. I’m uncomfortable and I can’t walk anymore.” No, we have to search our hearts and souls and look for signs. That’s what I did for ten days after the strokes. When I took him to the vet, I asked Bear Cub to tell me if he wants to stay here. “If you do that thing where you put your paw on my arm so that I won’t stop petting you, then I’ll know.” He did it twice with two of his favorite visitors but never with me. Still I hesitated.
My biggest hesitation about euthanizing him stemmed from guilt. I thought that euthanizing was taking the easy way out, that it meant I wasn’t trying hard enough. That’s when my angel friend Lou said, “Guilt keeps us in a role lock so that we can’t be authentic and make a real choice, a choice that free of should’s and have-to’s.” Oh.
It took two more days of lifting him outside to relieve himself, watching him fall over again and again, trying to get him to eat only to have it come back up before I could say, “Okay my friend, I will help you leave this old body that is not working anymore.” I called the vet who would come to our house. I emailed friends to let them know the end was coming.
The next day was Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The sun came out finally. I carried him out on to the grass. Friends came by to snuggle with him. He watched me cook dinner one last time. Then the vet came. He gave Bear Cub a sedative. As he was getting drowsy, he looked at me. It was the look he always gave me as I was getting out of a chair. It was the look that said, “Are we going someplace? Is it time to get up and go?”
I put my hand on his big soft head and said, “Yes, my dear friend, my Bear Cub, my Osito, my OhSoSweeto, it’s time to go.”
Then the vet gave him his second shot to stop his heart.
It was so quiet. And peaceful. And comfortable.
Just the way he would have liked it.
He liked quietness. He made us be quieter. He liked snuggling. He made us be snugglier. It is quite a legacy, my sweet Bear Cub. My Osito. My OhSoSweeto.