Yesterday we had our dog put to sleep, at home, tennis ball in his mouth til the drugs kicked in. A great way to go all things considered. He had internal bleeding, probably caused by a tumour in his stomach, he was only going one way and I’m pleased I ended it while his tail still wagged, he liked his food and balls still interested him. The vet said he would rapidly go down hill and it was the kindest thing to do. Still a gut wrenching, guilt inducing decision to make.
He was a truly magical dog. We’d had him from a pup and he celebrated his 13th birthday in April. Apart from an extended holiday with a friend after my first op, he has been a constant companion in my life for a long, long time.
He was a typical lab, lived for food and walks and balls. My son says he can’t remember much of life before him. He was 4 when we got him I suppose he can’t. That’s a lot of memories, family holidays, walks, and love to remember. It’s also a lot of socks that have been eaten. A lot.
He came from a farm in Somerset, a dairy farm, where they were clearly making ends meet with some pups. There were only 2 left. I chose his brother, who was longer and leaner than the other short, little runt. However the look on Muster’s face to be left behind did something to me and I said ‘No, I need to have that one’ He cost £350, the absolute best money I have ever spent. The farmer clearly wasn’t sure about this single mum with a small kid in tow as a potential responsible owner for one of his pups, not least as initially the cheque bounced, but he let us have him, with the instruction that if we ever grew tired of him we must take him back rather than put him into rescue.
On the journey home he sat in the passenger footwell, with Max in his car seat perched above him. One of the reasons we got him was that Max had developed an almost phobic fear of dogs and I was buying him with a kill or cure mentality. It worked. Max wanted to call him Misha which I thought was too girly, I wanted to call him Buster, so Muster was born. Throughout his life he has been called Buster, Custard, Mustard he didn’t care as long as you were calling him to play or for food.
He was my first dog. I was never allowed one as a kid, despite being all I ever really wanted (apart from a horse). Max used to race him on his bike, he would leap into the canal to fetch balls and sticks, he would swim in the sea, he was gentle as a could be with a litter of kittens, while he didn’t have a viscous bone in his body he surprised me by defending me when I once got attacked, his own balls got him into a couple of scrapes and twice he had to be picked up, in disgrace, and not inconsiderable cost, from Bath cats and dogs home after his instinct to sow his oats led him far from home. In his lifetime he has had 4 different cats live with him. They all adored him.
My mum, not a self confessed animal lover, said when I told her that I had a dog, said ‘Well he’s never coming in my house’ my reply was ‘Well you won’t be seeing much of us then’ She relented and every time we visited or she visited us she always bought him a bone, she sobbed when I told her yesterday. everyone who met him loved him.One Christmas morning we all woke up at my Mums. Max was about 5 or 6. Muster had been ill, and I mean spectacularly ill in my Mum’s kitchen. Shit and puke everywhere, vertical as well as horizontal. I missed Max open all his presents that year as I was on all fours, shouting out ‘Oh that’s lovely’ between retches. She never saw the state of her kitchen, I don’t think if she ever did she would ever cook in it again!
On the many evenings, as a single mum, I spent alone at home he would be by my side. In my darkest days he would be a reason to get out of the house. He was a dog. Just a dog. But he really was my best friend. He listened to my darkest fears, and there have been many, and gave me the unconditional love only a dog gives.
When we sold up and moved into rented accommodation he wasn’t allowed there. Every time the landlady came over we had to hide him. A local friend was the hiding place of choice and a mercy dash coupled with manic cleaning and perhaps a touch of blind eye turning meant we got away with it. He spent his last 2 and half years living on a 500 acre farm where we certainly didn’t have to hide him. Very happy days.
So, if you have a dog, give them a hug, a long walk, a tummy rub and a treat. Take some photos, take some video. The day will come when you have to make the most heartbreaking decision, until then just love them the way they love you.