Did you cry at the end of Old Yeller? If so, drag out your hankies...
Our sweet old Ben left this earth to be with his canine brother and sister in heaven this afternoon. B and Mr. FixIt took it the worst, even knowing for 10 days this afternoon's deed was on the horizon. His joints have been creaking and cracking on him worse than ever, making it hard for him to get out of his bed, and up the two steps into the house at night. Thankfully with warmer weather he's been spared those two steps twice a day for a while now. His eyesight was near gone- that coupled with his excellent hearing meant he barked at most everything lately...until you called his name out the window telling him it was "ok." He'd jump at his own shadow, even bark at us if we walked too far off from him until you said something. Then he'd tuck tail and run to your side, saying "Oh, sorry, I didn't know it was you" with lowered head and sad, cloudy eyes. The kids all know the "Ben rules": Don't get in his face, don't scare him, don't wave toy guns and swords around him, don't grab for him and lately- lock him up (sunporch) when the yard starts filling with kids in case someone slips and forgets he's there. You'd never know he was old from running in the yard nonstop after a tennis ball or a toy! He'd retire a little sooner than in his younger years and his joints creaked and cracked but to see him run in the yard, kids kicking balls for him to fetch- you'd never know he was an old boy. His hearing has never failed him though- when he heard the neighbor dog out (male) he'd stand his ground at the edge of our yard, fiercely protecting the kids- our kids, neighbor kids, me. He played with Lucy but that was the extent of his friendliness toward other animals. He even attacked her a few times, thankfully she would cower and let him win, then slink off out of his way until he'd cooled of and HE initiated a session of keep-away or chase.
Yesterday was the day we've all dreaded. The vet tech cried. B cried. Mr. FixIt cried. I'd shed my tears the night poor little Hannah was bit as I knew right then the end result. Monster Man was upset for B but added some comedic relief. He told the vet that "daddy dug Ben a 'dying hole' in the yard" (if you've seen Madagascar 2, you know what he's referring to) then he hugged B and told her he was sorry, that Ben could fetch all day long in heaven and never get tired. Both kids were present with us and petted Ben as he went to sleep for the last time. No more achy joints. No more jumping in fear at something moving close from behind him. No more being held captive in the sunporch while neighbor dogs are out playing. We buried him with his favorite blanket and a tennis ball.
Ben had survived being abandoned as a pup, overcome a horrifying fear of men, battled heartworms for two years and won, increasingly failing eyesight and drastically worn-down teeth from fetching and chewing 5 bazillion tennis balls over his lifetime. He was a good boy, a very sweet boy. Very hard to let him go. I keep listening for him to jingle his collar at the sliding glass door, wanting someone to come play fetch. I checked on him out of habit this morning- still in shock that he's no longer there.
I'm sure Ben is happy to join Alex and Kari in heaven, the three amigos together again as they had been for more than 10 years. Take care of each other guys- we miss you all.