|Tiberius' adoration for my wife Anne is self evident (bag of treats not withstanding)
Tomorrow eventually shows up today, and so it goes with our loveable Golden Retriever named Tiberius (or Ty for short). Ty passed away from complications of his cancer. We knew that he was dying, and we knew that soon we would have to put him down. We just didn't figure on it happening today.
Isn't that the way it usually goes?
We adopted or rescued Ty in January 2012, approximately one month after we said farewell to our dog Dave. We thought that we would wait a few months before looking for another pet dog, but my wife Anne, on a whim, called a local rescue agency that specializes in placing Golden Retrievers into new "forever homes". We had acquired Dave from As Good As Gold ("AGAG") quite a number of years earlier, so on a whim, Anne called AGAG, explained our situation, and asked them if they had any dogs available for adoption. It just so happened that they did: a sweet 60 pound two year old male named Tyberius. And since we already a customer, they fast tracked the adoption process and before we knew it, Ty was the newest member of our family.
Ty was a little shy about stepping across the door threshold and into our house, but it didn't take too long or much coaxing before his tail was wagging at a rapid clip. While we will never forget our too previous Goldens, Katie and Dave, Ty soon warmed his way into our hearts and helped us get past the pain of losing Dave a month earlier.
Like all Retrievers, Ty liked to play fetch and chase down a thrown tennis ball. However, we had to play Fetch his way, not ours. You see, Ty would fetch the ball, but he wouldn't give it back to us because this led to a new game called "Keep Away." Ty would make us chase him around the yard in vain attempts to get that tennis ball away from him. Then eventually, he would slow down, let us catch up to him, and then pretend to let us take the ball out of his mouth, after a show of resistance. Then we would throw the tennis ball again and repeat the whole thing over and over again. I would say that Ty had us very well trained almost from Day One.
And also, like other Retrievers and probably most hounds of any breed, Ty liked to go on walks. It didn't matter where, just as long as it was a walk. He quickly learned that when one of us said "Walkies!" that it was time for some fun. Eventually the routine was that Ty would walk up to one of us, stare us down, and point his snout in the opposite direction. That was his way of letting us know that it was time to get off of that couch and take him for a walk. He had our good health in mind with all of this, you know.
Probably one of the reasons that I'm in fairly good physical shape is the fact that I walked Ty almost every day that he was with us. We must have walked hundreds of miles together over the past ten years. The average walk in the evening was one to two miles which was very beneficial to my health. Ty liked to think that the walks were for his benefit, but they were really for mine. Once he had "done his business" then I could usually consider turning back and walking home. Methinks that Ty figured all of this out because he would hold back on matters until he had his couple of miles done, then he would produce and know that we were headed home.
Ty also loved rain and mud. The more mud, the better. In the Springtime, our back yard gets fairly muddy and so we always kept a pile of old towels next to the back door so that they would be available to wipe the mud off of Ty's paws. If Ty had his druthers, he would bound in through the door and make a beeline for the nearest piece of available carpet. Why track mud on the hardwood floor when there is some nice soft carpet to set one's paws to? Ty learned quickly though, when he bounded into the house I would head him off at the pass and stand in his way, blocking him from the carpeted family room. Then I would shout "Paws, paws, paws!" and get him to lay down so that I could clean the cakes of mud off of his paws. It didn't take very long for Ty to learn that Paws, Paws, Paws meant that it was time to lie down and roll over onto his back so that I could clean him up. Smart dog.
Tiberius though was really my wife Anne's dog. He adored her. Completely. Lelia and I would be sitting in the family room reading or watching television when suddenly Ty's ears would perk up and he would execute a fast trot to the door leading into our garage. There he would wait for Anne to pull her car into the garage and enter the house. Mind you, it sometimes took upwards of five minutes before Anne actually arrived home, but Ty had this uncanny ability to know when she was coming home. You could book it with absolute certainty - when Ty rushed to the garage door, we knew that Anne would soon be home.
Lelia and I were just a little bit jealous.
Ty would wine and wag his tail endlessly whenever Anne walked through the door. In contrast, when I arrived home, Ty would be sitting in the front hall and watch me walk through the door. Then he would disappear ("who is that? Oh, it's just Dad. Mom where are you?).
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Tiberius was how attuned he was to the feelings and emotions of everyone in the house. If you were feeling sad and blue, Ty would walk up to you and sit down next to you so that you could pet him. In my case, if I was screaming at the computer or printer because technology wasn't working the way that it's supposed to, he would patter his way up the stairs and into the office where I would be working. I could hear him walking up the stairs so I knew what was coming next. Ty would walk up to me and set his head in my lap - the perfect comfort dog!
"Hey Jim, how can you be so upset with something as silly as a piece of equipment when you have ME to pet." Sometimes I would shoo him away because I still had a few choice words left for that dang Hewlet Packard wireless laser printer that was having difficulty connecting to the computer. Ty was determined and he would come back until I got the message that it was time to pet his head. This worked like a charm. How can you be upset when you have a perfectly good Golden Retriever to pet?
I recall an old coffee table picture book about Golden Retrievers and on one of the pages it said:
"Had a tough day? Lost your job? Is your wife or girlfriend mad at you? Don't worry, your Golden is here for you."
Back in November we found out that Ty had a form of blood cancer that is usually fatal. We had a tumor removed and a few weeks later the biopsy came back with the bad news. We were told that Chemo might give him six more months, but that the side effects of the chemo could be brutal. We didn't want to put Ty through that. So we elected to give him capsules of some kind of mushroom extract from China. The Vet told us that this could give him a few more months.
It gave Ty about three more months with us and we soaked up all of the extra time with him that we could get. We took him on more walks through the woods, let him get off leash and run like a free soul through the trees. On walks, I would let him lead the way and I would let hime stop everywhere to get a sniff of this or that. In the past I would have given the leash a light yank to let him know that it was time to get on with our walk. Anne took him on frequent walks to the beach so that he could run up and down the bluffs or dip his paws into the water or play keep away with the waves.
We switched his diet from hard kibble to softer things like wet dog food and, wait for it, cooked chicken and steak! Ty probably wondered why we had been holding back on the good stuff all of these years.
Ty hadn't been eating much food for the past couple of days, so we knew that the end was near. He would eat some chicken meat ball treats if Anne hand fed them to him, but he no longer had any interest in steak. His stomach was filling up with blood from the cancer tumors so he had no appetite.
I took Ty on a walk yesterday afternoon. It was a mix of rain and snow so naturally Ty liked the weather conditions. I did a little bit of figure painting in the evening and Ty padded his way down into the basement and folded himself into nap position at my feet, just like he always would. He loved being with people and couldn't stand be alone in the house. Earlier in the day, Anne took Ty for another walk at the beach and he seemed to be his old self again.
This morning, I didn't notice anything unusual in Ty at first. I had a workout scheduled with my trainer and after changing into my workout clothes, I noticed that Ty was standing in front of the front door just sort of staring at nothing. I thought that maybe there was another dog walking outside or the UPS driver was getting ready to deliver a package or something like that. I didn't think much more about it when I bid Ty adieu and drove off to the workout.
On the way home, Anne called me to tell me that it was TIME and that I needed to hurry home. I was a block away anyway. She had called the vet and the vet was already there, getting our of her car with her bag of accoutrements. I could see now that Ty looked a lot older than he had even the day before and that he was panting quite bit. Anne and I spent some good time with Ty, saying our farewells. It was as if Ty was trying to hang on long enough for us to say our goodbyes to him.
Then he walked over to the vet (didn't even bark or growl at her as he always did) and nuzzled her. It was as if he was telling the vet "it's time now". The vet explained the procedure and it all went very peaceful and quietly as we watched Ty's life ebb away - he crossed the Rainbow Bridge. His work with our family was done and he had done that work so well.
You never expect tomorrow to come today. But eventually it does.