My dog passed away last week. I knew it was coming so I thought I was prepared, but it turns out you can’t really prepare for losing a friend — a family member of almost 13 years.
I got Eetu in summer 2004 when he was just a few months old. We drove over 500 km to the kennel and he was the first puppy to come and greet us. On the drive back he spent the first few hours whining so loud I was afraid I’d go deaf before he eventually fell asleep, squeezed between the door and my leg.
When it was time for bed on that first day, he sat on his mattress and cried. I did the one thing you’re not supposed to do: I fell for the sad puppy eyes. I went to sit with him and petted him until he fell asleep.
All I knew about puppies at the time was that they were cute, so it was a bit of a shock to realize the cute fur-ball had tiny sharp teeth. And he liked to use them. I wore rubber boots in the middle of the summer to keep him from chewing up my ankles.
He grew up, though. He was definitely our family’s dog and loved everyone he knew (and who’d feed him treats), but meeting new people wasn’t his strong point. It took him around three to four meetings to stop growling at “strangers” but afterwards he’d gladly sit by you, waiting to be petted.
I lived with him for ten years and got to know him as well as I could. I knew when he was whining for whining’s sake and when he really had to go out, when he was really getting hungry and when he just wanted to taste all our breakfast.
Then old age caught up to him. His fur turned gray, he got slower, the pains started. Maybe he could’ve lived on for a few months, maybe up to a year, but it wouldn’t have been a nice life. In this case it was better to let him go sooner rather than later.
I moved away a few years ago so I wasn’t there when the vet came for the final visit. I saw him a week before that though, and on one night, when he sounded like he had trouble breathing and relaxing, I sat next to him and petted him to sleep.
I’ll always miss him and I’ll be sad, but I’ll try to focus on the positive. He had a good life and he was loved. He was an important part of the family. No one can ever replace him but if there comes a time I own another dog, I’ll be sure to tell them all about old Uncle Eetu.