So long, old boy

Stop the Presses column by Chris Graham

It was one of the harder things that I’ve ever had to do.

“You’re going to need to cradle his head in your arms,” the veterinarian counseled me.

My mom’s dog, Ted, was on the table.

Approaching his 15th birthday, he had been struggling mightily the past several months – with a hip condition that made it hard for him to get up and down steps, with intestinal issues that had made it hard for him to keep food down in recent weeks.

Mom decided this week that he had suffered enough.

He went to sleep for the last time at 10:30 this morning.

Mom couldn’t be in the room – so she asked me if I could be there for him.

She needn’t have asked.

Ted was as much my dog as he was hers.

I remember when we got him – a few weeks old, the day that I went back for my third year at the University of Virginia.

I didn’t get to see him before I left – he was sort of a surprise, a gift from a family friend who knew that we had just gone through the death of our first dog, Cody, a few weeks earlier.

He wasn’t much more than a ball of fluff – but a chow-golden retriever mix, he was destined to become a big boy.

He quickly grew to his adult size of close to 60 pounds – but he never did get past being a puppy, as far as he was ever concerned.

As big and awkward as he could be at times, he would always greet me by jumping up on my lap and getting me to scratch behind his ears.

Mom always marveled at how he’d get me to do that.

“He won’t even let me touch anywhere near his head,” she’d say.

The best Ted story that I can think of right now was the time a few years back when I was working as a senior staff writer and copyeditor at The News Virginian in Waynesboro when I got a phone call from Mom.

Ted had gotten away from her and run off into the night – and the weather forecast was calling for wind chills that night below zero.

“Can you come help me find him?” she pleaded.

Again, she needn’t have asked.

I covered two subdivisions by foot that night looking for him – and two hours into the search went back to headquarters at Mom’s house to regroup.

It was freezing by this point – about 9, 9:30, wind chills already near zero.

“Give me the keys to your car. I’ll drive around for a while and see if I see any sign of him,” I remember saying.

As I made my way to the car, and opened the driver’s side door, Ted came running from the woods in the backyard and jumped into the front seat!

I wanted to strangle him, of course – but instead took him for a ride around the neighborhood.

He always loved going on rides.

I rode out to the veterinary hospital with Mom today fighting back tears.

I guess that’s the way it should be when you face these kinds of situations.

As much as we loved Ted, I don’t think either one of us thought it was fair to see him suffering the way he was.

His last few moments weren’t bad ones at all, considering.

He always hated going to the vet and getting shots – but at least this time he was in my arms and getting one last belly scratch as he drifted from this world to the next.

“It was just like he went to sleep,” I told Mom after it was over.

Thinking as I said it how much I would miss the old boy – and how much I would give to have him jump up on my lap and get me to scratch him behind his ears one more time.



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