The house is ghostly quiet today. I am so thankful for the sunshine. I am numb and only going through the motions, trying to recover from the dreaded last moments spent with my precious Barnabas last evening.
He had declined more each day the last couple of weeks, miserable, with all the complications of Canine Lymphoma. We watched as he got progressively weaker, his breathing more labored, his sleep more fitful, his eating and drinking more difficult and he was choking some because of the lymph nodes in his throat being so enlarged.
When I came home Wednesday afternoon he didn’t meet me at the door for the first time. When I found him in the hallway, he was having trouble standing up. He gave me a look that said “I am so tired.” I sat down on the floor to hold him and he just laid his head in my lap and went to sleep for a while. His breathing was so labored. I stroked his beautiful red coat and thanked him for all he’d given me. The veil came off my heart in denial and I saw the extent of his suffering. I finally knew I was desperately holding on to him for me. I knew I must love him enough to let him go.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to take him to the vet clinic. Barn always hated to go there, for fear I would leave him. Dr. Wooden and his sweet assistant, Heather, came to the house so Barn could be comfortable and not frightened. Barney and I and his favorite stuffed monkey just cuddled on the floor in the bedroom as he slowly slipped away.
Caboose is my other Australian Shepherd. I got him when Barney was four years old. Caboose has never known life without Barn. Barn was his hero, his mentor, best buddy, his Frisbee partner — his big “brother.” Caboose took all his cues from him. He refused to leave the room, sensing something was wrong. He lay in Barn’s crate on Barn’s blanket throughout the whole ordeal. He is so lost now. He refuses to play Frisbee without Barn. They were a team when it came to our nightly ritual Frisbee game. Whenever we left home and then returned, Barn and Caboose together would throw their heads back and howl a “welcome home” Aussie duet at the door until we walked in. Today Caboose has done no “singing.” I think his singing days may be over. It takes two for an Aussie duet.
A carpenter friend of ours made a sturdy wooden box just the right size for Barn (and his monkey). Dear friends, Jim and Judy, came out to the house right after Barney was gone. Judy held me while I cried and Jim helped Rich dig a grave for Barney in the corner of our property. I must have kissed Barney’s soft head goodbye a thousand times before we closed the box.
Page 2 of 2 - For 11 ½ years he has been such a “gift from God,” made just for me, my constant love and companion. I do not know how to go to sleep or go to any room in the house without him. Up to the very end, even though it was so hard for him to get up and down, he would follow me everywhere, still doing his “job.” Barnabas means “one who gives encouragement.” He came into my life at a time when that was what I needed and he gave me so much more.
I feel like a piece of me is missing. I know I’ll survive this somehow, but today the pain is awful. Today our entire family and many friends are grieving the loss of this incredibly special dog. He was deeply loved by all. He blessed us with so much love, so much laughter and so many treasured memories.
I read a quote one time that I loved and many of you have heard, but today I personalized it.
“Barnabas was my friend, my partner, my defender, my dog. I was his life, his love, his leader. He was mine, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. I was never worthy of such devotion but for the rest of my life, I be thankful that he thought I was.”
Leanne Williams is president of Faithful Friends Animal Advocates.