Happy Trails

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A little over 11 years ago on a beautiful Easter morning, Matt and I made a decision that would forever alter our lives. We decided that it was time to adopt a dog named Groucho, if he was, in fact, still available.

We had lost our first furry friend, May, a few months earlier. I had said I wasn’t ready for another dog, even though I was really taken with the then-named Groucho. But Matt was, and so I said, “If he’s still there, let’s go for it.”

It’s not very common to still find a relatively young dog, especially a lab-mix, still in a shelter after a week, but as luck would have it, he had gotten kennel cough and had to be sequestered away from the other dogs and other potential adoptive parents. He was not even strictly on the “adoptable” list, but we had seen him, had loved him … and they let us adopt him. Of course, I was smitten within minutes of him becoming ours.

He was an insane little ball of fur – pure energy. Matt says now that he’s the dog equivalent of himself. Can’t sit still, always wants to go, wants to eat everything in site and a little crazy. In short, he was the perfect dog for us, particularly for my better half.

So we brought him home and named him Loki.

The first months he was with us I was insanely distracted. He was constantly into mischief and though he wasn’t a puppy, he wasn’t too far off. Matt went out of town for a couple of weeks and it was just Loki and me. And during that week, I suffered a severe burn on my hand and lost two credit cards in completely separate incidents as well as a handful of other mishaps completely outside my normal even-keeled, organized ways.

But we had tons of fun – trips to the park and the mountains and endless walks around the yard. He learned to sit, stay, shake, beg and, all on his own, how to open doors. He liked to chew and in one memorable incident, he got an unopened package and managed to chew a hole through the brand new bag I’d bought Mom for her birthday.

There was also the incident in which he ate a piece of a giant playground ball and we had to have him cut open to remove it. We felt terrible, but he felt worse. He looked like doggie sushi with a green bandaid all around his middle. The drugs to keep him calm made him manic and crazy and I still am not sure how he managed to heal.

He was next to impossible to wear out. So we sent him to daycare a few times a week to wear him out, but he was a bit of trouble there too. He kept getting into fights with boxers (why? who knows??) and shortly before Tabby was born, he was kicked out of doggy daycare. Our little juvenile delinquent.

Lucky for all of us, he was amazing with kids. We had a preview as some of our closest friends have a son a year older than Tabby, but when it was his own baby, he was even more attentive and protective.

And as they grew, he got food dispensers at first, and then playmates. Tabby in particular has always had an incredibly strong bond with Loki. One of her first sentences was, “No Yoki! Dis my caka!” The translation of which is, “No Loki, this is my cracker.” Cracker in this case actually referred, I believe, to a fruit roll-up.

I sometimes wonder about Loki during the early years of the kids lives. I was mostly tired and probably cranky during that time, and I wonder if he really got his fair shake. But Matt remembers it differently and probably somewhat more accurately. We were doing a lot of running/walking with the stroller during that time and Loki spent a lot of time pounding the pavement right along with us. And he was getting to know his little people.

As the kids grew, we started going and doing more. Loki got to go camping in more places over the state of Colorado than most people will ever see. Those paws pounded hundreds of miles in trails and thousands by car. There was nothing Loki loved more, with the exception of being with his people, than to be going and doing and sniffing.

His senior years were marked by lots of sleeping during the day and going and doing on the evenings and weekends. We were lucky that Matt works from home and so he’s never had to be alone all day.

Over a year ago, he started developing swollen lymph nodes. He went on steroids (no fun for anyone involved!), but that didn’t help. And they grew. The vet suspected lymphoma or another kind of cancer. We weighed our options but the treatments were awful and wouldn’t prolong his life anyhow, so we opted to just let him be and hope for the best. We were blessed with many good months.

About a month ago, we started seeing some decline. Once ravenous for food of any kind, he started turning down or only partially finishing his kibble. But he was still eating other food that he deemed delicious enough, including peanut butter with his old man supplements, so that was OK. He also started breathing more heavily and sneezing more frequently. He had new swollen spots that bothered him.

Last weekend, he went to the B&B for the weekend while we took the train to Granby to stay at my uncle’s house for the weekend. Saturday, we got a call from the B&B that he had developed a nose bleed that wouldn’t go away. They said it wasn’t too bad and that they would keep an eye on him and we picked him up just a bit earlier than planned on Sunday.

His nose bleed, though not bad, was consistent and even after a trip to the vet, couldn’t be stopped. He also started refusing food entirely. After an awful night where none of us could sleep, we took him back to the vet to see if there was anything that could be done.

They could do lots but the bottom line is that it wouldn’t amount to much of anything. He was in pain and he couldn’t be fixed. So we made the right decision, even though it was the hard decision. Though we cried pitifully, he went peacefully.

It’s been hard – so hard – but we are trying to be grateful for Loki and the tremendous companion that he was to our family. Happy trails to our dear furry friend. May he eternally travel the wilderness of heaven.