A little more than a decade ago, a friend from work told me she had a family member who was about to take their dog to the pound.
I wasn’t necessarily in the market for a dog, but I had small kids and figured they might like one. I told her to let me get the dog, and worst-case scenario, I’d take it to the pound if it didn’t work out.
His name was Rascal. I didn’t really like that name, but I figured there was no sense in making him learn a new name, so we called him Rascal.
For the next 10+ years, I had a best friend. When I tell you that dog followed me around, it’s no exaggeration. If I stood up to go to the bedroom, he stood up to go to the bedroom. If I stood up to go to the living room, he stood up to follow.
My wife would laughingly complain that when I’d get home, she’d come to unlock the door and he’d try to knock her out of the way to get to the door first. She said he would lay around all day but jump up when he knew I was home.
My wife did most of the tending to him. She fed him, she walked him. She did what she does. And he followed me. She’d often joke about how he hated her and loved me.
But deep down they loved each other. Him in the house made her feel safe all those nights I worked. I was another county away, protecting and serving. He was in my house doing the same.
When we got him, he was 3 or 4. He came to us with double hip dysplasia. We always knew the time would come when his legs would give out.
He gave us a few scares the past few years. About two years ago, he fell in the woods and couldn’t get up. I ran a leash under his hind legs and pulled him up. His back legs swung underneath him and he was good to go.
That happened a couple of times. Saturday, same scenario. He couldn’t get up, I pulled him up and we went for a walk outside. Good to go for another year … or so we hoped.
All night Saturday night he laid in the living room, unable to move his hind legs. Every once in a while, he’d try to get up and fail. He just couldn’t do it.
Sunday morning, I texted a buddy of mine. His wife is a vet. I asked a sad question; he gave a sad answer. His wife made a house call for us, even though she doesn’t do house calls.
We got him out to the yard. I put a muzzle over his mouth. He’d never known what a muzzle was – he never had a need. He was the perfect dog. But he let me put it on him because he trusted me. I was his guy. I’d never steer him wrong.
I put it on him and petted his head as she sedated him. He gave a growl here and there. It’s a shot, you can’t blame him.
He went quick. He went peaceful. He went being petted by all four of us in his yard, the same yard he patrolled for years.
My friend who came with his wife had the perfect sentence at the perfect time. He said, “This is the kindest thing you could have done for him.”
I knew he was right. Rascal deserved to go out in his yard, being petted by his people. He’d served us well. The best thing I could do for him is not let him suffer.
But it felt like the ultimate betrayal. I betrayed my guy. I put the muzzle on him and made him think everything was ok.
The best dog my wife and I have ever or will ever have. The only dog our kids have ever known.
I never in a million years thought a dog dying would hit me like that. But this was no dog – this was Rascal. My guy.
I am eternally grateful for that house call from the vet who doesn’t do house calls. He went out in a comfortable place, not freaked out in a metal room he’d never been in before.
Toby Nix is a local writer, guitarist and investigator with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. He is the author of two books, “Columns I Wrote” and “A Book I Wrote.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .