My buddy and best friend of the last 13 ½ years passed away last month. My chocolate cockapoo Ringo was two months shy of his 14th birthday when we had to send him to the Bridge. It all happened so fast that I’m still a little dazed a month later.
Ringo was a happy-go-lucky, intelligent, oafish, affectionate and loyal character. He was curious about everything, comical in his mannerisms, enthusiastic about anything and was happiest when he was around his family. If I had one word to describe Ringo, it would be joy. He didn’t just wag his tail, he wagged his whole back end, and it was always wagging. He didn’t just give you a kiss, he gave you a sloppy tongue-wash all over your face. In everything he did, Ringo just loved being alive. There’s something to learn there, I think.
Twelve days before we had to send him on, he had an operation to remove a bleeding tumor on his snout. The surgery went well and our vet told us she had good margins and believed she got all of it and would send it away to be tested. Unfortunately, it turned out to be hemangiosarcoma of the skin, but our vet was cautiously optimistic. I’d never heard of this cancer before, but it didn’t sound good. Ringo came home and we started his medicine regimen. That was 3/5/18.
On, 3/17/18 my wife noticed that Ringo was having trouble getting up and called our vet to let her know. She immediately asked us to bring him in for an evaluation. I dropped him off at the vet, expecting to pick him up in a few hours with maybe new meds and advice. Instead we got the dreaded call. He had a mass on his spleen and his cancer had metastasized to his lungs which were riddled with tumors. Our vet, who had been Ringo’s vet practically his whole life recommended euthanasia. I was in shock. Wait, what? Sure, he’s slower than before, he pants a lot more and sometimes seems to pace around, but I had attributed all that to his advancing age. He still ate like crazy, had no issues relieving himself, showed joy, got around well and had some days where he was a puppy again. But our vet explained to me that his “wobbliness” will just get worse and his splenic tumor could rupture at any time. I was terrified it could burst while my wife and I were at work and he would die all alone at home. I couldn’t do that to my best friend and loyal buddy, not after everything he had given me over the years. I only had a few hours to consider everything and come to the final decision to help my best friend on to his next journey. I still feel tremendous guilt and I’m crying right now as I write this. Everybody tells me I made the right decision, but I’m not sure. I mean, there would be no question if he’d been lying comatose, but he was begging for treats and wagging his tail while the vet recommended that he be euthanized.
I also have guilt because I had 12 days between his surgery and when we sent him on to spoil him and didn’t. I have relived those days over and over and over again trying to figure out what I was thinking and why I didn’t spoil him when I had the chance. I’ve realized that I never seriously considered the possibility that he had cancer. I don’t know if I was in denial or just caught up in all my own BS. All I know is I had a chance to spoil him and didn’t, and can’t forgive myself. This guilt is compounded by the fact that I feel I was not the most attentive owner over the last few years. Ringo and his brother Loki were our first kids, before my wife and I had a child. But I had a special bond with Ringo. He followed me everywhere, always had to see what I was doing. They kinda fell to second fiddle after our son was born. As the years passed, what with work, gym, helping with homework, shuttling our son to extracurricular activities and all the other chores, I always had an excuse to not take them for a walk. All it would have taken was 30 minutes, I see that now. Thirty minutes a day in exchange for the many years of loyalty, love and memories he gave me. And I couldn’t do it at the time. I was so selfish. And yet, he still responded to me like I was a celebrity. He was unconditional love. He was my therapy, I just didn’t know it. I’d forgotten what he meant to me. I have re-realized all this now. Somewhere along the line I forgot that while our dogs are only part of our world, we are the whole world to them. The guilt is crushing. Ringo, I’m so sorry and I hope you can forgive me, because I can’t.
It’s terrible to not realize how much someone, or a dog, means to you until they pass.
I like to think Ringo had to go the way he went to make me realize this and not take for granted those I care about. That I was blessed with him to teach me that; it makes his passing a little easier to process to think it had a purpose. I call it “Ringo’s Lesson” and I’ve already implemented lifestyle changes and am spending more time with my aging parents, my family and friends. His equally aged brother Loki is getting spoiled like crazy! I like to hope that when we’re ready to get another dog, Ringo will come back to me and finish his Lesson to make sure I become the better person he thought I was.
I love you Ringo. I think about you every day, and miss your lumbering presence behind me. I still can’t believe that you’re just a memory now and that we’ll always have to refer to you in the past tense. That you won’t get to see your human brother get older or the changes we make in the backyard that you loved to play in. I miss you so much. And thank you buddy, having you in my life has made me a better person. I can’t think of a better compliment.