Sam, my faithful Malamute mix, has passed his 14th, and last birthday. I adopted him as a two year old from an animal shelter in Idaho. I was helping out at the shelter in my free time. (I'd already learned how to avoid the temptation to adopt every unwanted cat that came through the place, going so far as to help with the process of euthanasia to cure my notion that every animal could be saved. Reality is often ugly, and I refuse to avoid the ugly parts. Without experiencing them, I can't fully appreciate the beautiful parts.) For more than two weeks this Mal-mix had sat in the shelter after being found running loose. When it became obvious no one would be coming to claim him, he was scheduled to be put down. But when I went into his enclosure to bring him out for the injection, I made the mistake of looking in his large brown eyes. Their was intelligence there, and a plea I couldn't ignore. That day he became Sam and joined my family.
As it always is with death, it can only be postponed, never avoided. For the last twelve years Sam has avoided his fate while being a wonderful and fun companion. Though most dogs his size are fortunate to live ten to twelve years, Sam has managed to hang on for a couple of extra. But now he's past the point of enjoying his existance. His rear legs can barely support him, his fur is starting to come out in clumps and he hardly moves. In short, his time is at an end. On the 18th, next Wednesday, we'll take one last road trip to the vets and he will cease having to endure the pain and disabilities that plague him now. Once more I'll be saying goodbye to a decade long friend. One of the saddest things about growing older is losing those close to you. Then one day, you are the one to leave your friends behind. It is an inescapeable fact of life. It begins, and it ends. I hope I leave with the grace and dignity Sam has shown. And as I've said many times, humans would be showing their true humanity if we allowed ourselves to bring a peaceful and quiet death to one another like we permit ourselves to do with our animal companions.
Sam and I will enjoy our last week together. Then he'll leave, yet live on in my memories and in my heart.