Noah – the red; Nigel the blondie; Nika the black and white
There are times when your heart breaks so completely that the best you can do is not cry for 30 seconds.
Our Golden Retriever, Noah, came to us 10 years ago at the age of 9 months, a rescue. He had been crated for most of his life by his owners, who hoped to breed him. They also had his parents. When the couple went bankrupt, they gave the dogs to a Golden Retriever rescue organization. We adopted him.
From the start, he was shy, afraid of kids and newspapers. We started taking him to the dog park and he became socialized, less timid, and within a year, had begun trusting humans. When he was two, Megan rescued a pup, Nika, and she lived with us for the first 7 months of her life and Noah became her big brother, teaching her the ropes around here. When Megan moved, Nika went with her and every time she and Noah got to see each other, it was a joyous reunion.
Over the years, we took Noah everywhere with us – to the Keys, Orlando, Atlanta, North Carolina. He was a good traveler, never complained, and was always happy to just be with us. Rob was his human; I was the backup. On cool nights, he loved sleeping out on the porch with Rob. He enjoyed going to the beach. He loved chasing his Frisbee, balls, and barking at squirrels. There was a fierce intelligence in his topaz eyes and a kind of instinctive humanity. He was an old soul.
He accepted our cats – old and new.
But there was always a kind of sadness about him after he’d spent time with Nika and had gone their separate ways. After one such separation, he refused to eat for 3 days. We realized he was lonely. So when a dog park friend asked if we wanted a Golden puppy, we said of course, and Nigel joined the family.
In the past two years, they became good friends, companions, bros in the adventure of it all. Noah taught Nigel how to behave at restaurants, how to live comfortably with humans. When we visited Megan or she came home, Nika joined the pack and the three of them bonded.
About 10 days ago, Noah stopped eating. We took him to our long-time vet, blood work and X rays were done. The blood work didn’t look good, but the vet wasn’t able to make a determination about what was ailing him. He gave Noah an appetite stimulant, prednisone, antibiotics for fever and asked us to come back in a few days for more blood work.
For a few days, he rallied. Ate. Dog park. Frisbees. Playing with Nigel. We returned on March 13 for blood work. It was worse. He was anemic. Still had a low fever. The vet thought he might have cancer and recommended an ultrasound that would reveal more detail than X rays.
We got into a specialty clinic around 4 p.m. on March 13. The ultrasound didn’t reveal any masses or tumors, but it did show a diseased spleen. The vet, a young woman, explained everything in detail. Noah’s spleen was throwing off blood clots. With the anemia, she thought it was likely that he had cancer. She recommended that we leave him at the clinic, they would spend the next day giving him transfusions and IVs to get him ready for surgery. Then there would be more of the same after surgery.
Our concern was that if we put Noah through this – he was 10 – what would happen if the spleen turned out to be cancerous and the cancer had spread? “Chemo,” the vet said.
In other words, no guarantees. And they weren’t even certain he would make it through the surgery. We asked them to send the ultrasound and all the info to our vet and we would talk to them the next day and and then decide.
That evening, all 4 of our pets joined us in the family room. The black lump in the red is Nala. Nigel is the dog to the left. Simba is the orange cat on the coffee table. And that’s Noah at the end of his favorite couch.
Noah ate some rotisseries chicken, a couple of treats. At 7 this morning, Rob woke me and said that Noah was dying. He was under the dining room table, breathing hard. We got ready to take him to the vet to be put down. At one point, he weaved through the kitchen and got up on his favorite couch next to Nigel, put his head on Nigel’s back, and shut his eyes. We tried to coax him out to the car, but he stretched out in the doorway between the family room and kitchen and within minutes, he died.
It’s difficult to explain all the emotions that ran through me in those final moments. Horror, grief, and profound gratitude that he had come into our lives. As the cats weaved around him and Nigel kept sniffing at him, I felt the instant when Noah’s soul left.
There’s more to this story, with synchronicity and precognitive dreams and a conversation with animal communicator Heather Bristol. But those posts are for another day.
A card from our friends Dwane and Rose: