This is not about me feeling old, now that I have crossed the 50 threshold. I am not going to harp on that anymore. It’s done, and now I just look for decent Early Bird Specials. If you know any, reach out. Wink wink.
I have a pretty fantastic family. I would never have admitted this a long time ago, but my brother Paul can be an ok guy, for such a dumbass. 15 years ago, give or take, he and his little family moved to Appleton for his job. The kids were little and when they came, they had a puppy that came with them, Rudy. He was a yellow lab, and a very good boy.
As the kids grew, so did the dog portion of the family. A few years into the whole thing, they rescued another Good Boy, Chopper. Funny story with him, he was in Missouri. My sister-in-law Heidi, who has they biggest heart, found him on a Lab Rescue page she was on. Their little family was going on vacation in Florida, so she said to Paul, we can just pick him up on the way home. Not really realizing that Missouri isn’t quite on the way home to Wisconsin. But swing over that way they did, and Chopper became a part of the family.
Chopper was a special guy, very patient with kiddos, a big lug of a dog. He liked to dig in the yard. That drove Heidi nuts but she laughed every time she caught him doing it. Paul thought he was this hard ass, and dogs weren’t allowed on the furniture, unless he wasn’t around, then they would climb up and relax. Chopper really was the one that broke Paul of that nonsense. Now Paul likes having dogs all over him on the couch.
A little over 5 years ago, Rudy got pretty sick fast, and it was a very sad day when they had to say goodbye to him. My heart broke for all of them, and Rudy was my guy, so I was sad too. After a couple of months, when Heidi was ready, we went to a rescue locally to maybe find a new buddy for Chopper. Long story short, I ended up with Zelda. Chopper was a saint putting up with her obnoxious behavior and climbing all over him and biting him. But they got along well, and the dog family had some harmony. About a year and a half ago, they finally found another brother for Chopper, in the young and hyper Duncan, a lab mix. But now Chopper was an old man. He put up with Duncan’s nonsense, and they were buddies too.
Lately, our old friend Chopper has been slowing down, a lot. We had it figured he was about 14 years old. He lived with Paul and Heidi and the kids for 12 of those years. He was a big part of the whole thing, and everyone who met him loved him.
Yesterday morning, yes, on my birthday, I got a text from Paul that Old Man Chopper was going to cross the Rainbow Bridge. Poor guy just couldn’t do it anymore, he wasn’t keeping food down, he couldn’t get up or down the stairs. I went over right away, I needed to be sure I could say goodbye. I didn’t really get to say a proper goodbye to Rudy, and I wanted to be there for the kids too. I went with Heidi and Will to the vet. It was so hard, and even though it was the right thing to do, it was so sad. But the best thing was when it was time, the King of the Couch crawled up on the little leather couch in the room one last time. He asserted his dominance one last time on the furniture of the world, and with Heidi and Will holding on to him he went to sleep.
Being there was the absolute place I needed to be in that moment. It is merely a coincidence that it was my birthday. To be there for Heidi, Paul, Will and Natalie and of course Chopper, was a birthday gift even though it didn’t feel like it. That old heartbreak feeling needs to be felt around people you love. You hold each other’s heart and feel it all together. I feel blessed to have been able to be there.
Duncan will need a new friend soon, and when they are ready, I will be there to feel that old feeling too. That feeling of a new good boy to love and play with. I can’t tell you how hard I snuggled Zelda when I got home yesterday, it drove her nuts. But that was the old feeling I needed then too.
So goodbye Old Man Chopper. Run fast and free, and I am sure they let you dig holes over the Rainbow Bridge, big ones. Say Hi to Rudy and all those other dogs we all loved so much. Thanks for all the love you gave us, all the drool too. Continue to dominate couches, and we will see you again someday.