It’s been a week since we lost our dog Parker.
On Easter Sunday! We were all together, all but Grace, and we had a rich and full day of family togetherness. After our ham dinner, I went for a walk and when I came back, Rich was leaving the driveway with three boys and Jacob was right behind him in his car with Brittnee, too. Rich rolled down his window to tell me that something was wrong with Parker and they were taking him to the vet. Seth was crying upstairs in his room and Sarah was distraught in the living room. I needed to stay behind with them. A little while later he called us and said that Parker’s heart was failing and there was nothing that could be done……I had a feeling of “fight or flight” panic as I all of a sudden wanted to be there for this faithful dog who had spent so many years with us, but in the end I comforted myself with the thought that he had his boys with him. We adopted him as a puppy and we were the only family he ever had…..for fourteen of the busiest and craziest years of our parenting lives. Caleb was 2 when we got him, Seth and Sarah have never known life without him……the older kids grew up with him…..we have so many memories of every kind…..because our dog (like all loved dogs) was everything to us and our seven children; fun, playful, mischievous, a run-away, pizza lover, sleep mate, explorer, friend, thief, comfort, listening ear, patient, pain-in-the-butt, faithful, naughty, and kind. He inspired songs, dances, stories, and inventions. He was given a house, food, warmth, and love, and he gave it all in return, plus more.
There came a time when he couldn’t get on the couch anymore.
Rich laughed and rolled his eyes when I spent over 200 dollars on the best dog bed on chewy.com. The thing had a tempur-pedic mattress and was big enough for three dogs, or, one dog and several children at once. It came with a removable cover and was brown just like him. Parker came to love his bed and just a few days before he died I noticed he was wandering around acting lost and I realized his bed was blocked by furniture. After I pulled things back where they belonged, he walked over and gently licked his bed and then got in it to scratch and scratch and then turn around and around, and sleep.
Then one day he started peeing on the floor. He couldn’t make it through the night without needing to go.
He started stumbling down the stairs. He followed Ethan up into the garage a couple months ago and Ethan had to carry him back down……
He proudly sported gray fur on his legs and face. He stopped jumping up on people when they came to visit.
Then, he started breathing more laboriously at times. He needed more rest. He didn’t run around as much. But he still followed me for his “daily egg”, a moment which never failed to amuse me. After collecting them from the coop, he would be waiting for me to hand him one, which he would carry to the driveway and let drop. After he cracked it, he would lap it up, with me standing and watching the whole time. It was a good show.
He went outside with us on Easter Sunday and wandered through the family photo I took on self-timer, making us all laugh. I ended up insisting that we keep trying so he could be in the photo. The last picture I got of him alive was after I had “released” the children and they all ran up to the house, Parker with them. “Aren’t you guys glad that mom’s done taking pictures?”
Rich brought him home and the boys dug his grave. Caleb and Ethan had already decided on the location, and it was the same place I had thought of as well. He had a young tree that he would go to with things he liked most (bones, cat food cans stolen from the counter, and stuffed animals he chewed the eyes off), and that is where he is buried now. We are turning it into a place to sit and think about him, with a chair, and now a hanging basket and bird feeder. It’s by the house and the garden and the driveway, and we think about him everyday. When we find one of his personal possessions, we give it to him. His collar is there, and several bones. For two nights after he died, Seth went out to say goodnight before going to bed. Jacob came to visit yesterday and when he came inside the house I noticed he was crying “I was saying hello to Parker.” Oh these children of mine, their hearts are big and strong. A family that includes pets does so much for the growing-up years. Often the silent love of a friend dog or cat is just what a boy or girl needs……
“I grew up in a pretty house
and I had space to run
had the best days with you.”