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Good Bye, My Loyal Friend

March 13, 2014

Last week we had to say good bye to Romeo, our beloved and loyal retriever/shepherd mix. This experience has been one of the most difficult in my life.

romeo in grass

Even though Romeo was an older dog (nearly 14 years), his death was a complete shock and surprise. When I left the house one day last week, he was his usual self — lumbering through the downstairs and super excited to take his place in the living room with Casey for the treat we give the animals before we depart the house.

I knew something was terribly wrong when Sophie and I returned home later that day and Romeo wasn’t at the door to greet us. For eight years, he’s been right there with Casey waiting for us.

I found Romeo laying on the side of the house in what looked like despair. He was alive, but was not himself and couldn’t move. I loaded his helpless body into the car, along with a hysterical Sophie and panicked Casey (who jumped into the car and wouldn’t get out.

The vet said he developed gastric dilation with torsion, which essentially means the stomach fills with air and then twists on itself. For those of you familiar with Marley and Me, it’s the same condition that led to Marley’s death. It develops within hours and is almost always fatal. Bryan, Sophie, Casey and I all told him we loved him, and I thanked him for all he gave us in his life.

As I said, I knew Romeo was getting on in life and his sore hips slowed him down just slightly. But I was not prepared to say good bye so soon. Really, nothing  prepares you for this situation. I can honestly say I’ve never been so sad and depressed in my entire life.

I know it sounds funny, but I didn’t realize how much of a presence he had in our home until he was gone. The house feels so empty without him.

Romeo was ALWAYS following me around the house, so his absence is very apparent. Even when I walked a few feet into the garage, Romeo was right on my heels. I find myself reaching my hand out from the bed or couch, and thinking his head will be there. Every day I worked in my home office, he faithfully assumed his spot in the doorway of the room. I keep expecting him to still be there.

Even little things like not having to refill the water and food bowls are gut-wrenching since he was the one constantly lapping up the water and food. Seeing his leash on the ground brought me down, and so did walking Casey alone (the first time I’ve walked only one dog in eight years).

It’s true that each day gets a little easier. For those of you wondering, Sophie is doing fine. She was very sad the night he died. But kids are so resilient and her spirits were lifted pretty quickly.

I miss Romeo terribly and still find myself in tears on a daily basis. I am very grateful he didn’t suffer long-term. And I’m incredibly thankful he was in our lives for eight wonderful years.

Since Romeo’s death, I’ve found myself thinking about the ending passage of Charlotte’s Web.

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. — E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

I could have penned these powerful words myself as I know exactly how Wilbur felt.

Thank you, Romeo. I will always love you and treasure what you brought to my life! 

You can read more about Romeo’s story and what made him such a great dog in this earlier post I wrote about him.

16 Comments
  1. March 13, 2014 1:20 am

    Oh, so sorry for your loss. We still “talk” to and about our dog Willy who we had to put down 5 years ago. There’s nothing like the pets that grow up with your children. I’m sure there are quite a few children’s books about loss of pets that might be helpful for Sophie.

  2. March 13, 2014 5:51 am

    I’m so sorry, Leah.

  3. March 13, 2014 6:33 am

    Leah, I am so sorry for you and your family on the loss of Romeo.

  4. Judy Washington permalink
    March 13, 2014 6:40 am

    Losing a pet is difficult. He or she is a family member. Years ago my friend lost her dog and she said tearfully ” I had the dog before I had the children.” She is an excellent Psychologist and an experienced grief counselor. The children had a difficult time because the dog was their constant companion and protector. She did find another dog but she admitted the adjustment was difficult.

  5. March 13, 2014 7:56 am

    Leah–I am so sorry for your loss. This happened to one of our beloved dogs. Letting go is so hard. They are so much a part of our family and they bring so many blessings. May you remember all of Romeo’s gifts. He will always be a part of your heart.

  6. March 13, 2014 8:26 am

    Oh NO, Leah… I’m so sorry. We had to put my husband’s cat down years ago — from a sudden illness, though we tried to get her to eat for weeks until we decided it just wasn’t working. It was heartbreaking, because she’d shown up as a stray and had been in my husband’s life for 16 years (well before me). Being there with her at the very end was SO gut-wrenching and awful, but I’m glad we held her till the last minute. Ugh. I feel your pain so deeply… I’m so sorry.

    For now, I’m sure you’re holding on to your other pets with a stronger grip. Hang in there.

  7. Katherine Wichmann Zacharias permalink
    March 13, 2014 10:25 am

    I am so sorry for your loss!

  8. March 13, 2014 11:00 am

    So sorry for your loss. Our dogs are such an important part of our family. We are so blessed to share our journey with such loyal, loving companions. Our beloved male chow chow left us that same way at 14, about 12 years ago now.

  9. Polo permalink
    March 13, 2014 2:57 pm

    Leah…may Romeo rest in peace. A good pup he was…I have only nice memories of Romeo…sorry for your loss…

  10. Polo permalink
    March 13, 2014 3:29 pm

    Leah, so sorry for your loss. From the few times I’ve been around Romeo, he was great. RIP Romeo…

  11. Cynthia Robertson permalink
    March 13, 2014 3:41 pm

    So sorry for your loss, Leah. I know from experience how terrible it is to lose a beloved pet. (((hugs)))

  12. Karen Van Dyke permalink
    March 13, 2014 10:05 pm

    Thank you for sharing this sad and heartfelt life experience with the world. It reminds me so much of my last dog and how much I loved him as he laid by my side when I was going through breast cancer. Romeo sounded like the same kind of four legged fur kid. Grief is the price we pay for loving these creatures so deeply. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think you wouldn’t either.

  13. March 14, 2014 8:24 am

    Ah, gawd. I’m sorry. It’s such a tradeoff, having a furry member of the family and then losing him. I’ve never had to go through that (yet) but with 3 similarly-aged animals, I expect it in 10-15 years.

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