Good Bye, My Loyal Friend

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.

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.

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