Most of us have had dogs. All shapes and sizes. For some of us these furry little balls of wagging tails and energy become so ingrained in our lives they become more than just a pet, they become part of our family. Yesterday I had to put my best furry friend to sleep. Her name was Daisy and she was a 14 and a half year old yellow lab. A piece of my heart was torn out and taken with her.
Fourteen years ago we answered an ad for lab puppies and we went to take a look. As I walked to the pen there were four furry balls of energy all wagging tails. There was a bruiser that I immediately wanted. Big block head, stocky, he looked like the perfect specimen. I had my daughters hold back a second and I entered the pen. All the pups gravitated to the far corner of the pen. The bruiser saw me and he whimpered and hid behind his sisters and cowered. I was disappointed until one of the pups turned around and looked at me. She stared at me for a second, seeming to size me up and then a goofy grin broke out on her face and she rushed to me. I have never seen such a happy puppy before. I knew then this was MY dog. I didn't choose her she chose ME.
We took her home and she began to settle into our lives. She was smart as a whip and ready to learn. I taught her basic commands and she had those mastered quickly. As she grew she burrowed into our hearts and became a furry sister to my daughters. We hiked and camped with her, she was there when my oldest daughter found her first Geocache. As she grew she went everywhere with us. Always ready to play, always ready to cuddle. When we were in a bad mood she would come up and beg for attention and as we scrubbed her ears and rubbed her belly all the bad mood faded away. She was always there for us. She was also a master beggar. No matter what we were eating she wanted some. Those big brown eyes and triangle ears were too much and she usually got some of what we had.
Daisy loved the water. Except when it was raining, she didn’t want to get her feet wet. I never could understand how a dog so in love with the water could be so weird about her feet getting wet. She only ran off two times, she never experienced thunder until we returned home to SC and she did not like it. Both times friendly neighbors found her and called us. I never had to use a leash with her. She always stayed close and listened so well, I wish my daughters had learned from her sometimes. She loved the beach, the dog park, chasing her retrieval trainer. As long as you threw it she would chase it down and bring it back. Sometimes crawling she was so tired but as soon as you looked like you would throw it again she would pop up ready to go. She was a loving dog and a needy puppy. She HAD to be in contact with me. Either bumping into me as we walked or laying on my foot as I watched TV. She was never a hunting dog, she was just a pet, well we THOUGHT she was just a pet but she quickly became so much more.
Daisy and I had a bond I have never had with another dog. She was my animal soul mate. As the years waned on and I had to deploy for months at a time, when I returned she was always there wagging her otter tail and jumping in my lap. My wife and daughters all took care of her and she was happy with them, we all love her. I could go on for days about her and our adventures and antics. Her chasing me up and down the stairs as I whooped and hollered, her fast on my heels. Hiking Stanley Canyon behind the Air Force Academy, sniffing every blade of grass and then swimming all over the reservoir ruining the fishing but still making me smile with her happiness. The time we went camping and me and my buddies left food out on the picnic table and the next morning as she stretched and then became a ball of growling and protectiveness, I thought for sure a bear was near. The bushes moved and I thought for sure the bear attack was on. No, it was a rabbit and she made sure I was safe from its furry cottontail. After she ran the diabolical rabbit off she returned proud as a peacock in her efforts to save me. I have thousands of happy memories with her. Thousands of memories, and this is what keeps me going.
Then one she all of a sudden could not make it up the stairs, she couldn’t hop up on the bed. It made me pause and as I counted all my fingers, I had to take my shoes off to count more, I realized twelve years had flown by. I picked her up and put her in her spot on my bed and thought about where the time had gone. She was still happy and got around just fine but I realized she was getting old and the thought of her leaving us was fleeting. We continued on as always, her playing and always being there. She was Daisy and never changed. Another year went by and she got a little slower but was still Daisy. Then she was approaching her 14th birthday. She had a seizure a few months before that but was still ok and had not had another. It was hard for her to get up and walk but as soon as she was up she was fine. I knew she was drawing to the end of her time. As I watched her hobble up to the house, even with her smile and her wagging tail, I knew it. I thought about it more and more and my heart sank each time. Her 14th birthday came and we took her to the dog park. We had her on a wagon and she smiled as we rolled her along. She wanted down and she walked around, met some other dogs and was happy as a clam. We gave her a birthday biscuit and even though she gave herself another seizure trying to swallow it whole, she recovered quickly and she was still smiling and wagging her tail.
She was on her daily pills and they seemed to keep the pain at bay in her back legs, she still got up and went outside. She still smiled and wagged her tail and loved attention. Then one day she couldn’t get herself up. I helped her outside and she managed to walk around and do her business but she wasn’t wagging her tail. I knew it was time. My heart stopped and broke a little. I had looked for every glimmer of hope, I was grasping at any straw that told me she had a little more time. Every time I saw her struggle I thought of two more ways to make her more comfortable and give her a little more time. Then I ran out of glimmers, I ran out of ways to make her comfortable and I knew this was it. I realized those glimmers were for me not for her. I felt ashamed and angry at myself for doing this. It wasn’t fair to her, who had given every shred of her being to make us happy. I knew I had to let her go.
I called my oldest daughter, she made arrangements to be off work and the rest of us gathered. We got her a big ol cheese burger and cheese tots for supper and made her a pallet of blankets to rest on. The next morning I made her a big ol plate of scrambled eggs, one of her favorites, and we all fed her and petted her. She loved the attention, she was smiling and happy. Happier than I had seen her in a long time. The Doctor arrived and we all sat around her as he gave her a shot to calm her down and sedate her. We all sat around her petting her and crying. We all said our final “see ya laters”, none of us could bear to say good bye. The doc gave her the final shot. As we all held each other and held her, she was gone. She was off across the rainbow bridge to rejoin our other pets and family. We all spent some time with her her and I finally gathered the courage to wrap her up for her final drive.
I just got the call that she is ready to come home. Her ashes will be placed in a beautiful stone box and she will reside next to our other pet on the piano. She is gone physically from our lives now but will remain in our hearts forever.
Rest in peace my friend. You were loved more than any other animal in my life. You will live on in my heart forever. I miss you.
Daisy Duke Bergmann
December 28th, 2002 to April 18th, 2017.