I cradled his head as he rested it atop my growing belly, smooshing both slobbery cheeks together. I reached down and gave him a kiss on the lips. This wasn’t an uncommon show of affection for my dog at the time. I was 26. He was 5. He was my “baby.” My 180 lb baby. This time, though, I cried a little. I didn’t want to think of how his life would change when I had an actual human baby. I swore that it wouldn’t.
This was typical. He spooned with me on the nights Scott worked.
Of course, I was wrong. I hate that I was wrong, but let’s be real. Having a real baby means pet babies take a back seat, ESPECIALLY pet babies who were babied SO much to begin with.
He hasn’t had a bad life. Since we had kids, he (and our chocolate Labrador Callie) still get plenty of love, but, truthfully, not as much attention. They still live in a safe, warm/cool home with free access to all the couches. They are fed twice a day. They are up to date on vaccinations.
Bruno still gets 2 insulin injections daily, required to manage his Type 1 Diabetes. He was diagnosed with it at 5 months old.
When we got his diagnosis, we cried. It felt like a death sentence. A death sentence for a puppy we adopted just days after our first “baby,” a 2 year old yellow Labrador named Cleo, died after suffocating inside an empty chip bag she retrieved from the trash while we were out to dinner with friends.
We vowed that we would keep him alive for as long as possible, that we would find a way to manage the disease. And so we did. We learned all about how to check a dog’s blood sugar and chart it using a human glucose meter. We learned about insulin curves and researched the best diet for him. We aimed for 6 years old. That would be a really great life for him.
We did good.
10 is getting up there for a healthy English Mastiff. Their average life expectancy is 10-12 years. We never thought we’d get him this far.
And now he’s old… and tired. He’s moving slower every day, and most of his hours are spent sleeping on the couch. The cataracts (from the diabetes, which have been gradually growing since he was 8 months old) now completely cover both eyes. He can’t see and he barely hears. He runs into walls, and his skin is sagging off of him. Once 180 lbs, he’s now maybe 120.
We know the end is coming.
I took these pictures of him in the bluebonnets yesterday, remembering how much I wanted professional pictures of him taken when he was a puppy. I’m so happy I’m finally able to capture these beautiful moments on my own.
Plans are in the works for a 10 Year Doggie Birthday Party this week or next for both the dogs. We used to celebrate their birthdays every year with a trip to the McDonalds drive through and some treats… before we had kids. Now the kids are old enough that I can’t wait to include them in it.
There is so much more I could write about this. I could talk for days about the guilt. The guilt that that promise I made to that sweet doggy on my lap – that things wouldn’t change- wasn’t fulfilled, the guilt that life did change. I could talk for days about how hard I try to reconcile that, knowing we have never stopped loving him, knowing we never gave up on him, knowing we’ve worked so hard to give him the fullest life possible.
But for now, we just love on him. No trips to the vet have been scheduled, no dates on the calendar, but we are facing reality… bracing ourselves… preparing for goodbye.