Saturday, January 23, 2010

Farewell, Hawkeye

I knew, a long time ago, that this particular goodbye was going to be a hard one. My pets have always been special friends and when the time comes to send them on their way, whether because of illness or because the toll of age has removed most of their quality of life, it has always involved some tears for me and second guesses about whether I provided the very best life for them that I could.

Hawkeye was extra special, in so many ways. My wife and I came across him eight years ago, in 2002. We had just visited the new Humane Society No-Kill animal shelter in South Phoenix, just for something to do on a weekend but with no real intent on getting another pet. Our thirteen-year-old son was with us, and as we drove home he suggested we stop by the Arizona Animal Welfare League just to look around.

The Arizona Animal Welfare League was established years ago by a group of partners which include the actress Amanda Blake, who was Miss Kitty of television's Gunsmoke. It is a no-kill shelter and we had adopted a cat from there a year before. We drove over there, and as we walked down the sidewalk along a row of kennels, I had turned back to my wife to say something and saw her eyes light up. She pointed past me and exclaimed "Is that a yellow Lab?" I turned back. He was sitting just inside the door of the kennel, wearing the happy, tongue-filled grin I would become very familiar with over the course of his life. On a note taped to the door was "Hawkeye, yellow lab mix."

We requested a "meet and greet" session with him at the shelter's little open playground. As as my wife and I played with him, it took only a few minutes to realize we wanted to adopt him. I began to follow the shelter employee into the office to fill out the paperwork, and then turned back to see my son still playing with the big Lab out in the yard. The dog weighed over a hundred pounds, more than my son weighed at the time.

Sensing what I was thinking, the shelter employee smiled and said "If it was any other dog but than one, I would worry." That was the first of many instances which would confirm what a unique dog Hawkeye was. We took him home and he was immediately relaxed with our two cats. Later, when we adopted three more kittens from our front yard, whose mother had been killed by a pair of loose pit bulls, Hawkeye was almost like a big brother to them. They always played with him and were never afraid of him.

In all of the years he was with us my wife never heard him bark, and I heard him bark once: when he was startled by a lighting bolt which hit close to our house and let out with a single, surprised "Woof!" Whenever I came home from work, I would see his happy, panting face in the living room window, and he would be waiting just inside the front door, eager for me to play with him out in the backyard, or just be satisfied with my petting his big velvet ears if I was too tired to play.

About two years ago, he developed arthritis in his hips. The vet prescribed some medication, and he seemed to be okay, just slowed down a bit by the disease. Towards the end of 2009, he slowed down a lot and seemed to develop some additional problems. He developed hearing problems, and appeared to stagger every once in a while. Around Christmas, 2009, there were two instances when he slipped on the smooth floor and could not get back to his feet. He would have accidents in the house before my wife got home from work.

On January 12, 2010, we took him to the vet. The more he examined Hawkeye, the more tight lipped our longtime veterinarian became. Finally, he handed me Hawk's leash, sat down, and sighed.

He told us that Hawkeye had developed neuropathy, which, as I understand it means the nerves in his body are breaking down. "So," he said, "It's time. We can do it today, but if we don't do it today we should do it soon because he really is starting to suffer."

I almost did not hear anything else he said after "It's time." I told him that I needed to tell my son, so that he could make it up to Phoenix from his home in southern Arizona and we could have the whole family there.

On January 21, 2010, at 8 AM, my son, my wife and I brought Hawkeye into the same room where he had had his last examination. Our vet and his assistant put a nice blanket on the examination table and lifted Hawk up onto it. As our vet's assistant shaved his left rear leg and inserted a catheter, I wrapped my arms around him and put my lips close to his ear and told him how much I loved him and let him know he was more than just a good dog: he was the absolute best.

Our doctor came in with a large syringe filled with something pink. I turned back and put my cheek on top of Hawkeye's head. I could not think of anything else to say. I sensed, rather than actually saw, the vet fix the needle to the catheter and then put his stethoscope to Hawkeye's chest.

Hawkeye seemed to simply relax with a sigh, and a few moments later I heard the doctor say "He's gone, you all can stay as long as you like."

I've been trying to keep busy the last few days. I took two days off of work and have been puttering around the house. My son is going to be staying with us for a while to do some job hunting in Phoenix. He brought up his 2003 Specialized Hardrock mountain bike and gave it to me as a belated Christmas gift.

Even with my son here, the house sure does seem to be a lot emptier.


  1. My deepest sympathies to you and your family. One day the sorrow you feel will be replaced with memories of the joy you brought to each others lives. I wish there were words that could fill the void you feel right now, but in spite of that I will say, as one animal lover to another, you are a good person. it is proven by the love Hawkeye gave to you.


  2. Thanks, Greg. Boy, even as I reread it, it kinda catches in my throat and the eyes fill with tears.

    Some folks say we should wait a little while and then look at getting another dog, but I don't know how we would replace him. One of the female cats who was in that litter of three sisters keeps going over to that bed you see in the picture above, looking for him. That was a very special bond; I don't think it would be fair to bring another pooch into the house as a replacement.

    Also, as tough as this one was, if we got another dog then we would be going through this again when I'm in my late sixties or early seventies: that might just kill ME!

  3. Having been through this too many times to recount, I can tell you that NO new dog will ever replace one you lost. They will, however, enhance your life with joy, and allow you to honor the memory of your lost one with a new love, and the knowledge that you are giving another deserving animal a good home. I look around at my pack and dread the day any one of the five leaves us, but I would never give up a sinlge moment of the friendship in order to avoid that future sadness. I hope your memories of Hawkeye stick with you forever, BC.

  4. Blues Cat,

    This is jimpam86 from Bikespeak. I am very sorry for your loss. I've been down that road as well and it is never a fun one. I will say, I'm with Greg on this, no way you will ever replace Hawkeye, but I wouldn't not purchase another dog to protect yourself from going through this again. Unfortunately loss is just a part of life, but the joy's you have experienced over the years by having Hawkeye, something tells me those joys make the loss a lot easier to take. You have great memories of Hawkeye. That tail wagging every single time you walk through the door. How many lousy days did he improve for you over the years? Wait a while, and make that trip again...something tells me you'll be watching your wife another occasion, when her eyes light up and you know....that’s the one...... Just my thoughts.