Please be advised that this is a self-indulgent post, meant to chronicle the life of a good dog. It is long. It contains many pictures. You have been warned.

We had to say goodbye to Indy, Adventure Dog last Friday morning.  He was 8 years old, and we’d only had him for 16 months or so.  It’s hard to believe he’s gone – I don’t want to believe he’s gone.  For such a little guy, he sure left a mighty hole in my heart.

His previous owner couldn’t keep him, and the day that we first learned about him is the same day that we welcomed him into our house and our hearts. Our dog Sophie, who we’ve had since she was a puppy, is also a rescue dog.  She’s about to turn 11, and we’d wanted to get her a companion for quite awhile, but the “right” dog never came along. Until Indy.

He was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known.  He was patient, and quiet, and content to be in the background until you had time to acknowledge him. I’d often look up from doing something to find him silently watching me with his gentle eyes.  Although he didn’t love loud noises, he’d often “help” me vacuum by following me through the house and simply being present as I cleaned.  I referred to him as my silent Greek chorus of one.  Sophie (who, let’s be honest, can be a little on the jealous side) often barked at him as a not-so-subtle reminder of who was the boss.  And Indy didn’t care at all.  He’d just sit there, content to be nearby.  I’d often remind Sophie, “You know, there’s enough love for both of you.”  And there was.

We often referred to him as spatially challenged.  He’d try to give you a paw and accidentally swat you in the nose, or the eye.  When you’d toss him a gummy bear (his favorite snack), he’d invariably open his mouth (or close it) at exactly the wrong time.  Peanuts, crackers, biscuits would bounce off of his head.  If you gave him a treat from your hand, though, he take it so gently you barely felt it.  He could be a restless sleeper.  His paws would race, and when he snored he sounded like Curly from the Three Stooges – whoop whoop whoop whoo whoo.

I miss the feeling of him curled behind my legs when I’m sleeping.  When we first got him, he didn’t want to get up on the bed.  We’d wake up in the middle of the night looking for him, only to find him all alone on his dog bed in the office.  We’d entice him back up to the bedroom – happily he figured it out quickly.  After that, he’d always be on the bed, whether it was time to sleep or just keeping one of us company.  He’d lay there quietly, watching or snoozing in the sunshine.

He’d often wake me up by just staring into my face, softly breathing.  I’d wake up, and he’d look hopeful – is it time to get up yet?  Sometimes it wasn’t, and he’d wander back down to the foot of the bed.  Sometimes he simply couldn’t contain himself, and I’d feel his tail wagging through the mattress.  I’d look at him, he’d stop, and then whump whump whump it would start again.  When the time came to get up, he’d jump from the bed and bounce into the hallway, front end down, back end up, tail wagging so hard you could barely see it, then zoom down the stairs like he just couldn’t WAIT for the day to start.

He rarely barked, but when he did, he’d give his gruff little woof, look back over his shoulder, tail wagging with delight as if to say, “Did you hear THAT?!”

He was the happiest dog I’ve ever known.  Just being around him filled me with a simple joy.  He could amuse himself playing with a favorite toy, shaking it and flinging it only to pounce on it then shake it some more.  Indy LOVED sticks, could reduce even a big one into tiny pieces in a matter of minutes.  Sophie enjoyed barking at Indy while he was playing, so much so that she earned herself the nickname of “the fun police”.

Indy was a talker.  When he yawned, sometimes, he’d make a noise halfway through and end up sounding like Axl Rose – AH-oooh! He’d make little grunts and groans.  He loved to wiggle – there were times when we had to moderate his wiggling, in fact.  He’d stretch out on the carpet and drag himself forward with his front paws – a position that we laughingly referred to as “junk rubbing”.  He’d often put his front right paw on your arm, just set it there and look at you.

He loved rolling in the grass in the backyard.  When we first got him, he’d go outside, do his business as fast as possible then race back to the door.  As he got to know us, he’d spend time rolling in the grass, zipping around in dizzying laps or just laying in the sunshine.

Whenever Sophie would race outside after a squirrel, Indy would fly after her.  Since he was faster than she was, he’d invariably crash right into her butt, at which point she’d whirl around and bark at him.  He was just learning what a squirrel was, and that it was “the enemy”.  Whenever he came back inside – rain or shine – he’d sit on his little rug by his favorite book shelf and wait for you to dry his paws.  He LOVED having his paws dried.  We’d fuss over his paws even if they were dry as dust, asking, “Whoa, Indy, were you swimming out there or what? How did your paws get so wet?” And he’d sit there, grinning and wagging.

When you were sitting on the couch, he’d come up and lean his head on your knee, even though most of the time it meant that his head was bent almost sideways.  Sometimes he’d lay down at your feet and, often as not, lay his head across a foot, or simply lay there touching you.

We’d often think he was going to break his tail with his wagging, or that his butt was going to lift off the ground. Thump thump thump thump.  You could feel it through the house.

His favorite spots were his dog beds in the office, under my desk, the living room by the bookshelf, the sofa or the window, and the bedroom upstairs.  He’d just learned to get up on the couch, earning him the new nickname Mister Couch.  Prior to that he’d pull this hysterical move where he’d jump up with front legs only, back legs firmly on the ground.  Once he jumped into the back of the mini-van – he was so worried we were going to leave him home – slammed into the back of the rear seat and collapsed into a boneless heap on top of a cooler, tail wagging feebly to reassure us that he was okay.  Indy dog made me smile each and every day, and laugh out loud in delight more times than I can count.  There will never be another Indy.
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When his end came, it came FAST.  We’d expected to have years with him, you see.  He was only 8, we took great care of him, and we loved him beyond all reason.  But he got cancer, a horrible, ugly, malignant sarcoma that took him from us so fast that it’s almost a blur.

I don’t like to think about how long he might’ve lived with symptoms that we couldn’t see.  He was the bravest dog, and so courageous that it wouldn’t surprise me to know that it was for longer than I can even imagine.  And that breaks my heart.

This is a dog, mind you, who once shredded the skin off the top of his own nose trying to get outside to go to the bathroom one day when we were at work.  He ALWAYS wanted to be a good dog, and you know what? He was. He was the best dog.

We took him to the vet’s two weeks ago because he’d been throwing up.  Our vet gave us medicine to help his digestion and relax his tummy, and it worked for a few days.  That Thursday I took him back in because he’d thrown up twice the night before, and gave the vet permission to do exploratory surgery because the x-rays still looked strange.  The vet found telescoping bowels, and in the section he was forced to remove, he found a gigantic, tennis ball sized mass.  He told us how lucky we were – the mass was contained, there were no tumors in the area, and the mass had sealed his bowel, so waiting even a short time would’ve meant necrotic death for his bowels and thus death for him.  Our vet sent it to be biopsied.

Indy looked like he was completely on the mend, all the way up until Tuesday, when he didn’t want to eat again.  I figured maybe it was a little set-back – I mean, up until then he’d been doing amazingly well, even bouncing around a little (although we tried to limit that because we were afraid of him messing up his stitches).

Wednesday morning I woke up to find him staring at me in bed.  It would be the last time he was able to be on the bed.

I fussed over him – I was always fussing over him, calling him a Silly Old Man, or Mister Bounce, or Indy Dog, or Littlest Man and petting him or hugging him or giving him kisses.  You have no idea how thankful I am for that, although, of course, you always feel like you could have done more.

How could I possibly know that we had to fit that much love into such a short time?

I let him out back, and he tried to go to the bathroom then staggered to the side, collapsing in his favorite spot in the yard, right in the middle of three trees.  He lay there, head high, a thousand yard stare gazing into the forest behind the house.  I thought he was dying – it turned out he was dying – and somehow I managed to get him into the car and to the vet’s.

They opened him up a second time.  You see, sometimes when they remove a mass that large – one that we discovered on that day was so incredibly malignant – it opens the floodgates and let’s the cancer take off.  My husband and I made the difficult decision that if the vet found Indy riddled with cancer when he went back in, we didn’t want to wake poor Indy back up.  We spent every second in that room with him – from the time we got there until they took him into surgery again – telling him want a good dog he was, how much we loved him, and that if it was his time to go, he should go and not worry about us.

He made it through this second surgery.  It turned out the sutures had torn and a small amount of toxins had been seeping out.  What great news!  We could recover from this, although it wouldn’t be easy.  We were over the moon!  No sign of cancer.

Indy looked tired but happy when we picked him up Wednesday night.  His tail was wagging, he went into his favorite bed in the office and slept peacefully.  He wouldn’t eat, though.

I slept downstairs with him, me on the couch, him on the floor next to the couch.  My hand was resting on his back each time I woke up.

I took him into the vet on Thursday for monitoring, and we were told we could pick him up at 7.  He didn’t look as great, but I thought, you know, he’s been through a LOT, poor little guy.  You’ve gotta be patient.

I don’t want to write much about Thursday night, except to say that even though it was sheerest torment to see what my poor dog was enduring, his ears were alert and he wagged his tail every time he saw one of us.

He wagged his tail.  Do you have any idea what kind of unconditional love makes you wag your tail when you are going through that kind of pain?  It was like he knew the end was racing towards him, and he was happy just to be spending his final moments with us.

He couldn’t walk, in the end.  We had to carry him on a folding table to the van to get him back to the vet’s.  They could barely stabilize him long enough for us to say goodbye.  The cancer had gotten him, you see.  It was killing him from the inside out.  His systems were failing.  When the vet told us – and I’d been hoping against hope that there was something he could do, anything – I felt like someone had reached into my chest and ripped out my heart.  Then they’d crushed it, and set it on fire and scattered the ashes into a strong, cold wind.

Saying goodbye to my littlest guy, holding him and hugging him and kissing him and petting him while he slipped away, was agonizing, but something we had to do.  We HAD to be there with him at the end.

He was a loyal dog, a sweet dog, a gentle dog.  Indy was full of love – he was overflowing with unconditional love, no strings attached.  He existed to be near you, and to love you, and to be happy.

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We could all learn a lot from Indy dog.  Keep wagging until the very end.  Be happy.  Live in the moment.  Give love with no strings attached.  Be optimistic.  Try new things.  Have fun.  Race around the yard.  Be open to love, because you never know where you’re going to find it.

I had a hard time dealing with losing him.  I know that life isn’t fair – I’ve known this for a long time – but watching a sweet, innocent, loving dog meet such a fast and nasty end shook me to my core.  We were so unbelievably lucky to have him in our lives – far, far luckier than I ever deserved – but I can’t help but feel that we were robbed.  That we should’ve had more time with him – that we deserved it and he deserved it.

I look around this home and I realize how empty it feels without Indy here.  I look for him in his favorite places.  I think that he’s just out of sight, that if I call his name, he’ll come racing to my side to cheer me or comfort me or just be there.  I see his muddy pawprints on the folding table we used as a ramp for him to get into the car without straining his stitches.  I see the padded basket that we used just once to raise him into the car.  I see his soccer ball sitting, abandoned, in the middle of the backyard and it makes me cry, every single time.  I stumble on his favorite toy, or glimpse his empty bowls.  I look up at dinner time, straining to see his one eye peeking at me from the other side of my husband’s chair.  I walk out of the bathroom and swear that I see him, just for a moment, laying on the bed, patiently waiting for a look, or a word, or a pat.  I refuse to wash a sweater covered with his hair.  I carefully listen, hoping to hear his tail thumping against the wall just outside the kitchen doorway, waiting for a gummy bear.

It took about a day for Sophie to realize that her little brother wasn’t coming home.  They were never really peas and carrots, but I can tell that Sophie misses the hell out of him.  She has far too much yard to patrol now, and the squirrels are getting bold.  There’s no back up to help remind us that it’s food time.  There’s no one to bark at during playtime.  She’s stuck trying to cheer us up all alone.

I don’t know that I’ll ever entirely get over the loss, but then I think, you know what?  That’s okay.  He deserves to be remembered, and you have to take the good with the bad, right?  There’s one thing I do know.  There are so many dogs out there – sad, lonely, abandoned, scared – that need a forever home, just like our Indy dog did.  I also know that I’m going to miss out big time if I let this stop me from getting another dog.  It would be the worst insult to Indy’s memory that I can think of if I didn’t share my life and love with another dog in need.  It will take time, though, for the pain to pass and the healing to start.

There will never be another Indy, Adventure Dog.

But we have to keep on wagging, just the same.