5.

One beautiful day in 1991 I was working in the back
yard preparing the ground for my spring garden when
Sarah called me from the Veterinarians Office. She
had taken Ms Bear to get treatment for pneumonia
which had been diagnosed about a week before.
Ms Bear seemed normal in all respects except for a
slight cough that wouldn't clear up. This time
Sarah had another Vet look at her. He made x-rays.

The first words out of Sarah's mouth were, "Doug,
Ms Bear has lung cancer. The Vet recommends that
we have her put to sleep right now to spare her
the pain of dying".

This news was no doubt the biggest shock of my life.
I was speechless. I couldn't think of anything to
say but, "NO". Then I managed to ask, "How bad is it?"
Sarah replied that she had seen the x-rays and
Ms Bear's lungs were filled with tumors except for
a little clear area. The Vet estimated her life
expectancy was less than two weeks.

I asked if she was acting any different at the moment
than when she left home that morning. Sarah said
she was the same. Acting normal. I said, "BRING
HER HOME! She was chasing a rabbit this morning;
tell the Vet as long as she is acting like a normal
dog and doing dog things I won't have her killed."

That was the beginning of several of the most
horrible months I have ever had. This was pure
pain. Torture. Futility. When Sarah brought
Ms Bear home I picked her up and held her close
for a few minutes. Then she wanted down. I put
her down and she took off after a squirrel.

I watched her bounce across the yard as usual.
She looked like a little square box bouncing
along with her nose to the ground, following the
squirrel's scent. Sarah had always said that
Ms Bear reminded her of a little black box
with her Scottie build and her Scottie haircut.
I had drawn a computer image of a Scottie dog.
I called it, "Boxdog".

Sarah wiped her tears and handed me a medicine
bottle. She said these were pain pills enough for
three days. At the end of three days I should
decide whether Ms Bear should continue to live.
If I thought, "yes" I could go back to the Vet and
renew the prescription for three more days.

When Ms Bear came in from the chase her demeanor
was normal. Our demeanor was not normal. Sarah
couldn't speak about the impending loss and we
were both on the verge of tears for some time
to come; only Ms Bear, acted normal. That evening
we all three hopped in the car and drove up to
the Krystal for hamburgers.

I ordered four Krystals for Sarah, four for me,
and four for Ms Bear. The young lady at the
window remarked, "Oh, the doggie gets her own
Krystals." I choked up as I replied, "Yes, she's
dying of lung cancer. She only has a few days
to live and this is one of her favorite foods."
The young lady sent an extra Krystal for Ms Bear.

The next day with Ms Bear watching, I dug her
grave in the center of the flower garden. I then
covered it with plastic sheeting. Then Ms Bear and
I hopped in the truck to go buy lumber to build
her casket. I was surprised at how much lumber was
required to build a small casket. It took a couple
of days to make the casket. I water proofed it and
lined it with soft red velvet material. Then I
gathered some of her toys, her collar, her leash,
and I laid all this aside until the time came.

Meanwhile, Ms Bear continued to live normally. She
did her regular dog stuff every day. She and
Loretta played as they always had. I had the pain
prescription refilled and I gave her the pills
regularly just in case she felt pain or discomfort.
I prepaid the fee for her euthanasia so there
wouldn't be any delay when the time came.

Watching Ms Bear run and play and bark as usual,
it was hard to believe that this little animal
was rapidly dying. I guarantee you she got more
attention from us than ever before. If there was
anything she wanted, she got it. I think if she
could have indicated that she wanted a new
Cadillac, we would have bought her one.

A few days later, I don't remember how many days
but it was less than two weeks, Ms Bear had been
normal as usual. It was a Friday night. Ms Bear and
I had to be up at 3:30 on Saturday morning to go
open the radio station so I had gone to bed by
9:00 PM. Ms Bear took her usual position, lying
beside my bed. Then I heard her gasp. I raised up
and saw that she was having difficulty breathing.

I yelled, "Sarah, the time has come. Call the
Animal Emergency Clinic and tell them I'm coming."
Sarah called. Then Sarah said that she couldn't
endure what was happening. She left home to go to
a lady friend's house. She said, "Call me when it's
over and I'll come back." I wished I could avoid
the moment too, but I believed that Ms Bear needed
me now more than ever before.

I quickly dressed as Ms Bear began to cough and her
breathing became very shallow. The back door was
open. As I got my things together for the five mile trip
I said, "Truck, Ms Bear". I looked outside and she had
taken up her usual position, lying on her stomach at the
truck door. I thought, "Oh, look. Faithful to the end.
Waiting for me to pick her up and put her in the truck
for her last ride." Painful for me? Yes. Very.

----------------------

We left home with Ms Bear sitting in her
passengers seat as usual. The only unusual thing
about this ride was her labored breathing and
she was sort of holding her head up to make
breathing easier. As I drove, I talked to her
all the way to the Emergency Clinic.

The Clinic waiting room was empty when we arrived.
The two lady Vets were expecting us and they met
us at the door. I carried Ms Bear into the
examining room and laid her on the table. She
wasn't showing any discomfort at the time. The
Vets prepared Ms Bear for the medication. Meanwhile
the waiting room had begun to fill up. The door to
the examining room was open and our activities
were in full view of the waiting people who were
all holding their pets closely.

I stooped down and kept my hand on Ms Bear's head
while she stared intently at me. The Vet gave her
the first injection while I spoke soothingly. Then
the Vet said, "Just a few more seconds, now." As I
said my good-byes Ms Bear became limp and lifeless.
I was totally, completely numb. My voice in my ears
sounded like someone else talking in the distance.
My movements were robotic. I stood up and looked
down at that little 25-pound armful of black fur
and the awful fact struck home. Ms Bear was dead!

It was hard for me to breathe. I thought I was
going to smother. The Vet put her arm around me
and said, "We'll put her in a casket." I asked if
I could use the casket that I had built for her.
She said, 'Yes." The examining room was elevated
a couple of steps above the waiting room floor.
As I stepped to the doorway, I faced a room
full of pet owners wiping tears from their eyes.
They had seen it all. They had heard it all.
They had joined me in crying.

I brought the homemade casket in and the Vet
helped me pick up Ms Bear's little limp body
and lay her gently on the soft red velvet lining.
I picked up the box and walked to the door. I
paused for a moment at the top of the steps and
looked down at the people in the waiting room,
tears streaming down my face. I cannot describe
the expression on those faces. You could have
cut the atmosphere with a knife. I loaded Ms Bear
into the truck for her last ride home.

This ride seemed to take a long time. I don't
know how I managed to drive the truck.
I couldn't stop myself from thinking: it's
Ms Bear's last ride. Over and over the thought
went through my mind. I tried to make my mind
blank. I couldn't. I thought about the homemade
casket that I had lovingly built now holding the
little black dog that had been the happiest part
of my life for the past nine years. The heart
wrenching thoughts were overwhelming. While the
ride seemed long, it was too quickly over.

When we got home, I put her casket on the den floor
and got her toys, her collar, and her leash and I
carefully laid them in the box with Ms Bear's body.
Then I took the letter out of my desk, folded it
and laid it beside her head. Loretta had been
lying in her chair watching my every move. She
knew something was wrong. I called her to come
over to the casket and say goodbye to Ms Bear.
She leaned her head down into the casket and
nudged Ms Bear with her nose.

The letter had been carefully prepared days before.
It was a brief description of Ms Bear's life with
us and all the unusual things she did. Silly? Maybe,
but not to me. I considered it very important. The
letter was signed by Sarah and me and Loretta had
put her paw print on it. I sealed the top of her
casket, carried it to the grave and gently lowered
it. After I covered her grave, I called Sarah to
tell her that she could come home now. It was near
midnight. A lot had happened in that three hour
period. And I still had to get up at 3:30 AM to
sign on the air; this time, without Ms Bear.

My program that Saturday certainly didn't sparkle.
I stumbled through it, still numb from the events
of the night before. I mentioned Ms Bear's death
on the air and many people called to express their
sorrow. I finished my broadcast at noon, went home
and tried to sleep. Nothing seemed the same without
Ms Bear. Even Loretta seemed different. She would
go to Ms Bear's grave and just sit there.

For the next few weeks I walked around numb and
listless. Driving the truck wasn't fun anymore.
No little friend sitting in the passenger seat.
No searching the roadside for "cows." No black
Scottie head sticking out the window looking like
a Snoopy Dog. I had to change my route to the
Radio Station and to Nashville because the
Emergency Clinic was on my usual route. It was
about two years before I could pass that place
without being overwhelmed by thoughts of Ms Bear.

Now I understood. Now I knew why Aunt Floy carried
that little brown furball around in her arms. I
understood why Sarah couldn't speak of her first
little dog without choking up. What a bitter
lesson to learn! What a heartwrenching way to
learn it!

5.

A bad, bad day for all of us.
This is Page 5.
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