The kitchen floor is less clean these days, and the carpet no longer yields a canister full of hair after a vacuuming. Without Buster, we are learning that he kept the area around the kitchen completely free of little crumbs that we now find must be swept up. Yes, Buster, our beautiful golden retriever is no longer with us. Above is a photo of Buster in his favorite spot: near the table and next to Jim. He is no doubt waiting for a crumb from the cereal bowl to fall on the floor.
On June 1, 2010, three days after the death of my beloved daughter, Julie, Jim and I had to make the unexpected decision to put down our dog. It all seemed surreal. At the time, we could hardly believe what we were going through.
We knew Buster had not been himself, and he had been taken in to the vet quite a few times in the past six months, but somehow, his condition was never diagnosed. It turns out that Buster had cancer in his lungs and in his heart. One of the tumors in his heart burst while he was staying with Jim's daughter, Thia, in Colorado Springs. Thia called with the news and said she was taking him to the vet. Thankfully, they were able to diagnose his condition and give us the information we needed to make the decision that the right thing to do would be to put him down since there was nothing that could be done for him. The vet was able to keep him alive until Jim and I could drive from the Boulder area, where we were in the midst of planning Julie's memorial service, to Colorado Springs to be by his side for his final moments. In many ways, it was healing for me to be able to be there with him as he passed from this life to the next. Jim and I both held and petted our beloved dog as he took his final breath of life.
Somehow even though Buster was a handful and a challenge at first, it became very evident early on that Buster was really Jim's dog and would become his best buddy. I'm not sure if this photo is prophetic or not, but please note that Jim is only wearing one sock. Do you think he had taken his sock off and Buster had grabbed it and begun his life long habit of chewing up and eating socks?
Buster was born in October of 1999. My two grandchildren, Mason and Gillian, had been born the previous October. Buster became the childhood companion to the grandchildren when they were at Grandma Sally's house. That is one reason why we wanted a golden retriever. They are awesome with children. We never had to worry about him being anything but gentle and loving around the children.
I remember when one of the grandchildren at about age two or three looked into his eyes after petting him and said, "He has real eyes." I guess he seemed like a big stuffed animal, except that this fluffy pet was alive.
He loved the grandkids and would be so excited whenever they came to visit. The photo above was taken just a year ago. He still looked healthy and young as he played with Atticus.
Our sad good-byes would come later. As Buster passed from this life into the next, I whispered in his ear, "Go be with Julie." I wasn't sure of my doctrine on my last words to our beloved dog, but later, I found a quote in a book I've been reading about the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer said, "Look, God created human beings and also animals, and I'm sure he also loves animals. And I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth - genuinely loved each other - will remain together with God..."
Jim and I are at an end of an era. The grandchildren are no longer babies. We have transitioned fully into retirement. Our loved companion is gone. We have lost a beautiful daughter. We do have many wonderful memories of all of our times together. For that we are grateful.