When we set out on our journey back on May 31st, 2015, Carlos was well over 14-years-old. In concept or dogma, this road trip was preparing us for our last chance to have him as part of our family and his legacy as our MVP in the Pope Family Pet Hall of Fame. I wouldn’t say it was ALL about the dog, but Carlos was certainly a focal point.
The last year and a half we’ve essentially spent every minute of every day with Carlos. Camping on both coasts, he was there.
Tooling around off-beat towns like Put-in-Bay, Apalachicola, and Asheville, he was there. Visiting friends and family, he was there. There were the days we’d stay at dog friendly hotels taking turns in the morning with the complimentary breakfast. Hali would bring back a waffle slathered in peanut butter for Carlos, he was there. . . waiting.
Our long summer in Chicago allowed us to visit our Midwest friends, reboot, and re-evaluate the direction we’d follow heading into the holidays. I thought the longer route west would be too hard on Carlos and opted for the shorter route south to Florida so that the family would be together during his last days.
My mind set was to have Carlos around through his 16th Birthday and into the new year. I still maintained the four criteria I’d look for in Carlos on a daily basis 1) Is he in pain? 2) Are all his basic faculties (eating, drinking, pooping, peeing) functioning? 3) How is activity level? 4) Is he happy?
The summer heat beat up Carlos, but with the a/c at Catherine’s, Carlos was comfortable, not in pain. He was eating, drinking, and peeing freely but had started loosing his bowels more frequently. Sometimes on walks where he couldn’t get to the side of the road fast enough, a few times in the bed, a couple times straining to get upstairs. Activity? Like my shadow, he would get up every time I got up, took shorter walks, and was willing to wonder around the yard while I worked. And although I knew he was happy, I also knew he’d be happier when our family of three were together.
We’d been in Florida about three weeks when, without saying much to the girls, I noticed Carlos getting more uncomfortable. Panting on short walks when it wasn’t hot. Rolling in the grass without flipping and flopping. Drinking more water. Hesitating going down the stairs. Pacing between our bedrooms at night.
A week before Thanksgiving I knew it was time. The girls left me alone to make this decision because I made it clear way in advance I was ” the decider “. It was a good decision. The last two days seemed miserable for me AND Carlos.
On November 17th, a week shy of his 16th Birthday, Carlos did a couple things that confirmed HE was ready. While I was just sitting, watching Carlos walk from his water dish over to me, his tail which now hung limp at his hind legs, wagged just a few times, and he licked my knee as he often did. Then, after letting him out to pee in the front yard, he veered over into the shrubs on the side yard and began digging a hole. He often did this while camping. His resting spot.
Looking back, and without quite realizing it, this has been more of our Farewell Tour with Carlos as the lead man.
We’ve connected the tour dots with the destinations of friends and family. From Arne’s 50th Birthday celebration in Lake Tahoe to the Beach Music of the Outer Banks of North Carolina visiting Uncle Rolf, and all the folks in between.
Writing about the loss of Carlos is MY therapy. And for this episode, I’ll need just this one session.
Today, he’s not here. We must move on and forward. Still again, he will be our lead man with us on his Oregon Homecoming Tour, Spring 2017. Stay tuned. . .