Having a pet means eventually having to say goodbye.
We have just done that with our third dog, Rainier – a mini Australian Shepherd. Rainier had been suffering with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis for the past four days. With no improvement, we made the hard but necessary decision to have him put to sleep last night.
Rainier was a rescue dog we had gotten from a ranch in Montana. He had been a champion puppy, but when his testes didn’t descend he was relegated to pet status. He came to us with a bad hip and a fear of men and we could only speculate what had happened to him.
He was about 16 months old when we got him. Flown to us in a crate, Terri had to sit for a couple of hours in front of the open crate door before he slowly emerged and let her touch him. He was frightened of me and it took several weeks before he became comfortable with me – with other men, it took much longer.
Terri named him Rainier for his brilliant blue eyes and the white top of his head.
We had gotten him to play with Oliver, our other mini Aussie. But it became soon apparent that Rainier was much more dominant and he lost interest – and to be fair, Oliver has only one passion: chasing Frisbees.
Rainier decided that his job was watch dog and pack protector.
He used to spend his days at the window next to the door, alerting us to anyone nearby – including neighborhood children and delivery drivers. His bark was fierce and he was territorial. If I went out the door to pick up a package, I had to keep an eye out for him as his redlining usually meant getting bit in the back of the leg – something that happened more than once.
Still, it was difficult to stay angry at him. His happy grin always made me smile.
For many of his years with us he was the quiet brother, just happy to watch and be a part of whatever was going on.
Then over the last three years two things changed.
The first was when Terri got Hannah, a standard-sized Aussie female. Hannah became her therapy dog after Teddy, our pint-sized Maltese/Yorkie terrier, decided to retire about the same time I did.
Rainier and Hannah soon began to play together. It was likely that competition for dominance was a key factor. However, seeing the happy looks in their eyes told a different story: they found joy in chasing and wrestling each other.
Over the years Terri had worked on his hip and with us getting his weight down a bit, he was ready for the rough and tumble times he had with Hannah.
The other thing that happened was about seven months ago Terri started bringing him to work with her and Hannah. He got attention and love from many of her clients; spent time in the park as Hannah chased Frisbees; and was rewarded with an occasional cheeseburger. And Terri got to spend more time with him that made both of them especially happy. I’m sure this was the happiest time of his life.
All of this made him the very special dog he became in our lives.
There was no question we would stay with him through the end. In his last few minutes, we both told him how much we loved him and thanked him for all he had given us.
I know people who lost a pet and have never gotten another because of the pain. I understand that perspective.
But I know as much as I hurt now, it is worth the price of the pain for having the memories of the ten years we had with Rainier.
I also know that the only version of heaven I believe in is the one where you show up and every dog you’ve ever loved runs up to greet you.
I know Rainier is now there waiting for us – playing with Annabelle and Frosty.
Rainier: February 9, 2009 – September 17, 2019