We anticipated this for some time but it doesn’t really hit you until time is up! Frodo had been half-hearted about eating anything for some weeks. His back legs were getting weaker by the day and he was finding it hard to do his business. He was by nature discreet about his ablutions, to the point that he prefered to go even outside and beyond the garden.
That morning I put his food into his bowl as usual and he didn’t even begin to eat. He just sat down. I went over to him, pulled up a chair and picked out the biscuity bits and tried to feed him by hand. At that moment, he gave me a look I have never seen before. He looked straight into my eyes as if to say, “It’s time Dad”! From that moment on he lay down flat out.
We had an appointment at the vet for 11:20am on Tuesday. As I sit and wait to go, every minute seems like an hour. I got up at 5:15 that morning and before that spent a little time stroking Frodo’s head gently as he lay beside my bed as he does every night. His breathing was laboured and he hasn’t eaten anything for nearly 3 days. He can hardly walk anymore. He just lies there breathing shallow.
I decided to take Rusty along in the car with us to the vet so he would know what’s happening. Otherwise I think he might have wondered and waited for Frodo to come home. As we approached the outskirts of town I heard the strangest sound like a squeek coming from the car! “Is it the car…” I thought, “or is it Rusty?” Even when I moved my head a little closer to him, his mouth was closed and his head wasn’t moving and I really couldn’t tell if it was Rusty or the car?! After a while I realised it was Rusty!
We arrived at the vet and I parked, went in to tell them I’d arrived then went back out to the car. Frodo lay motionless in the back with Rusty now sitting beside him. I’d arranged for a female vet to do the business and promptly two of them came out to the car, carrying two syringes of what they euphemistically call “blue juice”! The girls were lovely. Young, gentle, quiet. They stroked Frodo and asked about him. Suddenly, Rusty went bonkers. Yelping, whining, jumping about, actually trying to get out of the car and shaking all over. I think he thought he was next!! One of the girls had the presence of mind to pick him up calmly and offered to take him inside, which I gratefully accepted. As I understand it he was given lots of fuss and love and treats in there and calmed down almost immediately. In the meantime the deed was done. The girl vet said he won’t feel a thing, he’ll just go to sleep. And he did.
Rusty came out and the three of us went straight to Mary’s place (from whence he came) where she, being the beautiful person she is, allowed me to bury him next to his two brothers in a quiet wild garden on the hill beyond the main house. Rusty was still a little unsettled particularly as there were three geese padding about on the grass, so I let him out of the car and tethered him to a fence post just to safeguard the geese. In truth they were big enough to see him off, but I didn’t want to take the chance.
I had brought the two rugs I covered him with at night because he got so thin I was worried about him being cold. One of them I laid on the bottom of the hole Mary had so kindly already dug. Then I picked Frodo up from the back of the car and laid him out on the rug wrapping the edges around him and placing his favourite toy between his paws. The other rug I laid on top of him, then after saying a few more words to him I carefully filled in the grave.
I think at some point Rusty realised what was really happening because the geese disappeared, he sat down and whimpered quietly. I went over to him, cupped his little head in my hands and said, “It’s ok little boy, Frodo’s ok now”. He looked up at me with those great big eyes that make you melt, and went quiet.
The following day I had to go back to town so I decided to take Rusty with me so that he would not associate the trip with frightening things. He did start whimpering a little when we got there, but I stroked him and reassured him and he was soon ok. When we finally went in a different direction away from the vet surgery he was calm and quiet. On the way home he seemed a little subdued, a little sad.
I went back to Frodo the next day to finish off the grave. Mary wants to plant a Rhododendron over him as she has done over Barley and Horsa. I think it’s a wonderful idea. So I took four bags of compost from the old piles of horse manure, poured them on top of the grave then laid stones all around the edges then placed a large headstone onto which I scratched his name. Like a gift from nature, laying right there was a stone in the shape of a perfect heart, which I placed just below the headstone. A grave fit for a prince!
Whilst I had a cup of coffee with Mary, Rusty ran around playing with her three doggies, two Retrievers and a border terrier. He was better today. Since then I have kept him with me, taken him on different walks and given him lots of love and attention. I love him so much. He is forteen now, only a year younger than Frodo. I want him to continue being the happy doggie he’s always been.
By all accounts fifteen years is a pretty good innings for a Retriever. It is Frodo’s fifteenth birthday on Friday. I love him so and I’m trying not to think how much I will miss him. He is one in a million. I think a small part of me went with him that day. He will always be very much alive in my memories and my heart. I will never forget him. You never know, he might come running to greet me when my time’s up.