Two years ago today, I lost the love of my life. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him and feel that wretched ache in my chest. I fear that no love will ever compare to what Mandog and I had. He was such a good soul. He was so kind, gentle, loving, cheeky, adaptable, accepting, and what a great communicator.
Parker Lewis "Mandog" Arthur-Liles.
Parker endured my dominance-based, correction-based training, my alpha-rolls, my yanks and cranks on his martingale collar, a citronella collar, a shock collar. I imagine that he forgave me at the end of each difficult day and went to sleep knowing that I was simply a human who was doing the best I had with what I knew. I imagine he hoped for better days.
He endured my absences, howling and crying, alone in my condo while I worked my corporate jobs. He tore off door frames and baseboards, ripped up carpeting, clawed through drywall and concrete, jumped out of windows, triggered 6 eviction notices, flooded my bathroom, and bit three dogs.
Parker was patient with puppies, gentle with geriatric dogs, fascinated by horses, adored cats, and he was a most wonderful therapy dog to folks in the hospital who needed a little comfort. He ended up being my transition dog who helped new dogs get comfortable with our group walks when I was a dog walker (before I was a trainer).
He was in love with my family and in love with my friends. Let's face it. He was in love with any person who made eye contact with him, especially bearded men. (He took after his mama there...) He loved children and never missed an opportunity to sit quietly beside them and lean in just enough to get some snuggles but not knock them over.
He taught me everything I ever needed to know. He was so patient with me as I learned how to train a dog without using aversives, how to modify behaviour without using force. He was a champion for clicker training and a whole-food-for-dogs advocate. He taught me to always try to see the best in people because everyone is doing the best they can.
He loved to sit and watch people for hours, so we spent the first forty minutes of every day in the condo lobby, sitting and people-watching. He loved people in uniform and would jump into parked cop cars if the door was ajar. He rode in more mail-delivery trucks than the average mail carrier. He loved taxi-rides. He loved his little brother Buster who was such an ankle-biter, but such fun company. He loved his daddy, his uncles, his grandparents. He loved adventure.
He loved to sniff. His walks consisted of sniffing, walking a few feet, sniffing some more, maybe chasing a squirrel, and then sniffing some more. He loved visiting my parents and sitting on the front lawn with my dad on sunny days, watching the world go by, greeting all the neighbourhood kids and teaching them about tripawd dogs and how disabilities don't exist - only differentabilities. He loved how my parents would take him for car rides and go to places where he could hike or swim without having to interact with other dogs. He loved how my mom would make him a slice of peanut butter toast before bed whenever he stayed over. He loved how my dad would sneak him a piece of cheese directly from the fridge or a table scrap at every meal. He loved cleaning out the yogurt containers at breakfast. He loved to be vacuumed.
Parker was a lot of work. He was a difficult adolescent, which I made worse with my correction-based training methods and tools that I used. He had dog-aggression issues that took me a long time to resolve (from which was born our Cranky Canine course). He had severe separation anxiety (which was resolved thanks to Malena). He had a typical German Shepherd gut and after years of trial and error with foods, he finally stopped having chronic colitis, thanks to his long-distance nutrition-guru girlfriend Sabine and our magnificent hero of a veterinarian, Hazel Eaglesome. I cooked his meals for him - it took me 6 hours every four weeks and he had his own chest freezer in my tiny condo rather than a dining room table for me.
When Parker got old, he lost most of his hearing and sight but developed certain phobias (snap-lock container lids snapping closed, beeping on a microwave or oven, smoke and fire alarms, and windy days). He developed arthritis in his shoulders and chronic UTIs. His gut gave out repeatedly from the pain medications and other antibiotics for his urinary tract. His body was tired. He started losing control of his bowels and slipping on the floor. He fell down the stairs a few times.
But I wasn't ready. His mind was still there. His heart was still strong. I moved back into our original condo building that he loved so much, to avoid the stairs. I ordered him a custom wheelchair which we used for 3 months until he got too tired. So then I bought him a $350 gardening wagon and a $200 bed and I combined them. I used a bum-lifter and a Help-em-up Harness to get him in and out. I walked around the city for hours every day so that he could still have his adventures and get out and sniff and do his business, even meeting his old friends from the 'hood. We would still sit in the lobby and people-watch every day.
This gave him another year and a half in his life and it was magnificent.
I knew that he was getting tired and I knew it wouldn't be fair to keep pushing him as I wasn't able to make anything better, but just keep him from getting much worse much faster. I called my vet and made the appointment and tried to give him a wonderful last few days. I spent the nights on the floor with my face pressed into his neck.
Two years ago today, Parker's daddy came over with lunch (which we inevitably shared with Parker) and we spent some time together with him. We took a taxi ride to our vet clinic and got him settled. The clinic was quiet and peaceful. Everyone was even nicer than usual...which is wild because they're always the nicest people there! They had laid out a huge green duvet on the floor, where Parker and I lay cuddled while his Daddy ran across the street to get a meat-lovers pizza.
In the exam room, Parker not only demolished that pizza, but he actually got to steal it right off his daddy's lap like a sneaky scavenger. He was so pleased with himself for getting away with it! Once he licked his chops and cleaned up any stray crumbs, we sat there. I whispered to him how much I love him and how sorry I was for all the wrong I did to him. I thanked him for loving me anyway. The techs came in and held him so gently while we fed him sweet potato, cheese, meatballs, and chicken. He didn't even notice them shaving a patch on his front leg and inserting a catheter without any fuss. (He always loved the techs there, especially Andria and Elena.)
Dr.Eaglesome came in and explained how the next few minutes would go. She was so kind and gentle and clear. She knew exactly the right words to say. She gave us all the time we needed (even though it never feels like enough) and when I was ready, she gave him a mild sedative so that he would feel relaxed and peaceful.
I held him and kissed him over and over as I sobbed into his fur. His head started to droop and his eyes half-closed, he started to snore. He was so relaxed and peaceful with some of his favourite people around him, and he left us. I swear to you, he took my heart with him.
It was the most beautiful, peaceful experience I could ever have imagined. What an honour to hold him in his final moments and to give him the gift of relief.
He is not waiting for me at "rainbow bridge" - that would be my greatest fear. He spent his life waiting for me. He is everywhere. He is running with four legs. He is running with his old friends. He is here beside me. I take him everywhere with me. I dream of him. I talk to him. I miss him so terribly. He was so loved.