Sometimes in life we are blessed to have a friend who is completely selfless. A friend who always let’s you pick what to watch on the tube. A friend who is so glad to be with you that he doesn’t care what you are doing, because he does it too. A friend who is always happy to see you. I had a friend like that. He died Monday. Actually, we had to put Sparky to sleep. That is the bad news. The good news is that I had my selfless friend for almost 13 years.
Sparky was a cocker spaniel who was technically my daughter’s dog. In fact, I will grant her that, he was her dog. He was my buddy. Whereas other dogs we have had would tire of my relentless sports watching and seek another room to sleep in, Sparky was always right there by the big screen “watching” with me.
Since I work in the evenings, I spend many a morning “putzing” around the house or around the yard. There are no sports to watch at that time of day and I just can’t handle soap operas or The View. So most mornings I am on the move, fixing this or painting that. And although my wife was at work and the kids were at school – I was never alone. Every step I took, Sparky was right there with me. We have had five great dogs over three decades, but none have even come close to his loyalty.
Sparky had a brother from the same litter named Spike. Last year Spike got cancer and developed some tumors on his ears. They were inoperable, looked bad and smelled even worse. Sparky did not care. He licked his brother’s ears every day until we were finally were ready to say good-bye to Spike. Sparky was that aware and caring and licked those gross ears just because it made Spike feel better.
Just 48 hours before he died, Sparky was out by our pool acting just like… well, just like Sparky. He loved to climb on our rock waterfall. Saturday night our guests asked if he was a dog or a mountain goat. He also loved to clear the pool of frogs. He wouldn’t even get wet; Sparky just waited for the frog to swim near the side, gently grabbed the amphibian in his mouth and tossed it out of the pool area.
That is why it was so surprising on Sunday night when he wandered down from the pool to the lower patio and collapsed. A midnight trip to the emergency vet revealed that his heart had swollen to many times its normal size and he was experiencing heart failure. In 24 hours he went from climbing on the rocks and capturing frogs to near death on our patio.
Because Sparky was suffering, we knew that we had to put him down, but decided to take one more day to celebrate his life before we did. On our final day with Sparky, we took turns holding him and sitting with him. At one point I went outside to do some pool maintenance. He was laying in my daughter’s lap but he raised his head in my direction trying to watch my every move as if to say, “I am supposed to be outside with my buddy doing chores.” My daughter brought him out to the pool. Although he could not follow my footsteps, Sparky was content to be near his best buddy.
Sometimes in life we are blessed to have a friend who is completely selfless. A friend so good that we can cry in front of him. Later that day when we took Sparky to the vet for his final visit, my daughter held him tight as he breathed his last breath. I cried. Actually bawled or sobbed may be a better description. That is just what you do when you lose a friend as good as Sparky.