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  • Writer's pictureCaty Blake

My Hardest Goodbye

Never miss a chance to nap in the sunshine.

Always maintain a childish sense of wonder.

Have strong opinions about what path you want to be on and never let anyone lead you astray.

Play hard, but play kind.

Life is too short to hold grudges. Forgive.

Never miss a chance to scarf down a stick of butter. Or two.

Run with abandon.

Stand by those you love. Period.

Never pretend to be anything more than you are.

Listening can be more healing than the right words.

Never miss a chance to swim, regardless of temperature.

Jump for joy when someone you love walks through the door, even if you only saw them 10 seconds before.

Delight in the simple things.

Lessons I learned from my Dog

Last January, as the world was starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, our sweet Finn was diagnosed with stage 3 renal failure. Given his severe symptoms, as well as other chronic conditions (pancreatitis, arthritis and colitis), the vets didn’t think he had more than a few weeks to months. If for no other reason then his illnesses required opposing diets. Thankfully, after lots of research and trial and error, I was able to come up with a homemade recipe that he could not only tolerate, but seemed to thrive on. So faithfully, every week, for 11 months, while my children survived on cereal and frozen veggies, I would weigh and cook Finn's meals. Ryan would joke that he'd live forever on this diet.

Devastatingly, that was not the case and four days ago he took a rapid and dramatic turn for the worse. As anyone who has ever had to make this call knows, deciding when the time is right, is one of the hardest decision you'll ever have to make. There are so many reasons I continue to torment myself and question if it was the right time. He was my constant companion and shadow for nearly 12 years. He was our oldest son’s best friend in this entire world. And my poor husband wasn’t here to say goodbye.

I find myself reaching to rub his velvety, soft head riding shotgun next to me every time I get in my truck. I expect to trip over him 100 times a day because he was always under foot, never wanting to be far from us. And I don't know how many more times my heart can explain to our son why Finn can't come back. What was a wonderful and exciting new chapter for us, suddenly feels heavy. His absence every morning when I pull up to work at the new house weighs on me like a physical pain. The void left by his absence is palpable and paralyzing. This is the first house we've ever owned where he could be free and truly content to come and go as he pleased. I can't tell you how much I would delight in being able to open the truck door and just let him wander. Never worrying he'd stray too far or get hit by a car or eat something he shouldn't. And sure enough, within 5-10 mins of smelling and exploring, he'd curl up on the front porch or return faithfully to my side.

I always joke that my greatest accomplishment in life is having kept Finn alive for as long as I did. To say he's had a voracious appetite his entire life is an understatement. Chocolate, marshmallows, muffins, butter with the tin foil wrapper, rat poison, many grapes, cat feces, sunglasses, bars of soap, pumice stones; you name it and Finn has eaten it. He should have died more times than I can count. But thanks to a turkey baster and hydrogen peroxide, he made it 11 wonderful years. His only other vice was jumping on people. But as much as this enraged us, we had to remind ourselves that it was the result of loving people so much. Anytime anyone would come over, he'd barrel from across the house and plow right into them, presuming that every person to step into our home was there solely to love on him. And yet despite his rambunctious ways as an adolescent, he had an innate ability to know when to be calm and gentle. One evening while I was getting frozen yogurt in a local store and Ryan was outside with Finn, a young boy who had spina bifida wheeled up to him in his wheelchair. I must have gasped all the air out of the place, terrified that he would jump up on him and accidentally hurt him. Instead, he gently walked over to him, sat down and put his head on his lap.

Similarly, I had a riding student who had taken a fall and suddenly become terrified to do anything more than walk her horse. After weeks of unsuccessfully coaxing her to trot again, Finn, who never left my side while coaching, walked out to the end of the lunge line where Emma and her horse were. He began walking beside her and before I knew it, she was squeezing him into a trot. Miraculously Finn picked up into a trot with her and stayed beside her time and time again as they went in circles, changing his gate to maintain the horse's. It still gives me chills to watch.

Loving him was one of the easiest things I've ever done. And losing him has been the hardest.


Run free among the stars, sweet boy <3


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