Over the weekend, my parents told me that they had to put Diego to sleep. They kept it from me for almost 3 weeks because they had a very difficult time dealing with the loss of our family member. Everything in the house reminded them of him. When I last spoke to my mom on the phone, I asked how Diego was and she said “He’s sleeping.” I had a strange feeling I knew what she meant, but I didn’t ask for details because I was afraid it would be true. Whether he was sleeping here or in heaven, he would be at peace and that was what I wanted for him.
Before I left for the RC, I asked my dad to take a photo of Diego every day or as often as possible. I hadn’t received one in a while so I asked him for some on Friday. The ones he sent were dated 10/28. I asked if they took him to the vet and he said the vet told them he had a spinal injury and that the end was near. “How close is the end?” “Any day.”
When I walked down the mountain on Saturday, I started to cry. I kept hoping he could stay alive for another month so I could see him when I got home for break. At the same time, I didn’t want him to be in pain. We’ve only had 2 or 3 days of rain since I got here, but there was some light rain that morning and I was glad because it could hide my tears. I often think of Diego as I’m running and I imagine him a few steps ahead of me, as he always liked to be first. He’d stop and smell things and pee on them, but if we walked past him, he’d run so he could be ahead of us.
I asked if Diego could still go outside and walk okay and if he was in pain. Late Saturday morning, I opened my email and my dad wrote: “Not any more, we actually had to put him down 10-28.” He said that Diego couldn’t stand up so they brought him to the vet the next morning and they were asked to make a decision. My parents decided to take him home for the day and bring him back that evening. He couldn’t get up to relieve himself so my dad had to carry him with a blanket. They fed him milk (he’s always loved it but we stopped giving it to him years ago because it’s bad for dogs), steak, and other goodies. It was a beautiful fall day and the temperature was exceptionally warm. He sat on the lawn for most of the day and was in my parents’ laps for the last few hours. I cried when I read that, but I was also happy that Diego had the best day he possibly could. I was sad I couldn’t be there, but I might have been even more sad if I was there.
I remember saying goodbye before I left for the RC. Out of everyone back home, Diego was the one I hated leaving the most because I knew he didn’t have a lot of time left. Unlike a lot of dogs, he was pretty aloof and we (the humans) were the ones who would go up to him and “bother” him with hugs, pats, scratches, and stuff. On one of my last days at home, I took a nap next to him on the carpet. Instead of turning his head away as usual, he actually turned it towards me. He had looked so exhausted all summer. Not tired in a happy way, as if he had just gone out on a nice long walk, but exhausted from living. Exhausted from having to walk outside to relieve himself. Exhausted from having to walk upstairs just to sit at his favorite place looking out the sliding door to the backyard. We got him at age 4 and he was over 16 years old. He had lived a very long and happy life and it is time for him to rest in peace.
Every dog-loving dog owner knows that their dog is special. (I have to add the word “dog-loving” since not every dog owner loves and respects their dog.) They are often better companions than humans and Diego was loved by everyone who knew him. Even a lot of people who didn’t usually like dogs or were afraid them had liked Diego. He was chill and he didn’t really want our attention most of the time, which is probably why we wanted his (sly dog).
I have a lot of good memories of him and I’ll share a few favorites:
- My friends’ dogs (Willie and Cody) had come over before, and for some reason, Diego liked to like their ears. I kept telling Aaron that Diego was not gay, but I don’t know if I was convincing.
- A lot of dogs do this, but he used to tilt his head sometimes when we talked to him. “Aroo?”
- Diego hid a rawhide on my parents’ bed and we found it. We called his name and he came in with an “Oh shoot!” look on his face. As we laughed, he jumped on the bed, grabbed the rawhide, and booked it out of there as if he was saying, “This never happened!”
- One time Diego broke free somehow and stayed outside in the winter cold for 4 hours, refusing to let us catch him. He loved being outdoors but it was extremely annoying at the time. I wish I took him out for longer walks while he was younger.
- One time I was sitting on the couch with something delicious in my hand (I’m not sure if it was a human treat or a dog treat). Diego sat in front of me, perfectly still, hoping to get that piece of food. The only movement was the drool dripping from the side of his mouth.
- He would run back and forth upstairs and we’d hear his paws clicking against the hardwood floor. Sometimes we’d peak in the big room and see him running around in circles or scratching his back against the ground. When he saw us, he’d stop as if we just intruded on a private moment.
- Diego used to go into the downstairs bathroom and close the door on himself and just hang out. He also used to like sitting on the bean bag. One time I was sitting on the bean bag, so he went into the bathroom and closed the door. I got up to open the door and he squeezed out and took my spot on the bean bag.
- Diego drew a lot of attention whenever we’d go for walks. Little kids would run to him and say, “Puppy!” (even though he was a senior) or “Can I pet your dog?” Even a high school kid asked me what breed he was. I said, “Half Chow Chow and half Jindo, but the Jindo is native to Korea and you can’t find too many here, but he looks like an Akita.” Kid: “But I want that dog…”
- I was at my computer and Diego came over and sat down next to me to beg me for a walk. I looked at him and turned away to continue what I was doing. He took his paw and tapped my leg a few times. It was so cute so I took him outside.
- One time he farted and everyone said, “Aw! Diego!” Then he immediately left the room so he didn’t have to hear us complaining.
- One time when I was out, Diego went into my room and the door closed on him. When I opened the door and found him a while later, I saw this:
My last walk with Diego on 08/27:
I don’t know if I have a strong attachment to dogs because I was born in the Year of the Dog or if it’s just because they are pretty freaking awesome. Some life lessons from dogs:
- Listen. Dogs can’t talk anyway, but sometimes just listening to a friend is all the comfort they need.
- Be Loyal.
- Live in the present. Don’t hold grudges. Let things go.
- BE present. Give full attention to those around you instead of half-assed attention because you’re on your phone. There’s an app for that, it’s called, “Respect.”
- Relationships are based on giving and receiving. Dogs have simple needs and yet they give much more than they receive or need to receive.
There’s a lot more, but I can’t think clearly right now so I’ll leave you with more photos of the dog that looked like a puppy all his life. View Diego photo album
The Oatmeal guy drew an excellent comic about his dog: