Dogs’ lives are too short.  Their only fault, really.

Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Bat Mann & Robin, 2007

I saw it coming. Was helpless. Felt the long bladed dull knife drive to the hilt between my shoulders. The driver stopped. It wasn’t his fault. I motioned for them to leave, picked her up and carried her to the soft, new, spring grass. Instantly, I knew I would once again have to do what I had done years ago. The memory hit me like a train:

Nate was my first dog. He had to be put down. Grandpa said I should do it. I knew he was right. Wished he wasn’t. I was his keeper. I was responsible. It was my job. The tears were mine too. Grandpa knew he was teaching me. Teaching me a lesson I’d need someday. Preparing me for hard times.

Times like now.

Holding her graying muzzle in my hands I noticed they were shaking. She was not. Her eyes, deep and black, were as soft as always. She looked at me like like a hurting soldier looks at a nurse. Like I had a cure. Like she knew I was hurting too and that she needed to provide comfort. That comfort she’d always provided.

This was the day Grandpa’s lesson had been for.

I placed her in the back of the Ranger. We took one last ride. She never whimpered, not a noise. I stopped short of the hilltop, cradled her in my arms, walked slowly, placed her on the ground at the top. She set calmly, never offering to look at me. I knew if she did I could not continue. She knew it too.

I rubbed her head, her shoulders, she looked into the valley. The blackness of the storm approached and the thunder that had always terrified her rolled in behind us like a slow moving train. She remained calm. I dug my fingers deep into her fur.

It had to be done. Done now. Done here. In the woods in the clean air by hands that cared. I was prepared for this part but not for the next; telling my son Bat. That would be harder; as hard as railroad steel in the dead of winter.

They were the same age. Met at two months old. They played in the woods, in the creek. She protected him, protected his sisters, protected us all. She retrieved birds, found deer, could find anything no matter how hard or far it was thrown.

No more.

I felt her heart beat. Felt true trust. Felt truly lucky. Every boy – every man – deserves one true dog. Few get it. Fewer appreciate it. I have. I will. We all will.

Lessons are hard things, no matter how many times you have to learn them. I hurt, she hurt worse. I felt calm, she made sure of that. I did not feel lost or alone; Grandpa prepared me for this.

Her feet were on the ground. Her eyes were open. Her nose was in the wind.

I ended it.

Robin (2000-2012) R.i.P.

There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,

        And, with his sickle keen,

He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,

        And the flowers that grow between.

 The Reaper and the Flowers

                  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


About gunwriter

Born and raised in the West Virginia hills, Richard literally grew up in the woods. He has chased coon hounds until daylight, waited out whitetails perched high in an oak, canoed the New River and hunted from the Montana Mountains to the Green Hills of Africa. During service in the Army and later as a municipal police officer and Special Agent with the railroad police, Richard obtained numerous certifications in small arms instruction. He has trained military personnel, law enforcement officers and civilians in the application of firearms for defensive, competitive and recreational use. Richard won the West Virginia Governor’s Twenty Award for law enforcement, the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol Competition and earned his Distinguished Medal with pistol. Badge turned in, Richard is now a contributing editor for several magazines. He was the compiling author of the book, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter and conceptualized and contributed to Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle. Richard also contributed a chapter to the John Velke book, The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Richard has patents on a riflescope reticle and a revolutionary bullet testing media. A hillbilly at heart, Richard lives on Shadowland - his shooting range in West Virginia - with the most understanding wife in the world, their three kids and a very protective ridgeback hound.
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16 Responses to GOODBY

  1. JD Lawson says:

    Very sorry to hear about your loss. We just had a similar experience with our dog Morgan. Our prayers are with you and your family.

  2. Il Ling New says:

    I feel for all of you. Robin had a great family, and she is a part of what makes it great. I hope the good memories start to outweigh the pain, sooner than later.

    Your friend, Il Ling

  3. GunRightsAttorneys says:

    Some ask, how can you become so attached to an animal?
    It’s not hard to do, they are after all part of the family.
    My condolences.

  4. Ed Head says:

    Richard, very touching. We’re sorry for your loss.

  5. T-bone says:

    Richard – I am so sorry for your loss. I have been there more than once. It never gets easier but I hope you have the comfort of Almighty God to ease the pain. There is no love like a dogs. Beautiful eulogy.

    Your friend,

  6. I think it was the late Gene Hill who said something to the effect of “If you think it tears you up to lose a dog after their all too short lives – imagine how bad it would be if they did live to 50? It would be more than a person could bear.”

    There’s only one cure – as soon as thinking of their memory brings as many grins as sadness, find another pup that needs a home.

  7. Dann in Ohio says:

    Sorry for your loss… dogs are the best kind of people… we’ve been there too…

    Dann in Ohio

  8. John in KS says:

    Lost my black Lab last night; hit by a truck. My sons helped me bury him over near our favorite tree.

    I totally feel your pain, Richard. It’s even tougher when you have to end it yourself. Thank the Lord for Granpa’s lesson.

  9. Buckshot says:

    What an incredible journey you all have been through together. Nothing can be said or done, but wanted to let you know that I am sorry for the loss.

  10. JonP says:

    There is no easy way to do it and it never does get easier. I remember the first time I had to. My grandfather also had me do it to teach me a lesson about compassion. Better to have it quickly than linger in pain for who knows how long.

  11. Jim Dodd says:

    my condolences…jim

  12. rambowmikeoutdoors says:

    In Tears… Dogs are family!

  13. Dale Roberts Jr says:

    This is the only time I have ever had a regret about cilicking on the link to your site Richard. I had that lesson one time also when I was a kid. I still remember it very well and have also had to repeat it since. Sorry for all of you guys. Especially Bat.

  14. Matt says:

    Our deepest sympathy for the loss of your dear friend.
    I am new to Empty Cases; Buz forwarded it to me. We both hold our dogs and the 2nd Amendment dear to our hearts. Like your blog; signed up for it today.

  15. Rev. Roger A. Shervington says:

    When I first entered the ministry, I was asked by a 10-year old to do a funeral for his dog. His parents were aghast, but I saw no reason not to bring God’s love for all Creation to bear on a devoted and loyal family member. I firmly believe that dogs, and yes even cats, have souls and deserve such respect and dignity. May God comfort all of you in your loss, and remember that God loves ALL of his creatures.

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