I remember when we first got Remy……..we drove on a rainy day to pick him up right around New Year’s 2003. I was living at home at the time - having graduated SPU in June, spent the summer working at Starbucks, and lived/studied in Salamanca, Spain because the US job market was so bad. Pretty much right when I got back, we got him. It was love at first sight….though how can someone not love a golden retriever puppy. They are probably the most adorable things on the planet. The sight of these puppies cures common illnesses and holding one would probably cure cancer.
For the first six months of his life, I raised Remy. He was my baby. My Dad worked all day in his office at home but couldn’t watch a puppy because he was always on the phone with clients. My Mom worked at a gift shop and ran the household so she couldn’t watch the dog all day long - it became my job, and it was the best job ever. I would spend all day running around with him, after him, training him to go potty outside, and just playing with him. He loved to jump all over you. He also loved his toys, especially his purple dinosaur. My days were filled with the love of a puppy - innocent, sweet, and unconditional. Around 5pm everyday though, I was so worn out with watching him constantly, that I told my parents it was their turn and I would go out and do things. Of course, by the time I came back home I missed him so much that all I wanted to do was play with him some more, which was my next day at “work” - and so the cycle continued.
In May or June of 2003 I moved to Denver. Thus began the months without seeing my dog. I would see him at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then usually a weekend in early spring and once a few weeks in the summer. It was sad because we loved each other so much. I would come home and I had about 3 seconds to hug my Mom before he couldn’t handle it anymore and began jumping on me. Whenever I’d first come home, those first few minutes he would try to talk - he made these weird noises that he only made when I was home and I honestly think he was trying to tell me how excited he was to see me. This was also obvious by his actions of jumping up and down and not leaving my side until I sat on the ground and let him bury himself in my chest. I’m not quite sure when he started doing that, but all I know is that he was happiest when I surrounded him - me sitting on the floor, his face buried into my chest, and both of my arms around him petting him. He also followed me around whenever I came home. I would wake up - he’d be outside of my room waiting. I would walk to the bathroom, he’d follow. I’d take a shower, he’d be outside waiting in the hall. He would always just be laying there, patiently waiting for me. He loved going on walks with my Mom - who is the queen of spoiling dogs, by the way - but when I was home, she would have to drag him along because he would keep looking back at the house: “Is Ryan coming? What’s Ryan doing?”
Remy was the sweetest dog known to man. Every single person that met him agrees. Even my friend Star, who is ridiculously afraid of big dogs, thought Remy was an angel. And my Uncle Greg, who hates dogs, said that Remy was the best dog he’d ever met and he wouldn’t have minded having him around. He cared about people so much. He was loyal. No matter how you felt, he was always there for you, wagging his tail, with his usually quiet demeanor. He was definitely a people dog. Meaning he LOVED people. We would go for walks and come across a guy walking his dog, well Remy could not care less about the dog, he went straight up to the guy, basically saying, “Hey, I like you. You can pet me.” He also loved playing with people. KC, who we got in July of 2005, did not know how to play with people because he would always play with Remy. Remy, though, loved wrestling. If I even walked toward the fireplace in the family room, he freaked out and starting rearing up on his hind legs - because we used to wrestle all the time when he was a puppy. Once KC was around, the wrestling had to be done with KC outside, otherwise he would want to play and since he didn’t know how to wrestle with a human, he’d just yank Remy’s tail until Remy played with him (yes, KC is a brat but he is also a wonderful dog and he was a great brother for Remy). Remy also loved it, for whatever reason, when you put your head facedown on the ground. As a puppy, he used to go around and around your head trying to find your face and would nip at your head until you sat up. It was the funniest thing to see and experience. Once he got bigger though, would lay down with his back against your head and kick and grunt…which was even funnier to see! He had quite a sense of humor.
Throughout his life Remy had some health issues. He got these strange bumps like tumors on his body and we don’t know what they were - they would go away and then come back again. He never let you know that he didn’t feel good, no matter what. Unfortunately, Remy got lymphoma we believe sometime in 2009. My parents found out in January 2010 when he wasn’t eating or drinking so they took him to the vet. Apparently the cancer was very large so he began chemo immediately. It actually helped a lot and even though Remy looked a tiny bit thinner, he still had tons of energy and seemed back to normal. He was taken off chemo after 3-4 months and everything seemed fine. We all knew that lymphoma could not be cured and that even with chemo, it was just postponing the inevitable, but as long as Remy was not in pain, there was nothing that we would not do to keep him around.
I went home on Thursday, April 29th to see my new niece Audrey, Katie’s beautiful baby (she was born 4/22/10). My flight got in at basically midnight and my Dad picked me up at the airport and he had the back of the Jeep open and was reaching inside. I looked inside and my heart completely broke: there was Remy as I had never seen him - thin, no energy, half-closed eyes (he had been sleeping)…even upon seeing me, when he used to jump around and not be able to contain himself, he kind of smiled and moved his tail a few times. I got in the car and my Dad told me that Remy had been in the hospital the past few days and that the cancer was back and far worse; it was too late to do chemo again. Remy hadn’t eaten since Sunday, only getting nutrients through an IV at the hospital. The drive home was pretty quiet and my Dad told me that we were probably going to have to put Remy down the next day. I tried to think of other things just to distract myself from the emotional overload that I was going to experience. We got home and Remy was so happy to be home and not the hospital that he jumped out of the car - thankfully my Dad was there to catch him because he had no strength and might have seriously injured himself. I hugged my Mom and then we all went to bed, exhaustion finally overtaking me after crying for some time.
Friday, April 30th, was Remy’s last day on this earth and, not coincidentally, the worst day of my life. It was weird because it was on this day that he seemed to have renewed energy and strength. He jumped up on me when he saw me in the morning, he was walking around just fine, etc. We invited over a few people who knew him really well and wanted to say goodbye and he wanted to play a little bit. I even saw him eyeing the food Buck was eating so I gave it to him - I figured let him eat whatever he wants. I brought him a bowl of water and for the first time in over a week he drank. He drank a lot too. The thing is, animals and humans, many times seem to have this last burst of energy just before taking a turn for the worse. I knew Remy was in pain, even if he didn’t want to show it. It was as if he had this burst of energy so we could remember him happy at the end. When my Dad got home from a meeting around 5 pm, the whole family got in the car. It was the first time the four of us had been in a car together in quite a long time. We left KC at home and took Remy down to the vet. He still had the catheter in his left front leg because that’s where his IV went. We took some pictures out front, all fighting back tears, and even all the people in the vets office watched through the windows and they grabbed tissues. Then they led us into a small room and we just all sat there with him, hugging and petting him. He seemed pretty happy. The vet came in and talked to us and then put some sleeping drug into the catheter so that he would go to sleep and not feel anything. I sat on the ground with him laying down and I was just hugging him and crying. When the time came to give him the final stuff we all said goodbye. We all sat there, on the ground with him, caressing him as the vet put the lethal stuff in. It was pink. I think there was one split second where, just before he passed away, he knew what was going on, and he jerked a little, but it was better this way. It was painless and he could go in peace, with us all there. Had we waited, the cancer could have taken over his body and shut down organs, and just been too painful for him. We sat there for a bit after he passed and I just hugged him. That was my baby. I loved him so much.
I have avoided thinking too much about this since that day because it is just too hard. Writing this has taken me several hours and copious amounts of tissue paper. I have thought about dogs in general though and why God gave them to us and what our special attachment to them is all about. I cannot sort it all out but I do know that if you want, you can have a connection with a dog that incredibly profound and heartfelt. There is communication there and an understanding that is insane to think about - especially since it’s not like we can have an actual conversation. I know that my life is better thanks to Remy. I genuinely miss him. He was, as I’ve said before, my baby. Theological arguments aside, I like to think that when I go to Heaven one day, he’ll be there, waiting patiently, ready to jump up and down and say, “Hi! I love you!” I love you too, Remy.