There is a #DecadeChallenge going around the interwebs that asks you to reflect on the last ten years and give a quick recap of what you have accomplished. The responses on the thread are amazing. People have gotten doctorates, created their own companies, and done things that make me feel like I am on the Average Joe’s dodgeball team.
Today I finally understood what my #DecadeChallenge was.
I judge my decade by the times I have cried. I have cried exactly five times in the last ten years. Each time my child was born and each time I put my dogs down.
What a decade.#DecadeChallenge
— Justin Schleider ABC, BBD (@SchleiderJustin) November 24, 2019
Today was the fifth time I cried this decade. Today I put my second dog down in the last three months. We got my first dog when we got married. Sasha was her name and she came from a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She was a protector and smart as a whip. Both my wife and I work so I felt bad leaving Sasha by herself. The only sensible answer was to get another dog right?
Duke came from a breeder in Missouri. He was a long-haired German Shepherd and Belgian Tervueren. We picked him up at the airport and immediately fell in love. He was a prince of a dog. We brought him home and he immediately became part of our family. He was a gentle soul. My kids would climb on him, use him as a pillow, put sunglasses on him, and he would bask in their attention. I never worried about him. He was the greatest friend a man, a dad, or a kid could ask for.
Duke has been getting sicker and sicker over the past few months. Today he couldn’t get up. It was time. I never thought about this day when I got my dogs. I was naive and young. I know better now. This day sucks.
Driving to the animal hospital I was filled with regrets. I didn’t play with him enough, walk him enough, show him enough love. There was no music in the car. Just the heavy silence of melancholy and the infinite sadness.
Walking into the clinic I was filled with dread. We filled out the paperwork and get called to enter the final room Duke would take a breath in. The walk down the corridor seemed endless. We finally arrive and the nurses and doctors come in and out asking questions and preparing us for the final moment of Duke’s life.
The time comes and the medicine flows through his veins. I put my head on his. Tell him I love him. Willing his last visions to be of my face. The last smells of my skin. The last touches of my hands on his face.
He is gone. The tears flow down my face. My heart breaks, reforms, and breaks again.
He was a dog. Yet he was a part of the family. A friend. A child’s playmate. An owner’s emotional support. The type of animal that made you feel that you were loved and appreciated. The unconditional love that only a dog can give you.
Life continues. The feelings of melancholy will slowly dissipate. Until then we just cry and remember. I love you Duke.