This weekend we had to say goodbye to our dog of nearly 12 years. To be honest, the last months (years?) have been tough on us…and him. Old dogs do crazy things, and his body wasn’t allowing him to do the activities he loved so very much. While I knew it was time – his quality of life was so not there anymore – it’s been surprisingly difficult to say goodbye to my oldest adventure buddy. And so I’ll do what I know best how to do – write and share and reminisce and let his memory live on.
I got Katmai long before I met my husband, right after college when I was going through a time of trying to figure out what I wanted to do next in my life. It was a tough period if I’m honest with myself, and Katmai was my “therapy” and hope in a dark confusion of life.
I moved to a studio apartment in the Mount Baker area, and was certain a dog would make solo living much easier. My plan to sub and work didn’t pan out as easily as I hoped, so Katmai and I hiked and hiked and hiked. He had my full attention and was my first “baby”. While I looked for more constant work and experience, I relished those days of mountain time with my pup.
Katmai (not to be confused with “my cat”), was named for my favorite National Park in Alaska. Katmai National Park was one we visited often as a kid, and always held my complete admiration and awe.
I put together a photo book this week for our family to remember him by, and was taken down a winding memory lane. How had I forgotten so easily how much he used to do with us? No wonder the last few years had been so hard as he slowed down and we had to leave him behind more and more often.
He ran with us, and biked with us and skied with us. He was happiest on the trail (or off of it….wildly chasing sticks and dashing through the trees). It’s what bound us – our common love for playing outside.
When he was a puppy, far before I had children of my own, I was determined he would be great with kids and trained well to be a family dog. As a lab, that’s not a hard feat – he had serious FOMO (fear of missing out) and just wanted to be with us. He loved us all and we loved him back.
I joked with every kid, his position on the totem pole got a little lower. Sad, but true. He started to prefer Mtn Papa over me….who was always so busy with my two-legged babies. But, he continued to be patient and loving and content to just be with his family.
He’s been my constant for so long, it’s so weird to not have him here.
It’s easier to not have to worry about him in pain and accidentally snarling at one of the kids when they unknowingly touched a sore spot….which is so unlike him.
It’s easier to not have to constantly clean up poo and dog hair and messes.
It’s easier to not have to worry about him getting into food we left out (all that training goes down the tubes when you’re old, I guess).
But, his normal spot is empty and quiet (where’s the snoring?!?!) and I keep feeling like part of us is missing….which it is.
And so now I remember him doing what he loved most and find peace that he had a full life of fun and adventure, which is a good life indeed.
And I find comfort knowing he is no longer in pain or confusion or depressed over his body failing him and keeping him from doing what he wanted.
And so cheers to all you adventure dogs and all you adventure families making it happen. And cheers to Katmai and all that he was for me, for us for so long.
If you have a dog who loves to play outside with you, will you share a quick story with me in the comments? I love hearing them.
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