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Did You Hear Me When I Said Goodbye?

Beau I remember the day I brought you home from the shelter. They told me you were ten months old, a Golden Retriever, Great Pyrenees mix and weighed ninety pounds. My wife and I wanted a smaller dog, but when our eyes met and you looked at me so expectantly with such a hunger to be free, I couldn't resist. You knew that didn't you? You got under my skin and into my heart in just those few seconds. When you were let out of the kennel why didn't you jump up like the other dogs? Were you on your best behavior? Of course you were. You were so beautiful, and even though the glossy gold of your fur was black at the roots resembling a bad bleach job I didn't care. From that moment on you were mine and I was yours and I named you Beau.

We bonded immediately and I marveled at how intelligent you were. You quickly learned the names of your toys and also what "sit," "lie down," and "stay" meant and when you wanted out, you'd touch the door knob with your nose. We'd go for our walks in the morning and you were so eager you'd gently grab my arm in those massive jaws and pull me toward the door then sit patiently as I attached your leash. Then you'd bound outside pulling me with you and I know I said some harsh words to you but you just ignored them.

Did you hear me, Beau?

One thing I could never do was teach you to heel. You had a stubborn streak in you, but that was okay as long as you didn't pull too hard. Remember the first day when we came back from our walk and I led you to your "play area?" We played "fetch" with that knotted rope. From that day on, when I unclipped your leash, you'd make a mad dash for that spot and wait, ears perked, your eyes wide with expectation as you barked for me to "hurry up." You'd run circles around me as I tried to get that rope from you, but that was part of the game and you loved it so much I didn't have the heart to scold you.

You scared me once, you know. The first time you came up to my chair, looked straight into my eyes, bared your teeth and growled caused my heart to thud in my chest, but that was your way of saying, "lets play, daddy." And when I tried to ignore you, you'd sit back and bark in that deep voice of yours. If I ignored you further you'd bound into my chair, your front legs in my lap and swipe my face with your tongue. "Down boy," I'd say.

Did you hear me Beau?

When I sat in my chair, you'd lay your head at my feet looking up occasionally to make sure I knew you were there. Of course I did. By that time you weighed over 100 pounds. Who could have mistaken your presence? Then you'd sigh contentedly, close your eyes and soon we'd both be fast asleep.

You rarely let me out of your sight either. Whether I was working in the yard, or sitting at the computer, you were always by my side. Digging in the garden, your nose would be inches from the shovel and I was afraid I'd hurt you, but you were always fast on your feet. What was irritating were the times you'd growl and try to nip my ankles or grab my foot as we walked together, but you never tried to hurt me. You just thought it was fun even though I yelled at you to stop.

Did you hear me, Beau?

Then came the dark days. Those days when you became lethargic and refused to eat. The vet said you had Lyme's disease and you were given a month's worth of antibiotic. You seemed to recover after that, and your appetite returned, but you wouldn't eat regular dog food. Instead I fed you "people food." Of course you were spoiled, but I didn't care. It was a simple thing to prepare an extra portion of food each evening. After all we were buddies.

And just when we thought you were returning to health you refused all food and I had to coax you to drink water by putting my hand in your bowl and bringing my filled palm up to your muzzle. You'd look into my eyes, not really wanting any but doing it just to please me, after I pleaded, saying, "Please, drink baby." and your tongue would touch my open hand.

Did you hear me, Beau?

Even after all the tests we put you through, he didn't know what caused your sickness and had never seen anything like it before. You were so young, barely two years old, and full of the love of life. Did you know? Did you know you'd be with us for only a short time? Is that why you were so desperate to leave the shelter?

I didn't want you to leave us, Beau. I couldn't bare the thought of having you put to sleep. Yet I couldn't let you go through it without being by your side. We had made a commitment to each other and I'd stay with you till the end no matter how much it bruised my heart.

Did you feel me stroke your head and listen to my whisper when, for the final time, you looked into my eyes then went peacefully to sleep?

Oh, Beau. Did you hear me when I said goodbye?

- Sent in by Gary Luerding