I can’t believe it. Isaac’s gone. This afternoon, we decided that we couldn’t let Isaac deteriorate any further, knowing that it was our responsibility to do what’s right for him, regardless of our pain.
Isaac was the last of our “planned” dogs. We’ve still got two Shelties that we’ve adopted ourselves (Sly and Star), but Isaac was planned. He was with us from just a few weeks old, and stayed around for 15 years, 9 months, and 18 days. When he came to us, he was the happiest puppy imaginable and brought us tremendous joy. His breeder had given him the name “Isaac” and I dislike changing a dog’s name.
But Barbara and I had to figure out a registered name for this great kid. The Hebrew equivalent of Isaac is ??????? (Yitzchaq or Yitzach), which means “he laughs”. That was so appropriate for this beautiful blue boy, so we registered him as Scherzando Prophet of Joy. (Scherzando was his breeder’s kennel’s name.) And it really fit him, because he was such a joy to have in our lives.
We have, well, 15 years of great memories of Isaac, and loads of stories. Here are just a couple:
When he was still under a year of age, Barbara and I were camped in Death Valley National Park in California. It was a nice autumn evening, which meant that the daytime temperatures were not much over 110° F, but the evening was very cool and pleasant. We’d been driving all day and were tired, so we set up our tent and crawled into our sleeping bags. We were sharing the tent with Isaac, Annie (another blue who died about five years ago of lung cancer), Ellie (a sable-and-white who died while we still lived in Colorado Springs), and Frankie (a Golden Retriever we’d raised for Canine Companions for Independence and were driving to San Diego to turn him in for placement).
During the night, a bunch of coyotes came sniffing around the tent. We’d been warned to keep the dogs on leash at all times, because the coyotes were very skilled at separating dogs from their people and either recruiting them into their packs or eating them! Well, when they started sniffing around, Isaac slowly stood up and uttered one of those deep, rumbling growls that most people find intimidating – this from a 10 month old puppy who stood no more than 12 inches high! He was protecting his mommy and daddy and family! And it worked: the coyotes decided they had better places to visit than our tent. Isaac was so proud of himself…and we were very proud of him.
A couple of years later, Barbara and I were camping in Canyonlands National Park down in southeastern Utah with a couple of friends of ours, Yasuhiro and Yumi Matsuda. Again, we’d had a very long day, driving all over southern Utah (Arches National Park, the Island In The Sky unit of Canyonlands, and even through some 4-wheel-drive roads in the Needles District.
As Barbara, Yasuhiro, Yumi and I were standing around chatting, deciding what to fix for dinner or something equally important, Annie was wandering all over, sniffing everything in sight, but we didn’t see Isaac. Barbara and I headed off in different directions – it just wasn’t like Isaac to wander off (he wasn’t nearly as brave as Annie!) so we weren’t too worried. A couple of minutes later, Barbara quietly called out to the rest of us to “walk quietly over here”. We did, and there was little Isaac, sitting right in front of the door to our tent (facing it) with his eyes closing and his head slowly falling down onto his chest! It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
But, like all living things, Isaac grew older as the years went by. Over the last year or so, he’d really been slowing down a lot, sleeping extremely heavily, and developing obvious arthritis. A few months ago, he was diagnosed with an undersized heart and high blood pressure. We treated these problems in consultation with our vets and they were under reasonable control. But walking – even standing – became very difficult for him, and he suffered some significant muscle wasting in his hindquarters. About half the time over the last two or three months, we carried him outside to go potty and back inside when he was done. In the last couple of weeks, it was almost 100% of the time, as he deteriorated.
For the last several days, Barbara and I agonize over the decision that we knew we would have to make relatively soon. Was it today, will it be tomorrow, surely not as late as January. The pressure was magnified by the fact that I leave day-after-tomorrow (23 November) for a nine day business trip to Germany, followed by one day at home, then a 10-day business trip to Australia, then (home only overnight) a five day trip to the Netherlands. It was becoming very obvious that it was very unlikely that Isaac would last that long without being in considerable pain. Worse, he had a very bad weekend in terms of discomfort, and then on Monday we discovered several areas of swelling around his neck and underjaw (which Barbara promptly treated with an oral antibiotic).
Today, we sadly agreed that we had to release our wonderful, beautiful boy and let him cross the Bridge to be with all of his old and long-dead friends, without pain, to play again in the grass. As we always do, we held him in our arms, whispering sweet nothings into his ear, while the vet gave him that final injection. And, as we always do, we talked to him for at least five minutes after he was clinically dead, because I worry that the brain can stay alive longer than the body and I don’t want them to be frightened!
Goodbye, Isaac. We miss you terrible, my boy. Thanks for the love, the kisses, the joy that you gave us.