We weren’t even supposed to get a dog that day in 2003. My wife and I had been married for barely a month, and she told me she wanted to go “look at” a dog after I got home from work.
I recall getting home and seeing new food and water dishes, as well as some dog food already in the kitchen.
When we arrived at the dogs' house, there were a few lab puppies wrestling in the kitchen. A little black one seemed to be getting trounced by the slightly bigger brown ones. What a softie!
A short while later we had the tiny black lab yipping in the car with us, heading back home.
So began the 14-year phase of life with Parker, my “first child.” It would be nearly six more years until our first baby arrived, so until then Parker had all our attention.
. . .
There are so many good memories to cull from 14 years together. Here are a few:
I remember him discovering snow, and the way he would get a running start and slide in it, before wildly rubbing his body in it on his back. He did this his whole life.
When Parker was young, we often played “alien” where I would pull a hood over my head, pulling it tight and tying the strings behind my head so only my eyes were visible through a slit. This drove him wild. We would wrestle like a couple brothers.
Long ago, when I worked from home, I used to eat nachos for lunch nearly every day. Parker was relentless in his pursuit of getting some for himself. He’d place his head on the coffee table and stare at me with big baby eyes until I relented. If I made the mistake of getting up and leaving my nachos alone for even a split second, he would eat them. I jokingly referred to him as “Pacho” because of this, and that nickname stuck for the rest of his life. It’s safe to say that I later called him Pacho or “Pach” more than I called him Parker.
He was one of the worst dogs when it came to walks. A walk was like an extended tug-of-war match the whole time. There was never any slack in that leash. I was dragged along, Parker breathing like I was choking him. Then he would stop at every tree, every hydrant, and spend an eternity sniffing at it, making me impatient to get going. Once we were going again...he would drag me along to the next sniffable landmark.
He was the gentlest dog, and would never hurt a fly. He would rather smell flowers than chase a squirrel. He could often be seen doing just that: nose deep in some plant or other, barely bothering to watch squirrels scamper by.
He was a bit neurotic - but no more so than his owners. He would carefully choose a spot in the yard to do his business, and then make his way to the sidewalk to come back to the house. He seemed “proper” in some of his behaviors like this.
Ultimately, you couldn’t ask for a more kind, gentle, and patient dog. He could be imposing - what person might not be taken aback at first by a 95 pound black lab? But this supposed beast wouldn't so much as move a muscle as the children climbed on him, pulled at his hair, or repeatedly thew blankets and dishrags on his head.
. . .
At some point, he became what he was: a dog. It wasn’t long after our first child was born that he didn’t get as much attention any more. By the time we had three kids, he could sometimes seem like more of a nuisance than I’d care to admit.
The last couple years, since we've had three kids, he’s been living nearly full-time at my in-laws. My father-in-law is a true dog whisperer. He loves the company of dogs and knows what they need when they need it. It was great for both of them. My father-in-law got the companionship, and Parker got far more walks, food, and attention than we could give him with three little ones.
Over that period, Parker had slowly grown old. Bad hips and a big limp, lumps and bumps, sores, loss of hearing, fading eyesight.
We weren’t sure he was going to make it to his 14th birthday in August.
Lately it’s been a struggle for him to even breathe, sleep through the night, get up on his own, or get down the two steps to go outside and relieve himself. A couple nights ago was the first night he couldn’t even make it to the grass beyond the sidewalk to relieve himself.
. . .
Monday morning was cloudy and overcast. We took Parker to the vet one last time. He was wheeled in on a gurney to save him the trouble of having to clamber awkwardly down the dog ramp (that he always hated) out of the back of the van, or do any walking. He seemed perfectly fine to be getting this VIP ride like he’d never had before.
The room was comfortably lit by a single overhead light. They had given Parker a mild sedative to relax his ragged breathing, but he was still awake. We hadn’t heard him breathe so easily in some time. They left us alone with him for a few minutes.
Here I was now, fourteen years later, looking eye to eye with my “first child” as he lay comfortably under a blanket on the gurney. I smiled at him, and thanked him for being such an incredible friend. His head was warm under my hand.
We finally gave the OK, and it didn’t take long. First he and I were looking at each other, and with a few quick breaths he was looking past me. It was a quick and peaceful end to a long life.
When we left the vet, I noticed the sun had come out; there were rainbow prisms in my blurred vision.
Goodbye and thanks, Parker. Rest well, Pacho.