Last night I had to put my best friend down. Cricket, my 12-pound Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, has been my best friend for 13 years. She was the sweetest pup, was constantly by my side, slept with her head on my neck every night, and very, very rarely caused any trouble. Well, she did bite my mother-in-law once, but only because she was aiming for a English Bulldog that was harassing her and missed. Saying goodbye may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there [in Heaven], I believe he’ll be there. — Rev. Billy Graham

I YngCricketfinished my master’s degree in the spring of 2003, which is when I bought Cricket from a breeder. I’d researched what kind of dog I wanted for years, and then saved for years, so that when I finished my thesis I could buy the perfect puppy, and that’s just what I got.

Cricket had to travel by plane to get to me, and I remember vividly going to the airport to pick her up from the special shipments office. I thought it funny that she arrived with a “Parcel Post” sticker. When I went to pick her up, I pulled her out of her crate in the airport and the poor dog was in miserable shape. She was supposed to have been let out for a walk between connections, which I don’t think happened, and she was smelly, filthy, and flea-ridden. The breeder, who I had researched fairly extensively as best I could and even checked references, had done a poor job. Further, Cricket had some other physical issues. She had a split lower jaw, and her eyes didn’t line up quite right.

I wasn’t sure what to think, but she needed love, and we got her home by holding our noses, opening the sun roof on my Honda Civic (in a freezing rain, but still better than dealing with the smell), got her home, and she immediately got a bath. Got her out of the tub, dried her off, and she still smelled. Bath #2. Now my poor little four-pound friend was just scared. I was sick with a fever, she couldn’t stop shaking, and the two of us just cuddled together on the couch for the weekend after a trip to the vet to check her out and get her all set up with shots and other necessities.

Our first year was a rough one. She was a bit of a challenge to house train — Rochester winters are mighty cold, and despite lots of shoveling, any amount of snow is rather unpleasant when you live that close to the ground. With a year of hard work and tethering (she stayed leashed to my belt at all times when I was home so I could get her outside fast if she had to go), she finally got the idea, and was uber-reliable ever since.

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us. —Robert Louis Stevenson

As 05290001a puppy, she had some funny ideas about what was play and what was unpleasant. For her entire life, she was always scared of balls. Tennis balls, large balls, bouncy balls — she’d growl at them, glare at them, run from them, but had no use for them whatsoever. Her little squeaky cow toy, however, was her favorite object for fetch. I had hardwood floors in my townhouse, and she absolutely loved screaming down the hallway after that cow, skidding along the floor, and scrambling back. Even better, during the summer months, we’d go out back and run in the grass. Cricket would start sitting with me, I’d tell her to go, and she’d make a speedy lap around the back yard, jumping back into my arms at the end of every lap. Though I had a leash for her, it was never needed — she never wanted to be very far away.

Another favorite pastime was chasing ducks along the canal. We’d go for walks early on Saturday mornings, and many of the ducks sat and walked on the ground at the edge of the canal. Cricket seemed to think rather highly of herself (many of the ducks were roughly twice her size) by running through them and seeing them hop into the water out of her reach. Good man/dog bonding time there.

Geese, however, were another story. During our last few hours of bachelor hood, the day I got married, we went up to the lake to chase some ducks. She bit off a bit more than she could chew, though, as she tried to get a goose to jump into the water. The goose turned around, squawked, and ran a few steps at her. Cricket’s “fierce” evaporated as she turned tail and fled toward me, jumping from the ground directly into my chest in one giant leap. I’d never seen hops like that on a dog. The rest of the day went much smoother for both of us.

When 12070008I got married, Cricket quickly acclimated to my wife, and eventually to our two young daughters, but she was always my dog. I was the one who took her out the moment I got home each day, in the middle of the night, and early every morning, as dogs just don’t seem to understand weekends. I was the one she slept on each evening, though she did seem to love sleeping on my wife’s pillow when it was unoccupied.

And for a tiny little dog, she packed a ton of personality. Her favorite word was pizza, and I clearly remember working on a paper while eating pizza one evening and hearing the doorbell ring. I left Cricket on the bed several feet away from the pizza with a stern “stay,” thinking this would be a good test of her training. I ran downstairs, took care of the doorbell, and returned to see my very good dog exactly where I had left her. It was only on closer inspection I noticed the ring of red sauce around her mouth. She thought she’d pulled quite the fast one.

If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them. — Pam Brown

She never barked for someone at the door, typically only barking (a single yip) when she wanted out or up on a lap and couldn’t reach on her own, though as she got older, she did delight in barking at my wife to go out, realizing she’d get a treat when she got back in. As Cricket trained my wife, the pup soon realized that more barks meant more trips outside which meant more treats. It led to a little friction and feuding between my wife and the pup. Occasional yips during dinner when Cricket thought she deserved a plate led to her occasionally getting a timeout (just as our girls received for misbehaving). She was a member of the family.

Cavalier 07270009King Charles Spaniels are sometimes known as comforter spaniels, and Cricket was also a comfort-loving spaniel. Another of her favorite toys was her teddy bear. She would drag her teddy bear all over the house, to wherever I was, so she could cuddle with the bear and I together. Likewise, she loved her (my) flannel sheet. As she got a bit older, and grew out of her puppy phase, games like fetch became less enticing, but pulling my flannel sheet off the bed and dragging it to a sunny spot on the floor so she could cuddle up on it with the sun beating down on her was a favorite activity.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. ― Will Rogers

Cricket holds a special place in my heart that grew and grew over the years, and I can’t imagine a more loyal or loving friend. She was what I needed when I was happy, sad, frustrated, despairing, scared, uncertain, disappointed, and confused. And she could always tell when she was needed. Never before (or since) have I met a dog that liked to give hugs. Cricket would quite regularly climb up on my chest, put a paw on either side of my neck and snuggle in. And her method for waking me up or letting me know she wanted something was unique too. Instead of barking or pawing at me, she’d climb up and lay her neck across my mouth so I couldn’t breath. Not sure where she learned it, but effective.

She IMG_0020_2lived a solid 13 years, and though she slowed down as she got older, her quality of life was fantastic for most of those 13 years. Only the in past month to six weeks did I really notice a sharp degradation in her mobility, her appetite, and her wakefulness. She moved more slowly, slept more, and ate less. The past week was especially tough. Sleeping most of the day, little eating, not wanting to go out, and she was extra special clingy. I think she knew it was coming, and I did too.

For those who love dogs, it would be the worst form of a lie to call any place where dogs were banned “Paradise.”  Certainly no loving God would separate people from their canine friends for eternity. — Stanley Coren, dog psychologist

This past week my wife had to go out of town for work, leaving me at home with Cricket and our daughters. Cricket had been taking a turn for the worse, but started degrading very quickly on Sunday evening. That night she slept with me in our bed, and not only did she sleep on my neck like normal, she constantly snuggled in all evening and kept giving me hugs. Anytime I rolled or moved even an inch, she resnuggled in to get as close as possible. It was my last night to snuggle with her, and in hindsight I think it was quite a blessing.

The IMG_0589next evening I’d picked her up some baby food for dinner — she hadn’t been eating her regular food, and I hoped one of her favorite treats would get her going again. She wouldn’t touch it. After dinner, she started vomiting, shaking, and didn’t even have the energy to move away from the mess. I called the vet and despite not having any openings, they said I could bring her in right away. I think I knew what the answer would be, but I couldn’t let her stay in pain that way.

My two little ones were very good about it, and we went to the vet’s office with them in their pajamas. I can’t say enough great things about how Clark Animal Care Center in Penfield dealt with the situation. My little girls were able to play and read in the kids area, while Cricket and I entered an exam room a few feet away, with the door cracked so I could hear my kids while one of the office workers helped keep an eye on them.

The doc and her assistant were very gentle and understanding with both Cricket and myself, and after an examination, the doc said what I already knew was coming… it was time. I brought Cricket out to say goodbye to the girls, telling them that Cricket was going to have to stay at the vet’s office. They both had an opportunity to pet and kiss Cricket, then I took her back into the exam room where they gave her a sedative. I laid on the floor and held her like we normally went to sleep for five minutes or so, when the doctor returned and asked if I was ready. I gently laid Cricket on the table and nuzzled her head while they administered the final drug. Thirty seconds later, it was done.

She died as she had been born and as she had lived, in my care, and surrounded by those who loved her. — Vicki W. Fowler

It took a few minutes to compose myself, as I really couldn’t speak or do anything but nod my head. The doc told me I could leave whenever I wanted, they’d take care of everything, and we’d handle any further paperwork later. The girls and I went home, and after I got them to bed, it was a very long night.

I’m still not sure quite how to process all this, and I know there aren’t really any good methods other than to realize it’s just going to take some time. In the meantime, it helps a bit to recognize how Cricket was an amazing part of my life, how lucky I was to have the time that I did with her, and how much of that unconditional love I carry with me.

For the soul of every living thing is in the hand of God. — Job 12:10

I’m 100_0048sure this is a corny post to many, but somehow I felt I needed to write down and share some of this, even if no one ever reads it. Some self therapy, perhaps, that maybe could help someone else someday. Or maybe it just helps me for today. I’m really not up for too much deep thinking or profundity right now. There’s a hole inside, and I think it’s OK that it’s there. I’m not really ready for it to go away just yet. What I do know is that Heaven’s population just gained the sweetest dog ever, and I know someday, hopefully far into the future, there’ll be a bouncy 12-pound Cavalier waiting to give me a doggy hug when I step through the gates. Thank you Cricket. I’ll miss you.