It started rather innocently. He had developed a limp over the past few weeks that seemed to get worse, and there was a bulge on the inner side of his left front paw near his wrist. I supposed that he had sprained it, but then the bump grew larger, and the limp became a hobble.
We took him to the vet today to get an x-ray, hopeful that it was either something lodged in there or maybe at the worst he had broken it while stumbling down one of the ravines on our property. We bribed him into the car with half a bagel, two of us lifting him, and he began to pant terribly as we drove down the road. We arrived at the vet, and three of my children came with me, all of them concerned for his well being. After all, he is like a big brother to them, watching them carefully as they play outside, allowing them to pull on his face when they were very small. He has been in my oldest's life since he was 3. My wife and my middle daughter stayed at home because after all, it was probably just a break or terrible sprain, and he would be coming home again soon.
He limped into the exam room and the vet wanted to take an x-ray. After informing me of what it could be, and after x-raying his paws, she showed me the image on the screen where part of his wrist bone had been eaten away by a very advanced stage of bone cancer. The emotions welled over as I listen to her explain the disease to me, as if I were experiencing some type of waking nightmare, that it had probably moved to his ribs by now, and even if they amputated the leg it had most likely spread throughout his skeleton.
The veterinarian, very kindly and understanding and with great bedside manner, led me back to the exam room so that I could inform my children and then call Kristie so that she could bring my middle daughter to the clinic to say goodbye. His only options at this point were to either put him on pain meds that would make him totally lethargic and sleepy, or put him to sleep and ease his pain, which apparently he had been enduring now for several months.
Once my family was all present, and he had been given a pain killer to help him rest, we said our goodbyes to him, all of us under great stress and sadness, and I decided to stay as the veterinarian gave him the drug that would take him from us. My youngest stayed, and I let her, as it was her decision, and we pet his thick black fur as he breathed his last, and we hugged him close before leaving the room, our tears falling on his shaggy black coat.
Chewie will be cremated, and his ashes will sit in our utility room on a shelf next to his picture where he liked to lay when it was too hot outside or when it was too cold outside, or whenever he felt like laying in there. He was our best friend, our family member, our love. He never judged us, always protected us, was in some ways the beloved family garbage disposal and always felt like playing with our children and this 43 year old man.
We will miss his deep, excited breathing when we came home from going to town or church or any other excursion. We will miss how he would become a living pillow for our girls. We will miss how he seemed to hug back even though he did not have arms, how he would sit beside our leg and lean into us for comfort.
There will never be another Chewie, and we will not be replacing him, for he cannot be replaced. He was the best dog on earth, extremely well behaved and I will never forget his contribution to this family. There is a huge, Chewie shaped hole in our hearts.