Standing in the Tupelo Bark Park on Tuesday morning with my 1-year-old German Shepherd, I saw a car pull up.
Seeing someone else at the dog park before 8 a.m. surprised me since I wouldn’t usually be there. Vicktor and I went there on a whim, me hoping he’d run off some of his energy before I went to work.
From a distance, I saw what looked like a boxer enter the park with his owner. Vicktor ran toward him, looking for a friend. I followed to make sure Vicktor didn’t get into trouble. As I approached the dog, I saw him limp, not putting weight on a front leg.
“Is your dog hurt?” I asked the owner.
“He has cancer,” she said.
I stood silent and watched the dog limp on his three strong legs. The woman said her dog’s name was Ramesses.
“I gave him a lot of treats this morning,” she said. “I wanted to take him here one last time.”
I stood watching the woman stand close to her dog she rescued from a shelter, when he was a puppy. Now 8 years old and a part of the woman’s family, Ramesses winced as he walked.
Young Vicktor tried to get Ramesses to play, barking at him when the dog stood still. Ramesses stayed toward the front of the park; Vicktor harassed him a few minutes longer until a ball I threw distracted him.
With cancer and pain spreading inside Ramesses, his owner said he would be euthanized that day.
I could tell the woman took Ramesses to the park with a heavy heart, wanting his last experiences to be happy.
Ramesses made the most of his visit, balancing on a front and hind leg to hydrate the red fire hydrant at the park. Foam around his mouth clearly indicated his pleasure for the dog park.
When the woman went to leave, I tried to think of something to say.
“I can tell you love him,” I said.
In the park with Vicktor after they left, I called my wife to share the experience. Nearly a year ago when I lived in Scranton, Pa., we adopted Posey, an 11-year-old German Shepherd who had been abused and overbred. She didn’t even have much hair when first brought to the shelter.
We knew our time with Posey would be relatively short. Her bad hips kept her downstairs when we went to bed at night. But we’d wake each morning to hear Posey oinking and moving around downstairs.
The move to the South helped Posey’s joints. It seemed like a miracle the first time she walked up the stairs to the second floor of my Tupelo apartment. We loved her so much and felt so happy to see her health improving.
But in May we saw the signs: Posey stopped eating for days at a time and began to turn aggressive toward 6-month-old Vicktor. And then one Saturday, Posey climbed the stairs a final time and lay down next to the bed where we were.
Posey never walked from that spot or anywhere else again. We had to slide a hammock underneath her to carry her downstairs and to the car.
Pressing Posey’s stomach, the veterinarian said our dog was filled with tumors.
My wife and I both held Posey as she took her last breath.
Overwhelmed with the moment Tuesday at the dog park, I forgot to ask Ramesses’ “mama” her name. I called every vet clinic in Tupelo, some twice, until I found where she took Ramesses. I left my contact info and asked the receptionist to pass it along, but I never heard from the woman.
I suspect she feels like I did when Posey died.
We often attach ourselves to people and animals knowing their loss will hurt more than we can imagine.
But we still do it – because of love.