Courtney T. Ball

Saying Goodbye to Moses

Next Monday evening my family will say goodbye to our dog, Moses.

It’s a strange and troubling responsibility to decide when the life of your pet will end. This is the first time I have ever had to do it. And even though I know it’s right, it’s hard.

Over the years, most of my neighbors have seen me walking Moses regularly, and have also witnessed his steady decline. Jimmy, who lives a few blocks down, is a dog lover. He told me once, “You could tear your arm off, and it might not hurt as bad as putting your dog down.”

At the same time, it pains me to watch Moses live such a diminished life. Looking back at old pictures, I see him walking the creek at my parents’ farm, tromping through the snow, chasing dear and rabbits, or lying on his pillow upstairs with his head under our bed.

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Creek stomping at the Ball Farm.

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Head under the bed. One of Mosey’s favorite ways to sleep.

I remember when another neighbor, Bill, used to yell from the porch, “Who’s walking who?” as 90 lbs. of Moses, following his nose, dragged me to and fro. These days, when we walk together, I often have to pick Moses up and get him going again when his legs give out. Forget about walking in snow or up stairs.

His decline has been gradual enough that it wasn’t until I looked at some of those old pictures that I remembered just how much ability my dog has lost in the last couple years. Aside from the trouble with walking, his eyes are cloudy and his hearing is all but gone. I sneak up on him now without even meaning to.

Watching him age, knowing that the end of his life is so near, my mind naturally begins to contemplate other types of loss. I think about family, friends, and teachers who are gone now. I wish I had spent more time visiting with them. There is never enough time, and it slips by so quickly.

When Moses came to our house, Aidyn (then two years old) stood nose to nose with him. Now she is ten, and as his legs weakened and the three steps into our house became difficult for him to climb on his own, Aidyn was big and strong enough to give him a boost.

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Dogs and children change so quickly! They are a constant reminder that life never stays put. All is impermanent, as the Buddhists say.

I suppose that means (in part) that we ought to enjoy each moment as it comes, and I think that makes sense. I know I’ve missed too many experiences simply because I was preoccupied with some other concern.

Still, though I know we can’t hold on to anything forever, I thank God for memory, for the gift of carrying love for as long as we want, even after the one we’ve loved is gone. Let our hearts be heavy for a while, let us grieve for a good friend. And woven into that loss will be the memory of how much joy he brought to this family; how goofy and loyal and lovable he was. He was a great dog, and we’ll miss him.

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Courtney Ball

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