Sunday, April 23, 2017

For an Absent Friend

Tonka - November 12, 2002 - April 21 2017
Wendell, NC, USA - April 15, 2017
If you were around back in the days when posting to this blog was more than an annual event, you'll remember Tonka.

He was rather more famous for his cartoon alter ego than anything else, but he was a very real friend to many. To me he was an integral part of my life and my world. And on Friday, April 21, 2017 that part of me was torn away, leaving a void that will never be fully filled.

I always knew the day would come when I would have to let him go; such is the nature of life with a dog. That's just how the cruel sense of irony the universe has works. He'd had some health issues late in his life, but had always bounced back, even the times when I was sure he wouldn't. But this time, they told me that even surgery would be more risk than reward -- even if it succeeded. And even that assumed that there were no further issues that weren't detectable by visual examination.

Faced with that prognosis, there was really only one alternative. He was not going to get better. He would only get worse, and spend what little time I could buy him suffering from an assortment of problems, any one of which could send him over the brink with little or no warning.

So I made the call I always knew, but somehow never believed, I would have to make. He left this realm peacefully, surrounded by people who loved him and cared about him. And the last thing he heard before he breathed his last was my voice telling him I loved him.

When you bring a dog into your life, a bargain is struck. Tonka never failed to deliver on his part of that bargain; and Friday last, it was my turn to deliver on mine. I was there when he took his first breath in this life, I owed it to him to be there for his last, and to make sure that his passing was as gentle and painless as possible. Knowing this, and knowing it was the only humane choice, does nothing to dull the pain of loss. It does not stop me from second guessing whether I waited too long or not long enough. But I always figured he would tell me when it was time to let go, and everything in the week leading up to his last ride was telling me he was ready to be done.

One day, I hope, the countless number of great memories of our time together will crowd out the singular horrible memory of those last moments. Because I would do it all over again, even knowing how the story ends. I wouldn't ever trade the time I had with him for a chance to avoid the pain of losing him. And it's not even close. I have never had a better friend.

Travel well, Tonka, and I'll see you on the other side. I love you pal.

Update 5/18/17: Tonka's "Auntie Daryl" posted about him here. She used to send him special cookies on his birthday that he really loved. Thanks D. Much love!

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