What is it about dogs that makes us so willing to offer up our hearts, knowing that sooner or later (and always sooner than we would like) they will shatter that heart? There is just something about a dog that awakens a part of our soul that we keep buried beneath the stress of human responsibility. When we are with dogs, when love them and are loved by them, for a moment, that stress melts away.
On December 13th, 2016, I met an angel. This angel came to me in the form of a lumpy old dog named Bacon. Bacon’s elderly owner had passed away and he ended up at the local animal shelter. Now, kennels are no place for any dog to have to live, but especially not an arthritic old man with tumors everywhere. Luckily, that shelter happens to be run by a dear friend of mine. She posted his picture to facebook with a plea for a home and then she tagged me in that post. As soon as I looked into those soulful brown eyes, I knew that he was mine. I contacted her and we arranged for a transport to get him to my house.
Ten days before Christmas, Bacon came home. He was covered in masses, some fatty and some definitely cancerous. He was grossly overweight, which made his arthritis even worse. Watching him struggle up my steps, I couldn’t help but wonder how long we would have before his pain became too great. That night, however, he surprised me. He came into my bedroom and hauled himself up onto my bed and rested his head on my arm. He stared at me for a moment before licking my chin and heaving a big sigh. I hugged him and promised him that he would be well loved, no matter how long we would have together.
The next day, Bacon met his ACS family. We walked over to the cattery where he was fawned over by the staff. The office and kennel staff told him what a good boy he was and fed him treats. My co-workers in the vet office looked over his lumps and loved on him. Our intern even spent hours brushing him. We all knew that the basketball sized mass on his neck and shoulder was bad. We knew it was inoperable. Instead of being sad and dwelling on the inevitable, we all silently resolved to make these days the best days of his life. I called him my Christmas Angel and I shared his story and pictures with everyone. I posted pictures and stories of his adventures to facebook with the hashtag #ForTheLoveOfBacon. One of my facebook groups dedicated to vet techs became Bacon’s biggest long distance fan club. None of them ever met Bacon, but they loved him right along with me. Almost every picture I took of him looked like he was smiling. He was my clown, always happy no matter what. My friend decided to name his neck mass “Eggs” in an effort to make his cancer a little more bearable. He would try to push to be the first out the door and we would joke, “Bacon, Eggs is in the way, you have to wait!” We called him the Baconator and everyone he met loved him.
Days came and went. We celebrated Christmas together, with Bacon sporting a red bow tie on his Christmas collar. He fit in with my little pack like he had been with them forever. My youngest dog, a deaf Australian Shepherd named Simza, fell instantly in love with Bacon. To my surprise, Bacon loved her right back. He would play with her and groom her and she would groom him in return. I had started him on joint supplements, pain meds, and a diet. As he lost some weight and built some muscle, his movement became easier. Still, I was completely baffled the day he decided he could run with the other dogs. He ran with this great lumbering gait, with Eggs just bouncing along. Even my cranky little tortie cat loved him. She would rub on him and lick him and allow him to lick her face and ears.
In May I said goodbye to my beloved Dusty, my dog of nearly eighteen years. Bacon sat next to me, consoling my tears with kisses and nubby tail wags. In June, we celebrated his birthday. He had ice cream, a birthday hat, kids to play with and friends to tell him what a good dog he was. He received gifts of toys, treats and a brand new bow tie. My two year old nephew even called to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Any time I had to travel, my sister and nephew would house sit for me and my nephew loved to tell me about how he got to sleep with Bacon in the bed.
The last week of July, I noticed that Bacon’s steps had slowed. He wasn’t as interested in food, and he had less energy for playing with Simza. On August 2nd, 2017, Bacon let me know in his sweet gentle way, that it was time for him to go. He spent the morning surrounded by his friends who had loved him so. We fed him a breakfast of chicken and ice cream, two of his favorite treats. We held him and hugged him and gave him belly rubs. We took turns saying our goodbyes, and then I held him in my arms as he went peacefully to sleep. My Christmas Angel had graced me with his love for nearly 8 months. When I first brought him home my friends told me, “He’s going to break your heart.” I replied with, “I know, but he will be worth it.” My vet tech group and facebook friends were devastated to hear of his passing. Bacon was our super star, our sunshine on a dark day, our angel. He reminded us to live in the moment and to make the best of every day no matter what life throws at you. I know that we will meet again someday and that he is waiting for me with a smile on his face as he wags his stubby little tail. Rest easy, Bacon, my good boy.
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