Losing a Pet (or the Ballad of Crazy Bob)

Losing a Pet The Ballad of Crazy Bob

Losing a pet — it’s something every animal lover has to endure sooner or later. Last week, I said goodbye to my beautiful black Lab Crazy Bob.

Best I can figure, he was ten years old this spring, so definitely getting up there for a Lab with a life expectancy of only twelve to fourteen years. He aged tremendously this past year, going from the playful puppy he’s been all his life to an old man — white hair around his muzzle, at the tip of his tail, and — adorably — in between his toes.

How I lost Bob

I was prepared for old age, ready to cherish those last few years with him. Instead, last week, he was struck out of the blue by what, by my best guess, was a stroke brought on by a brain tumor. He went blind almost overnight, was off his feed for several days, then suddenly lost motor control in his hind legs — and stopped eating and drinking. He hung on bravely for a few days more before the final decision had to be made to let him go in peace.

Bob was a gift from the very beginning — in every way. He was the most special animal I’ve ever owned, the most beautiful Lab I’ve ever seen, and the most loving, forgiving, and joyous personality I’ve ever met.

How I found Bob

He came to me out of nowhere.

Author K.M. Weiland and Crazy Bob the Lab

One afternoon in late spring, I looked out the window to see a stray dog with a red flea collar in the garden. He was ecstatic to meet me — as he was to meet anyone. He was obviously a purebred, an expensive dog with papers, and he obviously had an owner.

Naturally, he couldn’t stay.

The next morning, I got up, thinking, Of course, he’s gone. But I opened the garage door, and there he was. The first thought in my head was the line from the movie What About Bob?:

You think Bob’s gone? Bob’s never gone!

Suddenly, he had a name. Ads in the classifieds and calls to the neighbors and the local pound provided no clue of an owner. And so Bob stayed. 

Life with Bob

He looked to be barely a year old, still a gangly, insanely athletic puppy who loved everything and everybody.

Crazy Bob the Black Lab Leaping for Frisbee

But his enthusiasm never got the better of him. He was always polite — never jumping up on people, never licking you in the face, only barking when driven to distracted excitement. He loved ear rubs (growling in ecstasy) and hated snakes (shaking them to shreds).

He was a gift. I never asked for him. God gave him to me, for ten wonderful years.

Life without Bob

I still haven’t gotten used to the idea he’s gone. I get up in the morning and go to put on my coat, thinking I need to walk and feed him. But his bed is gone. The bags of dog food are gone. I never hear his claws scrabbling on the hardwood floor. He’s not there to rub up against my legs and give me a brown-eyed begging look for an ear rub.

I miss him. But I’m thankful for the gift he was and that he has gone where he can’t suffer anymore.

Crazy Bob the Black Lab

I know I’m not alone in the grief caused by a losing a pet. Indeed, I have been overwhelmed by the kindness you all have poured on me after I mentioned his passing on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for caring.

Do you have experience with losing a pet? Tell me about your fur babies.

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  1. I was torn up by the loss of my first and only dog, Spot – yes, influenced by my Dick and Jane books, which I’m proud to say no longer have – that I couldn’t looked at another dawg the same way. I was only 6 or 7. But his departure was a tragedy, nonetheless.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Sometimes the earliest pets are the most special. But I have to say that Bob ended up being the most loved out of any of the dogs (or cats) I’ve owned over the years.

  2. I am so sorry for you lost. It is so hard to lose a pet. I will pray for you during this time.

  3. So very sorry, Katie… We’ve gone through it several times. It never gets any easier. Make sure to take care of yourself. Loss of a pet is the same as a loss of a family member (because they are). This is the time where injuries and accidents happen as your mind is preoccupied. They are such marvelous machines and I love my five (my Bailey and Tucker are both black Labs), but I know it won’t last forever.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Yay for fellow Lab owners! 🙂 Great names too. Liberty–who commented below–also has a Lab named Tucker.

  4. I empathize with your grief. They are our companions, part of our family, and their absence leaves a big hole in our lives. Still miss many of my previous companions, but can’t bear to live without one. Six months after we lost our Brittany, Rusty, we adopted another. He’s name is Scout, and he’s helped us heal. I love your description, insanely athletic. It conjured up images of Scout in what we called the Psycho Puppy stage. Made me giggle.

    Hang in there. Sending you thoughts and prayers.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      “Psycho puppy stage” was pretty much an apt description of Bob throughout his life. :p I’d definitely like to get another dog, but I think I need to wait six months or so for the feelings of this loss to settle.

  5. Oh, your ballad brings tears to my eyes. I’ve had many pets over my life, and cried when each passed away. My current pet is nearly 8, a chocolate Lab, and I know we’ve got more days behind us than ahead of us with him, and I’m not looking forward to that time. He’s my baby, very much a mama’s boy. I think I’ll be devastated when he passes.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Labs are extra special. I saw some pix you posted of him on FB the other day. Looks like his tummy is getting gray?

  6. We lost our Chihuahua a few years back. We got her when my wife and I were engaged, she went with my wife (then fiancé) across the country for three months while wedding preparations were made and she was there to watch over two kids as they were born and grew up. In a way she was almost like a second wedding ring for us, a symbol of our marriage.

    Then one day she was just gone. I came home after work and she was just not there anymore. It turned out that the landscapers had come that day and had accidentally let her out of the backyard. She was scared and ran, and as they tried to corral her and get her back into the yard they ended up chasing her down the street. I get it, accidents happen, but what drove me insane is that no one tried to call us or contact us at all to let us know. I just came home six hours later to find that my dog was gone.

    It took a month of ads, signs, phone calls and checking local shelters to finally accept that I wasn’t getting my dog back, all the while wondering if she was just hunkered down in a field, cold, dirty and hungry waiting for me to come find her.

    Looking back, I’m sure someone in the neighborhood probably found her under a bush and took her in, but back then the not-knowing was awful.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Aw, I’m so sorry. In some ways, that’s even more heartbreaking than knowing she died peacefully at home.

  7. This was beautiful and bittersweet to read. I lost my dear pet rabbit this past fall, and it was hard especially since I’d had him for a very long time. I’ve gotten over it, but there’s still the empty cage in the laundry room reminding me of happy times.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I’m very sorry to hear about your rabbit as well. When you live with a pet every day for a long period of time, they become a part of your life. Something’s missing when they’re gone.

  8. What a lovely tribute to Bob. He truly was gorgeous. I still miss my Corgi, Foxy. She absorbed many puberty-stricken tears, and then got me up and throwing a ball and giggling again. God bless all dogs! He truly blesses us with them.

  9. Eric Owens says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Katie. I have lost several pets in the last 10 years myself and it never gets easier. They are a part of us. They are family members. They bring us so much joy. I firmly believe Katie that you will see him again. I know that I will see mine when God calls me home. All animals not just dogs or humans have souls and we will see them again because none of us can take any material possession with us when we leave this world, and crossover. The only thing we can take with us, is love, because love is eternal and everlasting.

    God Bless!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I’ve lost many pets in the past as well–two dogs and countless cats–but there was definitely something about this one that was harder. Labs have a way of getting into your heart!

  10. Jim Arnold says:

    The first pet I remember was a beagle. I was three years old. One day Betsy was not around any more and I didn’t understand why. I asked my mom what happened to Betsy and she gave me the classic answer you give to all children; Betsy went to sleep and is in Doggy Heaven now.

    To this day, I’ll think about Betsy and all the times we played together. I’ve had lots of other pets, mostly dogs. But this one is the one who stands out the most for some reason. All the memories are good memories with Betsy.

  11. Oh… :'( So sad for you! I’ll definitely be praying. Bob looks like a sweetie.
    I’ve gone through a lot of family dog deaths, most recently our irish wolfhound/lab mix, Gilligan. Same sort of thing with the quick, unexpected disease that was the end of him in a couple of days. It’s so sad to see such cheerful, sweet dogs go, but at least it wasn’t anything too lingering.
    Praying for you! And may other dogs come to carry on Bob’s memory. <3

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Yes, I agree. As sad as it was to watch Bob suffer for even a few days, I can’t imagine what it might have been like had we chosen to fight through a longer-lived illness.

      • There was a really sweet story I saw about a little boy after his dog died. He said that God gave people so much time on earth to learn how to love and be good, and dogs’ lives are so short because they get it quicker and need less time.
        Gave me happy tears after Gill died. 🙂

  12. Yes, we must have a period grief. My husband has had several labs. He calls them good hearted gentlemen.

  13. I haven’t lost a pet, as you know, but I wanted to chime in because I too understand that someday his time will come and I will have to let him go. Sometimes I wonder if God put these animals (especially dogs) in our lives to teach us grace, joy, and how to be more childlike. That’s one thing with dogs that seems to be different from any other type of pet, they accept you no matter what. I wish I could do that with people too! It sounds like you got a lot from his life and learned a lot from him.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I’m sure of it. One thing I’ve been pondering this week is the inevitable question, “Why does God allow things we love to be so short-lived?” Most of us will endure half a dozen or more pet deaths in our lives. But I think there are many beautiful lessons to be learned about our own inevitable mortality in watching the grace and patience with which animals unwittingly handle their own.

  14. I’m sorry for your loss!

    An orange kitten trotted around the corner as we set off a few fireworks in the street one 4th of July. He had a collar and jingle bell, so… like you, we knew he had an owner.

    He was curious, sticking his head in the discard bag and never venturing more than a foot or two away. When we took him inside, he never stopped purring. Had a big motor for a tiny (almost palm-sized) kitten. We made calls, watched for notices, etc. but nothing ever happened… and so we got a cat, and he got a new name (Charlie).

    He grew into an 18+ lb cat (maine-coon) and eventually cancer got him (long lived though). The one constant, other than being a great cat, was his proximity… always liked to be close. Sometimes a lap cat, but mostly, just liked to lay near you… near enough to extend a paw, have that contact, assurance you’re close. Soft, low purr of contentment. :’-) brings a tear even now all these years later.

    Great pets, great memories! Cherish them both as even the tears brought by remembering are a gift from God.

  15. Harley was our chocolate Lab, a real old boy at 15 1/2 when he died, and Tessa at 14 1/2 was our black Lab, the most stubborn dog I’ve ever come across. She adored people and swimming in the river. She would eat anything, very Lab-like, including fish heads off the beach (darn fisherman) and blackberries off the bushes. Harley was so laid back as to be almost horizontal. Happy to lend Tessa his one brain cell all the time she needed it. Even now three years later, we miss them still. But I never regret for a moment having them. Be proud that you gave Bob everything he could have needed – a good life and a peaceful passing.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Bob would have locked your babies! He’d eat just about anything too–except hot sauce. He’d get one whiff of that on something and start barking his head off.

      • He sounds like such a character. I found Labs rarely barked. Men in hats were probably the only thing that ours weren’t keen on. Did Bob play-growl? Tessa did and Harley didn’t. If they played tug together and she growled he’d drop the toy and let her win. No wonder she thought she was top dog.

  16. C.E.L Stefani says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. 🙁 I’ve lost several dogs over the years and the most recent and hardest was my black lab/great Dane mix. My parents adopted him for me when I was 13 (he was about 7 months old) I had him for about 7 1/2 years. He was my best friend. I walked him everday and taught him so much. He was a really great dog and even though it was several years ago it still makes me really upset when I think about him.
    I have three dogs now 2 chocolate labs. One is a 2 1/2 yr old male who weighs 115 lbs. He is really big and muscular for a lab. Got him as a puppy and he was super cute but he is super crazy sometimes and still acts like a one. He really fun, friendly and gets happy over everything even when we bring home a bag of the same dog food he eats everyday. The other is a 1 year old female who is quite small and weighs maybe 40-50 lbs. She is sweet and not nearly as hyper but loves to play with him. Then I have a mixed yellow lab who is over 8 years old. I’m enjoying my time with him but I know he won’t be healthier much longer. He is a great dog. 🙁 I know someone who had a black lab who lived to about 20 years and he was euthanized recently because he was showing signs of sickness. Not eating etc and the owner didn’t want his condition to get worse. I always wondered how it would be to have a dog for that long. The longest I’ve had one was maybe 10-11 years.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Twenty years is crazy. If that dog had any puppies, I want one! Thanks for sharing your story. They’re all so beautiful and lovable in their own way.

  17. Ashley Painter says:

    Wow. That took the wind out of me. It was like revisiting when we lost our canine family member. What a touching story. They are never with you forever and no matter how much you prepare yourself for that inevitable day, it hits you like a train when it arrives. Love them when they are here, cherish the memories when they are gone.
    RIP Crazy Bob!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Sorry to have you revisit old pain. 🙁 But I heartily agree with you when you say “love them when they are here, cherish the memories when they are gone.”

  18. I went through losing our English Bulldog many years ago, then more recently our fifteen-year-old cat. It’s always hard and abrupt, like a familiar furnishing being removed—you still reach for it, still expect it to be there. And even with my current fluffies, I have to remind myself (though I don’t like to) that they won’t be here forever.

    I’m certainly praying for strength and peace for you in this difficult time.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      The longer they’re with you, the sadder it is. But it’s hard to argue with a gift of long life either. Thanks, Bo!

  19. Mark Hanson says:

    We’re all sorry for your loss, K.M., and yes, as pet owners, we’ve all been there. It sounds like Crazy Bob was a wonderful part of your family – and such a gift! I know he had a great life. Thank you for sharing a part of your journey – and Bob – with us. I know you’ll have the dearest memories of your pal!You’re all welcome for the breed from Canada, btw! 😉
    All the best to you.
    Mark Hanson

  20. My thoughts go out to you, K.M. I recently lost a beloved pet, and very suddenly. As time has passed I like to remind myself of the saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

  21. I couldn’t agree more. And I can’t wait for the day for all of those questions to be fully answered.

  22. I’ve actually just found your website and read your sweet tribute to Bob. Sitting her on the couch with my two crazy little fur babies curled up beside me, I do understand how difficult it is to lose a pet. They give us unconditional love and make our lives so special. I’m so sorry.

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