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Saying goodby to Abby

Abby, our lovable mutt, is reaching the end of the line. When we moved here in 1994, Estie went down to the pound and spotted Abby as a puppy. We have had a parade of animals through the Barnes home over the last 15 years: guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, chickens, cats, and goats. But Abby was t…
By Seth Barnes
Abby, our lovable mutt, is reaching the end of the line. When we moved here in 1994, Estie went down to the pound and spotted Abby as a puppy. We have had a parade of animals through the Barnes home over the last 15 years: guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, chickens, cats, and goats. But Abby was the family dog as our children grew up. She’s been the one constant and we have loved her.
 
Karen declared early on that Abby would be an outside-dog. This was appalling to me – I’m a dog lover. Dogs have always been family members. My first dog, Charger, a schnauzer/cocker mix, was the one consistent source of solace in a sometimes rough adolescence.  When I visit a friend’s house, I want to pet their dog and speak to him. The movie “Marley and Me” had me sniffling at the end.
 
But Abby lived outside, on the porch during summers, and in the garage in the winters. In her more nimble days, she loved to play in the yard with the kids. After the lawn was freshly mowed, we’d pick up clumps of grass and she would charge them, leaping into the air to grab the grass in her mouth. She loved to race around. When Whimsy arrived later in life, the two of them were a canine Mutt and Jeff, perpetually entertaining us with their wrestling matches.
 
When we’d go away on a family vacation, we never put Abby in a kennel – she was left to guard the house. Friends would come by to check on her and there she’d be when we returned, having faithfully acquitted herself of her guard-dog duties. And even when we were here, she could distinguish between the threatening rumble of the UPS truck in our driveway and the sound of a friend’s vehicle.
 
One of the sad facts of growing old is that you outlive the family dog. In the last year, Abby’s arthritis has left her hobbled. She’s grown deaf and nearly blind. When I went to pat her this morning, she didn’t raise her head to greet me.
 
Our friends were the first to bring her deterioration to our attention. And one by one, with me being the final hold-out, we’ve had to acknowledge that the end is arriving and is in fact here. I don’t know quite how it’s going to happen and even writing these words brings a wave of emotion. But this is the one weekend when we’re all at home and can say goodbye – Estie back from school and Seth returned from Nicaragua. So the family has taken a vote about the matter.
 
We live in a cruel world, a place that could use a few more smiles. So, saying goodbye to a friend of 15 years, albeit an animal, is strangely difficult. I think God created dogs to cushion the bumps in life’s road. Abby has protected us, yes, but no matter how hard my day may have been, she never failed to wag her tail in greeting me, to invite me to leave the day’s worries at the office.
 
One day, for most of us, family members will have discussions about our aging as we have about Abby. And subliminally, maybe these kinds of experiences are a dress rehearsal for what lies ahead. The melancholy of the moment is the price of loving well. We’ll miss Abby.

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