A Day in the Life: Goodbye, Seamus

You would not *believe* the effort I put in to get you. I had spent my entire childhood being told by mom that we couldn’t get a dog (“allergies”, I guess. Right.) But when I was a freshman in high school, our grandpa had just passed. And I think all of us needed someone new to love. And I felt compelled to deliver. I did hours of research. Compiled dozens of Power Points. Took infinite care and deliberation to determine the breed of dog ideal for our family, and to find somewhere nearby that could offer him to us.

Which led me to Green Leaf, Wisconsin and a Labradoodle named Keeper.

And to this day, there is nothing in my life I’m more proud of than finding you.

Looking back, that first summer together was an absolute circus. After giving you a much more proper, Irish, and Harry Potter-centric name (there are worse characters to be inspired by than Seamus Finnigan) we got to work on getting you trained and settled in. And after you showed an utter disregard for anything even remotely approaching obedience, we mostly just focused on getting you settled in.

For 3 months, I had to put treats over the cracks in the sidewalk, because you were too afraid to walk over them. Same for hoses lying across the walkway – although you never fully got over those (those crafty water snakes). The first time we took you up North to Rhinelander, you pushed open the cabin door, ran into the lake, and started relentlessly chasing a flock of rapidly departing ducks. If I hadn’t jumped in to chase after you, I’m fairly certain you would have just kept going, left us forever, and started a new life for yourself among the trees and ducklings. Either way, it sure was awesome to have to carry you out of the lake, drenched, covered in scratches, as a group of attractive girls stood on the beach giggling at me (seriously bud, not cool).

For years after that, we became something of a Wauwatosa icon. Tom & Seamus. We could be seen out walking every day for miles. Me, with my unusually erect posture, and you pulling for all your might after something that clearly only you had the vision and wisdom to see (Also, squirrels. And children. And other dogs. And the mailman. And that one extremely unfortunate incident with the skateboarder.) Of course, it had to be walking, and not some other form of exercise. You never truly did nail down the basic fundamentals of “Fetch”. And your…lukewarm…attitude towards other dogs certainly made the dog park a lesson in futility.

But I never had an issue with this. In your defense, fetch is just a social construct meant to keep dogs busy and occupied so they don’t focus on the broader global problems facing the canine world, and the other dogs were always just infinitely jealous of your fine golden coat, and partially maimed tongue (I will never stop wondering what happened to that missing tongue chunk).

We had so many adventures over the years. Some more traumatizing than others. It’s not every dog-owner’s dream to walk down the stairs one Christmas morning to see that his dog had eaten an entire box of dark chocolate while the family slept, face covered in chocolate, rolled onto his back, and with a stupid, self-satisfied grin on his face. Nor was it necessarily ideal to be pulled down at least 6 times per winter from you pulling on your leash on the icy sidewalks. And I can’t say I particularly *loved* the way you would eat garbage, electronics, and an almost irrational amount of roadkill. But. There were also our long walks through the North Woods, the quiet moments spent lying together on the couch, and the long car rides we took, your goofy face and tongue hanging out of the window to catch the breeze.

Watching you get older was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It broke my heart to see the dog who once terrorized the ducks of Lake Thompson struggle to get up onto the couch. It tore a hole in my soul to see the dog that would bark and chase after every squirrel, dog, and menacing child on the block struggle to get up to say hi to me. Your labored breathing, sores, slow pace, and diminished appetite all made me want to cry. But despite it all, I always knew that deep down you were still the same young, handsome pup that became the talk of the Milwaukee suburbs.

Seamus, you were the best thing to ever happen to me. For 14 years you were my best friend. You were the best sidekick a skinny, quiet kid with very few friends could have asked for. There were so many days in high school when I felt like you were the only good thing I had, and being able to come home and sink my face into your fur and take you for a walk meant more to me than you’ll ever know. There were even more days in college when I came home, feeling jaded and hopeless about a future I just couldn’t see, that seeing your face made me feel, for just a few moments, like I had a purpose, and something to look forward to. And as an adult, through pain and heartbreak, through new changes, new friends, new jobs, and new experiences – I knew I always had you. Always.

Until I didn’t anymore.

I’m sorry I wasn’t better. I’m sorry I wasn’t there more over your last few years. I tried really hard. I tried to see you as often as possible. But I know I could have tried harder. I know I could have seen you more. In those last few months, despite your age and your pain, every time I would come over, you’d still get up to see me. Just to please me – the stupid kid who couldn’t find an extra hour in the week between work, and friends, and happy hours to spend a little extra time with his best friend in his old age.

You deserved so much more than what I could give you over the years. Please forgive your dumb friend, and know that he wishes he could have done better.

I’ll never fully get over your death. But if nothing else, I’m glad you got the chance to die at home. Surrounded by your family. Surrounded by people that loved every last piece of you.

At least I got the chance to say goodbye.

Seamus, thank you. Thank you for everything you did for me. Thank you for making a lonely kid less lonely. Thank you for giving me something to care about. Thank you for giving me something so meaningful and filling my heart with so much love. As sad as saying goodbye to you makes me, I at least understand that the tears falling on my keyboard mean that I had something wonderful to lose in the first place.

I will never forget you, bud.

I love you.

Goodbye.

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