More Than Just a Dog


Last night our family said goodbye to our chocolate lab, Bauer.

It was sudden. It was unexpected. And it was traumatic.

He woke up fine. Around mid-day he started having trouble walking.

By 4 we were at the vet.

At 4:30 the vet told me that he had a splenic rupture caused by a tumor and his tummy was filling with fluid.

She told us our options. And then we asked her what she would do if it was her dog.

By 6 he was gone.

He died in my arms.

By 6:30 we were back home. Only the house felt empty. Too quiet.

There was no slobbery, loud, stinky, ball of love and hair to greet me.

Almost 11 years I had that dog.

And every morning, afternoon, and night he was with me.

Through everything.

He was so much more than just a dog.

He was my constant.

11 years.

Always home. Actually he was home.

He moved with us six times.

He was with me through my miscarriage.

I remember lying on the couch the night before my D&C sobbing. He never left my side.

He was at my feet through job troubles. Marriage troubles. Financial troubles.

All of it.

He was here for the birth of 3 babies. Breastfeeding and midnight wakeups.

He was my walking partner. My escape from reality.

We hiked. We swam. We sat.

And then autism. Every tear. Every worry. Every midnight wake up.

8 years of sleep deprivation.

Bauer was always with me. Following behind me. Settling in at my feet.

I almost feel like I took him for granted.

I want my dog back. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

I want more time.

More snuggles. More stinky dog farts. My barks. More yelling at him for being underfoot all the damn time.

There is nothing better than a dog. Especially the best dog.

God, I’m struggling.

I’m going through the grief now. And the guilt.

Did I do enough? Did I love him enough?

I know enough about loss that I need to sit in this for a while.

I wasn’t prepared to lose him though. Not so suddenly. Not yesterday.

I wish I had more time.

He was so much more than a ‘just a dog.’ He was my first baby. My person. My family.

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Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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