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I let go of a good friend Thursday night. Aspen, a.k.a. The Big Dawg, accepted final relief for his pain. For about two years, he had experienced a progressive degeneration of the nerves in his hips, a cruel spin of fate for a dog whose favorite thing in the world had always been his walks. As he was already too aged to tolerate surgery, we could only manage his symptoms.

Funny thing about huskies, though: anyone who knows one will tell you they are willful, determined dogs.

They have been bred to “play through pain” – which makes sense when you consider their purpose, pulling sleds on command in the Arctic. And so, even as the atrophy progressed, he continued to eat his fill daily, chase the cat and play his little practical jokes – like flipping the vertical blinds in the living room, or going under the dining room table and emerging by knocking over a chair.

Since January, he had visited his vet every other week, and the pain-management meds did their job. Snow, which was always his catnip, came to our part of Tennessee in March and put a renewed spring in his step. We went for a walk that morning and, for the first time in months, he pulled me . . . for 45 minutes.

His vet and I had several conversations about when it was OK to let him go. It would be wrong, we agreed, to put him down just because caring for him had become difficult. You don’t dispatch a living creature because it becomes inconvenient. But, she said, if you can look at him and say to yourself, “I wouldn’t want to be him,” then you would know his time had come.

That time came last Sunday. He seemed a little off anyhow, and he did not seem to enjoy his walk. He has always had this habit of vaulting off every curb like he was leaping across a creek. When he leaped off this particular curb, instead of landing on all fours, he collapsed to the ground in a heap. That was it. Disease had robbed him of his agility, and now it was going to take his dignity too, and to me, that was something he was entitled to keep.

We made the appointment for Thursday, and as the time drew near, it became increasingly clear it was the right choice. That morning he refused his treat, which only the day before he had snatched from my fingers with the usual gusto. He spent the rest of the day sleeping on the cool tiles by the door. In his dreams, he was running, as I could tell by the twitch of his legs.

That evening, with a circle of caring hands on his thick, gray coat as he rested on the floor of the exam room, he eased over the edge to a place where he could run once again. Run strong, you handsome devil.

Originally posted to gas28man on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 09:51 PM PDT.

Also republished by PWB Peeps.

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