i hate the word goodbye. i hate the finality of it. i hate that the word "good" is in it because, in my experience, goodbyes are far from good. no goodbyes are painful, as in sharp pains in the heart, gut wrenching, tears streaming, curl up in a ball painful. i avoid using the word. i much prefer until next time or until we meet again, because this big ol' world is actually kind of small - it never ceases to amaze me how our paths through life crisscross, often defying time and distance. 

yesterday was one of those days where i had to say until we meet again. jen and i made the heart wrenching decision to relieve the pain for our buddy, mulligan. it feels like a very cruel deja-vu -- we went through this exact thing four years ago nearly to the day with our other buddy, ollie. over the past couple of weeks, mulligan's health deteriorated rapidly, the result of intestinal disease or cancer. he lost a significant amount of weight, his body cavity was filling with fluid -- including his lungs, and his visible discomfort increased daily. yet, despite his visible discomfort, mulligan's big soulful brown eyes still cut right through to my soul – our love and our bond never wavered and it was those big brown eyes that ultimately helped me come to the conclusion that relieving mulligan of his pain was the best thing for him. i would never forgive myself if it came to a point where i looked into mulligan’s eyes and all i saw was pain and confusion.  


yesterday was mulligan’s last day with us but we didn’t start the day knowing it. and that fact makes the day bittersweet. maximizing mulligan’s comfort and doing things that mulligan loved had become our top priorities over the course of the past week. coincidentally, we both had taken the day off to be with mulligan and we filled the day giving mulligan things that make life delightful. that boy loved food and while he may have lost his appetite for his regular food, his spirits perked up when he got to enjoy pancakes for breakfast.

at lunch time, we got in the car and drove to a special park with a lunch surprise for mulligan. this particular park was special because we had a fond memory of mulligan here – it was two years ago that we first brought him to this park. he was eager to explore a new place as any dog is but when he saw a pair of dogs running around chasing a ball in and out of the water, mulligan became possessed. he made it his mission to learn this game of fetch these dogs were playing. mulligan never really played but in those rare times when he did, we always treasured the moment. seeing the unrestrained joy on his face and him acting like a dog was really special as most days, he was a cuddly, reserved buddy who wanted nothing more than to be next to his people. mulligan didn’t really get the concept of chasing and retrieving the ball on that day, but he frolicked and ran into and out of the water following those other two dogs. the game might as well have been follow the leader and mulligan was demonstrating that he was really good at that game. when it was time for those dogs to go home, mulligan decided he was going to go with them, his new buddies. we had to disappoint him and tell him he was stuck with us, and so he decided he would spend the rest of the time we were at that park trying to figure out what house his new friends lived in. as we walked around the park, his sniffer was working overtime and his tail was curled up at the end. did they live in that house? maybe it’s that one? like i said, it was a special memory.

on this day, we revisited the same spot and as we walked to a patch of shade under a tree we saw a pack of four dogs playing in the water – playing a game of fetch. just like he did that first time, his ears perked up and despite being more frail and in discomfort, his tail curled up and he used the little energy he had to prance over to the dogs. he followed them into the water and stood there, relishing the cool water on a warm summer day. i saved that little moment in my heart as for just a small second, he was healthy mulligan again. sadly, the sunshine cast a spotlight on his thin, frail body and i was reminded that my buddy was not feeling well.


after playing for a bit, drinking from the lake, and sniffing around, we laid mulligan down in the grass under the shade of an old tree. and it was time for his lunch surprise – steak. again, defying his loss of appetite, he vigorously ate that steak in what felt like world record speed. We shared a laugh. this was the boy we loved. jen and i didn’t say a whole lot. we enjoyed the silence of the summer day, let the sunshine warm us, and we petted and kissed mulligan. mulligan soaked it up.

on the way home, it started to sink in that today was probably going to be mulligan’s last day with us. jen and i traded sad, worried looks and we finally addressed what we both were realizing. even though we knew this would be inevitable, the finality in acknowledging it was akin to being hit by a wrecking ball. it took everything i had to not break down right there in the car, in traffic. in the comfort of our house though, i started losing it. i couldn’t hold back. i love my buddy so much.

continuing the day of “things mulligan loves,” jen stepped out to get mulligan a fillet of salmon for dinner. I spent the time curled up next to mulligan, looking into those brown soulful eyes and i told him how much i loved him, what a special place in our family he would always have, and that he is a good, good boy. mulligan devoured the salmon. we laughed. and then we cried some more. a lot more really. and then it was time.

mulligan, you are a great friend. i am honored that in this crazy thing called life, our paths crossed. i will always treasure the memories we made. over the past four years, you’ve been my shadow and my sidekick. you’ve never been far and we have tackled life's ups and downs together. you've been there to celebrate the highs like when we brought leighton home and you laid by her bed like a good big brother and we leaned on each other, sometimes literally, to get through rough spots. over the years, we’ve developed an unspoken language that only a bond like ours could have. i’m scared mulligan. i’m scared to look down and not see my shadow. while i know i must keep moving forward, i will forever be glancing down to see if my shadow is back. until we meet again, mulligan. i love you buddy.


SHK Mulligan

02 April 2006 - 07 August 2014

lifeb | fmulligan, dogs