In Memory of the Greatest Dog Ever

 

Koda was a runner, an escape artist. That’s how we became the owner of this beautiful Chocolate Lab a little over 11 years ago. I’m a dog lover, but I had always wanted a Lab. They are, in my opinion, the perfect dog. Great with kids, eager to please, gentle, loyal, loving … the list goes on.

Our friends had bought a purebred Chocolate Lab as a puppy with the hopes of turning him into a hunting dog. But his schedule as the mascot of a local sports team and the unexpected arrival of child #4 didn’t leave much time for training. Add to that Koda’s propensity to explore, and after getting picked up by animal control a few too many times, they realized they needed to let him go to someone who had time to train him.

On a Friday afternoon in June of 2007, we adopted him. Saturday morning we had him fixed, hoping this would curb some of his running tendencies. (Hint: it didn’t.) Our boys, then 5 and 8, fell head over heels in love with Koda. In fact, everyone who met him fell in love with Koda, and if they didn’t, he’d work them over until they did. He had the sweetest disposition. He always wanted to be with his people, whatever we were doing.

But his exploring instinct was still strong. Oh, the memories of wandering our neighborhood after dark with flashlights trying to find a dark dog in the shadows. I’ll never forget one time he took off down the driveway, pausing just long enough to sniff the light pole across the street for me to full-on flying tackle him. After I corralled him, I looked up to see our neighbor standing in her driveway dying laughing. Another time I chased him down the streets while wearing flip-flops. That’s not recommended, by the way. My feet hurt for several days after that.

It took some work, but he did get to where he would obey voice commands and we could trust him off-leash. All the neighborhood kids loved to play with Koda when we let him out. Like I said, everyone who met him fell in love.

Sadly, good things come to an end. Over the past year his hips were getting bad; it was getting harder for him to get up. Over the past few months, he started having to pee more often, so it was a regular thing for my wife or me to get up in the middle of the night and let him out. He developed Laryngeal Paralysis, so he lost his bark. Then, a little over two weeks ago he stopped eating. For a dog that would eat anything, this was very concerning. Initially, we thought it was a stomach bug, so the vet prescribed some medicine. After no sign of improvement, we scheduled an ultrasound last Friday. Our biggest fear was cancer, but the vet at the ultrasound center said it looked like a foreign object in his stomach.

We wrestled over the weekend over the right decision. On the one hand, he’s a 13-year-old dog in declining health so is this the time to let him go? On the other hand, his health isn’t really that bad, so is it fair to him to use this as an excuse? We decided, despite the expense, we needed to give him a chance.

Monday morning he had surgery to remove what turned out to be a pair of socks. My oldest son works at a fast food restaurant, so I guess the smell of fries on those socks was just too much to resist. Our hopes were lifted that with this out of his stomach he would start eating again. Monday night we tried to give him some food, but he wasn’t interested. Tuesday we took him back to the vet and they kept him on IVs and antibiotics all day. He seemed a little stronger Tuesday afternoon but still wasn’t interested in eating. Tuesday night was rough. He couldn’t settle, he locked his mouth closed when I tried to feed him, he was kinda whining in a way we’d never heard. Yesterday morning we took him back to the vet for more IVs but recognized this might be the end. The vet and technicians tried all day to get him to eat, but he just wouldn’t take it. He was wasting away.

At 4:30 yesterday afternoon, we gathered at the vet to say goodbye to the best dog any owner could ever hope to have. He had permanently attached himself to our hearts. I never cried over losing a dog like I cried over Koda. All of us shed many tears yesterday. My youngest son lost a best friend. And now we have a Koda-shaped hole in our lives that will never be filled. He will forever be missed.

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There are 24 comments.

  1. Inactive

    He’s beautiful. I’m so sad for your loss.

    • #1
    • August 9, 2018 at 8:35 am
    • 8 likes
  2. Contributor

    I’m so very sorry, as I sit here in tears. It’s a story I can relate to. At one point our black 16-year-old cockapoo was injured. The vet treated her, but it seemed shortly after that she decided it was time to go. I don’t know how they make these choices, but they must and it breaks our hearts. Almost 20 years later, I still miss Muffin.

    • #2
    • August 9, 2018 at 8:36 am
    • 10 likes
  3. Member

    Bless you Koda.

    There seems to something in my eye.

    I’m sorry for your loss. We lost our Golden Retriever 10 years ago and still talk about him every day.

    • #3
    • August 9, 2018 at 8:43 am
    • 6 likes
  4. Member

    What a lovely memorial. Labradors are wonderful dogs and companions. My condolences.

    • #4
    • August 9, 2018 at 8:44 am
    • 6 likes
  5. Member
    livingtheLoneStarlife Post author

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I’m so very sorry, as I sit here in tears. It’s a story I can relate to. At one point our black 16-year-old cockapoo was injured. The vet treated her, but it seemed shortly after that she decided it was time to go. I don’t know how they make these choices, but they must and it breaks our hearts. Almost 20 years later, I still miss Muffin.

    Thank you, Susan. They do seem to know when it’s time to go. Koda’s unwillingness to eat seemed to be his way of telling us to let him go.

    • #5
    • August 9, 2018 at 9:03 am
    • 7 likes
  6. Member

    Here’s one of my favorite Lab stories:

    About 20 minutes later, John and Linda Furrier’s 2-year-old son, Tyler, and 3-year-old daughter, Caroline, were playing in the backyard and open garage on Walter Hays Drive when their 11-year-old black Labrador retriever, Kelsey, began growling ferociously, making a noise the couple had never heard. Soon afterward, the Lab darted after something down the street.

    John Furrier followed the dog outside, where cruising animal-control officers warned: “Your dog’s out, and there’s a mountain lion loose in the neighborhood.”

    What no one realized at the time was that dog had driven the cougar up a tree in the next-door neighbor’s front yard.

    The lion was on the loose in a neighborhood a few blocks from an elementary school, and was on a limb over a sidewalk when he was shot by a police officer.

    Kelsey got a steak that night. The lion got a sidewalk memorial and was the occasion of a lot of complaints about excessive police force.

    • #6
    • August 9, 2018 at 10:02 am
    • 8 likes
  7. Member

    We had a chocolate lab for almost 14yrs. Great dog, great memories. I can understand the loss of a pet causing grief, sometimes bewildering how strong the emotions can be.

    • #7
    • August 9, 2018 at 10:37 am
    • 6 likes
  8. Moderator
    She

    I am so sorry. I have so been there. So many times. And it never gets any easier.

    What a blessed and lucky dog Koda was. As was your family, to have had him in your lives. I truly believe that our pets, and the way we live with them, and learn to treat them, make us better human beings. (I also believe animals have souls, and that we’ll meet them again after. So, sue me, but don’t derail the thread because of it, OK?)

    You are special people. Go forward. Be kind to all creatures. And, if you’re lucky, another blessed and needful creature, perhaps even one with four legs, will enter your life. I speak from experience. I know.

    livingthebrolife: Saturday morning we had him fixed, hoping this would curb some of his running tendencies. (Hint: it didn’t.)

    Sigh. I know this too. This product (Whistle, a GPS tag for your dog’s collar) has been incredibly useful for my two Great Pyrenees. Although our property (30 acres) is fenced, sometimes one of us makes a mistake and leaves the gate open when the dogs are out. Don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Whistle has probably saved their lives a couple of times.)

    • #8
    • August 9, 2018 at 12:23 pm
    • 4 likes
  9. Member

    Dog stories never end well but I keep reading and watching them. Might be because I am nursing my 17 th along. He has been diagnosed with a terminal problem but I am not ready to lose him. Am I too old to get a puppy at 73?

    • #9
    • August 9, 2018 at 12:51 pm
    • 5 likes
  10. Moderator
    She

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Dog stories never end well but I keep reading and watching them. Might be because I am nursing my 17 th along. He has been diagnosed with a terminal problem but I am not ready to lose him. Am I too old to get a puppy at 73?

    Absolutely not! I remember when my Aunty Betty (actually my great-grandmother’s niece, you figure out the relationship) lost her beastly little dog at a good age. The dog was a good age. Betty was about 97. She loved him dearly.

    She went into a bit of a nosedive for a week or two, but due to my sister’s intervention, and the unarguable perspective of “Cheer up, Betty! All over the world there are little doggies who need you!” she successfully adopted again. Betty died a few weeks short of her 103rd birthday. She was a good friend to unwanted animals, all her long life.

     

    • #10
    • August 9, 2018 at 1:01 pm
    • 8 likes
  11. Moderator

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Dog stories never end well but I keep reading and watching them. Might be because I am nursing my 17 th along. He has been diagnosed with a terminal problem but I am not ready to lose him. Am I too old to get a puppy at 73?

     No. Just make sure that the puppy has a previously agreed upon godparent or two in case something happens to you and the Mrs.

    • #11
    • August 9, 2018 at 2:34 pm
    • 3 likes
  12. Member

    livingthebrolife: …hoping this would curb some of his running tendencies. (Hint: it didn’t.)

    Condolences…with the knowing smile of many hard lessons learned on this front.

    I am on my third Chocolate Lab now. The first two were good but very trying dogs until about 4-5 years old and then settled into absolute greatness. The latest, a rather abnormally anxious chap, seems determined to up that threshold to…well, at 4-1/2 now there doesn’t seem to be any kind of maturation transition in sight. He, of course, remains a spoiled family member nonetheless.

    • #12
    • August 9, 2018 at 2:58 pm
    • 7 likes
  13. Member

    Deeply sad for your loss of a wonderful pet. Keep in mind you were great doggie parents and he was a lucky dog! Your time spent together was special. God bless Koda. I remember when my cat of 18 years stopped eating too – I knew, and was devastated. I believe there are animals in heaven, and that your beloved dog will be there to meet you when your time comes.

    • #13
    • August 9, 2018 at 5:17 pm
    • 1 like
  14. Member

    philo (View Comment):

    livingthebrolife: …hoping this would curb some of his running tendencies. (Hint: it didn’t.)

    Condolences…with the knowing smile of many hard lessons learned on this front.

    I am on my third Chocolate Lab now. The first two were good but very trying dogs until about 4-5 years old and then settled into absolute greatness. The latest, a rather abnormally anxious chap, seems determined to up that threshold to…well, at 4-1/2 now there doesn’t seem to be any kind of maturation transition in sight. He, of course, remains a spoiled family member nonetheless.

    why do labs have hip issues?

    • #14
    • August 9, 2018 at 5:17 pm
    • Like
  15. Member

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    Am I too old to get a puppy at 73?

    no

    • #15
    • August 9, 2018 at 6:56 pm
    • 2 likes
  16. Member

    Ralphie (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    Am I too old to get a puppy at 73?

    no

    I’m not sure how old @kentforrester is, but he recently acquired a shelter dog and did a great post on it – no one is ever too old !

    • #16
    • August 9, 2018 at 7:04 pm
    • 1 like
  17. Member
    livingtheLoneStarlife Post author

    Thanks for all the kind words, y’all. I really appreciate it.

    It’ll take a while getting used to walking into the house and not seeing him, giving him a good ear rub. He had a way of just leaning up against my leg while I was scratching his head.

    I’m not sure if or when we’ll get another. It’s just too soon for us to think about it and our lives are different now compared to when we got Koda. My oldest is leaving the nest this fall, youngest starts a new school year next week, my wife is working again, so the house will be empty for much of the day.

    • #17
    • August 9, 2018 at 9:57 pm
    • 2 likes
  18. Contributor

    livingthenonsciencefictionlife (View Comment):
    I’m not sure if or when we’ll get another. It’s just too soon for us to think about it and our lives are different now compared to when we got Koda. My oldest is leaving the nest this fall, youngest starts a new school year next week, my wife is working again, so the house will be empty for much of the day.

    You’re wise. Sounds like a confusing time for a pup, but they do adapt. Empty house? Get two! They’ll have fun.

    I remember when we brought Birch home from the shelter last year, just two months after losing Scout. It was wonderful to have a dog in the house again, to hear the jingle of the tags, the woof and the snort and the sigh. One night my wife and I looked at him standing on the steps where Scout used to stand, and we smiled, and I said:

    “Too soon”

    And she sighed. Yes, it was. What did we do.

    But that only lasted a week. Birch had his own personality, incorrigible and affectionate, brave and timorous. He insisted we love him. Or at least give him something to eat! A year and change later my Dog Definition has changed. Your beloved old gone dog will always be with you, Then. The next good dog is all about the Now.

    • #18
    • August 9, 2018 at 11:39 pm
    • 7 likes
  19. Contributor

    PS: You did Koda proud, and now I miss him too.

    • #19
    • August 9, 2018 at 11:41 pm
    • 6 likes
  20. Member

    Sorry for your loss. Brought tears to my eyes, perhaps more so because of the memories of all the dogs that have shared their lives with us.

    • #20
    • August 10, 2018 at 2:14 am
    • 1 like
  21. Member

    Condolences on your loss, Friend.

    • #21
    • August 10, 2018 at 2:28 am
    • 1 like
  22. Member

    I’ve got to stop reading these… gets me every time.

    What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend. So sorry for your loss.

    • #22
    • August 10, 2018 at 10:37 am
    • 4 likes
  23. Member

    Condolences to you and your family, losing a dog like Koda is so hard. We are old, we have always been a multi-dog family, and it’s hard every time, even for dogs I didn’t like as much. It’s true that “Grief is the price you pay for love.”

    It’s kind of strange to write that I enjoyed your essay about Koda, when it is so sad to lose such a friend, but you did him proud, and now I know what kind of a dog he was and how you and your family felt about him. Thank you.

    I have mourned for some of our dogs more sincerely than I have for some of my relatives. In fairness, the dogs were a lot easier to live with, and they liked me more.

    I had to put down my beloved pug, Yeager, almost three weeks ago. He was the dog who saw me through some of the hardest things I have ever faced. He was very old, and had gotten too weak to stand, even though his heart and his brain were still sound. I cried all the way to the vet clinic while he did his best to comfort me, so I was able to keep myself together at the vet’s (their jobs are hard enough without me coming apart in the office). He died peacefully, with his mouth full of freeze dried chicken, his most favored treat. I hope I did the right thing, and I hope I did it at the right time, because he was failing for most of the last six months, even though he wasn’t in pain, or at least he didn’t act like he was (some dogs are really tough, so it is hard to tell). He never refused food in his entire life, so maybe it was ok. I hope so.

    Last week I answered an ad for mini Australian Shepherd puppies (I raise sheep, and a herding dog is a great help), and now I have Toby. He keeps our other dog company while we are at work. So far, he has chewed the corner off my couch, and one temple of my eyeglasses, but my heart is a little lighter. I still miss Yeager (and Iron Brew, and Ozzy, and Jack, and Annie, and Tudor, and Rum, and Sam, and Bounce, and Riley, and Ford, and…..like I said, I’m old, and we have had a lot of dogs). I miss them, but I am so much richer for having known them.

    I don’t think any one is too old for a puppy, but I have had pretty good luck adopting adult dogs, and they are less liable to chew the corner off your couch.

     

    • #23
    • August 10, 2018 at 12:36 pm
    • 6 likes
  24. Thatcher

    Awwww, LTNSFL! So sorry to see this! What a beautiful boy…Hugs!

    • #24
    • August 11, 2018 at 9:30 am
    • Like