We stood sobbing on the sidewalk in the blazing heat. Hugging each other tightly, Aspen pressed against my leg. We had gone in as four….and now there were three.
Porter came into our lives almost exactly three and a half years ago. We had just lost Maddy and were like a ship lost at sea. Lonely and at a loss, Jim stopped by the Humane Society one day and the next thing you know I received a text with a blurry photo of a black dog. The message read “This is Porter. When I hugged him, he hugged me back”. I knew in that moment, that Porter was destined to become a Delameter.
The last six months we had seen noticeable aging in our little guy. It began with increased difficulty in climbing the steps at our rental house and he was sleeping longer hours but, of course, he was old.. Because he was adopted we will never know his true age but believe he was in his early teens; old age for a big dog. And yet his eyes were bright and his tail happy. Although we were certain he would never see South America, we hoped for many months ahead with the pack together.
Porter was silliness personified. He was playful and goofy and none who knew him will ever forget his happy dance whenever he saw his favorite people. He had some serious separation issues and Jim, his very favorite person, only had to wander to the campsite next door, or even just to the other room, in order to experience the full excitement of his return in form of the Porter dance.
Although most decidedly not a cuddler, Porter loved a good hug and part of our morning routine was a big hug from me on our way out the door. But his most endearing trait was his “eye hugs”. Some dogs are kissers, but Porter showed his love by gazing deeply into your eyes with such emotion you felt literally enveloped in a hug. His very favorite thing was for us gaze back while gently rubbing his ears. I will so miss being hugged by my sweet little guy.
These last three months were an incredibly happy time in his life, with the pack together nearly 24/7. We walked endless beaches, shared street tacos, explored Baja and some nights all slept together in our bed. It was really the only thing he ever wanted… to be together.,
As he continued to slow, we developed a new routine with one of us speeding along with Aspen while the other meandered at Porter pace, stopping often to mark our way. As the days passed, his pace decreased, but we didn’t mind. We simply were relishing in his company as we slowly covered less and less of the beach. Then he got a cough. We saw a vet who, without benefit of x-ray noticed his swollen throat and put him on antibiotics. We prayed it was that simple.
We were often curious about Porters past. That is how is is when you adopt. Especially an older dog. You wonder what happened to them? How did they end up at the Humane Society? Porter was a thinker. An over-thinker, actually, who spent quite a lot of time seemingly quite concerned. For the first two years we had him he would not lie down in the car, choosing instead to sit anxiously in the corner as though concerned we would lose our way. Only with Aspens guidance, and ability to sleep anywhere, did he finally succumb to car napping, and to such an extent that when we left for the road his favorite spot became the backseat of the truck, fully outfitted with an orthopedic dog pad and body pillow.
As we drove to the vet in La Paz I was already in tears. I knew. The last two days had seen a dramatic shift in Porters condition. He slept at least 22 hours a day and would have happily slept more if we hadn’t roused him for walks to, at the very least, take care of bathroom business. His breathing got increasingly labored and his appetite decreased. More telling, the look in his eyes. I had flashbacks of Maddy, remembering with vivid clarity the look in her eyes before that final car ride.
The first exam showed a loss of two pounds in the last week and nearly white gums and while the vet attempted to offer up possible good options, the look in his eyes told me that he knew too. But, you have to try and a blood test was the first course of action. We left in silence, not sure how to fill the next couple of hours when all we wanted to do was wrap Porter in our arms and make it all better.
Porter was a particular dog. He liked his fur to be clean and orderly and rarely even had dirt on his white paws, a dramatic departure from Aspen, who is generally covered in dirt. And yet, they learned so much from each other. Porter learned that chew bones are actually for chewing, not simply burying. He learned that there was no use trying to avoid her cuddle tactics and we would roll with laughter at the look of resignation on his face as she would lick and lick his ears. He learned to eat carrots and sweet potatoes and apples, although he never did develop a taste for green beans.
That last day we drove out of La Paz to Tecolate beach. We all shared a torta for lunch, overlooking the incredible aquamarine waters. We told happy stories of some of our favorite Porter moments, and we cried a little.
The blood work was bad. Really bad. But the vet wanted to explore all possible causes and so began an ultrasound that would reveal a particularly aggressive cancer that was affecting his kidneys, spleen and heart. We had one very sick boy on our hands. And with that…. any hope of more time was extinguished.
When you adopt an older dog you are setting yourself up for heartache. Obviously there are no guarantees, regardless the age, but having now adopted several older dogs we know going in that our time with them is limited. And yet, the unbridled joy of knowing you have given some special dog an incredible final home is worth more than the pain of losing them so soon.
We all huddled around Porter as the medication sent him on his final path, crying and stroking his fur while whispering sweet nothings in his ear. I repeatedly stroked his small, soft ears, my heart breaking knowing I would never again see them flop softly as we walked down the beach. Aspen, who had been unnaturally quiet and patient all day, reached up and softly held her nose to his for several long seconds, saying goodbye in her own way.
In the end, we gave Porter all he ever wanted, which was to be with his pack. And we stood by him and were together in the end, all there to send him on his way over the rainbow bridge.
** A special thank you to Dr Gabriel and his wonderful staff at the Dogtor House in La Paz. He wanted so badly for their to be a different outcome but when that was not meant to be helped Porter peacefully go on his way. **