Bring Scout Home, Country Roads – Post Bulletin
At 8:50 a.m. on Friday, July 1, our vet — the same vet who gave Scout her first exam when she was so small she could be carried with one hand — injected 8 milliliters of a solution of sodium pentobarbital in the foreleg of our Chocolate Lab, then quickly, respectfully, I left the room.
Scout’s tail was wagging. She was lying on a stretcher licking the peanut butter from the jar.
Maybe 30 seconds later, Scout was gone.
We didn’t need any medical professionals to verify that she was no longer with us. We knew it the second she stopped licking that peanut butter. We knew it the second his tail stopped wagging.
After all, Scout was only weeks away from her 14th birthday.
Two years ago, Scout was diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis, a neurological problem that affected both her throat and, eventually, her hind legs.
The throat problem, which manifested as an asthma attack, was made worse by overwork. Which meant there wouldn’t be any more hours – she would have been there all day if we’d let her – to let her swim in Bear Creek.
A year ago, when her legs started giving out, when she started slipping on our floors, we covered every inch of it with cheap rugs.
Six months ago, when Scout couldn’t go upstairs, Lindy and I practically moved into our basement.
Oh, we tried experimental drugs and chiropractors. We staggered the holidays so someone could always be home with Scout.
But we knew we were doing it more for us than for her.
For nearly 14 years, Scout has marked us through its hundreds of discreet examples.
The way she rested her head on the children’s bellies every time they lay down on the floor.
The way she seemed to smile – even laugh – when she lay on her back and someone rubbed her stomach.
The way his tail never seemed to stop wagging.
When 9-year-old Hadley needed a confidant, Scout would sit in her room and listen.
When 8-year-old Henry recovered from a two-week infection, barely leaving his bed, Scout slept against his closed bedroom door each night.
When 10-year-old Emma tried to turn our 8-year-old, 70-pound Lab into a bling-out companion dog, Scout never complained. It wasn’t uncommon to walk into the living room and see Scout wearing a bedazzled headband.
Oh, Scout wasn’t perfect. She had her problems. Lindy texted me one day, “Just a warning, dog ate 6-15 granola bars.”
But whenever you were sick and came out of your room at night, you found Scout sleeping outside your door.
Then, late that Thursday night in late June, Scout’s hind legs gave out completely.
Lindy came out with blankets and pillows and we all slept in the family room. That night—like many nights—Scout’s legs twitched when she dreamed. I just know she was running in the water at Bear Creek.
When we woke up that morning, Scout hadn’t moved. She could not. Her tail, however, waggled when she saw us beside her.
Lindy called the vet the minute they opened. When they answered, Lindy was crying too hard to speak. She handed me the phone. They told us to bring Scout right away.
We called our children to let them know. Daughter Hadley, 23, FaceTimed from work to say goodbye to Scout. Her friendly boss let her home early.
Her 15-year-old daughter Emma was in the middle of a stint at Camp Olson in northern Minnesota. When Lindy called, the manager immediately called Emma. Let her borrow a phone from FaceTime and say goodbye.
Her 20-year-old son Henry and I carried Scout to the Jeep. I laid her on the seat. Let her eat all the peanut butter she wanted.
Scout’s favorite song — and you just have to trust me here — is John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Halfway through the drive to the vet, Henry spotted him on his phone. Played through Jeep speakers.
“All my memories gather around her. Miner, foreign to blue water. Dark and dusty painted on the sky. Hazy taste of bootleg liquor, tears in his eyes.
Lindy, Henry and I were all singing together, through the tears. We let Scout listen to the end of the song before telling the vet we were there.
They had us drag the Jeep to a side door. We loaded Scout onto this stretcher and took her to this room, which was clean and simple.
Then came the vet, then came that injection, then Scout fell asleep, her legs shaking slightly, doing all the things she loved: eating peanut butter, getting a belly rub, and, I’m sure, daydreaming. to run – forever – in Bear Creek.
Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.