On Friday afternoon we will make the incredibly heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye to Rook, our 14-year-old lab retriever mix. As you might expect, I tried my best to document Rook’s life, so before you read on here’s just a small glimpse of our adventures together.
The Forever Puppy
Rook was a rescue dog. I adopted him from the Lexington Humane Society on April 29, 2004, and ever since that day he’s been my loyal sidekick for countless road trips, holidays with family, hunting trips, fishing excursions, and my all-time favorite…evening walks around the neighborhood with Brittany, Willow, and our 4-year-old Golden Retriever, Runner.
Rook’s temperament made him a joy to be around. He was so easygoing and would make new friends anytime he had the opportunity. He especially loved kids and playing with other dogs, so naturally I took him out in public as often as possible. Rook’s thick, soft coat of fuzzy black fur made petting him irresistible. His small frame led everyone to misjudge his age; in fact, just a few months ago, Rook introduced himself to a random stranger who thought he was just a puppy. Moments like that always brought us a big smile because we felt like we had a forever puppy.
Dealing with Change
One of the things I loved most about Rook was his adaptability. As long as he wasn’t caged, Rook never seemed to mind what his “home” was like and he respected others’ spaces. One of our most frequent trips was to visit our friend Mark (and Tank) in Indianapolis, but Rook also made numerous treks up north to my parents’ home in Ohio and my friend Neal’s house in Michigan.
Rook also adjusted to a variety of living situations over the years. When I first adopted him, I lived in a two-bedroom apartment on Spangler Avenue in Lexington. I then moved in with a friend who bought a three bedroom home, and for the next few years Rook patiently stayed by my side as my life started to come into focus.
Soon after I started dating Brittany in 2008, I moved into my own two-bedroom apartment which happened to be on the third floor of a complex that backed up to one of Lexington’s large reservoirs. After only a few days in our new place, Rook learned how to race up and down the three flights of wooden stairs all on his own so he could go potty, and he would take care of business this way every chance I gave him. He never once ran off into the parking lot or bothered the neighbors, but instead seemed to find so much joy in having that freedom and trust (and I loved not having to traverse the stairs three additional times a day!).
Rook and I went fishing on that reservoir at least a hundred times together. Even on the hottest summer days, we would go out on the lake and troll around searching for another five-pound bass in my small two-man pond prowler. Occasionally I would splash Rook with water or throw my t-shirt over him to keep his black fur from getting too hot, but I don’t ever remember him whining or panting during our many hours on the water. He seemed to really enjoy being out on the boat together, and I loved having a silent companion.
In 2010, I bought a home, proposed to Brittany, and got married all in a six month period. Needless to say, but that was a TON of change yet Rook didn’t miss a step. He LOVED having a fenced-in yard where he could roam free, although after just a few minutes he would be at the back door ready to be reunited with his favorite humans indoors. Three years later, we sold our house on Checkerberry and moved to Starrush Place.
Life had become much busier in the years that followed, and around 2015 our wedding video business was affording us the opportunity to travel a substantial amount. By this point, we added Runner (our Golden Retriever) to the mix, so anytime we had a wedding or a trip planned we were blessed to have friends like Liz or Melissa stay in our home and love on our pups.
The Last Few Years
Rook and Runner got along like Elmo and Abby (that reference was for you, Willow). They loved to playing and rarely gave us any trouble, but we started seeing signs of change when Rook would sneak away to the same spot in the house to eliminate instead of alerting us he needed to go outside. At first, it seemed like he was doing it to spite us, but when the occasional accidents became more frequent and other more serious symptoms surfaced, we took him in for an evaluation.
Nothing could have prepared us for the flood of emotions we felt after hearing our veterinarian say that she would support us when we were ready to lay Rook to rest. It was not an easy conversation to have, but we are very grateful for the counsel we received by Dr. Creech at Brighton Animal Clinic.
Since our appointment on Saturday, we watched and listened closely to Rook. We concluded that what little life is left in his aging body is in reality a painful struggle for him. We soaked in these past few days with him and gave him lots of extra love. And throughout the past week, we have cried and cried some more.
As I write this, tears are streaming down my face as I think about how much life Rook and I have lived together. My heart is in pieces thinking about our final goodbyes on Friday afternoon, but despite the pain of this loss I would not trade our memories or experiences for anything.
Rook was such a blessing to our family, and I know we will cherish his life for the rest of ours.