A Tribute to Monroe
This will be the hardest thing I have ever written but I want to celebrate the life of our Yellow Lab, Monroe. It may be hyperbole for some to say that a dog is a man’s best friend, but not for me. She lived a long adventurous life and was a major part of our family, her memory will never be forgotten and I will cherish the hundreds of photos of her from our adventures throughout the years. The simplest way I could sum up my love for Monroe is what I told my wife a few years ago when she started to age and I was already getting scared to lose her, I told her that I would trade ten years off my lifespan to be able to have her with us for another ten years. So now a brief history of this amazing dog and some of my favorite moments.
I have known Monroe exactly as long as I have known my wife, we met on the same night. Monroe was about one year old the night I met my wife at bar and went back to her place. I still remember that night vividly sitting out back and playing fetch with Monroe and I quickly fell in love….with both of them. I later learned that Monroe had been born in Oregon where my wife’s sister picked her out, the runt of the litter. They made the trip across the country to Boston in a U-Haul, one of the many adventures to come for Monroe.
There are so many Monroe stories, as someone working from home the last ten years I have spent much more time with her than any human, so here are some that stand out, no matter how weird.
In the first few years dating my wife Monroe had a thing for humping my leg, which I found so funny because she is a female dog. I guess she was showing her dominance, and she was right, she owned me from the start.
In our South Boston apartment my wife and I’s bed did not have a frame, so we were low and Monroe would sleep at the top where I used her as a pillow for many years. I used to have a shaved head and she would lick my head endlessly at night, slobbering all over my wife who did not find it nearly as funny.
I shared everything with Monroe, and knew how much she loved food. I would feed her ice cream from the same spoon I used, and we used to share licks of popsicles. One Thanksgiving my wife had to work so Monroe and I ate a whole bag of shrimp while watching football, and that was one of my favorite Thanksgiving’s.
In her first ten years she loved playing fetch, as many dogs do, and I would take her to the park in Southie and heave balls for an hour that she would track and bring back, never tiring. The one funny thing was she was not competitive, I guess she got that from my wife, and if another dog chased her ball, she would not even bother and just be fine with it, she was not a fighter, she was a gentle sole, a lover.
Swimming was her favorite activity and she would go to the Beach with us and swim in the ocean waves, as well as at lakes, the pool, anywhere. She would stay in there for hours and not tire, it was amazing to watch. I tried taking her fishing a few times, but being the retriever she was, she would chase my lures, and one time fishing in Boston she came back with a treble hook in her lip and happy as a clam for what she brought back, I laughed so hard before fixing her up. I probably have my friend Jeff to thank for that, we stayed at a lake once and he was up early fishing and rigged a stick to the end of a fishing pole to play fetch with her in the water. She use to come with us ice fishing too and she loved being out there with us.
She gave us plenty of scares, one time my wife’s family returned from Switzerland visiting us in Boston and we all went out for dinner. While we were gone Monroe found her way into their suitcase and devoured the Swiss Chocolate they had brough back. I remember that night her zipping around our bedroom jumping up and down and her poor heart racing so fast. We took her to the animal hospital where they injected her with charcoal and fixed her up. I wouldn’t say she learned her lesson, she would definitely do it again if she could.
Our travels with Monroe were vast, I never wanted to leave her behind, she was my best buddy. One of my favorite trips with her was camping in Bar Harbor, Maine for a week. She hung out at the campground just loving live and joined us on our hikes, fishing, and brewery stops. She was also in the tent with us the night we had our creepy ghost experience. She also joined us on a 17 hour drive to Charleston and after a fishing trip I came home and grilled the fish and just remember having a beer, grilling fish, and Monroe laying next to me, it’s one of the most peaceful moments I always return my mind to. There were so many more, our trip to Asheville, multiple trips to New Hampshire lake cabins, our trip to the Adirondacks. She loved riding in my truck.
When we started having kids everyone would tell me it would be different and you would not have time for your dogs anymore, but I knew that would not happen, she was too important to me. She was such a good dog allowing the kids to poke, prod, ride her and I have so many special memories of her and the kids in their earliest times. They are too young to really understand the current situation, Ayla knew she was getting old and it broke my heart when last night she said “I think she’s ready to go to heaven.” My dogs are truly on equal footing in my family, my wife laughs that I refuse to move the dogs out of my spot in bed, or on the couch, and will instead sleep/sit in an uncomfortable position because I say they have every much as right as I do.
In early April Monroe began coughing up a lot of blood one morning and I took her to the Vet where her readings were solid outside of an elevated liver reading. I took her home that night with a medication plan. After fearing the worst she was back to herself the next day and I thought she was on the road to recovery, but five days later she woke me up at 2am with another round of coughing up blood so I ran her to the nearest animal hospital which was 45 minutes away. I gave the hospital the go-ahead to do whatever is necessary and after doing the full round of diagnostics they discovered a small mass on her stomach wall and another larger one in her liver. I knew what this meant and was not going to put a 14 year old lab that has severe arthritis in her spine and hips through a major surgery or chemotherapy, it was time to being her home and treat the vomiting while giving her all the love we have for whatever amount of time she had left. She was still at the hospital for another night and at dinner out 18 month old son, who knows about fifteen words, started shouting her name at dinner realizing she was not at her usual spot “assisting” him with his dinner, it was a tear-jerker. I believe that I shed more tears during that week than I had my entire lifetime to that point. Over the past few years I had moments when I saw her struggling with her older age and I would always fear the day would come, but none of that prepared me for when it became real.
Our efforts bought us another three months with Monroe. She had some bad days where I would need to carry her out to the yard to go to the bathroom, but also some days she seemed almost back to normal. I am so glad my wife convinced me to take her with us on our Cabin trip to Central PA, she passed a week from the day we returned. When there she was at peace, back to hanging with the kids in the yard, enjoying the breeze on the deck, searching endlessly for any crumbs we may have dropped when eating outside, and resting. Food was her favorite thing so we let her enjoy what we cooked and even served her a bowl of ice cream her last day there.
I beat myself up, like I often do, thinking how I wish I had done certain things different in her final days, and just hoping she knows how much she will always mean to me. We gave her an incredible life, and I can feel better with that notion, but this is going to hurt for a very long time and I am not sure I can ever feel whole again.
I want to end thanking her for her companionship, her ability to make me feel better on the bad days, all the times she made me laugh, and her strength in the later years where she knew her time was near but did not want to leave our sides, because she knew how much we need her, and her by my side is all I have known for fifteen years. May you run wild, play ball, swim, and eat everything your heart desires in the next life. I’ll miss your unconditional love.
I’ve run out of words, I’ve run out of tears…..a day will not pass without me remembering one of our many moments together.
“The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”
– Mark Twain