If you’ve been reading this column for a very long time you might be familiar with Mr. Bingle, whose arrival at Castle McKay was heralded by a 2014 column in this space. At the time he was a bouncy, and quite rambunctious, puppy only a few weeks old.
Well, Bingle is no longer a puppy. It’s eight years plus later, and he’s now at the stage of life when his accomplishments on four legs can be tallied and evaluated, and it can be said with all sincerity that “he’s a good boy.”
Bingle sings. I’m not kidding. He will cut loose and croon with the best of the canines. He wants to entertain you that badly.
He isn’t much of a fetcher. He’ll go and get the things you throw, but upon reflection he decided long ago that his effort should be rewarded with something more than temporary possession. If you want the tennis ball, you’d better have something to offer in trade.
But he’s a sucker for a good massage. Bingle might literally be the single most receptive dog to a good, hard petting on God’s green earth. He’s not proud — he’ll actually purr like a cat for a good back or belly rub.
And there is nothing he won’t do for a Milk Bone.
I know all these things, because I raised him from those blessed, awful moments of his puppyhood back in late 2014 and early 2015 to now, when he’s at that wonderful point in a dog’s life when he knows everything he needs to know and has the blessed confidence that he’s loved and cared for. He’s a happy dog.
But sadly, Bingle is likely as close to the end of his days today as he was to the beginning when that old column was written, though it’s my earnest hope that fortune affords us a much longer timeframe to work with.
Because on Wednesday, I noticed that when Bingle tucked into his dinner, eating was suddenly a painful experience for him.
I figured he had a bad tooth. That’s not an uncommon experience for an eight-year-old dog.
I brought him to the vet. And on Friday, I received the sad truth.
Bingle’s epiglottis is enlarged, and it’s hard as a rock. It’s covered with polyps. He has throat cancer.
And that’s not all. He’s got a skin infection and two other tumors growing — one on a front leg, and another on his ear. Plus a urinary tract infection thrown in for good measure.
Those tumors I’ve known about. To date, they look benign. But with the latest news, there’s little question about it: my dog is on his way to the Rainbow Bridge.
He’s lost 11 pounds in the last six weeks. Which is a sure sign of trouble.
How long I have with the little guy, I don’t know. What I do know is, we’re promised nothing in this life. And this is a signal from Up Above that Bingle’s remaining days are precious.
With what he has, it’s hard to know a timetable. A swollen, cancerous epiglottis could turn into a fatal aspiration at almost any point. The vet has prescribed prednisone, hoping that the steroid will attack the malady and give us three to six months more time.
I’m not going to expect miracles. The most likely fact is that if Bingle has tumors growing on his epiglottis, his front leg, and his ear, which he does, he’s got them growing everywhere.
I have to make my peace with the reality that my best buddy is making his way to his Great Reward. And I’m going to be tasked with making the call on when he leaves my life forever. Or maybe not — it could be that his throat cancer chokes him and I’ll be there to watch him die.
It’s a cruel prospect. I’ve yet to fully process it. It seems ghastly.
But what’s funny is, right now he’s fine. I’m typing out this column on my laptop and he’s staring at me, tail wagging as per usual.
Bingle doesn’t know what’s going on. He just knows there’s something weird in his throat, but as far as he’s concerned it’s nothing. It’s for me to worry about, not him.
I guess that’s the nature of adulthood. Maybe of parenthood, though it’s a rare and highly unfortunate parent who faces the death of a child. Pet ownership all too often offers that awful lesson — and particularly in the case of the pet who suffers.
Bingle will likely suffer, and I’ll have to make that abominable decision to end his life before the suffering becomes too much to ask. Because at the end of the day, that decision isn’t about Bingle. It’s about me. At what point does my refusal to let him go become more harmful than the prospect of losing him?
I’ve not faced this. As the old column linked above noted, Bingle’s predecessor Wally, whom he’ll meet soon across the Rainbow Bridge, passed peacefully in the night. This will be wrenching, difficult, excruciating.
They tell me I’ll know when it’s time. I doubt it. I’m committed not to make my dog suffer for my sake. That would be selfish and cruel, and while I might be guilty of occasional selfishness and cruelty I’m not going to do that to Bingle. I’ll let him go when I have to.
But not before.
He’s a good dog. He’s my dog. I raised him from a little puppy.
He’s my best friend. And I hate to lose him. This is going to hurt.