On a bright and sunny day in April of 2010, we drove to the local dog pound. After touring the inside, we walked up to an outside cage. There sat a dog with floppy brown basset ears and a heeler body, poised at the front wall, right paw extended to greet us. Our first-grader shook his hand, and that was it. We took Tonto home.
Throughout years of trying and failing to give our son a sibling, pregnancies and miscarriages, Tonto was always there as his best buddy, to scamper up his playscape and run in the sprinkler with all the energy of youth. When we took him to the dog park, other dogs would run off leash like banshees terrorizing a village. But Tonto would walk up to the first human, sit and extend his right paw to shake. Once shaken, he would move to the next human and spend the entire hour greeting folks. Through two eye removal surgeries, he never lost his sweetness, learning to take life as it comes, with all of its challenges.
The day after Christmas, his breathing became labored, and we rushed him to ER on that same road where we had adopted him 12 years prior. Within minutes, the doctor came in and said a tumor had ruptured on his spleen, and his belly was full of blood. He didn’t have long. Tears spilled on the floor tiles as the three of us stroked his fur for the last time and told him how much we loved him. We were there with him as the doctor let him gently go.
I imagine he greeted Saint Peter at the pearly gates with a right paw shake, and then proceeded into heaven, making new friends. He really was a good boy.