We lost our dog.
He had been sick a long time. I thought I was ready for it, but I wasn't. I don't think any of us were.
We kept hoping our 18-year-old miniature poodle would just go in his sleep and we could scoop up his remains and take them to the vet.
But it didn't work that way. I guess it seldom does.
Linda called me at work. She had taken Butterball (that was his name) to Dr. Froderman and Doc said it was time to put him to sleep. He was full of cancer, which didn't surprise us.
I was working nights and Doc asked Linda if he should do it while Butter was still there.
She refused and when she called me, I told her not to take him in alone.
"I thought you would want to say good-bye to him," she said.
So, I came home late that night. I tried to pet him. He was on the couch and he just growled at me. I think he was in pain.
The next morning, I picked him up and we took him to the vet's office. Linda drove.
I think he knew what was happening. He didn't growl this time, though he shook like he always did when we went for a car ride.
At the vet's office, a lady, leaving with her pet dog, exclaimed, "Oh, what a pretty dog," which didn't make me feel any better.
Inside, we were escorted right into the examination room where Butt had been so many times.
Doc brought in two syringes. One, filled with maroon medicine, was to be a sedative. The larger syringe was to do the deed.
I admit it. I started crying when I signed the paper, authorizing the doc to put him to sleep. Linda had already cried, but tears were welling up in her eyes, too.
Doc couldn't get the sedative in.
I tried holding Butter, the assistant tried holding him. But Butter screamed like I never heard him scream before. I think the syringe needle may have been going into a tumor; I don't know.
Finally, the doctor, alarmed at me crying and the dog screaming, gave up on the sedative and nearly slammed the syringe down.
He used the big syringe and Butter instantly became unconscious.
"I'm sorry," he said through his own tears as he walked out of the room.
"Thanks, Doc," I said. And I meant it. He did a good job taking care of our pet.
For $65, Butter was cremated and his ashes scattered over a beautiful garden, according to pictures in a brochure the vet's office gave us.
He loved the outdoors. Our back yard was really his.
I think his death got to me so much because of many reasons.
We got him in Kentucky when we lived there. When he was a puppy, he was extremely intelligent and would run through the house with the kids. Once in a while he would come, put his front legs up on the sofa and look at me with the same expression on his face Ralphie has when he asks for a BB-gun in the department store.
When we moved back to Indiana, I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. to go to work, so I went to bed much earlier than Linda.
Butter would tuck me in -- he would jump on the bed and stay with me about 15 minutes and then go back into the living room with Linda.
Butter became quasi-famous on the radio.
I was news director at WCVL-WIMC, Crawfordsville.
Every Thanksgiving, when we had a new morning man, I heard the same joke on the air.
"Your dog's name is Butterball? Does he get scared every Thanksgiving?"
He went camping with us and when he spooked a deer, there was no living with him. He thought he was really big stuff.
Then, about the time our grandson was born, Butter started getting old. He foot bothered him when we were camping, so we went to the vet and Butter spent the rest of that trip with one leg wrapped in an Ace bandage.
When he got cancer, we did what he vowed we would never do. We consented to surgery, which gave him about five more years.
But time finally ran out.
He was supposed to be Linda's dog. I had a black Lab named Billy. But Butter worked hard to become my dog, too.
With his passing, another link to my days as a full-time minister, when our kids were growing up at home was severed.
Linda is recovering from breast cancer and I was concerned how his death might affect her. But she seems to be OK.
"I never want another dog," she said. "I don't want to go through that again."
We still have Bonnie Lou, Amanda's cat. She is getting more attention now than she has received since Amanda went away to college.
We love Bonnie, too, but there is a big hole in our hearts where Butter used to live.
I admit, I got tired cleaning the carpets and mopping the kitchen when Butter had his many accidents. I wasn't as patient as I should have been.
He was a good dog, Linda said. As usual, she was right.