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Saying Goodbye: A Heartfelt Story of Tiki, Our Beloved Dog.

As the sun dipped below the horizon on a cool autumn Friday evening, my wife and I sat next to a fireplace in our living room, with heavy hearts and aching souls. Laying at our feet enjoying the warmth of the fire was Tiki, our beloved chocolate labrador. She had been a part of our lives for thirteen years, but now, the time had come to make the most difficult decision we had ever faced: it was time to put her down. 

Tiki's story was unique from the very beginning. She was born at Hampshire Kennels on January 1, 2010, a place that I had grown up around and knew so well.  The kennel is in the roll hills of the Granite State.  This is a family-run business that raises Labrador Retrievers for over fifty years, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of dog lovers from all over the United States.  Tiki’s intelligence, loyalty and gentle temperament came from five decades of building English style breeding lines.   


As an eight-week-old puppy, she embarked on a journey that took her to an unexpected destination. Tiki was selected to participate in the Puppies Behind Bars program, where female prisoners in upstate New York trained dogs to become service animals. It was a chance for her to make a positive impact on people's lives, but fate had other plans. 


Tiki's hips were deemed good but not excellent, and she was deemed unfit for the program. That is when she came into our lives, at the age of ten months. We were determined to provide her with a loving home and the care she deserved, but little did we know just how much love and joy she would bring into our lives.  Our son Teddy was six years old, and our daughter Adie was four. She came into our home the week before Thanksgiving in 2010. 


Tiki's first night in our house


Over the years, Tiki became an integral part of our family. She was more than just a pet; she was a source of unwavering loyalty, comfort, and joy. Tiki was there through our celebrations and sorrows, always ready with a wagging tail and a loving gaze, offering solace and companionship when we needed it most. 


Tiki always took her responsibilities seriously, including helping with the daily routine. One of

her regular tasks was ensuring the safe and joyful journey of the children to and from school. Every morning, she would eagerly accompany the kids to the bus stop, wagging her tail and providing them with a sense of comfort and security as they waited for the school bus.  In the afternoon she would lay on a bed looking down the driveway excitedly awaiting their return. Every Monday night she would eagerly accompany a family member to the curb with garbage cans in tow, tail wagging, soaking up all the smells and ready to lend a paw in getting the job done.  Tuesday would come around and she would be just as happy to bring the empty bins back to the house.  Every night around 5:30 we would call her Shadow because she would not let you out of her sight until we went on our evening walk.  


She was not just a fair-weather friend, though.  In the harsh New Hampshire winters, she would eagerly indulge in a winter snow bath, impervious to the cold.  During the summer months she would love hikes in the White Mountains.  If there was water, she was in it. From swimming in the pool, to jumping off the raft at the family camp in Maine. I always joked she tried out for the dog long jumping competition, but her six inches was well short of the twenty plus feet required. Later in her life she would take small laps around the pool, I called them her senior citizens laps. Her exuberance was infectious, and her love for these adventures helped create lasting memories for everyone who shared those special moments with her.   


In her thirteenth year, as arthritis made it increasingly difficult for her to move, and simple activities that had once brought her so much joy became painful and arduous. We knew we could not let her suffer, and that is when the heart-wrenching decision was made. It was time to say our final goodbye on that Friday night.  The children she helped raise came home from college and prep school to say their final goodbyes. 


The last weekend with Tiki was a bittersweet mix of happiness and sorrow. We spoiled her with treats, took her for short, gentle walks, and allowed her to bask in the warm sun through the window in the living room. We shared stories and memories of her younger, more energetic days, and it felt as if we were saying goodbye to not just a pet but a cherished family member. 

As the weekend drew to a close, the time had come for Adie and Teddy to return to their respective schools. The air was think with emotion as each family member took a moment to say their final goodbye to Tiki. Tears were shed, laughter echoed through the halls and hugs lingered a little longer. Tiki, through frail, seemed to understand the significance of the moment, her eyes reflected a deep sense of gratitude for the love that surrounded her. In the fleeting moment, as the cars disappeared around the bend, a profound stillness settled over the house. Tiki's head slowly lowered and she let out a gentle sigh, as if she had given her final blessing to the young adults she had helped raise. It was a scene etched in the memories of our family, a symbolic and heart-wrenching farewall thst transcended words.


That Monday we got our last wake up by Tiki to feed her at 5:30 in the morning. I know every moment was going to be the last with this precious animal.  At 10:45 AM, I carried Tiki out to the car for the short trip to the veterinarian's office. When I picked her up, I started sobbing uncontrollably.  The drive was made in complete silence.  Arriving in the examination room the atmosphere was somber, and there was not a dry eye in the room. Tiki lay on a soft blanket, her trusting eyes locked onto ours, as if she understood the gravity of the moment. With a gentle touch, the veterinarian administered the medication that would allow Tiki to slip away peacefully. 


Tiki's breathing slowed, and her eyes began to droop. She looked as if she was simply falling asleep, just like she had so many times before. Her suffering was over, and our dear companion was at peace. This is a process I have seen so many times while growing up at the kennel, but this is the first time with the dog I raised from a puppy.  


It was one of the hardest choices we had ever made, but it was also the most selfless one. We had to let her go, not for our sake, but for hers. Tiki left this world knowing that she was surrounded by the family who loved her deeply, and she passed away as she had lived—with grace and dignity. When she took her last breath a true feeling of peace came over all of us.  

Tiki's memory lives on in the stories we share, the countless paw prints on our hearts, and the life lessons she taught us about love, loyalty, and the heart-wrenching beauty of letting go.

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