Bama and I left Birmingham shortly after 9 a.m., Wednesday, August 3. She was resting comfortably on a rug in the back area of my Explorer. I’d left the car running and air conditioner going full out during the 10 minutes or so it took for me to change clothes and grab a few things for the trip to the Shoals.
I talked to Bama almost nonstop during the entire trip. No music, no sounds other than the hum of the wheels on the road and my voice. I wanted Bama to feel assured that all would be well. I heard her stir a few times.
Whenever we took longer trips together, I would occasionally call back “Is my doggie good back there?” Just to let her know I remembered she was there. I did that several times during our final trip together.
I talked to Bama about our adventures, her adventures. I reminded of her the time she found a pancake while we were walking in the green field near our house. And the pork chop she found on another occasion. About how, after her first elevator ride in a hotel, she refused to get on the elevator again and we had to walk up and down four flights of stairs and she wanted to stop at every floor, especially when the smell of pizza was emanating from one room near the stairwell.
We had a good trip, all things considered, and arrived at Tennessee Valley Animal Clinic about seven minutes before our appointment. I left the engine on and AC running. Bama was sitting up, to some extent. I petted her briefly and went inside to check-in.
I was able to spend about 5 minutes with Bama before the vet assistant came out to check on Bama’s status. And another 5 or 10 minutes before Dr. Davis and the vet assistant came out to administer the injection. They were very sweet with Bama as we made the final preparations. Bama was fairly alert from the time we arrived until the end. But she was ready to go, I think.
Dr. Davis explained the process and how long it would take (a few seconds from injection until her heart stopped beating). I gave Bama a final hug and my eyes filled with tears. He administered the injection. I continued to pet her. After about 10 seconds Dr. Davis checked for a heartbeat and said her heart had stopped beating. My beautiful, big, black Bama dog was at rest. It was approximately 11:40 a.m., Wednesday, August 3, 2011.
Despite a few tears in my eyes (then and now, as I write this), I was OK. I thanked Dr. Davis for all he’d done to help me take care of Bama over the years, especially the past few months. He said they usually did a paw imprint in clay for injections done inside but they could do one for me, if I wanted. I said “yes, please.” I waited while the vet assistant prepared the clay and made an impression of Bama’s paw in the clay. She said she could mail it to me, but I offered to pick it up. I didn’t want to risk it getting broken during shipping.
I left Tennessee Valley Animal Clinic and drove to my parents’ house. They live in the country with lots of land. Earlier Wednesday morning my Dad had dug a grave for Bama, next to the grave of our farm dog, Sparky. We said goodbye to Sparky on February 7, 2010. I nearly choked up once on the 20 minute drive but otherwise, no tears.
When I pulled into the driveway, Nicholas came out immediately to greet us, as he always does. Nicholas is a golden retriever who showed up on Christmas Eve as a stray puppy. He was about 8-9 weeks old at the time. We never identified where he came from, no neighbor claimed him, so we kept him. My parents adore Nicholas, who came on Christmas Eve 2006. Everyone adores Nicholas because Nicholas loves everyone and everything. Nick is joyful. He especially loved Bama. Nick ran to the back waiting for me to open it so Bama could hop out. Then Nick ran from door to door, looking for Bama. I told him Bama couldn’t get out this time.
Roxy, the beagle, also came round to greet us. She’s the alpha dog of the family. Roxy squeals and whimpers when she wants attention, so she came around squealing. I petted her and let her inside the cool garage–which is what she mainly wanted. Koda, the big Akbash/border collie mix that my brother and his family rescued in Colorado was already in the garage. Koda can’t take the Alabama heat.
I went inside for a moment to change shoes and tell Mom I was home. When I came back out, Dad had already moved Bama to her gravesite and begun to cover her. By the time I ran down to the site, Bama was already covered. I was OK with that. Dad finished the burial and left me to say my final farewell.
Mom had just baked blueberry muffins (from scratch) so I ate a couple of those to make up for skipping breakfast. She left for a doctor’s appointment (good results) so I spent the afternoon resting and visiting with my nephew.
Later, we had a little fish fry. Mom, Dad and Davis had been fishing with my aunt, uncle and their granddaughter earlier in the week. I wasn’t terribly hungry but I’m always game for a bit of fresh fish and Mom’s hushpuppies, which feature lots of onions and black pepper.
After dinner, I hit the road back to Birmingham.
A few miles after I turned onto I-65 South, near Cullman, I passed a black dog, very Lab-like, wearing a red collar, trotting down the side of the busy highway. It was completely dark, except for headlights and a few streetlights along the highway. It was an eery thing to see. Bama had been picked up as a stray by Stillwater Animal Control in September 2004. Part of me wanted to stop but it was so dark and I was so tired and emotionally-drained. So I drove on and said a little prayer that the dog wouldn’t be hit by a car before he was able to leave the interstate or someone rescued him. I know the odds and it made me sad as I continued down the highway.
I arrived home about 9:30 Wednesday night. As I walked to the front door, an owl hooted in the distance, multiple times. The hoot-hoot-hoo-hoo was comforting.
I could hear Bumble’s frustrated meows just inside the door as I fumbled with in the dark with my keys. I had to use my phone for light. I had left Bumble in her safe place under the covered table in my bedroom. I wondered how long she’d been at the door, waiting. She’d never been at the door before when I returned home after leaving her for the day.
Bumble was quite restless as I prepared for bed. I was tired but I gave her lots of rubs and hugs. She meowed incessantly, in a normal tone but she’s usually not very vocal. After I lay down, Bumble climbed on my chest and we snuggled for a bit. I moved her aside and turned off the light. She wasn’t ready to sleep, though, so she circled me, meowing, got off the bed and went through the house, continuing her meowing.
I finally called out into the darkness, “Bama’s gone. She’s not coming home.” Bumble immediately delivered up the most mournful meow I’ve ever heard come from her. And then she was quiet. Bumble came to bed and slept on the pillow next to me for the entire night, her head on my hand.
This is the final installment of my last days with Bama. Any future posts will focus on all the great memories of fun times.