I planned to post a batch of photos today from our trip to Florida last week, but instead I'm writing a memorial to our dear old buddy Austin, our nearly 12-year-old black lab/shepherd who died unexpectedly yesterday morning.
(Above: One of my favorite photos of all time. Jeff and Austin: A guy and his dog.)
He died peacefully in the care of his vet, but it happened so fast that we were still out of town. I've spent the last 36 hours fixated on the fact that we didn't even know he was sick (it was cancer—everywhere) and that we didn't make it home in time to say goodbye. And, of course, I feel guilty that the dogs went from being our babies to being second-class citizens once our girls arrived on the scene. So I'm trying to pick myself up by the boot straps this afternoon and remember all the happy times we had together.
Austin became Jeff's sidekick at 6 weeks, when Jeff came across some people who were giving away a litter of abandoned puppies they'd found. Jeff, who had just graduated from college, took one look at Austin and knew they were meant for each other. Who could resist this tiny guy?
Austin came into my life more than six years ago when I met Jeff in grad school. I got my own puppy, Finn, that fall. Austin and Finn quickly became best friends and then brothers. And Austin became just as much mine as he was Jeff's.
"The boys," as we referred to them, played and romped and chased and barked and got into lots and lots of mischief together over the years. They road tripped with us to Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Colorado, many beaches in North Carolina and just about everywhere in between. Some of my favorite memories with Austin include hiking and snowshoeing with him through the Colorado Rockies.
I promise the boys are just playing around here. They were such nut jobs together!
Doesn't he look just like Ferdinand the bull under the tree?
Our 2009 Christmas card photo.
One of Nora's first words was "dog." She would crawl over to the door, pull up and watch Austin and Finn playing outside while telling them: "Dog. Dog. Dog."
I'll never forget Austin's companionship while I was pregnant and incapacitated by nausea and vomiting. He was always at my side while I lay on the couch too weak and sick to get up. And when I managed to run to the bathroom to throw up, he would follow to check on me, with great concern.
He was terrified of thunderstorms and once became so panicked when a tornado came through town that he climbed behind the toilet to hide and got stuck.
He barked all the time, and we were always yelling at him to be quiet. Now the house is too quiet.
Cricket loved taking him for walks. Jeff would walk ahead with Austin while I pushed the double stroller. Cricket would watch Austin investigating things and comment on whatever he did. It was her lucky day if she got to watch him poop!
Jeff has so many fond memories of Austin from the years before I knew them, but I could never do those stories justice. Let's just say they got into plenty of trouble together.
Here's to you, Austie Bear! Thank you for being our best buddy for 12 years. We love you to no end and will miss you every day.
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.