“Tell the story of the most magical day or experience of your life so far.“
We woke up early. Mufasa was downstairs sleeping with the other dogs because he couldn’t make it up the stairs anymore; his disease had progressed to the point where he could barely stand without assistance. He was only 7, I thought we’d have more time.
Chuck went outside to load the kayaks in the truck. He strapped them down tight, made sure we had our paddles, our cooler, and questioned whether or not to bring Tuna. We decided to leave her behind and take Tyson so we could focus on Mufasa. Tyson had already proved to be an excellent kayak companion but we were unsure if Mufasa would be able to handle being on a small water craft.
“Are you sure about this?” I said, looking over at Chuck.
“Look at them,” he said, “they are just so happy! Even if Mufasa can’t get into the kayak, he always loved lakes and rivers. Maybe the water will help ease his muscles.”
The wind whipped at their faces, nostrils flaring as we wound down the back country roads. Tyson and Muf were a pair, never separated and I knew this was our last chance at a trip for the two together. The end of the summer was quickly approaching and Chuck wasn’t sure there would be another opportunity. We had a sitter for the kids, we had the morning free… this was it.
We got to the lake and the dogs eyes were full of anticipation, their tongues out, tails wagging hard. And then Mufasa fell out of the truck trying to get down. Chuck looked over to me and I felt a stabbing ache in my chest. Muf was the kind of dog who had dignity, needing help was embarrassing for him. He was our protector, he didn’t want to rely on us. I went around the side of the truck and grabbed onto Mufasa’s harness and held Tyson’s leash as Chuck got the kayaks out and drove the truck to the parking spot away from the put in.
When Chuck returned we tried to get Mufasa into Chuck’s boat, he was clearly the stronger of us and he could easily haul Muf’s 110lb body to safety if he fell out. He wasn’t comfortable in Chuck’s boat because of the way it was set up, so he switched for my kayak with a smooth surface. The boat rocked as he wobbled trying to adjust to the sudden lack of stability the ground gives. Tyson was already perched on the bow of my boat, staring out into the water, ready to launch.
We paddled our way out, not going too far in case Muf decided to bail. I kept checking on Chuck, scanning his face for worry but he held it together. He
wanted this as badly as the dogs did. These dogs were his life, before me, it’s all he had. Then I saw it. I saw the look on Mufasa’s face. Tyson let out a little whimper as I fell back away from Chuck’s boat. He wanted to be closer to Muf but I just had to get a picture. He was genuinely happy. I know that people think that pet owners are crazy but you could truly see what Mufasa was thinking. His emotions showed all over his face and he was loving his life out on the lake.
Tyson is kind of the grandpa of our dog crew. He’s old, a little grouchy, but a really great travel companion. He didn’t like being this far away from Chuck and Muf so I had made sure to paddle back towards their side when I snagged a picture. I was having an internal struggle between enjoying the moment and taking every picture I could. I was so upset that I didn’t bring my GoPro. I wanted to record the entire thing and not worry but I forgot it in our rush to get out of the door.
We spent about 15 minutes paddling around the lake. We took a break to let the dogs get off the boat, go to the bathroom, get their footing. Mufasa didn’t do as well swimming as we had planned, which made Chuck sad. I think the degeneration of the muscles in his hips just wouldn’t allow him to kick hard enough to stay afloat. We kept his harness on that had a back handle and that helped Chuck support his weight. The little dogs have life jackets because we never thought we’d be brave enough to take Mufasa. I’m so glad we took the chance.
We got back in our kayaks and paddled around some more until the weather started getting warm. You could tell Muf was tired, his eyes were drooping a little and he was slower on his reaction time. We knew it was time to go. Chuck packed up the kayaks and we stood there staring out at the lake together, wishing we had more time… wishing we had thought of doing this sooner, wishing we would not have made excuses. We didn’t want to let our regrets take away from the magic of the day so we smiled, we held each other and we got back in the truck.
Muf and Tyson fell asleep almost immediately. The dogs having this one last experience before it was soon time to say goodbye to our beloved baby Mufasa is something we will hold in our hearts forever. I Love You