I wrote this story some years ago at the death of our black Labrador, Kentucky Coal Dust. Since the fateful day of his death, my wife, Sandy, and I talk about Coal almost every day. Such is the impact of precious canine family members. When Coal left us, he left us with many lessons over his ten years. However, I want to focus on his very last day on earth, so on with the story
Coal was lovable, perennially a puppy as Labs tend to be even well into old age, and as gentle as a 125 mass of coiled canine muscle can be who longed to lick everyone in sight. Coal was that twitchy-quick defensive end just waiting to uncoil and spring! The Julius Peppers or Reggie White of dogdom!
On the day, Sandy and I were running errands in separate directions most of the day. I got home before she did, and I couldn’t find Coal.
It really worried me since the one constant for the last ten years had been his puppy-like enthusiasm when you came in the door no matter how long or short the absence. But on this day, I had to search for Coal. I finally found him upstairs in a spare bedroom by himself, struggling to catch his every breath. He had gone to a familiar place to die. I called Sandy, who rushed home, and we sped with Coal to our vet’s office only a few minutes away.
Our vet and his staff met us with a stretcher and very, very gently, took my big black four-legged friend back to the ER room where they worked on Coal for more than an hour. But resuscitation was not to be. Coal’s heart gave out on him that day in December 2006. And, what a heart it was. Everyone (and I mean everyone) in the vet’s office shed tears with us that day. Coal had been a frequent and beloved visitor.
As we drove home with an empty backseat and emptier hearts, Sandy remarked almost casually, “You know Coal stole an apple off the counter this morning.” We both laughed out loud in a cathartic release because there was nothing – simply nothing – that Coal loved more than apples. If he was upstairs, and you bit into an apple downstairs, you might as well go ahead and cut Coal a piece because his ASP (Apple Sensory Perception) meant that in about 10 seconds a 120 pound bolt of black lighting was coming down the stairs in a beeline toward your lap!
We learned a lesson on Coal’s last day on earth and have reflected on it almost every day since: “On my last day (and every day), I hope that I can truthfully say that I did what I loved best in the world!” If we take that lesson with us every day, in the mundane and monumental, not only are our days going be better, but the lives we touch (as Coal touched ours on his last day) will be measurably better because of our choice.
The key for us all is to find “Coal’s Stolen Apple” in our professional and personal lives every day.