(Try to do this without being maudlin, OK?)
Back in February, we knew Django's days were numbered.
We'd brought him in to the vet for a limp in his hind leg that didn't seem to be improving. Vet did the x-ray, and came back with the awful news: It was bone cancer. Advanced. The only medical choice was full amputation, and none of us, vet included, wanted to do that to a 14-year-old dog. It would have been the height of selfishness.
Vet said, Best thing you can do is just keep him comfortable, out of pain as much as you can. Let him know you love him. He'll let you know when it's time.
He'd had a very good, very long run. He never was much of a hunter -- or for that matter, a pretend-hunter, of the chase-the-stick, kill-the-ball variety -- it was his sister who filled that extroverted role. He was more your faithful, soulful guy who'd never leave your side when you were sick or hurt, and who took on your pain as his own. He loved us unreservedly, as good dogs do, and wore his heart on his sleeve. And we always tried to live up to that.
Back when he was a pup, rescued with his sister from the Loudoun County shelter, I named him Django, after the Gypsy guitar-flogger I idolized. His sister became Ella, after Wonder Woman's favorite singer. Jazz dogs. Finest kind. Mother was a stray German Wirehaired Pointer who loved not wisely but too well; Dad was (we can only surmise) a Large Brown Dog. Django got the Large Brown genes; Ella got the Wirehairs. Her facial furnishings make her look like a particularly magnificent Civil War general. Django was... Well, look at him. Handsome, not pretty. Obedient, not servile. Soulful.
Just a really good dog.
He did let us know when it was time. All through his illness, he never complained, never acted out, never became cranky or nippy, as dogs in pain can. He was patient and loving to the end. But all the patience and love in the world won't beat cancer.
On the day, Wonder Woman and I had to be the grownups. We heard and saw his suffering, and knew that nothing at all was giving him pleasure any more. It was time.
We buried him in a nice, shady spot in the yard. I am going to sow wildflowers there when I get a minute. I do have a few of those left.