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October 11, 2000

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l'union fait la force

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Subject:  Goodbye, Old Friend
Author:  jayseae

Notice: For anyone who happens across this post, be warned - it has absolutely nothing to do with stocks, is probably not uplifting in any way and may actually be a bit depressing. While there is certainly a piece of it that may apply to the role that investing plays in your life, it really isn't intended as such. I hate to say it, but neither is the intention to help anyone out there who might happen to read it. This is, plain and simple, for me to say goodbye to a dear friend. It's been a really rough weekend for me, and I just needed to get this out someplace. My apologies for taking up a post (and your time). If you really don't like it, please click on the bad post alert and let the fine staffers here at The Motley Fool remove it from the board, so that it doesn't bother others. Thanks for understanding.

When I was in high school, I thought my father had a great job. I should probably clarify that - whether the job he did each day when he left home was great, good or even bad, I had no idea. No, what I enjoyed was that once a year, the owner of the company flew a number of the best customers to the northwest for a day of deep sea salmon fishing. Because my dad was a manager for the company, naturally he was invited - and his family got to come along. Made it seem like a pretty great job, even if it was only in my mind and not in the daily goings-on of the company.

On one of these trips, as my dad had to go to meetings or do something else vaguely business-like, my mother and I strolled over to a local mall. Within, we happened to stop at a pet store, where we immediately fell in love with a tiny bundle of fur, a West Highland White Terrier, who came very shortly to be a part of our family. When my father returned from his meeting, it was only to find my mother and I grinning from ear to ear, like we were the cats that had just shared in the proverbial canary. Little did he know what we had been up to. As soon as we managed to drag him along with us, there would be no doubt - soon our small family would grow by one.

The son of Ruf-n-Tuf and CeCe, our new family member was christened Ruf-ce-Tuf, and though the airline insisted we take him aboard the plane in a pet carrier, the curiosity of the flight attendants and our fellow passengers soon had him roaming free in the cabin. The little guy was up and about, to the enjoyment of all, just a small bundle of joy to anyone so lucky enough to hold him, snuggled deeply into a blanket to shield him from the cool air. Soon we were back home, and Ruf-ce quickly became acclimated to life in our household - after the rigors of house training and determining that he was too small for baths in the tub, and having to instead bathe him in the sink, it became quite apparent to anyone who might notice that he was terribly spoiled in his new life.

For anyone who has never had the pleasure, I cannot possibly begin to explain the joy that he brought, simply by being there. No judgements are made, no opinions levied - just unconditional love. Many memories still float through my brain of Ruf-ce, running through the yard, chasing at anything that might happen to move, sneaking a bite of forbidden food or even just lying there close by. Sometimes he would run all the way across the yard, and at the end jump up the wall, so he might get just a glimpse of what lie on the other side. His little head would barely clear the wall, but it held endless fascination for him to try and for me to watch. Over and over he would take aim and see what he could see. Whenever he tired of this game (which wasn't often), he could just as easily be barking at some birds, or playing with whatever toy happened to be within sight.

Not long after this, my parents moved across the country. And while I would miss them all sorely, I knew that it was best for him to go with them - living on my own and not being home for much of the day isn't something I would like to do to the little guy who had become such a part of our family. My parents actually moved to the country - where he could run and run, and there was no end to the wildlife that was his for the taking. Not as in hunting, mind you - he was never interested in that. Rather, he would just like to say hello. All too often, this meant scaring the daylights out of an unsuspecting egret, but he was never deterred in his pursuits. In addition to this, the new house offered a marsh as well, and frequently after baths, he would all too quickly find his way into the marsh and you could never tell he had just been cleaned, moments before.

As luck should have it, I moved across the country myself, and so was able to see both my parents and Ruf-ce with some degree of frequency, and cannot help but feel that I am richer for it. As time wore on, the signs of old age set in, as they have a tendency to do, and slowly he lost his hearing and his eyesight faded, and even walking became something of a chore. But there was never a time when I came for a visit that he wouldn't take the time to let me know that I was missed, and to be home again was simply bliss, comforted by my dear friend.

Just a few short months ago, Ruf-ce had a seizure or two, as I understand is more common in advancing years. There was no real concern at this time, as it was the first time it had happened - and there was little to do unless they showed up more regularly. Luckily, there were no more signs of any sort of impending illness, and life went on as it had, with everyone in the family (including yours truly) showing signs of slowing, but with no apparent mishaps in the road ahead.

Perhaps lulled into a false sense of security, perhaps some great cosmic irony, but just two days ago, the seizures returned, and returned with a vengance. Rather than a single seizure, or perhaps even two, Ruf-ce had six, and they happened nearly back-to-back. I am not a veterinarian, but the vet at the emergency clinic told us that rarely will they recover when hit with such a cluster of seizures, and often the result is simply a coma, followed some time later by death. With an amazing show of fortitude, Ruf-ce did regain conciousness, and had three more seizures in the next twelve hours. Once I found out the severity of what was happening, I drove for three hours to see him for just a few minutes, then came home in order to get to work the next day.

Maybe I am too optimistic, but I thought that he had recovered, and allowed that thought to comfort me on my way home.

The next day, however, my parents took him back to the regular vet and found out the truth. To begin with, Ruf-ce was already exhibiting signs of tolerance to the drug being used to fend off the seizures - so it required even more to sedate him, and this often resulted in knocking him out. What's more, the limits of the drug are well-known, and against his advancing age, seeing this sort of behavior was not encouraging. He hadn't succumbed to the initial seizures, and there were fewer and fewer seizures as time wore on, but there didn't appear to be much time left.

My parents had already made their decision, but they wanted me to make the final one. I cannot describe how honored, how special, and how absolutely terrified this made me feel, all at the same time. Naturally I didn't want to be the cause of death for my beloved friend, who now was more of a brother than anything - sixteen years will do that to you. At the same time, I didn't want him to suffer, either. So I again drove to see him, taking a day off from work.

I think my decision was made before I got there, but I had to see him in order to really be sure. When I got there, he was up and walking, but it was something of a mixed blessing. While it was wonderful to see him up and around, and even to feel his tongue reach out to lick me, I could tell that the friend I had known was no more. I'm sure there is a medical explanation for it, some sort of brain damage or something along those lines - but I prefer to think that the Ruf-ce that I knew had realized it was his time and had already moved on. While I wish I could have had just one more second with my friend, I knew it was time to go. Seeing just a shell of the life I knew made that decision for me.

This morning, my family took one of our own to the vet, and as we held him in our arms one last time, he received the shot that finally took him from us. What I feel now is sadness, knowing that the little ball of fur that we brought home so long ago is no longer with us, and that all the memories I have are all that I will ever have. A terrible sense of longing for just one more touch, or for a knowing bark as I pull into the driveway. I know that I cannot have these things, of course, and I know that he is gone, never to be completely replaced. And I know the decision was right to end any possibility of further suffering or degradation, and let him go with whatever dignity he may have left.

Life goes on, this I know. Time will heal even this wound. Yet tomorrow will undoubtedly find me looking again at my portfolio and trying to determine just which stocks I should buy, and which I should sell. But right now, I cannot help but feel that it is all somehow insignificant, and I cannot but wonder when I could have made more time for my dear brother, or how I can make more now, for those that are not gone.

Surely this has to take precendence over the inconsequential moves of a stock price during the day, doesn't it? No need to answer this - I already know my answer. I just needed to voice it.

Goodbye, old friend.

Chad.


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