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Before Bromont, we lived with a dog we called George. I say we lived with him because I don’t really think you own animals, I think they choose to live with you. You might not agree with me on that, it was really the case with George because he didn’t really need us for all that much. He was a free spirit.

George was what people call a once in a lifetime dog. I love Bromont to death, as I do all the pets, but George was super special. He was the smartest dog in the world.

George happened into my life one day when we were playing ice hockey over at Lake Shawnee in the winter. He was a super small puppy and tumbled onto the ice from the shore. He could barely run, but wouldn’t stop chasing the puck across the ice. He was fearless. We went over to the Park keepers house to see if it was their dog and the daughter said that no, there was a whole litter of puppies left there and they had been taken to the humane shelter. George must of escaped I guess.

Anyway, we took him home and that was it. He was wonderful. I could write stories here all day about him. The dog could remember every place he’d ever been in his life, even if he was there only once, years earlier.

He eventually got into the hearts of nearly everyone in the neighborhood. We didn’t have a fenced yard and George just wandered free. He started walking in the morning with a group of woman that got together every morning and did a long speed walk. There was an early group of women and then a later. He did both walks, so I never saw him much in the morning, he was busy.

At Christmas time, we would get tons of gifts left on the porch for George. Tons of dog treats, toys, one year a bottle of doggie champagne. George would get more Christmas cards than us.

One time when we were gone, Kris let George out at night. A storm rolled in and Kris went out to look for him. It was a big storm and Kris couldn’t find him. Then next morning, the phone rang and it was a person from the nursing home that my grandmother was staying at. She said there was a dog outside howling and a woman there said it was Mrs.Tilford’s grandson’s dog.

So Kris drove over there. It was 3 miles away and George had only been there once. When Kris pulled up, there was George, sitting underneath my grandmother’s window. He’d been there all night. At that time, we’d only taken him to the nursing home once before and that was from a different direction, not directly from our house. When Kris went in to talk to the nurses, a woman came up, all shaking and flustered and said she’d been telling the nurses all night that the dog was ours and they thought she was crazy. George spent a lot of time after that at the nursing home. The people there, most I’d never heard speak a word, would open up and talk about their dogs through their lifetimes and you could see on their faces how happy that the memory made them.

George was super fit too. He would run and run. He was nearly Forest Gump. He just loved to run. Honestly, he would run probably close to 20 miles a day, never less than 10. He would run whatever speed we went. If we were on our bikes, that was the speed. If we were roller blading or running, slower. He loved it.

When George was around 9, he got cancer. He had a lump on his chest that we had removed. Then another one came back in his mouth and we took him to the K-State vet hospital. I was waiting there and they announce my name over the loudspeaker. A guy working there, Ken Harkin, heard my name. He had went to vet school in Ames Iowa, where I spent a ton of time when I road for the Levis Team. He rode bikes and remembered me. Ken came out and introduced himself and took over George’s case.

Ken said that they would remove the tumor from George’s mouth, but it wasn’t good. He had tumors in his lungs and that the prognosis was bleak. We were devastated. A couple weeks later, Ken called me and said he’d been searching around and that there was an experimental study going on in Denver that might help George.

We called the lady there and got George enrolled. It was a gene therapy study that cost $1000 and we had to drive George out to Denver for one day a week for 10 weeks. It’s about 600 miles. So, we started doing that. Trudi did it the first couple times, then me. Finally we were both gone and Kris was driving him. He stopped to walk George and he wasn’t doing too good. He was coughing up bloodly stuff and was dazed. By the time George got to Denver, he could hardly walk. The woman that ran the study said that George had pneumonia and it was going to be super expensive to treat and that he would be kicked out of the study. Kris called and asked me what to do and I told him to drive him back to K-State. Kris drove over 100 mph and got back to Manhattan in 5 hours.

By the time he got there, George was better. The lack of oxygen in Denver wasn’t good for a small lung capacity. Ken said they would put him into a oxygen tent, give him antibiotics to fight the infection and that he would have to stay there a few days at least. Ken called a couple days later and said George could come home. But, it was better than that. They had taken a chest x-ray and all the tumors in George’s lung were gone. It was close to a miracle. It was so weird that George got kicked out of a study and they never knew that it “cured” him. I think he said that the stuff that George was coughing out of his mouth might of been dead tumors, but I might be wrong on that.

George was great for a long while. The cancer came back about 3 years later. He was 13 by then and gray. He slowed down, but never stopped running. We’d let him out of the car a block or two from our house and he would take off like he was a puppy, only going 1/10 the speed.

Finally, one Friday, I decided it was enough. George could barely walk and it seemed it was the right time. Kris begged me to wait until the weekend was over, that we’d have someone come over on Monday to put him to sleep. I agreed because I hated the thought. Anyway, George went downhill badly. By Sunday evening, there was something in his throat that had grown and he was gasping for air. We called every vet in town, left messages and no one was returning our calls. We didn’t have an all night vet hospital in Topeka at the time.

Finally, about 1 in the morning, I realized that no one was going to help. I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to help George out myself. We had an old hunting rifle from my grandfather. He raised hunting dogs and was an avid hunter himself. It was a .22 caliber rifle with a 4-10 shotgun barrel underneath. I think he called it a squirrel gun.

I took George out to the backyard on his favorite blanket. I sat there with him, more upset than I’d ever been in my life. I couldn’t believe that I had gotten to the point when I was going to have to do the most awful thing I could imagine. I would have given anything for the phone to ring and been told a vet was coming to do it. But no. So I just sat there and cried and cried.

Finally, I realized that it was my responsibility. It was strange trying to figure out a way that I could sit with George, with his head in my lap, and hold the gun and get my finger on the trigger. I was so worried about all the blood and also about shooting myself in the leg. George was breathing so badly and labored that it was crazy upsetting. His eyes were pleading with me to help him. Eventually I had figured out everything and said my final goodbye.

It took me forever to pull the trigger. I was so terrified. It was over in a split second. And it was exactly the opposite of what I had imagined. It was total quiet. Nothing. A complete peacefulness. No blood, just a small drop on the top of his head.

I sat there for a while and couldn’t believe how I felt. It was the biggest emotional change I’ve ever experienced. One second I was scared to death about doing something I would do anything to get out of and the next I am at ease with myself, nearly joyful for the moment. I thanked George for letting me experience the moment with him.

It was life changing for me. That experience made my life so much better. It changed the way I think. It’s hard to understand while it is happening how one moment in your life can change the rest of it. I would have given anything, and been so relieved, to have the phone ring and been able to avoid the ordeal, but it turned out to be maybe the most important moment of my life. It gave me strength to do tasks that I previously though were not attainable. It gave me pride. I have to give all the credit to George. Life is strange in that way.

We buried George up on the top of a hill where he used to play. It was the dead of summer and very hot. We carried him up there in his blanket. It was 2 or 3 am. I had a shovel, but realized very quickly that it wasn’t enough. The ground was so hard, it was impossible to dig. Trudi went home and got a pick-ax. It was cathartic digging the hole, sweating, getting bit by bugs. I imagined what the settlers did a century and a half ago when a loved one died. I know they didn’t dig very deep holes in the middle of the summer. That is why they covered the graves with rocks, because it is nearly impossible to dig a 6 foot hole that time of the year.

The closest I get to religion is when a pet dies. We sat up there and talked about what a nice place it was for George. I was creating some sort of Indian like spirit scenario where George has the run of the park and his spirit is eternal. I thanked George for being my friend and for helping me get through the whole experience.

I go over and visit George pretty often. I just ride by and say hi. Sometimes I just sit. It always makes me feel better. I wish, with all my soul, his spirit is running free through the fields and woods.


He wasn't much into shrimp.

He wasn’t much into shrimp.

34 thoughts on “George

  1. JT

    Thanks for sharing this story Steve. Pets are powerful beings in our lives, and if some folks paid more attention to them they could learn a lot. I have held a pet on my lap and looked into her eyes as the vet administered the fatal dose to put an end to a terminal illness – unlike you I didn’t push the plunger on the syringe. Just the fact that I was the guy that decided on what day she would expire crushed me, but as you mentioned, after the act was done something came over me, an almost ‘peacefulness’ – hard to explain. I have a lot of animal lovers in my life/family and will be passing your story along to them. Again, thanks for sharing.

  2. Christopher Bluhm

    Wow Steve. So touching. I’m nearly bawling at work. Beautiful story. And I’m curious what brought about this seemingly random memory…? RIP George.

  3. Brandon Taylor

    Thanks for writing this Steve, this is one of the most emotional things I’ve read in a while. It hit me especially hard since we had to have our long time family dog put down a couple of days ago. I went through the same emotional ups and downs you describe and it’s especially tough when you get to the point where you recognize that the end is near and that your friend is suffering. The whole experience was sad as hell but it helps knowing that my family’s dog (and George) were loved, helped make our lives fuller and gave us a lifetime of fond memories to look back on.

  4. Bryan

    When I put down my cat, I made sure I was in the room. I was holding him in my arms when the vet administered the medication. She couldn’t beleive I would want to do that, but I just HAD to be there at that time. I wanted to make sure the last thing he felt was my loving touch. He died purring in my arms. I had to go back to work afterwards and was crying so hard my boss sent me home for the rest of the day.

    Pets leave a huge mark in our life. I have another cat I love dearly, but I still have an empty spot in my heart from the first.

  5. Bob

    Thoughtful story, Mr Tilford.
    My father recently passed. He was a taciturn old school gentleman, Battle of the Bulge survivor, champion sailor, and an avid bird hunter. At 95, he contracted pneumonia, rallied back for a few days, but then he could no longer muster the strength to live.
    I was on hospice duty at 2 a.m. when his labored breathing stopped. I knew it was time. I grasped his hand and wispered in his ear that it was time to let go, that he had been a wonderful father, provider, and that his family loved him dearly. I then apologized for the “damn hound dog” Calvin, my dog during my teen years, that dad got stuck with while I was away in college. Hounds could never cut it with dad; only a lab would do.
    I too, experienced the “peacefulness” and “how a moment can change your life” that you speak of. It was a wonderful and very human experience. Cheers to all.

  6. sfb

    Thanks Steve. That was very well written, and I can relate to almost every bit of it, having had my cat die in my arms last year. She was my shadow for 12 years, and for 8 of them, I kept her alive with weekly, then eventually daily, subcutaneous fluids to combat kidney failure. Try sticking a cat with a needle sometime…this cat LET me do it for years and played like a kitten until the last month. Her name was Mojo….it’s tough to lose your Mojo.

  7. Ken

    Very moving account and tribute to George. He was the ONLY dog to respond to that experimental therapy, more evidence to his uniqueness. I never knew the details of his passing, just remember when you buried him. Wish I could have helped.

  8. JoAnn

    So so sorry for your lose Steve. What a touching tribute to George. I think it’s a remarkable thing when just the right dog “finds” just the right family. We’ve been blessed now with a second dog that fits that bill. Our Jupiter sounds a lot like George too. He just loves to run and run and run! Sometimes you’d swear he has a rocket attached to him! Ya know someone once told me that really a dog’s only job is to give love; it sounds like George was pretty damn good at his job! R.I.P. George.

  9. Jeff Clawson

    I read your blog pretty much every day, probably because I ride too and well you know how bike racers are… I don’t agree with 100% of what you say, but you are usually pretty interesting.

    But this one post got to me man. Probably the most eloquent post ever. Choked back a tear or 2… thanks for this.

  10. jcurtis

    Did not expect to have a tear in my eye after reading your blog today. What a story and what a dog.

  11. CW

    Amazing post Steve, and, like others, had me tearing up at work. Sent it to my wife who doesn’t follow your blog and she started crying at “I don’t really think you own animals, I think they choose to live with you”.

    I had to go home and show the dogs some love after reading it.

  12. Big E

    What a lovely story Steve. Thank you so much for sharing. The most difficult thing, next to losing my Mom, was when my childhood dog Bogie died. It is life altering to not only have a wonderful pet that enriches our lives but also dealing with the loss of that animal when the time comes. Its all part of life. Even if we don’t always like the difficult parts….

  13. dave

    I believe that dogs are put on this Earth for three reasons:….: to teach about birth, to teach about unconditional love, and to teach about loss.

    Thanks for a great story.

  14. warren

    Steve: Thanks for that terrific story. We lost both our cats over last few months. They were with us 17 years so the loss will always hurt. Our house seems so empty now.

  15. tilford97 Post author

    Ken-You did help. You were the one that gave us 3 more years of companionship. You went above and beyond of looking after George. I know I’ve never come close to thanking you enough for your kindness. So belatedly, Thank you so very much.

  16. David

    You and Trudi are good people. I bet George had some good memories too! Thanks for the blog.

  17. Linda

    Very touching story. Pets enrich our lives in ways we may never realize. The only time I’ve ever felt close to god was when I had to euthanize the love of my life, the first dog I had as an adult. I went from the vet’s office to a liquor store and after getting back in the car, just felt an amazing peace and calm settle over me. I’ve never felt that way before or since. I really think we were in harmony then.

    Thanks for sharing. You’re a good man.

  18. Ralph

    Thank you for your story, Steve. Many of us have had a special pet that has chosen us for one reason or another. I still miss my Lucky, who my wife and I had to put to sleep a little over 2 years ago. He was a big part our children’s growing years and had much to do with their rearing, as a family member who stood watch over them and who in turn, the children had to help be responsible for him. Thank you for reviving my own memories by recalling yours so wonderfully.

  19. double t

    Man…. I’ve raced with you a few times when I lived in AR… Im a serious lurker on your blog. Didn’t expect that. Good story – brought me back to my own painful experience (which I went on a night mnt bike ride to help cope). George, sounds like a very unique dog. I have to ask what prompted such a different post as well!?

    good stuff.

  20. jp

    yeah i’m crying – i think his spirit does run free

    watched a movie about an aussie dog based on a true story called red dog

    they are special companions and friends and aquaintances

  21. Matt

    WOW, I have three dogs (Boxers) at the moment and they have been part of the family for about nine years – one of them (Norton) is my kindred spirit we are inseparable, and have far too many behaviour patterns in common and seeing as Boxers only live short (but very full) lives I know I am going to have to go down this path all too soon, as he is going downhill fast! Reading what you have gone through and how it affected you (with the peacefulness enveloping you) has possibly made this a little easier for me to face, and I will be there for him when he needs me to be at the end!

  22. JH Higgins

    Oh my…thanks. What a heartfelt story and one of the best posts you’ve ever written.

  23. Thom

    Thanks for such a beautiful and touching story, although I had a tough time explaining to my customer why I was crying as I had just finished reading it at my shop when they walked through the door. Lucky for me, my customer is also a good friend and after a short time, I had a companion in the watery eyes department.

  24. cat2racer

    That was one of the best and well written things you have done and what I come here for. I don’t agree with you with a lot of things but when you lay it out like you did with your beautiful dog its inspirational. Thank you.

  25. Dean

    Steve, Rod sent the story on George, I got a tear in my eye, while reading it. George, was a delight, he always came to visit us and you never knew what caper he would pull. If the garage door was open, he would venture up the ramp and see if the family room door was open. And if it was, in he came and would steal Charlie’s dog food and out he would go. He preferred to do it with out being caught. At night, 2 AM when Rod came home, he would come over and talk to Rod. We loved it. Thanks for writing about him, its to bad Dogs have such a short life span. Dean Kelley across the street.

  26. Sherri

    beautiful tribute for a special family member. Thank you for sharing Steve.


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