Meet you at the Rainbow Bridge, Norm: in memory of our four-legged family member

By Rick Hinton

Reprint from a previous Southside Times column

It is said that losing a pet is akin to losing a child or family member. I have no doubt that is true. Today, I’m feeling the pain, and expect to for some time. On Saturday, April 7, we had my wife, Laura’s dog Norm put to sleep. It was a difficult decision to make, but in the end, we feel the right one. I’ve spent the last five years with 12-year-old Norm – a dog not expected to make it past 10. That he did, however, does little to ease the pain.

Norm was a Saint Bernard / Golden Retriever mix, officially designated as a “mutt.” He was a large dog housing a booming bark and accompanying wagging bushy tail. Laura, at the time, was a single mom raising two teenage daughters and a toddler son. They took the pudgy ball of fur into the family, with Laura almost regretting her decision that first year when Norm (named after the character of Norm on the TV show, Cheers) chewed on anything and everything in sight; including actually chomping his way through two sections of drywall to get out of the room he was shut in. After that first year he began behaving appropriately, settling down to become a gentle fixture in a family occasionally transitioning from one living situation to another. He took it all in stride gracefully.

Norm Brown became Norm Hinton. He adopted me the day we met. (Photos by Rick Hinton)

Norm never met a stranger. He was a friend to neighborhood kids and any others that visited – always  eliciting a loud “Norm!” from visitors as the patrons of Cheers used to do when human Norm would enter the bar. When Laura’s apartment was burglarized just before we were married, I imagine Norm wagged his tail as he was petted by the thieves; he then showing them where everything was kept. He had no malice toward anyone. There was one thing about him however: you never touched his feet. It made him grumpy!

Because of the mixture of his breeds – and his size and weight – the veterinarian gave him a 10-year life span. He went two years beyond that, yet we all noticed he was slowing down. His move to a tri-level house with stairs became a challenge. He was plagued with severe joint disorder and could no longer sleep at the foot of our bed upstairs or by the downstairs fireplace. These occasions were the things he loved! In the end we had to assist him in even getting up the two stairs of the backyard porch to come inside. His expressive eyes always looked at you in bewilderment. He’d gotten older, and well beyond his prime. His body was breaking down. And, in many ways, I believe he knew the end was near.

Norm, at the fireplace, is still a member of the family.

The loss of a pet is devastating. The grief carries on for some time. Pets love us unconditionally, no matter the type of person you are. They’re not critical, always giving back nothing but positive devotion. Norm did that in the end, gazing into each of our eyes as he lay on the veterinarian’s floor in those last moments. To our pets we are their entire world, and their devotion and personality earn them a role as a valuable member of  the family. Norm certainly was that!

We brought Norm home, setting him up on the corner of the fireplace he no longer could reach toward the end of his days. Through thick and thin, heartbreak or great joy, family always sticks together!