Goodnight Puppy

Monday, 9 September 2013

Even when the end comes slowly, it still comes by surprise.

Even when you know that there's obviously something wrong - you can't be 14 1/2 doggy years and have lost a quarter of your body weight and have had a possible seizure in the last couple of years and there not be something wrong.  But still, you were okay.  You were old and slowed down, but you still loved to walk, to go in the car, to play with the ball, to cuddle.  Even though a week ago today I was sitting on the couch with you, howling because Helen Razer's cat was put to sleep, and wondering how long it was before it was your turn, I didn't think it would be before the week was out.

I mean,you'd played with the ball that day, right?  And the day after that and the day after that.  We had an episode this week of ball-playing.  And while it wasn't like the ball-playing of your youth, where your exuberance needed abating by a many-times-a-day habit of hitting the ball clear across the yard with a tennis racquet over and over again, you were still able this week to chase it, several times, down the side of a hill, and shriek-bark when you hid it somewhere and then struggled to retrieve it again.  You were still able to walk on Monday evening.

But then Thursday came and with it what we know now was another seizure.  But still, when I debated whether to go to my class on Friday, looking worriedly at your lowered countenance, I was still guessing that you'd attracted another infection, a secondary one from the licking that goes on when your body comes in contact with the wandering jew.  But then Friday night and you still weren't right.  You were spacey and vacant.  You didn't even want to eat the piece of butter chicken I offered you.  Definitely an alarm bell.  And so to the vet, and a 24-hour wait on blood tests hoping that it would be something that could be managed.

But it couldn't, she said.  Things had caught up with you.  You were anaemic to the extent that if a blood transfusion would have given you anything more than a few days, you would have been eligible for it with a couple of marker points to spare.  That was why you'd stopped eating, because it was a choice of eating or breathing, and breathing was starting to prove hard enough.

You were a tough old bugger, though.  Your body had adapted itself to a situation that the vet guessed had been going on for some time.  But then it just couldn't adapt anymore, finally.  As will happen for us all.  But still, still a shock.  Still a big gaping hole where you were.

I slept a vigil on the couch on Saturday night, while you slept on the floor beside me.  Knowing what the morning was going to bring.  Dreading it in a way that you can only dread something that you've been ... well, dreading for years.  Staying in the moment.  Wanting to just be in all the moments that I could with you until then.  And so we shared the night.  When you weren't pacing, that is.  Which was pretty much from 2 am to when you tired at around 8 am.  This sort of behaviour has been going on for quite some time, although you really ramped it up in the last couple of days.  You've been causing a great deal of sleep loss in recent months, and I think now maybe the brain tumour the vet suspects was causing the seizures and the anaemia had something to do with that.  Like an old man with dementia, come 2 am you'd get up and you'd start wandering, not realising that that is the time for sleeping.  I'm sorry for the times when my bad sleep-deprived mood got the better of me.  Of course, now you are gone, the thought that I would do that seems horrifying.  But life is messy, isn't it, and we get sick and struggle and stress, and our eyes cloud over and we find it hard to live every day loving what is in front of us. 

But I'm sorry about getting pissed off at you.  You couldn't help it.  You wouldn't do anything voluntarily to upset me, being of a species that is on a higher evolutionary plane than mine.

I watched you on Saturday night and into Sunday morning.  You were pacing like you were searching for your lost energy.  You were a little confused.  But you could be consoled and pacified by a relentless round of patting.  You would let me pat your chest for a while, and then turn around and let me scratch your back.  On and on, through the night.

I dozed off and on.  At one point I woke up and you were right there, right in my face.  Looking, searching.  You always were a smart doggy.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.  Thank you for that.

When you finally left us at 10.40 on Sunday morning, there were five people crowded into the vet's surgery.  That shows what sort of a dog you were.  You had a sort of quiet dignity about you, as if you were thinking about things.  You were always top dog no matter what group of dogs you were in.  The sort of innate authority that would be nice to be seen in our new Prime Minister.  You were a dog who changed us.  You did.  Like your granddaddy said, you were the one who taught us the lessons.
Oh, fuck, this hurts an awful lot.  But still, it was worth it.  And it was easy to let you go in the end because it's not like it is when you're a bounding energetic dog of four, or eight, or ten, full of vigour, where the thought of having you put to sleep is ridiculous.  The only thing that could override the dread of seeing you slip away was the desire to end your suffering.

It was easy to let you go.  It's proving a little more difficult to keep you let go.

Truly ruly, Mr Naughty, while I dozed on Saturday night, wishing for an end to this so that I could sleep, so that it would be over, but wanting it never to end, I was thinking about how I felt about us, Once in a Lifetime Dog.  And I thought that though I can't know for certain, I've got an idea that the pleasure and the love were shared equally between us.  But the honour ~ that has been all mine.

Goodnight my Puppy.  Thanks for walking the road with me for 13 1/2 years.


  1. Oh my dear, dear Sue. The tears.

    That beautiful old face. I wish I'd known him.

    My heart aches for you.
    As it does for me too. For, I know I face the same with my Jack - the signs are starting.

    Words seem useless at such a time.
    When there is a hole in your heart.
    And a hole in the world he lived in.
    Your world, with him.

    Know that I'm thinking of you xx

    1. Thanks so much, Vicki. He was a very good-to-know dog.

      The heartache is okay, actually. Entering into the grief is like entering into a way to honour him. I love the way you put it - yes, a hole in my heart, a hole in the world. But the grief will pass and I will remember the best bits. Like you will, too. It is so hard, isn't it, to let go.

      I was so glad that when he passed, he was looking into my eyes. I can't think of any other way I would have wanted it.

  2. Beautiful...just beautiful. He was a very lucky guy to have been loved so much. He was the only dog I knew who experienced "joint custody". Goodbye, Lester. Thank you for being such a good friend to my friend.

    I have been through exactly this. It took me 2 years to get a dog again. Now we have one guy who is quickly aging, and a young and vibrant 3 year old girl. I dread going through this again, but they bring so much love and happiness while they are here. It's worth it.

    I'm so sorry and so sad for the gaping hole he left. May it one day be filled with love again.

    1. He will be experiencing "joint custody" on this side as well - we are having him cremated and splitting the ashes.

      It is going to take me 2 years to get a dog again too. It's funny how you go through the process. The thought of another dog is almost an obscene one right now. But I know that I will get another dog. And I will love that doggy too. But they will just never, ever be him, that's all. They are all their own selves, never replacing who came before.

      It's worth it, isn't it. All the pain is worth it for the time and the life sharing. Thank you for your thoughts. They help.

    2. This is one wound that I do believe time will heal. Like you say, each one is special, so each one is worth going through this, but it does take time. There's no window on that time, but I believe you will find doggy love again.

  3. Healing thoughts and hugs to you today. xo

    1. Thanks, Vicki. Time is doing a bit of healing ... been a week. So strange, the longer time goes though the more surreal it feels, while the more real it feels, while the less real it feels. All at once. Strange times.

  4. Your post is very touching and so dignified. I weep with your loss. Often I think about how it will be when the time comes for my two Persians. On the one hand, I hope they predecease me because it otherwise would mean I would have to give them up, give them back to the kind rescue shelter where I found them. A rescue shelter is not a home.

    1. So lovely to "see" you, Barbara. How are you going? Thank you for your weeping, I am weeping too.

      I so understand what you mean about not wanting your boys to be left behind after you go. That's such an awfully painful thought, isn't it? Much easier for them to go first, I agree. And yet that is sad too.

      It's all too sad. I'm a little swamped with the sadness of it all, I must say. That little voice says I "should" move on now. But it goes on for as long as it goes on for, right? Grief doesn't need a "should" voice. In fact, nothing does, really.

    2. I sit here at my computer with my more bonded cat, Humphrey, lying stretched out on the desk, waiting for me to go to bed so he can cuddle up next to me. I cry so easily and I know I will be a mess if I have to see them off. It will be tough either way.
      Swamp is a good word for what the sadness of grief feels like. You need to continue to be understanding and gentle with the process. You will know (without that voice nagging you) if and when you decide to move on.

  5. How are you coping these days with the loss of Puppy?

    1. Oh. Well, you asked just as I was telling you.

      Oooh :)

      Um, it's getting easier but I'm still being swamped with grief. It all feels so strange. It doesn't seem to matter how many people or animals die in your life; there is still the same strange void that is left behind. Perhaps it's just a void from my perception.

    2. I tell myself that the separation is the bond that still keeps loved ones connected. Each one we love is irreplaceable, as are we. The raw pain will subside in time, but the tie will remain, the memories will nourish you. It may sound a bit hokey, but I believe in that Rainbow Bridge. Love does not die.

    3. I tell myself that too. It does feel naff talking about it in this way, but I believe too in that Rainbow Bridge. My heart does. Which is where Lester has moved to now.

      And my heart is more intelligent in ... well, in matters of the heart, and in matters of life and death, than my brain, much appreciated though it be :)

  6. In the lovely synchronicity of this afternoon, I am listening to a podcast by Tara Brach about healing trauma. At its end she is talking about grief, and she recites past of this poem, by John O'Donohue:

    When you lose someone you love,
    Your life becomes strange,
    The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
    Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
    And some dead echo drags your voice down
    Where words have no confidence
    Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
    And though this loss has wounded others too,
    No one knows what has been taken from you
    When the silence of absence deepens.

    Flickers of guilt kindle regret
    For all that was left unsaid or undone.

    There are days when you wake up happy;
    Again inside the fullness of life,
    Until the moment breaks
    And you are thrown back
    Onto the black tide of loss.
    Days when you have your heart back,
    You are able to function well
    Until in the middle of work or encounter,
    Suddenly with no warning,
    You are ambushed by grief.

    It becomes hard to trust yourself.
    All you can depend on now is that
    Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
    More than you, it knows its way
    And will find the right time
    To pull and pull the rope of grief
    Until that coiled hill of tears
    Has reduced to its last drop.

    Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
    With the invisible form of your departed;
    And when the work of grief is done,
    The wound of loss will heal
    And you will have learned
    To wean your eyes
    From that gap in the air
    And be able to enter the hearth
    In your soul where your loved one
    Has awaited your return
    All the time.

  7. So sorry for your loss of your heart dog. Your story sounds so much like mine with my girl. She was my equal, and sometimes felt like my mother or sister. She had abundant love for all living things and yet was also able to tenderly discipline when they needed it and was a leader like your guy. My other dogs since have been like my children, but she was my heart and my soul mate and she guides me still when I quest in meditation. I have only to close my eyes and put out my hand for her and she is there. Time is not really linear and whatever he goes on to in the future, still he will be able to be here with you in the still times if you look for him. xxx

    1. Thanks, Keechy, for your beautiful words. I seemed to have missed responding to them when you posted them.

      Everything dies, baby, that's a fact. But maybe everything that dies some day comes back.

      It does get easier. But not so much easier that I can't come back and read this five months later and cry and feel like my heart cracks a little. I miss you, Lester Dogs.

  8. Sue,
    I was image googling for a college paper I'm working on when I was distracted by an image of a dog. A dog that looks amazingly, remarkably, uncannily like the dog I just adopted at Christmas from our local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
    My Bruno is a young Lester.
    I saw Bruno's face on the SPCA website.
    It had been four years since we had had to say good-bye to "Maddie" (Maradonna) our full-blood boxer. I hadn't been ready to replace her until I saw Bruno's eyes in that photo on the SPCA website. His eyes hauntingly said, "I need a Christmas."
    The SPCA staff told me that they thought he might be part lab, part boxer. He had been transferred from one shelter to another because no one would adopt him..."because of his kennel behavior." (He growled and snarled at passersby from inside his kennel.)
    Once out of the kennel, he was a different creature entirely. He is a love.
    I'm very sorry for your loss.

    1. Oh, wow, I would LOVE to see some pics of Bruno if you wanted to email them to me!!! (

      Like Bruno, Lester was lab/boxer and he had some bad "kennel behaviour" as well - not so much aggressive, he was just totally full of crazy amounts of energy. But he calmed down once he "got out" and got playing with the ball 17 times a day :)

      I'm heartwarmed by your beautiful story; thanks for sharing it. And I'm heartwarmed too on you giving him a chance.


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