Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Sometimes We Can’t Rewrite The Ending
I didn’t realize how much I love dogs until I first got one at age 26. I had just moved into my first house and I received a basset hound as a gift. Brandy was a wonderful treat with her big, floppy ears and disproportionately long body and stump legs.
She had a deep bark with so much sound coming out of her odd-shaped body. She would be the first of many dogs to leave me.
The latest one, Daisy, an English Bulldog, was put down on August 11th, which coincided with my 15th wedding anniversary. She represented love, so perhaps it was fitting.
No ending of life is ever good and it can get messy. This one was complicated by the fact my wife and I were hoping she could last to say goodbye to our nine-year-old daughter. We had Daisy for 7 of her 8 years and my daughter has loved her since she was only two. They had a very close relationship. My daughter went to sleep-away camp for the first time and her seven weeks ended the day after we put Daisy to sleep.
We just couldn’t let Daisy suffer any longer.
She hadn’t eaten in four days nor urinated in two days. Her body was breaking down, ravaged by lymphoma. She only made it 16 days after she was diagnosed.
Daisy’s story – and ours – is perhaps no different than what tens of millions of dog owners will go through. We loved her with all of our hearts and enjoyed every moment with her snorty, farty, playful self. Her imperfections – a face that looked like it was hit by a truck -- provided appeal.
Have you ever seen a bulldog run? She did move, in her younger days, and would animatedly bump into other dogs at the dog run. Then she would plop down like a bear rug, pant, and watch the other dogs flag balls down.
She was in decent shape for her breed. She got up to 50 pounds but was athletic enough to roll over for a belly rub or engage in tug of war. Daisy loved to nudge us with her toys at ten or eleven at night, just as I was settling into TV time. She also used to sharpen her teeth on our shoes but it took her longer to outgrow grabbing for my daughter’s many stuffed animals.
Daisy had health issues over the years – cherry eye, allergies, and a case of mercer. Even with pet insurance, she cost thousands of dollars to care for, but she was worth it just as she was worth the stress and sadness that comes with putting her down and suffering that loss.
Now, for the first time since we had children, we are dogless.
We lost Buzzy, a 15-year-old pug that we adopted at age 7, five years ago. He overlapped with Daisy for almost two years. We also lost Lulu, another pug that we adopted, when she was hit by a school bus while on a leash.
As a kid growing up in a Brooklyn apartment, a dog wasn’t on the menu. But we had turtles, fish, parakeets, and a rabbit over the years. It’s amazing how much animal life one can experience and how it can still hurt when you lose one of these critters.
I couldn’t help script the ending for my daughter to say so long, but we did the right thing by Daisy and we’ll miss her. She’s given us great memories and photos and soon her passing will even lead us to a new dog to love and hold and eventually lose as well.
We learn about life through death. A little over a year ago. I experienced human loss when my dad died. Look, the most precious beings and the best things in life are fragile and vulnerable. That’s the rules to living on this planet. But even knowing this – and accepting the terms – I can’t help but feel a little lonelier and empty for having lost Daisy.
My wife, 12-year-old son, and I were with Daisy in her final moments as the vet administered not medicine but a toxic dose of anastesia to put her to rest. We all caressed her meaty body and hit-and-run face. The process was familiar to us from when we did this with Buzzy a little over five years ago.
Daisy went from struggling to breath to silence, and peace settled into the room. Mixed feelings of relief and sadness bathed us.
Surprisingly Olivia has taken it well. She asked us if the fish was alive as soon as she came off the camp bus. When she asked why didn't we bring Daisy at pickup we told her what happened. She thought it was a joke at first, in total shock.
She asked to see her and we called the vet and luckily she had not yet been carted for cremation... so we went. They took her out of the freezer and I think it helped my daughter heal.
Daisy was a cool dog who made the last seven years with us a wonderful time. We fondly look back at people she took a piece out of: friends Bruce and Keith, a back-up mail lady, two dry cleaners, and a handyman. Plus she was a TV star a few years ago when the local CBS TV news filmed her after coming out post-blizzard to chew the snow and take a romp in it. I can feel her around me. She is farting snd snoring in dog heaven.
Hey we knew going into this that having a great pet means a hard ending. They ingratiate themselves into our lives and become a part of the very fabric that we wear. If it hurts so much it is because we loved her so much and that is a good thing.
But her ending will bring a new beginning for us. For Daisy, I hope she’s playing in dog heaven, perhaps with Brandy, Lulu, Buzz or others. We’ll miss you, Daisy Dukes.