Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘rescue dogs

In Remembrance of Trouble

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Folks, years ago I wrote a blog called “Losing the Family Pet,” about my Mom’s Cocker spaniel, Blackie. That was hard.

This is even harder.

My favorite dog in the whole wide world, Trouble, died a few nights ago. He died at home, similar to the way Blackie died; the only difference was, Trouble went to sleep and just didn’t wake up. (The eyes did open at the end, though. Bigger than they had in weeks. I know this because I had to carry him out again. But more on that anon.)

Mom and I adopted Trouble in 2006 from the Humane Society. He was a Shih Tzu mix with black and white coloring. He looked Shih Tzu in the face, had the big brown puppy dog eyes they’re known for, but his back legs were much shorter than the front. He was smart, loyal, kind-hearted, loved his food, loved to play, loved to “romp” with his “girlfriend” (a pillow; Trouble had been neutered, as standard in Wisconsin, but his mind still felt he was potent, and that was that), and was the best dog I’d ever been around.

Yes, he was a typical dog. He loved walks. He occasionally escaped the back yard before Mom moved to an apartment, and that always worried me. But he came back — once with the help of a neighbor, as we had a major snowstorm that day and we were almost completely snowed in. And he’d look at me, and my mother, with puzzlement: “Hey, I always come back. So what’s the big deal?”

Mind, he never did escape again after that blizzard incident. He had learned his lesson. When the neighborhood kids unlocked the gate (as they weren’t supposed to do, but often did), Mom’s other dog Brat would escape. But not Trouble.

Nope. He stayed right in the backyard, and when I’d go check and find him, he’d give me a look that said, “Hey, I’m a good boy!”

And he was.

Trouble had the softest fur. But we kept it short, because it was easier for everyone. And I do mean everyone, because when Trouble was younger, he loved to play in the mud. We’d have to give him baths — sometimes more than one a day — to get him clean. And of course he hated the baths, but Mom and I hated the muddy feet and the muddy everything more than that, so into the bath he went.

When we adopted Trouble, they said they thought he was two. Our now-retired vet told us that Trouble could’ve been anywhere between a year to three years. So we went with two. And we adopted him at the very beginning of 2006, to the best of my knowledge…meaning he nearly made it to sixteen.

Of course, we got used to saying he was sixteen at least six months ago. As we honestly didn’t know, it was as good as age as any. And by then, Trouble had really slowed down. Like Blackie before him, Trouble lost his hearing first. Then, unlike Blackie, Trouble lost his vision. He also had severe osteoarthritis, made worse by the aforementioned short back legs; his back was spiny, toward the end.

But he never complained. Never whined. Never moaned. Never did anything, except come up to be petted. Or at least to sit by our feet (or in my case, on my feet, as he seemed to like that for some reason!), so we’d know he cared.

Trouble ate well up until a day before he died. He continued to drink water. He was able to eliminate, though it was harder for him some days than others. He slept a lot the last six months. And he’d gotten to the point that when I took him out for a walk, he’d do his business, then sit right down.

Mind, he still loved to sniff things. (He was a dog. That’s what they do.)

He also enjoyed being around “his people,” and loved us with every breath in his big-hearted body.

I once asked Trouble on a Valentine’s Day, “Hey, Trouble, will you be my boyfriend?”

He didn’t know what I was saying. I’m sure of that. But he perked up, and he must’ve heard something in my voice, because he came right over to me and put his head on my lap. (This is when he could still partially get up on my lap on his own. He’d stand on his back legs and put the forelegs and head on my lap; I’d pull him up from there.) And he stayed by my side that night, and many other nights; he knew when I didn’t feel well, and he knew when I was lonely, and he knew when I needed his attention.

Then, he’d play tug-of-war with me. Or he’d let me pet him. Or I’d give him a treat. Or  he’d just look at me with his big brown eyes and say wordlessly, “I know how you feel. It’s OK. I’m here.”

Trouble was my favorite dog. And it’s been hard to write this, because I picture him in so many ways. It’s hard to remember how much he loved life, in a way, because I’m the one who had to carry him out again and take him to the crematory. (This time, Mom was not up to it. And who can blame her?)

But he did love life. He was a wonderful canine companion. He adored us.

And we adored him.

I will miss Trouble terribly. And already am.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 23, 2019 at 3:24 pm

Losing the Family Pet

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A week ago, one of my family’s dogs died.

Blackie was a sweet-tempered, forty-two pound Cocker spaniel who enjoyed food, walks, driving in the car, and being around human beings.  We were endlessly fascinating to him, and he to us — especially as he had two younger compatriots to keep an eye on that were always getting into mischief.

Over the last year, Blackie’s health wasn’t as good as it had been before.  He showed obvious signs of aging, including the stark white muzzle contrasting amidst his all-black natural fur coat.  He still ate well, drank plenty of water, and got his exercise . . . but he had obviously slowed down.  He took many more naps.  He didn’t hear as well.  He startled easily.  And he had severe separation anxiety whenever his family members weren’t around, which was worse than all the rest of it put together.

Still, he remained a gentle, good-hearted dog whose only flaw was in how many times he could knock the garbage pail over in his endless search for food.

That is, until last Monday.

Something happened on that day that I cannot explain.  He started feeling poorly.  He did not want to eat, but while I noted it at the time, Blackie did eat a little bit and drank as much water as ever.  He even went outside, as he usually did, and sniffed for a long time at the yard.

That was the last time I saw him go out.

On Tuesday, he mostly lay on the couch.  He was gasping for air, and it grew worse the longer I listened.  But our vet had gone home for the day, and Blackie had only just gotten sick — so we thought we could wait.

A few hours later, Blackie somehow got off the couch and into the kitchen.  By the time I got there, the floor was full of urine-tinged blood.  Blackie lay quietly by the outside door, and before I set to clean up the floor, I petted him for a few minutes.  I told him, my voice breaking, that I knew he’d been trying to go out.  And I told him, “Good dog.”

Then I got out the bleach, put it in some hot water, and started cleaning up the floor.   My Mom helped after a few minutes.

It took quite a while, an undifferentiated moment of eternity, before both of us were able to not only clean the floor, but get Blackie back up again.  We cleaned him as best we could with paper towels as neither of us thought he could stand to be put in the tub, mostly because his legs were shaking and it was obvious he was extremely ill, then got him back up on the couch.

Mom and I discussed what to do.  There is a local animal hospital that takes patients twenty-four hours a day, but it’s also extremely expensive.  And we really wanted Blackie to see his own vet, the vet who knew him, if at all possible.

So we waited.

Overnight, I watched Blackie.  I gave him a little water — maybe he drank a half a cup, if that much — and offered him a bit of bread soaked in milk, as that had calmed him a few times in the past.  Blackie licked a bit at the milk, but could not eat.

This was an ominous sign.

Blackie insisted on being moved to his usual place in the middle of the hallway, where he could keep an eye on everyone.  It wasn’t easy, as he could barely walk by this point, but he and I made our slow and stately way to the hall, where he lay on a freshly laundered, extra-large dogbed.

I needed to get some rest, so my Mom got up to watch Blackie as we waited for the vet’s office to open up.  But when she called, it turned out that our vet was not in the office.  We were referred over to a different animal hospital that’s less expensive than the twenty-four hour one, and prepared to get Blackie ready to go.

However, when Mom wasn’t looking, Blackie must have convulsed.  She asked me to check on him as she was afraid he was dead.  There was vomit on his muzzle by the time I was able to get to him, and he was no longer breathing.  His eyes were open in puzzlement, while the other two dogs stared in shock.

It is not legal to bury your dog in your backyard where I live.  We knew that.  So we called to find out what was legal, and found that cremating your pet in a mass cremation (where you do not get to keep the ashes) would be fifty dollars.  And as that’s far more dignified of an exit than putting poor Blackie in a garbage bag — something we flatly refused to do, even though people do it all the time despite its illegality — we decided to do that.

There was a nearly four-hour wait before we could bring Blackie in to the crematory.  All that time, Blackie lay where he was, until Mom got out a sheet to carry him in.  We got Blackie to the car, where Mom flatly refused to put him in the trunk.  (I didn’t like the idea myself, but thought it might spare Mom what followed.)  Instead, Mom carried Blackie on her lap all the way to the crematory, dressed only in a sheet.

The owner of the crematory was there to help us get Blackie inside, which was a good thing as both of us were about to break down.  The kind man took our money, promised that Blackie would be cremated with dignity, and gave us a flyer about pet loss with several helpful Web sites on it.

Then we drove away again.

I haven’t discussed it publicly until now because it’s been a really rough go.  I’ve been ill with some sort of allergy along with a nasty virus, and grieving Blackie’s loss just puts the snow atop the mountain.

Besides, even though Blackie was a sweet dog, he wasn’t my favorite.

Still, I enjoyed being around him.  Blackie, like me, was a night owl, and an ideal companion for a writer.  He demanded almost nothing, and gave back so very, very much.

Basically, Blackie was a dog that had all the classic Cocker spaniel traits, good and bad.  He was a very kind-hearted dog that made canine and human friends extremely easily.  He loved everyone he met.   He adored being petted.  And he lived the life of Reilly for eleven years, the eleven years he spent in my Mom’s household after being adopted from the Humane Society.

Maybe that’s the best epitaph anyone can ever write for a dog.  “He loved everyone he met.”

I will miss that big, black dog.  And I do hope that someday, maybe in the next world that is said to be far more beautiful than our own, I’ll get to tell him one more time what a good dog he always was.  (Even when he was knocking over the garbage.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 10, 2013 at 4:40 am