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Demise of a Demidog

Updated on October 13, 2010

Leonardo de Becherer

A demigod is defined as a mythological being, half human, half god; Leo, the lion-hearted inhabited the category of demidog, half canine, half god.

Discovered, for sale, in a local pet store, he possessed all the characteristics of a puppy destined not long for the cage he inhabited. My ex and I took him home, where we discovered he was in the grips of monstrous diarrhea so profound it required not only a prompt veterinary visit, but hosing the yard. Housebreaking attempts as auspicious as the sight of the lawn, Leo was granted reprieve until his constitution was suitable for training.

Leo grew into a magnificent specimen of the Golden Retriever breed he represented. Large, muscular, his gorgeous coat more red than golden, he was repeatedly mistaken for an Irish Setter. He was physically perfect. Emotionally, he was insatiable. He knew no strangers. He had a propensity for approaching strangers at a full gallop, tongue hanging out, ears and coat flying with the unmistakable demeanor of "Looking for Mr. Goodbar". He was a whore for attention.

Leo's uninhibited exuberance was usually returned, but on the occasion of being rebuffed, it did not deter him. Oblivious to the foreign concept of rejection, he could not simply sit by you, he had to lean into you. He was 100 pounds of unrequited love that would not be denied. My daughter and I still laugh at the occasion Leo took the liberty of (unbeknown to us) slipping into a residence across the street where the owner, wheelchair bound, father of 4 children, was appalled to find this obnoxious interloper in residence, uninvited and unwelcome. We were looking for the great escape artist and found him blasting from the front door across the street while our neighbor screamed, "You fucking animal, get out of here, you fucker". His young children, probably the instigators of this live comedy, exited their home with Leo, guilt apparent, unsure where the curses were aimed.

Leo was a private pooper. He hated the leash and preferred his bathroom needs tended alone. Invariably, he wandered away to the empty wooded lot next door like the proverbial bear in the woods, always to return at the back door. One day, after I got home from work and Leo on his solitary mission, a neighbor whose home was right next to the empty lot, knocked on my door. He was very angry as he told me that Leo had been using his yard as a dumping ground. As I walked with him, pooper scooper in hand, I listened to his righteous rage, relaying that he and his wife had a two-year old daughter who had encountered Leo's leavings, creating a situation where the toddler was waylaid from playing in her own yard. No argument emanating from me, I was mortified and ashamed to be responsible for a situation so unacceptable and unpleasant. I penitently cleaned up the yard and apologized, promising it would never happen again. As the neighbor's anger dissipated and he became apologetic for his angry expose, I felt gut-wrenching guilt for the problem I had created. I had a cedar, privacy fence installed to contain my wanderer and maintain his preference for privacy. The neighbor became a friend of mine and grew to love Leo. Personally, I've never forgiven myself.

Lovers, not fighters

Not a bone of contention

Protective, but without malice was Leo's modus operandi. Big, but gentle giants, Golden Retrievers have the well earned reputation as "pleasers". With the exception of being difficult to contain, even that, in the Golden's heart, is their attempt to spread the joy of just being, they are devoid of any degree of negativity.

I left the house to visit me mum. I no sooner arrived at her home after the 45-minute drive to get a call from Paul, my ex, stating "come home", there had been a fire at our home in Hillsboro. Shocked, I asked him if the fire department had arrived. He said he did not need to call them. I had cleaned the ashes from the fireplace that morning before leaving and placed them outside in the coal bucket I used for that task. Paul had dumped the ashes in a plastic bag, for reasons unknown and left it laying, filled with still warm ashes on the cedar deck. The fire had erupted into a blazing display when Leo exhibited panic, barking, running back and forth to give notice to the dimwit asleep on the couch. Finally, he awoke from his drunken slumber in the early afternoon, saw Leo's frantic behavior and heard the roaring flames. From my mother's home, I asked that he please call the fire department to make sure nothing remained smoldering. The fire had damaged the deck, the adjoining cedar facade and taken out some of the nearby electric. Were it not for Leo, the loss would have been incalculable. He proved his worth as an invaluable babysitter.

The ultimate pleaser

You know who you are

The Scotsman cometh

I tried to warn Leo, but he just looked at me with his big, dark, loving eyes, trusting me to take care of things. Leo was 8-years old when MacGregor arrived. Leo tried to get along, but the brain twists of a Scottish Terrier are more tightly wound, and Mac took the title "alpha dog". Leo acquiesced without a fight, as was his nature. MacGregor, genetically, is possesive  and unwilling to share.  More than once, if he was on my lap and Leo ambled over to sit by me, Mac would go into attack mode, latching on to Leo, teeth clamped tight.  Leo learned to avoid meeting eyes with the Scotsman. If he saw MacGregor on my lap, he veered away, avoiding confrontation.

Leo was too good, and even had he not captured that award, he did not deserve the death sentence he was handed. It should have been mine.

The End

This, dear readers, is my confession, for which there is no absolution. I am the loser. None of my words are intended for sympathy, but only truth.

I loved Leo, heart and soul., but it was not enough. He was too well fed, loved without restraint, but not with the responsibility necessary for those without a voice, a living being created by God. Leo had not been neutered as Mac has not. I take issue with the surgery for risks inherent with any surgery and the mutilation entailed for the possibility it can prevent a disease that may never occur. As I hoped, an injection will be available soon for this process, eliminating the need for general anesthesia and surgery. At a routine visit, I told the vet Leo was having difficulty in his daily bowel habits. Upon physical examination, they found his prostate enlarged. Neutering could no longer be ignored. I was told it was the only option to diminish his testosterone levels, possibly responsible for his enlarged prostate, in turn, causing pressure on his bowel. Cancer, although a possibility, was not mentioned. So, at 12 years old, Leo endured the trauma of the surgery I wanted to spare him. He was never the same. He sat down very cautiously and still had intermittent bowel issues. Then, ominously, Leo began coughing until he gagged. I was at work when my daughter, Megan, took Leo back to the vet. She was crying, making it difficult to understand the words I did not want to hear, when she called to inform me the vet diagnosed either a lung infection, which is usually fatal or lung cancer. My heart dropped as I realized the implications of the addiction both Paul and I had exposed Leo to, an innocent with no choice in the matter.

I contacted an out-of-state veterinary oncologist with a topnotch reputation via email. He faxed information about treatment options and the medications that can prolong and enhance quality of life. Leo was on many medications including morphine, which decreases pain and coughing. My kind, retired neighbor came over daily to give Leo his afternoon doses and walked with him outside. He called me each afternoon at my workplace after his visit to report on Leo. The vet told me I would know when euthanasia was appropriate. I did. Within two months, Leo sounded like a freight train. I knew time was closing in when his breathing became too labored to allow sleep. I was up with him his final nights, much of the time in the freezing cold as it eased his breathing. I made arrangements with my daughter and her friend to transport Leo for his final vet visit. Leo would not be able to lay down in my Miata due to his size, so I would follow Leo, more comfortable in Megan's vehicle in our funeral procession. My ex-husband's brand new truck was deemed off-limits, denied by him for Leo's last ride. Paul, instead, left for breakfast with his daughter, not even saying good-bye to the most beautiful creature in the room.

I spent Leo's final Friday night in the cold, on the deck, right next to him. He still looked at me with trust in his eyes I no longer deserved.

It is miraculous how animals sense illness and approaching death. A little chipmunk scampered down the tree, stopped and studied us, out in the cold, snow just beginning to fall. Next, a resident raccoon and opossum stopped by. Finally, in the common ground directly across the street, a family of four deer stood, frozen like statues, gazing directly at us. They stood for fifteen minutes until an approaching car's headlights sent them into the nearby woods. They had all honored Leo and said their good-byes.

Leo walked his final walk into the vet's office on his own with us by his side on that sad, Saturday morning. The vet reassured me that it was not too soon for the finality of this decision; Leo would have not survived another night. His big, beautiful heart would have given out. Unable to allow him to face his mortality alone, we stayed, honored to be in the presence of our loyal, lion-hearted companion as he left this earth. It was quick. He was silent...doll-eyed...absent...gone.

Whether his disease originated from his prostate and spread to his lungs or if it began and ended with his lungs, I will never know. In the final analysis, Leo trusted me. Though I loved him, the choices I made on his behalf ended a beautiful life in a very bad way. Circumstances matter. Leo would forgive me, for my ignorance, not intentional, but I cannot.

If, as I hope, he can see me, he knows that I love him, and grieve him still...forever...I miss you my buddy, and although words cannot undo wrong, still, I am sorry.

Please don't take anymore of my friends


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    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      You are a breathe of fresh air, Sphinxs, and I love your sincerity and smarts. Thank you so much and I am glad our paths have crossed. I look forward to reading all of your work.

    • Sphinxs Sanctum profile image

      Sphinxs Sanctum 4 years ago from Southern United States

      I agree fully with everything you have said here & it is certainly a shame. I personally have met with the same problems in trying to navigate my own healthcare & have damn near pulled my hair out over it! The cost (in all ways) of all healthcare, both human & animal is sickening at best but working on the inside, I have seen why. The cost for my hospital to stock certain medications, preventatives or even anesthetics has caused my very well-known, mature, hospital to suffer "hard-times" & held us back in what we're able to offer our clients in the way of availability & also cost effective treatment. The manufacturers & suppliers have Greed beyond all others!

      And yes, I too am disgusted with the breeders of this world. Back in my Grandma's day, when she was breeding her poodles, she did so as way to improve the breed & the problem with overpopulation & unnecessary "termination" (murder) of healthy animals due to overpopulation was not of the insurmountable nature that it is today.

      You are Not expecting too much of the medical care you're requesting & All of us should expect so much! You are doing Exactly what we all need to do in taking charge of our healthcare & that of our beloved animals' by being armed with knowledge before entering a providers practice. I wish All of my clients were as interested & involved in their fur-kids care as you are.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Please don't apologize for the sincerity you have honored my space with, Sphinx. My experiences were becoming so commonplace that I was almost ready to concede that is was me in expecting too much. I do realize the reality of burnout in the face of so much heartbreak in the field of vet medicine. We are all only human, after all. I understand that completely and know that, at some point, we all build our own form of insulation so that we may carry on. I see it in human medicine, too. What has skaken me to the core is the ineptness experienced at the hands of the professionals we must trust for our own health and those we love. Clients meet their patient obligations by paying for a physicians services before leaving the office. I don't believe many doctors meet their obligation to, at minimum, "First do no harm." Time, distance and expense can leave the public in a terrible conundrum when they or a family member become ill. Too many times I have had to present my case for trying a medication or saying no to a medication that can do more harm than good. I want, at the very least, for the health provider I pay, to know more than I. I want to know, before I've given a prescribed medication or consented to a procedure, the possible serious side effects. I now worry and have learned to ask a lot of questions before hand, as I've had too many pets suffer lifelong deafness or life changing side effects from procedures or medications because I trusted the provider. The medical profession carries huge responsibility, but it is a chosen profession. Often, it is too late when the client discovers that the doctor's pursuit was wealth over dedication to the best solutions for the health of their patients. I would expect these experiences to happen once in awhile, but unfortunately, I've found it a rarity to find the combo of medical expertise, dedication and caring in the medical profession today. Medical insurance has taken the reins and calls the shots according to cost for human patients. Now, with the cost of vet care, pet insurance is becoming necessary, and I would imagine will influence the determination and direction for care, too. I am hoping that with a good and healthy diet, and basic good care, after Mackie gets beyond the puppy mill neglect she was subjected to for 4-years, I will not have to pitch a tent outside the vet's office, as I did with Mac. (Don't get me started on the irresponsibility of the purebred breeders industry).

      Thank you so much for giving me direction and hope, Sphinx. I know that in meeting you, there are professionals that are dedicated to what should be the bottom line, the health of our best friends.

    • Sphinxs Sanctum profile image

      Sphinxs Sanctum 4 years ago from Southern United States

      Dear Amy,

      (I apologize up front for the length of this reply but I couldn’t stop myself. )

      How sad & what a painful time you’ve had of things especially now that you had to deal with the loss of your Scottie as well, MacGregor. I might catch some flak for this next statement but it is just how I feel. Sometimes losing an animal family member can be harder than losing a human family member. I say this only because humans lie to us, hurt, deceive & the longer we know most of them, the more damage they’ve done that we might have forgiven but not forgotten. We also tend not to share everything of ourselves with other humans, family or not—so this means that the animals in our lives know us better than anyone! They are there for us no matter what & even in times of their sickness, they still will try to comfort us! I’m deeply sorry for all the heartache you’ve experienced from the loss of both your furred children.

      I am not a veterinarian, although I probably should have been. I just didn’t get the chance in life to go to school as long as I needed. I’ve worked as an animal, medical technician & as a client services rep for an animal hospital since 2006. I have had to handle a great many cases of grave illness and euthanasia during these years & each time it is soul shaking to see the complete pain & sadness. I’ve worked with animals my entire life & have always known that’s my calling. My grandmother & I used to raised orphaned/ injured wildlife for as far back as I can remember & she bred poodles for hobby from before I was born & many years after. I have quite the little zoo started in my home of the unwanted or previously abused & they are my world. So, I really DO understand what you’ve gone through.

      I hate to hear that you’ve met with such greed in your efforts to find care for your little ones. The main reason I continue working where I do is because we are the only full service animal hospital that I’ve ever known, that is based around a “YES” attitude. If we can’t get a person signed-up to an interest free credit card, then we’ll encourage them to see if they have anything of value for trade. If they don’t have that, then we ask them to contact certain charities for animal health, ask friends & family for a loan or search anywhere for at least half of the estimated cost. If all of that fails & we don’t have a history with the client, then we sit down, come up with an agreeable payment plan & have them sign it. For clients we do have a history with, we’re willing to work with them no matter what! The owner of the hospital & a veterinarian I respect, greatly, had us All sign-off on an agreement that said we are the ‘YES Clinic.’ And should he ever find that one of us uses the words, ‘No’ or ‘Sorry but we Can’t’, that would be grounds for our termination!

      I too have seen many a vet who has forgotten compassion, have become numb over their years or simply got into the biz to begin with for the sole purpose of greed & it disgusts me each time. I actually hear some veterinarians make jokes about euthanasia but I’ve been told they act like this in order to stay sane from the overwhelming amount of sadness they encounter, daily. But, I still think it’s terrible! Here is my advice to Everyone seeking a veterinarian office. First off, look at what vet school the Doctor graduated from & then look-up the reputation that school has for producing top veterinarians. Second, don’t go to one that has been practicing for less than 10 years! Third, try to find a vet that is very familiar with the specific breed type you are taking to them, even if you have a mixed-breed, dominated by more of the DNA from one breed over another. There are soo many different breeds out there that a vet can’t possibly know all of their characteristics & genetic flaws, inside & out. Plus, some breeds are more plentiful in certain parts of the country than others giving some veterinarians little experience with certain breeds. Human doctors have a bit easier time of things only having to know the human body, where veterinarians have to learn many different species & different breeds of domestics that all can carry different illness in their genes. Fourth, find a hospital that has a front office staff that seems as caring as the doctor you choose. In most hospitals, the front office & the back of the hospital can almost operate on two entirely different levels & therefore it’s necessary that they offer the client the same type of treatment. Fifth, look into the various animal medical insurances. Most animals will not need insurance until they have reached “Senior” stage & the cost of the insurance will be higher than simply paying for their annual exams & vaccines but once they’ve reached their senior years, which is around age 6 or 7 for most dogs, then insurance can be very helpful. Senior blood panels are especially important to grade overall health or give early indicators for something going wrong. Lastly, once you’ve found a vet office that you are comfortable with, stay there! The one you stick with is far more likely to work with you during times of catastrophe & also will have a much better understanding of the way your animal’s body works as they’ve watched them grow, develop & change with age. Yes, I should probably create a hub about this & again, I’m sorry for the length but your story & my connection to the veterinary world compelled me to give this detailed reply.

      So wonderful to meet you & I wish you the very best with your newest baby,

      Sphinx’s Sanctum :)

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Thank you, Sphinxs, for totally kind statement of pure compassion. It restores my faith, as it was completely shaken, when I lost my other beloved canine companion, Scottish Terrier, MacGregor, this past July 2012. I trust there are many fine individuals involved in animal care, but until you arrived here, I hadn't met any. Although I realize that medicine is a business, my experience esp after my divorce and then a layoff, was a shocking lack of compassion, misdiagnosis, with the emphasis on patient payment of exorbitant costs. When MacGregor got an ear infection, the vet in St. Louis city could not see down into his ear canal as it was swollen and prescribed an ear ointment that was oto-toxic. Mac lost his hearing. When I took Mac back, I begged the vet for an oral antibiotic as Mac showed classic signs of a middle ear infection. The vet finally relented. Mac got 100% of his hearing back within a week. When I had Mac in for a bladder infection with a different vet at the same clinic, he was diagnosed with a possible bladder infection. I asked the vet if it could be bladder cancer as a huge percentage of Scotties die of the disease. I was told to not assume the worse. After several months of antibiotics that did not take care of the infection, they took an x-ray to find bladder cancer. I do not blame them for Mac's death, as a quicker diagnosis would not have saved him. However, I have trouble trusting the cavalier attitude I find among the vets I've encountered. Every office I have entered has a sign that emphasizes payment due at the time of the visit and a charge for appts not cancelled 24 hours in advance. Yet, when I drove to one office to let them know I had to cancel an appt because I'd taken Mac to another vet (their office was closed for vacation when I needed to get him in), I was told that I'd missed the 24 hour advance notice by a couple of hours and the charge was $60. I left crying as I was laid off, which I'd told the office. I didn't pay the unfair fee, and never went back.

      I love my critter companions. They are without malice and show me qualities of character far more developed than many human beings. I naively thought that those professionals who have chosen to "first do no harm" were mostly like you, Sphinxs. Unfortunately, I've had the misfortune to see many who are primarily motivated by greed. I wish my newly adopted Scottie rescue and I were in your vicinity. I keep hoping to find a vet with your degree of compassion, medical expertise and love for all animals. Thank you, Sphinxs. You give me hope.

    • Sphinxs Sanctum profile image

      Sphinxs Sanctum 4 years ago from Southern United States

      Your story of Love for Leo was very well expressed. I'm sure you were a wonderful parent to this beautiful soul and no one can be expected to deliver complete perfection in our choices as we are imperfect as humans. If ANY large breed dog, makes it to the age that Leo did, then you've don't something Very right. I've worked for an animal hospital for many years and see stories not unlike yours, week after week. Always heartbreaking but uplifting at the same time that the human heart has the ability to love a dog, a four-legger, so utterly; wholly. And even more magical, that they can Love us the same. My world revolves around my animal family and I'd not know how to live life without the joy they bring to me. I'm glad you've know this great joy too. Leo will walk by your side, in spirit, until the end of your days. Know this to be true.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Lucky Cats, I thank you for your warm regards. I know that Leo knew how much I loved him and always will. It means everything, especially from someone who understands deep abiding love involving critters. We are their voice and I tried to do right by Leo, but I let him down. I am a realist and I know we all must die, but the knowledge that I made decisions that may have contributed is unbearable. Thank you for your kind comments.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 7 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Ohhhhh, Amy! This one brought tears to my eyes. I totally understand the love of our animal companions. It is so difficult when we know they are hurting...and so so hard to make that final decision. Like "The Dog's Prayer," you did the right, loving thing for your dear friend. That you can feel so deeply for sentient creatures other than our own kind speaks volumns! My warmest regards!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Dear drbj, thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Isn't Epigramman just amazing? Charismatic, clever, imaginative. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your "ditto" and the pleasure of your amazing writing skills. Hubpages has hooked me up with the most amazingly talented and interesting people like you. Thank you, drbj.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      A brilliant tribute, Amy, and I can't think of words to better express your skill at writing than the top ten words and phrases used by Epigramman above. Ditto!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Thank you for your vote of confidence. My most loving relationships have always involved dogs. They are so pure. They either love you or they don't. You can't buy their affection. And if they love you, they will always be there, no matter what. I never found anything better.

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 7 years ago from New York

      I'm such a dog lover and I was so mesmerized by this hub. I love it and enjoyed it thoroughly. Voted up.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Thank you Epigramman, to the 10th power. I'm working up the guts to do a proper tribute to my dad. I worry sometimes, when my emotion is high, that I become more melodramatic than intended as I don't want theatrics to outrank truth. Thank you for your Top 10 tribute. I have an interview today and your comments will sail me through confidently. Till we meet again, Epi, as always, your comments make my day.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      ..well I wish I could break through this monitor screen and give you a great big hug on the other side for a story like that!!!!

      You're such a good writer that you could probably make a subject as banal as fixing a broken Singer sewing machine the most exciting story of all time!

      This particular hit home with me because my two best friends are Little Miss Tiffy and Mister Gabriel and I tell them everyday that I love them and I hug them too because they've always been there for me - through thick and through thin - it's called unconditional love and you probably know what I mean by that.

      I've seen my Mum and Dad both die in front of me on separate occasions (one from cancer and the other from old age) but the other hardest one to accept was one of my cats - Tinka who lived to the ripe old age of 18 - so I certainly have empathy for your story.

      Back to your technique as a writer: well what I will do is give you a famous epigramman top ten as a tribute - so here goes:

      Top ten words to describe Amy's writing style:

      10. fearless

      9. as vital as life itself

      8. brutally honest

      7. earthy and pure

      6. gripping

      5. excellent command of the english language

      4. assertive and confident

      3. brash and daring

      2. with plenty of nerve and verve

      1. the sheer bravado of it all!