- Death & Loss of Life
Farewell, my faithful companion: January 16th, 2013
They say that your dog chooses you, not the other way around. This was absolutely the case with Baby. When I walked into the Oregon Humane Society in May of 2000, I had just lost my beloved Sheltie, Cocoa a few weeks prior and I knew I needed a new companion.
But I didn’t know what I wanted.
So, when I walked into the dog viewing area, I saw this stocky, black little chow mix. She was looking up at me with these sweet brown eyes and smiling. All the other dogs were barking and raising a ruckus, she was just quietly staring. She wanted to go home with me. She told me. I had no choice.
Baby was only a year old but had already had four owners. Chows are a notoriously stubborn breed. They are hard to train and they will only form a bond with you if they want too. Baby wanted to form a bond with me, but she wasn’t easy. I loved her, of course, but she was a hard dog to own. I always described her as a little toughie, mean, with a touch of sweetness. She wasn’t mean, really, just aloof and stubborn. If she didn’t want to do something, she wasn’t going to do it.
But, chows are also intensely loyal. She would never leave my side. When I’d go out of town, she’d sleep facing my room. When I was home, she always needed to know where I was. Chows want to love you, but they’ll keep a distance. They’re perfectly content sleeping near you, not with you.
She moved with me to Las Vegas. She endured hot summers and freezing winters. She got in a fight with our other dog and bit and broke my hand when I tried to break it up. It wasn’t my favorite. But it was my fault, getting in the way like that. She was just defending what was hers which, in this case, was a slice of pizza I had dropped. She always loved her food and I encouraged her bad eating habits.
She hated the snow, and would often growl at it as it fell from the sky. She didn’t care much for water and her bath times were always pathetic affairs. She loved salsa and she liked being in charge. She loved having her bum scratched and rolling on her back. Peeing was also one of her favorite things and she would often pee to express her displeasure or annoyance. She was potty trained, but we made her wear diapers in the house to take away this weapon.
My wife and I are also not convinced she was a dog. She seemed more bear like and we often referred to her as a little bear. When she was younger, she would hide in the backyard, charge me, bite my ankles and take me down. I used to refer to her as “Wa-chu-tu” which you'll recall, if you saw Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, was the name of the tribe that Ace Ventura refers to as biters.
As she aged, her face grew white and her demeanor grew sweeter. Unable to whine for attention, she began huffing and puffing in disgust when she wanted something. We know it was her way of communicating because the timing was too perfect. We’d say something and she’d huff in response.
In August of 2011, she was in our wedding. I walked her down the aisle with my bride and our other dog, Bella. She wore a white wedding dress and was pulled by a red leash. It was an outdoor wedding and she spent much of the day huddled under a porch, like a bear in a den. She’d always needed a woman to love her and be her momma, and she finally had one in Andrea.
At this time, she had a tumor the size of a softball on her chest. The risk of putting a twelve year old dog under anesthesia is great, but, the next month, we had the tumor removed. She survived a three hour procedure and was put on pain medication that she would stay on for the rest of her life.
The pain medication was a double edged sword. It helped her function. By this point, arthritis was taking over her little body, but the medicine would also destroy her kidneys. It became an issue of quality of life versus quantity. The vet recommended that we put her on the medication but said it would likely severely impact her lifespan. We agreed and put her on the medication.
Eight months ago, July 2012, our vet told us that Baby was in kidney failure and was given six months to a year to live. We were told what symptoms to look for when the time came and to begin preparing for her passing. We began to sing “You are my sunshine” to her every night before bed. She would lay on her bed and smile. Sometimes she’d lick our hands and arms. She’d sleep and wake up in a panic around seven needing to go out. With her kidney failure, she couldn’t control her bladder anymore.
For months and months she was fine. Christmas of 2012, she travelled with us to Bellingham to visit the in-laws and spent most of her time in the kitchen, hoping to catch droppings from grammas cooking. Tuesday night, the night before her passing, as I ate pizza she had her face in my lap with wild eyes, trying to get a piece.
That night, she began throwing up. This was a sign to look out for. She threw up her breakfast. She began to wander around confused, walking into walls and corners. Her eyes looked blank and lifeless. There was no smile. Her tail hung between her legs. She threw up her dinner. My wife and I began talking about the inevitable. The only time Baby smiled the whole day was when we said we’d take her in and have her put down. As soon as we said this, her face stretched into a grotesque grin, which was both ugly and sweet. It stayed like this for about a minute, and her breathing began to labor. She was ready. She told us.
She began to refuse food. She drank water and threw that up. Her eyes grew blanker. She was already gone.
I was ready.
She had suffered enough. At 1:30 am. As we were leaving, Baby stopped and stared at Bella, who was sitting on the couch. It is assumed in the wild that dogs communicate with each other telepathically. She was certainly communicating with Bella. We’d love to know what she said. After about thirty seconds, Bella sighed and slung her head down between her feet. I believe Baby was telling her goodbye.
We drove to the vet, and a catheter was inserted into Baby’s leg. In a final act of defiance, Baby attempted to bite the vet as she inserted the catheter. I opted to leave the room for the procedure. I didn’t want to remember her that way. I wanted to remember the previous thirteen years. My wife stayed and as I paced the waiting room, I heard her gently singing “You are my sunshine” as Baby passed from this world into the next. My wife said it was beautiful and peaceful and she held Baby’s lifeless body for a few minutes.
I was initially okay. I woke up this morning around nine am and didn’t see Baby. I crawled back into bed, my wife held me and the thoughts and memories began to come. Tears welled and crawled slowly down my face. These turned into a stifled sob and finally a torrent of grief. I sobbed for all the times I was impatient with her, for the fact that she was no longer there for me to hold and sing to, for all the memories we’d shared. As I sobbed, my wife held me close and Bella jumped on the bed and began to lick away my tears.
Baby may be gone, and I will always miss her, but I’m not alone. I am so loved. I hope Baby felt the same way.
Thanks for Reading
A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY)IS A POET, SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHY AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WAS RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND THROUGH YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.
HIS WORK IS ALSO FEATURED INBEST NEW FICTION (2014 EDITION), AND HAS APPEARED PREVIOUSLY INTHE RUSTY NAIL, EFICTION, THE CRISIS CHRONICLES, THE HELLROARING REVIEW, BURNINGWORD, SEE SPOT RUN AND THE BELLWETHER REVIEW. HE PREVIOUSLY SERVED AS MANAGING EDITOR OFEPOETRY MAGAZINEAND THE BRIDGEONLINE NEWSPAPER.
HE WORKS IN A MEAT AND SEAFOOD DEPARTMENT FOR A HEALTH FOOD GROCERY STORE. HE ALSO WORKS AS FREELANCE WRITER, EDITOR, AND GHOSTWRITER, AND IS WORKING TOWARDS HIS PH.D. HE LIVES IN A SUBURB OF PORTLAND, OREGON WITH HIS WIFE, ANDREA, THEIR LABRADOODLE, BELLA, AND A NAMED SHPOO, SAUVEE.
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