The Sad Reality of Owning Pets – My Heart is Breaking
This post is a tribute to many of the dogs I (and my family) have loved:
When I was almost too young to remember, we had Mini. She was a tiny chihuahua. I don’t remember too much about her except she broke her leg and somehow I am sure I was involved in it. I remember her having a cast – then being gone…Never had the guts to ask what happened to her. Maybe I knew back then but definitely not now.
I am not sure if these were our dogs or my grandmother’s dogs but there was Butterball and Midnight. If I remember correctly Butterball was a yellow-ish white Lab and Midnight was a black Shepherd. I don’t remember much about them either. I actually think these may have been my grandmother’s dogs.
A while later we got a poodle named Bingo. I was still quite young but I do remember this was not a dog we could get close to. She was aggressive and a biter. Again – I don’t remember much about her except we couldn’t have kept her very long otherwise I would have had more memories. I am pretty sure she bit someone and my parents had to get rid of her. I also have no idea what “get rid of her” means. Sorry – but I was young.
THEN we got a Belgian Shepherd – Nanook. Now this dog I loved and remembered. By the time we got her we were living in the boondocks. She had lots of room to run and for a very long time did not even need to be on a leash or in a kennel. She would constantly bring us “presents” of wild animals such as woodchucks, squirrels etc… Even more importantly, if we ever lost a ball during the day (and I was always losing my baseballs in the woods) – they would mysteriously appear on our doorstep by the next morning. It was to the point that we would no longer even looked for the balls – we would just assume we would have them back in the morning. We even started driving golf balls from our yard into the vast woods – they were always returned to us, give or take a few. Eventually we had to tie her up though when she was outside and she was no longer nearly as happy. Someone started shooting dogs in the area saying they were bothering their livestock. Who knows – maybe she was one of them. We couldn’t risk it – we had to tie her. She lived to a ripe old age.
When my parents got divorced my mother bought me a Miniature Schnauzer – Starbuck. Starbuck was totally devoted to me. When we would go to the summer cottage on the lake, Starbuck would go cottage to cottage looking for me. All the neighbors knew the routine and sent him to the next house down the line. I still had him when I met my husband. Talk about seeing if my husband was worthy – he had to seriously earn Starbuck’s approval. He wasn’t going to let just anyone near me and he proved that quite often. He also lived to a ripe old age.
All of those animals were my pre-married life animals. The rest we bought or acquired together as a married couple.
Taylor and Garth – Dalmatians. Taylor was female and absolutely gorgeous. No Dalmatian was more beautiful than her. But oh she was trouble! She would eat holes right through our drywall; she was always breaking something; she ate my husband’s wallets more times than I could count – including all his money, drivers license credit cards and more; she was a runner. Never totally taking off – just always remaining just beyond our reach for hours on end. We had Taylor when my stepson was a baby and had been diagnosed with diabetes. She always sensed when he was going low and we quickly learned how to recognize her alerting us. Garth was hilarious. He had a severe case of epilepsy. We never thought he would live to see four years old. But he lived longer than any dog we ever had! The epilepsy caused some major brain damage so he always acted like an 8 week old puppy (potty trained) even when he was 16! Some people would not like that, but let me tell you – he was always so overwhelmingly happy and cuddly!
Dusty – Weimaraner. Dusty was middle aged when our youngest child was born. Her birth caused him to immediately grow up! He was a wildman before her. Then she came and she was his baby. We would wake up in the morning and he had gotten into her crib – he would sit there and watch her, never taking his eyes off her. If she made a peep, he would alert us. We would take him out of the crib and he would climb back in. He would never even make contact with her. I always felt safe with no worries about SIDS. I had no doubt if even one little thing was out of sync – he would alert us right away. Every time she would cry he would panic and grab us to come help her. He lived to ten years old. Actually every weimeraner we owned (4) died at ten years old.
Captain and Cricket – Weimaraners. After Taylor passed away my husband really wanted another female dog. I saw an ad for a female weimaraner that someone needed to place because they were moving. I figured I would check it out and surprise him. Anthony and I went to look at Cricket – but when we got there they had Captain and Cricket! How could I split them up? I came home with two dogs… At that time those two put us at one dalmatian, and four weimaraners… Cricket was so extremely gentle and always stayed in the background. Not like a shy dog – more like she was regal and wasn’t going to participate in some of the juvenile activities the other dogs did. They were both 5 when we got them, Dusty was already 5 and Smokey was 3. Garth was 11 and Taylor passed away shortly after. Captain was another stunningly beautiful dog. Did you ever see NeverEnding Story? Falcor? I always called Captain my Falcor. He had a regal squared off weimeraner head. So if I wasn’t calling him Falcor, I would call him Captain Big Head. Loved HIM! Garth, Dusty, Captain and Cricket all died of natural causes within a 6 month period. All three weimeraners were 10 and Garth was about 16.
Smokey – Weimeraner. When they all passed Smokey was our last weimeraner. While all the other dogs were around Smokey had always been a huge handful. He was sleek and thin and could scale even the highest walls and fences. Every single day of his life I was trying new ways to keep him from getting out of the yard (which is 100% fenced in). It was a big game for him. When the others were all gone he became my constant companion. Wherever I was – he was. If I was home sick – he never left my side. I miss them all but since he was the last one we lost, I miss him the most. His pain is the freshest – even three years later. He was the most gentle (besides Cricket) of all the others. He would never dream of snatching food from you. He also was not a “kisser”. He was “above” that nonsense. But like all the other weimaraners – he passed away at the age of 10. That was the magic age for all of them. This is the loss my youngest daughter remembers the most. She still writes letters to God weekly to make sure he is taking proper care of Smokey and that he has enough treats and toys.
Which brings us to today. We have our four year old English Mastiff (Chewbacca Bayley) and our four year old Newfoundland (Xena Lee). You see photos of them all the time and hear about them all the time.
Xena is a crazy lady. She wants so desperately to please but is definitely ADHD. We can only keep her attention for a few seconds. She uses her paws like they are hands – and can open doors, cabinets, kennel latches and more. Drives us crazy. Probably the second greatest pet challenge to Smokey.
The purpose of this post though is Chewbacca. I can’t imagine living without an English Mastiff – there is just so much love and loyalty in the breed. She is gentle as can be – truly living up to the name Gentle Giant. The problem though is she has never been quite healthy. She has had two knee surgeries, should have a hip replacement but we cannot afford it. Three weeks ago she started getting sick.
She periodically gets sick and we follow a routine to make her feel better. This time we are not succeeding. She just spend a few days at the vet and is clearly very very ill. Although no lumps were found, all test results lead the vet to believe she has lymphatic cancer. We can do tests – and may – to see if that is in fact what it is. But at this point, all we can really do is treat the symptoms and make her comfortable. We brought her home last night and she is feeling slightly better but still not eating much. She is getting quite skinny. The kids don’t know and we are hoping we can help her bounce back some like she has in the past. Otherwise at the ripe old age of 4 we need to make some serious quality of life decisions. Last night she mustered up enough energy to roll over and give me one of her classic smiles. I am nowhere near ready to let that go.
Yup, my heart is once again broken…