Feelings Of Loss

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

We’ve always had dogs as a part of our family. My wife had a small house dog when we were first married, and over the years we’ve had several others come in an go out of our lives. Earlier this spring, we were compelled to send all of our Great Pyrenees dogs away to other homes (one of them had attacked a neighbor’s dog and almost ripped its ear off; the choices we had were to restrain our dogs or send them away, and anyone who has owned a Pyr will tell you that restraining them is almost impossible). That left us with our one house dog, a 9-year-old blue merle collie named Duke. We got him as a puppy the summer after we moved from Georgia to Texas, and unlike most collies he was not quite the brightest star in the sky. We knew he wasn’t the pick of the litter, but he was loved and accepted by all of us just the same.

Almost two weeks ago, Duke went to the vet for his monthly allergy shot (this dog has had a problem with allergies that’s been so bad he’d scratch and chew all the hair off his backside). He seemed okay after the shot, but during the following week he started having problems, first with eating and then with drinking water. He would eat his food as always, but sometimes it didn’t stay down for very long and next thing we knew we were cleaning up a mess somewhere in the house (usually on one of our carpets). The vet offered the suggestion that he was dealing with a stomach bug of some type, and to give him Kaopectate to settle his stomach and help him keep his food down. That didn’t work, and the random messes continued. Then this past Monday we noticed he wasn’t drinking as much water as usual (normally he’d go through as much as a half gallon at a time). By Tuesday morning he had stopped drinking and eating altogether, and also didn’t want to get up and walk around, even to go outside (which he has always loved to do).

My wife took Duke back to the vet that morning and they did some blood work. The news wasn’t good – his kidneys were failing. They pushed IV fluids into him for most of the day to see if it would help, but he didn’t seem to be improving. They kept him overnight and told us to check back in the morning. After a fitful night for us, we called the next morning and he was still no better. A couple of hours later, we got the news we had been dreading – Duke had died.

My wife was in tears, and I was simply stunned. He had gone downhill so quickly…just 11 days after a routine visit and all was well, and now he was dead. The vet asked us what we wanted to do with the body. I’m usually able to step in and deal with situations like this, having had other animals that have died on our ranch over the years, but this is one time I simply couldn’t do it…I couldn’t muster the courage within myself to go there and bring his cold and lifeless body back to bury him. We took the vet’s suggestion and had them cremate him. At least that way, we could remember him as he was and not as he had become.

My thoughts turned to our children; they had literally grown up together with Duke. I sent a text message to our daughter in San Antonio to break the news to her, and we told the boys when they got home from school. We were all hurting from the loss, but I surmised that it would hit the two older children harder because they had been able to play and spend more time with him than their younger brother had (Duke also liked to sleep in our daughter’s bedroom at night, and we liked to say that he was “her” dog). My wife talked about it over the phone with our daughter, the first time either of us had heard from her in several weeks; meanwhile, our older son asked about the body, and I explained what the vet was doing with it. I think he was somewhat disappointed that we weren’t going to bury him ourselves, and equally bummed out because Duke was “the last dog”.

As for our youngest son, he was generally quiet about the whole situation; much like me at that age, he looks at the world with an analytical eye and tends to keep his emotions to himself. His heart seems to be more attuned to the great cycle of life as well, possibly from having tried to maintain an aquarium in his room for several years and experiencing a sometimes regular loss of fish in the process.

It’s been a couple of days since this tragic event, and the pain is still very fresh on our minds. My wife and I are trying to look ahead through the pain and decide whether or not to get another dog. If we do, it would most likely be an adult so it can get out and play with the boys right away, rather than a puppy they would have to wait on to grow up (after all, our older son will be with us for only two more years before he heads off to college). I think we will, but it’s still too early to make that sort of decision. We need some time to mourn, and to heal a little, before we take that next step. Hopefully the long Memorial Day weekend ahead will give that process a chance to start rolling.

Needless to say, this isn’t the best way to end a week. Rest in peace, Duke.

Tags: , , ,

This entry was posted on Friday, May 28th, 2010 at 11:57 am and is filed under Today's Reality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)