Goodbye, My Friend!
Saying goodbye to a beloved pet & family member is never easy.
Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: April 11, 2017
It's been awhile since I've written anything existential, as all the beautiful music scenes that are happening at the moment pretty much complete my near future agenda schedule …a nd I'm feeling pretty blessed at the moment, lucky, if you will…
So … vamanos with another tale from the 'hood … current time zone.
… But the story can fit any time zone of your life … watcha:
I hadn't had a dog for over 15 years since I moved to the San Fernando Valley in 2000. I moved into my current home 11 years ago, and a big fenced backyard, kids, & lots of grandkids just screams out for a family pet or two … so I knew changes were coming.
Prior to this, I had a very healthy & large apricot colored male Chow-Chow named "Muggs" for about 5 years. If you know your dogs, you know that Chow-Chows have a purple tongue and are very muscular, thick haired animals.
Muggs was a gorgeous hunk of dog, and I would take him to a groomer for a special haircut that made him look like a lion! He was VERY faithful, well-mannered, and protective, and me & him looked GOOD walking down the street together!
I would spend hours with him, training & walking him everyday, feeding him only the best quality high protein foods … and he grew into an 80 lb. miniature bull with shoulders like a buffalo! ... what a hunk!
Another thing about Chow-Chows unfortunately, is that as they mature, they attach themselves to just a small group of humans (like the family they live with) that they will interact with socially, but then, some become unfriendly and almost aggressive towards any strangers that enter their realm … they don't like newcomers.
So … with the coming of grandkids, and Muggs apparently not approving of the new little critters that cried, and pooped, and crawled around the carpet, and took all the attention away from him … he had to go, as his disapproving growling & barking at the grandkids seemed to signal an ever growing risk of possible attack ...
So it became … later, homie! Sorry! ... a painful but realistic no–brainer!
I dreaded taking Muggs to the local pound, as I felt that an adult dog with a chingon appearance and attitude like Mugg's would discourage anybody from feeling safe adopting him, and he would surely be put to sleep.
Fortunately, Muggs had grown accustomed & friendly to the groomer who made him look like a miniature lion, and she happily agreed to adopt him and take him in! ... our only agreement was that she never take him to the pound, and don't tie him up … she agreed! ... I said goodbye to my friend Muggs, and vowed not to ever get attached to a dog again! ... that REALLY bummed me out!
Fast forward to 2010…
After a devastating loss at a youth football game with one of my grandsons playing, who had his first day at quarterback, we took him out to lunch afterwards, and then suggested we go look at dogs at the local shelter as an alternative activity to get his mind off the game, and he agreed.
The week before, my wife and I were out shopping in L.A., and we ran across a guy with a tame, well-mannered, short but muscular Boxer dog. After petting the dog and talking briefly with the owner, my wife & I fell in love with the breed, especially after the owner told us, "Boxers are playful, friendly, and love kids"… my mind was changed, and we wanted one!
By a stroke of luck the next week, a family was turning in a 9 month old male Boxer puppy to the shelter that they couldn't keep anymore, just as we arrived.
He was a gorgeous copper-colored playful animal, and we knew we wanted him! ... we were there at the right place and right time, as full blooded Boxers are a very expensive animal if you go to a breeder.
We adopted him, took him home, and named him "Tyson" after Boxer legend Mike Tyson.
Tyson fit into our family like a glove from the first night!
True to form as his breed is described, he was just a bundle of energy and playfulness, who loved being around kids and being the center of attention. Luckily, the family that previously had him house-trained him, and he was raised sleeping indoors around children, so we never woke up to puddles or poop on the floor.
All was good for awhile, then, one our sons and his wife who had been staying with us got their own home, moved out, and took their 2 young sons with them.
Our 2 youngest sons were now in their last years of high school and had discovered girls and a social life, so they were rarely home after school.
My wife and I work full time jobs and are gone all day, leaving poor Tyson all by himself and probably wondering "Where did everybody go?"
If you know anything about Boxers, jumping a 6-foot fence in a single bound is not impossible for a healthy, well fed & full grown Boxer, and we were fortunate that neighbors called us a couple of times to come pick him up whenever Tyson jumped the fence and ended up in somebody's backyard playing with another dog or trying to play with little kids…even though his size and appearance sometimes scared them.
(Boxers look so mean & threatening …. but they are the epitome of a friendly clown dog if raised right … and Tyson was raised right!).
So … at the advice of our Vet and other Boxer owners, and after researching info on dogs and dog behavior, we decided to get Tyson a partner and playmate.
After an unsuccessful trial with an older adopted Boxer female from the famed Boxer Rescue-L.A. Shelter, the shelter offered us a "trade in" of a younger 9 month old female Boxer when we were forced to return the older female Boxer who had become aggressive towards Tyson, and they began to fight with each other after just a couple of weeks.
Enter "Sassy" … another 9-month old bundle of playful Boxer energy that a previous owner had to let go. She was brindle colored, and she and Tyson got along immediately…and it didn't hurt that Sassy had also been house trained, and she LOVED kids !
For the next 5 years, Tyson & Sassy were inseparable. Sleeping, eating, getting baths, going on long walks, and being around kids and playing together made them quite an enviable pair whenever anybody came over and saw them, or when I would take them both for a walk.
Sassy developed some unforgettable & memorable behaviors, like whining loudly (my wife would say "she's talking to you") and sitting right in front of me whenever she wanted to go outside to poop, or when it was time to eat, or when she wanted attention. It's almost as if SHE KNEW what time it was, and who to go to. She and Tyson made it a habit to follow me around the house everywhere I went.
She & Tyson would wake me up every morning by jumping on my bed, whining, and licking my face to wake me up at 5 AM to let her & Tyson outside so they could "do their business," then, she would join Tyson and jump on the bed and cuddle next to my wife once I got up in the morning for work, as if telling me "Uh, uh! You're NOT getting back into bed" as they took up my space.
Sassy LOVED to play with the kids and grandkids in the back yard, or chase them around the house when they visited, and she would become so hyper & happy when they arrived, and would whine for a few minutes whenever they left for home after a visit.
She and Tyson were always friendly and social whenever company came over, frequently having to be put outside as they would either lick you non stop, put toys in your lap to throw, or try to jump on the couch and sit on your lap.
Now … I don't know if it was the high-quality, non-grain, high protein food & daily exercise, or just my luck, but both Tyson & Sassy grew into excellent examples of the large-size, American Boxer breed (they come in 3 flavors: American, British, and German Sieger, and they come in 3 sizes: miniature, standard, and large), so when I'm talking about the antics of my 2 dogs, I want you to imagine Tyson as a 120-lb., tall male, and Sassy as a 95-lb., tall female Boxer after about 2 years together at my house.
… and despite being big muscular dogs, I always called them "Daddy's puppies" … and they were always gentle around the grandkids, tolerating being crawled on or having their ears pulled without ever barking or biting anybody, laying on the floor watching cartoons with them, and easily rolling on their backs for a belly rub.
Whether we were gone for a weekend road trip, a day at work, or just a 20-minute ride to the corner store, Sassy would greet us with a "happy dance" when we would return, barking and jumping around in circles like we had been gone for years!
She was always in a playful mood, and would bring toys to us to throw for her, then engage in playful tug of war when she brought it back. She loved to cuddle and be petted and hugged. She loved being the center of attention when the grandkids came over.
Despite her size, Sassy loved crawling up on the couch to put her head in mine or my wife's lap as we sat and watched TV. She became a beloved member of our family, just like Tyson, as only a good pet can become!
All was well & happy for a little over 5 years until about a year ago, when I noticed Sassy started limping and favoring one of her back legs. She would play with the kids in the back yard of course, but she would run on only one back leg, and she would lay down to rest frequently.
She began to slow down from her usual morning romps in the backyard, and our daily walks had to be curtailed because she would only make it a block or two before she had to lay down and rest.
After about a week, she began eating less and having little "accidents" where she would pee on the floor in the house. Despite her obvious discomfort, she would still try to crawl on the floor towards me to get petted, and would whine softly until I would massage her back leg and pick her up to lay on the couch with me or my wife.
The grateful look in her eyes was so evident, as she would shake her little tail stub and softly lick my hand as if to softly say, "Thank you."
The last 2 nights before we went to the Pet Emergency Room I would carry her and put her in her bed, and she would lick my hand and wiggle her little tail stub as if to thank me while whining softly.
I felt so sorry for her, and would cut up pieces of raw hot dogs and feed them to her by hand, while giving her crushed Tylenol for her pain.
Tyson would lay next to her and they would cuddle together in a surprising show of affection between two animals that was admirable and worth noting. It's as if Tyson knew she was suffering, and she was grateful at being comforted by him as he softly licked her ears …. it was truly a touching scene, nothing like I had ever seen before … and it honestly brought tears to my eyes.
The night before we went to the hospital, Sassy had stopped eating, drinking water, or walking … and it was breaking mine and my wife's heart as she lay on the floor softly whining, as if in pain.
I crunched up some pain pills I had and mixed them into small balls of raw hamburger meat she could easily swallow. She was apparently relieved enough after awhile and was able to walk outside to go pee out in the backyard one last time … again with that look of gratitude in her eyes that only she and I knew …
The next morning I took the day off from work and carried Sassy to my car, then into the pet emergency room in Sylmar. During the ride, Sassy whined softly as I petted her all the way there. I knew she was in pain. Her eye contact with me was almost human, as she seemed to know we were going for help.
Once we got to the pet hospital, the staff could see the concern in my eyes as I walked in carrying a large dog in my arms and asking for help.
The Doctor was very professional and quickly ordered a pet gurney so Sassy could lay down, and he began asking me all the questions that were necessary before ordering a sedative and lab tests, as well as X-Rays.
As Sassy was being wheeled away from me, I felt compelled to hug her and pet her, as she softly whined and licked my face and gave me that beautiful look of loyal gratitude from her eyes that had been part of my everyday life for over 5 years.
… she even tapped my face softly with one of her front paws if to tell me "It's alright…"
… little did I know that would be the last time we would ever interact together…
About a half hour later, the Doctor very seriously invited me into his office and offered me a cup of coffee … it was then that I knew I would never see my beloved Sassy alive again.
He told me Sassy's left hip had deteriorated from a possible congenital defect at birth, and only her muscular strength had allowed her to function with the majority of support from her other leg, which was now weakened and damaged from years of overuse .
He also said that Sassy was suffering "the curse" of full blooded breed animals in that she was going into kidney failure, and had developed some tumors in her liver and bowels …. and he assured me that this was not preventable, as he had seen in many full blooded dogs before.
He talked about surgeries, and then about rehabilitative treatment, then medications, and lastly about costs, which would probably run a total of over $7,000 the first month, and roughly another $1000 a month thereafter.
My wife and I had talked about possible costs earlier that morning, and she calmly handed me her VISA and MASTERCARD as I left with Sassy and said "Do what has to be done, Babe"…. She loved Sassy as much as I did, and I was ready to spend to save my dog!
The Doctor was professional and courteous as he said "Look … I can take your money, do the surgeries, medicate her, and save your dog … but I would only be saving her for a couple of months. She wouldn't walk for a couple of weeks, would walk weakly after that, and probably be unable to ever run again. She would need pain medication for the rest of her life, which would most likely be hampered by her failing kidneys, and she would be miserable and quite possibly suffer and die in a lot of pain in the next 6 months. You can pay for that … but as a professional Veterinarian Animal Doctor, that to me is animal abuse no matter what you want to pay, and I wouldn't advise it…"
He then gave me a pamphlet entitled, "Crossing the Rainbow Bridge," which described humane animal euthanasia and left me alone in his office as he saw my eyes begin to water … he welcomed me to use his phone to call my wife before I made any decision … nice guy, huh?
Well … for being the tough old Vato Loco that I am, I got to admit that after my wife and I agreed on a decision to take Sassy out of her suffering, and the Doctor led me into the treatment room where Sassy lay unconscious and he showed me the X-Rays and lab-blood tests results, I broke down into tears.
… my Sassy was going to die today!
After 60 years of life, I had never had this type of experience of putting a beloved friend and family member to sleep forever! ... Would I get over this, or feel guilty forever? Was I doing the right thing? What would the grandkids think?
Before I left Sassy for the last time, I softly petted her head & body, and stroked her chin one last time, tearfully told her goodbye, and that the kids and I would miss her.
In her deep sedation, with her eyes closed, all she could do was lick her lips softly, and it was then and there I knew she that had heard me for the last time…
…and that she was also telling me goodbye …. something I will remember forever!
Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is heard daily on World Wide Internet Radio Station www.eastLArevue.com and a regular contributor to this fine Web magazine
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