The Death of a Dog

For those dog lovers out there, especially ones that have had multiple pups throughout their lifetimes, I’m sure you can relate: having to put a dog to sleep blows. It just sucks. No two ways about it. The joy these wonderful pets bring comes with a price. A price so steep that despite the love the furry critters provide, many canine owners elect not to own another, simply because of the pain that is sure to follow at the end of their short lives.

My whole life, I’ve owned dogs. In my childhood, I remember coming home one day and Wolf, our Pomeranian, was gone.

Interesting aside: I’m more a fan of larger dogs. A Pomeranian is not a breeds I would choose. My mom, who I’ve previously mentioned is a certified bitch, preferred littler pets. So that’s what we got. My mother was hateful even when she got what she wanted; when she didn’t, life could be hell for those around her.

To each their own regarding an individual’s fave domesticated animal. But for me, and I suspect most others, once the critter was part of the family, I loved it just the same, regardless of size/shape/inherent cuteness.

Wow, I made it through four whole paragraphs without interruptions. I truly thought Bitmoji decided not to be a tool today. Guess I was wrong.

Anyway, the point is…I loved Wolf, even with his small-dog yappiness.

Yep. That ‘toon pretty much sums it up. And thank you for the non-annoying illustration, Bitmoji (even though I don’t expect similar maturity from you in the future.)

Back to the story: I loved Wolfie. But then, one day, he was gone. Where to? My parents put him down, without any advance warning, and without any opportunity to say goodbye.

“Mom and Dad, I hated you for that. For not…“

— Me
Didn’t we agree that hate is too strong of a word, that it’s over-used and our society has become desensitized to its meaning? Another word choice, pretty please?

Will do, Bitmoji! And what’s with all the love between us? Normally, we find each other highly irritating. Interesting🧐

“Mom and Dad, I strongly disliked you for that. For not given me the closure. For stealing those last moments with Wolf.”

— Me
Suck it up, Markie!

How did I know the constructive comments from you wouldn’t last? Oh, I know: because being an asshole is in your DNA, Bitmoji.

Regardless of my Bitmoji’s mocking response, coming home to a house without Wolf was traumatic.

But not as traumatic as your wife’s childhood canine experience. Agreed?

You are correct, Bitmoji. My wife’s childhood memory involves coming home to a dead dog, suspended in the air by its leash. Tragically, the dog wrapped around the gate, hanging itself. So yes, my wife’s recollection of her dog’s demise is substantially worse than what I felt. Still, it doesn’t minimize the sense of loss I endured and the closure that was never granted.

And then, a similar situation kinda happened to me again, close to forty years later. This time, the opportunity to say goodbye to my four-legged friend was stolen by my ex-wife, and to a lesser extent, by my children.

Ok, perhaps it’s not entirely fair to blame a small bit of the situation on my children. “Blame” isn’t exactly fair, either. Well, maybe…

Yeah, maybe it’s best to hit pause on placing blame. Maybe I’ll just leave that characterization up to you, Dear Reader.

We’ll get off the fence, Bitmoji. You’re getting splinters in your bum.😘😘 Besides, you know the story already. Haven’t you had enough time to make up your mind?

Well if you can’t decide, Bitmoji, imagine how difficult it’s going to be for our Dear Readers. I’ll just lay my cards on the table and let the chips fall where they may.

Two idioms in one sentence?! Impressive, Markie!
Idiom # 1–Love, Bitmoji
Idiom # 2–Double Love, Bitmoji

Ill-timed sarcasm is not a character trait I’m particularly fond of, Bitmoji. In other words, screw you.🖕🖕🖕🖕

Getting to the backstory:

  • My ex and I married in 1992. Seems like a lifetime ago. And it was, really. Neither of us are the same person anymore. The world has changed, as have all its inhabitants.
  • We were way too young and immature to commit to one another for a lifetime.
  • Immediately, there were chinks in the armor of our union. The sources of the defects were varied. And on top of that, I was a mess of a man. Generally smiling on the outside, covering up a core of massive depression and insecurity.

And it’s under those conditions that we decided to buy our first dog, Amiga. We weren’t quite ready for kids. and looking back, the puppy filled a hole between us; we weren’t good enough for one another and the dog diverted our attention from our deficiencies. Although we both loved dogs, our motivation to get one wasn’t that. It was to fill what was missing in our relationship. I didn’t understand it at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, I know we weren’t happy with one another. Amiga helped ease that pain. And she did it well. Memories of her are causing me to smile right now, blogging about that lovely dog.

Amiga, circa 1993, Polaroid style, pre-iPhone quality.
And another Amiga pic, just because I loved that damn dog.

With all the love we shared, something was still amiss. So…we got another dog.

A pup, his head and paws foreshadowing what he’d grow into: A 150lb bear.

Yeah, we love dogs. They’ve brought so much joy to our lives. Without kids, we effectively treated them as such. When we did have our first child, our dogs weren’t replaced; our family just became larger, filled with more love. Nevertheless, the divide in our marriage remained. Our children and pets were enough to hold things together—for over twenty years, in fact—but ultimately, our relationship wasn’t meant to last.

Our first doggy to pass was actually Cecil, our Rottweiler. Even though we got him after our first dog, he had a shorter life span, typical of large breeds. He left us after ten years, barely able to walk. He couldn’t even get up to poop. Still lying there, he’d crap on the kitchen floor. It was then that I knew it was time.

No matter that he actually wasn’t that good of a dog, it was still profoundly sad. Watching his final breath depart, I cried like a baby. It was my first time as an adult, as the one responsible for taking care of the difficult details. And it was so very hard. A year later, I’d have to do the same with Amiga. Because I already went through the process with Cecil, it was somewhat easier, despite Amiga being the favorite dog of the family. It was still sad, obviously. But I was more prepared, more emotionally strong.

Why was Cecil “bad” and Amiga our favorite?

Cecil’s qualities:

  • He was acutely aware of his size: stubborn and defiant.
  • He’d eat everything in sight. Once, he consumed an entire birthday cake, leaving not a single crumb behind, leaving zero evidence that it ever existed. The cake was on the kitchen counter, but the bastard-of-a-dog was so large, standing on his hindquarters, he looked like a five-foot tall bear. Anything on the counter was fair game, in his eyes.
  • He checked the species box of being a dog, certainly. But beyond that, I can’t think of any other endearing characteristics.

Amiga’s qualities:

  • She was our first: a rescue, a mutt. She almost died soon after, suffering from distemper, a virus with a high mortality rate. We managed to nurse her back to health, but it was touch-and-go for a period. When that scary, awful, death-like cough finally left, we had a bond with her that was unlike any I’ve ever had with any dog, before or since.
  • I think Amiga felt that bond as well; she was supremely loyal and loving.
  • Amiga was just super fun to hang with, to play and wrestle with. She sounded like a Tasmanian Devil, but wouldn’t hurt a soul. (Unless someone messed with our family. She never bit anyone, but she’d let you know, flashing her teeth as a warning. She displayed that same protectiveness with Cecil, if he was in a playful mood. Despite Amiga being less than 50lbs and Cecil being 150lbs, Amiga was the dominant one. She’d get him on his back, teeth around his neck. Not chomping, but showing him that she was the boss.)

After both our dogs left us, we didn’t wait much longer to get another. It was only a few months after Amiga’s passing that we rescued Chance, in another attempt to fill the void in our marriage.

Chance was a darn good dog. Not Amiga-level, but no dog is, in my eyes. In my daughters’ eyes, however, Chance was an irreplaceable best friend.

Chance joined us when my youngest daughter was four. They grew up together and remained closer than anyone in the family. The year Chance died, she got a tattoo in his memory.

Chance was there for all the good times, but was also there when our marriage crumbled. The last five years of his life, my ex and I were separated, so I missed out on a lot of memories. I missed out a lot, really.

And then, I missed out on the opportunity to say goodbye to Chance. One last goodbye, never granted. My two youngest daughters texted me on the day of his death , and I thank them for that. Still, I’m disappointed those texts didn’t come a day sooner. I would’ve driven the two hours to see Chance just once more. To thank him for all the love he provided.

I feel guilty as I knew the time was approaching and I wish I would’ve offered to be there, to own the responsibility of taking Chance to the vet that final time. Really though, I doubt if my offer would’ve been accepted. More fallout from our failed marriage. My ex refused (and refuses) to communicate with me and my kids weren’t—and still aren’t—exactly happy with me, blaming me for the dissolution of our marriage, not without valid reasons.

The sadness I felt about losing Chance wasn’t solely due to his passing. It was also a function of what it symbolized, that the relationships with my daughters were so seriously damaged that they didn’t want me there. They wanted to grieve on their own, without their father interfering in the process. Typing that right now puts a lump in my throat.

The past is the past. Chance and I will never have that goodbye, we’ll never have those years where I effectively wasn’t part of his life. And I’ll never have the high graduation party that I wasn’t invited to attend, or missed birthdays, or the moments sitting on the sofa with my kids watching TV. Or the visits to college. Or the, or the, or the…

But I do have the now. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have the future. There’s always hope. Hope that another of life’s signature moments—or the ordinary ones—won’t elude me. Hope that I’ll reconcile with my kids and I can be the father to them that they deserve. Chance may be gone, but he can still teach valuable lessons. And I’m ready to learn, my puppy. I’m ready to learn.

One response to “The Death of a Dog”

  1. Awww!!! Gosh! 😭😭😭
    It took me over 30 years to agree to have a dog again… I know how much that affected you 💔❤️

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