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A Farewell to a loved and loyal dog

I’m in a somewhat bleak spot – I had to take my dog into the vet for that horrible last trip yesterday.  She was the second last of the animals we brought out here from South Africa (one cat survives). That was a ruinously expensive exercise – it cost us about 1/3 of what we got from selling our home, and left us in a new country with next to nothing.  We did it really tough at first as a result, down to rationing our slices of bread. The cats and dogs ate fish I minced in a hand mincer to get rid of the bones, and – for the dogs (and us) cheap rice. Pet-food was too expensive. But… loyalty calls for loyalty, and we got through it. Ten years later, we’re getting back to where we were, but I came through that at least knowing I had done my best for them.  I wish I was one 1/10 as good a man as my dogs assumed I was.

Anyway, my old dog was a few months short of twenty years old – and we’d had her since she was six weeks old. Wednesday – we adopted her and her brother Pugsley to save them from being killed right then – was half pedigree Lab and half traveling salesman. Sometimes the latter half ruled!  She could do innocence like nobody’s business when things mysteriously got eaten. Must have been Pugsley! (and he always looked guilty, even if it couldn’t be him!). But the lab part was there strong and true in her affection and loyalty.  She loved everyone, but she was dad’s dog.  Twenty years of lying at my feet, following me around, and sleeping at the foot of our bed.  I was quite badly hassled when we moved out here, to the temporary place while finished off our home: she was old, set in her ways and didn’t need disturbance. I would have stayed for her if we had a choice. We didn’t.

I was wrong.  It had been very hard to take her for her favorite pastime – a run (latterly a walk) on the beach, with a good swim. We were seven kilometers as the crow flew from the sea, and she found getting into the back seat had become just too hard.  It had been a few years since she’d been down.  I would walk her about 200 yards into the paddock every evening, and she found that quite enough. It was flat and easy going. She quite enjoyed it, but if it was raining or cold was happy to cut it short, or not go.

So… when we got here… where the beach is down a dune about 80 meters away, on a whim, when she’d managed to huff and puff along as far as the chickens – about a third of the way to the beach (thinking her time was probably measured in days, thanks to the stress of the move) I took her down to the sea. It was steep, and I had to help the old girl down – and later, back up – with difficulty, because she didn’t want to leave the beach. The smells, Dad, the smells!  Her tail was going like a propeller.  That was a very very happy dog.

She struggled home and fell asleep. I would not have been surprised if she never woke. She did though, stiff and sore. I really didn’t expect her to see the sea ever again, though. It was bittersweet.

The next day she huffed and puffed back up to the chickens… and walked and stood queuing at the path to the beach. And now she did it with much puffing, but no help.

We had nearly six glorious months (well, entirely from her point of view, and partly from mine.  I love the sea and enjoy the beach but in the rain or a gale it was not my idea of pleasant. But she loved it, and I took pleasure in that, and she wanted to go every single day (and twice if she could nag it.  I thought that might be too much so that only happened a couple of times. But she kept hoping)). So we did.  She got much fitter, and oddly less troubled by her joints. They were still old and shaky when she got up… but she would start her little sigh-whimper, ‘when are we going to walk?’ just after first light. The door was open, she knew the way… she could go any time, really. But she wanted dad with her, even if I wouldn’t let her roll in the absolute heavenly bouquet of a dead penguin, or eat a shark head that washed up.

The smells, from decaying seaweed to the salt on the wind, were life and breath to her.

Then, coming back from the beach on Saturday, she fell, and I had to help her up. She walked but was obviously sore. I gave her a painkiller when she got home and she went to sleep.

She never really got up properly again.

The joint was plainly agony and I spent the night sitting with her. We gave her what pain relief we could, and as much love as we could.

The morning brought her to the vet, and the grim verdict.

In a way… what hurt most, after that, was me. Which is… okay. Better me than her. The anesthetic-tranquilizer gave her relief. I was her beloved and right there with her, the pain stopped and she even tried to lick the tears from my face as I held her, loyal and loving to the last.

I laid her to rest in a grave at our forever-home (I plan to do my best never to move again) at the gate to the beach (it is open) between the young Chestnut trees I have planted there. She’ll have shade in summer and sun in winter.  I’ve put sea-weed on her grave, partly because she loved it and partly to remember.  And I believe her spirit will watch for me at the gate until we can walk that beach again.

It’s hell to write this. I’d rather not put it into words, scratch the memories open just yet… but that – the sadness as well as the joys… is an essential part of writing. It means a bit of salty water on my keyboard.

That’s what it takes.

And just as I will try to revisit that beach every day to remember, I write this to remember.

It’s the same beach I had the final scene of CHANGELING’S ISLAND set on.

And the vet in that, bless him, is based on the same good man I wrote about in that.

The book, by the way, has just come out in Audio. In a moment of excellent judgement they have Australian narrator, but without too strong an accent. The picture is a link, and yes, I do get a commission if you go via it.

70 Comments
  1. Dave, I wish every dog had a human who loved her as much as you loved Wednesday. I’m sitting here, tears running down my cheeks, knowing you gave her–and Pugsley and all your other animals–the best life possible. I know there is a huge hole in your heart today and my own heart aches for you. Here’s a hug to my brother.

    October 28, 2019
    • Thank you. It’s hard right now. My vet once said ‘If I’m reincarnated as a dog, I’d lik to be your dog.’ I took that to heart and tried to live up to it. They’d do so much more for me if the roles were reversed.

      October 28, 2019
  2. I am in tears. I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you gave Wednesday and Pugsley the best life possible. You were the best hoomin ever for a dog. There’s no higher honor.

    October 28, 2019
    • It’s always easy to love a dog. They love you right back, totally (that’s kind of why they feature so often in my books). And how the hell to you not try to give your best for that. I just wish I was 1/10 as good a human as my dogs think I am.

      October 28, 2019
  3. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    Here’s to you and Wednesday.

    October 28, 2019
    • She’ll have a milk. The one time she drank the beer I had put out for snail traps, she was most desreputable and had a hangover 🙂

      October 28, 2019
  4. *hugs* She was a Good Dog. A Very Good Dog. And she had the best human.

    October 28, 2019
    • Well, better than that excresence who burned his own dogs to death to fake a hate crime. I hope there is a special pace in hell for him. I’d give it to him on earth. But in a dog’s eyes you are always the best.

      October 28, 2019
  5. Zsuzsa #

    My screen is awfully blurry at the moment. I’m wondering if there’s something wrong with my monitor. Plus, there’s this strange wet spot on the desk. Maybe my roof is leaking.

    October 28, 2019
    • modern roofing. So unreliable ;-). Mine leaked a lot lately.

      October 28, 2019
  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    Sad story. Take care.

    October 28, 2019
    • Sad… but glad too. She had a full life, mostly a good one. And me, take care? Please. I need to remain me.

      October 28, 2019
  7. Christopher M. Chupik #

    Losing a pet is losing family. I know the feeling. Take care, Dave.

    October 28, 2019
    • yeah. It’s not my first time. And it never hurts less. Every time I don’t want to do this again. But that’s about me, not them, so I do. They have as good a life as we can provide.

      October 28, 2019
      • RCPete #

        Our lab-aussie cross has had seizures, but is doing better with milk-thistle for the liver issues that cause the seizures. Still, we know it’s a matter of time, and we give and get love from her and her best buddy, the border collie.

        Our vet once told us that you have an appointment with heartache when you get a dog. He didn’t have to say it’s worth it. We know.

        October 28, 2019
  8. Margaret Ball #

    A sad loss, and a bleak day for you. I’m sorry.

    My daughter had to have her old dog put down recently, and found a smidgen of comfort in Kipling of all places – a poem which always makes me tear up, even if you hadn’t already done it –

    “Buy a pup and your money will buy
    Love unflinching that cannot lie–
    Perfect passion and worship fed
    By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
    Nevertheless it is hardly fair
    To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

    When the fourteen years which Nature permits
    Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
    And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
    To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
    Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
    But…you’ve given your heart for a dog to tear.”

    October 28, 2019
    • snelson134 #

      I prefer this one. Always have.

      https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/dinah_in_heaven.html

      “She did not know that she was dead,
      But, when the pang was o’er,
      Sat down to wait her Master’s tread
      Upon the Golden Floor,

      With ears full-cock and anxious eye
      Impatiently resigned;
      But ignorant that Paradise
      Did not admit her kind.”

      ***************************************************

      “”Neither by virtue, speech nor art
      Nor hope of grace to win;
      But godless innocence of heart
      That never heard of sin:

      “Neither by beauty nor belief
      Nor white example shown.
      Something a wanton–more a thief–
      But–most of all–mine own.”

      “Enter and look,” said Peter then,
      “And send you well to speed;
      But, for all that I know of women and men
      Your riddle is hard to read.”

      Then flew Dinah from under the Chair,
      Into his arms she flew–
      And licked his face from chin to hair
      And Peter passed them through!”

      October 28, 2019
      • If there are no dogs in heaven, then let me rather go where they are.

        October 28, 2019
        • All of Creation is groaning to be saved, and there’s a new heaven and a new earth coming. That’s the endgame.

          Human souls hanging out in heaven until they can be reunited with their resurrected bodies — that’s the blip in-between. Details not provided.

          “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” He’s not going to ditch anything He made. I don’t think we have to worry about the fate of our beloved animals, because He loves them even more than we do.

          October 29, 2019
    • It’s the love unflinching that is the most accurate part

      October 28, 2019
  9. Almost twenty years? Wow. That’s a Very Good Dog.

    October 28, 2019
    • Yeah. big dog too. She weighed about 75 pounds. I like big dogs, but they die younger, and their time is always too short..

      October 28, 2019
  10. As Margaret posted above, Kipling knew the power of the dog. As with any death, the pain will fade, or at least be more bearable, and the good memories will remain. Dogs teach us to be better, and that will come with a time that you realize that you have given your heart to a dog to tear. But it’s worth it.

    October 28, 2019
    • they would pay that price for me, without any second thought.

      October 28, 2019
  11. My condolences Dave. I don’t write about when my poor old Spike died, it would fry me. I made him a superhero so he would live on. Now he’s as big as a polar bear and he kills monsters.

    These days there’s a new doggo at Phantom Northern Command, he is Maximum Maxwell. He’s his own dog, he makes me remember Spike. Someday he’ll probably kill monsters in his own book.

    Where’d all this water on my keybord come from?

    October 28, 2019
    • My dogs live on. In my heart, in my memories – and as major characters in my books. They’re all real dogs.

      October 28, 2019
  12. gaily #

    I am so very, very sorry for your loss, Dave. It never gets easier – I’ve had 14 dogs leave me in my lifetime so far- the pain is still there but muted as oldshib said. Your story brought back hard tears remembering my babies and your sadness. But, then the memories of love and life filled my heart. I wish you fond memories, much love, and the easing of your pain with time.

    October 28, 2019
    • gaily #

      I meant to ad, but couldn’t see the blurry keyboard, that I admire and respect you, and hold you in the highest esteem for bringing your dogs with you.

      October 28, 2019
    • It never ever gets easier. I’ll swear it gets harder as each brings back the memories. This is not our first rodeo, either. We COULD bring out dogs and cats. I admit it took about all we had, but we could, just. It was hard, financially (and emotionally because quarantine) but my heart goes who just can’t. (there are those who choose not to, and worst those who abandon animals) but those who want to…

      I could not have abandoned them when I could choose- particularly my Old English who was a total one-man dog -and remained the same man. I could not have lived with that person.

      October 28, 2019
  13. lydiaschoch #

    I’m so sorry for you loss.

    (Bob Mueller shared this on Twitter which is how I found it).

    October 28, 2019
  14. adventuresfantastic #

    I’m very sorry for you loss, Dave. Our dogs are getting on in years, so my time with them is growing short and I think about their impending passing every day.

    Now to dry my eyes before I have to teach class.

    October 28, 2019
    • I’ve known this was on the cards since Puggles died, nearly two years ago. It’s like impending doom… to you, not to them. For them being with you happiness.

      October 28, 2019
  15. Uncle Lar #

    A true blessing that circumstances bestowed a last six months of happiness on your dear and faithful friend. Some believe that our pets wait for us curled up at the base of the Rainbow Bridge, ready to accompany us on our own walk as we cross over.

    October 28, 2019
    • Yep. I am deeply grateful to the friend who let us have the use this place, especially for her sake.

      October 28, 2019
  16. OldNFO #

    You did the right thing, as hard as that was. She’s across the rainbow bridge now, and no longer in pain. She knew you were there for her, no matter how much it hurt. Prayers for y’all as you move on and remember the good times!

    October 28, 2019
    • thank you. There were many good, fun and funny times.

      October 28, 2019
  17. So sorry for your loss. It’s hard on everyone when a beloved member of the family leaves, never to return.

    October 28, 2019
  18. Tim Bowers-Irons #

    Keeping faith with your animals and keeping them when you moved has been one of the most courageous and honorable actions I know of. I deeply feel your loss and am very grateful to know of Wednesday’s love for beach walks with you.

    October 28, 2019
    • Honestly, I am a very inadequate hero. But my dogs expect it of me, without a hint of doubt, ever. So I’ve tried to live up to their expectations. Kipling got it right for me, anyway, in his description of what his dog meant to him: “Have you any here
      That saved a fool from drunkenness,
      And a coward from his fear?

      “That turned a soul from dark to day
      When other help was vain;
      That snatched it from Wanhope and made
      A cur a man again?”

      October 28, 2019
  19. who chopped the onions?

    October 28, 2019
  20. Carrington Dixon #

    All my own favorite quote from Kipling (and others) have already appeared; so, I’ll just say that we share your sorrow.

    October 28, 2019
  21. Eamon J. Cole #

    Crying into my beard. Thoughts your way, sir.

    October 28, 2019
  22. Jane Meyerhofer #

    I’ve never had pets … But I loved Changelings Island and the dog in it … And how the dog helped make the boy into a man.

    (Just not brought up with them. Realized as an adult that my mother could not cope with the loss.)

    October 28, 2019
    • Honestly… every time I lose one, I say I cannot bear this ever again. But it’s me. THEY die loved and happy. And that too is a gift, when I look at it. They give me so much, innocent and uncritical.

      October 29, 2019
  23. Wednesday and Pugsley were just puppies when you and I met on line. I delighted in the stories of their antics, loved them at a distance.
    My heart is breaking for you, breaking with the memory of my own furry family waiting on the other side. And also with the knowledge that friends and family, worldwide, might never meet again in the flesh, because the distances are great and we’re not wealthy.
    I believe through my unbelief in one land of light and eternity in which we’ll all be together someday.
    And I hope I’m worthy of a walk in the beach with you and Wednesday. Someday.

    October 28, 2019
    • You’ll always have a space on any beach me and my dogs are on, Sarah. You’re the little sister I never had – but then found I did.

      October 29, 2019
  24. All things end as all things must
    The stars burn out and go to dust
    And all men make shall be erased
    Within these bounds of time and space.

    And so we now out heads and weep,
    But Oh, dear child this secret keep
    They live all that were bright and loved
    Forever in the mind of God.

    Oh, how we miss our dear friends. Thank you for telling the story of yours, Mr. Freer. They deserve our tears.

    October 28, 2019
    • The concept of a God that did not value that loyalty and love, though it came from another species, lies outside of my understanding of how they could be a deity.

      October 29, 2019
  25. Roger Ritter #

    Almost 20 years with a dog that size is a true blessing. It doesn’t make the final task any easier, and it’s the hardest decision any pet owner has to make. As hard as it is, it’s the right thing to do. Out of so many dogs and cats that I’ve lost track, only one died a natural death and spared us that choice. I know and share your sorrow.

    October 28, 2019
    • thank you. It never gets easier.

      October 29, 2019
  26. Evenstar #

    My sympathies. Losing a beloved dog hurts so much.

    October 28, 2019
    • Your Avatar looks very loved 😉

      October 29, 2019
      • Evenstar #

        She’s a sweetheart and the best walking buddy anyone could ask for.

        October 29, 2019
  27. d #

    So, sorry for your loss. It is never easy. We know. I know the pain of the planning, the pain of knowing it is now. We have 9 cats, and 3 dogs, waiting for us on the other side of Rainbow Bridge. Some chose their own path. Some we took to the vet on their final ride and passed in our arms. Two passed in my arms at home (didn’t make the vet). Not looking toward this summer. Our son’s “first” cat is 20+. She is extremely frail. But although she cries when she moves (primarily because she can’t see), she still moves, she still eats and drinks, and seeks to cuddle. She still uses the facilities correctly. Not counting days, yet. When we are it will time to call the vet. I miss each and every one of the animals who have passed on who shared our lives. All of us have been known to talk to the ones we could bury in our yard. Two of the dogs are not, and the properties have been sold. Oh do I wish they shared the mantle with the third’s ashes. But if wishes were horses …

    Yes. Somehow my keyboard is soaked …

    October 28, 2019
    • We are called to give them no less than they would give us. Our best. I wish my babies were all laid to rest together, and that, come the time I could be too. But I still believe the earthly distance will mean little then.

      October 29, 2019
  28. David Weber #

    Dave, it always hurts, but thank God you had those years . . . and those last six months. I haven’t had 20 years with any of my four-legged children. We seem to hit a wall around 16-17 years, and I’ve had to let far too many of them go because I loved them too much to make them stay. They’ve just gone to sleep in my arms, loving me, knowing me, trusting me to do the best thing for them, and as God is my witness, that’s what I’ve always tried to do, however much it hurt.

    It hit me especially hard with Melody-Anne, half-lab, half-Rottie, all mischief and wiggles and run straight at you and bounce up into the air to hug you back. We made 17 years before I had to admit it was time, that she was having difficulty even recognizing me anymore. So i carried her — she who used to weigh 85 pounds and was now down to less than 30 — out to my truck, and I drove her to the vet with her chin on my knee. She recognized the place, because it was Club Med for dogs, as far as she was concerned. That place she was always boarded when I traveled. That place where her dad left her with her favorite uncles and aunts. She perked up when I opened the truck door, even managed to hop down by herself — carefully, unsteadily, half-falling — and led the way inside. When Doctor Wiggers lifted her to the table, she licked his cheek like she always did (he’d been her vet for 14 years). I hadn’t seen her so alive, so aware, so HAPPY in months. He rubbed her ears and told me he thought I was making the right choice but reminded me that once we started the injections we couldn’t stop. There was something wrong with my eyes, but I told him I was sure. That she was happy. That she could leave happy.

    And that’s what she did. She snuggled down in my arms, he gave her the first injection, and she put her chin on my shoulder and just went to sleep, right there, with me, and woke up with God. Because if there’s not a God that will take someone like her, then I don’t want to know Him.

    Something wrong with my eyes right now, too.

    I have her ashes on the bookshelf in my bedroom. They’ll be coming with me when it’s my turn to go, so, yeah. I understand EXACTLY what you’re feeling right now, and what you’re paying is the price of love, my friend. The price of love.

    God bless.

    By the way, I’m pretty sure there have to be beaches in heaven. Better get ready for a LOT more runs in the surf.

    October 28, 2019
    • Thank you David. I don’t care how cold the water or wind are I’ll be there in the water with her, and, indeed quite a few others (might wash my soul a bit. Sometimes I’ve done less than well – but not I hope to my dogs, cats or children). And if they say ‘No dogs allowed.’ when I get there, somehow, with my pack of lost dogs that have been waiting for me… that’s not heaven. It’s Hell, and I would be my own torment for eternity. I’ll keep walking until I get to somewhere that will have them too. I reckon they’ll stay with me, and carry me too, if need be.

      And God bless your Vet, and mine. I saw mine again today – I went to post office after doing an ambulance call-out. I managed to thank him, again, before tears took my voice. They too walk a hard path.

      October 29, 2019
    • d #

      The ashes of our last dog sits on our mantle. She didn’t make it to our vet. I knew her heart was getting worse. I knew it was time to talk to the vet, not only for medical reasons, but because she came to us through the practice’s rescue program, and they got a say too. She collapsed at my feet and died in my arms. She was just short of 10 years old. Her ashes are on the mantle. It is my request too that her ashes join mine. When the time comes, so will the ashes of our current dog (not yet 3, so a long time away).

      We don’t have the ashes of my GSD she is buried at my grandparents place. A good idea at the time. Then grandma & grandpa passed away, and the place was sold (note, a good solid 15 years later, OMG 31 years ago). I cried all over again. I can never visit her at her resting place. But at least she is with Andy, the dog of my young years, and all the dogs of my grandparents during the 60 years they owned the place.

      We also don’t have the ashes of my husband’s dog. He is buried with his mate, and two of their pups, at the in-laws place along the Little Descutes river, south of Sunriver. That place has been sold too. All four have been buried there over 30 years.

      The cats are all buried in the backyard. Don’t know how legal it is, but they are there. Someday I might have someone come in and find their bones, to have their ashes mingle with ours. But don’t know how much will be left. Some have been interned now for anywhere between 4 and 25 years. I joke I don’t want to bother moving so we can build our dream forever home. Reality, I can’t leave them … Rather than bury our current cats, when the time comes, I’m thinking, no, not this time … Although I only get 1/3 of the say.

      October 29, 2019
      • Well, it does seem sad to leave the graves, but their memory and spirit is with you no matter where you go.

        October 29, 2019
  29. bkc1066 #

    That touched me deeply. Thank you for reminding me of Elvis and Bear and all the others I have had in the past. Happy trails to you and Wednesday.

    October 28, 2019
    • Oh. My first Old English was Mattie the Bear. sniff. May yours walk happy trails with you when the time comes to join them.

      October 29, 2019
  30. I’m so sad she’s gone, but so glad you had as long with her as you did. I recall all the franticness some 10 years ago when you were migrating. In fact I just checked and the story you wrote to help finance some of the costs is still alive on my website, even though the savethedragons domain expired long since

    http://di2.nu/vhost/savethedragons/

    I don’t know if you could bear to re-release the story on Amazon in her(their) memory?

    October 29, 2019
    • let me think about it… maybe a few more days out, Francis. And thank you again for your support in that. It paid nearly 1/3 of the costs.

      October 29, 2019
  31. I’m so sorry for the loss of your girl. It never gets easier, but it’s always worth it for the time we have them. And I know she will be waiting for you on the other side, strong and healthy again and with all the beaches of eternity to run on.

    My faith believes that animals have souls, and that they are forever. Our beloved pets are as much a part of our families as the humans, and we grieve for them as deeply.

    October 29, 2019
  32. Kate #

    I’m sorry, Dave.

    I remember meeting Wednesday and Pugsley and Roly when I visited (really? More than 10 years ago? I swear someone is stealing my time). I was graciously permitted to admire the cats from a distance and just once got to pet gently (Duchess, I think).

    They were well loved, and they never leave your heart. I swear I get checked up on by all the pets I’ve loved that have moved on.

    October 29, 2019
  33. Tears

    October 29, 2019
  34. We lost a dog earlier this year, too.

    It sounds like you had a beautiful Indian summer with her, though.

    (I don’t know what you’d call it where you are — St. Martin’s summer is the wrong time of year, I guess.)

    October 29, 2019
  35. Bless you, Dave; you’ve made me cry.

    October 29, 2019

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