Category Archives: Losing a pet.

Billy the Pug shuffles off this Mortal Coil

When I was in my second or third year of school, my dad felt bad because our dog Pug had died. Pug was only part pug, and the one picture that I remember of him makes me think that Pug was a beagle-pug mix.  There was something about Pug’s Pugness that made Dad buy two pugs from the grandparents of two of my school friends. These pugs were named Pat and Bill.  I don’t know how old Pat and Bill were when we got them. They were an unrelated pair meant to bred more pugs…but they lived well in to my high school years.    I don’t remember when Pat died. She was a nice pug, although an indifferent mother to her puppies. It would have never occurred to her to rip open the amniotic sac, so my mother had to do it for her. Her last litter, I did  with Dad looking on and  later announcing that he and I delivered the puppies. I corrected him.  HE hadn’t done a thing. We weren’t a puppy mill, and Pat wasn’t constantly pregnant.  I don’t remember a lot of litters. Once we ripped open the sacs and got the puppies breathing, she took over the rest of the job. Pug puppies are adorable. They’re born looking like little grey rats with straight tails. Slowly, their tails curl and they lighten in color. They’re beyond cute. I used to wish they would stay puppies because they were so much fun.

My dad gave my sister and I each pugs of our own, and my pug Susie was even  at my wedding reception. Bill and Pat  produced Susie and two others in her litter, Shawn and Sheila, (I didn’t name them, my sister did) when I was 11, so until my sister left the house and gave Shawn away, we had four pugs. Bill was the undisputed patriarch of the family. He was proud, and a gentleman. I loved to take Billy on walks. He’d wait gallantly until I stepped off the curb, and then he would step up. When we crossed the street, once again, Billy would hesitate. He would wait until I stepped up on the curb first. Billy didn’t walk down the sidewalk. He pranced.

As gentle as he was with me, he was no pushover. Billy ruled his little kingdom, or should I say pugdom with an iron paw. The pugs lived out back in the yard in a doghouse, since Bill and Pat preferred the outdoors.  They were loved and in the house as often as we could get them to stay. Pat was kept in the house whenever she had puppies.  Every evening, Mom would put out a huge stewpot full of dog food enough for all four of them. Pat, Susie and Shawn would rush the pot, with Billy holding back. He’d let them eat for a while and then let out a huge growl, which made the other three dogs scatter. Then he would go to the pot and eat his fill. Mom never got tired of watching this.

Dad used to love to tease Billy to the breaking point, and Dad always knew when he’d gone too far, because he’d call Billy and Billy would walk right past Dad in his recliner as if Dad wasn’t there. I always hated Dad’s teasing, but at least Billy drew the line, and one time even drew blood. Dad realized that he’d had it coming, and Billy never bit anyone else. Just Dad…just the one time.

Pat died of old age before Bill. We didn’t have to put her to sleep, or I would remember. One day she was there, and then she wasn’t.

I think by then that Susie, who was my constant companion,was sleeping in my bed with me in the house. Billy was old and getting frail, and Dad wasn’t about to let Billy sleep outside even in a well built doghouse that was off the ground.  So, Billy moved in the house against his will. He was never really happy being in the house full time, but he did adjust. Billy eventually learned that the TV was the main focal point of the living room. So he’d lay in front of the TV to make sure that he was seen. Often on my way to the kitchen, I’d pass Billy on the way and say “Hi Billy,”, and get a gentle wag.

One day I was home alone, and Billy was in his usual spot in front of the TV, staring ahead. I walked past and said my usual “Hi,Billy”, and Billy didn’t wag. I was startled, and waved my hands in front of his eyes. Billy didn’t blink, either. I was horrified. Billy was DEAD! Teenage girls have a corner on the hysteria market. I called my mom in tears…saying that Billy was dead and he was in the living room in front of the TV. Mom, being of practical German stock, said, “So move him.” I burst into tears and said ” I can’t. His eyes are open!” Exasperated by the melodrama unfolding over the phone, Mom said, “Well cover him, then until I get home!” I got a white towel  with a green stripe down the middle (courtesy of Grandma who stole everything not nailed down incuding the towels in the hotel)and covered Billy and there he lay until Mom got home. Mom walked through the door and immediately strode toward Billy and lifted the towel. Billy continued to stare ahead. Mom, who was rattled by nothing, was a bit non-plussed. She lowered the towel, and we both sat and waited  until Dad came home. Dad came home, and we told him the news. Dad was amused by our squeemishness. Dad was the one that had buried all of our other dogs that had died, and he was prepared to bury Billy. Then he lifted the towel. Dad quickly lowered the towel and strode down the block to have a talk with the neighbor. Dad couldn’t touch Billy, either. He paid our neighbor good money to bury Billy. I felt vindicated. Mom and Dad couldn’t move him either!

I’m glad that we had the pugs. We all got a lot of enjoyment out of them. They were good, friendly dogs. They were never any trouble. One time Dad heard Susie howling softly from the bedroom. She’d wanted on my bed and couldn’t make it. She hadn’t wanted to wake up the whole household, and knew that I couldn’t hear her. So Dad investigated, and discovered Susie beside my bed. He lifted her up and she was happy. I had to leave Susie with Mom and Dad against my will when I went away to college because none of the apartment complexes allowed dogs. When I got married, the reception was in the yard, and my parents let Susie out. I said, “You’ve let the dog out at my wedding reception?” Dad pointed out that Susie wasn’t huring anything, and I had to admit that was true. Suddenly I didn’t care what anyone thought and let Susie roam through the crowd to her heart’s content. I had insisted on a champagne toast, and a lot of my friends didn’t drink…so they lifted the glass and put it down on the grass. Susie discovered that she liked champagne and  we didn’t realize it until it was too late. Susie recovered just fine. I have a great picture of me and a very old pug feeling no pain whatsoever.  It’s my favorite picture of me and Susie, and one of the last times I saw her, for I had to finish college and then move on to Germany. Mom wouldn’t let me take Susie with me, so that picture captured the end of an era for me.  My best memories growing up are all of the time I spent with the pugs. I’ll always be grateful for the day we brought home a gallent male pug, and his partner.Judy with Susie, at her wedding reception

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Our Pets, and nobody tells us that it’ll hurt like this when they’re gone.

Recently a friend posted a picture of her cat on facebook that had just died, and it got me to thinking about the struggle that I still go through even years after our dachshunds have died.  It hurts when you lose a pet, and I think that now people are beginning to take this grief seriously.  I asked a doctor once when it stops hurting. He said “It doesn’t”. He’s right. Our pets love us unconditionally. Most of them do, anyway, unless they were our dog, Frieda who was only too quick to let us know just how worthless we were as help. Frieda defied us at every turn, and since neither side backed down, every day was an adventure.  Frieda was balanced by Poo, a fat little red dachshund who worshiped the ground that I walked on.

We never had children, so maybe that’s why I feel intense  pain of the absence of these dogs, even now.  I grew up with pugs, and I loved my pugs.  When my mom called me to tell me that my 15 year old pug Susie died, I fell apart all over my husband when he came home. If you look at my facebook page, you’ll see Susie in a couple of my pictures, She was born in our house when I was 11, and my parents gave her to me. She was at my wedding reception, since it was in the yard, and I desperately wanted to take her to Germany with me after I got married, since I hadn’t been able to take her with me to college. My mom wouldn’t let me, because she was too attached to her. However, Mom couldn’t tell me that. Her excuse was that Susie was “too old”. So, I left, knowing that I would never see my companion and comfort all through childhood ever again.  It was Susie that told me when there were noises. that I couldn’t hear.  It was subltle. She’d turn her head and I would know where the noise was coming from. It startled my boyfriend, now my husband because one day I was cleaning out my closet, with Susie in my lap and all of a sudden Susie’s head popped up in the direction of the kitchen. So I asked Steve “What was that?” He looked at me and said, “You couldn’t possibly have heard that. It was the microwave.” I said, “No, I didn’t. But Susie did.”

When I was melancholy, I’d put Susie on a walk and we’d walk through the graves in the Jewish cemetery two blocks away, so I could read the Yiddish on the gravestones. It’s a historic cemetery, the oldest  Jewish one west of the Rockies, established in 1851. It’s locked now to prevent vandalism…but I’m grateful that things were safe enough when I was a teenger for the dog and I to walk through and read the histories of some of our town’s earliest residents. Susie was always quiet and walked softly beside me. I never had to clean up after her. It’s interesting, because even she must have sensed that this was a special place.

My relationship with my dachshunds was different. It was high drama, and very intense. Frieda was a wirehaired dachshund, and an very “in your face” animal. If she didn’t want to cooperate, and you pushed the issue, out came the teeth. She’d turn into what Steve describes even now as a “28 lb razor blade”. I always gave Frieda a choice…she could cooperate, or not, but we WERE going to get this done even if I had to muzzle her or restrain her.  She never cooperated. I never backed down.  Our other dog, Poo, was more easy going, but she was a drama queen, too. She was my shadow and had to be where I was. I didn’t think about not taking her with me any place that I could, and apparently I pushed it with places I shouldn’t have. I took her to the headquarters of the Second Marine Division Headquarters with me to see a couple of the chaplains when my husband was deployed, and one of them mentioned this vist a few years later when he came across Steve in Iraq. I didn’t remember it at first, but he had it dead on the money… fat, sweet little red dog who would go belly up to get her belly rubbed and flail her front little paws like flippers frantically to get you to continue. Busted! It was me and Poo, for sure!

We lost Frieda first after a long illness during which I tried to get her to last until my husband came home from a deployment. It didn’t work. I had to let her go because she was too sick, and suffering.  I was unprepared for the pain and grief that washed over me. We got a little dog that had been abandoned on the side of the road just after  we’d lost Frieda. This was Molly whom we have still. Poo, who lived for another two years, hated Molly, so that was an interesting dynamic there. Steve was home when we had to take Poo in to relieve her of her suffering and was so upset that he took the day off from work. We went to a mall in Jacksonville, Florida and walked aimlessly around, both of us numb with pain.

But we still had Molly. For a long time, I couldn’t forgive Molly for not being Poo. Poo was needy and there was a time when I needed to be needed. I resented Molly for a while there. But, She’s not Poo. She’s Molly, and a wonderful little dog with a great personality. She tries to corner the market on cuteness and sweetness, except when she remembers that she’s half dachshund in addition to being half papillon. So, I finally forgave Molly for not being Poo, and began to appreciate her for being Molly.  Just how much I’ve begun to appreciate her has been driven home by two incidents. Two summers ago I was building a gate, and she’s spent the afternoon laying in the opening in the fence watching me. Then all of a sudden she wasn’t. I was hysterical. The mere thought of being Molly-less had me terrified.  I ran screaming down the the road. I made it about three blocks when someone mentioned that they had seen her. I ran down to where she was last seen and called her name and she came charging, I blistered her ears all the way home, as she’d run in front of me, stop when I yelled at her to stop so I could catch up, and then run again. I was shaking, and it took a while to calm down. The mere idea of not having Molly was devastating.

We had another incident recently. Molly came down with an infection on her spine and we had to keep her still for four weeks. She was very sick and in intense pain at first and we were told to keep her crated.  I couldn’t bear to keep her in a crate 24/7, so I kept her beside me in a laundry basket. When her meds wore off, I would hold her and stroke her until the next pill took effect.  We eventually adjusted the timing of the dosages so the pain medication didn’t wear off in between.

I castigated myself constantly for my selfishness the first week or so that she was sick. I couldn’t face the idea of life without her. It was too soon. She’s only seven years old. Thankfully, Molly started making improvements every day, and we didn’t have to make the decision to end her suffering. She’s completely recovered and has a check up next monday. We’re so relieved to have our Molly back. It took a while. One day she would walk back into the house just a bit faster. The next day we might see her lift her tail in the air in a plume the way she normally does. Eventually she wagged for the first time, and another day she trotted in the house. Her recovery was slow, but it was steady. She was tempermental, though. If I told her I was going to pick her up, and she didn’t want that, she’d scream. If she saw me with medication, well, she’d scream. I felt like I was living with a toddler going through the terrible two’s. Molly had learned to say “NO” and was letting us know. I’d tell her that I didn’t have time for this, and she would surrender. But I knew how she felt! As she got better and felt more and more in control the scream disapeared, and I don’t miss it. But it did teach me one thing. Molly, if she wants to, can be every bit as tempermental as a dachshund. I started to joke that Molly’s inner dachshund had killed the inner papillon. But we’ve got the cheery Papillon part of Molly back, finally. It was about time.

One day before Molly got sick, I’d been missing my dachshunds and was crying while holding their ashes. The pain of them being gone overwhelmed me and I felt like I’d lost them yesterday.  When I pulled myself together, I sat down and wrote this poem, and with this, I’ll close.

You left your paw prints in my heart, and it’s there I go to see you.

You both were here and now you’re not.

My heart will never release you.

You’ve both been gone for many years, for seven years and five.

It feels like it was yesterday when I had to let you go.

You were with us in the prosperous times,

You were there when times were lean.

I miss my fights with Frieda, the defiance and the teeth.

I miss the funny stunts she pulled, to my exasperation.

My precious Poo, was never far. Her universe was me.

I miss her round little body snuggled whenever I was still.

I miss her sleeping on my lap, her head tucked behind my elbow.

Our dachshund era is now gone, and now we have our Molly.

Like they both were for so many years, she’s very loved and cherished.

She has a dachshund body, and Papillion upholstery.

She’s wired like a Papillion, so bouncy and so cheery.

She plays with toys, and begs to please

Except when she remembers…

…that in those veins of hers runs strong…the blood of stubborn dachshunds.

We cherish our Moll, and love her quirks, and couldn’t live without her.

But still we cherish the memory

of our 20 year reign of dachshunds.

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