Dogs, grief and gratitude


sarah-greyOur year ended on a sad note as we said goodbye to our sweet old girl, Sarah. She was our coffee-loving, bean crunching girl. We got her in 1999, the same year we bought our house. Howie and I both grew up with dogs and loved them, but as renters we’d not been able to own one the first seven years we were married. So, with the new house came the decision to add a dog to our family.

The girls We found her by way of a classified ad offering her puppies. When we got to the house, Sarah greeted us enthusiastically, wagging her tail and rolling over for belly rubs. Her pups were four months old and still nursing her in addition to eating puppy food. Unlike their mother, however, they were shy and fearful. We asked if they were trying to find a home for Sarah and they said yes.

Her owners said she was born in 1997 or 1998, offspring of one of their beagles (which they raised for hunting) and a chow. The beagle genes were readily apparent, but the chow didn’t contribute much. If her daddy even was a chow.

She had a strong prey drive and a busy beagle nose. She was fine with our indoor cats, but woe to any animals she encountered outside! I think the only animal to ever stand her down was an opossum who turned to face her. Suddenly Sarah had other pressing business.

What she really lived for was squirrels. If she saw one, she’d chase it to a tree and sit at the tree’s base, staring up, as long as you’d let her. If you clicked your tongue in a vague mimicry of a squirrel, she’d perk up, whine and go to the nearest window to look for one. She never tired of this! She knew squirrels lived in trees, so when we’d go by trees while out driving, she would get very excited. Yes, she was just a little obsessed with them. 🙂

Cheeky squirrelWe even had one particularly cheeky squirrel who would come right up to the front window and tease her. At times, they’d be staring each other down, nose-to-nose, with only a double-paned window between them. She also loved to watch the fish in our pond. And she was very interested in the large pleco fish in our aquarium.

sarah-bw-patio-naps-1-wBut she was also the most obedient dog we’d ever had — and no thanks to us! From the day we brought her home, she stayed right by us and came when called. She routinely dashed out the back door and made a circle through the neighbor’s yard when we let her out (scouting for squirrels), but she came right back when we called her. We wished we could take credit for her manners!

She was our constant companion in the garden, our “moley dog” who burrowed beneath the covers every night, and our fearless watchdog. Actually, the only person she guarded us against was the mailman; she really hated the mail carriers and pitched a fit whenever one would come and dare to drop mail through the slot in our front door.

Sarah had her fifteen minutes of fame in this video:

She won second place in the contest. My photos of her and our other dogs were also pictured on Innova Pet’s line of Karma organic dog food promotional materials. That story is here.

Sarah had some sort of episode overnight and on the morning of December 28, she appeared to have had a stroke. Her head was cocked to one side and her eyes darted rapidly back and forth (nystagmus). She could not stand and walk, but stumbled as she tried to balance. From what I looked up, strokes are rare in dogs and she most likely had canine vestibular syndrome (also called peripheral vestibular syndrome), a common ailment of the inner ear and one which she might have recovered from.

Sarah woofs for her bean However, we had to look at the hard facts. She was fourteen years old and had recurring problems with her hind legs. No one in our household is physically capable of bending and carrying a 35-pound dog multiple times a day; considering the dizziness made her so she could barely stand, let alone walk, she would have to be carried outside to go potty. Dogs with this condition can take weeks to recover, and often must be given anti-nauseal drugs because the vertigo makes them sick to their stomachs (imagine being severely seasick all the time).

We couldn’t see putting our old girl through all of this. Our vet said it could also have been caused by a brain tumor. Given the many visible lumps and bumps all over our old girl, it well could have been a tumor causing the symptoms. It could also have been a stroke, though unlikely. Our vet advised that we’d likely be prolonging the inevitable if we tried waiting it out. So, with hearts brimming with sadness, we made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

Sarah begs for her beanHopefully it will be many years before we have to face this heartache again. Those of you who have loved a pet deeply know how we feel, know that those who dismiss such grief with “it’s just a dog” don’t get it. Losing a pet is so painful, but they joy they bring to our lives fills me with gratefulness.

Our vet sent us a lovely sympathy card, one which our brindle girl Stella sniffed out of the pile of mail as soon as it hit the floor. She then tried to open for us. Having come from the vet’s office, the paper must be redolent with all kinds of interesting smells. We’re so glad we have our remaining girls to make us laugh!

This is a picture story that illustrates one such gift of laughter from Sarah:

4 thoughts on “Dogs, grief and gratitude

  1. Awww Kim,

    Im very sorry for your loss. Our pets do become our babies and there isnt a day that goes by where i dont think of my Junior. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  2. i AM SO VERY SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS DOG OF SARAH WHEN i READ GOT ME TEARS MY EYES THAT BREAK MY HEART SHE SO BEAUTIFUL DOG SO HOW IS YOUR ALL FURBABIES DOING?

  3. Debbie, so good to see you here! Thank you for your kind words. Yes, you knew our Sarah for many years through Dave’s Garden. 🙂

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