kinds of drugs and its side effects

Embracing Sadness: Our Irreplaceable Pets

MemoriesI’ve been feeling a bit gloomy for the last few days, experiencing a sense of dread about this upcoming 4th of July weekend that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. One more assignment to finish, and I’m ready to settle in to work on Getting Naked for Money without interruption.

Also: I found a terrific new vet for Madeleine earlier in the week. I’d been a bit worried. I didn’t much care for the vet I took Madeleine to for her free post-adoption exam and, though I adored Frankie’s former vet, I was afraid he was going to retire soon and I didn’t like the other two vets in the practice: One had called Frankie “weird,” and the other dubbed him “a bad patient.” This new vet, an engaging, thoughtful man, is not only closer to my home, but is younger (no retirement soon) and has x-ray dental equipment. After interviewing several veterinary dentists for an article, I realized that I would never have my own teeth extracted without having x-rays taken first, yet had been willing to do that for a beloved dog.

Cleaning house

So why the gloom?

In preparation for getting serious about writing my book, I decided to do a little house cleaning–emphasis on “little.” Overdoing it until I became too tired to write would defeat the purpose. As I was going through my kitchen drawers, sorting through hundreds of discount coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond, I discovered some of Frankie’s things that I couldn’t bear to throw away: My diary of his blood sugar readings; a bottle of diabetic test strips; a hypodermic needle.

A bottle with a little Vetsulin remained in the refrigerator.

Seeing those items,  I was hit by a sudden wave of sadness, remembering a routine that was at once difficult and precious. And then I suddenly realized the source of my low-key anxiety: The 4th of July was Frankie’s designated  birthday. I never knew the real day and he was my Frankie Doodle Dandy.

Happy Birthday and Happy Fourth of July, Frankie!

Another reason this was not Frankie’s favorite holiday

There’s a certain irony to that. Not only was he terrified of fireworks, as many dogs are. Frankie was pretty much terrified of people, too.

I remember taking him to a Fourth of July political event early on. Even though it took place nearly nine months after I adopted him, I guess I still didn’t get the extent to which he hated crowds. I don’t think I knew the term “socialize” at the time but I probably thought that the more he experienced new situations, the more comfortable with them he would get.

Now, Frankie was an adorable dog. Based on neoteny, or puppy-like features, he was cuter in some ways than Madeleine, who looks more conventionally “doggy.” No surprise, then, that the political candidate wanted to have her picture taken with him. Frankie tolerated it, because I was nearby. But he wasn’t at all happy.

He was a one woman dog, totally devoted to me.

I wrote about my ambivalence about his dependence on me, his fearful personality in a story titled Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Dogs.  It ends this way:

Chastened, I lifted my little dog into my lap…. At least I had one source of solace:  As long as I gave him a loving home, Frankie would never know I was an asshole.

Frankie & me at in In the Raw

Frankie & me at in an early bonding session

A Guilt-Free — But Not a Pain-Free — Zone

I realize now: You can find a new vet so you don’t have to face the pain of going to the old one without your departed dog.

You can go to that vet with the type of dog you used to fantasize your departed dog would become, one that every veterinarian would be likely to love.  No one would even be tempted to call Madeleine weird or a bad patient. She cuddles up to everyone, doesn’t object to shots or even thermometers in her rectum, but she’s also frisky and a bit mischievous, a small dog even macho guys could like.

But that won’t lessen the pain of your loss. In this case, it made it worse. I feel bad that I enjoyed Madeleine’s popularity so much.

Earlier, before I started analyzing why I was feeling gloomy, I’d thought about dressing Madeleine in 4th of July regalia. But not only is she not a dress-up type of dog (see neoteny/lack thereof, above); doing that would be trying to make her into Frankie, just as I’d tried to make Frankie into another type of dog before I knew better.

So this 4th of July post is devoted to Frankie, in honor of his designated birthday, and on “his” blog, the one I created to detail his adventures, not on Edie as I’d originally planned. Madeleine? She may or may not get half a hot dog. The new vet said she wasn’t really fat, but “comfortable,” and then amended that to say, “You know, like Marilyn Monroe.”

Madeleine, the curvy femme fatale of the canine world.

Frankie was more of a surfer dude.

Frankie says "Just get me to the beach, already!"

Laughing and crying at the same time, I know now too: Sometimes the pain of loss is going to blindside you.  Getting another dog, no matter how great, won’t stop that from happening, though time might. Or not. Frankie will always be my first dog. That’s not ever going to change

What do you do with that hurt, then? You acknowledge it, you experience it. You remember, you regret, you grab a box of Kleenex.

And if you’re a writer, you try to put it into words so others will know that it’s okay to love two dogs, one present, one departed, at the same time.

Also posted in Dog Blogging, dog dental care | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Words-Can’t-Express Wednesday: In Memoriam

Archibald MacLeash (dba "Archie"): 1994-2011

My best friend Clare said a final farewell to her dog Archie yesterday. He was 17 and had been in decline for a while. He probably had a brain tumor, the vet said. It was time. He had a very good life and a good death, with Clare by his side.

But the end is not what I want to talk about. I’m here to celebrate a wonderful dog, the inspiration for…well, everything I’ve done that is dog related, starting with adopting Frankie.

Archie was the Platonic ideal of Dog: Friendly, frisky, sweet-natured, a little mischievous…  Even people who claimed they didn’t like dogs loved Archie. Even Frankie loved Archie, in the beginning.

As well he should have. Archie was Clare’s first dog, and her life was made so much richer by him that I knew I wanted the same joy in my life.

It turned out to be confusing for me that Archie was such a perfect pup. I thought that was just what dogs were like — easy-going, fearless, fun — which did not prepare me for the decidedly different joys of Frankie the Shy.

If Archie had one imperfection, it was that he was not a kisser. Some people would find it a bonus that he kept his saliva to himself, but I’m a fan of face-licking doggie affection. Clare said it was not in his nature, that he would never kiss anyone.

I proved her wrong.

She left me alone with Archie for a few minutes during one visit to Santa Barbara and was shocked to come back into the room to find him surreptitiously giving me a quick nose lick.

I never revealed the truth: I had slipped him some of the cheese that Clare and I had been enjoying with our wine. Archie had been coveting it but had been sternly cautioned away. It was really good, expensive, stinky cheese. Gorgonzola, I think.

Sorry, Clare, for letting you think that I was a dog charmer all these years. Still, I’m glad that Archie kissed me once.

He was a very, very good boy.


Posted in Dog mourning | Tagged , , | 34 Comments

Your Dog Won’t Hate You. This I Know.

When you have a blog with a name like mine, you get a lot of hits from dog owners doing a Google search for “dog hates me” or similar terms.

Naturally, it’s only people who care about their dogs who worry about such things.

Last week, I got this email from a woman named Dawn:

I saw your blog and I was wondering if you could PLEASE help me.  I just had to put my 16 year old dog down on Monday.  I had Sheba since she was 6 months old and she was my best friend!  She was having issues with arthritis in her back legs and from the way she was acting I knew that it was her time.  I can not seem to make peace with the guilt I feel.  I know in my heart that I did the best thing for her but the guilt is more about “did my dog know that I did this for her” and “was she mad at me”.  When we were getting ready she seemed very unsettled and acted like she wanted to leave.  The vet gave her a sedative that calmed her down but Sheba never really looked at me at the end.  She did give me a quick kiss and then went to sleep.  I am feeling so much guilt that my dog hates me because she didn’t look at me much.  Do you think my dog knew that I loved her?  Do you think that Sheba is in a better place now and is happy and not alone or scared?

In Memoriam -- Sweet Sheba

Every time I read this letter I cry. For the difficulty of the decision Dawn had to make. For her loss. And for the fact Dawn could doubt for even a moment that Sheba knew she loved her.

Dogs may fear people who mistreat them and they may fear people who remind them of people who mistreat them. And the latest research shows they’re capable of a wider range of emotions than we previously thought, including anger and jealousy.

But they’re not capable of hate or revenge or anything that requires complex memory processes to sustain.

And if they were, why on earth would we imagine they could hate the people who loved them for an entire lifetime?

Yet almost all devoted dog owners are capable of the type of painful irrationality and guilt that Dawn experienced.

Even experts in canine cognition. The other day I saw my trainer, Crystal, apologize profusely to her dog, Winnie, when she accidentally touched Winnie’s leg in a tender place. Crystal is a scientist and an expert in reading dog body language. She knows on a rational level that Winnie might respond for a second to a painful stimulus but would never generalize that momentary flinch to fear or dislike of her.  Yet there Crystal was, hugging Winnie and bombarding her with a stream of (to a dog) incomprehensible words.

Faced with the desire to shield those we love from pain, we can’t help ourselves.

But we can see others’ responses more clearly and give solace.  I can (and did) assure Dawn that her instincts that “it was time” were rightfully honored. And that whatever she thought saw on Sheba’s face was, maybe, dislike of being at the vet’s office or of getting an injection. But it was not a fear of death (dogs are very Zen when it comes to living in the moment). And it was never, ever hatred of or anger at Dawn, who faithfully cared for her for 15 1/2 years.


As regular readers of this blog know, assurances about an afterlife are not my strong point. But Dr V. over at PawCurious has been writing a wonderful series of posts that pay tribute to Emmett, the dog she lost last year; this is the final one. She is a firm believer in “Kevin” — as her daughter called “heaven” — and all the good company that Emmett (and Sheba) will keep there.

Get out some more tissues before heading over there.

Posted in Dog mourning | Tagged , , , | 34 Comments