by Camela Thompson
I apologize if this post rambles, but I'm a little heartbroken. It has been a hard week for our family. My mom spent Thanksgiving morning at the vet, and learned their 9-year-old Bernese mountain dog had a mass in his spleen the size of a soft ball. Bogey was a sweet big boy, and had issues off and on for years with wobblers. The day after Bogey was gone, Champ's left rear leg began dragging while he walked. He had started standing on the tops of his feet several months ago, but this was different. The degenerative myelopathy progressed quickly over the weekend, and he was shutting down. On December 2nd we had to say goodbye to him.
This was taken over a month ago. Degenerative myelopathy and other neurological
conditions can cause dogs to roll their feet over and not recognize when
they are standing on the tops of them.
My husband is still surprised he is gone. This had been coming on for months, and I had taken him to the vet the week before knowing something was more wrong. My husband is an optimist and this was his first dog. Champ was also perky and aware until that last day. He was interested in food, wanted to be with the family, and still enjoyed his car rides. When a dog is near the end, they typically avoid food and family, and begin to separate themselves from their family. Not Champ.
December 1 - Demanding a Biscuit
The single fear that haunted me the most over the last few months was that I wouldn't know when it was time. I was scared that I would hold on to Champ and let my adoration for him blind me to excessive pain. I didn't have to worry. Champ made it really clear when it was finally time, giving me that look as Lance tried to help him balance in the back yard. My dog was frustrated and uncomfortable, and he hated people hovering over him during his most private moments. More than that, he just didn't feel good. His organs were starting to shut down.
The end was peaceful. The vet was compassionate and went to great lengths to make sure Champ wasn't nervous, letting him stay with us in the car until the sedatives kicked in. He was happy and relaxed.
I miss him. He was so good at communicating - he would herd Lance into the kitchen when it was biscuit time (which was all the time if you asked Champ), let us know when it was meal time beginning at least thirty minutes before meal time, and he demanded car rides on Saturdays. I'm not sure how he always knew when it was Saturday - even when we were off work on Friday - but if he hadn't had his car ride by Sunday he would stand by the leash and stomp his foot while glaring at us. Champ wasn't perfect, but he tried to be. He didn't care for strangers or children, but was excellent with my nephew. He was wonderful with other animals and did a great job raising Bogey and tolerating our tyrant, Annie.
The holidays are a rough time of year for many of us. I was posting pictures of Champ and Bogey on Facebook, and saw that other friends were doing the same for husbands, friends, and siblings they had lost around this time of year. At first I felt a little guilty. How could I memorialize my dog while others have more significant losses to cope with? Then I realized that pain is pain. It's not the same, and that's okay. Holidays are a time to remember family and spend time with those who are still here. Please take a little extra time with yours - four-legged or otherwise.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.