We just lost our seventh dog. That’s not quite right; the dog didn’t run away; the dog died. Yet, I don’t feel particularly good about putting it that way either. I sentenced this dog to death, and the veterinarian was the executioner.
Vikki had been with us/me for over 13 years. She was a beautiful, brindle Cairn terrier I’d purchased from a wonderful couple in Rhode Island. I had to go through a three hour interview on a Sunday morning before I was even allowed to view the pups. As I recall, I was asked to remove my shoes before I entered the house because they had a new litter in their bedroom upstairs and didn’t want to expose them to something I might bring in [if they’d only known where those socks had been – just kidding]. By the way, that new litter, as I recall was less than a week old. Following the interview, I went to see the 8-week pups playing in the backyard and told the breeder which one I’d like. “We’ll call you in a couple of weeks with our decision,” she said.
One week later I called the breeder. “Look, we don’t wish to wait another week,” I said. “We’ve had dogs before and we’re a good family for them. I’d like you to tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no’ please.” It sounded to my mind somewhat angry…which it was. “That’s funny; we were just about to call you and tell you that you can pick up your dog whenever you want,” I was told.
To shorten the story…We did. My late wife had eight wonderful years with our Vikki, and I had five more. About two years before Joan was diagnosed with cancer, the dog knew she was sick. There were no signs or symbols, but one evening, Vikki suddenly jumped into Joan’s lap, snuggled down and began licking Joan’s hand. She began doing it more and more often…right up to the time of the deadly diagnosis. No one will ever convince me that Vikki didn’t know Joan was ill.
In her 13th year Vikki went blind. She knew the house and the yard well enough to get around and do so rather skillfully. Whether her other senses sharpened or not, I have no way of telling; however, this blind=as-a-bat pooch must have had one hell of a sense of smell because she presented us with three baby rabbits the day before she collapsed. Her collapse occurred in the backyard. She was lying in the grass and went to get up. Her hind legs just collapsed and she landed on her side. No matter how hard she tried, her body would not respond. Juli carried her into the kitchen and lay her on the cool tile floor. I called the vet and was told to bring her in the next day.
Vikki was the seventh dog we had owned since 1961. We knew she was in serious trouble. When the vet came into the examining room, she sensed immediately how upset Juli and I were. After a brief examination, she inquired, “Are you both here to say goodbye to Vikki?” We looked at our dog, then at each other, and despite my promise to myself that I would not show emotion, the tears began to flow. This was my seventh dog. I have no idea how many Juli had before moving to Massachusetts. I had never cried before. I love every one of our other dogs, but I’d never cried. I rested my head gently on Vikki’s as the injection was made. I cried like a baby and so did Juli.
Then it was over; Vikki was gone.
Someone said to me a day or two later, “I know what you’re going through; it’s like losing a child.” I’m certain I just looked at them and said nothing. Had I opened my mouth it would have been to say, “Are you fuckin’ kidding me?” A child is your flesh and blood; a pet is a wonderful part of your life that leaves too soon, but to compare the two is sheer idiocy. I will always remember those last moments; better yet, I will remember Vikki falling in the pool and realizing she could actually swim, eventually understanding that on a hot summer day, “Hey, this is a pretty cool thing they put here for me.” Stick up the finger of one hand – not that one, fool – and sweep your other hand around it. That was Vikki in the middle with the world revolving around her. I wasn’t quite that bad, but you get the picture.
When they are pups, they leave little treasures for you to clean up. As they age, they bark at the back door. They let you know when they want to eat and when they want to cuddle. They are loving and they are a pain in the butt. There are times you’d like to slap ‘em upside the head and the next minute they’re laying beside you licking that hand you were going to use before. One moment they’re as stubborn as a rock; the next they are at your side. They are your pet, and if you’ve shown a little love on your part, you get a passel back that’s so big it will just melt your heart. The breed doesn’t matter. If you get a puppy and treat it with kindness, you will receive love that is unconditional. We’ve had Charlie the Dalmatian; Tammy, the Siberian Husky; Snowy, the small poodle, Dapper, the All—American something-or-other who was our only dog to appear on a Boston television show – that’s right a star was born and died on TV…but only when told to die. We had Lacey, our first Cairn. She died of cancer at six…and then we had Vikki. You know the rest.
Will I have another dog? Here’s what I wrote to Vikki’s breeder: “Since I am now 78, I fear this is the end of my pet days. After I go, Juli will be moving back to California with her family and, quite frankly, I just don’t think the kids want any more confusion in their lives Ann already has two labs, and Rick has some monster named Bandit who, I gather is a cross between the Incredible Hulk and Mr. Hyde. Janet’s kids are too young for a dog and they’re so into sports I fear the dog would be a second class citizen.” You should also know that I later e-mailed this breeder, asking if she had any puppies available. If she has, Juli will take him/her to California when my time is up. Vikki has been gone less than a week; the sense of loneliness is inexplicable. Could I love another dog? Of course not…well, not until that first lick on the back of my hand or on my cheek. What a bloody softy; I just hope I never grow up!