Thursday, May 10, 2012


We've had a dog in our lives (or 3) for the last 15 years. Last Saturday we put to rest our last dog, Carl Bud. To say it is strange to be dogless is an understatement. It is incredibly disconcerting.

15 years ago Ben and I met and a several months later moved in together and took on the responsibility of a 6 month old black lab mix who we named Seren. We had no idea what we were doing, just puppies ourselves. She was a wild mess. She peed on things, broke stuff, slammed into objects. Basically, a teenaged dog.

A year later, we crazily thought that adding a second dog to the mix would be a good idea. We adopted a cattle dog/bat/sausage hybrid who we named Petey. She was a year old at the time, so both her and Seren were roughly equal in age, give or take a few dog months. Seren mellowed out once we got Petey or, in retrospect, maybe Petey was just so over the top needy that Seren seemed mellow when she wasn't. Seren ended up being a very grumpy dog. She was sweet as could be to those that she knew, indifferent to those that she didn't. She didn't listen very well when excited, didn't give the ball back after chasing it down, didn't come when called but she was, overall, a very good dog. I think we got lucky because the only things we ever taught her were to "sit" and "shake hands." We were not the most responsible of dog owners.

Petey was another story. Poor Petey, who knows what her life was like "on the streets." She was such a needy dog. She pranced around constantly, doing an anxious little tapping dance. We could get her up on her hind legs, hopping around with a treat. She loved to the point of being annoying and was so very skittish. She loved Seren. She would nestle in Seren's hind quarter with her head tucked in when they would sleep. Petey was obedient, never strayed, always came when called. Besides being out of control anxious and all that entails, she was smart as a whip and loyal as can be. And fast. Had we been better people we would have directed her energy into agility contests. She would have dominated.

We moved to Portland after 3 years. We left Seren and Petey in the care of our roommates until we found a house in Portland. I got lonely without a dog in the house, they can offer a quiet comfort when you're the only human there and, at the time, Ben worked the graveyard shift. So, unbeknownst to Ben, I went to the shelter and adopted a dog named Lady (trust me, not our choice). He found out when he came home and she growled at him.

Lady was a prissy little sheltie mix. She had lots of golden hair and a little wig that stood up on top. She was 8 when I got her and sweet but not too terribly bright. She would do this thing where she would run in circles around the backyard and tear out clumps of grass with her mouth, shake them and throw them around. I think she longed to chase small game. Lady and Seren didn't fight often but they fought bitterly. Seren was alpha dog when she and Petey finally came home but Lady was used to being the only dog in the house for months. There was mostly peace and we learned how to diffuse the situation before it started, Lady would get a crazy look in her eye and we'd send her outside. 3 dogs was a lot
to handle but we managed in our small home.

Lady would be the first dog to teach us about loss and what it means to love a pet and let it go. As she got older she got doggie dementia, lost her hearing, would stare into the corners of the house. She bloated at 15 years old and we spent a ridiculous sum of money to fix her necrotic stomach and for a week we held on to the silly notion that she could have the same quality of life as before. But eventually it was clear that she couldn't and we made the very adult decision to euthanize her. It was a sad household for a while. Looking at Seren and Petey you wouldn't know it. I think they were glad the interloper was gone for good.

A few months later, we found what was purported to be an 8 year old, Newfoundland/Bernese Mountain Dog mix at the humane society. I had been scouring the dog sites (no bred dogs, we're psychotically against breeding but that's another post) for another dog despite Ben's protestations. I knew I would snag him with this mix. He loves big dogs. We went to meet Smokey who would turn out to be Carl.

Carl was a complete wreck when we met him. He was missing most his fur, covered in scabs and just pitiful. He was 128 pounds of mess. He got along with Seren and Petey; they were all uninterested in one another, really. Carl would turn out to be a dream come true for us. He was loveable and goofy, he loved to swim and wrestle and chase. He was a sweet bear of a dog. He never fell in love with the other two, Petey used to try to lay with him and he'd get up instantly, but they were amiable enough.

Seren got sick when she was 13, January 2010. Cancer somewhere in her body, we were never quite sure where. In her old age she became very loving towards us, more so than was typical for her grumpy nature. She would sleep by us, she would put her head on our knees and just look at us with what we considered love in our anthropomorphizing way. She declined fast and when she was unable to breath after walking from the front of the house to the back, we decided it was time. Oh how I do miss that dog. Even 2 years later I dream of her running or lying next to me. So sad when I wake up and know that she's gone. As an atheist, I don't believe in a heaven but it is nice to think that I'll see my girl again one day.

We thought that Petey would go downhill after her beloved Seren was gone but she held out for another year and half. She paced a lot, got senile, lost her hearing but she still enjoyed laying in a sunny spot and being adored. It was stressful once Mr. Littles came into the picture. She was already skittish and a tiny, fast human just sent her over the edge. She was never mean to him, she never snapped at him but she gave him a wide berth. There is some guilt that her last months were not peaceful ones. She developed a gastrointestinal bleed at the age of 14, October 2011, and we said good bye to our little, needy Petey, the dog we thought would live forever.

Carl surprised us all by how long he stayed around. Because of his size we always anticipated he wouldn't be with us for very long. 11 and 12 came and went and we were so happy to have him in our lives still. As he aged be became a little grumpy. It might have been from the pain. As large breeds are wont to do, he developed arthritis and hip pain. We medicated him but dogs are so stoic, you can never really be sure. He was unable to run and chase. Trips to the park were fewer; walking around the block was all he could muster in his last year. He lost some hearing. He never lost his love of food but wasn't able to digest it as well. And when it was clear that his quality of life was vastly diminished, Ben made the decision that it was time last weekend.

You know, we develop such attachments to these beings that we share our lives and homes with. They grow with us, if we're lucky. They bear witness to the great and awful events in our lives, completely without judgment. There is such a hole when they aren't there anymore. It's awful to open the door and not have a furry body excitedly run or amble to greet me. It's been a little moment of ache every time I open the door, knowing that there's no one there waiting but having a second of anticipation just the same. When I get up in the middle of the night I automatically look over to where Carl slept and, in the darkness, I'm jarred just a little when he isn't there. I still walk around where the dog dishes have been for the last 12 years we've lived in our Portland home even though it's now just an empty space.

I know the sadness will fade. The spot where Seren lay down to sleep doesn't give me pause anymore but, in its own way, that's sad too.

1 comment:

*~~**~~**~ Sheree said...

Oh Melanie! I am do sorry! I fear this day is coming sooner than we'd like for our sweet Dalton... What sweet memories you have of the dogs that shared their sweet lives with you, Ben, and the little Mr!