Archive for October, 2018

Last night I was depressed.  Actually I have been depressed for a couple of weeks and last night it took a particular form.  The form it took last night was “My life has no meaning” – or more specifically “I’m doing nothing that has any meaning.”  As I examined this further, I realized it’s not true that my life has no meaning – rather, I’m not doing the things that give my life meaning.  Caring for animals gives my life meaning, but my dog has died and right now I have no active dog walking or pet sitting business.  I am a writer and writing gives my life meaning, but – for the last few days that I have not been writing – that source of meaning has not been there.  Funny how its absence for just a few days could have such a devastating impact on me.

Realizing all this is very helpful to me, but tonight there’s more.  Today, at church and at a memorial service downtown, has been all about the tragedy at the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh.  When I tried to have my post tonight be all about dogs, I just couldn’t do it.  Dogs are a beautiful species.  I could picture a dog so noble that their death might even seem tragic. Yet for 11 innocent people to be killed because someone hates who they are – even my doggie’s death at a relatively young age, profoundly sad as it makes me, does not seem as important.

No, something in this is out of kilter.  I’m teetering awfully close to saying that dogs are not as important as people – and maybe they are not, I don’t know.  But I did feel profoundly sad when my dog died – and I’ve got a hunch that that grief opened my heart to the victims in Pittsburgh.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about parrots – and my next animal just might be a parrot.  In the meanwhile, I might volunteer with the local parrot rescue agency.  I can’t picture going through my life never having another dog, but I think there’s stuff I can learn about life from parrots.macaw

I think we need other species in our lives.  One of my favorite books is Kinship With All Life.  If we feel kinship with dogs and parrots and people of other races and religions – all of this stretches our heart, makes us more the person we were meant to be.  It can maybe even fill our life with meaning.

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My adorable, amazing, hopelessly lovable five-pound yorkipoo Toni has died.

Toni ESA

Toni in better times, running through the park.

She had complications of heart disease (diagnosed three months ago), liver disease (one month ago) and kidney failure (diagnosed the day before we put her down).

On the Thursday before, September 27 – the day after what had for me been a happy birthday – two dear and solid friends, having just spent a half-hour with me and Toni, took the risk of saying it straight as they saw it:  “This dog is in very bad shape.  We think she is dying. You need to not make her linger.”

This threw me for a loop.  In the month since a substitute vet had told me that Toni’s liver was three times its normal size, I had been making my peace with the idea that she was not going to make it – would not get well.  But there were those moments that she seemed to really enjoy our little posse – people and dogs – who hang out in front of the building.  The times she would decide she needed a treat from the very kind staff of The Dog Door just next to our apartment building and would take off in her inimitable swollen-belly waddle.  I actually would attempt to imitate it, right on her heels, to everybody’s delight.  Good times, happy times with my doggie – she can’t be ready to die yet!

I talked with my friends, especially the very compassionate and perceptive Diana, a neighbor in the building who had in just a couple of months come to be like a co-parent to Toni. If it’s possible, she loved her as much as I did.

Aunt Diana.jpg

“Aunt Diana” got so close to Toni in her final weeks that she became “Mama”.  Toni would just go limp in her arms and stay there – totally content – for a long time.


I took my predicament to my Facebook friends – posted it on Thursday evening, just hours after my two wonderful friends had confronted me about Toni’s condition.  I have a lot of wonderful Facebook friends: perceptive, compassionate, good communicators, dog lovers.  Many of them are also real-life, face-to-face no-book friends – which increases my trust in them.  Their response was speedy (and it did seem like time was of the essence), compassionate, perceptive – and amazingly consistent.  They told me three things:

  1. The dog will tell you when it’s time to let them go.  This was the most consistent piece of feedback – probably eight different people said it.  At first this seemed especially woo-woo, but then it almost immediately got confirmed.  Marlisa had described how her little dog looked deep in her eyes and she knew she was being given permission to let her go.  Toni had not looked deep in my eyes for a long time, if ever – but in the next couple of days she did it a lot, for a long time each time, and I had no question that she was saying something like, “It’s OK, it’s time to let me go.  I’m suffering too much.”
  2. Don’t make them linger.  Be strong, do what you have to do.  This piece of advice poured in on Friday and Saturday.  By Saturday night I was out of denial – there was no question for me just how sick Toni was.  I knew what I needed to do.
  3. Do it at home, not at an animal hospital.  Five people said “Use 4 Paws Farewell in-home euthanasia vets – they’re the best.”

Four Paws office was listed as opening at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, which was amazing in itself.  By 8:05 I was on the phone with them and by 8:30 we had gone through the business and procedural steps (not “details” – all of them too important to be called details) and ascertained that they had a lot of availability for tomorrow, Monday.  I did not want to make Toni linger – suffer – for another extra day.  By nine a.m. I had called the five other people I wanted to be with Toni – and with me – people that Toni and I both loved.  Another miracle: by noon I had heard from all of them, 10:30 a.m. was available for all of them – including John, who took a day off of work to do it – and I had confirmed the time with the vet.

JOhn and Ralph 3

John lost his beloved dog Ralph just a few months ago (while Toni and I were living with him).  But that wasn’t the main reason he wanted to be with us on Monday (enough to take the day off of work).  He had fallen really in love with Toni – and she with him.  It was gorgeous to watch.

This post has run on long enough – let me write up the next couple of steps in another post (or more – there’s a lot here that could perhaps be helpful to others).


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