Monday, December 29, 2014

Squaring My Shoulders

The tile sucks heat from the bottoms of my feet as I wander through the house. The contrast to my hot fuzzy head is pleasant, as is the six-pound ball of tangled hair and wheezing snores cuddled against my neck.

Snocone, our completely crazy mill dog, is slipping away from us. Neurological damage, caused from 8 years or so crammed into a cat carrier, is going to finally get her. She circles to the left for hours, falls and bangs into walls. Her little birdy bones jut under my hand, the muscles in her hindquarters are atrophied from the deadly progression of the damage, and sometimes she cries in pain and confusion.

 It's two in the morning and a lovely cocktail of flu and Parkinson's has made my chest tight and painful, my cough is skewed. My lungs lock at the exhale and refuse to give, a portent of the years to come. Scary, scary shit at the loneliest hour of the night. The trials of our dying dog are exhausting, and I haven't slept for days, but feeling  her relax against me, letting my heartbeat soothe her into sleep, this comforts me too.

After four years, it's time to put our lovely little girl down.

"She isn't going to make this easy," my vet warned.

Snocone has finally begun to open her senses to the world. She wants to run with the other dogs in the house. She has left her world of isolation and looks to Jim and I for comfort, companionship and to ease her pain. She has learned to beg, to demand, and trust us to provide. When she is held by the vet, or groomer, she searches the room to find me, then meets my eyes. She doesn't plead, she demands I bail her out of her predicament.

At twelve years old, she has finally learned to crave contact with us and trust us to be there, she wants with all her dogness to be our dog -- and her body is letting her down. She  has no intention of curling up in a corner and dying quietly. We're going to have to make the decision for her.

Every time we try to discuss it, tears cascade down Jim's face. His stroke keeps knocking down his walls of self-control. I know the flood of tears are a symptom of his current state of mind, he can't stop the wave of raw emotion.

It doesn't make it easier to watch him clutch his dog and cry. He has lost the ability to take care of others, instead he is cared for, a very hard place for him to be. He can and does care for Snocone. She has eased his way on the very rough road he's been dumped on.

I walk the floor. Brockle is at my hip, his head barely touching my thigh. Snocone shifts and sighs. The weight of our future digs its talons even farther into my shoulders. I think about the cold tile against my feet and the tiny dog, so relaxed, in my arms. Tomorrow, in the light, I'll pick it all up again, but for now, it's just this.


  1. I'm a long-time reader, rarely comment. I miss your horse stories. I'm a cat person. I don't mind dogs, am not overly fond of them.
    ... I cried reading this.
    All I want is to give you some hope, some energy, something to make something easier, for you, for Snocone, Jim...
    I am sorry I cannot make anything easier, but if it means anything, please know that your stories, your experiences affect even those that read your blog every now and again.
    That it makes them think about people they know, about choices they make.
    Both my cats and my horse are fairly young, but I hope when the time comes, I will have your strength, insight and above all, Love for everyone affected.
    From the bottom of my heart, thank you, please keep fighting

  2. A timely post, I also have a dog on her last legs right now. Trying to find the balance between allowing her what she wants (to stay with her family), and yet not allowing her slide too far over the edge into misery. Our last old dog made the decision himself, he got up one morning, ate breakfast, and then went out back and found a nice sunny spot to die. I hope you and your husband have some peace knowing you gave her a great life the last few years. They are never with us long enough.

  3. A long time lurker. I enjoy your thought provoking stories about training and your 'adventures" with Tally, Madonna and Odin.
    We all learn from you even with the stories of Snowcone and Brock. We know that that you have been given the hard road, yet believe me when I tell you that you have a legion of fans. Many best wishes for a better 2015 for you and Jim.

    Arthur from New Zealand.

  4. DeeDee Sonnyduo@yahoo.comDecember 29, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Oh mugs, I think of you and Jim often and how much I enjoy your writing. It is easy to forget your reality.
    Thank you for not holding back. You have allowed all of us to love your family, your horses, your dogs and even the Big K.
    I am so sad to be losing Snocone. I can barely see the keyboard to type thru my own tears. I too wish there was a way to ease the pain of impending loss for your family. Snocone's story and re-awakening to life affects us all. We will be beside you, holding your hands, inspirit, when the time comes.
    Thank you for making Snocone's final years so filled with possibility..

  5. Oh how they imprint those paws on our hearts. You and Jim have given your best and Snocone knows that. Power of the Paw for strength to all of you. Karen

  6. I am so so sorry to hear this news. You all have given that little dog some truly wonderful years, I hope that you can find some comfort in this. It just hurts you both so much, I know. Hang in there, and know that your friends feel your sadness, and I hope that this makes the heartache a little easier to bear.

  7. Just plain beautiful writing Mugs. About a hard thing that has to be done. And so much more.

  8. The one and only time I had to make this decision it was two years ago with my Aussie cross. She really did not want to go but the arthritis was winning, she was having a difficult time getting up and her hind quarters were atrophied to a noticeable degree, and my BIL was bringing a 110 lb lab with him when he was moving out to live with us. I did not want my girl to suffer trying to keep up with a much younger, bigger female, that had bad written all over it.
    So I took her to our Vet, sobbed hysterically even though I swore I would try not to upset her with my tears - the grief was just to big to contain, and shoved her across the Rainbow Bridge.

    It was a shattering experience. I cried more for my girl then I did for my Dad when he passed.

    Snocone is a lucky girl and she knows it. She learned how to love and be loved, something that every dog longs to be.

  9. What a raw, beautifully written piece. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I just went through this with my chocolate lab girl. She couldn't walk, but she was still trying. Multiple trips to the vet yielded all kinds of information,and all kinds of medication, but she still couldn't walk and had to be carried out so she could lay in the grass and potty. She weighed just under 100lbs. I'm old, I can't carry that much anymore. I was home alone, hubby was gone, had to make the decision on my own. Had to handle it all on my own, had to sit there with her as she slipped away, all on my own. She was the dog I've had the longest. I still cry.

    I cry for you now, because I still have what you are feeling weighing heavily on my soul. I know exactly how much it hurts and I wish I could come hug you right now...even though I know you aren't a hugger.

    I know you know what a wonderful gift you gave to Snocone, you don't need us to tell you. But still I will hope that you can find some small amount of comfort in knowing that.

    Ironically, as I watch our old rescue, Butch, slowly deteriorate I know that it is coming again soon. I told TC the other day, "I can't do this alone again. You have to be here."

    I'm sorry Mugs. Sorry you are having to go through this.

  11. I will never forget how deeply touched and moved I was by your first story about Snocone (and Jim), and her journey with y'all. This is another one that will stay with me. For what it's worth you both have my sympathy and admiration.

  12. Damn. And it never gets any easier. I try to think of our ability to ease their passage as a blessing, but that doesn't make it any less painful, just more bearable.

  13. Oh heart breaks for both of you. Take comfort in knowing that you gave her the best years of her life.

  14. So many emotions, such deep issues. I am sorry it is all so difficult right now. Indeed, Snocone has had a wonderful life with you and Jim, and she knows she is loved. Wishing you peace and wisdom.

  15. I just spent 18 days sitting at my fathers bedside in hospital until he died a few days ago. One of the good things with the animals is that you do get a choice about their end. I had to preside over my mothers end the same way a few years ago. This time was even worse with Dad.

    When people I love die I find it even more fraught with moral minefields I just find myself in. How can you help a parent to both live and die at the same time? – I cant give them what they want in the same way I can with an animal, yet to assist with and watch their suffering is so hard yet to assist with their sooner demise is for me not an option. I am talking here of the state where they are so drugged to ease suffering (but not enough) that they cant feed or water themselves, yet to keep feeding them keeps them going, yet to not do so is to actively cause them to die…….

    I had to do things to my parents that I would not do to a sheep.

    I discovered that death is hard because life is strong.

    I see why warriors chose to die in battle. Heart attacks and strokes look pretty good.

    I get the origin of the phrase “Rest In Peace”

    I am so sorry for you both (and the animals). Be happy that you can make a dignified end to it if you need to.

    Mugs, just delete this if it is too heavy.

  16. I'm sorry for you, and especially Jim. I'm happy for Snocone. She got to be loved and to know security. I understand how you're feeling. I have an 18 yr old cat who stops eating sometimes, but I don't want to let him go. Every day gets harder.

  17. Ozhorse - One of the reasons I love this blog is the input from its readers. You shared your thoughts and insight on yet another side of this life/death coin, thank you.

  18. All of my love to you, Jim, and Snocone.

  19. I'm no good with words. Better at hugs and cups of tea. We've all been there though and know the heartbreak. There is nothing to be done but to love them whole heartedly and go with the flow, one shaky step at a time.
    Don't forget the healing power of another needy soul. Says I, as I extricate a mangled slipper from our newest pound dog. But I needed her as much as she needed me as I'd just lost my dog at 15 yo and cat at 16 within weeks of each other.
    Big hugs to all as we deal with life.

  20. Can only repeat that... I'm so sorry. But you have given Snocone some really happy years. You really have.

  21. And yet we continue to choose to walk the road you are on, even when we know there will be some very rough patches along the way.

    Thank you for sharing Snocone's story with us. Even more, thank you for adding her to your lives and bringing her fully into her birthright as a loved and loving dog.

    Peace be with all of you.

  22. Mugs, your writing is something rare and wonderful. You've created a small, safe haven in the internet for baring one's soul in safe communion with like-minded companions. Thank you for sharing this, and I hope it lessens the load you are carrying. The loss of this little girl for Jim is another piece of love and independence lost. So. Dang. Hard. Sending you as much positive energy, good thoughts, and prayers your way. Amy in Ohio

  23. I'm so sorry. Hugs to you and Jim

  24. I don't comment a bunch, but I do read every post. I'm so sorry Mugs

  25. I'm so sorry to hear you are losing (by this time may have lost) your little Snocone. You write so beautifully. Between your writing and Snocone's time of life, I am crying. I'm not suggesting you try to replace her, but maybe some day another little dog will need Jim and it will be a good thing.

  26. I read often and have for a long long time, so sorry for your lost fur friend and so sorry to Jim as well..

  27. I've been a fan since the early days of your blog, long before the Fugly days, and have read every post, but I have never commented before. This post left me no choice but to come out of lurker-mode.

    My heart goes out to you and Jim. I was so impressed when you willingly and lovingly brought Snocone into your lives and had hoped she would live a long life providing focus and purpose for Jim. You gave Snocone four years of peace, love, purpose, and happiness. Thank you for sharing with us and for caring so deeply.

  28. I am so very sorry to read this and my heart goes out to you all. I lost one of my dogs a couple of months back, he was only 12 but had had heart trouble for18 months and we got to where the meds weren't working any more. He went from wanting to stay to needing to go over about half an hour at 10 oclock at night, and fortunately the vet could come out and help him slip away.

  29. This is a beautiful description of the wonderful care your family has given that little dog. I've enjoyed your blog for years, and wanted to say thank you for this piece of your writing and all the others that have touched me.