Friday, August 14, 2009

Dearly Missed – loss of a pet


Something I’m not comfortable with is public mourning; even of a dog.  So please forgive me if I held off on sharing this for a few weeks.  This is Zandor.  He came from the Ontario Humane Society Newmarket branch, where he had been picked up as a stray and housed for a month.  His estimated age then was four to six years old, but we were privileged with his presence for another thirteen years; do the math and there is something here to celebrate.

What I mostly feel when I think of him, is a million regrets.  He was not the dog I had hoped for.  I wanted a dog that was lively and energetic.  I wanted a dog I wrestle and play with.  I wanted a dog that I could train for dog sports like agility and schutzhund.  I wanted a dog that would chase a frisbee and play tug-o-war.  He was none of those things. 

He was gentle, mild, loyal, strong.  Always desperate to please.  He was happy in our company, he learned to swim too cool off.  He enjoyed being brushed until he was too old for it.  Had I known anything about training in his youth he would have made a perfect beginners agility dog, but I dismissed the possibility due to his laid back character.  He never did a thing wrong, and he never ‘needed’ training of any sort.  He was friendly with everybody except for one time on New Years Eve when he turned ‘cujo’ on a guy who approached me in a threatening manner.  He was stunningly beautiful, even to the end with his long glossy red and black coat and wolfish looks.  In other words, he was absolutely and positively perfect.

Now he is gone.  It was a long ride, and the past year was a geriatric downhill slide that was awful to behold.  I’m ashamed to admit that somewhere inside me, at the end, there was a sense of relief, that I would no longer have to witness, day by day, dying by increments.  My mourning began some years ago; the first camping trip without him, when he was no longer fit for the rugged hikes we do.  Then again, my first walk in the woods without him, when he could no longer keep up with my ‘exercise’ pace in the forest.  The losses continued.  Blind eyes, wobbly legs, falling down again and again, the times on the trail when he would collapse and bark, unable to continue and we would wait and hope he would catch his breath.  Then the debates were on, leave him home and deny him the joy of the forest or risk his life with too much exercise? Eventually, of course, we kept him home; we had to.  And the last year, the restless senile wandering, the incontinence, his world dwindling in deafness and blindness, a continuous reminder of how we ourselves may find a lingering end. And the constant debate.  How long do we let this continue, when is euthanasia humane, and when is it merely a matter of convenience?  I still don’t know if we waited too long, or not long enough for in the end we made the decision for him. 

Sorry I have nothing uplifting to say, no comforting platitudes.  Life can be full of joy, but part of it is down right ugly.  And then we move on as best we can.

Image: 8x10 watercolour on hot-pressed paper.  After the first wash in umber, I wanted to abandon it, but my husband begged that I would give it to him, even at that early stage.  I spent the remainder of the day fighting with paper that sucked pigment like a sponge, leaving streaks and lines no matter how fast I tried to apply the wash.  I knew it would never turn out like I’d planned, kind of a fitting punishment for not appreciating Zandor enough for being the wonderful perfect dog that he was.


Here is a life drawing of my husband.  This was a few weeks after Zandor’s passing.  We were visiting friends for the weekend, and relaxing in the gazebo.  Once my husband found the plush puppy, he kept it with him, on his lap sitting, on his hip sleeping, but always in contact. 


Chrissy said...

This post made me cry...I am still crying, Silly really, I have no pets, I have allergies..
I am glad he was rescued, glad he was loved whether or not he was the dog he was meant to be...
Sorry you both feel so sad, I understand some of the comments you have made about not sharing, I have struggled to share some of my loss at times, something to talk about if we ever meet. hugs to both XX

Jennifer Rose said...


always hard loosing a pet. he lived a long life! its never easy making the decision to end the pain as it just leads to more pain. :(

kaslkaos said...

I was afraid of that, Chrissy. I think it's because this post is not just about a pet, but about mortality, and loss. Especially for you, a sad reminder. I promise my next post to something more cheery. We are fine; we do not equate dogs with children, but it is still loss, and what bothers me the most was how awful his last year was and yet so common and ordinary. I do promise, next post will be less dire.
Yes Jennifer. I really should remember the many long years he had of great health and happiness. The picture is from his middle-aged youth (we never had him young) when he was all alert and wolfish.
Thanks guys for reading (and letting me unload)

Michelle (artscapes) said...

Wow... He was a beauty!
What a lovely eulogy to a beloved pet. I hope in sharing your grief you might gain some comfort.

kaslkaos said...

Thanks millions Michelle. Glad to finally feature the great guy here.

Jenny said...

So very sorry to hear of your loss. Our animal companions are so important in our lives. I lost a feline companion, Geraldine, a year and a half ago after 14 years of togetherness. I was griefstricken, but eventually adopted Lucy Meowington, who has a completely different personality and whom I love just as much.

Chrissy said...

" We are fine; we do not equate dogs with children, but it is still loss, and what bothers me the most was how awful his last year was and yet so common and ordinary. I do promise, next post will be less dire."
Life has ups and downs. I used to only blog good things but it gives a very unrealistic view of life. There are people who suffer loss and illness. My post about my friend was sad but the family all shook my hand at the funeral because it meant a lot to them and I think they gained some comfort from it.
We laugh and we cry and I forgot to say, it is a lovely capture of his character :)

kaslkaos said...

Thanks Jenny, 14 years is a long relationship by any standard. The moment we bring a pet into are home we are fairly certain to grieve them sometime later. It's part of the deal. Lucy Meowington is an absolutely fabulous name.
Thanks Chrissy. Blogs will always be artificial snapshots of our lives but we do try to present some semblance of how we live, picking and choosing vignettes to represent our world. You made a choice to share yours, sadness and all, and we are all the richer for the honest revelations.

Cat-in-a-Box said...

I'm so sorry for your loss! I've only just found your post today but please accept my belated condolences. It's hard to lose a friend - no matter what species they are. Have no regrets - you made the right decision at the right time. He had a long, happy life full of love and respect. What more can any of us ask for?

kaslkaos said...

Thanks Cat-in-a-Box, it is not belated. They are always remembered and it is the most we can do.


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