Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good-Bye, Old Girl

She was roughly about half the size of a Tribble when my lovely wife Christine brought her home from the breeder in February of 1995, a bouncing brown ball of fur that literally fit into the palm of my hand. She looked like an energetic bran muffin, so that's what we named her. Muffin J. Dog. Though she never did tell us what the J stood for.

She slept in bed with us almost from the start, generally curling up on the top of my head for the warmth generated there. When she was under a pound, it was cute. When she grew to over 80 pounds, it was pretty much life-threatening. Still, I could deny her nothing.

She was never much of a fetcher. She'd prefer to trot around the house carrying a stuffed fleece figure we called Fuzzbaby in her mouth. She was incredibly gentle with it. And with everyone and everything else she ever encountered in life. She wasn't a leash dog either. She didn't need one. When we went walking, she was always by my side. If she happened to bound on a few yards ahead, she'd always stop, look back over her shoulder and make certain I was still following. When I was in my office, writing, she would always be curled up on the carpet in the doorway, keeping a watchful eye to make certain she didn't lose sight of me. Every so often, someone would come to the front door to make a delivery and Muffin would wander outside. The delivery person would become flustered and advise me to grab my dog before she could run away. I always assured them there was nothing to worry about. That dog wasn't going anywhere.

As the years passed and we replaced our bedroom set, the bed became a little too high for old Muff to jump onto, so she'd spend the nights curled up on a big old dog bed set beside ours. She never wanted, asked for, or needed anything more than to be near us to make sure we were safe.

About a year and a half ago, Muffin started moaning one morning and seemed unable to rise from the kitchen floor. We rushed her to the vet, who checked her out and told us that she was suffering from an engorged spleen (whatever the hell that meant) and we had it surgically removed. Within a few days, she was back on her feet and happy again. A few months after that, she started having seizures. Again, we took her to the vet, who prescribed phenobarbitol to control the seizures, which promptly ceased.

But there was something different about poor Muffy after that. She would spend hours and hours pacing around the house in circles, clearly uncertain of where she was or what she was doing. Back to the vet, who told us that she was terribly arthritic and somewhat senile, so painkillers were added to the mix. A few months after that, the incontinence began.

But, through it all, we loved her. We scratched her graying head, patted her thinning tummy, tried to keep her as comfortable and as happy as we could.

About two weeks ago, the day came when Muffy suddenly couldn't get up on her hind legs anymore. I rushed her to the vet, thinking this was probably the end. But the vet said we could try one last thing. She prescribed a steroid called prednazone. Within hours, Muffy was back on her feet again and, wonder of wonders, no longer pacing around the house on a regular basis. Instead, she was back to lying wherever we were sitting, staying with us, protecting her family again. There was still the incontinence problem, but in the balance a minuscule price to pay.

Then, last night, out of nowhere, the seizures started again. And the hind legs failed. And the whimpering was heartbreaking. Today, Christine and I took her back to the vet for the final time, hoping for yet another miracle. But when she started seizing right there in the office, we knew our quota of miracles was finally used up. After weeping together uncontrollably for a few minutes, Chris and I made the only loving choice we could.

So I held her and looked into her sweet brown eyes and stroked her noble head and kissed her nose and told her how much we loved her and how we would always love her and how lucky we had been that she had chosen to be our dog and that it was finally okay to let go of the pain and the suffering and go into the light to play for awhile until the day we could get to see her again and, never one to disobey me, that's precisely what she did.

And now the best, most loving, most loyal dog I've ever known is gone, and the world is infinitely poorer for it and I feel like I've lost my best friend and I'll never be whole again.

So, if you'll all forgive me, I think I'm going to go and cry my eyes out for a good long while.

I expect I'll be doing a lot of that in the days and weeks to come.


jehingr said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. The passing of a beloved family member is always tragic, even if it is time.

Bless you for loving her well enough to do her that final favor.

Heidi MacDonald said...

Len, very sorry to hear about this. I went through the exact same thing (prednazone-based resurgance and final decline) with my old cat many years ago and it is indeed painful to lose a wonderful friend. I hope there will be room in your life for another canine companion someday.


RAB said...

Every one of us who's been through this for ourselves feels it all over again when we see or hear of someone else going through it. And because of that, I know there isn't a whole lot to say.

Howie said...


Having been through this on 2 dogs, you definitely have all my sympathies.

I think I cried more for those dogs than I have for family members who died. It's losing a friend, and a "child", rolled into one.

Lon said...

So sorry to hear about this. Losinga beloved pet is always hard.

Joseph said...


So sorry to hear about this. Our loyal Dalmatian went through some similar pains and we had to let her go back in June. We feel for you both.


Joel Perry said...

Len, I'm so sorry to hear of your and Christine's loss. As the self-professed world's greatest dog lover, I know exactly how you feel. I've been down the same road more times than I can count over the past 51 years, but one thing you can count on: one day, after the tears have all been cried, and only the dear memories remain, there's gonna come a time when another great friend is gonna show up on your doorstep, or at the pound, or you'll see a little puppy that reminds you oh so much of your beloved Muffin, and the cycle of love will start all over again. I don't know what I'd do without siblings Max and Sandy, but when that sad day comes, I'll do the same thing you're doing right now, just as I have all those times before. Go have a good cry, my friend, and cherish all the memories.
Again, all my sympathy.

Eric Curtis said...

I'm so sorry.

Every time I look at my old kitty, I know the day will come soon.

Best wishes.

bobmitchellinthe21stcentury said...

Ah, sorry to hear that Len. Those were some nice words and anyone who has lost a loving pet will recognise those feelings. She was obviously a great dog. Sorry for your loss, but it sounds like she had a great life and loved being with you guys, so I bet she was as happy being with you as much as you loved having her.

Randy said...

I am sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved member of the family. I hope you and yours can get through this tough time. You'll be in my thoughts.

Dean P. said...

So sorry for your family's loss.
I went through something similar a few years ago with my Rottweiler, being at the vet with him until the end has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

My deepest Sympathies.

Dino said...


that was beautifully written, and something that any pet lover can certainly identify with.
It happened to myself with a family cat we had for over 20 years; the positive is that you gave them a good home, and that in the future you will give another pet a good home.

love your work in general, Len, but that one hit home.

don't eat sushi said...

So so sorry, Len...Chris...with all my heart, When I was a kid, I loved my dogs as though they were human. Part of growing up was realizing that they really are just that. More human than anyone I've ever known. My heart is with you and your family.

tomztoyz said...

I don't really know you so I hope this is not inappropriate but I am kinda sad about this news, actually very sad. I have a dog too, that I really love, & they DO become like family.

Sorry for your loss.

Christopher7Murphy said...

We just recently went through a similar experience last month. As well as another last year ...and after just meeting Muffin for the first time by reading your touching tribute, I dearly feel your loss.