I didn’t really like you much when you first came to live with us. You were annoying and disruptive to my peaceful existence. The house was all mine after Fred died. At times, it might have been a little lonely but I really didn’t mind. It isn’t easy growing old. I was 13 and a half when you arrived and my bones ached, my insides didn’t work right and I had to take pills with my food. One day, you’ll understand how it feels.
As obnoxious as you were, I have to admit that you brought me back to my days as a young pup. I guess it was fun romping at the beach with you and taking your chew toys. I give you credit, as much as I tried to intimidate you, you never gave up trying to make me your friend. Thank you for that.
You’re looking good, kid. A solid 77 lbs, you’re probably full grown. I bet you’re finally neutered, too. Now that you’re all grown up, you need to know what’s expected of you:
- Bark at strangers. It’s your number one job. Heck, bark at everyone. It’s hard to know whose strange and who isn’t.
- Walk in front of Mom. You’re there to protect her no matter what she says.
- Always, always be the first one in the car so you don’t get left behind!
- Cuddle often. It’s the only reason Mom lets you on the big bed.
- When you have to go number 2, go off the trail so Mom doesn’t have to pick it up (even though she does anyway).
- Eat fast. Someone might take it from you.
- If Mom gets the watering hose, RUN!!
- Practice your “sad puppy” look. You’ll get more treats.
- Chew the furniture. You’ll get more toys.
- Give lots of hugs and kisses. Mom will give them back.
It took two of us, both Fred and I, to take care of Mom. It’s up to you now, kid. If you need some help, just look at our pictures on the mantle and we’ll help you figure out what to do.
Looking back, I guess it’s a good thing Mom got you when she did.
My sweet Ethel left this world today to join her life mate, Fred, in that place people talk about over the rainbow bridge. A place where dogs run and play, free of pain and aggression, full of joy and as many bunnies as a dog can chase. The place over the rainbow bridge where I told Steve to go when he passed.
“Find Fred, Steve,” I told him as he lay quietly in the hospital bed last fall. “He’s waiting for you.” Tears started rolling down his cheek and I heard him choke up in his comatose sleep.
I can see Ethel joining them in that beautiful place, running free and sharing big sloppy kisses with Fred and her human dad. The bleeding tumor is healed, her appetite restored. She can see as far as the mountain top, clear and bright again. Her body moving as fluidly as the river and her ears flopping like the wings on an eagle.
Ethel was my problem child. Aggressive to other dogs, she would twist and lunge on the leash knocking grown men to the ground. We had an understanding though. She couldn’t get away with that when Mom was walking her. I learned to be alert, on guard, attentive at all times. She mellowed with age and eventually lived up to her nickname “Sweet Ethel”.
With people, she was all hugs and kisses, an 80 pound lapdog. She loved the car. “Let’s go!” was her favorite command. We’d find her in the car long before we were ready to leave. She didn’t want to be left behind.
Fred wasn’t much for the water. He’d wade in the shallow part. But Ethel, she loved swimming. She would fetch sticks in the water for hours. Retrieving on land was boring but nothing distracted her when she was swimming for sticks.
Stroking her soft thick coat, I whispered softly “Find Fred, Ethel. Steve will be with him and they are waiting for you.”
It’s been two months that Fred’s been gone. People asked me how Ethel would be as an “only dog”. I thought for sure she would relish the opportunity to have ALL the attention. After all, she LOVES being petted and won’t let you stop once you start.
Occasionally, I’ve brought her to work with me and my co-workers seem to enjoy having her around. She doesn’t make trouble and stays in my office. I’m not sure she enjoys it though. When we go to leave, she can’t get out the door fast enough.
The past few years, I’ve asked neighbors and friends in similar situations how their surviving pet was after losing the other. I often heard that they didn’t want to have another dog brought into their home… the surviving dog didn’t want another dog. Ok, in both instances an animal psychic was involved.
So, I wondered, “Does Ethel want to be an only dog for a while? Or, is she lonely?”
We visited my parents for Easter and Ethel loved having us around all day. She especially loved the hike that was part mud and part snow. She even joined Coal and Jemma – her canine cousins – swimming in the cold stream running by.
Now that we’re home and she’s alone every day, I wonder if she misses having another dog around. Is she depressed? Is she lonely?
A week ago, she stopped eating and had little energy. I took her to the vet and for $185 I learned she had an upset stomach and got some pills that I had to bribe her to take. She’s better now but drinking a lot of water and having accidents in her bed.
Hey, Ethel… How about a puppy?
I slept well last night, waking only once. It has become a habit, getting up in the night to let Fred outside. When the alarm went off, I hit snooze and pulled the covers over my head. When I eventually rolled out of bed, the tears sprang from my eyes as from gravity, the pull of standing upright.
I knew today would be hard but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be. I fully expected to go to work and bring Ethel with me so she wouldn’t be alone. When it became clear that just standing caused me to weep, I sent word that I wouldn’t be in and went back to bed.
Ethel and I have been sticking close together. I think I need her more than she needs me today. We have the essential oils going in the diffuser. Elevation today. Yesterday, Fred chose Citrus Bliss to send him on his way. Even Dr.Jason commented on the sweet, spicy sent. It created a soothing and calm environment for all of us.
I’ve received so many blessings and kind words of support from friends and family. Thank you to everyone who has been following my story and sending comfort to Ethel and me.
It is another beautiful day. Eventually, Ethel and I will get out for a walk. For now, we’re waiting for time to heal the pain of loss, the deep sorrow of letting go.
Fred passed peacefully this afternoon. He was ready. I still wasn’t.
Dr.Jason from Lap of Love came to the house. He took his time explaining what would happen and patiently answering my questions. He provides a wonderful service with great caring and compassion.
As we were talking, Fred laid on his bed, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. He seemed to know – to be grateful – that we were going to ease his suffering. Dr.Jason gave him the sedative and Fred went right to sleep. He was so at peace, his legs twitching slightly. I sat with him stroking his head and neck, such soft fur, such warmth, a soft blanket covering his body embroidered with “Love and Dignity”. After a while, I nodded to Dr. Jason and he administered the medication.
Fred didn’t linger. After several short breaths, his heart slowed and he was gone. Now he is running free across the meadow by the rainbow bridge.
Ethel and I took a walk after they were gone. We saw the most beautiful sunset. How fitting an end for such an extraordinary friend.
Fred has stopped eating, except for a treat now and then. I think he knows that was the sign I needed to let go. He has no control of eliminations but it is mostly liquid now. Thank goodness for pee pads.
As I contemplated what to do, a friend suggested I talk with Fred about it. It is so simple. Talk to Fred. So, we talked. Ethel and I talked, too. After all, we’re in this together. That’s when Fred stopped eating. He still sleeps peacefully most of the time but he is wasting away, so skinny.
I called Doctor Jason from Lap of Love. He is amazingly understanding and compassionate as I deliberate over when to help Fred pass. What else would one expect from hospice, a hospice for pets. How cool is that?
Music has kept me company the past couple weeks. As we move into this coming week, I want to share words from a song by Sara Bareilles that will be comforting me and giving me the courage to let go:
So, here we go, Bluebird. Gather your strength and rise up. Oh, let him go, Bluebird. Ready to fly, you and I. Here we go…
Last year, I attended a special dinner with a local writer, Nancy Horan. She writes historical fiction and has received acclaim for Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky. It was an intimate gathering at a bookstore in north Seattle and everyone had a great time asking Nancy how she started writing and how she found her material. She told the story of a writing class she took. The teacher was tough, not fully complimentary of her work but she encouraged her to keep looking for the right material. When Nancy learned about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah (pronounced may-ma) Borthwick Cheney, she knew she found her first story. It’s a wonderful book of historical fiction with a surprise ending.
Nancy was autographing my book that evening when she said to me, “You’re a writer. You just haven’t written anything yet.” Wow! I left that evening on cloud nine and feeling more inspired than ever. It’s been almost a year since the dinner. I guess I’ve just been waiting for the right time to begin. When things started happening with Fred, I couldn’t keep myself from writing about it. It gave me the reason to create my first blog.
The name of my blog, Living in a Bigger World, came out of wanting to explore life in a new way. The “status quo” life I had has been shaken up and tossed to the side. As a result, I’m learning to approach life’s challenges with greater acceptance. Resisting only feeds suffering. In a way, it’s fitting that the end of Fred’s life, as my protector and loving companion, would bring me to the beginning of my first blog.
Please join me on a journey of discovery as I say goodbye to Fred in his physical state and learn to recognize the energy of him that lives on with me. We’ll learn together through spiritual exploration, the inspirational wisdom of elders and lessons from my remaining canine companion, the ever sweet, ever loving, Ethel M.
This will be fun…
After I made the decision to cancel our appointment with Dr. Jason from Lap of Love, Ethel and I went to the store to pick up some pee pads and a new, more decorative stand for the food bowls. It is easier for Fred to have his food raised off the ground. But I refused to pay $30 for a stand so I taped a plastic crate to a box and covered it with a plastic yellow tablecloth. The black wire stand is much nicer and worth the money. We’re starting fresh.
It was the right decision, cancelling the appointment. We spent the day cleaning up, laundering dog beds and towels, and enjoying a beautiful afternoon. Fred even got a sponge bath. Later, we watched Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey. Wouldn’t you know it, Lord Grantham’s dog, Isis, is sick! I’m glad I didn’t watch it on Sunday.
Most of all, I feel calmer. Fred and Ethel must feel calmer, too. It’s like a storm was heading right at us and took an unexpected turn away at the last minute. The clouds have passed and a new day is dawning; a new day for all of us.
I have a book of letters written by people to their dogs. Starting this blog at this time, it seems right to begin with a letter to my boy, Fred. In a week, we’ll be saying goodbye.
Dear Fred, my loving boy.
We’re almost at the end of our time together in this life. Still, your fur is such a creamy white and so super soft. Just the other night, three ladies adored you as you walked to them in the dark. They don’t know how you struggle to make your legs work or how they give out when you stand too long. You are so good at hiding your pain and the embarrassment when your bladder gives way before we make it outside. Someone suggested that you know I’m not ready to let go and so you keep it from me how much you hurt.
Was Ella right when she said your bunny like ears stand out so you can hear us better? Now, you fear the step on the curb that you can’t seem to see anymore. Sleep is interrupted by uncontrolled movement of your bowel and you slip and slide instead of getting up on your feet. It’s time, isn’t it?
We made it through this past year. You made it through, with me, knowing how much I needed you. It’s okay now, Fred. I’m better now and it’s time to think of you. I thought you’d tell me when it was time but I guess I have to be the one to decide. Only a pup like you would give such love to a person like me. I’ve loved you so much.
We’re a family – you, me and Ethel. She and I will miss you terribly. Our memories of being together for so long and through so many good and challenging times will fill our hearts forever. For the rest of our time together, we’ll just love and cherish each other and make more memories to fill the void that will be there without you. My sweet, sweet boy. I love you and will miss you.