Last month, I had to put my sweet puppy boy, Spotty, to sleep. He was 16 and had a stroke.
I first met Spotty about 13 years ago. He belonged to an ex-boyfriend. At first Spotty and I did not like each other. We were each jealous of the attention the ex paid the other. The first evening I went over to the ex’s place to watch TV, Spotty climbed on the couch between us – his usual spot – and reached over and gently nipped me. I came back the next day and this little terrier mix, who rarely barked, barked at me when he saw me. I told him to shut up.
But out of that less-than-auspicious beginning came a loving bond. I started taking Spotty for walks, which he was unsure of at first, but soon became his favorite activity. Just the word “walk” would start him wiggling in eager anticipation. He was getting puppy treats and going for rides in the car, and he got lots of mommy loving – hugs and kisses and ear scratching. He felt secure, I believe. Previously, with the ex, he was allowed to roam around loose and was never sure where he’d end up. Now he was living a normal dog’s life and he loved it. Soon we both decided the ex wasn’t worth our time, and we got rid of him and continued on without him.
Spotty was such a funny little dog. He fascinated me because although he was nonverbal, he had a way of getting his point across. If I studied his body language closely, I could tell exactly what he wanted. Once when I was scratching his ears, I asked him, “Does that feel good?” and he replied, “Umm-hmm!” Another time, Dan was messing with me, pretending to hit me although he was actually hitting the back of the couch, and Spotty said quite clearly, “Weave her wone (leave her alone)!” After our walk, I would go out again for a run (he would’ve wanted to stop to sniff and mark every tree), and he would stand in the window in his room howling. I came back one evening and heard him barking sharply: “Where are you! Where are you!” Then he trailed off into a mournful wail: “Where are you?”
Things started going downhill earlier this year. He didn’t want to go for walks or rides anymore. He had a couple of harrowing incidents where I came home and found him lying on the floor, unable to get up. It was hard to accept that this might be the end. You know it’s going to happen, but you’re never really prepared for it. After the last incident, Dan and I bundled Spotty up in his yellow blankie and took him to his vet, Dr. Scott Nieves of Beaumont Veterinary Centre. Spotty liked it when Dr. Scott gave him treats, but he would hide under a chair until we hauled him out for his exam. Dr. Scott looked Spotty over and said his problem could be neurological, but it probably wasn’t in Spotty’s best interests to subject him to any invasive procedures that might not work in the long run. We decided to put him to sleep so he wouldn’t suffer any longer.
I always thought, when I heard the phrase “burst into tears,” it meant you suddenly started wailing and sobbing aloud. But I just started quietly letting the tears flow from my eyes. I told myself to stop crying, not to distress Spotty and make him sad, but I couldn’t control the tears. I bent over Spotty and kissed his ears and eyes and nose. Knowing the sense of hearing is the last to go, I kept telling him I loved him and he was a good boy. Dan said, “Sing him one of his songs.” He has several songs: “Spotty, Spotty, king of the sea/Spotty, Spotty, he loves you and me.” There’s also the theme song of our pretend Food Network show: “Cooking with Spotty, ain’t it fun!” But I couldn’t remember any words or tunes and ended up singing a spontaneous, wobbly, rather botched version of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” “He’s a good boy, loves his mama, loves horses and America, too … ” I told him he was going to be in heaven with Jesus, and even though there are lots of dogs there, when Jesus plays with them, he makes each of them feel as if they were the only dog. It did not take long for him to go gentle into that good night. Dr. Scott gave me a big hug, reassuring me that I had done the right thing and that Spotty had had a good life. “Anyone would love to be a dog in your house,” he said.
Dan was wonderful throughout the sad events. He professed to not like Spotty, but he wept a little bit as the shot was administered. He claimed he was upset because I was upset. When we left the vet’s office, he, too, gave me a big hug and said, “Mommy want some ice cream? Let’s go take Mommy for some ice cream.” And so we did. Spotty and Dan had a relationship like any other big brother and little brother (although Dan vehemently denied being brother to a dog.) If Spotty and I were downstairs and Dan joined us, Spotty would go over to stand by him, looking up at him as if to say, “You’re so tall! I want to be tall like you.” And like any other big brother, Dan declared his room off limits to Spotty. But sometimes, if we weren’t watching and Dan left the door to his room open, Spotty would quick-walk into it and start looking around. Then Dan would go in and make him leave: “Stay out of my room!”
For the first time since I bought it, my house is dogless. There’s no one to greet me with a wildly wagging stub of a tail when I get home. No one to take for a walk or ride shotgun when I go on errands. No one to come to me while I’m working on the computer and ask for a little mommy loving. But I must admit that towards the end, Spotty was high maintenance; it was like having a newborn baby. I woke up several times during the night to take him outside, and since he couldn’t go up or down the stairs, I ended up carrying him, and while he wasn’t fat, he was pretty hefty, especially if I was tired. I cherish the memory of his last afternoon with me, when I wrapped him in his blankie and fell asleep on the couch holding him. I hung his collar on the rear view mirror of my car. I looked through one of his photo albums. I donated his leftover treats and food to the Humane Society, but I still have his bowl, still full of food, in the bathroom. Dan wants to get another dog right away, but I’m not ready, although I did concede that I would visit the Humane Society next week – just to look.
Goodbye, Spotamus Theolonius, my little Cicada Saver, my Gopher Grabber. You are my sweet boy, the goodest puppy boy ever. You made me laugh and you made me smile. You were warm and soft and funny. Thank you for being part of my life. Your mama loves you forever.