Losing family pet always rough

By Karl Terry: FNM columnist

Without human offspring, dogs have always been like children for my wife and I. This week we’re grieving the loss of a family member.

Our pets give us so much love and fill lonely voids with soft ears to stroke. When they die they rip our hearts out.

We knew we were on borrowed time with our oldest dog Sniggles after he made a miraculous recovery from an apparent stroke two years ago.

He didn’t run, or even take real long walks with me after the stroke but he faithfully guarded the hallway at night and warmed my feet under the desk while I typed on the computer in the evening.

We needed to make a trip to visit family in Iowa the past week and I won’t say I wasn’t apprehensive about leaving the dogs. Sniggles’ bad spells coincided with times we were gone on trips lately. My wife felt the same way and said out loud she feared the dog would get sick if we left. I told her the best option was to board the dogs with the vet and that way he would get the best care possible if anything happened.

We were at my wife’s aunt’s house for dinner halfway through our time away when my cell phone rang and the vet was on the line. She said Sniggles had experienced another stroke and wasn’t doing well.

A few days later we were home and able to bring the old dog home. He still wasn’t eating well and couldn’t stand without help but we were hoping that if he got home he would respond and begin eating and getting up again. It was a long shot and we all knew it.

Wednesday we knew he was going downhill and had suffered another seizure. We couldn’t delay the decision any longer. It was time to put him out of his misery.

My wife, nor I, had ever had to have a dog put down, though we’ve lost several of them over the years. Carrying him in and laying him on the vet’s table was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I knew it was right.

My wife stroked his neck and talked to him as the doctor administered the drug while I stroked his flank. I concentrated on the rise and fall of his chest and could immediately tell when it stopped and my buddy was gone.

I thought about all the walks we had taken, the cold mountain streams we waded in together and the nights spent in front of the fireplace.

We adopted him from a shelter and to be sure this dog was a little strange. His personality in his younger years was aloof, more like a cat than a dog. To make it stranger he had a cat fixation like no other dog I’ve ever met. The sight of a cat a block away would send him into fits wanting to chase it. Cat smells and cat sounds did the same. Even the word cat or kitty would send him out the door barking.

We looked past his strange ways as he did ours and the bond got tighter than we would have ever believed over the 13 years we had with him.

I’m glad he’s not suffering but there’s definitely a hole in our family life right now.

Rest in peace, Sniggles.