I normally blog about being healthy, working out, clean eating...but this one is different. My blog has always functioned under the idea of being healthy, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. And today, for the sake of my emotional health, I am going to tell you all about my sweet boy, Skippy, our family pet of nearly 14 years. And how we decided it was time to say good bye.
We adopted Skippy from the pound in August of 2003. Scott and I surprised the girls with the cutest little, tan, floppy eared puppy. He had spent one night at the shelter, having been found in a ditch out in the country, all alone. I couldn’t resist those big brown eyes, oversized ears and wagging tail.
We had two great nights with Skippy. We had named him (after the color of Skippy peanut butter), the girls already loved him, and he instantly felt like part of our family. But day three brought a huge challenge. Skippy was very sick and was diagnosed with Parvo, which can be very deadly for dogs. We were told we had a 50/50 chance of survival if we treated him, or we could trade him in for a different dog at the pound, which was a death sentence for our sweet boy.
What choice did we really have? Having spent $75 to adopt him, one week later we had spent almost $600 at the vet. We now had a scared, skinny, emotionally fragile little guy on our hands. We joked that for the almost $700 we had spent, we should have a nice pedigree instead of this scrawny pup with visible scars from the IV and the emotional scars of having spent a week in the hospital.
His need for attention upon coming home from the hospital was huge. This is when he found his voice. Skippy became a very vocal dog. In other words, he was a whiner. He was needy. That stay at the vet turned him into a very needy dog. He needed to be petted, always, and he whined when we weren’t doing it. After realizing the whining worked on that, it became his go to command. If he needed out, wanted a treat, needed water, wanted more food, wanted to be petted, wanted on the bed, all of it was gotten by whining.
It was cute when he came home and we thought it was adorable that he missed us so much. Not cute 13 years later.
Being scrawny did not stick. Skippy loved food and he was always a bit on the thick side. He topped out at around 55 pounds but was down to 39 pounds the last few months of his life.
But beyond the whining, he was a sweet dog. He had the softest coat. He loved to have his chest rubbed. He never met a stranger. He was sweet to everyone that came into our home, and he wanted everyone to pet him.
We got him a buddy, Rondo, when Skippy was five. By then we had moved to Oklahoma and were gone more during the day, so Rondo was a good companion for him. He lost weight chasing his new friend around. Rondo was obsessed with Skippy. Rondo wouldn’t eat until Skippy had. He always waited to see how Skippy would respond to something before he would act. Skippy was his big bro and he loved him.
One of Skippy’s biggest quirks (and there were many) was that you could NOT touch his paws. Much less clip his nails. I don’t mean he didn’t like it. I mean it was a total freak out if you touched them. A nice, but misguided, vet once said if she took him out of the room and clipped them without me around, he would be fine. She left with him, only to bring him back a few minutes later to tell me she feared he would have a heart attack when she tried to clip them. I don’t know what happened that made him such a fanatic about it, but we spent a lot of money through the years having him sedated for his pedicures.
We sailed through the good years. Skippy was just a great, loyal dog. Sure, he was a pain in the butt sometimes. He thought he needed a treat every hour on the hour and would stand by the closet where we kept them an whine until you gave him one. No mercy. He never gave up. He barked at the neighbor’s dogs and anyone who dared walk past our home. He was a beagle mix (best guess) and he had that Beagle howl. Not always my favorite thing to listen to.
Four years ago, when Skippy was almost ten years old, we acquired Arthur, our little man. The little spitfire. A Chorkie; a Chihuahua/Yorkie mix. His personality is all Chihuahua. He wanted to be the alpha dog, and liked to growl at Skippy to prove his point. There were days when I was sure Skippy was going to eat Arthur.
As time passed, Skippy’s hips got old. The walks were shortened to just around the block. The vet visits came closer together. He began to lose a little weight, so unlike him. He had a little cough last fall. I chalked it up to allergies. But after a couple of weeks of this chronic cough, we checked in with the vet. An x-ray and a few tests later and we are told it’s not allergies at all, but congestive heart failure. Skippy had fluid in his chest. We began a regimen of cough meds to try to help relieve some of the pressure in his chest.
I don’t know that it helped. His cough escalated through the months, but he did not seem to bothered by it. He still ran around the yard, He ate. He pooped. He whined for treats. Then the whining turned into barking and life got hard. There was no keeping him satisfied. He seemed upset in the evenings. He couldn’t get settled. The cough began to wake us up, as he coughed more and more during the night.
In a last ditch effort for what I was sure was a few good months we had left, we began to give him a mild sedative to help him get settled at night. The vet diagnosed him with Doggie Dementia. She said some dogs will bark at the wall for hours. We weren’t quite there, but we seemed to be moving in that direction.
It was hard. He still had really great days. He loved to lay on the back porch in the Spring sunshine. He still loved to follow me around the house and be petted. He wasn’t a miserable dog, lying in wait, ready to go. But his mind and body were failing. He was increasingly difficult. He had lost a lot of weight. The cough was chronic. I realized last weekend it was time to say good bye. Four weeks after our last vet visit. I called the vet the moment I knew, because I was certain I’d chicken out. That was Saturday morning and our appointment to let him go was Monday afternoon.
We had a good couple of last days. Chelsea, our oldest daughter and her husband came over. We loved on him as much as we could. I didn’t go to church, wanting to spend as much time with him as I could.
Francie, who was nine when got Skippy, was heartbroken. She took Monday off from work to come hang out with us. We tried to make it an epic day. A ride with the sunroof open. A trip to Braum’s for a burger and milkshake for Skippy. A trip to the park.
Then home for some sunshine in the back yard. What do you say to your constant companion when you know it’s good bye? How do you let him know how much you loved him? Lots of tears, hugs, belly rubs, and sweet words were shared, then Scott and Skippy left.
I had done my research on how to handle the end of life for aging dogs. There is no right or wrong way to make the decision. But once it was done, I had a tremendous amount of peace. I knew we had chosen the right time.
I read about how to handle the remaining dogs and saying good bye. I wished I could explain to Rondo and Arthur what was happening. Experts say that when dogs can see the body of the dead dog, that they can comprehend the death and recover from it easier.
Scott brought Skippy home in a cardboard coffin (a box, but coffin sounds better). He took it to the back of the yard, I let the boys out and they made their way down to the box. At first they were hesitant, but eventually they poked their heads in, and sniffed all around. Then they sat right by the box and solemnly stared. They seemed to know to show him some respect. They sat still the entire time Scott dug the hole to bury Skippy. I have never seen those two dogs more still in my life. They had a little doggy memorial service going on. I am sure they absolutely understood and paid their respects. I was so proud of them.
And it was done. After months of stressing about his health, his cough, how we would make the tough decisions when the time came, it was all over. The tough decisions were done. He was at peace and so were we.
We all cried. Scott has always teased me about talking about Boomer, the cat I had for 19 years as I grew up. So many Boomer stories he has heard through the years. Now it’s Skippy’s turn. We’ll be telling Skippy stories for the rest of our lives. Remember that time Skippy rolled all over a dead bird? Remember how he used to pretend box with Daddy?
Losing a pet is hard. Life is hard, but you live through it. You pray, you find peace, you make your way. You recover. This may all sound dramatic to someone who doesn’t have a pet. But Skippy was as much a part of this family as I am. He was one of us.
Pet grief is real. I’m working through it. Indulging in this blog is part of it for me. I write my feelings and sharing has helped me. Thank you for reading. I hope you have a pet in your life that you love as much as we loved Skippy.
If you are looking for a family pet, please adopt! We saved Skippy’s life by visiting the shelter that day. There are so many wonderful dogs in shelters all across the country.