Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Sort of E-Mail One Doesn't Want

Regardless of where you are.
I got this in from my Uncle Dave and Aunt Jacky:

Boots was laid to rest Saturday at Midnight.

Boots was 14. In the past year he had slowed down a bit and more recently his hips were starting to give him problems. Last week he developed a serious condition where he was panting severely with a high heart rate this lead to loss of appetite - very serious if you knew Boots. A process of Vet and Emergency visits started Thursday with attempts at drugs for infections at first. It was later learned that he had a heart condition Hemangiosarcoma which as explained to us is the heart sac was filled with blood most like due to a tumor possibly malignant along with a distended stomach due to fluid and gas directly or ? from this condition. Trying to save him would involve draining his heart - not under anesthetic - risky, then operating on
him most likely (open chest, open heart). If he survives this he would have a healing period and according to statistics a maximum of 4 months extended life unless further treated with chemotherapy. This sounded like a traumatic way to have Boots spend the balance of his otherwise great life. Considering he was 14 years old, the risk, the trauma, the expectancy, he was growing more and more uncomfortable (to say the least) and wasn't expected to last long untreated with the high possibility of a terrible death, Jacky and I had to make the toughest decision of our lives. The tough thing was Boots was not a statistic and the unknown killed us. Other than having the distinguished white face, it was hard to differentiate him from a 3 year old.

We can say Boots died of a big heart. He was loving, friendly, calm, gentle, fun, energetic, horny, smart, ... Everyone loved him even those not disposed to liking dogs. All our neighbors, neighborhood walkers and dog-friends will be looking for months from now for Boots on our front lawn sitting freely watching everyone go by and greeting and announcing so many. Our friends and family will be looking for him behind or in front of us when we visit. So many are more interested in seeing Boots than us.

We hope he is up with Dad and all of our loved ones that have passed, human
and other.

Jack and Dave

There was one of those little attachment symbols on the e-mail. I opened it at the PC Bang - internet cafe - thinking that it was some long requested nice pictures of my dog back home. But it wasn't. It was that message you just read. And when I read it I started to cry. That was a few hours ago. I haven't cried consistiently since then,...but it's been on an off and beyond my control.

Boots was never my dog. But he was my dog. My good boy. My big faced good boy. He was the dog I liked most. Ever.

My grandfather had had a dog, Soren. She was a beautiful thing - a Chesepeak Bay Retriever, and my grandfather loved her. Unfortunately, she died quite young, just a couple years after my grandfather had been given her.

Her replacement was Boots. Some argued that it was too soon for him to get a new dog. As I recall, Dave and Jacky had come across this beast, barely a puppy, and thought he was the perfect companion for my grandfather. And turns out he was. Boots was a big muscular floppy dog. A black lab cross, he had a big expressive face - with "eyebrows" he liked to sway up and down as you talked to him. He'd lay napping beside my grandpa on the livingroon floor of our family's cottage.

I remember meeting Boots for the first time. I'd just arrived up north and opened my car door. These are the best times: the deep inhaling of the fresh smells of lake and just cut grass and fresh air. Delicious. Boots approached the car barking - but I'd been warned. That was how he was. As he came toward my driver's side he regarded me warily. Then he spied my shoe - some stupid Spice Girl platform strap-on sandal. Tasty. He chomped it in his big mouth and ran away. And he ran and ran and ran. I kind of tried to chase him, but he was whizzing around the whole property. No chance.

When he finally approached, sandal in mouth, he let me almost have it, before he gripped it again and fought me for it. When I finally won it over again, I held it up in the air beyond his reach - and he brought his good and strong jaws down on my bicep. I still have the scar - white and in a semi circle, where his teeth had gone through my T-shirt.

That's not to say he was fierce. He wasn't. He could gently nuzzle a hot-dog out of a baby's hand. And he often did. He would bite the ball of ice-cream off the cone of someone not paying attention. He'd empty a plate of barbequed goodness - in seconds - of you had your back turned. He loved fetch - as he proved with my sandal - but he really never was good at letting go, despite my uncle's commands of "Off, Boots, OFF!"

In the middle of a cold February night, my grandfather - Boots' "papa" suffered a heart attack. My grandfather got himself out of bed, got mostly dressed, and headed toward his car to drive himself the 30 minutes to the hospital. He only made it to the back stairs.

Boots would have been okay inside. He knew where his great big bag of food was. Instead, he clawed his way out of the sliding front door. I think he could see my grandfather outside. He totally wrecked the frame - and when my aunt showed up a couple days later to find her dad frozen on the back porch, she also found Boots - who refused to come out from under the steps. A habit he kept up for months after. Dave and Jacky, the animal heroes of my family, took him in and he had a great life with them. But at my family's cottage, where my grandfather lived - Boots has been a fixture for years. It'll be so strange to not see him there. Just like it still is to not see my grandfather.

He was a good boy, Boots. He'd let me arrange his huge face patiently as I lay beside him. He had the softest ears. He was kind to everyone, but had a stereotypical hate on for the mailman, a fact I discovered last summer when I was at my Uncle's and opened the door with the mailman in view. Holy crap! I felt so bad, but I had no idea!

Dave and Jacky could better tell you what a great dog Boots was. I want to talk to them about him, tell them how very sad I am he passed, and I want to ask for a great picture. But first I'd like to make sure I don't bawl with the request. It'll take awhile. I'm bawling now. It feels like I lost part of my family. I have. I've lost a part of my already tiny fued-filled family. But Boots, bless him, never gave a shit about the turmoil. He only wondered if you had some food to eat, or a sandal to chew.


Gigha said...

To me, only a dog can give that kind of unconditional love. And therefore, only a dog can be missed so heartfelt. When I read your story I could see Boots, you and the sandal very vividly. He will be up in heaven now having fun with Bonnie (my first dog), Truly Trouble (TT), Myran and Mickey - they have been gone a while, but I still miss them all!
Written with tear-filled eyes...

Jelly said...

Gigha, why you make me cry more? No, it's good - I'm glad you know what I mean.

Jay said...

It's strange how much we come to think of certain pets as members of the family - I know that despite having lost lots of people in my life, the deaths of my dogs are always the hardest.


Big hugs to you.

Kevin said...

Sorry to read about this, J.

Boots sounds like he was a most amazing dawg. If I ever get a dog in the States, it'll probably be a lab or part-lab. My buddy Mike has a dog named Maia; she's half-lab, half-Whippet. Friendly as can be, and as black as Darth Vader's armor. I look forward to seeing her friendly, evil self soon.

I also look forward to seeing Maqz, my brother Sean's black chihuahua. Maqz lives with Mom and Dad; Sean couldn't take him into DC due to apartment rules. Mom, who doesn't normally like animals that much, loves Maqz. I hear he's a very friendly chi.

I remember bawling when our dog Velcro died (yes, that was his name, and I named him). He was fifteen, and it was his time. Both eyes had cataracts, his breath had gone leprous, and his teeth were falling out. I saw him the day before he died, standing in our back yard, covered in flies-- a sure sign of the end. What a horrible sight.

The next day, I found him dead, lying at his usual post by the gate that separates our front and back yards, the place he staked out when watching the street for potential intruders.

Velcro wasn't the best dog. He was loud and obnoxious, and he often liked to snap at us. But when he died and I found myself wrapping his tiny half-terrier, half-spaniel body up in a sheet and taking him toward our apple tree, I couldn't help feeling down.

Dad saw me with the body and came outside. While helping me bury the dog, he gave a sort of eulogy that didn't help me keep my composure. While I was digging a hole, Dad started talking about how Velcro must have been waiting for all three of us boys to be out of college and on our own, and how he knew his job was done. Damn you, Dad, for making me blubber against the apple tree! If I hadn't been crying, I'd have been laughing at the sappiness of the moment.

I cried a few extra times after that, and discovered one of life's weird lessons: sometimes it doesn't matter what quality a given relationship was-- if you've invested enough time in it, the end of that relationship will be a blow. The sum of all those years, all that experience-- those things matter, and the momentum of that investment smacks into you when death yanks life to a halt. I imagine this can be true for person-to-person relationships, too.

Anyway, the burial was illegal, and Velcro, who died in 1998, is probably either nothing but bones or a fantastic-looking mummy. I admit I've been wanting to dig him up, but... I'll write about that on my own blog. Heh.



Jelly said...

Thank you, Kevin -- thank you for writing about Velcro. I've been kind of trying to pretend that I'm not thinking about Boots, even though I am all the time.
I called and spoke for a long time with my grandmother on Saturday morning, and then with my mom. My uncle had come over on Thursday for dinner, and my grandmother told me how they sat around the table crying.
When my uncle arrived he gave my grandmother a hug and said "I lost my Buddy" (his nickname for Boots.) I can actually hear his voice saying, "There's my Buddy!" when Boots would walk in the room.
To think of my big handsome uncle with now red ringed eyes talk about losing his Buddy -- well I can barely think of it without feeling like I'm going to lose my shit.
Turns out Dave and Jacky brought Boots back from the vet after he'd been put down, and buried him in their backyard beside Merlin - their cat who'd passed away some years ago.
Digging a grave in the middle of the night for their pal. I might have hurled myself in the hole.
My mom told me how she had to leave work early because she couldnt get a grip on her tears. She was so upset, thinking that Dave was coming to Niagara to try to bury Boots beside my grandfather in the cemetary up the road from her house.
Sad times.

sher said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. Boots sounds like he was a wonderful dog--and friend. I think he did die of a big heart. And he will be in your heart forever. Hugs and kisses!!!!

lindsey starr said...

oh what a story! so sad to hear of your loss... made me think of all of the times I have had animals pass away. the most sad was my sweet little Barney who we buried up on the top of the hill where we lived. animals are so faithful and your Boots sounds like he was one of the treasured ones.....
I am sure he is enjoying the company of my 2 dogs Shiloh, and Baxter... they will play well together!