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Saying Goodbye To Cloudy…

September 30, 2011

A 1998 family photo… Cloudy where she always liked to be: in the center of things

In a few hours, a local veterinarian will be coming to our house to `put our dog to sleep’. Strange expression if you ask me, as the `sleep’ will be permanent. It will be done in stages which I am told is rather common. First Cloudy will be given treats, then a tranquilizer pill to relax her followed by an overdose of an even stronger tranquilizer that stops her heart beat. The process takes about an hour. With that, Cloudy, who is within a few months of turning sixteen, will pass from the scene although not from our hearts.

This is the second time that I have participated in `putting down’ a family dog. The first time was forty years ago when our family dog `Mimi’ had reached near the end of her line. I had returned to my childhood home to Queens, New York from Colorado for several weeks in the summer. My sisters were both out of the house already. My mother and I discussed what to do. I really wasn’t sure as it was the first time I was faced with the life-death decision of a pet.

Already mostly blind, her body wracked with tumors, the poor thing had only been kept alive by my mother’s loving tender care. It was hard not to conclude that her time had come. Although we both felt uncomfortable, we did bring Mimi to the vet who ended her days.  I can even vaguely recall where it was – up 164th St., a few blocks north past Union Turnpike. I remember thinking that it was unpleasant but necessary. But it turned out to be much more than that as about an hour later, guilt filled, my mother became emotional, broke down in a fit of sadness and regret: she felt we had done the deed `too soon’, that Mimi still had life left and that we should have nursed her along a while longer. So she called the vet and asked him not to proceed with the the euthanasia. But it was too late. Mimi was already gone.

It was then I learned that there is `no right time’ to end a pet’s life, that at best the decision will be ambiguous – it was `too soon’, or `too late’… and that there really is no way to `get it right’.

These thoughts returned to me after 40 years as the family tried to figure out what to do with Cloudy.

There have been alot of tears, bad dreams, sleepless nights these past days among the four of us – Nancy, Molly, Abbie and me. This is the third time in about four months that we’ve made the call to the vet to put her down, once in June, again in August. We were going to take her in the following day, bracing for the inevitiable. Both previous times however, in the evening she’d show signs of life and energy. We cancelled the appointments. But as Cloudy continued to deteriorate we understood the next time more than likely `the procedure’ would proceed. For sometime now she can hardly walk, her back legs function only with the greatest of difficulty but she could get up, walk around. About a month ago, she no longer could get up to walk without assistance, became increasingly hesitant and afraid of going outside, we  understood that she didn’t have much time left with us.

She’s been a wonderful dog – really – an integral part of the family virtually all of her life and a pretty good chunk of ours as well. Brilliant she’s never been, but on reflection, smart enough and more importantly, a fountain of unconditional love and companionship. A mutt that was part chow, terrier, German Shepard and who knows what else, she came to us from a litter of 8 or 9 at the age of 6-7 weeks; the family from whom she came has become one of the more famous Mariachi bands in the region. She had, when she was healthy – a run that lasted a good ten years – great energy, was as endearing and sweethearted as can be, and offered our family all the love and effection that she was capable of. And we gave back in return. She has been a terrible shedder – shedding her hair in all seasons, everywhere in the house. Early on we all decided it was small price to pay for her companionship.

We have all seen her do rather extraordinary feats of physical strength.

  • Once, walking her out by Red Rocks Community College where I used to teach, Nancy and I watched her scale a 75′ or so near vertical hill. Beforehand, she looked at us and we looked back as if to say – no this is not possible. The challenge thus initiated, she met it head on. I was astounded as she stood atop the hill triumphant and immensely satisfied with herself.
  • Another time, out by the Federal Center in Lakewood, at an empty baseball field, she spied a rabbit. Before we could stop her she took off after it. Over short distances, a rabbit is pretty quick. She was quicker and caught up with it. We were afraid she would attack it but it seems her main interest was the race, not the prize.
  • Once Nancy, hiking alone in the mountains at a place called Lair of the Bear, ran into some weirdo – some asshole who it seems was weighing the possibility of some kind of attack. Cloudy snarled his way and was ready to take him on. Mr. Asshole had second thoughts and withdrew. Although there are dogs that are bigger and meaner, until she lost her ability to bark and senility set in, Cloudy was a great guard dog as well.
  • Finally there was that extraordinary moment when camping out at a friend’s dilapidated trailer in South Park when at a distance of 150 yards or so, Cloudy spied a horse grazing near by and took of after it before we could stop her, suggesting to me that there was still more than a little wolf left in her. It ended ok for all involved, although knowing that she faced a stern rebuke, Cloudy avoided us for sometime afterwards.

About six years ago her health took a dive. In some ways she’s never been the same healthwise since. We’d taken a mountain hike up near Loveland Pass. It was somewhat rigorous, but the kind of hike Cloudy always relished. On the way up she was her bouncy, always slightly rebellious self – splashing in the streams, checking out everything, in dog heaven-on-earth enjoying a wide array of smell and color the mountains provide. It was about 3 miles up. On the way back she slowed down and could hardly make it back to our old Toyota truck in the parking area. She never fully recovered. We – or I should say – I took her to an overpriced yuppy vetenarian who plastered me with a $300 bill (but softened the blow with a bottle of wine) to tell us that she had developed some kind of liver disease. That was a good 5-6 years ago.

We’re not into expensive procedures for our dog, but Nancy put Cloudy on some pills that included daily doses of aspirin, milk thistle, glucosamine and who knows what else. This treatment, I am convinced, extended Cloudy’s life immeasurably although from then on it was a roller coaster. Periods of extreme lethargy followed by partial recovery. Until about a year ago we could still walk her around the nearby Skinner Middle School. Then last spring some time (spring 2011), the walks pretty much stopped; they were too much for her to handle. Walks around the block were replaced by walks up and down the block. These past months as her hind quarters gave way even going out of the house has been difficult. But even in these recent months and days a pattern of decline, slight recovery continued until now when she can hardly walk, has very little energy for anything but sleep.

The vet will be here in a few minutes. In an hour it will over; I miss her already. With a few exceptions she was a hell of alot more decent than alot of people I know and she was a small part of a bigger picture of living things of which people are only one element. See ya round Cloudy…

12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2011 3:20 pm

    this from a friend back east…

    A beautiful elegy for a wonderful companion.

    I’m very sorry for your loss. Losing a loving companion like Cloudy can be quite traumatic. I had to have my dog, Little Bit, euthanized about this time last year. She had stage-four bone cancer. As with Cloudy, Little Bit was mentally somewhat challenged, but I loved her nonetheless – the sweetest, most loyal, affectionate creature imaginable. When I made the decision to put her down, I bawled inconsolably. I still miss her and worry daily about what I will do when I lose my cat, Sally, who at thirteen doesn’t have much time left. Immediately after learning of Margaret’s passing, Sally came down with a nasty e coli infection – she was dreadfully ill. If I had lost her then I don’t know what I would have done.

    Animal companions tug at our hearts. It was obvious to me when you introduced me to Cloudy (I think in the summer of 2003) that she meant a lot to you and Nancy. There is some consolation in the memories of a lost companion. My thoughts are with you in this difficult time in your life.

    My sincere condolences to you, Nancy, Molly, and Abbie.

  2. September 30, 2011 6:25 pm

    this from my sister Sarabelle on Long Island, NY:

    Yes, such a difficult but caring decision. Your house will seem eery quiet.
    If Mocha was still here, in retrospect, I’d have put her to sleep long before I did.
    When your pet loses all quality of life, why prolong their pain?

    Cloudy was a sweet and wonderful family companion. It is kind of you all to let her go, free her misery, especially as the colder weather creeps in.

    I am sorry for your great loss!
    Love, Sarabelle

  3. Alex Dudley permalink
    September 30, 2011 6:26 pm

    I’m so sorry- I’ve lost three cats in the past and know how hard it is. For me, it’s just as hard as losing a human family member- in the end, pets are your family.

  4. September 30, 2011 6:27 pm

    this from our good friend Barbara Millman in Lakewood:

    Thank you Cloudy for bringing such love and devotion and fun dogginess and fierce protectiveness to this wonderful family of yours who I, too care for, but not one millionth as much as you do, I bet. They were so lucky to have you…and you were grateful for their love. Their one last act of generosity toward you is to let you go – sadly, with so much love. Goodbye also, dear Cloudy.
    Barbara

  5. Bob permalink
    September 30, 2011 7:24 pm

    My deepest sympathy to all your family. I know exactly what you’re going through. Cloudy may be gone, but he leaves warm memories of your life and adventures with him, his final gift, which is exactly what he wanted.

  6. October 1, 2011 8:55 am

    this from Tom Fey, Nancy’s brother

    Rob,

    I was moved by your elegy for Cloudy. She was always a good, solid, be there when you need her companion. Nancy has been talking about her increasing weakness and told me a month ago that she was going to have to be put down at some time. Nancy sounded firm at the time but I know she, and you all, were going through a sad time. Wish you all the best

    Tom

  7. Pipa permalink
    October 2, 2011 10:15 am

    Dear Rob, Nancy, Molly and Abbie,

    My deepest condolancies for all of you. I remember vividly how much part of your family she was . I was very fond of her too.
    I send you all my love,
    yours Pipa

  8. Joan Wexelbaum permalink
    October 3, 2011 7:28 am

    Dear Nancy, Rob, Molly and Abbie,
    Your tribute was lovely and brought tears to my eyes. We lost two of our beloved pooches in the past 6 months, so we know the brutal pain you feel. I remember Mimi and “that” terrible time of making the big decision. We make this decision because we love our animals so much and it is time for them to be free from pain.
    I am thinking of you during this most difficult time. Cloudy looked to be one adorable pup and you gave her a wonderful life full of love, belly rubs, hikes and the best a doggie could ask for. I send you all big hugs, with love, Joan and Michael

  9. Wil Traub permalink
    October 5, 2011 6:06 am

    This, it seems, is one of the passages we pet owners share. In many cases, our pet buddies are the most beautiful expression of companionship we’ll ever experience. I share your emptiness
    with Cloudy’s death. Britten, our 15 year old Westie, died last April. My mind’s eye can still take me on an occasional walk and the accompanying delight with him. Thanks for sharing your buddy with us.

  10. April 22, 2013 9:08 pm

    Link exchange is nothing else however it is simply placing the other person’s blog link on your page at appropriate place and other person will also do same in support of you.

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