Recollections Of An Old Friend
By James Donahue
While Sedona was a bright and magical time for us, there was one dark moment.
It involved the death of our dog, a golden shih tsu who had been with us for many years.
I have owned and loved dogs all my life. Most of them died quickly, in their youth,
from being hit by cars or other misfortunes that come their way. This fellow, who we never got around to naming so it went
by the simple name "Dog," was the first one that ever lived to old age and reached a point in its life when it was suffering.
This breed of dog is known for its intelligence, and Dog was no exception. Consequently he became a beloved member of our
Dog actually had a few names. Our daughter, Jennifer, liked the name Muggins.
Friends who stayed with us and helped us sell our property before we left for Arizona, nicknamed him Buddy. He answered to
all three names.
He was the runt of his pack with an unusual golden coloring. We fell in love with
him the minute we saw him and that opinion never changed. He was the smartest pet I think we have ever owned.
Even before we left Michigan we knew that Dog was dying. By the time we arrived
in Sedona, he was in so much pain it was obvious we needed to give him up. We loved this pet so much we didn’t have
the heart to make the move. It became my task one warm Monday morning.
The appointment with the veterinarian was made. Jennifer came for the weekend
and spent her last moments with her Muggins, saying good-by. She was crying when she left the house. I found myself crying
with her. I wondered how I was ever going to go through with such an event.
After a fitful night of trying to sleep, morning finally arrived. She said her
farewells, then I drove Doris to work. Then I went back to the house, spending my last time with Dog until the time for the
morning appointment arrived. Dog by now was in so much pain I had to carry him out to the car.
Dog always knew what was going on. He knew this was his last ride. When we arrived
at the veterinarian's office, he began to prance around like he did in his youth, going to the door letting me know he wanted
to go back home. He had changed his mind and decided he wanted to wait a little longer. I think that hurt more than anything
I saw that morning.
The receptionist didn't help. She asked for payment in advance because she said
I would not be in any condition to take care of such matters later. She had obviously seen this before. I was sure, however,
that I could stand up for the occasion.
I took Dog into a typical doctor's examining room, with a high flat stainless
steel table. The veterinarian was kind. He carefully put Dog on the table and began an examination. I told him Dog changed
his mind and wanted a little more time. The doctor smiled and said he thought it was time to put the animal out of his misery.
He said Dog was filled with cancer, his arteries were almost plugged, he was suffering from arthritis, and a possible lung
disorder. The mountain elevations were speeding up his death. I reluctantly agreed.
The death was slow but very painless. The veterinarian first gave dog a shot that
was supposed to put him to sleep, followed by a shot that was supposed to make his heart stop while he slept. Neither shot
worked. The animal's blood vessels were so plugged the drugs couldn't go speedily to their source. Finally the doctor had
to give Dog a shot directly into the heart. First came a pain medicine so he didn't feel anything. Then came the death shot.
Dog died in my arms as I slowly rubbed his ear. He always loved to have his ears
rubbed. When you did that, he just closed his eyes and tilted his head, letting you know he was enjoying the massage. That
was how he died, with his head tilted, his eyes closed, enjoying the feel of my fingers gently massaging his ear.
The secretary had been right. I was holding my own, but unable to speak when I
left that building. The veterinarian said he would dispose of the remains. I certainly had no place in this rocky environment
to dig a grave.
I was numb inside as I drove down the busy highway, returning to our rented cottage.
I had a little shopping to do and took care of it. I was keeping my mind busy. I was holding up well, I thought.
When I pulled into the driveway, our landlord was working on something in the
yard. "Did you put your dog down?" he asked as I got out of the car.
"Yes," I blubbered. I lost it right there. I began to cry like a baby. I couldn't
believe I couldn't hold it at least until I got into the house. "Sorry," I said, and ran off.
I spent most of the day crying. I don't think I felt much worse when my mother
died about two years later. I couldn't believe how attached I had gotten to that one little dog. Doris and I still get tears
in our eyes when we think about him. I know Jennifer does too.