RIP: February 23, 2012
This is the short, sad tale of Chesapeake, our black lab/golden retriever mix that we rescued from the local animal shelter seven years ago this coming summer. We had just bought a new house with a fenced in back yard and we wanted our little Jack Russell to have some company. We walked into the shelter looking for a puppy; instead, we returned home with a full grown – and relatively middle aged – dog. The folks at the shelter said he had been abandoned because he was always running away from home. That turned out to be a lie: our poor Chessie actually had epilepsy, something that we discovered about two months into his new life with us. By then, it was too late: we both loved the dog even though he tended to have seizures at the most inopportune times (Thanksgiving, football season) and in the most inopportune places (halfway out the back door – or like last week, at the top of the stairs when I was home alone with him).
Over the years, our vet managed to get Chessie’s epilepsy under control with phenobarbital. The seizures went away – for the most part – and Chessie had a good run of about five years before he started aging in the way that big dogs tend to do. His hips started going out on him and he started having problems getting up and down the stairs. Cold winters were the worst for him; last year, there were days when it took him ten minutes just to get up off the floor.
He also started having what The Coach and I took to calling ‘roid rages. One minute, he’d be perfectly content, happy and wagging his tail. The next? He’d be snarling and snapping, usually at The Coach or one of the cats. There were a couple of times where I thought Chessie would take a chunk out of my husband, but for some reason, the dog always came around before something bad actually happened. I’ll admit, though, we stopped inviting friends and colleagues over for dinner shortly after Chessie had one of his rage episodes with The Coach’s mother in the room.
He wasn’t a perfect dog, and sometimes he was hard to live with, but damn it, he was my dog and I loved him. Chessie was always very sweet and very protective of me. He was our best dog when it came to traveling and he made both a good foot warmer and vacuum cleaner. Chessie kept the door knockers away and he was very, very good at entertaining Lady Bird when she was a puppy.
Last night, however, Chessie’s reprieve from death came to an end when he inadvertently committed suicide. That’s right: my dog died of an overdose. In a way it’s my fault, although The Coach maintains that it was just a series of unfortunate accidents that started when I picked up a refill of the dog’s pills so The Coach wouldn’t have to do it while I was gone. When I came home, I left my purse on the coffee table – something I have done hundreds of times before without any kind of problem. Sure, Chessie has raided the trash a time or two (or twenty, but who is really counting at this point?). And yes, once he ate all of the fried okra that I had left on the kitchen counter, but never has the dog touched my purse.
You can probably tell where I am going with this.
Yesterday, while I was upstairs working on my book project – about five hours after I had dropped my purse on the coffee table – Chessie was downstairs killing himself. The dog chewed a hole in my purse to get to two lip balms, a couple of purple felt tip pens … and his bottle of meds. In the two hours I was upstairs, he managed to chew through the bottle and eat 39 (58.5 grains/grams/whatever it’s measured in) of phenobarbital. By the time I came downstairs, the dog was almost unconscious. In the time it took The Coach to get home from work, I tried to make him barf three times using hydrogen peroxide like the vet told me to do, but it was really just too late.* He was comatose by the time The Coach got home and by the time we got him to the emergency vet, he was barely breathing.
Considering the dog’s age, his myriad health problems, and the fact that his prognosis was not overly good, we did the kindest thing we could: we put him to sleep. We were with him when the vet put him down, although I expect that he probably didn’t know it. In the end, as my friend D. said “he’s having fun running around with good hips and no seizures in doggie heaven.” And, even if you don’t believe in God or Heaven or Religion, at least the poor dog is no longer suffering.
The folks at the emergency animal hospital were very kind and helped us arrange for the dog’s cremation. We’ll eventually bury his remains under the tree in our backyard where he used chase squirrels and our former neighbor’s cat Oliver.