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My Shadow is Gone

My lab/shepherd mix Chip passed away today. I had him put down by our vet, as he was in his last hours and in obvious pain. It was a quick turn for the worst, but I’m glad it went down that way. Last Sunday with friends we went on a several mile hike at Dutch Hollow, and he was having a blast. Less than three days ago he was romping with Adah in the snow. He had really good doggy quality of life right up until the end, and for that I’m thankful on this Thanksgiving day…

Below are details, if you’re interested. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to read through all this, but it was helpful for me to put down….

About six weeks ago Chip started hacking and coughing quite a lot. It was a hard, unproductive cough and right away I thought that it sounded scary and bad. I waited a couple of weeks to see if it would clear up, but eventually decided to take him to the vet to see what they had to say. He had a couple of old dog ailments including a pretty bad gum infection, and a tapeworm.

The doggy doc explained nicely that although the infection needed antibiotics, and that he needed to be de-wormed, he did not think the cough was related. He suggested some blood work to take a look at a few things, and it wasn’t encouraging. Chipper had a high elevated white blood cell count, and a very high calcium reading. With that high calcium reading the doc said that it was likely that he had some sort of malignant tumor, after all he was an 11 year old dog (or even older, as far as I know).

Rather than spend a ton of money on x-rays and other “hunt for tumor” procedures, I decided to take him home with the antibiotics and hope for the best. And in fact, the pills did seem to work. We killed off that worm and cleared up his gum infection, and he was pretty much back to himself. Within a few days he had more energy, was eating better again, but still didn’t completely lose that hacking deep cough.

We went on doing what we’ve always done together. Long walks around Timberlakes, and in the woods. He was romping around in the mornings and playing with Adah, rolling in the snow and all around being a happy dog.

Two nights ago, however, something triggered a turn for the worst. And I spent the next 24 hours preparing to say goodbye. I just knew it was bad. Being rescued from an abusive rancher, he’s been my shadow for nearly a decade. I guess I was his security blanket, so to speak. I was really in tune with the old boy, and I could just see it in his eyes. He was dying…

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 25th he vomited all over himself in his bed. And when I walked out and turned on the light, he was still just laying there in it. I did get him to go out but he was very slow and weak and staggering about, so we went back in. He laid back down on his side, and when I got up in the morning he was in the same position and seemed to be laboring to breath.

Over the next 24 hours he kept getting worse. Breathing became harder and harder, and he had that “deer in the headlights” look in his eyes. It was a frightened look, one of pain, and it broke my heart. During dinner Wednesday night he tried to get up and ended up falling backwards during the process, slamming his head on a piece of furniture. I really didn’t think he was going to make it through the night, but he did…just barely.

At first light Thanksgiving morning 2009 I dialed the doc on call, and had him meet me at the clinic at 7am. While looking him over the doc actually found a mass just under the base of his tail bone, which he said he was 99% sure was a tumor located pretty close to his hind lymph node. The doc said the cancer had likely spread to the lymph node and metastasized before the mass was even visible. And that Chip was probably living with pain and distress from the cancer for 6 months or longer, not that he ever showed it.

It was a quick and painless end for my buddy. When it was all over, he laid there still, and I closed his eyes. He looked just like a dog that had a beautiful and content life. R.I.P boy…

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16 comments to My Shadow is Gone

  • Danielle

    Gary I am so sad for you guys, but you truly made his life wonderful. He loved you and was definitely your shadow. He has been with you for a long time and you gave him everything he could ever need or want in a master. He lived a great life with you and there is no doubt you were everything to him.

  • Susan

    I’ve been through this and it is so hard that reading your account made me cry. You did the right thing though; Chip was lucky to have such a great guardian. What a gorgeous dog.

  • Sarah

    Sweet and Wonderful Chip. I wanted you to know that we loved him too. Tay and I sat on the porch this morning when we heard the news. Just after we sat down and looked up to the bright sunny sky, a light gust of wind blew and rang the wind-chimes above me. Tay went out and stood in the yard and just stared. That’s when we said goodbye to a very good boy and Tay’s happiest play friend. I’m so grateful to have known him.

    And those eyes of his…they spoke a thousand languageless volumes. A loved, strong, and ancient soul he’ll forever be. I’m so sorry Gary, but I’m also so glad the Chip is no longer in pain. You gave him an amazing life.

  • Mom

    Gary, Chip passed on Thanksgiving Day as a message to you. What more beautiful way to express his thankfulness to you for the life you gave him. Chip was a sweet and gentle soul, who we all loved. I am so glad you had each other in these past years. You will miss him, but you also have great memories of him. I cannot think of a better shadow then Chip.

    Love Mom

  • Thanks for such nice comments you guys, and thoughts. It’s been very helpful and comforting with so many people commenting and sending emails. We’re doing ok, “And I smile through my tears on this first day alone, Knowing they’re in eternity.” -Rudyard Kipling from A Dog For Jesus

  • Leslie

    Gary and Danette, so sorry for your loss. Your mom’s thoughts above are so true. He was so loyal to you and you rescued him, what a great friendship you’ll have in your memories for the rest of your days!!

  • Thanks Leslie :) Miss you guys..

  • Chuck Hamrick

    I lost my dog Max after 11 years to cancer. I was traveling 90 minutes each way to work and working 12 hr days so I had the neighbor girls walk him. I had quit the stupid job when I found out about the cancer and had 6 wonderful months with him.

    Chip was such a cool dog and had such a quiet demeanor whenever I saw him. Sorry for your loss but I am sure Chip went happy.

  • Chuck, glad you knew him :)

  • Laneel Henderson Perry

    Danette….

    I have been through this with my Princeton…he was MY first puppy…I loved him sooooooo much….I was the one who made the choice to put him down!!!! Sooo difficult to say goodbye…even harder to feel the loss of such a precious friend!!! I send my love to you….

  • Donna

    Gary and family,
    So very sorry to hear the news. Chip was very very lucky to have you in his life. The unconditional love that our animals give to us is quite amazing. Thinking of you all .

  • Hey Gary –

    So sorry to hear about Chip. We’re in the same boat right now with our 11 year old mutt. She’s been our hiking and camping buddy for years, but she’s starting to fade quickly. I know the end is coming and while we’ve had a great 11 year run, I’m already sad to know the end is near.

    Chip was lucky to have you as a friend. I guarantee you’ll never forget him :)

    Thinking of you man.

    Matt

  • I knew Chip and he knew me. He was a survivor just like me. He taught me to try and not sweat the small things. He didnt sweat much, in fact he had a look that said fuck all yall bitches… “you dont know me” He was my friend and Ill miss him, but just like when we were kids ,I believe he is now in doggy heaven running full speed for the sake of holdin it wide open. Run along now boy.

  • Laneel, Aunt Donna and Matt.. thanks for thinking of us and commenting. It’s been almost a week now and we’re doing fine with it all. Poor guy was sick for many months, but couldn’t bother us with that. What a powerhouse he was right up until the end.

    JB, you said it! He certainly was a survivor…well before he came into my life. Both of our dogs found us, and both survived hard realities on their own before that. He’s most definitely holdin’ it wide now as he did when he was young. I remember being in awe that I could not out pedal his running speed on the flats. One time I checked how fast I could pedal on a flat surface and it was around 25mph. When I think back to that long and strong running stride he had as a youngster, I can’t help but smile smile smile :)))

  • I remember the time ole Chip put a hole in Shoreboys’ forehead. He was teaching that Boxer a lesson for free. He never bit a dog or person that didnt have it coming. Good ole Pipch.

  • Johnny, Did you see Jake’s comment here? Shore is definitely carrying on Chip’s legacy…

    Yep, ole “Pipch” (BTW for those reading that don’t know, that’s how Ellie says his name) held his own and dominated more than a few mutts who had it coming… and nailed one person who had it coming, too (but only one!) :)

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