On May 1st, I euthanized my Pug Blues after a short and terrible battle with cancer. The night before he died, I gave him a can of cat food not such a magnificent present, unless you're a Pug, who never gets anything in his dish but dry food. That can of cat food was the human equivalent of a bag of gold bullion to a banker. He rallied long enough to eat all of it, and - for a moment, I caught a glimpse of the old Boo, standing stiff-legged and furious over his dish, hustling the food down in angry little bites, with an envious crowd of less fortunate dogs and puzzled cats standing all around him. We had just returned from another midnight visit to the emergency clinic, and I had finally begun to realize that we might not be having many more nights together. He didn't hold it down very long, a few hours later, in the middle of the night, I held him while he vomited it up again - but at least he had the pleasure of the gift.
It wasn't easy deciding on the euthanasia - radiation and chemotherapy might have given us a few more months together, but tumors had already spread across his spleen, lymph nodes, and stomach. This little dog, who three weeks earlier had been defending my yard against airplanes, was already having great difficulty standing unassisted. He had had enough.
I'm not a very sentimental person. I don't believe in rainbow bridges or in little dog angels waiting at heaven's gate for me. I haven't got Blues' ashes, and I didn't bury him in the yard, although I have friends that need to keep their pets close even after death. I don't expect to have him back again, and I don't know where he has gone, or even if he has gone anywhere at all. However, there is one possibility that gives me great comfort. When my mother was a young girl, she was very ill, and had what is now described as a "near death experience", she often told me the story while I was growing up - I have never forgotten her descriptions of the allure of that beautiful light, and the awful sadness of having to turn away from the light and back towards life. I only hope that at the moment when Blues died, he could have seen that light, too, and hastened just as eagerly towards it.
Of course, I don't want to give him up, even now. The pictures are back on my desk at work - he had been there, too - and I finally put his embroidered blue collar around my ten year old Pug Butch's neck. Butchie predated the advent of the fancy collars, and he never had one of his own, but now he does. I still have his blue puppy ribbon, a bit faded from six and a half years on a china Pug that was almost never dusted. I even have the towel I brought him home in, so I suppose I must be a bit more sentimental than I will admit to. Trouble is, I'm not sure which was his towel and which was my seven year old French Bulldog Crunchie's.
I even have another Pug in the house, a little "loaner" girl Jazz supplied by Don and Carol Ayrton, Blues' breeders, the same day that he died... she looks and sounds a lot like Blues, and required very little encouragement to learn to make the transition in sleeping arrangements from a crate to the pillow next to my face. She is even willing to share the spot with my thirteen year old Siamese cat, something which Blues would never have allowed. I owe Don and Carol an enormous debt for their kindness. With three other dogs in the house, you would think perhaps that I would not have needed Jazz, but any multi-pet owner who has lost "just one" can tell you that isn't true. Without the distraction of keeping Jazz from bouncing on the French Bulldogs' heads that first night, I think that I would have died of loneliness. She is not Blues and never will be, but she is helping to patch the holes that Blues left behind.
And there are a great many holes. The worst thing about losing your dog is not the loss of the dog, but the loss of your daily life with him. The times spent with Blues are slipping farther and farther away, and it gives me enormous pain that I am powerless to stop them. I went to bed every night with Blues and woke up every morning with him for six and a half years. I traveled with him, went to point shows and to nursing homes, to training classes and matches with him, to stores, to friends' houses, even to work with him, which he liked a great deal better than I did. Last Sunday, I drove down to the Yankee Pug Dog Club board meeting in Connecticut with all four dogs crammed into the Ford Escort with me: Crunch in the passenger seat beside me, Butch and Ham, my year old Frenchie, on the backseat, and Jazz in a crate in the back. My other dogs are easy to travel with - a moving car is like a sedative to them - but not Blues. Blues and I drove 3000 miles across country once, and back again, and he complained the whole way. By contrast, this drive was a peaceful one, punctuated only by the snores of sleeping Pugs, and Frenchies, and I was already across Massachusetts, through Rhode Island, and thirty miles into Connecticut, before I finally broke down and cried because he wasn't on the seat beside me, grumbling and fidgeting the whole way and jabbing me with an insistent little paw. I never could stand it when he did that.
I suppose that I am lucky that he went so quickly. He was sick for a very short time, and in pain only that one night. I can't even picture Blues as an old dog, Blues was not the kind of dog that would have taken kindly to growing old in my house, and being pushed aside by the younger dogs. He always wanted to be top dog, and he was perfectly willing to knock the stuffing out of any Frenchie who dared to challenge him. He never would have enjoyed being second string to Ham in my show schedule - and he never had to - Ham's first point show was the Sunday before Blues died. He had six and a half years of being almost alpha in my household, and I am sure that, given time. he would have worn me down too. He never heeled once that he didn't finish just that inch in front of heel position, he never came until he was damned good and ready, and he never, ever lost a battle - until this one.
Good bye BooBoo, my very good friend. Only you would know how very much I miss you.
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Ringside will be back next issue. Until then, let me know how all of your obedience/tracking/therapy/performing Pugs are doing. Please write to me at 18 Emmett St.#2, Brockton, MA 02402 (508-588-7968). Send tips, brags, comments, insults, articles, pictures, everything is welcome.