I’m sitting in the sunshine on our patio listening to our water garden sing down the stones, with our pug, Sasquatch in my lap. He’s been my office dog since he was twelve weeks old. He’s fourteen years old now, and will be fifteen this summer. He’s the oldest dog I’ve ever owned from puppy to now. We had a rescue, Jimmy, that we got at age ten, and he made it seven more years, but we never saw him when his paws were soft, and he was all uncertain of the world. Jimmy was decidedly himself when we rescued him on his last day from a kill shelter. Sasquatch was all puppy uncertainty as we let him sniff his mother good-bye and took him with us in the car. Sas helping us on game night.
He is an old dog now, our oldendogger. I can’t imagine waking up without him in the house, but I know it’s coming. Even now his heart beats frantically against my hand, the rhythm of it is unsteady and unfamiliar. I know his heart beat almost as much as I know my husband’s, and this is not it. We took him with us to lunch and sat outside at a table with him. The four of us took turns holding him so the others could eat. Yes, he got scraps and probably got more chicken than he normally does at a meal, but that’s okay, roast chicken and a little bit of chips won’t hurt him. He’s always been a good dog, easy going, letting us use his paws to do the YMCA song by the Village People when he was a puppy. Yes, I’m that kind of dog person. If you don’t do silly things with your dogs then we are not the same kind of dog people and you may want to skip the rest of this essay, because much sentimentality may ensue.
I wrote the above on a day when we thought Sasquatch would pass on his own, in his own time, but it turned out to be an upper respiratory infection and antibiotics helped him get better. Every day after that has been a gift, but today is the last day. Today will be Sas’s last day. He’s stopped eating, even his favorite treats cannot tempt him. Any of you that have ever owned a pug know that a pug that will not eat is a very sick pug indeed. Pugs will eat until their stomachs explode, no joke, but Sas is only taking water, lots of water. He continues to lose weight, and for the first time ever he has a wasp waist, stylish if you’re a Weirimer, but pugs are meant to be square, not round, not fat, but blocky and solid. When I pick him up now he is too light, I can feel his bones and tendons under my hands, against my arms. He is wasting away and we cannot save him.
Our puggy boy.
We knew something was wrong, but finally got tests back a few weeks ago that is was cancer. If he’d been a younger dog we would have risked the surgery to remove his spleen and take a bigger sample of his liver, but the chances of him surviving the anthestia was very low, so we chose to treat the symptoms, but not actively treat the cancer. He’d already been losing some control of his bowels, but there are doggy diapers, not sure how he felt about his curly pug tail sticking out of the ridiculous things, but he took it like he takes most things, patiently, good naturedly, trusting that his humans know what they’re doing. I hope we do. I know we try to be worthy of the level of trust he places in us.
His back legs have been giving him trouble for awhile, but now they are going out from under him. He doesn’t so much lay down as collapse. He woke my husband, Jon, and I up about every hour from 1:00 AM this morning. Jon got up twice, and so did I. The first time I came back to bed I put Sasquatch up on the bed, which I knew was a bad idea, but I wanted him to sleep in the bed one more time, he loves it so. By the time I could no longer sleep about 5:30 he was deeply asleep on the corner of the bed. We had two of our younger dogs with us, too. Mordor and Keiko, both Japanese chins, good naturedly went out every time we took Sas out, but this time they were solidly asleep, too, so I left them with Jon and went downstairs to start tea, breakfast, the day.
Unless the veterinarian tells us some miracle later today, I know this will be Sas’s last day, because I called and made the appointment when I got up with him about 4:00 or 5:00 this morning. His vet isn’t on duty today, but she won’t be in until Friday, and it’s Thursday, we can’t make him suffer for another day just for a different doctor to help us, it wouldn’t be fair to him.
Jon texted me about thirty minutes later that Sas had thrown up. He’s been doing that for a few days now. By the time I came upstairs with new paper towels he’d also lost control of his bowels on the bed. Why wasn’t he in a doggy diaper? Because I knew this was his last time to sleep on the bed with us and somehow I just wanted him to be as comfortable as possible, and the diapers are for our benefit, not his, so I didn’t put it on him. I started cleaning up the blanket and Sas, Jon took Keiko and Mordor downstairs, and then came back up to help strip the bed. The bed clothes are in the washer now. Sas is asleep at my feet in my office with me, which is one of his favoritest places in the world. He’s always loved coming to work and has spent many a dawn and late night at my side while I wrote. I’ve already carried him to his favorite dog bed in the family room, and put him in his favorite bed here, but he’s chosen to lay on the floor which he almost never does. I even put a dog bed under my desk so he could use it, but he chose the floor at my feet. Keiko is in the bed, because chins are just as comfort loving as pugs. Mordor stayed in the kitchen with Jon which is unusual, because both the chins love to come to the office. Heck, the two big dogs are learning to love it, too, and there are days when I have all five dogs curled around me as I write. The two big dogs are with Genevieve and Spike in another bedroom. We all discussed it, and there’s no need for all of us to have this kind of disrupted night, but more than that we still don’t have a bed big enough for four adults and five dogs, and last night was about Sasquatch. He needed his corner of the bed, and just the little dogs, because sometimes the new bigger dogs are just too physical for him now.
Sas helping me write in better days.
Pugs are very stoic dogs, they don’t show pain much, so we have no way to be certain how much pain Sas is in, but he’s started staring into space in that way that some animals have when something hurts as if the pain is something they can see off in the distance, or maybe they see the end of the pain, I don’t know. This morning we carried him downstairs every time, because the stairs are beyond him now. For his last morning in the office with me I carried him up the stairs which I hadn’t had to do since he was a very little puppy and couldn’t quite manage them safely on his own. Now, as our oldendogger, he can’t manage them safely again.
Our daughter, Trinity, is home from college, so she’ll get a chance to say, good-bye. She got to dog sit Sasquatch this long weekend past while the four of us went on a retreat. It gave her some serious quality time with Sas. The other four dogs went to the puppy spa, but we wanted Sas to be at home with familiar things and people.
I’ll sit on the couch with him later today in his favorite spot which is a combination of mom’s lap and the corner of the couch near the arm. He’s on his third couch for this lifetime and he always chooses the same spot no matter if it’s the original green couch, or the red couch, or the new gray one. They all have arms and a spot where he can tuck himself in, so he does, with, or without a lap to snuggle into, though Trin informed me that he found her lap a suitable substitute, so maybe it’s not mom’s lap, but just whoever sits in his spot. Maybe to Sasquatch it’s never been him sharing my spot on the couch, but him sharing his spot with me, or whichever of his people was sitting in his spot.
Tomorrow his spot on the couch will be empty, his favorite dog beds filled by the other dogs, no eager pug face waiting for treats, cuddles, pets, and to curl up beside me. We will be a pugless household, for me that will be a first in almost thirty years. I don’t know how I will bear it.
New meds helped Sasquatch to recover himself for a few weeks after I wrote this blog. He never had another night where he threw up, or lost control of himself. He started eating again, though only soft food, and only certain foods. He liked cooked green peas mixed with his meat, not sure why, but we fed it to him, because that’s what you do. But now, we are back to him refusing all food, even cooked peas and chicken. For the first time he’s not even drinking water, so that’s it. We might find another round of miracle meds to help him limp on a few more days, but to what purpose? There comes a point with a beloved pet where you have to ask yourself, am I doing this for them, or for me?
One of the last pictures I took of our boy.
I’ll carry Sas over to the office one last time, because he can’t get over here by himself anymore. It’s not just stairs now, but even walking across the floor is hard for him. We’ll all say good-bye today, and this evening we’ll take him into the vet and it will done. I’m trying to be very unemotional about it all, but what I wrote earlier is very true. We will be a pugless household by tomorrow and even with four healthy, wonderful dogs remaining to give doggy kisses, beg for belly rubs, play with their favorite toys, fill the dogs beds, go for walks, its not the same. For all of you that have found “your breed”, you know what I mean. YOUR BREED, should always be in capital letters, because it is a profound bond not just to a particular dog, but to all the dogs everywhere that look like your dog. Genevieve and Spike are members of the Church of Dog, but they are new to our denomination of Pugdom. They brought two wonderful mutts into our lives, but neither of them has found “their” breed for certain. Jon, Trinity, and I have been pug owners for a lifetime, literally in Trinity’s case, and tomorrow we will not be. Japanese chins are a close second for us, but we always saw us with chins and pugs, never without our snoring, snuffling, wrinkly faced, rolling-gaited, curly-tailed, pugs. It somehow makes losing Sas feel even more awful, because there is not another pug to come home to, once we say, good-bye to our fuzzy pug boy.
The End: All five of us went with Sasquatch on the last trip to the vet. When the time came, I held him in my arms, made sure my skin was close to his nose so he would have my scent, and know for certain that I was there. He went very quickly, so fast the vet was surprised. She double checked his vitals, but he was gone, so ready to go that he didn’t even wait for all the anesthetic to be administered. She used it all, just in case, but Sas wasn’t there. He was already somewhere else, where nothing hurt, and he could be reborn to a time when he was younger, healthy, happy, his cast iron stomach back and puggish appetite back so he could be the shape a pug is meant to be which is barrel shaped. Multum in parvo, much in little, a big dog in a small package, true of every pug I’ve ever known and certainly true of our Sasquatch.