Thursday, May 8, 2014


"Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear."

-- Rudyard Kipling

I knew this day would come, sooner rather than later, but I still wasn't prepared to have my sweet dog, Frank, put to sleep.  He's been battling Lymphoma since last August and generally has been doing very well.  Unfortunately, time has a way of tearing apart the body just as much as illness.  He was about 13 years old, past the life expectancy for a dog his size.  He'd gradually lost his hearing and a lot of his eyesight and often seemed a little out of it, like he wasn't sure where he was.  Still, he enjoyed his walks and was enthusiastic about going to "Grandma's house" on Sundays for lunch and loved nothing more than hanging his head out of the window as we cruised down the road.

Back in January I thought I was going to lose him.  He wasn't eating and he was panting heavy and he wouldn't stop pacing the floor.  His back legs seemed to sag under his weight and he refused to lower himself to the ground.  He spent a couple days at MedVet and after numerous tests they diagnosed him with pancreatitis.  It broke me to see this poor dog looking so ill.  I think part of his problem was they had him very doped up on painkillers, but he was obviously agitated, probably not sure why he was being left at the vet's and why things hurt and why he didn't want to eat.  Even after he came home, it was several weeks before he was back to what passed for normal those days.  I swore to myself that I wouldn't put him through that again.  From the beginning my big concern was that he not suffer, that the quality of his days was more important than the quantity.

Last evening he didn't seem himself.  I took him for a walk and he was very draggy and barely sniffed and moved at a snail's pace.  Later I could see that he wasn't eating and I couldn't get his medications in him, even wrapped in a piece of lunch meat.  He vomited and was trembling mildly and couldn't seem to get comfortable.  This morning when I got up early to get my high schooler out the door, Frank was pacing the house, shaking and panting heavily and refusing to lie down or eat.  This was too familiar.  I warned the kids before they left that I was worried about him and it wasn't impossible I might have to have him put to sleep, that they should say their good-byes just in case.  By the time the youngest got on the bus, Frank was obviously in bad shape.  I went to my mother for advice since she loves dogs every bit as much as I.  She thought it was time to let him go.  My husband agreed.

The folks at Village Animal Hospital squeezed him in at 10:30 and couldn't have been kinder.  My husband and I stroked Frank's head as the vet shaved his leg and then injected him.  I had been crying all morning, but even my husband, who is not nicknamed "The Vulcan" for nothing, shed a few tears as Frank slipped peacefully away.

Young Frank with Baby Foghorn
When Frank turned up in the neighborhood back in 2001, neighbors tried unsuccessfully to find his owners.  When that didn't work and none of them were able to keep him, I took Frank, hoping to find a no kill shelter that would accept him.  I was 8 months pregnant and had a four year old son besides.  We already had a spoiled beagle and a cat and my husband kept saying, "Don't get attached to him.  We're not keeping him."  I really did try to place him elsewhere.  One no-kill worker told me they'd take it to their "dog committee," but it was unlikely they'd take him in.  "Unfortunately black dogs of his size are a dime a dozen," she said.  "We don't like to take them because they're hard to adopt out."

Patiently tolerating the pearl bracelet
Foghorn put on him
So, Frank stayed with us and was the best dog anyone could ask for.  He was sweet and cuddly, gentle with the kids and never protective of his food or toys.  He tolerated being bossed around by the beagle and the cat and later another cat and another hound dog.  He put up with the numerous weddings Foghorn staged in the living room, more often than not with him as the groom and dutifully wore a paper ring on one of his toenails.  I poured out my troubles to him, since he (unlike some people I know) looked me right in the eye as I talked and was always sympathetic.  I cried into his fur over everything from death and illness to baseball losses.  My father loved him so much he insisted that the dog's picture be put in his coffin when he died.  I obliged.  Frank was doted on by my mother and sister.  And he adored them in return.  In short, he was the ideal family dog.

Often over the years I've thought of the shelter worker who called dogs like him "a dime a dozen."  Was she crazy?  This dog was one in a million.

Rest in peace, my sweet boy.
You'll never be forgotten.


Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful tribute to Frank and says what we are all thinking.

I made a donation in his memory to Recycled Doggies - not sure they will acknowledge it to you.

Anonymous said...

I wanna cry! Damn pregnancy hormones! After seeing how Carly has been acting the last 5 months with me I couldn't bear to go through the pain you are. I think Papaw is glad to have his buddy with him now.

Lori said...

Oh Shannon, my heart breaks for you and I am crying reading the enormous love you showered over Frank throughout his years. To be so loved right up until the last breath is such a gift, even in the hardest moments it is selfless and beautiful. We all love you, and now more than ever I think in the coming weeks, when you are ready it might be time you come to meet your boy Tristan. Love you.

Marcy said...

A beautiful tribute. I am so sorry.