It seems strange to me that the first post I write in 18 months for Pets are Talking is about my own dog. I’ve been working with so many wonderful animals, Cordelia, Noah, Grimalkin, Max, and Jackson and Jackson and Tabby and Magic and Norma and Athena have reminded me how terrific it is to be graced by animals in our lives.
I want to share their stories, but first I need to share one of my own.
Part of my job is helping people decide whether it’s the right time for them to put their pet to sleep. I ask the pet whether it’s their time.
Dogs, cats, horses, everyone has an opinion about whether it’s their time or not. Very few say, “Eh, whatever.”
So, last Friday, it was my turn to decide if it was Hunni’s time.
Hunni was my whip-and-retrieve-it, a whippet-golden retriever cross, the product of a purebred golden and whoever got in the back yard.
My beloved weimaraner, Max, had died. These puppies were advertised in the paper as golden retriever/weimaraner crosses. It seemed like a good sign.
I had to work that day, so my partner, at the time, picked Hunni out and brought her home. I came home to find a tiny, blonde puppy with beautiful brown eyes.
You know, you should never let anybody pick out a dog for you.
They will invariably mess it up.
“What do you think?” He asked.
“It looks like her lights are on, but nobody is home.”
Her eyes seemed too bright, like she was on a perpetual dopamine high.
“I named her Honey,” he said. “Does that sound okay?”
I mean, she was honey-colored. But I don’t usually name my pets after food.
“That way I can say I have two honeys in my bed.”
At the time, I rolled my eyes. But now, I have a gag reflex whenever I think of that.
I made the mistake of correlating this dog with my partner, and as our discontent grew, this poor little puppy was ignored by my partner and resented by me.
She wasn’t my dog. I hadn’t picked her out. And she didn’t listen. And she wouldn’t fetch.
By the following January, my ex had moved out. And he left what I thought of as “his” dog behind. And he took my cat, Georgia.
I’ve talked before about how terrible Hunni was as a puppy. I renamed her “Hunni” because I started calling her “Atilla the Hunni”, due to her ability to conquer and lay waste to my shoe collection, my friend’s prescription sunglasses, the various knobs and stick-shift in my car. If it was plastic, it was history.
And my living room made a very convenient bathroom. And she learned how to turn the deadbolt on the door in the laundry room, to let herself and Guapo out during the day while I was at work.
My neighbors hated me.
This was before I could talk to animals. After thousands of dollars in training, and no results, I made a last-ditch effort and hired a pet psychic.
And she set me straight.
Hunni really liked me. She was happy that she didn’t have to go with my ex. She didn’t realize that it was really a problem for me that she did her business on the living room rug. And she would fetch, but not a ball, because a ball’s roundness bothers her. Could I find something with legs to throw instead?
That animal communicator solved our problems in about an hour and a half.
And then, my partner, Brian and his dog, Benny showed up. And those two were like peas and carrots from the beginning.
Hunni became (or maybe she always was) a sweet and kind dog, with mostly impeccable manners.
While she never quite got over the chewing thing, she was my kid’s best friend, curling up with him every night, at the bottom of his bed.
She was a dainty little thing who hated sweaters and ketchup, but loved pretty much everything and everybody else.
For some reason, she really liked this little blue hat. Here she is, annoyed with Beaulah for wearing her hat.
And look how she cute she feels wearing it.
We knew she was slowing down as she neared 12 years old. She napped more. She lost her hearing. She started having little accidents around the house.
About a week before she died, Benny stood over her and whined and pawed at her, something he never did before.
“I don’t think Hunni’s going to be around a long time,” I told Brian.
She cuddled a lot more. And she smiled a lot. I gave her belly scratches every day, and she’d fall asleep after 20 minutes or so.
She had the best smile ever.
We thought we had more time. We thought she was just slowing down. We didn’t know she had cancer.
And then last Thursday, she stopped eating. And on Friday morning, we went to the vet, and an ultrasound showed that her belly was full of fluid. She had a hemangiosarcoma on her spleen.
She could have had emergency surgery to remove that spleen, but with hemangiosarcoma, she would only live, at most, about four months more. It didn’t seem fair to put her through all that.
I called Brian, and we decided to put her to sleep.
She was ready. I had to drive home to pick up my son (who is nearly 15) so that he could say goodbye. She laid down in the exam room and was in the same place when we came back 90 minutes later (I live a long way from my vet!).
Ike said goodbye. We talked about what a good dog she had been, and how much we loved her.
Then Ike left the room.
And then I felt her spirit go up. I suddenly felt this light, chest-cracking joy. “I’m okay!” She said.
Her body was still alive, laying there, breathing. That was strange. I wondered what was left when the spirit goes. I whispered “Hunni”, but she just laid there. She was a shell.
And when the vet came in to put her down, and he asked if I was ready, I said, “Yes.”
And she died, and he and I cried a little.
After she died, I thought I’d bring the other dogs in, so that they would know that Hunni was really and truly gone.
Benny came in, sniffed her once, and then started looking around the room for snacks.
Olive came in, sniffed Hunni, and tucked her tail between her legs, “LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!” she said. It makes sense that she responded that way. I mean, she can’t stand going to the vet, and here was her good buddy, dead. So we left, and got cheeseburgers on the way home.
Hunni was a little Lady.
Olive? Not so much.
Bo Helps Out
The next morning, my cat Bo was walking around the house meowing and banging on doors. He interrupted my healing call four times.
It was so obnoxious.
Finally I said, “What is going on?”
Bo asked, “Where’s Hunni?”
I forgot to tell the cats.
I told Bo that she had died and he said, “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped you! How are you? Are you okay?”
And then he jumped up on my lap and rolled around and purred and hugged my arm and just loved me up. I cried. And later, my son Ike told me that Bo had been his “tear sponge” too.
Is it easier for a Pet Psychic to put her pet to sleep?
Yes. I know the other side. I can tune into Hunni and still talk to her. It helps a lot to have that inside view.
Saturday was okay, but Sunday was brutal. Our house was so quiet.
This morning Benny, my shadow, didn’t get up when I got up.
He stayed in bed. Very unusual. He always gets up and follows me around. He stays close.
He’s nearly 11 and he’s a big dog. I know he’s not long for this world, but I am hoping that we still have some time with him.
This is the price we pay for having pets. And we can take comfort in a good end. And of course, like any owner, I feel a little regret for not always petting her when she wanted pets, or throwing a shoe at her when she was a puppy (not my best moment).
But it’s okay.
On Saturday night, I emailed a local no-kill shelter, offering my house as a foster home for a dog or two. We’re not ready for another dog of our own, but we can be a kind way station. We can give back.
Hug your pets for me tonight.
And Hunni, have fun on the other side. We know you will.