Saturday, May 05, 2007


The vet had looked at Sadie with concern; there was something wrong with her back. At first we thought it might be a muscle strain, maybe she had fallen somehow and caused damage. My other dogs, Myrtle and Duchess looked on with impatience. They simply wanted to be out of the office and back in the car. I told the vet I would watch the seven year old black lab and led her gently from the office.

Sadie was special to me. I have always been a dog person, but this animal and I had a special connection. I got Sadie from a hunter who found her useless: "She swims great," he said. "She just doesn't like the taste of feathers in her mouth."

His loss was my gain. I decided that since Sadie had already received fundamental training, I would take her the rest of the way. I spent the next couple years working with Sadie each day, at least an hour's worth of time. When Myrtle came along, she joined our workouts. Then Duchess, Sadie's puppy, became part of the pack. Each day the three of us would work on some aspect of behavior until the three of them were like a machine.

Taking them to a field, I had them off leash. From at least two hundred yards away, I gave Sadie her hand signal to come. Sadie gleefully charged across field, dropping at the halfway point when I gave her the gesture. Then came Myrtle at her hand gesture, also dropping at the "down" signal. Finally Duchess, who ran like a madwoman, hoping to get as close to me as possible before the "down" command came.

Working with a dog each day, spending time on teaching them behavior builds a special bond.

When Sadie couldn't stand up a few months after that vet visit, I was crushed when we took her to the vet's again. I remember having to carry her out on a board. She was alert and in a good mood but unable to move. The other two dogs looked on, unsure of what was happening, but disappointed that they weren't being allowed to join us in the car.

"I can do surgery on her," said the vet. "She's seven though, and I can't guarantee anything. She'll be in a tremendous pain, and might not get better at all. Putting her to sleep is the best."

I nodded and gave consent. My ex-wife and I went into the back while the medication was administered. As Sadie was being prepped, my ex stroked her.

"When this is over, you can go to park with Dad," she said. Sadie's tail thumped, her eyes brightened. The doctor administered the needle. The last thing that filled my Sadies' mind were images of the park and the promise of a run through the grass.

I have three dogs again: Matilda, Leo, and Bernie. Matilda and Leo were my current spouse's dogs before I came along, although Leo has adopted me as his own. Bernie we got a couple years back. He goes to school with me each day. I still think of Sadie though; still have her ashes and a small statuette of a black lab which sits on my desk.


miller580 said...

Man, your timing is dead on...for good or bad I don't know. Just yesterday I had to put my Abbi down. She had Cushing Disease...wish basically is a tumor on her brain.
This is the second dog I've put down in two years, and it really sucked. This is the closest I come to talking about it and now it's time to take that pain deep down and bury it.

Travis said...

I fought getting a pet for the longest time, because I know the time with them is short.

But finally I had to do it. I'll miss Mr Tucker when it's his time, but I enjoy his personality now.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Jim, it's horrible. We develop an attachment to our animals which is (for the more neurotic among us) like parent/child. I don't know if taking the pain and burying it is always a good thing. I'm not sure it honors the pet or the relationship. I hope you plan on getting another dog.

Travis, when I was writing this memory, I kept thinking about Leo, Matilda, and Berney. It drove me crazy. But it's part of life's process. And hey, who's to say I won't go first?

DesLily said...

before I came back to NJ I had to have my Pookey put down. A black and white cat of 16 with diabetes. It took me 3 hours in the vets room to say to do it. They said they could "fix her" for 2,000.00 but no guarantee how long it would give her a month or a year.

I'm 63 and can't go thru that again. All the cats in this house are my brothers.. I will never own an animal again. I can't take the loss or the one to say "put her to sleep".. no more.
I love their cats too.. but I don't have to be the one to take them to the vets and leave empty handed. They had one here put down about a month ago.. I concentrate on the others here and it isn't 1/2 as bad

Donnetta Lee said...

We must be on the same wavelink, Stewart. I just posted about my little hero, Percy. He's been by my side all through a sick spell I've had. Before him, hubby and I had our Rufus, a female Yorkiepoo. We have her ashes in a tiny marble urn in the den. She lived to be 17 and was a treasure. Mr. Percy is a totally different guy. I'm convinced he would die for me. I love him so. I know you will miss your sweet friend.

Fab said...

It's hard losing a pet, because it's losing a friend. You spend so much time with them and talk to them (which might sound silly). I lost Fonske a year ago. He just turned 6. I still have his picture on my desk. He was so much fun.

Lee said...

Stewart, you made me cry and it's not even 8 am yet. I'm going to go give my doggy a hug. Thanks for sharing.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Deslily, sixteen years of sharing with an animal. That's a difficult thing. We put a cat to sleep a month ago. My wife had that cat for seventeen years. I've only claimed three cats in my life, only liked two, and that was one of them.

I love how we name our dogs. Rufus. Percy. Donetta, when I named Bernie, it was because I loved how it sounded with the name of my other dog, Leo. I pictured two old Jewish guys nebbishing on a park bench. If had gotten a female, I would have named her Harriet. Matilda and Harriet.

Fonske. Fab, I wonder where that name came from? I hope you've gone out and gotten another pet. I think people should. I think replacing a pet is recognizing that there is a process going on.

Lee, go hug.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sorry to hear this sad tale. It would be nice if our dogs lived longer. Such beautiful animals.

Claudia said...

I'm so sorry!! We had our little dog for 15 years...there are times I go home and still expect her to come running. Now, I have a spoiled kitty and I know one day she'll be gone...but I can't imagine not having her just because of that.

Fab said...

Fonske? Well, his name was Fons (and not from Happy Days - The Fonz), which I didn't choose.

In Dutch if you put -kè at the end of a name or object it stands for little: so "Fonske" stands for "little Fons".

For a long time I didn't want another pet. Now, maybe it's time.

Susan Miller said...

Sad. I've come back a couple times today not really knowing what to say. I would write "sorry for your loss" but it sound too cliche...but then again it's the only thing that seems to fit.

Loss is sad.

Anonymous said...

what a nice tribute. Sadie sounds like she was a wonderful friend.

Lucas Pederson said...

Sorry to hear about your dog, Stewart.
You know what I hate? I hate people who shoot dogs and cats for fun. IT's sickening. I say so because my dog, Chester, a springer spaniel, black lab mix. Beautiful dog. I loved him. I was thirteen when it happened. I heard the shot, went outside just in time to catch our nieghbor ducking back into his garage. THen I saw Chester. IT was winter, cold and snowy. He was walking toward me as if nothing had happened, then he began to limp.
I brought him inside where I discovered a small pea-sized hole between his back left leg and ribs. It was bleeding, but not badly. My dad called the vet. But the vet must have told him he couldn't save the animal, so later that night, Chester died. I was sleeping next to him.
Great post, fella, it brought back some memories.

Sphinx Ink said...

My sympathies, Stewart. I have had to go through that sad experience a number of times. I've always had pets, both dogs and cats--right now I have three of each. Regardless of how many pets I've had over my lifetime, however, it always hurts when they die and it's always a terrible decision to have to make when they must be euthanized. But what wonderful companions and friends animals are. They never lie to us.

SQT said...

Like Susan, it took me a couple of times to come back and post on this. I've always had pets, cats and dogs mostly, and it never gets easy when it's time to say goodbye.

I had a cat that I got when I was 11 years old that I left with my parents when I went away to college. The cat pined away for me and was nearly wasted away when I came home. He was never the same and maybe lived another year or so after that. I never realized until then that we mean as much to them as they mean to us.

I still feel guilty for leaving my poor cat.

avery said...

I'm sorry for both of your losses, Stewart and Miller580. Losing a pet is hard, and sometimes made even more difficult by those who don't understand the human/animal bond can sometimes go way deeper than 'fetch.'

May third was the three year anniversary of the death of my cat, Elwood. We went in intending to put him down, but -- true to his nature -- he removed himself from the earth before anyone could do it to him. It still tears me up thinking about that poor cat's final hours. You did a good thing letting Sadie go in painless peace, Stewart, rather than dragging out the inevitable. She was able to die thinking of you and happiness. What a good gift to a loyal friend.

Mushy said...

Damn a tear in my eye.

I went through that 2 years I could identify with your pain.

Sorry for your loss.

Beautifully written.

Clifford said...

I'm really sorry for your loss. Having gone through it (poorly) with a couple of cats, I know how you feel. You gave her a good life, and that's worth its weight in gold. If there is something akin to an afterlife, you can be sure our animal companions go there too. Take care.

ShadowFalcon said...

Oh I'm so sorry, I know what its like to lose a pet you love so much.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I thank you for the sympathy, but it's something that happened several years ago, I'm not sure why I shared it, other than that I think about her from time to time. I also think its such a universal topic, one that many people can share in. Look at the immediacy of the topic..Jim just put his Abbi down do to a tumor, Deslily lost a cat. And it sparked memories from several others.

I think too that the blogging speaks to life and is a reaffirmation of the value of a relationship we forge with pets.

Charles, thanks for the comment.
Claudia, remembering a pet is one of the great tributes we can give...and then get another pet. I always warn people about not comparing pets but valuing each for its uniqueness.

Cute name there FAB.
Sue Miller, thanks for commenting. I know that there are posts I read which I want to respond but truly have nothing to say. And I hate just writing a one sentence obligatory comment. Then there are some comments where I can't shut up. Like now.

Thanks Reflecting Pool. Thanks Sphinx. Thanks Avery. Hey, Mushy...if ya got a tear in your eye it means you're a good person, and it means I was able to reach you. Great compliment.

SQT, I think that we learn from our experiences. I know I wish I could go back and do things differently with some of my past pets. I think things clicked with Sadie...and all the dogs I've had since have benefitted from what I learned with her.

Cliff and Shadowfalcon, thanks for stopping by.

spyscribbler said...

Wow, all these stories; it's heartbreaking! Here's one to add to the mix: I lost a cat a year and half ago. It sounds silly, but I felt Leo call to me, when he was dying. And possibly could've been saved. I was dozing, and wrote it off as my imagination.

Damn, if that's not a moment I fervently wish I could do over. Man. I swear, when DH told me, my mind kept trying to figure out how it could go back an hour.

Pets are a special bond. They're always loving and always loyal. They're a special part of our lives, always giving us so many bits of love throughout the day!