We lost a dear family member yesterday. Let me tell you about him.
This is our dog. His name is Robbie. I nicknamed him Poochens early on. I don’t even remember why.
He was born on March 3, 1999. He was a purebred Jack Russell Terrier. Documented English lineage! He was named after his Father “Paxton Rob”. We could have bred him for a lot of money. We could have even had a show dog. But we wanted a family pet. And in order to attended Doggie Daycare while we were at work, he had to be neutered. So that’s what we did.
We took him once to St. Charles, Illinois to a JRT event. He was only a puppy. Not even a year old. There were so many dogs! There was a course with hurdles to run and he raced other dogs. He had to wear a muzzle for that. Which, of course, didn’t go over well. He’d never worn one. There was a “go-to-ground” course where the dogs follow their breeding and instincts underground, through a tunnel, and find the prey at the end. He didn’t like that much either. We had fun, he like running and meeting the other dogs. But that was about all. We didn’t attend another event. Too far from home and he could run unmuzzled at Doggie Daycare.
There’s a wonderful woman in our town who loves and trains dogs. She has a large yard that she dedicates to them. It’s divided into two sections. Upper yard for the little dogs. Lower and larger yard for the big dogs. Robbie, being full grown at 20 pounds and 15-17 inches tall, classified as a little dog. But his spirit and ability dictated that he be allowed to literally run with the big dogs! I’ll never forget when Judy told me that Robbie had been the star of the yard that day. He’d chased a squirrel part way up a tree trunk, grabbed the squirrel and tossed it to the ground for the group of bigger dogs waiting for it. Ew! Sad but true. He was a big shot at Doggie Daycare. He went there for a few years until our work scheduled changed and it was no longer practical for us to take him.
He was a naughty dog! He needed plenty of exercise and needed a “job” to do. If he didn’t get this outlet for his energy, he’d find a job to do. Many times that “job” was
One of the many emptied purses
shredding newspaper. When he was still a pup we took him to Puppy Kindergarten so that he’d learn some discipline. They were kind enough to give him a certificate of completion. Deserved? Not so much. I left that certificate on the dining room table. The next day I came home to find it shredded on the floor. How did a little puppy reach it? We’ll never know.
I guess the same way he always reached my purse in safe locations. He loved to eat my gum. And that usually meant he’d empty every single item from my purse, turn it inside out and leave all on the floor. He’d eat the gum whether a full pack or just one piece. I’m certain he was part goat. He loved to eat crayons and once even a scented candle. Dumb dog.
He was a beloved member of our family. But he had to grow on a few of us. My oldest daughter wasn’t crazy about him. One day as she napped on the sofa, deeply as only a teenager can. This adorable puppy crept quietly to her and reached for her earrings. Nibbling her ear oh so gently trying to get them. Did I say “gently”. OK, maybe not. He knew he had a moment to get what he wanted and went for it with gusto. Poor little puppy learned to fly that day. And, learned a few new words.
He was a snuggle bug. He loved his Daddy so much. He loved our grandchildren when they came a few years later. In fact, there was a time when we had to keep him separate from the babies. You see, Jack Russells like to hunt and will kill small animals. I really think he thought babies were small animals. They smell good, they wiggle, they squeak. He didn’t know he couldn’t stand on them and he would get very intense around them. So for many years he had to be locked in the kitchen. They grew older and his experience finally taught him to behave. Although he still didn’t know better than to jump up to kiss them. Many kids landed on their tushes from him seeking a kiss.
NEW DOG IN TOWN
Just about two years ago we stupidly brought in a new dog. Another JRT, although not purebred. He’s adorable and we were sure Robbie would love a play mate in his old age. We were wrong. Bruiser quickly showed us that. We were also sure that our strong smart Robbie would be the alpha dog. We were shocked and saddened when we saw Bruiser bully him. But there were times when they seemed like best of friends. Even in Robbie’s last days, they laid together in the yard. A very rare sight.
Robbie’s last day. Sunning himself in the yard. Bruiser joined him.
Robbie’s health had deteriorated over the last few years. The black and brown on his face turned gray. His old bones hurt. He had a lot of arthritis in his legs and feet. His eye sight failed and eyes were clouded with cataracts. It’s so hard to see a once energetic and vital soul slow down and become blind and crippled. Heart breaking.
We’d talked for a while now about how maybe it was time. You know, “time”. Time to let him go. But he held on and we nursed him along. Gave him baby aspirin for the pain. But it really wasn’t helping any more. Got him eye drops when his blind eye seemed to be infected. Lifted him on to the bed or sofa when he could no longer make that jump. Tried to understand his absence among us when he wanted to just stay in his bed.
Then last week things changed for the worse. He was limping badly. He was in obvious pain. His eye sight was worse than ever. He bumped into things. He wobbled as he struggled to walk. He had to be helped down the outside steps and into the yard. He stumbled around his yard, trying to follow the path he’d walked for 14 years.
On Wednesday he seemed to rally. It was a warm sunny day and he did what he loved. Sunned himself in the yard. On this day Bruiser laid with him for a time. Again, this is something that NEVER happened. They always kept a little distance when resting in the yard. I can only remember one or two other times they rested together outside.
But over night Wednesday/Thursday it became apparent that he wasn’t going to get better. We had some of the grandkids staying the night. Robbie was sleeping with the boys. The oldest boy told us Thursday morning that in the night Robbie needed his help to get off the bed. Then Robbie seemed to be bumping into things in the bedroom so the boy helped him out the door. At about 4:00 a.m. we woke to a sound that we thought might be Robbie stumbling on the stairs. So my hubby got up and went down stairs to look for him. While he did that, I made a trip to the bathroom. There I discovered that Robbie had pottied in the bathroom. Another unusual occurance.
Our house is old and has two stair ways. One we call the “back stairs”. We never…NEVER…use them. They’re awkward as they turn sharply at the bottom. We leave the door at the foot of the stairs (in the dining room) closed. Robbie hadn’t used them since he was a brave and exploring pup. When my hubby was looking for him that night he was no where to be found. Then he heard a noise. Robbie had left the bathroom upstairs and in his blindness and confusion, turned left instead of right and gone down those back stairs! The thought of him going down those odd stairs breaks my heart. They’re dark and they must have felt and smelled so foreign to him. He must have been so confused and scared. He’d evidently stumbled on the odd bottom stairs and when Dave opened the door there he was. Poor old Poochens.
All day Thursday Robbie was suffering. He couldn’t walk without a struggle. He couldn’t stand without trembling and wobbling. Yet it was painful and difficult for him to lay down.
Anyone who has ever had to make a final decision for a pet knows that moment. That moment when you stop wondering “should we” and you just KNOW “it’s time”. Thursday was that day.
I contacted all my kids who had not yet been to see him and told them. I told them they must come over on Thursday and that we’d scheduled with the vet for Friday morning. So they came. My son and his family came Thursday morning while I was at work. They didn’t stay long, but they said their goodbyes.
Thursday evening my daughters and their children came. This was what I was dreading. I’d cried a bit throughout the day. But I knew the minute my oldest granddaughter arrived I’d be done for. You see, Eden was his girl. She’s the oldest. She had been his buddy for a very long time. When she was two and three-years old she would lay with him in his bed in front of the dining room heat vent and nap. She was always his favorite.
He finally settled in his blankie.
That evening, before anyone arrived, he’d been struggling badly. Trying to walk around, but in too much pain. He wouldn’t land in any one spot and rest. At one point he trembled so badly that I thought he would bite his own tongue! He shivered yet panted at the same time. I’m sure he was in extreme pain. He was in the living room and I brought in his bed blanket and left it on the floor in front of the TV. I went out of the room for something and when I came back he’d laid right down on it. He seemed calmed and comforted. I covered him up a bit as it was a chilly evening. He seemed to sleep.
One daughter came with her two-and-a-half year old and two of my oldest’s kids whom she was baby sitting. Ages four and seven. Such different levels of understanding among them. Robbie didn’t get up to greet them, he just stayed on that blanket.
Then my oldest daughter and Eden arrived. I tried to keep the mood light by asking her about her fifth grade graduation which she had just come from. She muddered something but then went straight to her knees next to Robbie.
Break for tears please….
Eden is ten and her level of understanding is the same as ours. She was fully aware that he was suffering and what had to be done. But her heart was broken like the rest of us. After a while the seven-year-old boy’s Kindle battery died. He’d said he understood that this was the last time he’d see Robbie. But once his full attention was in the situation he started to talk to his mom. She explained things to him again and more fully I think. The reality of the night hit him hard. This boy who rarely shows emotion wailed for what seemed like hours. He wailed loudly and uncontrollably. He wailed past the point of tears. It was strange and overwhelming. I was fully prepared for all of Edens tears and emotions. But not this. I was not prepared for his extreme display of heartbreak.
For about two hours we sat with Robbie and sobbed. He never got up.
THE SADDEST DAY
Robbie slept with us that night. Snuggled to his Daddy. We left Bruiser locked in his crate. This was Robbie’s night.
He seemed to be feeling better on Friday morning. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. His favorite. He wobbled and limped, but not as bad. He didn’t cry so much in pain. He walked around the house. He got up off the sofa on his own and went quickly (for him) to the back door to go outside. He limped and wobbled around the yard.
I, naturally, began to doubt our decision. I posted on Facebook that “My head knows it’s the right thing to do. But my heart thinks it’s terribly wrong”. I knew he couldn’t go through another day and night like he’d just had. And I knew he’d never get better than he was at that moment.
Our appointment was at 11:00 a.m. At about 10:15 I took him out to his yard for the last time. He slowly limped around the yard, following his perimeter path. Coming off the path and into the yard to do his last business. I snapped pictures of him nonstop. Yes, I even took one as he began to squat that last time. I’m such a weirdo. No, I won’t be sharing that with you. I’m not THAT weird. I let him stay out there for a while, allowing the sun to warm him.
Then he followed his path around and reached the back stairs, climbing them all by himself. And back into the house. My husband and I sat and paced as we watched him restlessly do the same. We cried a lot as the time approached. Watched Bruiser try to not-so-gently coax Robbie into a game of chase. Bruiser never did understand Robbie was old and hurting.
Then we picked up Robbie and headed out. Pausing to let Bruiser give him a sniff on the nose, but there really wasn’t any understanding there. Bruiser barked at him and us just as he always does when we leave the house.
We drove around for a while. Neither of us wanting to go straight home.
Everyone at the vet was very sympathetic. Many “I’m so sorry”s were given. The vet was caring and gentle. We sat together on a bench in the exam room. Daddy holding his boy. The vet gave Robbie a sedative as he was shaking. She didn’t want to cause him any pain and she knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t want her to touch him. After a short time she returned. Robbie was totally calm. Then it was time. He went so peacefully and painlessly. It was a tender and precious moment. Many tears. The last voices he heard and the last touch he felt were ours.
Short break again for tears…
We drove around town for a while afterwards. Letting the reality hit us. Feeling the warm sun. We quietly ate lunch in our car up on the river front dike. We stopped at the church where I work to check messages and get the mail. Then we went home. Home where there was only one little white dog face at the door.
Today is kinda cold and rainy. Appropriate for my mood. I’m staying indoors and not sitting out back looking at our one-dog yard.
Robbie’s ashes will be returned to us. We are going to place his ashes in the hole where we will plant a Burning Bush. Right where the abandoned rabbit hole is. Oh, Robbie showed us his killing ability many times. So strange to have a carnivore who can also be so loving and gentle with his humans. He killed little bunnies and opossums that were as big as he was! He protected our yard fiercely.
Anyway, we chose a Burning Bush because it will symbolize the fire of his spirit and the fact that he always wore a bright red collar. Also, we don’t have any fall color in the back yard, so that will be nice.
My hubby is working this weekend so we’ll do that either Memorial Day Monday or in the few days following. Depends on the weather and if we’re able to find the plant we want.
I know many of you have lost beloved pets. So you know that they are so much more than pets. They are family members. They have grown up with your children and grandchildren and they have grown old with you. I leave you now this this video. Some of you are old enough to have seen it on the Tonight Show in 1981. I am.
R.I.P. Robbie “Poochens” 1999-2013.
A Dog Named Beau
MORE MISCELLANEOUS PICTURES OF THE OLD BOY
Robbie loved a good snuggle! Especially with his favorite girl.
Devoted to the big kids
Did he know a new baby was coming?
Loved his Daddy so much!
On Wednesday Robbie seemed to rally and feel better. But that afternoon, as he sat in the kids’ chair, he looked at me with a serious stillness.
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