This month, we lost two family dogs.
On the Sunday after my sister's wedding, my mom got a call about her 15 year old chocolate lab Coco Chanel. She had a fever. My mom didn't say anything at the time but they basically kept Coco alive so my parents could return home and say goodbye. She died on Wednesday, May 18.
In her old age, she developed hip displasia that was exacerbated by the accident. Two years ago, my aunt bought a pet sympathy card for my parents. But Coco kept on going with some help from my parents and the vet who chose to manage her pain. As long as the dog was eating, they reasoned, she should continue. Every once in a while, she'd fall into their pool. If it was an accident, she'd let out a poop. The time or two that she appeared to do it on purpose...none. Still it's not like she had happy control of her bowels. (There's a divide in veterinary philosophy over whether or not this should be used as a factor in end-of-life decisions.) She also paced the house like she had senility. Still, she recognized us when we visited. And up until a couple of years ago, she'd bring you her ball even if it were only for a couple of tosses. She had a fine, long* life full of ice cream, love, and balls.
Sissy rescued Belle from Seal Beach Animal Care Center where she had been brought after someone threw her out in a trash bag on the freeway. The dude and I went down with her to check out pups, but I stayed in the car until they picked out "Samantha." When I met her, she rolled right over on her back for a belly rub. She rode the hour or so to her new home in my sister's lap (while Sissy was driving!). Belle was the star of obedience class, the dog who most successfully completed "earthquake training." She stuck to my sister like glue, and when she had to stay with us, she stuck to me even sleeping in the bed under the covers. It took her a long time to get comfortable with men. In our old "shotgun" apartment, Belle would run down the length of the hallway and launch herself from the end of the hall rug over the seven or so feet of hardwood and onto the sofa. Then she'd run to our bedroom (at the other end of the hall) and jump on the dude in the bed. Back and forth she'd race. She was a funny one. My sister lived on the beach, and Belle spent her time chasing the sun; she always loved to bask in warm spots. Just after Stella came to live with us, my sister finally had Belle's DNA done: mastiff, boxer, and German short-haired pointer. When Sissy and Jersey moved in together, Belle joined her new canine family with only minor hiccups.
In March, Belle was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. The tumor was removed, and they started chemotherapy shortly before the wedding. When Mr. and Mrs. Jersey returned from the honeymoon, Belle started to show signs of illness again. Vets blamed it on an ulcer caused by the chemo. They put Belle on ulcer meds. By Thursday, it was clear those weren't working, and they didn't begin the next scheduled round of chemo. On Friday when Belle was again taken to the vet, her gums and tongue were white. She died in the arms of her people on Friday, May 27th. She was twelve.
Wherever they are now, Coco has a ball and Belle is basking in the sun. Rest in peace, furry friends.
* Labs live 10-12 years, generally.