Sunday, November 13, 2011

Death of a Pet

I'm sorry I have been away for so long. I'm sure you've been waiting for an update to my July post. But I need to write this post, about our Alaskan Malamute, Fur Island*. She died this week, very quickly and unexpectedly. This is a very long post. I just want to write this down, apologies for the length, I have a lot to say. I'm kind of surprised how upset I got because she'd always been a bit of a thorn in my side, despite being DH's best friend and one of the reasons he's still around.

In 2000, when DS was a baby, we moved to a cheap rental near the RSPCA. We decided to adopt a dog, and got a lovely Siberian Husky, Sibe* who'd strayed. We already had a cat named Midget* (since 1997), but we'd been unable to get a dog because our previous homes didn't have back fences. (Both Sibe and Midget have passed away now, but we have two other cats and a Labrador, all pets that we didn't shop for, but they needed a home.)

Living near the RSPCA was both good and bad. DH absolutely adores dogs & cats. He was stuck at home, caring for DS, and they could walk there and see the animals. But when DH was living at home, he could walk there with the stroller and they could visit all the animals waiting to be adopted... or "on death row" as DH used to say. They used to continue to visit every few days, even after we'd adopted Sibe. I wasn't sure this was a good idea, because I knew how DH loved to rescue people and animals. But I was working full-time and he was lonely. I made it clear I wanted to stay a two pet family for now.

One day, a young Malamute caught DH's attention. He played with her a lot and felt a real connection. When he took her back to her pen and tried to leave she held onto the bottom of his pants and looked up at him with "Don't leave me" in her eyes. DH decided he had to rescue her. And he decided he needed to do that without my knowledge, or I might say no.

My sister rang me one day to tell me she thought DH was going to adopt another dog. I said, "Don't be ridiculous. He'd discuss it with me first." I confronted him about it and he outright lied to me and said she was making it all up. (Which would be weird, as they usually got on like a house on fire.)

Later that week, I came home from work, and as usual, was running around like a chook with my head cut off. DH says I walked past Fur Island at least twice without noticing her. (We already had a large dog, there colouring was similar, and I was distracted.) He remembers the moment I realised there was another dog in the house. My face changed... confusion and then anger. I couldn't believe my husband of less than 3 years had told me an outright lie, more than once, just to get another dog!?! I was furious!

To be honest, over the next few days I was wondering if we could stay together. Not because I couldn't deal with another dog, but because he could lie to me like that. I wondered how many more lies there would be, or had been. I wondered if I was that hard to talk to, that he couldn't sit down and discuss getting this particular dog with me. I wondered if we would end up with several dogs because we were averaging an adoption every 3 months at this rate!

One big issue I had with getting another dog, especially another snow dog, was the dog hair. Malamutes & Huskies have a double coat and it seems like (to me) that they are always shedding.

Anyway, now I can look back and see that DH was just like a teenager dealing with something he wanted that he thought I would say no to. Do what you want and then apologize later; you may not get permission if you ask. I would've said yes, with a little convincing, but I guess he didn't realise that at the time.

Fur Island was fine on Tuesday, but suddenly ill on Wednesday morning. We took her to the vet after school. She had to stay overnight and it was possible it was the life threatening condition HGE. I was about to speak at a mental health forum when DH tried to ring me, so I couldn't take the call. When I was finished speaking, I checked my messages. The vet had rung to say Fur Island was in septic shock, and he'd been trying to get me to take her to the Animal Emergency Centre (AEC) where she could be monitored overnight, as she might die. I rang DH and he was furious that I'd been out when he needed me. (He couldn't drive her as his licence has expired, and he's too sedated & unmotivated to renew it; plus our second car had a flat tyre.) The vet had to go home and they were both worried Fur Island wouldn't be alive when the clinic opened (she was on fluids & antibiotics overnight).

I left immediately after my phone call (I was supposed to be on a panel) and spent the drive home praying a rosary that Fur Island would make it through the night. I couldn't understand why the vet hadn't told me that if she needed to go to AEC, that I would have to drive her. If I'd known that, I could have canceled my speaking engagement, just in case. DH was asleep when I got home, but woke up later. He was no longer angry with me, just sad. He was convinced she was already dead. I kept telling him we didn't know that for sure.

Thursday morning he tried to get DH out of bed and dressed so we could make it to the clinic in time for the opening, but he was even slower than usual due to his sadness. So, I ended up calling the clinic. The nurse told me "She's still alive!". But she was also able to say she wasn't doing great. I had prepared the children earlier by telling them the day before that Fur Island might die. DS wasn't coping at all well. We decided he could come to the clinic with us, and see how she was doing, and stay home if he thought he would be too emotional at school. He didn't want to cry in front of his classmates. He's done that so many times before, but not in recent months, and he didn't want to get his reputation as a cry-baby back. I dropped DD at school, she wasn't really worried.

Poor Fur Island, she was breathing heavy, she was so lethargic, her tongue was sticking out, it looked very wrong. Both DH & DS were so upset. The vet told us there were a number of things that could be causing her condition. I decided we needed to X-ray, because one of the possibilities was that her intestines had got twisted and blood flow was cut off to them (similar to gastric torsion, but precipitated by the HGE, not by a meal). If this was the case, there was nothing we could to do to save her.

We all went to my office. I worked for an hour, the vet called. It was the bad news that she did have the twisted intestines. The three of us spent some time with her and said goodbye. DH was holding her when the vet gave her the injection that let her go. We stayed with her for a while. DS and DH were both distraught, and I cried too. DD was fine when I told her, she's only 7, and only emotionally about herself, usually. Her first question was, "Can we get another dog?"

Fur Island was an extraordinary dog. When DS was a baby, he walked on her and didn't complain. She carefully evaluated people and gave them the right level of her enthusiasm. With my elderly grandma, she just sat at her feet. With kids, she babysat. She barked if she thought they were doing something stupid. She also barked at us when we tickled them and made them laugh. She kept DH company through his periods of darkness. She was his best friend.

I woke on Friday feeling depressed. I wasn't expecting that. DD was feeling low too. We had a little chat, and decided that it was like our picture of the world and our family now had a hole in it. Fur Island was gone, and it would take a while to get used to that. So it was okay to feel sad. DS was still too sad to go to school.

It's Sunday now, and the kids and I are coping. I was supposed to go to a big karate seminar today with our founder. But DH has just lost his best friend, and is not coping with his pain. We pick up his methadone takeaways today, and he might just be tempted to search my office and take them all. I certainly couldn't take them to a karate seminar with kids all over the place. And he needs some company. Kancho will be back another time. Our little family comes first.

*Pet names have been changed.


  1. OH! Sapphyre, thats so sad. I hope everyone is feeling better soon; it's so hard when a family pet dies because they become apart of our families!!
    I am praying for you all!! {{{{Hugs & Love}}}}

  2. Hi Sapphyre, I lost my wee Jackie this year and it still hurts. She was 19 years old and still active up until the last few days.
    I hope your family feel better soon.
    Maz x

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