RIP Chuck, a great dog

On April 11, 2016, we laid to rest our dear, sweet dog Chuck. He’d been with us a long time — and was a mature dog when we got him — so he was an old fellow.

Chuck’s story is largely unknown… Before we met him, he was brought in to one of the local animal shelters to be euthanized because he had large masses growing out of his ears. However, Leland, one of the animal shelter employees, saw something in Chuck and, instead of euthanizing him, brought him to Wendy’s hospital for treatment.

I don’t think it was love at first sight when Wendy saw Chuck. He was an unremarkable dog — black, skinny, with long gangly legs. Not particularly handsome nor particularly ugly or goofy looking. Just a black dog. Wendy worked on Chuck to surgically remove the growths from his ears and in doing so, found a spark between them.

As Chuck got healthier, Wendy’s fondness for him grew. So we adopted him into our home.

Chuck was, in a word, meek. He never got angry and took delight in simple things like laying in the sun, stretching out just as much as he could to take up as much of our bed as possible, and curling into as tiny a ball as possible when cuddled up on the couch. He enjoyed running with Wendy. But mostly wanted to chill out. Chuck was steadfast in his love for us — his whole adopted family — enjoying the cats as much as the other dogs. He escaped from the back yard a couple times, but came to the front door instead of running away.

Occasionally, he would race around our back yard at great speed. We thought he was a greyhound. When Wendy ran a DNA test on him, we were surprised to discover that Chuck was a mix of Dalmatian and Poodle! His nicknames were “Chuzzle” or “Chuzzlebutt”.

(l to r): Buster, Dolly, and Chuck
(l to r): Buster, Dolly, and Chuck

Such a gentle soul. Wonderful to have around the house because he was solidly present and interested in whatever you were doing, but never nosy or insistent. He just wanted to watch.

One time, Wendy came into our bedroom to find Chuck positively frolicking with a toy — tossing it into the air and catching it (well, trying too — Chuck was never good at that), play bowing, jumping around, and generally having a blast with the toy. Wendy went to see what toy was giving him such delight, she discovered it was a shard from a tennis ball that had been chewed up. Just the tiniest speck of a ball, and Chuck thought he’d won the toy-lottery. We named the top “Speck” and treated it with reverence (until our cleaning lady eventually swept it up with the vacuum).

Chuck was laying on our bed on which I’d tossed some plastic hangers. One of the hangers got hooked around Chuck’s collar in front, acting like a hobble as it bounced against his front legs. Chuck was startled by that, but just sat there, still, because he was confused. I had the time to take a picture of it while he waited patiently for me to rescue him!

Chuck Stuck
Chuck got stuck when this hanger hooked onto his collar.

His health declined and he was “circling the drain”, losing weight (his last several months he wore a doggie sweater to help keep him warm). Wendy and I went out of town briefly and put the animals into Wendy’s hospital for care as we normally do. Sometime during that stay Chuck “crashed” and, while he held on long enough for us to get back and be with him, we knew it was the end of the road for our dear sweet boy.

Chuck Last Pic
Chuck’s last picture, being petted by Andrew.

Chuck was a wonderful companion and a great dog. Rest in peace, faithful friend.

This was a difficult eulogy to write because Chuck is difficult to capture in words. It is hard to express how loyal, loving, and just-plain-nice Chuck was in a way that does justice to it. He was a pleasant dog, and a good boy.

Farewell to Buster the wiener dog — RIP 2014-12-22

Buster the Weiner Dog

It was a long time coming, but Buster the wiener dog finally met his end on December 22, 2014.

He was a lucky little fellow… He came into Wendy’s hospital more than 8 years ago, already a mature dog, because he’d hurt his back and was paralyzed from the neck down… He was able to move his head and his tail. That was it. His owners, who were in poor health, felt they couldn’t take care of him and brought him to Wendy’s office to be euthanized. It was three little words that Wendy had written in his chart on a previous visit that extended his life.

“Great little dog”

You see, Wendy very rarely editorializes in her notes, so the presence of those three words struck a chord in Wendy. She asked the people if they would surrender Buster to her care, and we’d take the responsibility for whatever happened with him. The people didn’t want Buster destroyed, so they eagerly agreed.

Wendy called me that day and said, “Come to the hospital to meet you new dog”, and she hung up. I called her back, thinking we were accidentally disconnected. She repeated the instruction, “Come to the hospital to meet your new dog”. And she hung up again.

Intrigued, I went to her hospital! And met a sorry, still little dog. Though he couldn’t move, his tail wagged like mad when I greeted him. My heart was his.

We brought him home with no assurance of his potential to be a fully-functional dog. There were lots of “messes” involved… He couldn’t move to let us know he wanted to go outside and he couldn’t move out of the mess if he pottied inside. We took a yellow car wash sponge (you know the ones that are vaguely bone-shaped) and wrapped it in a plastic bag. We’d prop Buster on this to let him “stand” outside to pee. He’d let us know he was going by raising his tail, and let us know he was finished by unceremoniously rolling off the sponge onto his side on the ground.

He’d sit on the couch with us, cuddling. We gave him lots of drugs, did physical therapy, and even doggie chiropractic.

And slowly, he started to regain the use of his body.

Eventually, he was able to “commando crawl” — pulling himself along with his front paws while his back legs dragged behind. He looked like a little black seal.

I would put Buster on one side of a room then I’d lay on the floor clear across the room. He would commando crawl all the way over to me and nestle along my chest, resting his head on my arm. And we would lay there together as a reward for his hard effort.

After that, his back legs came, unsteadily, back online. He could walk, barely, and fell down a lot. A good aspect was that he was so close to the ground it certainly didn’t hurt for him to take the many tumbles he did. The height difference between a standing weiner dog and a fallen-over weiner dog is only a couple inches.

As he got better, we decided he was a “floor dog” — not allowed on couches, beds, or to go up & down the steps. We constructed a little ramp that helped Buster get to our backyard, rather than having to navigate the steps leading to our patio. It took him trying to go downstairs once and stumbling, falling, and tumbling to the bottom before he fully agreed with our “floor dog” limitation.

Buster was about 85% functional for most of the time he was with us. Not bad for a critter that had been paralyzed!

Buster lived with us for 8 years, and his previous owners estimated that he was 8 or 9 when they brought him in to Wendy’s. So he was a good old dog, and wore down as good old dogs do.

First, he went blind. Followed by doggie dementia and incontinence and a gradual loss of hearing. We were committed to keeping him with us as long as he was happy, and when we’d set food down for him — BOY was he happy! His little tail would whip around and he’d happily munch down whatever we gave him. Buster was always a good eater.

When we got back from our Miami trip in early December, Buster didn’t look so good and he never rallied. He started turning down food, which was a clear sign that he was done. He finally told us, by not eating, that he was ready to go.

Monday, December 22, 2014, I stopped at Arby’s to get him a Roast Beef Sandwich. It’s the traditional Last Meal for our pets. Buster didn’t even finish his sandwich. I think he “left it all on the field”.

We euthanized him around 6:30pm. And, true to form, Buster christened his passing with urine and feces. A disgusting(ly cute) little beast until the very end!

Merrick — RIP, 2012-05-20

Sunday, 5/20/2012 was a very sad day at the Vogel household. On Sunday evening, we reluctantly bid farewell to Merrick, a cat who was Wendy’s “perfect, precious angel boy”.

Merrick was 16 years old, and one of the original “Wendy Trio” that came with her into our relationship, along with Ringo (RIP) and Oliver (still alive and peeing on stuff). Of those three, Merrick was the sensitive mama’s boy. His love for hairdressing was legendary — he would perch on Wendy’s chest and lick her hair until it was perfectly ‘done’ (in his feline eyes).

Years ago, as Wendy & I were becoming a couple, it was fascinating to watch Merrick, who only had eyes for Wendy (and food, but mostly for Wendy). He didn’t notice me at all, so brightly did Wendy shine in his eyes. I’ve never observed such a singular love as Merrick had for Wendy.

Wendy rescued Merrick during her vet schooling, and he’d been with her ever since. It was a fitting end, last night, that Wendy sat with Merrick on the couch, holding him close, until his little heart stopped beating.

He lived every breath for Wendy. Merrick will be missed terribly.

RIP: Remus, kitten

This morning, we mourn the passing of sweet little kitten Remus.

At just 6 weeks old, he spent two of his last three days on this planet stuck in asphalt. Two guys found him and brought him to Wendy’s hospital, where he was worked on by hospital staff to try to get the thick, smelly tar off his coat and skin. They also gave him fluids and support medications. Wendy & I worked on him for about 5.5 hours, at the end of her workday. He lived through the night, but never turned the corner.

Last night, Wendy brought Remus home. I held him on my chest all evening to keep him warm. Sometimes, he was awake & alert, other times non-responsive. He meowed a few times and purred a little bit. I finally surrendered him to a heating-pad equipped box for the night. He was dead when we woke this morning. The toxins from the asphalt, the shock, and the overall stress did him in.

Poor little fighter. We are happy that he saw a home, even if only briefly.

RIP, Remus.

Welcome Achilles!

Boolie01 In the late days of February 2011, the lack of a cat, specifically a Siamese cat, weighed on Wendy and me enough that Wendy started casting about for a Siamese. Not to take the place of Akhenaten, which can never happen, but to bring their special energy back to our household.

After several emails, Wendy located a breeder who had a champion Siamese that she wanted to get rid of. The picture to the right is the first view of him that we got. The reason was that he’s got a growth plate issue in one (maybe more) of his legs, and therefore cannot show any more. The breeder had him neutered and they were looking for a good home for him. Once she and Wendy chatted, it was just a matter of time before we adopted him.

Boolie02 During one of my weekends home from training, Wendy & I drove up to meet the breeder and the cat, who they called Boolie. Wendy hopped into the breeder’s car and started visiting with the cat and the breeder. She was taken by Boolie’s energy, curiosity, and affection, and quickly decided that he would come home with us. We crammed him into the cat carrier we’d brought, and headed south. He meowed – that strange, infant-like cry that Siamese do, most of the way home until I finally allowed him to come out of the carrier and be held (by me). Even though he didn’t know me, he accepted the comfort and quieted down a bit.

When we got him home, we sequestered him in one of the spare rooms to allow him to adjust to the sounds and smells of his new home, and to allow the other cats to get used to the idea of a new presence. For the first few days, Boolie (we hadn’t found his “forever name” yet) stayed precisely the center of the mattress, underneath the bed. Wendy was beginning to get worried that he may never show initiative and come out from hiding. She started leaving the door to the spare room open, with the baby gate blocking access for dogs.

Achilles01 That didn’t last long… It was as if Boolie (who we had, by now, renamed Achilles because of his bad leg(s)), decided that he was going to explore, and within a couple days of the door being open, he was merrily hopping over the gate. He decided that he wasn’t afraid of dogs, and began to interact with them wonderfully.

And then, the house became his oyster. Nothing was safe – NOTHING. He knows no fear (of pots boiling on the stove for example), is a terribly clumsy oaf (which seems to be a trait of Siamese) who loves to jump up on Wendy’s dressing table (and knock stuff over), and frequently expresses his feelings (via long, plaintive meowing) at any time of the day or night. He’s a royal pain (in a good way), but we love him. He used to be disruptive at night until he discovered how lovely it is to be able to sleep in bed with his people (I think he used to be crated at night), and now he is as good as gold. He’s recently started going under the covers as well, which reminds me of Akhenaten.

Achilles’ birthday is April 16, 2008, and we’re going to have a nice celebration (by cat standards) to welcome him to his forever home.

Another Akhenaten Update

Some very bad news about Akhenaten, our wonderful little Siamese cat. His kidneys have failed. Wendy has been hydrating him with Lactated Ringer’s a couple times a day, but we’re not keeping up.

Akhenaten is dying. And quickly.

The feeling is that tonight, Tuesday January 18, 2011, we will have to make the decision to euthanize him.

He’s been an amazing cat – he was found near “room temperature” after being discarded from a kitty mill. He fought his way back to good health (as close as he could), but his kidney numbers were bad from the beginning of his time with us.

At that time, Wendy said, “We’ve got to love him a lot, because we won’t get to love him for very long”. So sad to say that she was right, but even so, his time was shorter than either of us expected.

When he moved into our house, it seemed that he’d never been in a social situation, nor had the run of a home. He took to both very well and soon was enmeshed in the fabric of the household. He loves laying on the heat registers, or on anyone – human or animal – who will lay still enough for him to snuggle in (I don’t think Akhenaten was EVER warm enough!). Lately, he discovered the joys of sleeping under the covers in bed with Wendy & me, and crouches (he’s an expert croucher) atop whomever he is near – us, dogs, other cats – it doesn’t matter to him, as long as they’re warm!

I will remember Akhenaten’s meow (which sounds like a baby crying), his clumsiness (he’s knocked over more stuff in the house than most of the other animals combined), his sense of humor (I’m sure he thought it was funny when he set the time on my alarm clock FORWARD an hour, making me get up extra-early one morning!), and his weird, sweet long face and brilliant blue eyes (crossed, like any good Siamese). I will also remember that when he was crouched atop me in bed that he’d dig his claws in when I rolled around. I’ve currently got the scratches on my belly as proof.

It’s been a pleasure and joy to give this little cat, who knew so little of the warm human world, exposure to the loving, bumbling circus that is my home. His home. Our time with him was short, but hopefully full of love and hopefully that will be a good set of memories for him.

We love you Akhenaten.