Goodbye Old Friend

This is a post that’s difficult to write. I find myself struggling to come up with the right words, but I know that I need to write something.. To honour her the way she deserves. And because she touched a lot of lives, not just ours. I just wish that I had the luxury of time to write better.

On the afternoon of Monday the 11th we said heartbroken goodbyes to our dear Pepper pup.

It was a decision that was painfully difficult to make. Physically, though a senior – plagued by arthritic limbs and increasing tumours that were likely benign – she was still in pretty good shape. She would still run like a puppy when you let her outside, and she could wiggle her bum with the best of them! Mentally, however, she struggled with phobias that grew worse and more difficult to handle with each passing year. She has always been a pretty nervous dog, but I remember one summer in particular we had taken her to a friend’s cottage for Canada Day and she sat with us as we set off a few fireworks on the dock (I think maybe two fireworks actually made it into the air with a weak pop fzzz). At the time Pepper didn’t seem bothered. However the following summer when fireworks were heard in the distance from our house, she lost it and began to try and claw her way through furniture and walls. From that moment on I tried to work with her, to lessen her fear as she quickly became increasingly frantic and destructive. Various methods included use of a DAP diffuser, holistic medicine, real medicine, the ‘hug’ technique, and I even tried to incorporate desensitization to the sound itself. However, the only thing that ever quelled her panic was when the sound stopped, or if we managed to drown out the sound by playing louder sounds over it (which unfortunately doesn’t work so well in the wee hours of the night and with a toddler sleeping!).

With each passing year her fear grew worse. Not only that, but her phobia began to expand to other things: thunderstorms, heavy rain, then just the sound of wind! All of which would cause her to become absolutely frantic – panicked, wide eyes of terror, as if her very life were in danger and nothing we could say to her could convince her that these fears were irrational. It was absolutely heartbreaking. In the last couple of years the only time she would be calm is when there was snow on the ground. And even then, it was best not to take her out for walks too often due to the anxious restlessness she would exhibit for hours later on. And just like clockwork, as soon as the snow started melting away for good, you could see the agitation setting in.

After experiencing our first thunderstorm of the year, where Paul literally had to sit on Pepper to keep her from running off to destroy the house AND injure herself in the process – something she has done before when we have left her on her own in the house on what turns out to be a bad day – we again spoke about how “something needs to be done about this”. Every year we make it through the winter, only to be faced with this increasingly out of control problem that would plague us April through ’til November.

I felt cruel when we went shopping for a crate that she would invariably have to be locked up in for hours to save her from hurting herself. It would NOT be like the crate training she had as a pup. And speaking with a vet, it would seem that with the level of her phobias she would need to be on sedatives daily for the rest of her life. With extra doses for those bad days that really set her off. She would still be able to hear and thus still have that intense fear of these sounds, mind you, but she would be too sedated to do anything about it. To me that seemed just as cruel as locking her up in a crate as she panicked. So Paul and I had a heart-to-heart talk about her quality of life and how it had dropped so drastically since that day at the cottage, and that drugging her up for the rest of her life was just no way to live. She’d had many happy years before all this started – trips camping, to Mer Bleue, and her daily walks off-leash in the fields near my mum’s house (or on 2hr late night walks through the neighbourhood with me and my good friend). She loved nothing more than darting across the field to chase a frisbee, and then cooling down in a stinky mud puddle! We realized the time had come for us to stop dragging this out…

Paul told me to stay home with Logan, he didn’t want to put me through this emotional trauma so late into my pregnancy. I agreed, having euthanized so many beloved pets over the years that even now a standard trip to the vet for a simple annual checkup traumatizes me to the point that I crumble into inconsolable tears (completely confusing everyone around me!). We had our final moments with Pepper, and then Paul left with her. I remember cleaning the house non-stop while I was alone, vaguely aware of my toddler walking around me – he occasionally requested more juice, or trying to involve himself in what I was doing. I was locked into numb, automated motion and he seemed to understand that it was best for him to just hang around quietly.

Little did I think to realize that Paul had never before been through this type of loss that he was about to experience. And Pepper was really his very first pet of his own. She had been with us since the early years of our relationship. She was there when we graduated from high school, started and finished university, was a part of our wedding, even! And then we moved to our first home with Pepper and had our first child. She was with us through it all.

When Paul came through that door, with the leash and pink collar ..but no Pepper… I was crushed by the overwhelming sadness and loss I felt in his eyes. And it all came rushing back to me – every pet I’ve ever loved and had taken from me so suddenly before their time, the heartbreak of knowing they were gone forever.. All reflected back to me in my husband’s devastated eyes. I fell into his arms and we sat sobbing right there. I feel so terrible that he had to experience that alone, totally unprepared. Collapsing into her soft fur as the life faded from her.. You will never be the same.

While I still feel that we made the best decision we could, at the same time this is all so difficult to cope with each day that she is gone. I keep seeing her out of the corner of my eye, I keep looking for her, expecting her, I keep hearing her. Paul is still struggling with a lot of feelings surrounding such an immense loss too. It’s just.. so so hard.

I wonder if Logan notices his buddy isn’t coming back anymore. Pepper had been a fairly quiet presence in our house this past year, only surfacing when food was thrown into the equation, it seemed! I still mention Pepper to him, and I know he refers to all dogs as “Deh-durr”, so I still do too. But I can’t tell if he is suffering from the same feelings of loss. He loved our Peppy, even if she wasn’t always the biggest fan of his, lol!

We don’t have Pepper’s ashes. We left her to be cremated with the other pets at the vet’s, which I thought was kind of nicer than anything we could do for her here anyway. I see the body as more of a shell, and I will be memorializing her in my own way. So you may see me post more photos and stories of her over the next few months as I go through my collection. I would like to have a mug made, and have some pictures to put into a box frame with her leash, collar, and favourite toys.

RIP Pepper. You were loved more than you’ll ever know. Your enthusiastic, sweet, bubbly presence was so incredibly rare and precious. You will be missed terribly.

playing fetch in the fields

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