Sunday, August 5, 2012

Goodbye to My Best Friend

I type this and my heart is broken: My Lovely Wife and I are mourning the loss of our dear dog, Abby.

I wrote a post back in June about how we had a lump removed her abdomen.  We learned a short time later that this lump was a Mast Cell Tumor.  We had a second surgery done to have more of the tumor cells removed but it wasn't enough.  Another lump started growing back and got quite large after only a couple weeks.  The vet took a needle biopsy and determined that this lump was mostly fat but had some mast cells reorganizing to form another tumor.  He suggested that we consult with an oncologist at the University's Vet College to talk over subsequent courses of action.  That was only two days ago.

Yesterday morning we woke to find that Abby had thrown up downstairs.  She seemed otherwise OK.  She spent the day with me outside, wandering around the yard as I puttered.  Her energy level seemed a little lower than usual, but I was hoping that was just due to the heat.  Yesterday evening, she started pacing around restlessly throughout the house.  Then she threw up again.  We let her outside and she continued getting sick while keeping her distance from us.  Then she just laid down in the grass while clouds of mosquitoes buzzed over her.  Abby looked up at My Lovely Wife while she laid there with a look that said "Help me".  She was dying.

We got her into the truck at 10pm and drove her to the Vet College.  The half hour drive was quiet as My Lovely Wife and I were filled with the dread of what could happen next.  Abby lay there quietly, her head bobbing up and down.

We parked the truck at the front door of the Vet.  What happened next amazed us.  Abby jumped out of the truck and started sniffing around all over the place!  Her ears were up and she had a spring in her step!  It seemed like the sick dog we had just a short time ago was only a bad dream.

We debated what to do next.  Was this just a false alarm???  Maybe it was just something she ate and she was going to be fine?  We decided to have her looked at since we were there.

Sadly, the vet confirmed our fears.  Abby started fading again and the vet discussed our options.  None of them were good.  They brought Abby into a private room where we were able to hold her close and tell her how much we loved her.  We were with her as the vet helped her pass shortly after midnight this morning.

My only solace is that we did what we had to do and that was to put an end to her suffering.  Abby gave us eleven and a half wonderful years, a ripe old age for a dog her size.  And every day in every one of those years, Abby filled our hearts with joy.  Every.  Single.  Day.  When her day finally came, Abby used the last of her energy to trot into that clinic with her head high and ears up.  She epitomized pure grit.  I was so proud of her.
Throughout her life, I was always struck by Abby's strength, enthusiasm, and character.  She was a gentle giant around small children one minute, and a fierce protector of her owners and her property the next.  I've written about her adventures before, as has My Lovely Wife.  There always seemed to be so much to say.

We woke up this morning to a house that is too empty.  Too quiet.  We are reminded of her everywhere we look.  This morning, there is no one to take for a walk.  There is no one to chase the deer out of the yard.  There is no one to bring our slippers when we come in to the house.

Abby was my first dog.  She taught me the connection a man makes with his dog.  It wasn't something that happened right away for me.  Abby had a bad habit in the first months that we owned her of always jumping up on us.  One time she jumped up at me and I stuck my knee up.  She hit it hard and fell back in pain.  I felt terrible.  I knew then that I loved her, and I grew to love her more each day after that.

Abby was my psychologist.  We would go for long walks and I'd talk to her about things I wouldn't talk to anyone else about.  And I'm sure My Lovely Wife did the same.  Abby didn't understand, but it always seemed like she did.  That was all that mattered.

Abby was my companion.  We would get asked where Abby would stay, meaning if she was an "inside dog" or an "outside dog".  We simply answered that Abby was where we were.  She was at our side inside and out, day in and day out.

Abby was my bodyguard.  We would go for walks around the acreage and Abby would at times cut right in front of us and just stand there with her body physically blocking the path.  If we would try to walk around her, she would do it again until we turned around.  Now and then we'd catch a glimpse of coyotes or some other nasty critter on the path ahead.  We soon learned to put our trust in her and her nose for our own safety.
The Big Dog, On Patrol
Most of all, Abby was my best friend.  I would arrive home after work and My Lovely Wife would "release the hound", who would come running up to me with all the enthusiasm that only a dog separated all day from its owner can bring.  That would always and instantly melt away the earlier shit of the day and make me feel human again.  I am forever indebted to her for this alone.

Goodbye Abby.  You were the best dog we could have dared to hope for.  We were truly lucky to have had you in our lives.  I have shed many tears over you as I have written this and I will shed many more today and in the days to come.  We love you.  We miss you.  Rest easy, Pup.
Abby    January 2001 - August 2012


  1. What a beautiful memory written about sweet Miss Abby. We are friends with "your lovely wife" on Dogster and FB and have so enjoyed getting to know Abby through her stories and pictures. We live in Alabama, very far from you guys, but have always felt close to Abby & Diane. When my dog had FHO surgery 2 years ago, Diane was always there with support and advice since she had been thru similar surgeries with Abby. What an honor that your first dog was Abby. She has now set that expectation high if you ever choose to get another pup (which one day I hope you do)!

    1. Thank you for these kind words. I'm glad My Lovely Wife has been able to help you out. Another pup is certainly in the cards for us, but we first need some time to get over our loss.

  2. Such sad news, to lose such a close friend is hard. To lose a friend who became part of your family is harder. My sincere condolences to you both. Cherish the memories, and do not let the happiness you had with her diminish with time.

  3. Thanks for this. It is funny how even the littlest things remind us of her. Today I closed the blinds to one of the windows all the way to the bottom sill and then broke down. We always would leave them open a little bit so that Abby could look outside.

  4. What a gorgeous tribute to Abby, us on Dogster who knew her will truly miss her, Our hearts go out to yourself and Diane, I was thinking of all the things you wrote carefully and yes that was oh so true of my Angel Glen, you are very fortunate to have such a beautiful dog as Abby for your first dog. I am Sally the boyzzz Mum, Alan my husband had never had dogs before and now he would be lost without them too.
    Do not say in sorrow "She is no more"
    say in Joy "SHE WAS"
    We will always remember Abby our friend and our sincere condolonces to you at this hard time, all love and friendship
    Sally and Alan and Boyzzz

    1. Thank you Sally. The support that you and the rest of the folks on Dogster have been providing has been stunning. My Lovely Wife and I really appreciate it.

  5. As Kipling said, Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

    It’ll take awhile, but eventually you’ll be able to remember her with just a twinge of pain, and mostly smiles for all the wonderful memories. I lost my best friend Boris a couple of years ago and for months might find myself driving along and choking up when passing the forest we liked to jog in or a park we’d played Frisbee in. The grief will pass, though, and someday soon you’ll be able to just delight in the time you shared with her knowing she had a wonderful life filled with love –and that’s all any dog would ever want.
    - Tim (WXForum SomeCallMeTim)

    1. Thanks, and well said, Tim. I know what you mean by driving by the forest. For the feeling I get walking around in my yard, I might as well be walking around Chernobyl.

  6. DeKay My wife and I are very sorry for your loss, our own dog, Curly, is living his last days...we're just biding(sp?) the time. It ain't easy as we have no children and the animals we've had have been so close to us. Again, our thoughts are with you and the Mrs. moehoward4

    1. Thank you for this moe. And do the best you can for Curly. Take care.

  7. I am so sorry for not saying anything on the passing of Abby, the whole story was so sadly simular to what happened to our dear dog Tycho a short while back... We lost him after 11 -1/2 years of living with us. He was, of course, a rescued dog as all of ours have been. He had a great personallity ( doganllity?) he was the kind of loving mutt that just made you happy to be around. A good dog. Barking and rabbit chasing was his thing as well as walks and desert trips - he lived to "GO" for a ride, walk, whatever. We welcomed him here just before my beloved Hoarse Dog ( a Doby-Shepard Mix) of 11 years succomed to cancer as well. Another good dog.

    Tycho had a condition that requred periodic surguries to remove "fatty Lipomas" oe non malignant lumps when they would interfere with some of his motors. Not a big deal for a 90 lb Lab mix. Until the last one. This was biopsy as a verry aggressive blood borne cancer! They called us with the news and said they did not have much they could do for him. We were dumbstruck. He seemed so vibrent and healthy, he we even recovering nicly form the operation.

    His last day was a bad day. He had the latest symptom of incontenence. A very embarrasing thing for a loyal housbroken friend. We made allowences and built a schedule to keep him comfortable, we allowed accidents as well. The last night was, well horible. He could NOT pee. Try. My poor wife and i sat up turns to see if he would go. Maybe it is just the surgry giving false urges? We waited for dawn and begged the vet for an AM appointment. We got there and they cathered him. Now he was just fine! According to Tycho. We got the private room treament and they basically said this is it for him. They found that the cancer was now spreading everwhere and forming nodules in his bladder and they barely got the cath in. Anyway I am ranmbling,and you probabily don't care the details... but anyway we opted to take him home and had a vet set up to come by that evening. He got his last walk, and all his favorites an forbidden foods, said goodbye to his kitties and puppy as I gave him his last command to "lay down" which he obayed with out question, He passed away with help from the vet im my arms in the family room on his favorite pillow.

    I wanted to tell you it was not going to be good. Really. But that would not have helped. People that do not live with these kind beasts don't know the pain and sadness you go through when it is tim efor tem to leave. I am so sorry for not being able to warn you but it took many time to read your posts. I could not finish with dry eyes.

    You have my sympathy and I hope my ramblings will help you undersstand; I know what you are going through. Good luck and hang in there, both.... Steve

    1. Thanks for sharing this, b-wave. It sounds like you took exceptionally good care of Tycho up to and including his last day. Taking him home as you did shows the incredible devotion you had to him.

      We were fortunate that Abby's last day was pretty good, all things considered. We had several nice walks that morning and she tried to track down a rabbit in the cucumber patch that afternoon. But I'll never forget how rough that last night was.