Remembering Chaussette

Sage and Chaussette on their last happy day together.

Sage and Chaussette on their last happy day together.

I started this blog in order to help me deal with my grief over my dog Peri’s death, and now I’ve come full circle: it’s Chaussette I have to grieve today. I’ve known this was coming since November, when the vet gave her a grim prognosis after a severe seizure episode.

And yet I couldn’t stop hoping. I’d brought her into the vet’s office that day thinking she’d never leave it, and yet after a few days and some heavy doses of potassium bromide, she was as active and playful as ever. She would still have seizures, but she would always shake them off and be blithely chasing birds within an hour.

Plus, she’d cheated death before. Once, as a puppy, she’d run out to chase an Amish buggy and gotten caught in a rear wheel. I’d watched in horror as it flung her backwards, then in amazement as she got up, shook herself off, and gave the buggy a few defiant yips before she returned to the yard.

Then there was the time when all the buried electric cables in our yard had to be dug up because they were so corroded, they had to be completely replaced. I’d assumed the electric company would encase the new ones in conduit, but that was clearly not the case; Paul found part of a wire sticking out of the ground with the marks of puppy teeth in it. Had Chaussette bitten down a little harder, her story would have been over before the summer’s end.

I’ve also written about how an Amish buggy recently ran over one of her hind legs, yet she emerged from that ordeal with only a week of three-legged walking, otherwise none the worse for the wear.

Chaussette had been so resilient, so tenacious, so fiercely determined to live, I secretly believed that she would be a miracle dog. I believed she would belie the vet’s dire predictions, forge her way through her first year or two despite the seizures, and eventually outgrow them. I believed that in five or ten years, I’d be scratching her head fondly as I told new acquaintances about how rough her puppy years had been.

I was wrong.

In the last couple of weeks, she’d gone from an episode about once a week to one almost every day, then to several every day. She would still shake them off, but it was getting harder. We walked as often as we could, and she would revive and become her old vivacious self when we were outside, but this year’s freakishly intense cold drove us indoors. Once she was indoors and at rest, it wouldn’t be long before I would hear the telltale scrabbling and jangling of an incipient seizure.

We took our last walk yesterday. The cold was intense, but the sun was bright, and I was hoping desperately that the fresh air would revive her. I didn’t bother with a leash; she simply wobbled down the road at my heels. We only went to the bend in the road before the frigid air and her clear weakness drove us back.

She almost never walked again after that. She spent the rest of the day and all night buffeted by seizure after seizure. I would ply her with dose after dose of medicine; each time, her frantic motions would calm, but the respites were short. I knew the situation couldn’t continue.

Sage was home today since his teachers had inservices, so he went with me to the vet. He knew what would happen; he’d been prepared to say goodbye since that ominous day in November, as had I, and he remembered Peri’s death full well.

But being prepared intellectually is much different from actually facing the end. As Chaussette stiffened and scrabbled unceasingly on the vet’s hard tile floor, I knew I was doing the right thing—she was clearly suffering, and that suffering could only be ended in one way. The vet confirmed that I’d exhausted all other options and that putting her to sleep was the right thing to do.

It was still excruciating, though. Sage curled himself in my lap on the floor beside her, wailing, as I stroked my dog one last time and felt my heart breaking for all of us. We watched the needles go in; we watched her body relax; we watched her die.

Fortunately, Sage was as resilient as Chaussette used to be. The promise of a breakfast sandwich from Hardee’s dried his tears, and then a movie and some Wii bowling superseded his grief. By the time we left for our library’s Superhero Storytime in the afternoon, no one unfamiliar with the situation would have suspected anything was wrong.

I know his sorrow is still with him—every once in awhile he will, out of the blue, refer to Peri, and he drew her in school several months after her death. But his world is still fresh and new and full of distractions; just as shovelful after shovelful of dirt will bury Chaussette come spring, one new memory after another will bury his grief so deeply that it won’t be able to reach out of the ground and choke him.

As for me, I know Chaussette was a dog, just a dog, nothing but a dog. But I loved her, and my own grief is deep.

I’ll have to do a lot of shoveling.

Chaussette's last paw prints, already filling up with snow

Chaussette’s last paw prints, already filling up with snow

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