Loving and Losing a Family Pet

She was a gorgeous dog. The color of an Irish Setter. The size of an American Eskimo. She had wispy fur at the corner of each floppy ear. More wisps on her front and hind legs, like a Golden Retriever. A few people who were knowledgeable about rare dog breeds would ask if she was a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (she looked practically identical to one). But she wasn’t any of those fancy breeds. She was a mutt.

I named her Callie, after California.

I brought her home to my apartment in Santa Monica 13 years ago. She was a sweet, quiet puppy, yet also spunky. She didn’t walk; she pranced (I almost named her Prancer). Such a happy girl. I was a second-year law student when I adopted her, and even though I was single, I knew the two of us would be together a long time. As in…she would eventually be part of a family with kids.

Ron entered the picture four years later. He adored her. Loved to throw the Frisbee with her in the park. Until a few years ago, she could fling herself in the air and catch it on the fly. When her eyesight started to go, she would chase the Frisbee down and wrestle it on the ground.

I’m sad Ron and I weren’t able to have a baby while she was alive. She was wonderful with children, especially toddlers. Kids would climb on her and feed her treats. My friend’s daughter, Buzzy, liked to take her on walks. At half Callie’s weight, Buzzy would try to lead my dog in one direction when Callie wanted to go in the other.

Ron and I used to live next door to a couple who had a little girl named Paula. Paula was just learning to walk and would stand on a grassy spot at the end of our street. Callie would charge toward Paula at top speed, ready to take her out like a bowling pin. At the last millisecond, Callie would swoop off to one side as Paula squealed with delight, nearly toppling over from the wind gust. The two of them loved that game.

A few years ago, Ron, Callie, and I moved from California to D.C. In need of sunshine, I returned to L.A. this past January, and I’m still here. I thought about flying Callie across the country, but she had been showing signs of age. Walking up the stairs, her back legs had started to give out—crash! During a nap, she often lost control of her bladder. I wasn’t sure she could handle the flight.

My sister-in-law, Judy, offered to take her in for the 8 weeks I’d be gone. (Judy’s dream is to run an animal sanctuary.) Ron was visiting me in California this past weekend, and we were hanging out Friday night when Judy called.

“Has Callie ever had a seizure?” Judy asked.

“Once, a few years ago,” I said. Back then, Callie had recovered right away. This time, according to Judy, Callie didn’t look so great afterward.

“Her limbs are stiff. She’s breathing funny,” Judy said, as she rushed our dog to the vet.

Twenty minutes later, Judy called back. Callie had a tumor on her spleen and massive internal bleeding. Surgery, her only hope of survival, would cost $6000. Ron spoke to the vet over the phone. If Callie recovered, the vet told Ron, she would live a few weeks, maybe two months. Ron—the practical and logical one—paced around, disoriented. He was practically ready to whip out his credit card. I—the emotional and unstable one—said with certainty, “No way.” Six thousand dollars?

I immediately questioned my decision. “Am I wrong?” I asked Ron. I saw a hopeless expression on his face. Then I heard him say the word “euthanize.”

I was furious at myself for not being there.

I was furious at myself for not giving Callie a child…for not giving a child the joy of knowing Callie…

I was so mad I couldn’t cry.

It wasn’t until the next day that I broke down. Judy told me how she had held Callie during the final moments. As the vet stuck Callie with a needle, Callie cried out in pain. Then my sweet, spunky dog, stopped whimpering. She fell silent. A few moments later, she was gone.

By the time Judy finished relaying the story, we were both weeping.

“Thank you for loving my dog during her final moments,” I squeaked.

I’m still recovering from the unexpected loss. I never got to say a proper goodbye. I wish I could bury my face in hers and kiss the wispy fur on her ears one last time. Rest in peace, Callie.

Do you have a pet? Give them an extra treat or some special cuddle time for me today. Does your dog (or cat or hamster or bunny, etc.) enjoy being around children? Has your family loved and lost a pet?

About Jenny Rough

Jenny Rough is a lawyer-turned-writer. Visit her on the web at www.jennyrough.com