Friday, September 7, 2007


My husband and our dog didn't get along most of the time. It's ironic, really, because Greg was the only one Sparky liked at first.
We surprised our two boys with the Dachshund puppy about 13 years ago. Unfortunately, when Greg put the dog carrier down to let them peek inside, this ball of brown fur growled menacingly at them. Even I couldn't get near him.

Dachshunds are fiercely protective and slow to trust anyone new. But after a week of Mom feeding him and the boys rolling around with him, Sparky decided he liked all of us. But he still preferred Greg.
He missed him so much during the day that he was beside himself when he heard Greg's truck pull into the driveway. Sparky would run around the house, under and over the furniture doing what the boys call his "doggie dance." When Greg finally walked through the door, Sparky was so overcome that he gave Greg the best greeting a dog could think of. He peed on his shoes.

Because I love dogs, I'll tolerate a lot, but I didn't appreciate Sparky's token of affection. Greg appreciated it even less. While he was yelling at the dog, Sparky did a peculiar thing. He peed some more. That bought the dog a ticket to the yard for the night.

Our vet told me that this was Sparky's way of showing submission. If he's relieving himself, he can't attack. In other words, Sparky was showing Greg that he's the leader of our pack. It was really a compliment. Then, if Greg yelled, Sparky assumed he wasn't doing it right, so he'd do it some more.

By this time, the boys were calling Sparky their brother. It became harder to consider giving him away. We found that the less Greg interacted with the dog, the better. Over the years, Greg learned to ignore Sparky and I learned to use a carpet steamer.
Actually, we all mellowed with age. Sparky did his doggie dance less often and finally had trouble walking altogether. When Greg came home, Sparky would lift his head in acknowledgment, but that's about it. Greg will plop down in a chair, look at him with a heavy sigh and quietly say, "I hate that dog." No more big outbursts, no big scenes.

Last year, Sparky's health spiraled downhill. Sometimes he couldn't even stand and if he did manage to get up on all fours, he walked around and around in circles. One night, as Sparky lie on his bed, I heard Greg talking to him in soothing tones. Peering around the corner I saw my macho husband sitting on the floor, stroking the dog's fur. Sparky managed a limp tail wag in return. The old bond was still there.

Later, we were awakened by the sound of Sparky howling. I found him on the kitchen floor, laying in his own poop, unable to get up. It was obvious that the moment we'd been dreading was here. As our final act of kindness, we'd have to put him to sleep.
I made the appointment and carried him to the car. Before we went into our vet's office, I let Sparky finish off my Starbucks coffee (which he always liked). While waiting in the outer office, Sparky paced in wobbly circles, around and around with no particular destination in mind.
They called us in and when I saw the operating room atmosphere of this room I had never been in before, I burst into tears. The vet's assistant told me she'd give me a moment, so I picked up that fat, confused dog, rocked him on my lap and told him I loved him. I placed him carefully back on his feet and left.
I feel badly that I couldn't stay with him to ease him into the next world, but I just couldn't do it. I didn't want to see his lifeless body. I wanted to keep that memory of him doing his doggie dance, laughing as he flew, under and over the furniture, full of life and happy that the whole family was there with him.


jaybszoo said...

I'll tell my story later, since I'm crying my eyes out right now! I am so sorry to hear about Sparky. And I understand how terribly hard it must have been to let him go. I too had to have a precious pet put down, and it nearly threw me into depression. My pets are family, I get way to attached to them..

Thanks for sharing Sparky with us.

Kenzie said...

I've never really had to deal with my own pet dying, but I had to give away my first pet when I was younger. Although that cat hated me... I loved her. I wouldn't have been able to see her go. I had her for a little over nine years, gave her up when I was 11. The hardest thing I did go through with a pet was a dog, Sheeba, that I grew up with. She was my neighbors dog, the sweetest one ever. She was like our babysitter, always sitting on the back step watching us. And if someone took a step too close to the tomato plants... she'd bark, lol. Man, I miss those days... I'm gonna sit back and reminisce for awhile :)

barbara said...

What a sweet picture of you and Sparky! You made me cry though. It's been 3 years since we put Buford down and I still remember every detail of that day.

Karen said...

I, too, had to put my dog Sandy down last July after 16 years. I was the last face she saw, the last voice she heard, and the last touch she felt. I thank God every day I could do that for her - and for me. Not everyone can, Caryl. And it wasn't without extreme emotion! I never knew I could cry that much! My heart broke that day for certain. I have her pictures in a special scrapbook I made, and her ashes on my bookshelf. I still miss her everyday, and every once in a while, I look for her when I walk through my door.

jaybszoo said...

My best friend for the last three years has been my buddy, Dusty. We went all way to Southern Illinois to get him from a Lab rescue group. It is well known around the house whose dog he is..he follows me to the bathroom for goodness sakes.

Dusty came into my life after the death of our beloved Duke. Duke was a chow/shepard mix.. and was the best of best dogs.. He was a great protecter and a loyal friend. I brought him home as a puppy from the local humane society as a gift for my hubby on his birthday the first year we were married. He lived a wonderful life until the age of 13 and on a Sunday in October, he started acting strange and finally laid down outside with all of his family around.. and died.. It nearly drove me to depression, I loved that dog.. And miss him still to this day.

jan.noel said...

Caryl!!!! You made me cry. My dog took a long while to 'grow' on me. He was just a little too frisky as a pup and near drove me insane with his antics. Finally, he has calmed down to the point where we can let him off his chain and let him wander around the backyard.

Now we've found a growth in his mouth which looks rather ominous. I just hate the thought of losing this big, fluffy, docile dog who just loves to be made of!

The last time he was at the vet, she said the growth was harmless, however, it has grown substantially and it frightens me to think of what it could be. Why do we always think the worst?

So Caryl, thank you for sharing such a kleenex wetting experience! Makes us think again about how much we should appreciate these creatures while we have them!

caryl said...

Sorry it took me a while to respond to your comments! I've been out of town.

tif, the more I get to know you, the more I like you! We have a lot in common. Wow, kind of strange the way Duke died. It sounds like it was awfully sudden. But at least he was with his family.

Kenzie, what a funny story about Sheeba! Dogs are amazing.

Hey, barbara. (Is that worley-bird?) Thanks for the compliment about the picture. It's kinda old, back when Sparky and I both still had shiny coats!

Karen, you are one amazing woman. You were in the room with my Mom and sisters when my Dad was dying, so I know how well you handle these situations. You face them head on and DEAL with it. I really admire that about you.

Aw, Jan! It sounds like your dog is gonna be fine, but I understand how easy it is to worry.

Thanks all, for sharing Sparky's story.

george e grunt said...

I'm sorry to hear about Sparky! He sounds like he was a wonderful hound! I am loved by three bassets, George, Lucy and Riley. I am putty in their paws and just do as they command me!