Shortly after I married my high school crush, the love of my life…………
We brought Cleopatra home as a companion to Hercules who we picked up 6 months prior. The two of them were the cutest most adorable “Min Pins” Miniature Pinchers I had ever seen. Hercules was a little man, with a big heart and they both were perfect for our imperfect lives. We knew that with work and travel we would be gone a lot and decided that two dogs are better than one. It would actually take the work off of us in the “entertaining” department. But more than that we knew they would never be alone.
She came into our home it seemed weighing no more than 1 lb. she was so tiny. My daughter Erin was 10 at the time and I was so scared she would be carless and squish her! We did lose a kitty to “squish” but that’s another story… for another time.
I also remember kissing Cleo’s little face, happy we got a small dog, because now she will remain a puppy forever.
After this great idea of two dogs is better than one, we had another great idea on “Hey lets breed them and make some money!” So that’s what we set off to do. We didn’t neuter Cleo or Hercules and they went through their merry “doggie childhood days”. We knew that Cleo had to go through at least one heat cycle first before we could mate them.
At the time this was happening we had two children in high school and one in grade school, this was a very tumultuous time. As anyone with children would know, the driving lessons, the college stats, the friends, the grades, the the the! Our home was like a three ring circus complete with us the two dogs and extended family always in and out and in need. And our 200-year-old historical house was always in constant repair! I would not have wanted it any other way.
We were happy, we were crazy.
In between putting new windows in, and jacking up a sagging floor we would discuss the puppies we were going to make. Bill would say “she would have to have her puppies in the barn”. “The barn! You’re crazy, she’s going to have them right here in the house!” I replied. Argument number one. Then one day I stated “We have to get a vet to cut their tails the minute they are born.” (Miniature pinchers have cropped tails) “I’ll do it myself when they are born” my husband shouted. “Are you crazy? “ I would scream! “No way!” Argument number two.
By the time Cleo went into heat our crazy house was at an all time high. .
Trying to keep these two dogs apart in the same house so she can go through her first heat without mating is like trying to stop a mac truck with your bare hands traveling at 80 miles per hour.
Hercules was CRAZY, he ran over furniture and smashed into the sliding glass door trying to get to her in the back yard, all the while urinating on the way.
“Bill, what the hell are we doing? We can’t even control or run our own lives now we are going to add puppies to the mix” I would say.
“Joanne lets get them neutered now!”
I remember the day I called the vet, I was in tears and in high anxiety, and I was living in the middle of what seemed like an endless tornado. I explained to the vet that we decided not to breed them and I need Hercules fixed as soon as possible. “Ok, our next opening is in 3 month” I heard the voice on the other end saying. “3 MONTHS” I screamed! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND I AM GOING TO DIE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. He’s breaking windows, urinating, drooling, please please please help me!”
As I listened to breathing on the other end of the phone, I finally heard the sweetest words of my life. “Ok, come in tomorrow at 3pm” I slept like a baby that night.
So we didn’t breed our two wonderful min pins, our kids grew up, moved out and started lives of their own. We moved out of our large 200-year-old home, into a small cape and started winding down. It was just our two geriatric dogs and us.
I am greeted at the door with jumps, kisses, and licks that I revel in, its unconditional love. We have couch time at 8pm and if I’m not on time the two of them are staring at the couch and staring at me.
When I go away for my three-day trips, my husband says their eyes never leave the door, anticipating the moment I walk through.
For 16 years my life revolved around taking care of these two little animals that loved me so much and I loved them in return. I watched the sunrise every morning with one under my arm and one by my feet. I reveled in their soft fur, my fur babies. They were there when my kids entered high school, they were there when my kids graduated college, and they were there when my Dad passed away.
Watching our dogs grow old is never easy, but we are blessed to be able to have that privilege. As watching our parents grow old is never easy, we reflect on the blessing they have given us and continue to give us everyday.
Life changes, Hercules is completely blind and deaf now, but he’s spry, give or take a few back problems, so now I carry him up and down the stairs.
Cleopatra was also my “Chunky Monkey” always had a weight problem and I was forever putting her on a diet. We also called her lumpy, cause she had these weird lumps on her body. This past year, she developed a heart murmur and we had to add medication to her food. She developed incontinence but nothing some towels and wee wee pads couldn’t handle.
What I did notice this past year, was that she was losing weight and my dogs did a switch. All her life I had to feed her separately because she would eat her food and then go steal Hercules food. Hercules was such a picky eater and walk away from his food; you could see Cleo doing the “sneak around” come up from behind and eat all his food, growling at him the whole time. She was the bully and let everyone know she was in charge. But these past few months, her appetite subsided, and Hercules began eating everything in site!
When I picked her up, she was no longer heavy, she was so light, and Hercules seemed like he weighed a ton. She was still eating and drinking so I didn’t really think much about it, until the Vet told me it was her heart disease not allowing her to keep weight on.
But as I watched her over the months she was still ok, smothered me with kisses and snuggled every night. She developed a twitch in her eye and it looked like a cataract, so it didn’t really worry me.
It was the weekend after I got home from a 4-day trip to San Diego. It was Friday night and she threw up her dinner. I did not worry too much because she was still drinking water. I snuggled her under my sweatshirt, her favorite spot all her life, and my favorite spot for her. Throughout the years I would carry her around the house like that, wrapped in my sweatshirt, looking pregnant. She wouldn’t move a muscle in fear I would let her down. The following day Saturday, she would not eat, so I hand fed her a piece of chicken which she gobbled up. I was relieved and Sunday morning she greeted me with spunk!
But all that day, she didn’t eat and hardly drank and when she did, she would throw up. So Monday we were off to the Vet.
I couldn’t believe or didn’t want to believe what he told me. In my eyes she wasn’t sick, she just had a bug and would get well soon. The Vet told me I had a very sick dog on my hands, I hand options. I straight out asked him. “Do you think its time” “Yes I do” he replied.
My other options were leave her there; they would hydrate her, take tests and find out what’s exactly wrong. But I knew as well as the vet, that we were just prolonging the inevitable. Her little 16-year-old body was shutting down. Her once 20 lb. body was now only 12lbs.
With tears in my eyes I took her home and prayed and asked you to pray that he was wrong, that she would eat and drink and get better. All day Tuesday I tried to feed her baby food, protein shakes, anything and when I did find something she would lap up, she would throw it up.
I slept with her on the couch Tuesday night keeping vigil with her little nose in my neck, that’s the only place where she would rest and fall asleep.
Wednesday when she would stare at her water bowl, barely enough strength to stand up, it looked like she was willing the water to her lips. I found an eyedropper and would drop water into her mouth this way. I called my husband and said I think today is the day.
When my husband told me, he made the appointment with the vet for that day at 5pm I was angry. I shouted at him asking if he knew the meaning of “I Think we have to do this today” vs. “We have to do this today”. My heart is 100% invested in this girl but it was also getting in the way of seeing the reality of the situation.
When Bill came home, I prayed for a sign. Taking her to the vet was so final. I had to be sure.
I carried her to the backyard, to the green grass she loved, that’s when she vomited the little water I was feeding her all day. Her vomit was black with blood, her little body hit the floor and she hit her head, she struggled to get up. I scooped my baby in my arms, praying to the Lord thanking him for the sign that let me know it was the right thing to do.
To do the most unselfish thing possible, to do the ultimate act of love and release the one you love of suffering.
I loved her too much to let her last one more day.
She died in my arms, with her nose in my neck and there she will live with me for the rest of my days.
I dedicate all my love to my little man Hercules, who is my soul love and responsibility. I will help him heal and deal with the rest of his blind life without his partner, without his, companion. I will try to fill those shoes for my little man. And in the meantime his unconditional love, will help me heal. He was my first love.
That night my husband had a dream that my Dad was sitting on his favorite bench in Cape May watching the sun go down, with Cleo on his lap. “She was fat,” he said with a smile!
They are together with God.
God does answer prayers, my prayers every night are that I will be home when my dogs pass and they will pass in my arms…
Thank you sweet Jesus for answering my prayers…
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”