Ode to Gus

From the time that little yellow bundle arrived home in July of 2005, my fate was sealed. He took my heart and my soul and made them his. Our days were blissful. We played and snuggled and he filled a hole in me that I never knew existed. We took classes together and I discovered such joy in working with him and was thrilled at all the things we could do, how we two seperate beings could both reach the same destination together almost as one. 

We had our ups and downs though. Just before his first birthday he started having seziures. It was horrible and gut wrenching to watch. I was so scared. I thought I was going to loose him. But, we both survived. I blissfully thought it was just a one time thing. The vet said maybe he had gotten into something. Sadly, that was not the case. He begain having them on a pretty regular basis and after a year or so he started taking meds to help control them. It worked well, he was seziure free for years at a time but would have one once in a while. During all of this he also had other health issues, like vomiting all of his food about eight hours after he ate. After numerous tests and lots of worry it was determined that he had sensitivities to grains. Once we elminiated them from his diet he was fine. Next up was the torn ACL which resulted in surgery when he was four years old. By the time he was five, we had most of the kinks ironed out and it was pretty smooth sailing for quite a while. Aside from the occasional lump or yeasty ears things went along well. As he got really old he dealt with dry eye, which caused a very painful ulcer in his eye, arthritis (from the ACL repair), and near the end, Sundowners Syndrome, which was probably the hardest for us to deal with. With all of his health issues, I seriously thought he'd never make it past ten years old. But, ten came and went as did eleven and twelve. In his last six months, I knew we were on borrowed time. I made sure he got whatever he wanted. Food, toys, car rides, walks, perferred space on beds, rugs, etc. Extra bones and bully sticks and all the love I could give.  In the end, I think the best gift he gave me was a very clear sign that it was time for him to have his last adventure. The one I could only silently watch and not join him on. I stayed by his side and carassed his beautiful body until there was only stillness. Until the only sounds were my sobs. 

Throughout his life, he remained the eternal puppy. He was always happy to see everyone, human, feline or canine. He especailly loved kids and puppies. He was my demo dog for classes, my puppy socializer, my partner in Rally Obedience and since I also have arthritis, my companion on slow strolls on the days that my knee was bothering me. He never told me no. He was always willing to do what I asked of him. He was twelve years old when we brought Walker home and on his first night here the two of them played until they were too exhausted to move and then they both feel alseep side by side. 

We've had more than our share of losses in the last year and a half. We lost our chocolate lab Woodrow, and our girl Molly, both to cancer. Loosing them both so close together was heart breaking, but Gus was there to help me get through. From his very first seziure, I knew that I would loose him someday and just the thought of it would make me teary eyed. But I would push those feelings aside and go about my life with him by my side. Working in my business, raising puppies, training client's dogs and through it all, Gus was there. He greeted me at the door every afternoon with a ball or a toy or someone's shoe in his mouth. He always brought a gift to whomever he greeted at the front door. He was truly one of a kind. 

I know this isn't my usual helpful article, but if you've stayed with me this far I do have some end of life tips. First of all, while your dog(s) is still healthy, prepare yourself a little by asking your vet what their procedures are concerning end of life decisions. Will they come to your home to provide your dog with a peaceful death? If not, how will they handle it? Can your other dogs (if you have more than one) be present during the process if it's at their office?  Personally, I wanted all of my other dogs to be there during euthanasia so that they could have some closure. I think it's hearbreaking when one dog passes and his housemates are left searching for him because he went to the vet and never came back. Your Vet will offer to take care of final care/cremation for you. Is that what you'd like? I didn't want my vet to take my dogs away. Since I had to take Gus to their office on that day, I wanted to bring him back home so that Mike and Walker could get their closure. (I say closure for lack of a better word. They both sniffed him and went about their business like nothing had changed. Perhaps they knew when we left what was happening).  We opted to have him cremated ourselves. For that, there is a wonderful place in Brattleboro, VT called White Rose Pet Memorial Services. It's litterally a funeral home for pets. It's beautiful and peaceful, and the staff are so kind and understanding. Just like funeral director's for humans, they will guide you through those difficult decisions, help you select which services and momento's you'd like, if any. Once your pet has been cremated, you can choose to bring their remains back home or you can arrange to have them laid to rest on the lovely grounds at White Rose. 

Just a final word...our dogs give us so much. All of themselves, unconditionally. Savor every moment because they don't live forever.