“Eulogy” or “Love Letter to a Dead Dog Walking”

I begged for you for years. Actually, I begged for any dog for years. For a while, there, I begged for a beagle, until I was told that they howled and dug up the yard. Then, towards the end, I begged for a Shetland sheepdog; a little girl, to be named Daisy. At the last, it came down to three (all Shelties): A Philly; a Molly; and you.

I watched them bring you into the foster house from outdoors, you surrounded by a canine sea of frisky little noisemakers. Small as you are, you loomed over them, shy and silent. You sat quiet as we petted you, and followed meekly as we led you out for an experimental walk. Out of the three, you were the only one who didn’t bark and jump and terrify my sister. You were ours.

It seemed stressful for you, your first arrival at your new house. Not as stressful as the obedience classes, of course; all those bothersome dogs with no sense of personal space, one of whom drove you to your first and only growl. But you pushed through and graduated, then promptly eschewed every useless thing you’d half-learned out of your head. You really are a Shipley.

You used to leap at squirrels, until you got tired of never getting farther than the leash. You used to hop onto the couch and hope we somehow wouldn’t notice. You used to rear up with delight at the thought of a treat, and lean back into a stretch with a yawning sound of excitement. But almost never a bark.

We supposed barking had been beaten out of you by your previous owners – apparently with a camera, since any attempt to capture your image had you heading for the hills. A good decade together, and we’ve got only a handful of photos, the best of them taken lately, with you too blind to tell what we were up to.

You can’t seem to see much of anything, now. Or hear. Or stand on our slippery wooden floors, never mind take the stairs like you used to. What is there left for you to do, now that your dog years stack up past a hundred? Not much, except that one last act, and you refuse to do that easy – out of stubbornness, I swear it. Such a Shipley.

All those times you got underfoot and tripped us up… All those times you left a puddle or a pile or got sick… All those times you wandered in confusion from the driveway and I had to hunt you down and bring you back… I won’t miss those times; the times that made me grumblingly wonder when you’d hurry up and die.

I will miss those times you’d sit there and smile at us. Those disgusted looks you gave us that expressed so much, clear as speaking. That way you always seemed to know exactly what we were saying about you, and snort with appropriate derision. You and your opinions; no wonder your articles were the popular ones in our family newsletter.

I didn’t want this to be my decision. I wanted to leave it up to somebody else, or just let you live until you didn’t. Who am I to make the call on when you go?

But I’m afraid for you, puppy.

That night I awoke to a sound I blearily thought was my sister singing in her sleep. But no, it was coming from downstairs, and down I went, and there you were, sprawled on the floor, unable to rise, struggling and whining in distress. I helped you back onto the carpet, and tried to calm you; and then, for some while, I stood back and watched you, feeling for the first time that aching, miserable fear that you were in too bad a way to live.

That day I was in the basement, and watched in helpless horror as you tumbled down to the stairs’ first landing, and from there to the bottom, fallen to that godforsaken space between the steps and some piece of plumbing. I thought that would be the end, right there, but I pulled you out and took you up and you were absolutely fine. It’s like you can’t even die on your own power; not quickly, anyway.

I can’t bear the thought of finding you, someday, caught and strangled somewhere after who knows how many hours of torture, or drowned in your water dish because you couldn’t raise your head, or… well, if you were going to get run over in the street, I’m sure it would have happened before now. But you get what I’m saying, right?

So they left it up to me. Because you’re my dog. And I’ve put it off and dithered, while the signs increasingly point the same direction.

I don’t want to put you down, Max. But I will.

And I’m so sorry that the last you’ll know of me is that I made you get in the car (where you’re always so nervous, you stand and pace and pant the whole ride) and took you to a place I know you’ll hate (because you’ve always hated any place we ever took you) and stood by listening to you cry while some stranger stuck you with a needle.

And I’m sorry I wasn’t always nice to you, and yelled at you for almost killing everybody by tripping them when they had knives and stuff in their hands, and that maybe I wasn’t always as gentle as I ought to have been when putting on the senior citizen doggie diapers you despised but necessitated.

I’m sorry I couldn’t keep your fur brushed and your teeth clean and your nails clipped, since you refused to sit still for any of it, and even began to resist it so violently, I was sure you’d do yourself injury.

I’m sorry for ever calling you a lousy, stupid mutt, when I was sometimes just as much of a lousy, stupid owner.

I’m not sorry I’ll soon be done having to deal with you.

But I’m sorry you’ll be gone.

You’re family, meaning that, sometimes, I’ve hated you.

And meaning that I love you.

I’ll miss you, Maxie.

Maximillian Devineaux Shipley:

Born ~1996, with us October 25, 2001 – July 30, 2012 

14 thoughts on ““Eulogy” or “Love Letter to a Dead Dog Walking”

  1. Danielle, so sorry to hear about Max. It was inevitable, but still you are never really prepared for that final goodbye. I know the grief of letting go because I miss the passing of my beloved Squeaky. The cutest, smartest and most loving black cocker spaniel one would ever meet.

    Reading your eulogy took me back some 40 years to a family pet that thought I was pretty awesome. Who would literally cry at my shedding tears and would jump with excitement at the mention of “lunch is ready”.

    Consider yourself blessed to have had Max and cherish always the wonderful memories.


  2. Mother above, I’m bawling my eyes out. I’m so sorry, my friend. :’-( So sorry. Losing a pet is one of the hardest things in the world, and there in the end, you do think about all the times you weren’t as loving and gentle as you could have been, and you regret them. Having the decision to put them down only makes it worse.

    Remember Max and smile. Love him in your heart always. I think that’s all our furry friends ever really want is our love. Hugs and love.

  3. Sigh. This was SO moving. I’m really sorry, Danielle. This must have been awful. I wish someone else would’ve done it for you.

    I wondered if I should actually click the “Like” button. 😦

    • It was awful. Still kind of is, when I think about it too hard. But the only thing worse than being there in his final moments would have been not being there. It was the least and the most I could do for him.
      And you never have to feel bad about “liking” my posts. My posts like being liked. (:

  4. That’s a sad story, but it’s one many of us dog lovers and owners either have or will go through. I don’t look forward to the day I have to make the call for our dear little pooch, as much she does like to get under foot.

    The movie “Marley & Me” tore Dear Wife and I both up something fierce and spat out the remains without mercy.

    • Aye. It seems I’m always either over- or underestimating how emotionally tough I am. This hit me harder than I expected, but I seem to be recovering faster than that hit would have had me fear. That being said, I’ll take this as fair warning not to pop in a rental of “Marley & Me” anytime in the immediate future.

  5. Oh, this is a sad one, Danielle. I’m sorry you had to put your dog down – we had to do the same last fall and it’s horrible even when it’s the best thing to do. (Our vet came to the house for it, and Charlie, who could barely stand up most times, got to her feet and wagged her tail like we were all gathered for a party. Sigh.) You’ve nailed the mixed emotions, that’s for sure. I’ve read that one in three people surveyed say their favourite family member is the dog. I believe it.

    • Aw-w, Charlie…!
      I don’t know that Max ever ranked as my favorite family member, but he sure gets the #1 spot on my “most missed” list, these days.

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