08 March 2006 by Published in: General News 16 comments

Cleo came into our lives very unexpectedly in 1997. We had two dogs then—Caesar, who was three, and Augie, who was not quite two. We were content with two dogs. They entertained each other, they were great company for each other, and we could handle two without too much trouble. We were not expecting or planning on having a third.

We were getting ready to leave for a vacation, and made arrangements to board the boys with the woman who trained them. When I called to make the arrangements, she told me that she was glad that I had called, that she was going to call me, and that she had a beautiful year-old female golden retriever who needed a home. Susan and I both agreed that we needed a third dog like we needed large holes in our heads and we said no, thanks.

When we dropped the boys off at her house, she said, “You have to at least meet her.” She went downstairs, got her, and within thirty seconds, the three dogs were attached at the hip, playing and running and chasing. By the end of our vacation, we didn’t have the heart to separate them, and she came home with us. That first night, she was a total spaz—hyper, and into everything. She kept us up most of the night. Then, the next day, she went into heat. That was a real joy. We looked at each other and wondered if we had made a mistake. Fortunately, she settled down quickly.

Her original name—given by her first owner—was Brandy, but it definitely didn’t suit her personality. We changed it to Cleopatra, Queen of the Scioto, or Cleo for short. She was definitely a queen bee, and it really fit. Within a couple of days, she knew her new name. The boys loved her, and after Caesar died and we got Nero just over a year ago, she quickly became his favorite playmate/chew toy.

Cleo thought that she was a ferocious watchdog. She would bark at anything bold enough to stray its way into the yard, be it leaf, squirrel, or stray piece of paper. It was her job to protect the house, and she did so, tail wagging the whole time. The neighbors next door got a tiny, adorable Cavalier King Charles puppy—who weighs maybe four pounds—and Cleo, the ferocious 84 pound golden retriever, would bark at this tiny interloper. We always laughed about it.

At the same time, she was a sweet girl, very loving and very gentle. Almost from the moment we brought her home, she was my baby. She only wanted to be with me, to be loved on by me, and to be near me. She had this silly toy—literally a ball with legs and feet—and it was her baby. She took it everywhere with her. Her favorite thing in the world was to fetch ball with feet, and I had made the mistake of teaching her to bark to tell me to throw the ball. Needless to say, there was a LOT of barking around here.

The poor baby must have come from a puppy mill—we know almost nothing of her pedigree—because she had nothing but one health problem after another. Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a stage three mast cell cancer tumor from her side, and we knew then that we were on borrowed time with her. We made sure to enjoy every minute with her, to play with and love her as much as possible, and to cherish this time that we knew we shouldn’t have.

That borrowed time ran out yesterday. During the night on Monday night, she apparently had a stroke. When I tried to get her to go outside yesterday morning, she had a lot of trouble getting down the steps, and she lay down in the back yard. This was a girl who always had a weight problem because she would eat anything not nailed down, and the idea of her not coming in to eat worried me. When I got her back inside, she refused to eat, which was very unlike her. Not realizing anything serious was wrong, I went back upstairs, and she eventually followed me up. When I went back down for my breakfast and to let them out, she was noticeably limping and having trouble, and I had to help her down the steps.

When Susan got home from work yesterday afternoon, she noticed that Cleo was showing the same signs of stroke that her own mother had shown—weakness, sagging facial features, lethargy. She called the vet, and we took her in. We left her over night for observation, and Susan brought her home this afternoon. The vet wanted to see if she might improve in her own surroundings, so she brought her home, but her condition had deteriorated. Susan practically had to carry to get her to move. She wouldn’t eat, and she was exhausted.

Finally, we made the decision that we dreaded. We knew she was on borrowed time, and the poor thing had had so many surgeries that the last thing we wanted for her was for her to have to suffer. We had decided that if it came down to keeping her a little longer or ending her suffering, we were going to end her suffering. So, we made the inevitable but necessary decision and I carried her to the car and she went for her last ride. We held her and petted her as she shuffled off this mortal coil. She left us quietly and peacefully and is now in a better place. Once again, she’s playing with Caesar, young, healthy, happy, and frolicking.

There’s a new angel in heaven tonight. I miss you already, Cleo. And I will see you again some day. Wait for me.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Charles Hollis
    Wed 08th Mar 2006 at 9:08 pm

    As I get older it becomes harder, not easier,to lose the company of a dog.
    So sorry for your lost.

  2. Wed 08th Mar 2006 at 9:11 pm

    Thank you, Charles. I really appreciate it.

    Eric

  3. Wed 08th Mar 2006 at 10:01 pm

    I’m glad I got to talk with you about it tonite, Eric. And I’m also glad that there are plans for a new member of the family, again around your (our!) birthday time.

    I remember my grandfather telling me, at the time I lost my first dog, that they always wait for you in heaven, where they will be at our side for eternity. They were soothing words for a 6 year-old, and I still believe them as you do. The first was Noodle (a poodle – I know, I know) and the second was a ShiTzu that my sister left with me when she moved to Saudi Arabia with her husband (she was there for 2 years before moving to Columbus). Now we have the adorable beagle Jenny.

    Someday I’ll get to introduce them all to each other. I think they’ll get along just fine.

    J.D.

  4. Wed 08th Mar 2006 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks, J.D. I really appreciate it–both your talking to me, as well as for these kind words.

    Right now, I’m just kind of numb. But I know we did the right thing in not letting her suffer.

    Eric

  5. Lanny
    Thu 09th Mar 2006 at 12:19 am

    Dear Eric,
    I am sorry to hear about your loss. Losing Cleo was like losing a child. May God himself comfort you.
    As a doctoral candidate in Theology and as a Pastor may I seek to help comfort you with a few thoughts?
    First, as an old hymn pointed states, God made “all creatures great and small”. According to Genesis 1 these creatures are to be a blessing to us and we are to care and protect them. It sounds to me like you and your wife have been good providers for Cleo. No doubt, if she could speak her first words would be “I love you”.
    Secondly, if I understand biblical prophecy correctly, animals will be in the kingdom of God when Jesus returns to earth. The lion will lie down with the lamb, etc. Because of the resurrection of Christ, Eric, there is hope for us and all our animal friends.
    Eric, I don’t know if you have any faith–I don’t mean to preach or be an obnoxious person (you have had enough of that recently on your web sites)–but I only seek to comfort with what has help me.
    Most sincerely, General, I am a friend,
    Lanny

  6. Thu 09th Mar 2006 at 9:27 am

    Thank you, Lanny. Our dogs are our children, and they are very much a major part of our lives.

    We miss her terribly, but we know she’s in a better place. And we know we will seee her again.

    Eric

  7. Lee White
    Thu 09th Mar 2006 at 11:46 am

    Eric,
    Terribly sorry to hear about your loss of Cleo. I was blessed to grow up with two of the best dogs anyone could ask for, they were both died the same day…it was incredibly hard to go through.

  8. Thu 09th Mar 2006 at 11:57 am

    Lee,

    I couldn’t even imagine that. I don’t know how I would go on.

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Eric

  9. Andy
    Thu 09th Mar 2006 at 5:00 pm

    Eric, I am so very sorry for your loss. I have two goldens of my own and I can not even think of what it would be like to lose either one of them. It is amazing how dogs can touch our lives so deeply but only ask that we feed and love them in return. My thoughts are with you as cope with this. As you say she is in a better place.

    Regards,
    Andy

  10. Dave Kelly
    Thu 09th Mar 2006 at 5:44 pm

    Sorry ole man. People who own hunting dogs have to live with the fact that every 7 years they break your heart. I swear my next critter companion is going to be a turtle; just so I get to go first….

    The ball with feet is wondefully gentle retriever. If it was a Lab, the feet would have been eaten 3 minutes after presentation ;).

  11. Thu 09th Mar 2006 at 7:04 pm

    Andy and Dave,

    Thanks so much for your kind words. It is indeed amazing how they touch our lives and how much you get in return from them in exchange for so little. They’re our kids, and they’re our lives, and we miss her terribly.

    Eric

  12. Michael Aubrecht
    Fri 10th Mar 2006 at 3:29 pm

    Eric, my deepest sympathies and prayers go out to you and your family in regards to your recent loss. Although I can’t pretend to be a pet person, I have many friends and associates who look at their dogs as I do my children and I have come to understand that the bond is no different between a two-legged or a four-legged loved-one. I hope that you will find some comfort in the many memories that you seem to cherish and remember that all things happen for a higher purpose – and all who leave this world are off to a much-much better place.

  13. Fri 10th Mar 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Michael,

    I do, and it’s that knowledge that gives us the strength to move on.

    We have no children, so our dogs are our kids, and they are the center of our collective universe. It’s so difficult to lose one, but it’s also part of life, and we know and understand that. Their lives are so short, but the love and joy that they spread makes the pain worthwhile.

    Eric

  14. Eamon Honan
    Sat 11th Mar 2006 at 8:08 am

    Sorry for your loss, Eric. Best of luck.

    A DOG NAMED BEAU
    by Jimmy Stewart

    He never came to me when I would call
    Unless I had a tennis ball.
    Or he felt like it.
    But mostly he didn’t come at all.

    When he was young
    He never learned to heel
    Or sit or stay
    He did things his way.

    Discipline was not his bag
    But when you were with him things sure didn’t drag.
    He’d dig up a rosebush just to spite me,
    And when I’d grab him, he’d turn and bite me.

    He bit lots of folks from day to day,
    The delivery boy was his favorite prey,
    The gas man wouldn’t read our meter,
    He said we owned a real man-eater.

    He set the house on fire
    But the story’s long to tell,
    Suffice it to say that he survived
    And the house survived as well.

    On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,
    He was always first out the door.
    The Old One and I brought up the rear
    Because our bones were sore.

    He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,
    What a beautiful pair they were!
    And if it was still light and the tourists were out,
    They created a bit of a stir.

    But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks
    And with a frown on his face look around
    It was just to make sure that the Old One was there
    And would follow him where he was bound.

    We are early-to-bedders at our house —
    I guess I’m the first to retire.
    And as I’d leave the room he’d look at me
    And get up from his place by the fire.

    He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,
    And I’d give him one for a while,
    He would push it under the bed with his nose
    And I’d fish it out with a smile.

    And before very long
    He’d tire of the ball
    And be asleep in his corner
    In no time at all.

    And there were nights when I’d feel him
    Climb upon our bed
    And lie between us,
    And I’d pat his head.

    And there were nights when I’d feel this stare
    And I’d wake up and he’d be sitting there
    And I’d reach out my hand and stroke his hair.
    And sometimes I’d feel him sigh
    And I think I know the reason why.

    He would wake up at night
    And he would have this fear
    Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,
    And he’d be glad to have me near.

    And now he’s dead,
    And there are nights when I think I feel him
    Climb upon our bed and lie between us,
    And I pat his head.

    And there are nights when I think
    I feel that stare
    And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,
    But he’s not there.

    Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so,
    I’ll always love a dog named Beau.

  15. Sat 11th Mar 2006 at 10:41 am

    Thanks, Eamon. That poem brought tears to my eyes. It so describes my girl.

    Eric

  16. Sat 18th Mar 2006 at 7:40 am

    I’ve been too busy to make the rounds of blogdom of late, so I missed this post until now. I’m very sad for your loss. I know at one level our pets are animals, not people, but at another we treat them as family members, they respond as family members, they feel like family members, and by any reasonable measure that means they *are* family members. On top of that, they model unconditional love, and God knows we all need that.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate still having my oldest dog, Gypsy, who remains in OK shape but clearly has only a year or two left in her. Losing her will be tough as hell.

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