“My best friend, through it all
If I die before I wake up
“Feed Jake” – Pirates of the Mississippi
We give our pets many names – fur babies, four-legged children, and maybe some more colorful names if they misbehave.
The unwavering loyalty of our pets is something we wish we could dedicate to just one other person on this planet, but our pets seem to be finding a way to extend that level of devotion to the entire household, whether it’s around one, two or ten trades.
It makes sense that losing a pet would be devastating and difficult. But even for someone who makes a living from putting events into words, I sat in front of the computer for several days trying to find the words to express that very loss.
When I first met my wife, she had a picture of a miniature poodle as the home screen on her phone. It took some time to discover that this was a poodle she loved dearly and lost.
So when we made the decision to add a dog to our family the first year after buying our home, I was here in Huron looking for Miniature Poodle puppies and finally found them for sale. On our first visit we picked up a particular pup.
She peed on my wife. She licked my face. we were in love
My wife felt that if we were ever going to have more than one dog, we should both start in the house at the same time to quell any issues of dominance in the household. She asked about my favorite dog breeds and quickly realized that a 200-pound dog could be a dangerous combination alongside the toy poodle.
So we became a family with a pug and a poodle.
Her naming was a discussion. My wife liked ironic names. Her previous poodle was called “Kitty”. I had none of it.
I joked that a poodle was a spoiled dog and a spoiled dog should have a spoiled name, so I suggested “Penelope” (sorry to all the Penelopes reading this column!), but that was it Not ok with my wife
We negotiated to reach Penny, which I will forever claim was a shortened version of my original proposal. She says it had more to do with the character on a TV show that we liked.
Penny has become an important part of our household over the past six years. Unlike our pug, who saw the idea of ”more people playing with me” in foster care, Penny was initially hesitant to trust the miniature people who invaded her home.
Once she did, however, she quickly became a favorite of foster children and eventually daycare children alike, enjoying attention and immediately responding with loving attention.
She always thought she could take on any animal of any size and would purposefully bark at the TV whenever a cow or horse or other dog was on the screen.
We joked that one day we would take her to my parents’ farm and let her see a cow face to face for a little shock value.
We never got that chance.
Around Christmas last year, Penny became very ill and lost a tremendous amount of weight. We ended up taking her to the vet when she was too lethargic to even stand.
What we found was that she had an insulinoma, indicating the presence of at least one tumor in her pancreas that caused her to overproduce insulin.
As advanced as things were, there really wasn’t any treatment. We could give her pain meds and encourage her to eat as much as possible to counteract the excess insulin in her system that is stifling her appetite.
The first few months of this year were spent balancing meds just to make her feel comfortable as she was having an incredibly frequent urinary leakage around the house due to the extra insulin in her system.
This settled her system until late April when she began struggling with eating again, becoming very obviously uncomfortable and becoming more withdrawn from the daycare and even our own children. She started having accidents just sitting on the couch, something that had never happened before.
We had the option of again mixing and matching drugs that would simply add weeks or months to her life, but my wife and I made the painful decision to end her pain.
An appointment was made for the day after school ended and we just hoped she wouldn’t pass before that date. Luckily she didn’t.
On Thursday evening we explained to our children what would happen on Friday morning. They were predictably distraught, even though they knew she was hurt.
Friday morning came and by the time we got to the vet’s office, Penny was in my arms snuggling up to me as she was given a sedative shot and the kids said goodbye.
The family gathered around her as she was peacefully put to sleep, petting her and leading her across the rainbow bridge.
Many tears were shed in the days that followed and will likely be shed in the days, weeks, and months to come.
Every time I whistle, I realize immediately that Penny isn’t crying along. Her accomplice, our pug, howls and looks around at her, wondering where his duet partner is.
Though Benjamin Franklin never actually said it, a phrase often attributed to him is, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
I would say in the case of our family, a penny loved and lost is a penny never forgotten.