In memory of Butch
I don’t do it often, but every now and then, when a dog I’ve had the fortune to connect with passes on, I post a little memorial, like this one for Butch, a pug who lived down the road.
Butch’s human, Martha, had to have him put down last week.
Ace and I would run into Butch pretty regularly on our walks around the block since we moved into the neighborhood a few months back.
Usually, we’d see them not far from their front yard, because Butch, at 15, stayed pretty close to home. In addition to possibly having had some strokes and other health problems, he was also blind. And deaf.
He still had life in him, though. A few times, I saw him get playful, with Ace and once with another dog. Even though he couldn’t see them, he’d do a slow spin and do his best to get into a play stance.
But he’d always stop, wagging his tail even before I reached down to scratch him, as if he somehow knew it was coming.
A while back, when she was having back problems, Martha let me take him for a walk along with Ace. She explained the basics to me: Pull up on his leash to support when when he’s going up or down a curb. Try not to let him walk into a telephone pole. But if he does, don’t worry. He’s a resilient little fellow who has gotten good at absorbing the bumps life brings our way.
That resiliency came to an end last week. Seeing her dog constantly panting, losing control of his bowels, getting right up into her face and staring at her as if to send a message, she knew the time had come.
Martha told me the news on Friday night.
I said the words we say at times like those — always inadequate, but even moreso in her case, for I’d seen the strong bond between them, the joy he brought her, and the fine home she provided for Butch.
Feeling not the least bit helpful, I went home and got a copy of my book, “DOG, INC.,” which, while it relates to dog death, is definitely not feel-good, Rainbow-Bridge, chicken-soup type reading.
Instead, it looks at the ever-strengthening bond between people and their dogs, and the extremes humans sometimes go to after they lose a pet — focusing on the newest and most technologically dazzling of those: cloning.
Martha, I know, would never clone her dog, and, if you’ve read the book, you know I would never suggest it. Martha, pained as she was by Butch’s death, didn’t seem to be going over the edge, and I guess I wanted to give her the book because I admired that.
From our short talk Friday night, she seemed to be handling it, probably better than I would. She seemed to have the right approach — focusing not on the loss, not on herself, but on the happy times the two shared. Happy memories beat a stuffed version of your dog, jewelry made from his ashes, or a laboratory-created genetic replica any day, at least as I see it.
It doesn’t make it easy, but I think that having experienced all you can with your dog, having fully appreciated your dog during his or her life, can somewhat blunt the pain of his or her death — knowing the two of you, and that bond, became all it could be. That seemed to be the case with Martha.
I signed the book, “In memory of Butch, a dog savored in life and lovingly remembered in death — as it should be.”
I rang her doorbell and yelled at Ace to sit down — for he tries to enter any door that opens — and when Martha saw him she said, “Oh perfect!”
When your dog dies, decisions have to be made about what to keep and what to jettison. A favorite toy might be comforting to hang on to, but there are some things painful to look at, like the lingering treats that he or she will never be served. It hurts to see it. It hurts to throw it away.
“I’ve got some bacon I was saving for Butch,” she said. “I’d really appreciate it if Ace would eat it.”
I accepted the package, neatly wrapped in tin foil, and carried it down the sidewalk as Ace jumped up and down next to me, acting anything but mournful. I don’t think he paused for a millisecond to appreciate the significance of the bacon. To him, bacon needs no added significance. He gobbled all three strips down, barely chewing, and kept bouncing up and down beside me even when I told him it was gone.
From a dog who had dispensed much of it in his 15 years, it was like one final dose of joy, courtesy of Butch.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 20th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blind, bond, butch, connection, deaf, death, dogs, euthanized, grieving, health, ill, in memory, losing a pet, love, memorial, mourning, neighbor, north carolina, old dogs, pets, pug, put down, sick dogs, strokes, winston-salem