1999 to August 18, 2011
Red was our first official rescue in May 2000. He was only 10 months old at that time and my youngest daughter's first dog. They grew up together and formed a very strong bond. Red was also my right hand man over the years when fostering Griffs and Affens. So many of the mill survivors have absolutely no idea of what appropriate pack behavior is. The humans who save them have a tendency to feel sorry for them, but sympathy is not what they need. Red had the ability to teach these little dogs in a way only another experienced, well adjusted dog can that life is good, but there are also rules they must follow to be happy in a a pack and living with a family. We lovingly regarded Red as "the gentle enforcer", and the mill survivors responded very positively to Red's constant mentoring, usually following him, watching his every move, and learning day by day what it means to be a dog living with a family. They understood he was the leader of the pack, yet they respected and loved him for it.
I can honestly say that every dog we have fostered has left our home very well adjusted, and each of their adoptive families have told us they have been amazed at how well each of our fosters have adapted to their new homes. I credit much of their incredible rehabilitation to Red's gentle mentoring.
At 12 years old, he had been very healthy and lived a very good life until he developed cancer of the spleen. Knowing this type of cancer is very aggressive, we did not have the heart to put him through surgery knowing the outcome would not be promising for him, so instead made the decision that palliative care would be the kindest measure of comfort we could offer.
As a result, Red was able to live comfortably, enjoy all the things he normally did and without pain until he finally passed on August 18, 2011. It had been a very good day for him, even though he collapsed earlier and we knew his time was near. Still, he perked up, rested a bit, even ate his scrambled eggs and turkey, took his meds, and went outside a few times. We really thought he was rallying back again to remain in our lives a little while longer, but it was not to be.
I had been up late the previous night (my days and nights are mixed up working the 7p-7a shift), then got up early with my grandson. That afternoon we laid down for a nap, and Red lay down on the cool floor near the back door like usual. I did not hear a peep out of him, and the other dogs were still snoozing away, but when my 17-year-old daughter came home from school and went over to pet Red, she realized he had passed.
We are all so very saddened, yet happy he went quickly and peacefully at home. He was always very stressed going to the vet, and we hoped and prayed that when his time came it would happen at home where he is relaxed and happy. At least one prayer was answered. After 12 wonderful years of being such a good boy and very much loved by the entire family, and being such a wonderful mentor to all the foster dogs who have passed through our home, he deserved a quiet and peaceful passing in the place he loved best...home.
This experience made be a true believer that dogs really do grieve. After Red passed, as long as he was lying on the floor in our "doggy domain", the others were okay. They obviously knew he had passed, but they were calm, but a little later when my daughter and I wrapped him in his quilt and carried him to the top of the stairs, the other dogs were visibly nervous about it. They paced at the gate and kept watch over him. I took each one upstairs separately so they could sniff him and hopefully figure out that he was gone forever. Still they paced nervously.
When my husband came home and helped me carry him to the car, the dogs made a racket like I've never heard before: barking, whining, shaking and jumping at the gate which leads upstairs. It was incredibly sad. Red was the alpha of their little pack and the only leader and mentor they had ever known.
It was a "long" drive to the pet funeral home/crematorium. Many of you have been through this, so I'm sure you understand the thoughts that were going through my mind. Our local pet crematorium is a lovely facility, done very tastefully for pets and pet owners. When we pulled up, we were met at my car with a gurney covered with soft paw print blankets made especially for dogs. They wheeled Red into their viewing room, and where I shared a few final moments with him. This was the toughest part, because it finally sunk in that this would be my last opportunity to hug him and give him a final kiss good bye, yet at the same time, it was somehow soothing knowing he had led a long, full, wonderful life, filled with love and all the joys of life every dog should experience. His passing was a natural part of the circle of life, and the fact that he passed so easily and peacefully was comforting.
They asked if I wanted his quilt back. Initially, I said no, then I thought about our dogs at home and how distraught they were. I brought the quilt home hoping Red's scent would be comforting to them. I'm so glad that decision was made. I folded the quilt and laid it on the floor next to a chair where Red often slept. All of them immediately came over to the quilt, and sniffed it from end to end. All evening each of them went back to that quilt. Sometimes lingering for a few moments, and sometimes taking a short nap on it. None of them stayed long, but constantly came back and forth. Red's scent seemed to comfort to them. I will leave the quilt on Red's favorite sleeping spot for as long as the dogs seem to need the reassurance of his presence.
We picked up Red's cremated remains the next day, and brought them back to the place he most loved to be....home. Three months later, the dogs still find comfort napping on Red's quilt. He was truly a "heart" dog in every sense of the word! We will love and treasure our many memories of our big beautiful boy forever.
Old Dogs Never Die
We have a secret, you and I,
That no one else shall know,
For who but I can see you lie,
Each night in fireglow?
And who but I can reach my hand before we go to bed,
And feel the living warmth of you
And touch your silken head?
And only I walk woodland paths,
And see ahead of me,
Your small form racing with the wind,
So young again and free.
And only I can see you swim
In every brook I pass...
And, when I call no one but I
Can see the bending grass...
Here is a lovely tribute recorded
by LnA, one of Red's friends and admirers. Red's Sunset