Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Dog Skippy: Fading Fast

UPDATE: November 27, 2012: We had Skippy euthanized this morning. Her deterioration was dramatic over the last week. I'll spare you all the details, seemed like the time had come.


Our little dog Skippy will be 16 years old in a couple of weeks. In dog years, that's...old.

We got her when Ruthie had just turned 3. We already had a couple of dogs, so why did we need a new puppy? Well...there are reasons...but I have long maintained that the whole move was a bit of a mistake. Such is life.
"Wishbone" of the TV series

Ruthie and I wanted a "Wishbone" dog - because we'd been watching "Wishbone" on TV (a show about a Jack Russell terrier, who was very, very smart); we just had to have a dog like that. But Jack Russells were quite high-priced, so we settled for a little smooth-coat fox terrier. I don't remember why we named her "Skippy".

About three days after we brought her home, Ruthie, feeling a little jealous of all the attention the puppy required, asked plaintively, "Can we take her back now?"

Ah, yes...out of the mouths of babes! Skippy was ever the recalcitrant terrier. When we had to leave her along in the house, we put her in a little enclosure (just like the ones in the photos below). She climbed out. I have it on video somewhere.

The first day: Ruthie loved first...
Skippy had (and still has) many bad habits, including a yappy little bark; but the thing that irritated me the most was that she wouldn't come to us when called...ever. Once, after we moved to our current home, Skippy got out of the yard; we went and asked the neighbor to come and call her. Skippy will always come to a stranger. 

When we still lived in California, my friend Liz and her kids would come to visit sometimes. Skippy was usually loose in the front yard, and would run in front of Liz's car as she pulled into the driveway. Liz was terrified that she might run over the little dog. I wasn't too concerned, though. "If you do, just make sure it's fatal," was my comment. "I can't afford a lot of vet bills."

Okay, that's sick humor. But that's just me. 

We did pay vet bills for Skippy, of course; I particularly remember the one that resulted when she was bit by a coyote. The vet didn't think it was a coyote, but we're pretty sure. The vet thought a coyote would have instantly killed little 10-pound Skippy. Well, the vet didn't really know that dog! Skippy could snarl and snap with the best of them, and I'll bet she let that coyote have an earful. She was left with a couple of wounds, the major one being a deep puncture wound near her hips. There's still a lump of scar tissue there, 13 years later.

When we moved to Oregon, we couldn't keep Skippy in the yard at first - she always got out. And then we would get in the car to drive to town, and she would run along behind us. We would stop the car, but she wouldn't jump in or come close enough to get caught. Frustrating!

My husband had purchased name tags with our phone number on them for all the dogs, just in case they ran away. I told him we should NOT put one on Skippy. He did anyway. Sure enough, one day when we returned from town, we discovered that Skippy was nowhere to be found."Woo-hoo!! Our worries are over!" I thought. But that evening, a woman called from down the road, saying she had our dog. Darn! "I told you not to put that tag on her!" I scolded my husband.

Yeah, yeah, more sick humor. Sorry. 

These days, Skippy is really showing her age. She doesn't run away; mostly she sleeps, and pees on the carpet. She's almost blind, and mostly deaf. When she first wakes up and shakes herself, as dogs are wont to do, she almost falls over. She's a little uncertain on the stairs these days, too, so I carry her down the porch steps to go outside, and have even started carrying her back up the steps when she's ready to come in.

Even though she's been a thorn in my side for many years, she's still my dog, and I feel sorry for her. I don't really wish her any harm.

Here are a few photos. As I said, she sleeps...a lot. And you may notice that her brown spots have faded quite a bit. brown hair has faded, too (I actually think it's turning blonde, but Ruthie says it's gray), and I seem to have more and more brown spots on my hands. (In dog years, I'm getting old, too.)

When she's awake, Skippy wanders aimlessly around the house, which, come to think of it, is something I do on occasion. But it is something Skippy didn't do before. She gets a little lost sometimes, too. Me? I'm not lost; I just can't remember why I came into the room I just entered.

In the photo below, she was headed into the space between the refrigerator and the cupboard. I have found her there a couple of times. She does seem to eventually remember how to back up and get out of the corner.

In this next photo, she has wandered into the laundry room where one of the other dogs is quartered. She got stuck behind the open cage door for a minute, but found her way out without assistance.

Sometimes, she just stops where ever she is and stands there for a while. Maybe she's trying to remember why she went there. I do that sometimes. Oh...wait...I think I said that before...

Sometimes, she seems to forget to climb all the way into her bed, and just curls up on the floor next to it. We have the pad there because she usually doesn't wait to be invited to go outside to relieve herself. Or else she forgets that she hasn't gone out the door yet...

Wandering again:

We often find her like this, sitting in her bed, and sort of staring into the corner. Sometimes she falls asleep that way.

This time, she didn't bother to face the corner. She was asleep when I snapped the photo.

I can relate.

And now, I will conclude this post with a sentimental song which was a favorite of mine as a kid...just to prove that I'm not all cold, morbid humor when it comes to my doggies. In fact, just in the past few days, Skippy has deteriorated noticeably, and I'm feeling a little sad.


  1. As long as you don't go so far as to have a Mass said for Skippy after death, it's okay to grieve your heart out! There's something absolutely wondrous about the "present moment" of our pets. They don't feel bad because they remember that they used to feel better, they don't worry about feeling worse tomorrow, they're just NOW: it's good, or it's not. Just think of how much of OUR lives are "messed up" because of past regrets and present worries. Even when we feel good, we're aware of a possible future that won't be so good, or remember a past that wasn't good at all.

    Our cat is 16 or 17 years old, and I already know I will miss her terribly when she dies, even though she spends AT LEAST 90% of her life asleep. She's just part of the rhythm of my daily life. I expect her to do certain things, be in certain places, demand "service" like all cats do ("dogs have masters, cats have servants"). Pets reveal something of God to us in the easy simplicity of their lives: they have a purpose, and all they have to do is just "be" and they fulfill it. I envy that simplicity and ease of fulfilling one's purpose!

    So don't apologize for already feeling sad, and don't you dare apologize for mourning Skippy's loss. The essence of grief, for animals and other human beings, is the sense of loss. To the extent that our pets become an intimate part of our daily existence, their death is a genuine loss. We will miss them, just like we miss human beings that we love.

    I know that after our cat dies I will have a "hole in my soul" for some time. God created animals and judged them "good." It's okay to mourn the loss of something good, especially a "good" that that so well imaged for us the simplicity of God.

    I often talk to my cat, telling her what I'm thinking of God and how I envy her ability to be always in the "present moment." She just stares back at me, sometimes she purrs, but always "present." I will miss that.

    I won't miss hair balls and numerous "accidents" but, like me, hair balls and "accidents" are not what I first think of when I think of our cat.

    Thanks for the anticipatory grief and memories.

  2. Terry, you have now reminded me that we also have a cat who is old; he has the very original name of Black Guy.I think he's about 6 months older than Skippy! He's a "barn cat" - has always lived outdoors and been a good hunter (we feed our "barn cats", too - they don't have to live solely by fending for themselves). He always has his head on crooked (it's tilted to one side); I always say that if he tried to run fast, he'd just go in circles. He's disappeared now and then for weeks at a time, but so far has always come back home.

  3. I am a cat person. I could write a #1 best selling tear jerker book on the cats I have known and taken care of. We live in a neighborhood with irresponsible pet owners. People move and leave their animals behind. People have barn cats and do not spay/neuter them so they endlessly reproduce.

    We just lost an old cat a few months ago. Sounds like your dog, Jay. Annie walked around for the last two years of her life a shell of what she had once been. The last year, she just went "to the bathroom" wherever. She was down to skin and bones. One day she just decided, as cats do, that she had enough and simply layed down and died.

    Just let nature take its course with your dog, Jay. I am not an advocate of ending the life of an animal unless they are in great pain or, as we once had a cat, paralysed.

    You can all think what you like, but I am convinced that our animals will greet us in Heaven. The Church has never formally pronounced one way or the other on this and we are free to think what we like. so, I have chosen to believe that they will be in Heaven.

    Animals are splendid creatures. Most of them have irresponsible and lousy owners and deserve a lot better. Most people can't even take care of their own children these days let along an animal. Shelters are full of unwanted animals who never asked to be born and deserve a better life than being killed at the shelter.

    God bless Skippy - he's been a faithful friend and companion to you.

  4. Awwww...little Skippy!! I totally remember the day you said that about 'if' I were to run over that dang dog! Yappy Skippy I'm sure I called her a few times (and probably more that I wouldn't feel comfortable writing here, ha ha). But I can only imagine the sadness you all feel...pets do get into the hearts of their owners, as I've witnessed many times with my dad. Never having an 'indoor' pet, I think I've avoided that deeper emotional tug -- remind me I said that when Mackenzie's & Sean's, well mostly Mac's, cats die...I love those darn cats - the cats go on our daily walks up & down our street with us every morning, even the garbage men comment on them walking with us, ha ha). SENDING HUGS & PRAYERS FOR ALL & ESPECIALLY THAT SKIPPY HAS NO SUFFERING!

  5. Thank you all for your sympathetic words. I will be sad, of course, and so will Jerry and Ruthie.

  6. "I actually think it's turning blonde, but Ruthie says it's gray"

    That's funny - mine looks blond too. However, the last time I could afford to have a professional cut it (my husband now does the honors...and good too! He missed his calling!!), I was assured that what I am seeing is not blond at all, but gray.

  7. Lorraine - ha! I actually meant for the post to be kind of funny! Skippy's aging reminds me very much of my own! Like the "fading" of the hair color, the brown spots on my hands, and forgetting why I came into a room. I'm still making it up and down the steps okay, though. ;-)

  8. Better line someone up to carry you up and down just in case!
    I know what you mean about aging - wrinkles, brown spots, an ache here, another one there - not much we can do about it, and I don't think I would want to be young and growing up in this world.
    This morning I had one of my rare encounters with the worldly world. One of the stores out here had thermal underwear on sale for $3, and my husband was in desperate need of some.
    Every young girl that was shopping all looked the same. They all looked like little movie or rock stars - bleached out white hair sticking out here and there - a face plastered with makeup - bone thin with skin tight jeans. All had their little phones in hand punching out who knows what.
    I often feel like such an alien and outsider. Not only in my own church, but in the world too.
    God have mercy on us!

  9. Cute post! I enjoyed the photos of your beloved dog, Skippy.

    Our dog went through what Skippy is experiencing, a type of doggie dementia. After a week of daily accidents though, our family decided that it was time to put her to sleep at 13 years old. It was quite a family affair when we took her to the vet for the last time. Everyone wanted to be there - all 7 of us. We all cried, but knew it was the right time.

    Our dog was an eating machine, so I felt compelled to offer her a biscuit as her last snack at the vet. After all, eating was her little piece of Heaven! She enjoyed every last morsel.

    Once we were ready, the vet gave her a heavy dose of sedative and she laid there quite comfortably, snoring - just like at home. (I suppose one could change their mind at this point.) However,once we said our final good-byes, we left the room and the vet gave her the fatal dose.

    Sounds dramatic, huh? Well, it certainly was life-changing. Things become much quieter in the house. And who's gonna eat the last few bites on my plate? Now I have to sweep the floor! It used to be spotless.

    After she died, I would catch myself praying for the repose of her soul! Keep in mind that I DO NOT believe animals have souls. It was just a very strong sense of loss, I suppose. We still pine for her at times.

    Her memory lives on in our hearts and on the computer - as our screensaver. : )

  10. HSE - LOL! Well..."beloved"...I don't know if I would be quite that enthusiastic about Skippy. I will NOT miss her yappy bark, nor the piercing shriek that she developed in the last year or so (I think it had to do with her loss of hearing, maybe). But it is sad to see her in her current state. I'm taking her to the vet on Tuesday for a professional opinion, since she seems to be barely cognizant of her surroundings even when she's walking around the house. I'm hoping she just gives up the ghost, so to speak, before then.

    And we won't have to worry about our border collie, Lady, attacking and killing her,which has been an issue for a couple of years!

  11. Skippy 1996-2012 She was sometimes difficult, and that's why she was called the rotten dog. But she will be missed



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