Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.
-- Dr. Seuss
It had been nearly nine years since I experienced this. Not only had I forgotten the intensity of the pain, but also the flood of emotions that hits you doing something as simple as coming home, walking into a room or when you know you're supposed to be doing the quick nighttime walk because it's Greenie time. It had been a long time since we said goodbye to Darby in the fall of 2013, and now here we were again a week ago last Thursday, on April 7th, saying goodbye to Brody in much the same way.
I'm not going to focus on the circumstances surrounding our decision to say goodbye, except that he'd been in cognitive decline for about 18 months, and we had promised ourselves that if we saw anything as bad, or god forbid worse, than a multi-hour panic attack/seizure we experienced a couple months ago, we weren't prepared to put him or us through any more of it. He could no longer be left alone and his quality of life had deteriorated badly. This past Thursday was much worse and, after a conversation with the vet around 7pm, we decided it was time to let go.
I wrote about adopting Brody in May 2014 so I won't rehash that, except to say that I am convinced that love absolutely conquers all when it comes to rehabilitating fear-reactive dogs. The longer we had Brody, the stronger the bond grew between us. He overcame being afraid of his own shadow to the point where wanted to visit nearly every person we encountered on walks. He really never did become a dog's dog, if you know what I mean, but he went from harsh reactions to mostly indifference. In the past few years he really didn't acknowledge most dogs at all. There were exceptions, of course. He was, after all, a dog.
No, all I really want to do at this point is reminisce about some of the little things I'm going to miss about the little old man. The worst part of all this is, without a doubt, trying to pick my favourite photos for this. We took So. Many. Pictures.
I've read in more than one place, from reputable sources too, that you shouldn't really give dogs full body hugs. Someone forgot to tell Brody. We never forced them on him and often he nuzzled into us and responded by a near-embrace when we did hug him. He was an anxiety-oriented dog and in slowly working through his many fear reactive triggers, I can say with complete certainty, being hugged was not one of them. Honestly, we both loved having hugs with Brody and had he ever displayed body language as described below, we'd have not continued.
From coape.org: Despite how good it feels for humans to receive hugs, most experts agree that dogs do not like to be hugged because the gesture immobilizes them, causing high levels of stress and anxiety that could lead to aggression or biting in extreme cases, or just a nervous and unhappy dog in mild cases ... They pin their ears back, they lick their lips (sort of air licking). Or they yawn, which is another stress behaviour. Or they move to get away. Or they show this kind of whale-eye posture — you can see the whites of their eyes. They show behaviour that means ‘This is uncomfortable.
Shake a paw and tummy rubs on command
From the very earliest days, endless paw offerings. He'd come up to us, throw his ears back in an almost Meerkat-like posture and want to shake a paw. He'd sort of rear up on his haunches, sometimes he'd brace himself on your leg with one paw, and ask you to shake the other. It was the first and most endearing thing he did. Also, not unlike many dogs, Brody loved tummy rubs, but they didn't happen in the course of play with him. No, rather you could be completely involved in something else and suddenly he'd come into your space, lie down and fling himself onto his back with all four paws in the air, simply waiting until you acquiesced and completed the necessary rub time.
Food - the only thing worth his effort
We learned quite early on that we had decidedly NOT adopted an athletic or active dog, in spite of his muscular little build. In fact, if he could find a low energy way to do anything, he would. The only exception to this, was where food was involved. His late night walk was essentially a short washroom break and he literally raced back to the house from the gate. Once inside the door, he went to his bed like a shot and there'd best be a Greenie waiting or there was hell to pay. Similarly, he could practically be comatose sleeping, but should anyone make some food or open a bag of any kind, and they were suddenly the apple of his eye, and got the full crinkle brow, full attention ears routine.
Why run when you can walk?
And why walk when you can sleep? He learned very early how to sabotage the easy jogs we tried taking him on, by repeatedly pretending he needed to pee and then making us walk his speed after we suddenly pulled over. We gave up pretty quickly on the running partner thing after a few weeks of this in the first year of our relationship. Even when we adopted him, somewhere between four and five, he didn't act young on walks. Everything was glacial, but it also made me realize a certain joy in strolling at Brody's smell the flowers pace.
Cushion artistry and furniture weirdness
It's probably not a stretch to say Brody slept at least twelve out of every twenty four hours, if not closer to sixteen. I'm afraid we didn't do much to discourage this, as he was allowed on any furniture he wanted. We've always had loose throw cushions on our sofas and over the years, he became quite the artist. I delighted in coming home because I knew most days would find a new work of creative pillow genius, with a blond dog buried in or under it. Sometimes it was the sofa, sometimes our bed, but coming home was almost always met with throw pillow disarray.
While his cushion work was his signature, he wasn't shy of lying or sitting in just plain weird positions. Whether in his favourite chair, or on the floor on his bed, he could be in virtually any position, no matter how ridiculous looking.
Mostly, though, I'm just going to miss the little interactions that were all mine. Hamming it up for a little photo together. The little weird bark I got as a greeting, but only if Connie was already home. Working in my home office and being told in no uncertain terms that it was time for some attention as he came up on my left and pushed my elbow up with his snout. The occasional Christmas or Halloween costumes (which he tolerated and that's about it).
He had quite different relationships with me and Connie and I'm not afraid to admit she was a little more his favourite. They had a special bond.
I know it will pass and I'll eventually get to the stage where the memories just make me smile. Being so fresh, right now I'm still expecting to see him on the sofa, thinking I see him out of the corner of my eye, catching myself as I think it's just about time for the dog walk, thinking I have to move his bed from the living room to the office, or looking for him before I leave so I can give him one of the umpteen kisses on the nose he got from the two of us every single day.
All the photos above, and many more, can be found at https://adobe.ly/3qj0qmd.