Friday, March 28, 2008

In memory of Chaos and Trouble

Chaos and Trouble

Today is a sad day - and I've had many in my life.

It was a sad day when I was summoned home early from 3rd grade 36 years ago to learn my father had died suddenly. It was a sad day when on my 12th birthday, our family dog died of kidney failure in our basement. It was a sad day holding my daughter's hand as she endured immense pain after brain surgery nine years ago.

But today stands unique in that it is today that I had to say goodbye to two old friends together. It is also unique because I knew it was our conscious decision to let them go, and my wife and I were there holding them both at the end.

There will be no more "good morning Chaos" or "good night Trouble" or "good girls" spoken in our house. I won't hear their heavy breathing by the side of the bed when I sleep. I won't see their greedy smiles when they get a treat. And I won't get to see them at their absolute happiest when out taking a walk - even when they barely had strength to stand.

Yes, today was the unhappy day we had to put both of our dogs, two of our longest and dearest friends and family members, to sleep forever. It was without question the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Chaos. It was about 16 years ago...

We were newly married and had gone to the pound to look for a puppy. We thought we were looking for a big dog like a retriever, or german shepherd. But there she was - a little white fluffball. Dachshund and Poodle she was destined to never get bigger than 14 pounds, but her wild white hair made her look much bigger.

Her distinction was that unlike the other puppies that day, she ran right over to us and pranced all around like a happy little dancing bunny - and of course gave us kisses. She was energetic and yet she was also the most lovable lap dog. She wanted only to be held, loved and to play. And she loved to run, run, run. Boy was she fast - a little white dart shooting across a field over and over.

We named her Chaos not just because she added the first bit of chaos to our new marriage, but because when she ran, she ran with reckless speed and abandon. Play to her was a time of sheer wildness and joy. She was the embodiment of our new marriage - a puppy with her whole life an empty slate ahead of her.

She was our first child. We were amazed at the "human" things she did like hold her treats and bones between her paws in a way that looked like hands. She was smart as a tack and seemed to always know what we meant. She slept with us every night and would tunnel way under the sheets and sleep between us at our feet - but always under the covers. In the morning she would stick her little head out and wait for us to wake up - her long fluffy white tail thumping between the sheets and the bed. She was truly the dog of our dreams.

And then came Trouble.

Less than a year later I decided one dog wasn't crazy enough, so I snuck to the pound one day and brought home a little beagle/shepherd mix puppy and put her on the bed to surprise my wife, who was home ill. Little did I know that her smoky puppy breath wouldn't be an immediate hit.

Nor would her crying and screaming at night (she was obviously weaned too soon) go over well with our apartment neighbors.

She was the difficult one, the beggar, the alpha dog. She had a mouth fetish (always gnawing on something, including our hands) and had the loudest of barks.

We named her Trouble because, well... it fit her personality.

But she loved to be petted and have her belly rubbed, and when you rubbed her just right, behind the ears, I swear you'd hear her sigh. She loved to walk and jump, and she too found a place on the bed and became a sweetheart.

Somewhere along the way, these two misfits became lifelong friends. They ate together, slept together, played together, took every walk together. They had very different personalities, and yet neither one was the same without the other. Chaos was the adventurous one who would take any chance of an open gate to leave on an excursion. We spent hours over the years tracking her down. It was Trouble who wouldn't venture outside the yard - or would come and bark at us when Chaos did.

They moved with us, went on vacations and to parks with us, grew with us, and they were always happy to see us, and they were always there for us - no matter what.

As happens to most dogs, these two wonderful companions became pets again once we were fully engaged with raising three human children of our own. But they never complained and they had what one could rightfully call a good life.

They were still part of the family, although they no longer slept on the bed and they had a bit less energy to play. But it was easy to see their happiness - and they still walked with the joy they always had, even if the walks were a bit shorter.

But the last few years have seen these wonderful friends begin their decline into a region that is no longer the realm of a happy companion. And the last few months have been extremely difficult. Trouble, the playful fighter, suffered from severe arthritis and had trouble getting up. She wanted no one to touch her and would withdraw from anyone who tried. Chaos was losing her bodily functions.

Chaos, the most loving trusting friend in the world fell victim to dementia and was lost inside herself - and she was terrified of all of us. She could no longer be held or petted without shaking with fear. While her dementia was not as full blown, it was obvious that Trouble also did not know where she was much of the time. Both would stand motionless as statues staring at a wall or into thin air for hours.

Both were in pain, both were dying and both couldn't remember us or the life we had. Those memories are now our responsibility to carry on.

When your veterinarian says "it's time" then you know in your soul it's time. But it's so difficult for your heart to agree. And losing two together is as painful as it can be.

Today we said goodbye to two friends who have been part of our lives for almost 17 years. Like the marriage they grew with, we have all changed and no longer have our whole lives, nor an empty slate, ahead of us. We are all moving to another phase in the cycle of life and death.

I wish I could hold them again. I wish I could tell them again I love them. I wish they could know how loved they were and how much joy and happiness they brought us every day over the years. I wish I could tell them how much they meant to us... just one more time.

But I can't. They're gone now. I will always know we did the right thing, and yet always wonder if we really did.

This morning Chaos and Trouble took their last walk with us in the park by the river. Maybe it was the cold brisk morning air, but both of them had a bit more spring in their step than they've had in a long time. Maybe they knew, as our vet likes to say, they were going to a place where they'd be two years old again and the pain and the fear would be gone.

I miss them already.

And I'm sure I'll cry for them again tonight, as I did holding them for the last time this morning.

In the past, it was always Chaos and Trouble who could comfort me during times like this.

It's ironic that it's tonight when I'll need them the most.



At 8:56 AM, Blogger Bob P said...

I'm so, so sorry for the loss of your two dear friends, N. Though I didn't know them well, your beautiful words about them made me cry along with you.

Know that they truly led a wonderful life, and were blessed to have lived that life with you and your family. I can't think of a better place for them to have spent their years on this Earth than in your loving embrace.

My thoughts and prayers are with you. Chaos and Trouble will live forever in the memories of all who knew them...

At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a different day in a different park by a river and even in a different state, but the pain in my heart is very similar to yours today. Last night we had to say goodbye to Brandy our life long companion. Thanks for sharing. I pray the happy memories over shadow the pain quickly for all of us.



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