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Too Much, Too Much…

Early this morning (about 07:40), Barbara was taking the pack outside for their morning constitutionals. As I was preparing to brush my teeth, I heard Barbara racing up the stairs. When she got there, she blurted out “I think Sly just died!” At which I dropped everything and raced downstairs with her. Sly was just inside the back door, where Barbara had left him. It was obvious that he wasn’t breathing, but I grabbed our stethoscope and put it against his chest. He had no heartbeat and was definitely not breathing!

For the last few weeks, we’ve been struggling to keep Sly as comfortable as possible. We knew that he was very ill (see this post) with a number of medical problems, but we’d just started a new medicine that we hoped would bring him back to comfort (if not health). But his fainting spells continued, sometimes more and sometimes less. I spent last week at a business meeting in the south of Portugal. Just after I left, we had concluded that Sly was at the end, but he perked up — quite literally as Barbara put him into the car to take him to the vet for the last time! It was like he didn’t want to go until I returned and he could say goodbye to me.

I got back from Portugal late Saturday night. Sly was very happy to see me (as were Abby, Star, and everybody else) and really wanted attention from me. On Sunday (yesterday), Sly and I cuddled a bit and he frequently stuck his head under my arm to get a few pats on the head — he loved to have his muzzle scratched, too. I am so, so grateful that I was able to spend that day with and near him.

Barbara told me that Sly went out to go potty and, just as he walked back in the door, had one of his fainting spells. She laid him down gently and held him, whispering all those loving things we always say at times like this. Sly’s breathing got a bit labored and he tilted his head back as though he were trying to get more air, but the real problem was probably the mass in his lung. Then he jerked his head a couple of times and was still. That’s when Barbara raced upstairs to get me.

We stayed there on the floor with Sly for a half hour or so, crying, talking to him, petting his still body. Star and Abby both were incredibly sensitive and comforting to us. It was clear that they knew that something was wrong and that we were very sad. And Lucy, the new puppy, complained from her crate that she wanted breakfast. That’s how life is…it goes on, no matter what.

But we put everybody into their crates in the food room (to be ready for breakfast), then we carried Sly down to the car and drove to the vet’s to leave his body for cremation. The box in which we will receive his ashes will have his name and “Our beloved big Pooh Bear” (or something like that…my mind is still foggy from sadness). Sly would have been 14 years old in exactly three months, on February 24. Not too bad for a very large Sheltie who came to us eight years ago virtually in a coma from terrible neck wounds (dog fight) and a complete lack of any thyroid activity.

I know that life really will go on. The other kids need to be fed, taken outside, and loved. But right now I just cannot imagine what life will be like without Sly, my big ol’ Pooh Bear.

This is so, so hard. All of us rescuers have to say goodbye to the old, sick dogs that we rescue, and nothing can ever make that easier. In 2008 alone, we lost our own dogs Isaac and Sly, as well as a number of rescue dogs, some of them adopted and others with us in hospice care. It gets harder every time. I honestly don’t know how many more times I can do this. I know that Barbara feels much the same way.

Is this “just” rescue fatigue? Maybe. We’ve been doing this for so long, with not nearly enough help, ruining ourselves financially, destroying our house, and enduring the heartache of loss over and over. But it feels to me like more than that. We have something like 30 or 35 little boxes of ashes on our family room bookshelves. Every one of those represents a dog whom we loved dearly and who came to the end of their lives while in our care. There are so many cancers, so many kidney failures, so many heart diseases, and one automobile strike. And I just don’t know how to keep on bearing it.

Goodbye, my precious Sly. You’re no longer in pain, no longer worried that the other dogs will crowd you or knock into you, and no longer dealing with the loss of appetite you suffered lately. You’ll see so many of your friends and family members at the Bridge, and we’ll be there with you eventually. I love you, my beautiful boy. And I always will.

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15 comments to Too Much, Too Much…

  • eddiethegirl

    I am crying. I am so sorry.

    BTW I am in Orem and can’t foster dogs b/c I have two already and live in a condo.

    But besides money is there anything that can be helped with?

  • I’m so sorry to hear of Sly’s passing, even though I knew it was coming. And yes, life does go on, although it’s never quite the same without the ones that we love.

    I’m certainly not in any postion to tell you whether it’s just rescue fatigue or not, but if anyone has reason for fatigue or burnout, it would be you and Barbara. I know that personally I was able to do much less and for a shorter period of time before it took it’s toll on me.

    My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with you today….

    Please take care of yourselves

  • Jane M

    I am so sorry for your loss, and I share your heavy feelings of grief today for the loss of a dearly beloved rescue sheltie. Our dear George died today of cardiac arrest – he was at the emergency vets all weekend and we were so hopeful that he would pull through. He was 9 1/2 and came to us a little less than 3 years ago and my heart is truly broken in two with the loss. We have 2 others but each one is unique and special, never to be replaced. Please know that I share in your grief today.

  • Good post, I like your writing style! I’ve added to my feed reader, and will be reading your posts from now on. Just a quick question – did you design your header image yourself, or have it done professionally? If you had it done by a professional, who was it?

  • terdonal

    Our thoughts are with you and your extended family. They leave such a hole in ones heart that I often wonder how you people who rescue can do it let alone the financial burden and time taken with the care of these fur kids.

    I admire you for what you Barbara, you are amazning and I know your fur kids feel the same way.

  • John, thanks for your kind words. Yes, I did design the header image myself. It just sort of came to me one day. Sadly, I can’t find the original mountain image that I used for the background — it’s somewhere among the three million files (that’s not an exaggeration!) on my computer, but I’ve misplaced it.

  • Oh, Jane, I am so sorry to hear of your loss of your George. It’s horrible to have to live through it, but that’s just part of life, I guess. I’ll be watching for George’s star over the Rainbow Bridge tonight, perhaps alongside Sly’s. Give your other two a great big hug and a kiss and whisper how much you love them.

  • Eddie, thanks so much for your sympathy and asking what else you might be able to do for rescue. Your physical distance, though not huge, would make it rather inconvenient for you to come over to do anything regularly.

    But one of our members, Julene, is a groomer and has suggested that we might have a rescue-wash party one of these weekends at her shop. If we manage to put something like that together, you might be able to join us and get all wet-n-soapy washing rescue Shelties!

  • eddiethegirl

    I was acutally thinking about doing a bathing thing (I worked in at a groomers for a month and liked it… but they let me go cuz I got sick 2 times that month ahhh I totally don’t blame them… but then agian I don’t blame me either.) I was thinking I could come up once a month or every two months or whatever and help you bathe…

  • cheri_berri

    Jim and Barbara, I’ve been reading your blog since April, and this is one of the saddest posts I’ve seen. I haven’t had to go through this yet, and I hope it’s a very long time before my 5-yr-old Trudy goes over the Bridge. I can’t imagine how it must feel to feel such sadness as many times as you have. You and Barb are very special people.

    Cheryl in Virginia

  • Sly needs much health care. I wish he overcomes the health problems! Take care of him.

  • cindy colbert

    Ah another one lost, sorry to hear about it, it is never easy. Take care

  • Wer

    Thats really sad. Know it must be really tough to go through this.

  • Hello! So sorry to hear about big boy Sly’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Josh and Jessie
    (2 Shelties from New Zealand).

  • My Life is empty without Nell, such a big part of my life. Nov,08 08 a crushing day at the vet. Found out she had Advanced Lymphoma and enlarged spleen and indications the cancer was in her bones.I, cry daily she was my family. The, vet was so compassionate that it helped for a moment .Read this “everything that has a beginning has an end.”But the hurt is something I am having trouble to deal with. Priscilla

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