It has been rather sad around the Stochl household the last few weeks. Our two dogs, Sunny and June, have both passed away within a month of each other. First, we had to put June down at the end of January. She was really suffering, and there was no hope for recovery, even with expensive surgery. Her brother, Sunny, held out for a few more weeks, but he, too, was going downhill quickly. We took him to the vet towards the end of February, and they discovered he had a large mass on his lungs. He was having difficulty breathing, and even standing. So we made the decision to let him go. Beth and Rachel and I stood around Sunny in his final moments and shed a tear or two as we said "goodbye". I think he sensed us near, as he could neither see us nor hear us any longer.
We have quickly gone from a house with two dogs to a house with no dogs. And it has taken some getting used to. No more 5:00 a.m. wake up calls to go outside, and then the constant pacing until they were fed. No more snuffling at the door to the garage for Sunny when Beth is gone. No more loud snoring of the two dogs at night.
And the absence of the dogs is made all the more real by the reminders. Where Sunny snuffled at the door to the garage, he made the bottom of the door black with his licking and snuffling. It has been cleaned off.
The water dish which has stood by the back door for years is now gone.
The new bag of dog food has been given to some needy pet owner.
Our Petco gift cards are now quite useless to us.
And today, as I was working in the back yard, trying to beat back the sudden explosion of weeds brought about by the recent rains, I came across an old piece of dog poop. I used to hate going out to pick up the dog droppings in the yard. But I was taken aback to see it there, and a tear came to my eye.
Such is life when we grieve the loss of pets. Even the most unpleasant tasks when they were alive now appear small signs of lost joy.
When we got the dogs in 2003 (they would have been 13 a few days ago), we drove them home in our van. Each kid held a puppy in a towel because, well, puppies' systems are unpredictable. We had wanted dogs for a long time, but had never really been in a place we could have them, always in rental property. But with our first house, it was now OK. On the way home, Rachel kept saying over and over again, "This is the best day of my whole life!" Such love and affection! Such sweetness! And now, we are on the other end of the best day of our whole lives.
We will carry on. We will miss these dogs, as we miss the other dogs we have had in our lives.
I will miss Sunny's licks. He loved licking my face, especially the hair on my chin.
I will miss June's scampering after the red laser pointer, the "red bug".
I will miss walking them.
I will miss having them wag their stubby little tails when we come home, and scamper about like we had been gone forever, and we were the best thing that ever happened to them.
A few years ago, we almost lost them. We had just moved to Ceres, and were in a rental house with a huge backyard. Sunny was going blind, but could still see shapes, so he was dependent on June for directions. They loved exploring the yard, and June loved barking at the cats and the birds that would perch on our fence.
One morning, Beth had gone to some meeting, and I was alone with the dogs. They were usually sleeping soundly, but then woke and wanted to go outside. So I interrupted my reading and opened the back door, then went back to my reading. After about ten minutes, I thought, "It's awfully quiet out there." I went out to look for them, and couldn't see them at all. I wandered over to the north side of the house, only to discover to my horror that the garbage people had left the back gate open.
I rushed out of the house to find them. I walked around our block. Nothing. My heart sank, though it was pounding. I walked around the block again, calling to them. Nothing. I widened my search, and soon, I spotted them across a busy street (Blaker). I was so happy to see them! I called to them, but they couldn't tell which direction the voice had come from. So they started running. Away from me.
So I began to chase them. This was about a year after my two hip replacement surgeries, and I was really not in good walking nor running shape, but I tried. They ran over to Service Road, a major street with big rigs barreling up and down the street. I called to the dogs, they would stop, look around, and keep going. When I'd get within 10-20 yards, I'd call, and they would tear off again. June running, leading the way, Sunny following her closely, to guide him.
Finally, about a mile and a half from home, I caught them. I was so happy to see them! But frustrated that I had to chase them so far. I held them. They licked me. They were tired of all the running.
And then I wondered what to do. I had not thought of bringing their leashes nor collars. I couldn't carry them all the way home. There was no one around. We were by a church, and I noticed that the church had a little mesh gate enclosure around their trash. So I coaxed the dogs over there, opened the gate, removed the trash bin, put the dogs behind the gate, closed the gate, and put the bin against the gate.
So they were now "safe", but for how long? Would they force their way out again? Would they bark when I left, and someone would "rescue" them?
At that time, a young couple with a large dog came running by. I stopped them and told them the story briefly, and asked if they would watch the dogs for about half an hour until I got home, and drove back to get them. They said, "sure".
So I walked/ran back home as fast as I could. Got in the car, and drove back to get the dogs. I tried to pay the couple for watching the dogs, but they wouldn't take any money. I placed the dogs in the car, drove home, and then got them in the house. (Making sure the back gate was closed!)
I think they slept for about three days straight. They were tuckered out! And I was emotionally and physically exhausted!
While looking for them, I remember praying for their safety, and that I could find them. I remember praying while I was chasing them, that I could catch them. When they were home, I uttered a prayer of relief and sincere gratitude.
Well, they are both safe at home now, as all dogs go to heaven. (I am unsure about cats, though!) I am grateful for their presence in our lives, for the joy they brought us, for the lessons we learned from them, for the chance to care for some of God's creatures.
I am grateful. Really. But the next piece of dog poop I find in our back yard, I just might shed another tear or two.