Almost a year ago, my mom’s dog Mopsey came to live with me and my partner, Tim. Mom was in the hospital in another state, and her neighbors who were taking care of him were about to be too busy to look after him. We didn’t know when Mom would be home or able to take care of him; my sister had two small children to care for (one of whom is terrified of dogs), so we took him in.
As I camped with Mom in her hospital room in Morgantown, WV, Tim and Mopsey headed back to Williamsburg, VA. None of us knew that Mopsey, Tim and I would be a permanent family.
We thought Mom would be released from the hospital to a nursing home for rehab, but would get to go home where she and Mopsey would once again be roomies and best buds.
It soon became apparent that Mom’s physical disabilities and cognitive decline meant she could no longer live independently. Mopsey was ours, as the assisted living facility where Mom now lives only allows pets if the resident is able to care for it. Mom — wheelchair bound — is unable to take a dog outside. Mopsey was ours.
Both of us have had dogs as pets in the past. My partner left his dogs with his ex-wife when he was transferred to Puerto Rico with the military several years ago. I had lost both a Doberman mix with a seizure disorder and a Boston Terrier with heart failure. I gave away my Chow mix when I moved to Virginia in 2009 — because my first home here was a second-floor walk-up apartment, a total of 835 square feet.
Several times, when we babysat my partner’s daughter’s dog, we vowed never to have a canine. Getting up early to go for walks, having to come home right after work, boarding at kennels during trips — our lifestyle wasn’t cut out for a dog. Or so we thought.
Mopsey’s addition to the household was quite an adjustment. My cat, Nala, was so displeased with the new addition to the family she fled to the second floor of the house and still refuses to come down, nearly a year later.
We couldn’t give Mopsey the attention Mom did. She took him out every two hours, whether he wanted or needed to go or not. He rode with her in the car everywhere when the weather wasn’t too hot — the supermarket, hair salon, church — Mopsey was riding shotgun. At her house, his spot was on the sofa. She covered her white carpeting with towels to absorb any dirt he tracked in. She carried his food to him wherever he happened to be: the sofa (as children, we were never allowed to eat there) or the floor, it didn’t matter.
And it was a fall while walking Mopsey that led to a broken wrist and her rapidly declining health.
Several months ago, Mopsey had an episode that I described to the vet as “he acted like a person with Parkinson’s Disease.” My vet advised that I should think about putting Mopsey down, and recommended that I keep track of his good days vs. his bad days and think about his quality of life. She put him on two medications, which cost a total of $165 per month. He ate them happily every day in Greenies organic pill pockets, which he loved.
Mom strictly regulated Mopsey’s intake of people food. She insisted it would make him sick. We ignored this advice. Every meal, there he was, sitting at the table begging. We made sure he had his own plate. We learned our lesson on some meals — pork fat and cashews caused gastronomical disturbances from which our carpet will never recover. But usually he just appreciated the attention and the few bites of people food we tossed his way. It was the highlight of his day. We also switched him to a better grade of dog food that was easier for a dog with few teeth to eat.
When we recently replaced the carpeting with wood laminate flooring, poor Mopsey couldn’t adjust. There he was, “swimming” across the floor. We put down rugs and scraps of carpeting to give him traction and a path through the house.
After joining our household, Mopsey was boarded at a kennel for the first time, ever. We enjoy traveling, and Mopsey didn’t seem any worse for wear by spending time at the pet resort. I paid extra for cuddle sessions and “outdoor adventures,” where he got to run around outside off a leash.
Mopsey was never a vocal dog. Even when he was young, he didn’t make much noise. He would get excited when people (like me) visited my mom and stepdad, but he never barked, howled, or whined.
The oddest adjustment we had to make with Mopsey was the way he signaled he needed to go outside. Other dogs would bark or whine. Not Mopsey. He would walk to the door, then walk back and look at you. This system was not effective if you were asleep — or busy and simply not noticing.
Mopsey never barked. Not ever. Occasionally — very occasionally – he would whine. Usually that involved riding in the car, or during the few times we crated him at night and he wanted out.
There were many times throughout the years I thought Mopsey was depressed. He was the most lackadaisical dog I knew. He never got excited about anything.
After he came to live with me, I realized that was just his personality. He was even, calm. He was sweet — but didn’t want to be loved on too much. He would tolerate being on a lap for a few minutes, but not for an evening. We respected his wishes.
That’s how I knew that today was the end for him. After his incredibly long and very scary seizure, he climbed onto my lap. I had been sitting on the floor beside him, petting and soothing him during the seizure. Tim was on the other side of him, doing the same thing. He pooped. He peed. He slobbered and foamed at the mouth all over me.
Then Mopsey climbed into my lap — something he’s never done before — and then he bit me. On the breast. And he wouldn’t let go. I know this was some sort of reaction to the trauma, and not aggressive behavior. It was surprising, and I dismissed it. A couple of band aids and some Neosporin and all is well. But it wasn’t the sweet, calm Mopsey we knew. He was obviously very scared, possibly in pain, and it was his way of saying “Hey, lady, I feel like crap! Help me!”
We wrapped him up in a towel, got in the car, and headed to the emergency veterinary hospital. I knew it was 35 to 40 minute ride in the car, and I tried to make it as comfortable as possible. I held Mopsey and stroked him, but still he howled regularly — a mournful howl that was loud and disarming.
When we go to the hospital I had to fill out a lot of paperwork. Tim took Mopsey, who was very agitated, outside. He set him down in the grass, and he sprawled out, stopped making noise or moving around, and seemed to relax. I went and got them when it was “time.”
The technician took Mopsey to a back room to have an IV catheter put in. They then brought him to us — in Room Zero — to spend time with and say goodbye. I held him in my lap and loved on him. Tim snapped a few photos with my phone.
A tech stopped by and asked if we were ready. I confirmed we were. Several minutes later a vet appeared with syringes.
He asked if I wanted to put him on the table. I looked at the cold stainless slab and declined. I held him in my lap and the doctor pushed the various drugs through the IV catheter. At first he seemed “high,” then a few minutes later the euthanasia drug was dispensed.
“It will be quick,” the doctor advised.
It was. The vet had to leave the room to retrieve his stethoscope. He inserted the device between Mopsey’s chest and my arm. “He’s gone.” He reported. I gently handed my baby brother to him and he left the room.
I paid the bill and made arrangements to have him cremated and sent to my veterinarian. $257 ended his life. It seems surreal.
He will live on in our memories. He loved his people, especially Dale (my stepfather) and Tim, my partner. He was a sweetie, who never was angry, aggressive, or even upset. About anything.
Farewell, my sweet baby brother. You deserve an eternity of rest and relaxation.