Writing My Way Through It

Here is a very simple, very true, and very hard fact about life. For the most part, we all outlive our pets.

On a sunny spring day in March of 1997, my Dad came off the road from an extended trip out west and in his arms was a little brown and black puppy, picked out of a litter in a box in Kingston, Arizona (if I remember correctly). She was known to be at least a mix of Lab and German shepherd, and based on her small size, we anticipated her becoming a medium sized dog. Mom named her Cheyenne, reflecting her American Southwestern roots.

It wasn’t until later that the Greyhound and probably Great Dane mix appeared; it was about the time she could stand on her hind legs and look me in the eyes at 5’7″.

I was fifteen when Cheyenne came to live with us. I will be 30 in January.

Cheyenne loved to run and she was lightning fast. She could sail easily over a 4′ fence, leaping like a deer, leading to many occasions where one or several of us would have to go out on a search mission for Cheyenne back in the old neighborhood in Hampton.

Cheyenne formed an incredibly intense bond with my Mom, and she thought she was a lapdog, even at 80 lbs. It was quite funny to see Mom sitting with Cheyenne in her lap.

She is also the most intelligent dog I have ever met. She communicates with us by jingling her collar, and there are times she will directly into your eyes with such intensity that you know if she had the ability, she would speak and tell you exactly what it is she is trying to say. She has an uncanny sense of what day of the week it is. When Mom first started spending the weeks with us in Richmond, she always went home on Friday evenings. After a while, on Friday evenings, Cheyenne would start wandering away from the house in Suffolk, looking for Mom to be coming home. She knew when it was Friday.

For being so big, she was also amazingly deft. She is amazingly gentle with small children; I never had the slightest fear of her interacting with Grace. Many years ago, one night, Mom and I had gotten tacos from Taco Bell, and then were called away to go pick my brother up from a friend’s house. When we came home, the six wrappers were laid out, perfectly flat, completely undamaged, no tacos anywhere to be found, and Cheyenne was asleep with a pretty satisfied look on her face. To this day, I have no idea how she got those wrappers open without damaging them.

She is now closing in on 15. We estimated her birthday to be around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January, putting her birthday within a week of mine and my Mom’s. Large breed dogs are not known for their longevity, so we have been blessed to have had her for so long. However, in the past couple of years, her health has been in decline. A golf-ball sized cancerous tumor was removed from her face last November and the vet said then it would definitely come back. She has been plagued with incontinence and worsening arthritis, her eye sight is fading, and now she is fighting frequent infections.

The time has come. It might even be overdue. But how do you make this call? We have never had a pet live to old age; every previous pet we had either became severely ill or injured to the point where it was blatantly obvious what the next step needed to be.

Cheyenne does not have a severe illness. She doesn’t seem to be suffering other than her aches and pains in her hips and back legs. We have only now reached the decision to go ahead with the final visit to the vet because Cheyenne seems to be developing a nearly neurotic level of anxiety whenever my Mom leaves her alone. We are talking loss of bowel control and it happens even in cases where Mom is gone for less than 10-15 minutes. And it is becoming an almost daily occurrence.

We think it’s time, but it is so hard when occasionally she gets a little prance in her step and springs around outside a little. We thought it would happen while the family was at Pennsic and Mom was in Suffolk that week, but the vet put Cheyenne on estrogen (to help the incontinence) and antibiotics for her skin infection, prolonging her life, but also told us then that she had early stage kidney disease, and we knew then that time was growing very short.

She has been the most amazing companion to my Mom, the best “little sister” to me, and a wonderful protector to my daughter.

I know it is the right thing to do, but I am not okay. And I am not going to be for a little while. And it will be much worse for my Mom. So think kind thoughts for us over the next week or so. Please be patient with me if you have to interact with me.

I am so thankful that we have had her, and it hurts so very much that we have to lose her.
With Baby Grace


Little Sister


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kristin on October 5, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    I’ve had to make that call twice this year myself. It never gets any easier. My thoughts are with you but there are no words to make it better.


  2. You are in my thoughts. My family has had to let go of two beloved pets in the last three months. It sucks. It will suck for a long time. I am so sorry.


  3. I hesitate to post this, because I don’t want to add to your pain, but what comes to me when I see the photos you have put here of Cheyenne is this:

    Well done, good and faithful servant.

    Your family will be in my prayers.


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