Look Homeward Angel

Yesterday, I made the heart wrenching decision to euthanize my Boston Terrier, Riley.  Although he was still chasing squirrels and playing fetch with his ball, the tumor was protruding out of his mouth, and had bled through the night.  I was afraid he would bleed to death.

Last summer, just before we sold our house, Riley was diagnosed with oral melanoma.  I have since read that it is not uncommon in dogs.  It is fast growing, devastating, and the treatment does not add much time onto the life of the sufferer.

Having spent thousands of dollars on dogs in the past, only to have them suffer and die regardless, we decided to forego conventional treatment and do the ‘holistic’ thing for him.  I put him on a 90% protein diet, which consisted of chicken gizzards, sautéed, and then ground up in the blender.  Twice a week, I go to our little grocery store and stock up, usually buying all the gizzard packages they have.  The cashiers started to ask questions.  Were we having company?  Was I stocking up?  What do people do with gizzards around here that you would serve them to company, I ask???

There is a tea I read about and had heard from others that is supposed to strengthen the cancer patient so they are able to fight the cancer themselves.  Essiac Tea is expensive and tastes horrible, but I attribute his general good health up to the time he died to the tea.  The tumor stayed the same size until last week.  We also gave him several preparations from Natural Pet, formulated to strengthen the dog’s immune system.

According to the literature, the average life span of a diagnosed dog is 120 days.  He lived three months beyond that time.  I try not to think about ‘what if’ we would have gotten him surgery and chemo and radiation.  I try.

He was truly my companion.  He was the only dog we could let out when we had company because he didn‘t act like a jerk, the only Boston who didn’t piddle in the house.  He had a look in his eye when he couldn’t find his ball.  “Do you want your ball?“ we’d ask.  He would go bananas while we searched for it.

Riley had entitlement.  He went where no dog had gone before him.  His favorite perch was on the back of our new couch.  The other dogs were not allowed on the furniture, but Riley not only was encouraged to sit up there and scope out his domain, we bought a special plush blanket for him to sit on while doing it.
In this picture, Riley is sitting on spinning fiber as I spin.  I can never advertise ‘Pet Free Home’.
Each night, before Jim and I could get comfortable, Riley would hop up onto the bed and settle in between us, sort of throwing himself down.  It was a toss up who got the rear section, but it was usually Jim, much to his dismay.  He misses it now.

Riley could often be found napping flat on his back in the middle of a room. So sure that his servants wouldn’t disturb or injure him, he would lay there vulnerable, his arms stretched up over his head.  Or he would lay on his side, hog tied, or on his belly, frogged legged legs stretched out behind him, his chin resting on his blue bar bell.

Riley with his blue bar bell as a pillow.

I exploited him, too.  Completely by accident, I found that if you tried to disturb him when he was guarding a Milk Bone, the most deliciously feral snarling growl, huge for such a small dog, would emit.  “Riley!” we exclaimed the first time.  He seemed to understand that more attention would be gained from performing in this way, and it became a sort of ritual.  I would give him a small Milk Bone and he would take it and assume the position on his belly, putting the bone on the floor and waiting.  I would come up behind him and simply place my hands on his waist and the trilling would start.  Oh, I wish we had recorded it.

The toys were another issue.  The two favorites; a small white soccer ball, and the aforementioned bar bell, became important enough to Riley that Jennifer, Jim and I made it a mission to find duplicates.  However, they were snubbed.  He would sniff them and walk away.  The other dogs better not touch them!

Toward the end, when the tumor made it difficult to pick up hard toys,  he would relinquish his stubbornness and play with a soft soccer ball that had orange streamers on it.  I am keeping that one under my pillow.  He also took to going down into the ravine after  wild animals, like a billy goat.  I saw him do it on Friday, and when I screamed for him to come back, he climbed up the wall with a silly grin on his face.  The other dogs have never attempted that feat.

On uncharted territory, here in the middle of a gray and snowy winter and have this depressing thing happen, so I have chosen to continue to thank the universe for the five years I had with such a remarkable dog, find evidence of him in the house to enjoy, and visualize him walking through the door to see me, or laying on the rug, waiting for Jim to come home, or snarling at anyone who would dare to come near his bone.  He had a huge personality.  I can’t imagine the stories I would have if he had lived a normal 14 year lifespan.

So today is another day.  No more dogs for us.  When these three go, that is it.  Two are elderly, one a young adult.  Then we can pick up and take off in the RV, alone. We can take trips, go away for weeks at a time.  But I don’t really care; I don’t like to travel anyway.

I miss my dog.

10 thoughts on “Look Homeward Angel

  1. I guess you know I’m in the boat with you right now! I finally picked up Abby’s bed and toys and stuff and she’ll be gone for two weeks on Friday. I’m so sorry, but I do applaud you trying to do the right thing for him. It’s very hard.

  2. Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. What a great soul he had — your stories of him are wonderful. I do think you did the right thing in terms of treatment. He had a good quality of life in his last months, he was not tortured by that which wouldn’t have healed him anyway. He was so lucky to be such a treasured dog during his short life!

  3. Suzy:

    So sorry to hear. I’m still missing my Milo after over a year. I know it was the right decision, but I miss my dog. Hang in there.


  4. Suzie, I am so sorry about your dog. My heart just hurts for you. I can tell you loved him so much. Remember the good times and know that you gave him the best home he could have asked for. Hugs to you!

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