Furry Family, This Crazy Life

Gutwrenching Decisions

This post is supposed to be about my visit to the doctor yesterday. But it’s not. Sorry, Mom, but you are going to have to wait a little while longer for that. Because this post is about those gut-wrenching decisions we face as pet-keepers, companion animal lovers, dog lovers…

Dart, April, 2006

This post is about Dart. Dart is a Silken Windhound, a newly developed breed, a mix of Borzoi with Whippet, to make a smallish or medium sized sighthound with long silky hair (longer than a whippet’s, anyway).

Dart is now about 15 years old, or close to it. And she’s either incontinent, or stubborn, or doesn’t like to get wet/muddy/etc.

Because she’s been pooing in the basement, and now is also peeing, and though she only weighs 30 pounds or so, it’s stinky, and smelly, and just plain gross.

And, I’m pretty sure their is something seriously wrong with her gut, though she has a healthy appetite, but unless I give her antibiotics, she has pain sometimes when she poos. But that’s the only time she has pain, the rest of the time she’s the same ole’ Dart as she’s always been.

I can’t afford to take her to the vet to check her gut out, and it doesn’t make sense anyway, since if they say there’s something serious, she’ll have to be put down. Put to sleep. And I’m pretty sure it’s something serious.

So now I face The Decision. The one we all dread, the one that wrenches our guts and makes our hearts empty holes.

Shunka, in 2006

But, this post is also about Shunka. Aka “My Boy.” The purebred black German Shepherd we got as soon as we moved to the woods.

Here he is:

Shunka way back in 2002
In 2005, in my bed, of course.

So, why, you ask, is this post also about Shunka? Because I loved him, still love him, sooo much I can’t describe it. And because last June, just before my birthday, I had to have him put to sleep. Shunka had a brain tumor, and it caused seizures. And made him very uncoordinated. And as it progressed, he lost the ability to control his bowels.

And it still tears my heart to look at pictures of him, even after so long has passed. I’ve talked to family about him, but never written it out, how it felt, how it still feels.

April, 2009

Shunka…was…different…from Dart. Our relationship was very different. I had a seizure of my own, way back, in 2001? 2002? I was at the computer, and no one was here except Rhiannon, and she was 7 at the time. Shunka was the one to realize something was wrong with me, and he went and got Rhiannon. Shunka kept licking me, biting me on the arms, anything he could do to try to arouse me.

This was not your garden variety seizure, and I don’t remember a thing about it. But basically, we think my heart was beating so fast that it couldn’t refill, so I was oxygen deprived. I was in and out of “awakeness” I would guess you would say – not aware, always incoherent when awake, then unconscious, incoherent, out of it….for an hour and a half or so.

Rhiannon panicked of course, tried to call for help, but we had new phones and she couldn’t figure out how to turn them on. She tried to get the mail lady to help me, but that didn’t turn out to work. And through it all, Shunka was by my side, trying to get me to be okay.

If he hadn’t kept stimulating me, I might not be here right now. It’s what they said.

After that, Shunka changed. He hadn’t been a particularly cuddly dog before that, but after that he didn’t let me out of his sight, and if I made even a slightly odd noise, he was in my face, staring into my eyes, concerned, checking to see if I was okay. And he checked on other people too, like my mom, when she’d cough.

He slept on my floor, and eventually on my bed. In my bed. And when I went through the terrible year of IV antibiotics, with a PICC line in my arm, and doing IV’s every day, and really, not sure I was going to live through it…he was there, against me, always touching, always watching.

Sure, he had his bad moments. Like when he bit the poor delivery man who brought some medical supplies to the house after dark. That was chaos. He was very protective of me, the house, Rhiannon.

He was a one person dog, and I was his person. For all his terrible fierceness with intruders, he was also so silly, afraid of thunder so that he’d get on the bed where I lay, and wrap himself around my head, so I’d have back legs on one side and be face to face with him on the other. Very silly. And the same at the vets – terrified, a lap dog. Very silly.

And now the tears are coming, because I miss him so damn much. I didn’t intend on writing this, it just happened. I went to look for a pic of Dart, but instead found pics of Shunka, and one thing led to another.


We have Kasha here too, she’s a good girl, an adopted German from the shelter who has blended with our family very well. She is just getting over Lyme disease. But Kasha and I don’t have the same relationship as Shunka and I did. That was one of the few, the once in a lifetimes, perhaps.

And when we have Dart put to sleep, which is going to be very soon, we will only have Kasha. A house with one canine??? It doesn’t seem right, after all these years of having three, and now two.

Are they a blessing, or are they a curse? Dogs, I mean. It’s so unfair, that we bond so close, but they have such short lives. And when you have a special one, like I’ve been blessed with several times, it hurts so much, you never really get over it when they pass.

I’ll end with my favorite quote about dogs:

We are alone, absolutely alone on this planet; and amid all the
forms of life that surround us, not one, excepting the dog, has
made an alliance with us. -Maurice Maeterlink

Dart, in younger days.

2 thoughts on “Gutwrenching Decisions”

  1. You did a beautiful job of writing this. In spite of the pain, you made it sound so beautiful and wistful. I can’t think of the words to express how I felt reading it. The pictures and the colors of your blog are so pleasant that it sounds like a memorial to both of them.

    Clay and family are on their way driving to FL. today. They called awhile ago and have decided to stop and spend the night on the way. I didn’t realize Spring break was so soon.

    I am tired and I need to set my clocks forward before I go to bed.


  2. Thank you, Mom. I didn’t really think about it, it just flowed out of me. It helped. Now, I’ve read it over myself several times. And at first, it really hurt. But now, I’m remembering the good times with Shunka, more than the end, and it helps, it really, really, helps.


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