Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Goodbye, Old Friend

It has been a week since Snoopy's death, and I have been putting off writing this as it has been just too painful for me to address. However, I wanted to get this article, this tribute done so that I may move on to other stories and articles I have to write. So, that being said, here it is: Goodbye, Old Friend.

"Look for me in heaven." I have made this statement to my wonderful companion, Snoopy, many times over the last few years. Now, it pains me much that I have had to put him to sleep in order to alleviate his suffering. He greeted me daily with exuberant jumping and shouts of joy at my arrival home from work, without fail. My old friend. My little guy. My Snoopy.

He was the runt of the litter, but I chose him. Left in the care of a friends dog and house when he moved out of state, it soon became apparent that Lady, his mother, was pregnant. The experience of birth was an incredible event, as was the pain and love and care that Lady expressed as she bore her puppies.

Two years later, Snoopy caught Parvovirus, an incredibly deadly canine disease that destroys the cells in the intestines. He stayed at Bells Ferry Animal hospital, where he was kept hydrated through an IV, under the care of a very special vet, Dr. Samuel Riveria, now with the Atlanta Zoo. Eventually, after about a week, he began to take a small interest in food, and I brought him home, frail and thin. He slept with me that night on a mattress on the floor downstairs in the basement. I made rice with small pieces of boiled chicken, and fed him one spoonful at a time, 3x a day due to the constriction of his stomach. Slowly, he was brought back to health.

An inside dog, he would follow me around at home, just wanting to be near to me. Ever attentive, ever faithful. We had certain games we would play, like hide and go seek. I would bury myself under the comforter of my bed. Then I would call him. "Snoooopyyy!" He would jump up on the bed and dig me out from under the covers and bark at me. "You found me!" I would exclaim, giving him a big hug. I got a hand puppet from one of my students last year that drove him particularly crazy. He loved chicken hot dogs, pig ears, going for walks, getting belly rubs and of course, gnawing on beef soup bones. He and Mikey, his daughter, would chase each other around the back yard with complete abandon.

About 2 weeks ago, he yelped, then came into the living room hopping on one leg. I knew he had been playing with Mikey in the den, and thought he might have a small injury. He was dragging his hind foot behind him in an odd sort of way. Although the foot dragging ceased, two days later we were at the vets office trying to figure out what was wrong with him. Dr. Allison Wansky, a very kind and caring vet at Allatoona Animal Hospital, did all kinds of tests. She thought it might be a pulled muscle and gave me anti-inflammatories to help Snoopy recover.

Then, 5 days later, I noticed Snoopy's hind end was staggering to either side when he walked. This concerned me, but not as much as the next day when his hind legs stopped working altogether. The poor guy was sort of dragging himself around. Off to the vets again, but this time the diagnosis was not as kind.

"Glenn, you need to get Snoopy to the 24 hour emergency vet immediately," Dr. Wansky told me. "He needs specialized tests that we cannot perform here. Something is going on with his spinal cord." So, off we went to Marietta. He did not truly understand what was going on, other than he did not like going to the vets. I tried to console him in the cab of my truck as we drove down the highway. One vivid image sticks out in my mind: at one point Snoopy turned around to sniff the wind coming through the crack in the passenger window. As I turned to watch him, he appeared to be looking up into the sky, as the sun was setting. It was both a beautiful and foreshadowing scene.

I was told at the emergency clinic that the myelogram, which was a test that allowed doctors to see what was going on with the spinal cord, was very expensive. I told them that Snoopy had been there for me, and now it was my turn to be there for him. At first they thought it was a ruptured disk, which can be moderated with surgery. Regrettably, though, I received the phone call later that evening that the myelogram had been completed and that Snoopy had an inoperable tumor that was compressing his spinal cord, thus cutting off any response from his brain. They told me that Snoopy, although silent, had been in pain as evidenced by his accelerated heartbeat. So I asked them to keep him alive until I came the next day to put him to sleep.

I was kind of upset when they brought him into the waiting room, as he started crying and whining immediately. Due to the morphine, his face was slackjawed and misshapen. His tongue was dry, leathery and curled up into the side of his mouth. I just hated for him to spend his last 24 hours in the hospital, away from those he loved. I spoke to him for a couple of minutes, then told the tech I was ready. A doctor came in and administered the sleeping agent to him and he closed his eyes as I held his head. He stopped breathing almost immediately. I kissed him goodbye and told him to look for me in heaven. I broke down completely after they left the room to prepare Snoopy's body, which they wrapped in a sort of blanket with a plastic covering. As I looked through the window in the hallway, into the gray, rainy Tuesday afternoon, I thought I saw Snoopy for just a split second- he was barking at me with his characteristic bark- then he was gone.

I spent over an hour in the backyard that afternoon, digging Snoopy's grave. It rained and rained, and the rain mingled with the tears that came down my cheeks. Snoopy's death and absence from my life still affect me greatly. The house is not as happy a place as it once was, as Mikey has to spend large amounts of time at home, alone. I worry about her, and would desire to take any pain from her that I know she feels.

I am so very thankful for Snoopy's presence in my life, though. He was a gift from God to bring me company in my loneliness; to teach me the meaning of faithful commitment; and to give me love when I felt, at times, most unlovable.

Good bye, old friend. I shall miss you so much.



Anonymous said...

Hello Mr.Houtchens.
It is Micah.
I really injoyed reading all of your blogs. I would like to say sorry about snoopy and i hope you feel better.

Peace, Micah =)

Micah said...

Hello Mr.Houtchens.
Its Micah.
I am sorry about your dog and i hope you feel better.
I enjoyed reading all of your blogs. See ya tommaorw.

Peace, Micah

Glenn Houtchens said...

Thank you very much for your kind thoughts, Micah.


Anonymous said...

thats so sad

Brandon said...

Hey man,

Sorry to hear this happened. Losing a pet or a loved one for any reason is hard. I feel for ya.