At the height of our shared exercise regiment, Cleo and I used to go on walks together just about every night.
This was before the kids, so it wasn’t uncommon for us to be out wandering around our extended neighborhood for an hour or two, though our average trip settled in at right around 3.5 miles which we could usually knock out in a little over an hour.
Cleo would’ve been anywhere from about 9 months to 3 years old, so that puppy had all of the energy in the world! I would seriously try to get changed in secret because once she saw me lacing up my tennis shoes, she was beyond excited.
I was in my early 30s, so I wasn’t as out of shape as I am now, yet she would still drag me all over the place! If she happened to see a rabbit or a squirrel before I had a chance to tighten up my grip on her leash … uh oh!
We walked for hundreds and hundreds of miles together over a couple of years, her just sniffing and pulling in her own little world while I listened to music and podcasts and admittedly spent a lot of time just talking to myself trying to work through whatever was going on in my life at the time.
So I didn’t really know what to expect in taking her for our last walk together last night.
Needless to say, she didn’t have nearly the energy that she used to. Most of her time is spent sleeping and she really doesn’t run anymore, yet I was surprised how she really seemed to perk up when we got outside and reverted to her nose to the ground, forever curious-self that I remember … just a lot slower.
There was no pulling on the leash and I often had to slow down to her pace like I do when I’m walking with one of the kids. But low and behold, we ended up putting in a whole mile around the neighborhood with a nice break in the middle to “chat” and take a few pictures…
It was such a nice, pure time that momentarily it made me wonder if maybe she still had a chance after all, but once we got back home instead of curling up for bed she spent the next two hours wandering around the house and eventually got herself “stuck” behind the toilet again, so I guess this would be a good time to talk about all of her symptoms next…
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Earlier this spring, Cleo was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, which is basically a small tumor in her adrenal gland. There was really nothing we could do – the vet had a couple of pretty invasive procedures that might’ve worked, and even the testing for them was prohibitively expensive. Ultimately we decided that we’d just try to enjoy the time we had left and make her as comfortable, as the vet mentioned that we’d start to see the signs when her time got closer, but in hindsight I never would’ve expected her to show all of the signs to the point where aside from a bit of snuggling and still responding to her name, she was barely the same dog that we’ve come to love all of these years…
- She didn’t bark anymore. Ever.
- She didn’t give kisses anymore.
- She couldn’t jump up on the couch, and she hadn’t been able to jump up on our bed for a while.
- She almost always fell coming back down, and she’d gotten some nasty bruises to show for it.
- Sometimes she would just randomly wander around the house in circles, occasionally squeezing into small, dark places (like beside the toilet) where she couldn’t get out without help.
- She even sometimes showed difficulty walking and would cross her paws and stumble from time to time.
- And her incontinence had me washing towels almost as fast as we could use them to clean up her messes.
- Plus, she’d been losing her hair for a while. Most recently, a small patch on her back that left behind this really awful looking scaly patch.
We knew that it was the right choice, but it didn’t mean that I was in any way ready to say goodbye.
This past weekend as I started putting my thoughts together for this post, I had more than a couple of breakdowns – one of which found me crying on the floor and hugging Cleo. I would’ve given anything for a nuzzle or a random kiss that she hadn’t given in weeks to comfort me, but instead she just stared off into space and eventually went back to her new routine of wandering back and forth across the house as if it was the first time she’d ever been here, yet without the energy of the dog that she had eight years ago when we all walked into this house for the first time together.
When took her to the vet one last time over the weekend, his best guess was that the tumor in her gland had likely spread into her brain, which supported her general state of confusion and all of her troubles walking, and it was only going to get worse until she basically was no longer able to function at all.
As much as I was clinging desperately to her, I knew the truth was that really she was already gone.
* * *
Taking Cleo to the vet to be put down is easily one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do.
Sara and I went together while the kids were at school, and we spent about 2.5 hours between saying goodbye and going over everything with the vet one last time.
Needless to say, there were a lot of tears.
Cleo wasn’t really with it for most of it, which is probably all for the best. I think she might’ve actually fallen asleep in our arms when we were going over the billing stuff, and when it finally came time for her IV she fought them to the point that they gave her some of the sedation drug early to help calm her down.
The drug to actually stop her heart was this bright pink, pepto bismol-looking stuff that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the vet injecting. I just helped Sara to hold her and kept my eyes shut until I heard her say that she’d checked for a heartbeat and confirmed that she had passed.
Thankfully, the staff was all super supportive during the whole ordeal. We had a private room just for us with its own entrance, so we didn’t have to pass by other people when we were finally ready to leave.
There were a couple unexpected moments of comedy … or at least I had forgotten that thing where dead animals tend to empty their bowels when they expire, so that amused us that she got in one last chance to pee all over us on her way to the afterlife!
I also found it a little bizarre how unlike they do with people in the movies, I couldn’t close her eyes after she’d died and eventually resorted to pulling the towel she was wrapped in over her head once we’d said our goodbyes and taken the footprints that Sara wanted to take for the kids to do crafts with later.
To their credit, the kids so far have taken it pretty well. We’ve really tried to do our best over the last couple of days, and even the last months as her sickness had gotten worse, to prepare them that Cleo wasn’t going to get better and how eventually she was going to die. We told them that she’d be going to live with Sara’s Grandma Shorty in heaven because she loved animals so much, although I’m not sure that they entirely get the permanence because so far we’ve had a couple of times where they’ve asked when she’s coming back.
But the breakdowns have been limited to the adults and as a parent, I’m grateful for that.
* * *
It’s the day after we put Cleo down and the crying has (mostly) stopped.
Instead, the house just feels … empty.
Life goes on – we take the kids to school, I try to get some work done, etc, etc…
…but something is missing.
I keep waiting for Cleo’s head to pop up out of the sheets on the bed while I’m at our bathroom sink.
Or I catch myself not wanting to leave food unattended so that she doesn’t steal it.
We put the door guard over her doggy door because I couldn’t bring myself to remove the panel altogether, and yet now every time I walk by that guard reminds me that she’s not here to use it anymore.
The same for her gate between the playroom and the kitchen.
There are so many little reminders around this house of our furry family member who has passed on, and I’m constantly fighting between remembering the good times and staving off tears.
It’s amazing how much food my kids really waste when there isn’t a dog to clean up after them.
God, I miss that little brat so much.
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To round out this post on a somewhat happy note, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Cleo moments from over the years…
- By and far, our long walks at night as described earlier were absolutely my favorite times!
- It sounds funny, but just seeing her sleeping in the corner of my office on her big, fluffy cloud of a comforter always made me smile and love working from home.
- We didn’t go very often once we had kids, but taking Cleo to the dog beach where she could actually wade into the water was always a treat. (she wouldn’t swim in our pool because it was too hard to get out)
- It was after a very special episode of Puppy Dog Pals that the boys officially dubbed Cleo with the name Superdog, which soon became interchangeable with all of the other fun pet names we called her around the house.
- Considering how she wasn’t exactly a fan of strangers coming in our house, it was particularly comforting to watch her snuggling with each of our newborn kids as we brought them home. She guarded those kids like they were her own…
- It was obnoxious at times, but there was something special about her snuggling up in the bed when we went to sleep … it was nice if you got her back and not her feet, anyways! I kind of likened it to pack animals huddling up at night to stay warm, and we were her pack.
- Although she managed to “forget” most of the other commands we tried to teach her, Cleo used to love jumping for treats. I tried teaching the kids how to have her do it, but at the time they’d always end up overhanding it across the house instead of giving her a gentle lob that she actually had a chance of catching!
- Before the kids were born and our house was much, much cleaner, we would also play hide and seek for treats where she would get told to stay and then we’d walk around the house randomly throwing dog treats around for her to seek out once she’d been given the all clear. She was surprisingly good at it, too – I could scatter treats across several rooms of the house and she would systematically track them down one by one, chewing away as she scarfed them down as fast as she could find them!
- And of course, it wasn’t a holiday in our house until Cleo got her toy to tear apart … stuffed toys, particularly with squeakers, didn’t stand a chance with her. They were a mess to clean up and never lasted very long – one year for Christmas we got her one of these big, stuffed chairs shaped like a giraffe or something meant for kids to sit in, and she tore into that thing like a lion feasting on a gazelle!
- Two words – Cleo. Kisses. They were the most enthusiastic and full of energy kisses you’d ever had, to the point where it sometimes got hard to breathe with her tongue essentially probing the inside of your nose! That dog made no secret who she adored and no face was safe when she got into her affectionate mode… 😀
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Cleo “Superdog” Sevener
(2011 – 2020)
Today we had to say goodbye to Cleo, known by the kids as Superdog. Before her Cushing’s began to take over, this dog had more energy than a lot of people could handle. She loved to bark and chase things, and she was like a kid on Christmas morning tearing into her latest stuffed toy … which lasted about 30 seconds at best around her!
We’ll always remember Cleo for her voracious kisses, and her adoring snuggles, and how protective she was of her family – particularly of the boys.
Enjoy your next adventure wherever the afterlife takes you, Superdog – there’s no doubt that you stole our hearts even more than you stole our food…