I'm wiping my face as I write this letter to you after reading about your MJ and looking at the pictures of beautiful her. Needless to say, I am mourning the loss of my own beloved blue boy, Joey, who was released in December of 03.
Joey was the most amazing
being. People who knew him on the little island in the Puget Sound where we
lived called him "The Miracle Dog."
I rescued Joey from our local humane society. When I was "shopping" for a dog there, I visited the shelter a couple of days a week for about three
weeks, getting to know the dogs. Joey was in a kennel with an aggressive, Alpha litter mate. I did not like the look of Joe, and never did approach him or visit with him. He looked scary to me (you know that Heeler vibe...)
I had finally chosen two
dogs and brought my partner with me to help me choose between the two. He ignored
the dogs I was showing him and went straight to Joe. He asked to take him for
a walk. When he came back into the shelter, he walked up to me and said, "This
is your dog, Suzanne."
And he was.
From the moment I brought him home he was devoted beyond anything I had ever known. We lived on acreage, surrounded by acreage, so Joe was free to roam. Our island was as close to dog heaven as any place could be. But Joe never left what he knew to be "our territory," our acreage and the 12 acre Land Trust field across our little dirt road. Except for once.
The only time we ever penned
Joey was on the one vacation we took without him, after we had him for about
3 years. My partner's dog Jasmine and
Joe were penned in the yard being looked after by our neighbor. Jasmine was a Shephard/Collie/Husky/Malamute mix and she and all her siblings were runners and livestock and chicken killers. Sweet dogs, but a little wild. Jasmine managed to break out of the pen and Joey followed her up to a
ranch a couple of miles up the road. Jasmine took off after the sheep and Joe headed down to the beach. The rancher, someone we knew well, shot at Jasmine but missed her. He looked around and saw Joe on the beach, nowhere near the sheep, thought he was a coyote (that's what he said...), and shot him with a large caliber rifle through the shoulders. Joe went down.
We got home to the news
that both our dogs were dead. After Jasmine ran home, the rancher made our neighbor/dog
caretaker bring Jasmine back to
his house where he tied her to his porch and executed her. We came home two days later to find her body still tied to his porch. Joe was nowhere to be found and as the rancher had seen the shot, he knew Joe was dead. 8 days later I got a phone call at work from my next door neighbor telling me he thought he saw Joey sitting by my greenhouse. I called my partner, who was on the island, and he ran home and found Joe, half dead, sitting upright on the EXACT spot we had laid Jasmine's body before we could bury her. We rushed Joe to the vet, a journey off-island, where the vet removed a foot in diameter of gangrenous muscle and tissue around Joey's shoulder area. The vet said he had never seen anything alive with that much gangrene. You could run a 2 by 4 through his shoulders.
Joe got up the day after surgery with no loss of range of motion. He walked to me in the kennel at the vet's, sat on his haunches, and put his paws on my chest, looking me dead in the eyes. We took him home a couple of days later and he recovered fully.
Needless to say, Joe never left again. He was never kenneled, leashed, chained or penned. When he was with me walking he was at a perfect heel. He stayed in his territory, in the yard or on our porch. He came to heel with only the tiniest call, a little kiss-sound. He never left again.
A couple of years later my daughter became deathly ill very suddenly. I had to rush her to the ER on the mainland and was not able to make it back home for 12 days. Friends came to take Joe to their homes to care for him and to feed all my other animals (chickens, goats, ducks, pigs, cats,) but Joey would not go with anyone, even his/our best friends. Joey sat on the porch and waited for almost two weeks. People came and fed him and loved him up, but he would not leave.
And so it went. As Joey got older, he became more and more a one-person dog. Our connection was so supernatural. Or maybe it was just plain natural. He was, truly, my familiar. Time started to take it's toll on Joey. He was a hard runner and used to run ahead of the car down our long dirt driveway. One time I clocked him at 27 miles an hour. He eventually blew out both knees and needed surgery. He got creaky, but was always stoic.
Last spring I noticed him
dropping weight, but as he had gotten chubby with less activity and age, I thought
a little weight loss was a good thing. Then I noticed his eyes starting to look
funny and took him in to find he had diabetes. He was almost insulin resistant,
taking two shots a day of 23 units a shot. I began to spend more and more time
with him, curling up with him, locking eyes with him on the floor, letting him
sleep in the bed, taking him everywhere, lifting him in and out of the car,
just plain loving him full-time. He had weakened so considerably, he could hardly
block. But he was still happy....really.
And then, I had to move.
Everyone told me I should put Joey down before I moved (all the way to Florida)
but I couldn't do it. I knew he was willing to at least try to make the change
with me. I knew he would tell me when it was time. When we moved, it was necessary
for me to board Joey for a
couple of weeks until we could move in to our new place. I visited Joey every day. After 5 days, the vet called and said they couldn't regulate Joey's blood sugar. That's when I knew Joe just didn't want to be there anymore. With more than another week until we could move and he could be with us, I knew Joe was asking to be set free. I went in to the vet and sat down on the floor with Joey. Now, Joe was a very silent dog. He never whined, howled, and only barked occasionally. Joe came to me and sat on my lap, looked me in the eye and made the saddest little sound. I wrapped my arms around him, held him as tightly as I could and told him OK.
I called the vet and told
her it was time to put Joe down. She argued with me and told me it wasn't necessary.
She was sure she could regulate him, they just needed more tests, more insulin,
more everything. I told her no, I knew that if Joey couldn't be with me, he
just didn't want to BE anymore. She called the assistant in. My partner sat
at Joe's head, looking into his eyes and Joe sat on my lap. I held him tightly
and stroked him and chanted to him over and over "You are the BEST BOY.
You are a VERY GOOD BOY, Joe. Thank you, Joe. You're the BEST BOY. Thanks for
being such a very good boy".
I held him and stroked him and spoke to him as the vet gave him the shot. I looked up and both the vet and the tech had tears streaming down their faces. When he was gone, I put my hands over my face so I could not see them take him away lifeless. And then I cried 'til I was almost howling.
I miss him all the time. He cared for me so unconditionally and with a devotion and a fierceness I think no human could ever demonstrate. He was my partner, my protector, my playmate, my SOULMATE. He was a spiritdog. And I know he is with me now, loving me still, and I know he is free and no longer in pain. I know all these things.
But I miss my boy. Goddamn it, I miss my boy. Thanks for your good words and cool pictures. Thanks for inspiring me to finally write this down, a necessary catharsis. I hope your cool new Catahoula Leopard dog brings you untold joy.
Peace, Suzanne (February
Last Updated March 25, 2004