Thursday, January 15, 2009

Eulogy for a Dog

In memory of Gus "Bus" Iden July, 1998 - January, 2009

We had a hard to decision to make yesterday, or for me. it was the day before. Gus, our beautiful white-headed Old English Sheepdog, had been diagnosed with nasal cancer during the summer around July. It had started with a some hellacious nose bleeds and horrific snoring and escalated into total blockage of the sinuses. It culminated last weekend with the cancer
errupting into his eye socket causing him pain and distress. Within two weeks our once 93 pound dog droppped almost 20 pounds - the cancer was eating him from the inside out. It became apparent to me that we had come to a fatal decision point - either now or in a few horrible pain-filled days.

Gus had fought cancer valiantly for 7 months. Canine nasal cancer doesn't have a cure, it doesn't even have a good way to fight it. The surgery is horrible, the radiation afterwards even worse. My vet said that he wouldn't even put a young two year old dog through the ordeal. Instead we chose to give Gus the best life he could have for the remainder of his time. Over the last week, Gus turned into a zombie dog, who could barely put one foot in front of the other and who had stopped eating. If you knew Gus, you knew that was a very bad thing.

I agonized with the decision by myself until last night when I told Joe. He agreed that it was the right and best thing to do, and this morning we called the vet. Beth came to our house and help put our sheepie into a gentle rest. He was so close to going you couldn't tell when he slipped from our world over the rainbow bridge. We held him up to the end loving him as best we could.

There are tons of other blogs about losing a loved one, and lessons in life, and the pain of making the euthanasia decision. This blog is about me trying to heal some of the holes in my heart today.

Gus was a very good dog. Not great, mind you, but a very good dog. You see, like most dogs, Gus gave us all pointers in unconditional love, respect, friendship, and how to love whatever food is in front of you. But unlike most dogs, Gus had a few more lessons for me to learn and keep.

Most of you wouldn't know that when I brought Gus home, he had one beautiful brown eye and one blue eye. About 2 months after I adopted Gus from the Old English Sheepdog Rescue in North Carolina, he went to totally blind. Both of his retinas tore and detached, leaving an otherwise healthy and young 2 year old dog in the dark. Adding insult to injury, he grew
cataracts over both retinas, leaving boths eyes a milky blue. I always blamed his blindness on the rough start he got in life - left in a dog pen in the hot sun in Charlotte, North Carolina for the first full year of his life. The fur on his back was still brown from being sun-burnt when I brought him home.

But Gus and I both adapted to his changed world. I got rid of the coffee table, and he began to put his full trust into me.

We learned how to communicate. "Slow" meant "hey stupid, there is a tree (or house or car or horse trailer) right in front of you!" "Other way, Gus!" meant to execute an incredible tight turn in the other direction because impact was emminent. "Step, step" meant that the altitude was about to change one way or the other.

We still had accidents along the way. A quick-footed pony gave him a concussion and 10 staples in the head. I kept a bag of frozen peas handy to keep on his noggin after "Slow" and "other way" didn't work. But Gus, for the most part, worked it out. He had his Sunny, and then his Sookie to help him when Mom wasn't there.

Gus - your zest for life and love will never be forgotten. No matter you were blind, you wanted to play like the rest of the dogs. You barked and chased, and wished you could get that damn Jack Russell just once. You never let a garbage can lid stand in the way of getting what you wanted, by God, if the garbage smelled good there was something in it for you! Peanut butter kongs were a requirement, not a nice-to-have. And despite your people's best intentions, if there was some place you wanted to go, you were going regardless of how many bushes, holes, fence posts or donkeys were in your way.

And love. Gus always trusted that there would be someone around to love him. Someone he could feel and who would hold him. And if you were too busy to touch him, then he would touch you. Mostly by shoving his head through your legs, and squirming until he got his whole body between your legs. The looks of surprise on all the new people Gus met when he first did that too them! When the big, shaggy head would poke itself right out above your knees. Everyone would laugh and then get the message Gus was trying to tell them - love me. Easy enough to do for a dog so full of love himself.

And who among us who knew Gus doesn't have Gus claw scars on their ribs or their knee from Gus reminding us that he was present at the dinner table?

Gus had a love of well-endowed women too. If there was a large chested chick in the crowd, Gus would find her. And within the first hour have his head between her boobs. I used to warn any endowed women meeting Gus that he would be all over them, but I decided to keep it our secret. Every dog needs one or two. Secrets that is.

I said to Mom this morning, that even in times of immeasurable sorrow, you must remember to count the joys. Gus was a joy, a clown, a train wreck, and my giant living teddy bear. My heart is breaking with missing him. I know my love for him will always be there, and a piece of his heart will stay with me until the end of my days.

Now Gus is over the rainbow bridge. By now he has found Sunny and they are having a joyful reunion. And best yet, his eyes can now see what he hasn't been able to for 9 years.

Gus, our big goof-ball, rest in peace. We love you now and always.


  1. I didn't think it was possible to be crying profusely and laughing at the same time. Your writings have in fact made it come true. Gus was indeed a good dog. I am so sorry for his passing, but I don't know if he could've been in a home with people who loved him more than you did. I guess this day has to come for all beings on earth, but every time it comes, its so heartbreaking, no matter how "right" it might be. I'm so sorry for your loss. He will always be in my heart too!

  2. Blessings, Goofy Gus. Now you can jump and tussle with Sunny, run through the fields and meadows and see all the beautiful colors. No more worrying about running into trees or knocking down unsuspecting humans. Thank you for making life better for your mom, for watching over her and loving her, too. She'll miss you something fierce, but she loved you too much to keep you here when you needed to be free.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. Gus was such a wonderul dog and I feel lucky to have known him. I am sad, but I can't help smiling when I think of all the wonderul Gus momemnts we have shared over the years. What a guf-ball. You will be missed Gus!

  4. It's so beautifful what you wrote, I indeed believe he can see now!!!
    I'm glad I got to say bye!


  5. Kristen, I don't know if you still receive updates from this or not. I stumbled upon this 14 years after you got Gus from us. It brought tears to my eyes knowing what a wonderful life you provided for him, and what a wonderful friend he was to you. Thank you. Tom Chepke (