Thoughts on Grief: Our Dog, Katy

7 Jul

We lost our dog, Katy, today to old age. She was roughly 13 years old, though as a rescue shelter adoptee, her age was always more of a guess. We used her adoption date of August 9 as her birthdate, and knew she was roughly a year old when we adopted her, putting her birth year at 2008.

Back when we first adopted Katy, I blogged about it. You can read that post here. In that post, I said, “Katy is such the perfect dog for us that I feel totally blessed by God through her. Since she is a year old, she’s pretty much done growing, she is totally house trained, and she is pretty obedient to our commands. Best of all, she’s the perfect size to cuddle with me (which she loves to do!) and she’s strong (typical of her breed) so that she can still run and hike with us, once she is cured of her heartworm (a condition she had when we adopted her…but the Boulder Vet Clinic will treat her for free because we adopted her from the shelter).”

Right after we adopted her, we were walking out to our car with her on the leash. I was a very green dog owner, and knew practically nothing. Turned out, her collar was on way too loose (and Katy had a very thick neck compared to her head, so it was very easy to slip things off over her head), and she ended up pulling out of it, and running off across a busy street and into another parking lot. Travis and I ran after her, yelling. Thankfully, the Humane Society staff saw what had happened, and came out with treats and helped us corral her.

She did that several times in the first six months to a year that we had her. If we held the front door open too far or too long, she was out the door and down the street. I’d follow after her on foot, and Travis would get in the car. No matter how much I called Katy, or even when Travis arrived bearing treats, she would act like she didn’t know us and keep running. She even ran off once at elk camp. Thankfully, we always got her back (but I always wondered if that’s how she ended up as a stray dog in the first place, because it seemed like she had had an owner before). She eventually bonded with us, and stopped running away. She actually became very reliable on sticking close to us.

Katy was a great dog, and we really loved her. For three years, Katy would drape across my lap and cuddle whenever we watched TV (until I got pregnant with Emma, and then had no lap!). She slept in our bed (until I got pregnant and needed the extra room for pillows!). She even snuggled headfirst into the bottom of my mummy sleeping bag when we were up at elk camp. She loved going on runs and hikes, and always had more energy once she knew we were headed home.

We always laughed that Katy didn’t do many traditional dog things. She didn’t like playing fetch. She didn’t like water. She didn’t dig holes. She didn’t slobber. She didn’t chew things up. We’d feed her, and she would eat it whenever she felt hungry enough. And until we got Charlie in 2010, she didn’t even bark. We didn’t even know if she could bark. She was so well-behaved that we left her free-roaming in the house while we were at work, and she never had any accidents or did naughty things.

But then we got Charlie, and Katy’s personality changed. She started being guarded about her food, started chewing on the couch, started barking (she would even bark at the sound of a doorbell on the TV). But Katy had a friend now. Since they could no longer be trusted in the house alone, we left them in our laundry room while we were at work. We had to replace the trim in that room before we sold the house, because they destroyed it. I worked only 5 minutes or so from our house for a few years, so I’d come home on my lunch break to take them on walks. Then I worked from home for a year and not long after Travis switched jobs and started working from home, so they once again had free reign of the house.

We took the dogs camping, hiking, backpacking, running, walking. We took them to dog parks occasionally. We tried teaching them to walk next to us on a leash, and then gave up. In Colorado, our friends, D and Doug, would watch Katy and Charlie any time we went back to Minnesota to visit family.

In April 2013, Emma was born. I’ve already mentioned that Katy got booted out of our bed and off of my lap during pregnancy. Then life with a newborn diminished our attention to the dogs even more. But they never retaliated. Instead, Katy would sit in front of Emma’s room like a guard dog. Around our friends’ kids, and as Emma grew up and we added other kids, both dogs, but Katy especially, demonstrated loads of patience and gentleness. I never worried about her reacting poorly to attention from kids.

In March 2014, we sold our house in Wheat Ridge (suburb of Denver) and moved back to Minnesota. We lived with Travis’ parents for three months while we looked for a house. During that time, Katy and Charlie got so much exercise that they both lost a good 5 pounds (and that’s quite a bit when you’re only about 40 to begin with!) even though we were feeding them twice as much. Katy’s personality changed during that period too, as a result of being so active.

In June 2014, we moved into our current house, and about a year later, finally put in a in-ground fence. Katy was never one to run around on her own, but she liked exploring. At one point, she had a pustule on her belly that we were covering with old t-shirts, pulled into a knot on her back with ponytail holders. She’d go off exploring on the woods at my in-laws’ house and come back shirt-free. She and Charlie wrestled and play-fought, and she was always the leader on walks (whereas Charlie’s personality has always been more bungling, Eeyore-like, and “Squirrel!” ADD).

Katy was a fast learner, and a smart dog. She caught flies in her mouth, and was great at catching food too. She laid down on her belly, her rear legs tucked underneath her, and her front legs crossed like a lady. Both her ears stuck straight up, until she got a hematoma in her left ear one winter. The vet had to cut it open to drain it, and that ear never stood up again. Katy was prone to tooth decay, so in Colorado, we had her teeth cleaned every year (which required her to be put under). Our vet up here never thought Katy’s teeth looked bad enough to merit that.

Over the past couple of years, Katy’s age began to show. She slowed down. She didn’t like going on walks much anymore. Her back legs got weak and she often fell down on our wood kitchen floor, unable to get back up. She grew deaf, and could only hear you if you clapped really loudly. She became ravenous, and often bit your hand if she even thought you had food in your hand. She pooped and peed in the house if you didn’t let her out often enough, or at the right time before/after/during feeding. When she wanted to come back in, instead of pawing at the door like she used to (I’m guessing she just couldn’t, with how weak her back legs were), she’d grow impatient and circle the house, checking every door for someone to let her back in. Travis would see her run past his office window several times in a row.

We joked (and lamented) often in the past year that she was more active in her sleep than she was when she was awake. She loved sleeping on her side and putting her feet up against a wall, bookshelf, laundry basket. Then she’d dream she was running, and her toenails would tap against the hard surface. It was often quite loud, and would wake me up several times a night. It drove me crazy! I’d get up and pivot her away from the wall, because if you tried to move her, she’d make her trademark yelp that sounded like a sick walrus.

There were many moments of frustration and flippant, inconsiderate comments on our part during the last few years. It was hard to deal with a needy dog while taking care of three kids and being pregnant (and now, having four kids, one being a newborn). But I’m so grateful that we were faithful to Katy, knowing that she was too old to go live somewhere else. Travis and I wondered many times over the past 3-4 weeks what we should do about Katy. It just wasn’t clear. So I prayed for God to make it clear.

Late last week, we came to the conclusion that it was just time. Katy wasn’t going to get any better, and we were sad that she kept falling. So this past Monday, we called and made an appointment to have her put down. We wanted to wait until the girls were here (they’re still up at my in-laws’ cabin) but then Katy stopped eating. She even refused to eat turkey lunchmeat, which is not the Katy we knew! So we moved the appointment up a day, to this afternoon. But she passed on her own. Corbin, Neola and I were at the park. Travis had come upstairs for coffee, and heard Katy yelp in the garage (we had moved her out there on the dog bed, because she had soiled the carpet where she was laying inside). He could tell the end was near, and so he stayed there and petted her until she was gone. She was laid to rest near our garage.

I’m thankful God made it clear, that we had time to be more intentional with Katy, that she died at home instead of a vet office. And I’m thankful that God blessed us with Katy. She was a great dog, and I hope that I see her again in heaven someday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: