Published in Woonsocket Call on September 4, 2016
In March 2009, we formally adopted an impaired chocolate Labrador with a host of medical problems. With the signing of legal papers, four-year-old Abby met Murray, her elder adoptive canine sibling, who was also a chocolate Labrador.
Four months earlier Abby had arrived at the Pawtucket Animal Shelter, weak, malnourished and showing signs of abuse. She appeared to suffer from blindness and a host of other medical ailments. Animal Control Officer John Holmes had sought veterinary care for her, but the medical testing came back inconclusive. It could be a brain tumor or lead poisoning affecting her vision, he would tell us, which for many potential families seeking adoption may be unappealing.
Officially Adopting Abby
According to Holmes, Abby’s Labrador Retriever breed made her a very popular candidate for adoption, but when people learned about her medical issues they had second thoughts. Abby might just be a good younger companion for our 11-year-old chocolate lab, Murray. We had good luck with this breed and were looking to adopt another chocolate lab.
Six months prior to Abby’s “official adoption” we made an unusual request from the Pawtucket Animal Shelter asking if a “foster care” arrangement could be made to see how well Abby got along with Murray. Having nothing to lose and everything to gain – they agreed.
When Abby came home our first priority was to try to make her gain some weight, which she eventually did. She adjusted well to Murray and her new surroundings, but during the first week she would have a seizure. We watched helplessly as this four year old canine shook all over, with her tongue lolling, her mouth foaming and her eyes rolling back into their head. It was not pleasant to watch, and we initially thought she was dying. Ultimately, with anti-seizure medication her seizures were under control and Abby thrived by gaining weight and becoming increasingly playful to the aging Murray.
We were extremely happy with the new addition to the family, even though we were now taking care of two medically needy pets instead of just one. Abby was given her daily pill in peanut butter to control seizures and Murray, a diabetic, was given insulin shots twice a day.
Health issues would force us to put Murray down in 2010. It would take months for Abby to adjust to his passing. She just knew her companion was gone. But, over the years she adjusted to being the only pet in our household.
Getting Into the Household Routine
A new regiment took over, and every morning, like clock-work, Abby would carefully walk up the stairs, ending up at my bedroom door. The routine shaking of her head, her dog tags would jingle, sending the message to me that it was time to start the day. She was telling me to get up, serve her breakfast and let her outside. As the years began to pass and she grew older, her medical issues became more prominent and it was difficult for her to walk those stairs.
Abby’s internal clock would also place her at the front door at 9:00 p.m. for her nightly walk, too. She had now become a visible fixture in my neighborhood of Oakhill. Neighbors would see us taking our daily nightly walk, but when I began walking by myself they hesitated before asking me “is Abby ok.” No, I say, she is not.
The Moment of Truth
It happened quickly the day before we were to take her on vacation with us. We came home to find her with legs spread out on the floor with no ability to stand up. Her once healthy appetite suddenly diminished. After almost a week of veterinary care my wife, Patty and I came to a decision to end the suffering of Abby, our 11-year-old chocolate Labrador. Looking to ease her pain and reduced quality of life, we made the hard and painful decision to put her down. After all, Abby was an integral part of our family.
Pet owners will share the trauma of putting their furry friend to sleep. Many may even tell you they relive their decision for decades, while some vow never to get another pet for fear of reliving the moment.
So as I pen this weekly commentary in a very quiet house. Abby’s water and food bowls are put away. Her cremated ashes and collar will be placed next to Murray’s wooden box containing his ashes, which sits on the mantle of our fireplace in the living room.
We think about her daily, may be more than once. But, perhaps there will be a time when we will bring another shelter animal into our house, hopefully a female chocolate Labrador. Maybe even two.
To cope with the loss of your pet go to https://rainbowsbridge.com/Poem.htm.