There is an old saying that goes like this: “All good things must come to an end.” While I don’t entirely agree with this statement (after all, God is good and He is infinite), it is often very true. For the past several months I had known that my little Dachshund was not long for this world. He had been diagnosed with an immune system problem; however, because of his age and the expense involved, I chose not to follow through with a lot of medical testing and treatment.
During the summer I could tell that Seigfried was slowing down. However, he was still pretty perky even though he had several tumors developing, including a particularly large one in his abdomen. None of them seemed to be causing him any pain or I would have done more about it. To be truthful, I was hoping that he would succumb to old age and I wouldn’t have to make the difficult decision to have him put down.
My late husband Bob and I obtained Seigfried (aka “Siggy”) in the spring of 2006. We got him from a rescue (I located him on Petfinder.com – he is one of the several reasons Bob banned me from that website). His age was estimated to be somewhere between 8 and 18 months old. He was about the same age as Waldo, Bob’s Beagle puppy. The two of them were great companions.
The longer we had dogs in the house, the worse my allergies got. Waldo enjoyed being outside, and on decent days he spent most of his time there, coming in around supper time. Siggy didn’t cause near the allergic reaction for me. When Bob graduated to Heaven, my son and his family took Waldo to live with them. It was a great relief for me health-wise.
I felt sorry for Seigfried. He had lost his two best friends (Bob and Waldo) and had to put up with an owner who was allergic to him. He loved to lie on Bob’s lap and snooze; however, that was not an option with me. Although he wanted to be in close proximity, I couldn’t let him stay near me very long. Then I learned that when I left the house, Siggy would get in my chair. He didn’t get on the other furniture, just my seat. I had to keep it occupied with something so he couldn’t sleep there.
Along with his other issues, Siggy developed a skin condition that caused him to smell horrible. I bathed him once a week, but that didn’t keep the smell from coming back after a day or two. We tried a treatment plan for him – it was unsuccessful. It made me sad, yet he made my allergies even worse. I kept praying that he would pass away because I knew his loyalty lay with me and he wouldn’t be happy anywhere else. When he stayed with others because I had to be absent from home he was always looking for me to be back; he would get very excited and start jumping up and licking my hands. He was usually pretty good about not sliming me with his tongue, as I had taught him not to do so. I can’t stand to be slobbered on.
My heart was sad for Seigfried; I felt guilty for what seemed like rejection on my part. He had so much love to give, and I pushed him away. I talked to him, saw to his needs, and gave him treats; I just had to keep him off my lap and out of my chair. I put an air cleaner near his bed in the living room to remove some of the allergens.
During happier days, Siggy and I learned to dance. It started out as a joking response to my husband’s total lack of desire for that pastime. I really don’t dance either, but if I asked Bob, “Wanna dance?” he would always reply, “You know I don’t dance.” A very few times I would manage to get him to join me in a few steps around the room; we would end up stumbling all over each other, mostly because we were laughing so hard at our inept attempt to do what looked so easy when watching others.
My dog and I never fell down when we danced, but it was funny just the same. The music we chose was always the same – a lively Southern Gospel tune. It started out with me clapping and slapping the tops of my thighs. Seigfried would come running and stand up on his hind legs, holding his front paws out for me to grab. We would take several steps backward and forward, and then I lowered him back to the ground, always mindful that it is easy for a Dachshund to hurt their back. Sometimes there were several repeats of this procedure during the length of the song. When Bob was present for our musical exercise, he would shake his head and chuckle when I told him if my dog could dance with me, so could my husband.
When the weather turned cold, which happened early last fall, I couldn’t put Siggy out in his pen, or even just let him outside to sun himself on the sidewalk. His skin condition grew worse, as did my allergies. In between baths, I rubbed him down with baby wipes. Nothing seemed to help for very long.
Besides his other health issues, Seigfried was losing his hearing. He usually barked when he heard someone pulling in the driveway (and I have a lengthy one), but stopped reacting until he heard a knock at the door. His eating habits slowed as well. Known as “piggy dog” because he would wolf down anything in sight, I knew he was getting bad when he didn’t get out of bed when I dumped food into his dish. I would call from the kitchen, “Seigfried, the cat’s eating your food!” He would finally trot to his bowl, force the cat aside, and crunch down his kibble.
Siggy loved Clementine oranges. He could smell the zest when I peeled them; I could hear his feet skittering across the floor as he ran to get his share of my treat. If I didn’t offer him a section, he would bark until he received one. Although he still ate them, it got to where I had to call him to come in the kitchen for one of his favorite snacks.
Besides Clementines, Seigfried enjoyed lettuce. I don’t purchase head lettuce; my favorite type is artisan lettuces that come four to a container. Why he ate them, I have no idea. However, he loved the fleshy part of the leaves. He would stand at my feet when I prepared a salad, eyes expectant and tail wagging rapidly. His patience was usually rewarded; I found it humorous to see a dog munching lettuce.
December came; I realized more and more just how much Siggy was slowing down. It was getting harder for him to get around, and I wondered if I should take him and get him put down. He was still pretty perky, though, and I couldn’t bring myself to do so, even though his Saturday bath revealed more tumors that I had never noticed before.
Then came the night I woke up and heard my dog crying out in pain. He was having trouble getting comfortable. He finally managed to go back to sleep. The next evening I was working in the kitchen, and I heard the pitter patter of little feet coming in to get lettuce from my salad. He ate some of what I gave him, but he didn’t devour all of it, as was his usual habit. My heart was heavy, knowing that time with my little dog was rapidly drawing to a close.
I picked up the container that held Siggy’s dog bone treats; he began to bark for one. For some reason, I had him sit, lie down, and then go back to a sitting position. He quickly responded to my commands, receiving a bone as his reward. There was no hesitation as he rapidly crunched up his bone.
Just as Seigfried was licking up the last crumb off the kitchen floor, a tap-your-toes Southern Gospel song started playing on the radio. I looked at him, and he looked back at me. We hadn’t danced for a long time; both of us were getting older with all the aches and pains that go with aging. It was hard for him to stand on his hind legs and just as difficult for me to bend over for any length of time. His eyes said, “Let’s dance!” so we did. Just a few steps, but we made the effort. I am so glad we did.
That night, Siggy’s crying woke me up again. He was in pain and trying to find a comfortable position. Finally successful, he dozed off again. I knew it was time to let him go. I couldn’t stand the thought of him suffering needlessly. The next morning when he went out to potty, he was struggling with the steps. He ate his breakfast, but he was moving around very slowly.
I had an early morning appointment to get a medical test done at the hospital. Driving home afterward, I prayed for strength to make the needed telephone call to the veterinarian’s office. Once back to my house I picked up the handset and prayed some more. My fingers seemed to take over, pushing the correct buttons. Thankfully, the procedure could be accomplished that day. I don’t think I could have dealt with another night listening to Siggy’s crying.
I had planned to meet a friend for lunch that day. She was off work, and we were going to enjoy a time of fellowship. I called her to cancel; where I needed to take Seigfried was the opposite direction from where we were going to meet. I was ever so grateful when she volunteered to come to my house and take me to the vet’s office.
It was time to say goodbye to my faithful companion of the past 12 years. He came out of his carrier just long enough for me to tell him farewell. As I held his face in my hands, I noticed even more tumors than I had felt on the previous Saturday. I thanked him for being such a good little dog and apologized that he had to put up with an owner who was allergic to him. He seemed to listen, then he went back in his carrier and lay down. The staff at the vet’s office took over from there. They asked if I wanted to be there during the procedure, but I declined.
My heart was hurting as we drove away from the vet clinic; however, I knew I had made the right choice. Seigfried had said goodbye in his own way; he seemed to know his pain would soon be over. The fact that he didn’t cling to me when I was getting ready to leave said it all.
My friend and I did have lunch together that day. I was thankful that I was not alone during such a difficult time; the knowledge that it was five days before Christmas only added to my stress. Things didn’t turn out as we had planned, but I knew that God was taking care of me through the sorrow, just as He has since I lost my husband.
Looking back over our last night together, I have to think that the Lord orchestrated the song on the radio so Seigfried and I could have a last dance, and I could have a special memory. I probably would not have thought of dancing with him otherwise, as we hadn’t attempted doing so for quite some time.
It’s fun to think that maybe Bob has learned to dance in Heaven – dance for joy in the presence of his Savior. And maybe, just maybe, a little Dachshund has now joined him.