The Pack, Part 2

“God’s Finger Touched him, and he slept.”

                (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

At 4 am, I heard Scout barking. Now at a frail sixteen years of age his bark was soft and raspy, but I always had an ear open should he need me. He must need to go out, I thought. But wait, he’s gone. Just yesterday he crossed over the rainbow bridge. I lay there in bed in the dark in the awful silence with my eyes welling up. I felt that gut-wrenching feeling, my anguish still as raw as an exposed nerve. How could my mind play such a cruel trick?  I took a deep breath, dried my tears, and closed my eyes. Never mind my sorrow–I wanted to hear his bark, just one more time, so I laid very still, hoping my mind would play that trick again.

The pack had been making adjustments with Epic being gone and now Scout.Scout1

He was a rescue from a puppy mill, the best family pet. We dabbled a little bit in various dog sports. Scout’s favorite part of agility was leaving. In obedience class he preferred to hide underneath of a table, and rather than herding sheep he gave it his all to befriend them. His job, as he saw it, was to remind me that it was time for the kids to come home from school. I would let him out the front door, he would wander to the end of our property, position himself at the top of our private road so when the bus pulled up he would meet the kids and escort them home.

He felt the need to be helpful with all children, not just my own.

He and I were down at the lake one day enjoying a hot and sunny day when he heard two very young girls screaming. He ran immediately to them. They were standing in the water up to their waist pointing towards a sandal that had floated out to the deep water. Scout spotted the sandal, swam out, and retrieved it. Once on land he dropped it out of his mouth, giving it back to the girls. They were so amused; they giggled and laughed, picked up the sandal and threw it back in the water for Scout to fetch again.

He never liked to be doted on; however, much to his chagrin, brushing and bathing was not always an option. He was low maintenance, no fuss, no muss, always content.

Scout was the mayor of the pack. He would be the first of my dogs to greet any rescue that I would bring home. He was an extremely good judge of character and helped me a great deal with guiding and training the foster dogs. I had just brought home a German shepherd mix from the shelter at the same time I let Scout go. Foxy, relinquished as a stray, would cower in the corner of her kennel, snarling everyone away. He would have adored her gentle nature but would have taught her that growling at visitors coming into my home was not appropriate.

Even while grieving Scout’s absence I had to work with Foxy, I owed her that. Regardless, she’s coming around. Her adoring wiggly body and happy face has certainly been a pleasant distraction. Scout

I recently filled the dogs’ box with new toys. Tulley was convinced they were all for him. He would gather as many in he could into a nice neat pile and growl away any of the dogs that he thought might attempt to steal his treasures. Mirk got so frustrated with the constant tension he started to growl back at Tulley. The conflict escalated to a full-blown out-and-out knock-down, drag- out. Fortunately my husband and I were able to end the clash as quickly as it started with nothing more than bruised egos.

This episode would never have happened on Scout’s watch. He was the pack guardian; his motto, “Say No To Violence.” As soon as there was any discussion between the dogs that might possibility escalate, he would jump in between the two antagonists stand tall, growl, and order them to go lie down. Since I no longer had Scout to do the policing, I had to slip on my “trainer” hat and manage the problem.

I’m not sure I even realized what an essential role Scout played in both of our lives until I nearly lost him to a bout of pancreatitis nearly a year earlier, then a few months later to old-dog vestibular syndrome. The thought of Scout not being a part of my day to day was unfathomable. He took care of my family and I for so many years, life without him was not an option. With the pancreatitis he was so weak. I cooked chicken and rice, begged him to eat and willed him to live. He pulled through, I suspect in attempt to please me. The vestibular syndrome robbed him of his balance. His eyes bobbled back and forth like a pendulum in a clock. Again he could not walk, eat or drink on his own. Once again I was determined to save him. I carried him everywhere; hand fed him, and administered subcutaneous fluids. Friends and family gently planted the seed that it might be time to let him go. No, I wouldn’t hear of it! As before, I willed him back and so as not to disappoint me he came around.

He had become increasingly weak and tired. He had little strength left in his back end and most of the muscle on his body had wasted away. When round three came, this time I knew I couldn’t make better. The veterinarian prescribed a low dose of steroids, the beginning of the end, I knew, but it was nearly Christmas. Surely we could have one more holiday together, and so we did. January came and went and Scout was getting increasingly weaker. By February, I was carrying him up and down the steps, in and out, and he was only eating whatever I would cook special for him. Much to his displeasure I gave him more baths in a month than I think he had in nearly his entire lifetime.Scout2

I came home from work one day to find him off his bed, lying on the concrete floor in his own waste. He barely picked his head up to look at me as I scooped his feeble body off of the floor and gently placed him into the tub. As I washed and rinsed his old frail body, I knew he was tired. He had enough. Ironically I had just had a conversation with a friend the day before. She had to let her dog go and wondered if she had done the right thing.

“I’m not sure that letting Wallace go was the right thing to do,” Ellen sobbed. “He had no quality of life, his dignity was gone. Is that how you would have wanted to live?” I reassured Ellen that she had made the best decision she could for her beloved Wallace.

As I washed Scout off in the tub my own words spoken just the day before played through my mind over and over. “I would not want to live this way.”

The next morning I took Scout to our veterinarian, assured him I would be okay, and that it was all right to rest easy. I held him as he slipped away into his deep and peaceful sleep, all the while whispering in his ear what a good boy he was, how much I loved him, and that I would be fine. Once I knew he was gone I lay with him on the floor for a long time and sobbed completely inconsolable.

Scout4Scout (pictured front) with the pack.

24 responses to “The Pack, Part 2

  1. Terri, thank you for sharing your beautiful story. So very touching and heartfelt. Brought me to tears. Lots of tears. I am so very sorry for your loss. Sadness and grief can feel so unbearable at times. I pray that time has helped you and your family heal. When I read about Tulley’s neat pile of toys, I most definitely smiled. Please give him a hug for me. Take good care of yourself. Love and prayers always. Karen

  2. Wow – you have me crying – your words are putting me right in the moment with you!! I have known Scout for the last 4 years and he was such a lovable boy. Chase was one he helped and I will be grateful to him forever.
    Also, I can relate to you hearing his bark as when my Toby passed away, the very next day I thought or I should say knew that I heard the jingle of his collar behind me as I dried my hair that morning. I turned and said Toby are you sneaking up on me again and as I turned to look for him nothing was there. That same day I was home alone and downstairs doing laundry, when I heard footsteps up stairs – thinking my husband came home I yelled up to him but there was no answer so thinking nothing of it I went back to loading the drier. Then I heard the same thing again but this time it sounded like the click of a dogs paws on the hardwood floor above me and I thought I was going crazy that I am imagining that Toby was still there.
    They touch our hearts so much with their never-ending love for us that it is so hard to let them go. Maybe it was Toby’s way of saying that he’s ok or saying goodbye since we didn’t get that chance – I think of him often and miss him terribly but he will always hold that special place in my heart as I know Scout does in your heart also.

  3. Deb, they sure do have an incredible impact in our lives. I wouldn’t trade it for all the world.

  4. Terri, thank you for memorializing our experience with the loss of Wallace. I feel so fortunate to have gone through this experience with you, and while I would have preferred that neither of us had to make these wrenching decisions, our conversations were what finally propelled me forward out of extreme grief. I still wake up in the middle of the night to check on him, and hear his head clumsily hit the floor after he would labor to lay down. I couldn’t stand the sound of our house without him those first couple of days–not that it was quiet, but it was just echoing his absence. It is so hard to know when it is time to let go–I think because we don’t want to see what is obvious to others, and also because our dogs don’t want to us to suffer their decline. Recounting your experience for your readers is such a service to those going through the same heartbreak. I hope everyone is healing.

    • It’s many thanks to you Ellen, and all of the love and support of our BCI and extended family that helps with the healing process. Our love of animals is what binds us together. And what a special bond it is.

  5. Terri, this story has me sobbing……this could’ve been my story with my dog, Charcot (pronounced Sharco)…the dog we lost before getting Gilligan. Exactly how everything happened with Scout is exactly how it happened with my Charcot. I, too, had a hard time letting her go….trying everything I could to nurse her back to health until one day she made me realize that I had to let her cross that bridge.

    My mind played a trick on me after her death as well and I lay in bed trying to recreate that moment….just to spend one more moment with her, even if only to hear her.

    Your story is MY story. Tears are flowing heavily now. After 17 years, just like you, Charcot & I were one person. Our lives were interwoven and at the end after she had crossed the Rainbow Bridge I couldn’t sleep for days because I couldn’t hear her breathing which at 17 years of age was very heavy & coarse. For days I couldn’t sleep because it was just too quiet however with time I learned to sleep with not hearing her constant breath. As I have said many times the mere thought of her can bring me to tears.

    Sorry if the above is all jumbled but after reading your words & trying to write mine I can barely write. Thank you for putting what we all feel into words. It makes us realize that it is okay to feel this way about an animal. May God continue to Bless you as you grieve for Scout. You are an amazing woman Terri and some day you will have a very large pack to greet at that bridge. Hugs & prayers for continued strength.

  6. Oh Terri, my heart goes out to you and your family. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful love story. God bless all of you…human and dog.

  7. So poignant, so beautifully said. My condolences for the loss of a companion that meant so much to you. Pierced my heart with this.

  8. With tears streaming down my face…….onto my keyboard and papers in front of me – I know what a role each and every one of your pups has played in the teaching our two loves, Tara and Pip. I thank them for that. We can never be prepared for the loss of a family member – none the less TWO in one month. Hugs my friend.

  9. Kari Pietralczyk

    Terri, what a beautiful yet sad story. You brought me to tears. Scout sounds like he was an amazing companion for you and your family. Thank you for sharing this even though your emotions are still raw from losing Epic then the unthinkable happened and you lost Scout. I truly believe that we will meet our beloved animals again. Nova sends a big hug to you. Take care of yourself.

  10. Karen E Bellfield

    Oh, Terri, I am sitting here crying for the loss of your beloved friends. And that’s what they are, aren’t they? Our loving friends. I don’t have a Border Collie as you may remember. I have a little chubby Min Pin that I love with all my heart. The thought of going thru what you have is just unbearable.
    I can feel your pain. Scout was am awesome dog. What a treasure for you to have him. I loved reading about him. Thank you for sharing your story. I know there IS a Heaven for us all including our loving pets/friends. We will be with them again one day free of pain and sorrow. May Our Lord bless you and your family with His loving peace. Love and Hugs to all. Karen E Bellfield

  11. Karen, thank you so very much for your kind words and blessings. I too believe we will all meet again, someday, in Heaven.

  12. Thank you for sharing this story, Terri. I think it’s so sweet that he found his own “job” to be helpful to the family. It just goes to show that they each have their own personality. Scout was obviously a very special member of the pack and I am sure he is missed by all. Love, hugs, and happy thoughts to you!

  13. How I feel your pain! It brought me right back to the day you consoled me when we said goodbye to Bailey.

  14. The emotional process is always about the same…is euthanasia being done for us, or, our beloved dog? You are in our thoughts. -Cody (and Tom)

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