Beloved Animals Who Have Shared My Life: Final Sequel

Part 3 – 1967 to 1972 – The End of the Road

The previous episode of Rocky’s story ended with the news of our family move
back to Edmonton in the summer of 1967. This picks up there.

Fall, 1967. Rocky is getting older: he’s 13 now. For some breeds that would be very old, but although Rocky is now an old dog, he isn’t ancient! The “kids” in Rocky’s adopted family are growing up, too. Ralph is 20, Lorna 17, Anne 15, and Mary 12. As a result, our family dynamics are changing. The children are moving into more adult activities. They still love Rocky, but now he spends more time with Sheldon and me. We’re the ones who take him to the vet for check-ups and advice. His stiffness is increasing, so Sheldon adds some cushioning to Rocky’s basket-bed. I find a piece of carpet for him to lie on in the kitchen, or in the archway to the living room. He loves to lie there and watch us.  

July, 1971. Our whole family is going on a five-week trip to Europe and all of us are concerned about Rocky. He dislikes the kennels where we leave him when we go on short trips. He does like the vet, but there are no boarding facilities there. The vet suggests that we leave him in our home, and have someone come in and care for him. After much discussion we decide to do this. We make arrangements with George, a neighbourhood lad, to feed Rocky, and to take him for a walk twice a day. As well, we tell all our neighbours about these arrangements.

Late August, 1971. We arrived home yesterday. The trip was great, but it’s good to be back. Rocky is better today, but yesterday he acted very strangely – almost like the first day we saw him. He is thin, and very quiet and withdrawn. Our neighbours say he has been a very sad dog during our absence. We’re upset. Our effort to do the best thing has certainly turned out badly. How I wish we could have talked to him so he would have known that we were coming back. Cross-species bonding is an enriching experience, but even good things can have troubles. Just think of the difficulty of understanding one another, when spoken language is the ability of only one of the partners.

September, 1971. A few weeks have gone by, and our dear Rocky is just about back to his normal “happy dog” behaviour. He comes to greet us as we come in, eats heartily, and wants to be petted. Sheldon and I take him to see our understanding veterinarian. He said our absence was hard on our little pal, but his recovery is good. The bad news is that Rocky’s general health is not great, and considering his age we should not expect him to live much longer.

“Keep in touch,” Dr. Germain says, “I’ll do all I can for him.”

Summer, 1972. The last year has been quite good for Rocky, but gradually he has become weaker. Yesterday he slept most of the time. He wants to be near me and leaves his carpet, moving out onto the kitchen tile to lie down. I move the carpet out and he crawls onto it. He seems distressed, so I sit down on the floor beside him, and pet and talk to him. His breathing is strange. I start to get up to phone the vet, but stop when he whimpers. Almost crying, I pick him up.

Just then Lorna arrives at our front door, dropping by to see me. She takes one look at the situation and says, “We have to get him to Dr. Germain, Mom. I’ll help you up.”

In the car, Rocky becomes less agitated. He snuggles into me, and his breathing slows. His nose is against my throat. Then his breathing stops.

“Lorna,” I whisper, “He died.”

We walk into the vet’s office. I am still carrying Rocky. Dr. Germain meets us and gently takes Rocky from me.

“I’ll take him, Mrs. Gibson. He was my friend too.”


Filed under This & That

8 Responses to Beloved Animals Who Have Shared My Life: Final Sequel

  1. Eveline Goodall

    What a great dog! What a great family! What a blessing that he died so gently and with you. Thanks Marjorie.

    • Marjorie

      Eveline – When a beloved dog ends up living so many years with a family, their death leaves such a hole – but many loving memories.

  2. Jim Taylor

    Oh, damn, Marjorie, you’ve done it again, you’ve moved me to tears! Your story is so close to what has happened to us, with each dog we’ve ever had — that agonizing goodbye. I know they’ve had a good life; I know they knew that they were loved; I know that they went out the best possible way they could go, wrapped in someone’s loving arms…. But it is still so painful to say goodbye.
    Jim Taylor

    • Marjorie

      You said it, Jim! It is painful to say goodbye – and then we do it all over again. Within a month of Rocky’s death our youngest child came home carrying a wee, scrappy dog. The neighbors had given him to her, as their daughter had developed allergic reactions. I wasn’t ready for another dog – but there he was, and of course we loved him too.

  3. Alison Uhrbach

    You know I was always one to cry! Well, the story about Rocky did it to me too. It’s the hard part about pets, you always worry that they don’t understand what’s happening to them. And yet, maybe they understand and accept death better than most humans? We still miss each and every pet we’ve ever had (and we’ve been through quite a few, including the birds/ gerbil/guinea pig varieties). I must say that I feel that the Veterinary offices have ALWAYS been far more compassionate than any medical office/hospital that I have known – why is THAT? Isn’t it wonderful that the memories of Rocky live on? a great legacy!

    • Marjorie

      Alison – I was counting on hearing from you about this blog! After all, you were another of Rocky’s friends! As for your question – perhaps part of the answer could be that the practice of a veterinarian attracts people who have an inborn empathy for the vulnerable. You can shoot holes in that idea, but it is the best I can do.

  4. Eleanor Jackson

    I’m like Jim Taylor, you’ve brought me to tears again. I guess it’s partly the memory of my first dog and other dogs along the journey. I hope to see you soon. Love, Eleanor

    • Marjorie

      Eleanor – Good memories are priceless, aren’t they – even if they hurt a bit! I’m glad you share dog memories with me. See you soon.