Tribute to a Family Pet

by Michelle Hutchinson

Young girl holding dog. Young man to girl's left.

Dax with her human brother and sister, five years ago

Long after my kids were too old to care when I came home from work and dash to the door to greet me, my dog still did…that is, until she got too deaf to hear me, too blind to see me, and too arthritic to run. For the past couple of years, the vet had had her on anti-inflammatory and pain medications and encouraged us to use nutraceuticals too, but during that time, her sideways falls and vertical plops had gradually become more frequent.

Last week, when moving her front legs while dragging her back ones was no longer a successful means of locomotion and when she needed us to support her rump to avoid making a mess of herself while doing her business, we knew it was time to put her to sleep.

This was not a sudden decision. We knew this time was coming and had discussed it often. We had hoped that her recent and quick decline was something that would pass after a day or two, but it persisted. Her downcast eyes and constant trembling—even in her sleep—told us she was in too much pain.

Toy poodle peeking out from laundry bags.

Dax's first day home. She liked napping in the laundry bags.

When we brought her home almost sixteen years ago, naming her was the first order of business. After much debate, my husband, kids, and I finally agreed on Dax, after Jadzia Dax, the science officer on the old TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Our Dax might not have had as high an IQ as the fictional alien, but she was still pretty smart. She was housebroken in a matter of days and in short order, learned to obey the commands for sit, stay, come, and shake. Dax even knew what we meant when we said, “Shake right,” and “Shake left.” By no means, though, was she perfect; she was downright mean to other dogs, a personality trait I’ve observed in many small breeds. Dax, a toy poodle, displayed her displeasure by barking incessantly at any dog that walked past our house.

Each bark was accompanied by a jump in which all four paws left the ground, perhaps an attempt to make herself appear bigger than she was. However, even as she chased the passers-by along our property line, she never went beyond. She knew exactly how far she could go—and no, we never had one of those electric invisible fences—Dax was just that bright. Or maybe she knew home was too good of a place to leave.

Toy poodle dressed in doll clothes
Dax was a good sport when it came to dress-up.

Despite Dax’s hostility towards dogs, she was always docile with our kids. My daughter used to dress Dax up in doll clothes, and my son couldn’t get enough of playing fetch with his canine companion. Sometimes, though, when Dax would fetch the toy of the day, she would run right past my son, carry the toy to her pillow, and cover it with her paws as if to say, “Mine, mine, all mine. You’ll never take this from me.”

When we brought Dax to the vet on her last day with us, Dr. Fairchild said we were giving her gift. I imagine he says that almost anytime he euthanizes a pet, but his words still comforted me. If there was one bit of doubt left that we were doing the right thing, he erased it.

Dax, we will always remember you for your unconditional love and energetic spirit. And as my daughter wrote on her Facebook page after we called her at college to break the news, “Watch out doggy heaven, because the party don’t start ’til my pup walks in.”

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  1. Dina says:

    How sweet. We can relate to your love for your dog. I keep reminding our Sophie that she was almost on a train to live with an older couple in Oregon…she was so rough around the edges…and she continues to bark at every dog and person that comes near the house….but with us she is loving and when she sees we trust someone, she warms right up to them and turns over submissively asking them to rub her belly. I often wonder how it will be when that day comes, but I’m so happy to have had the time we’ve had together. It is so wonderful having a pet. I’m sorry I didn’t have one sooner. I now know that I will always have a dog. You just can’t have that kind of happiness without one. I will be thinking about you the next few weeks and hope that when the time comes, you will consider getting a new dog to enjoy the next 16 years with…..why not?

  2. Marilyn Mohrhaus says:

    Oh, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I will miss taking care of her, but I knew that she was getting to the point where you were going to have to make that terrible decision. May you always cherish her memory.

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