She was my beloved Moo Moo. She was my living and breathing spirit animal. My velcro dog. We were inseparable. Over the 9.5 years we had together after I rescued her, we traveled more than 40,000 miles in my cars. She was a road warrior, lulled to sleep by the hum of the tires on the road and comforted by the feeling of being safe in there with me. My little buddie, furbaby, BFF and special “disaster dog” all rolled into one. Her soulful eyes looked as though they’d seen the kind of things that you’d only see if you’d lived a thousand lives.
The Life and Adventures of Moo: A Story of Resilience and Unbreakable Bond
Moo’s life didn’t start out all that great and it was a rough ending, but the decade in between was really special – for both of us. For that, I am grateful. And to all those who dog-sat her, nursed her, hosted her and cared for her, I am indebted.
As an abused pupster and hunting dog, she had a lot of trust issues: some were never overcome and she was defensive in front of several people. But not with me. Once she learned that I’d love her forever, we were solid. I swear that the little bit of forehead space between her eyes was dented from all the kisses I gave her. And her velvet ears wiped away many tears.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~Dr. Seuss
Moo’s Runaway Adventures: The Challenges and Joys of Raising a Free Spirit
In so many ways, we were meant to be together; both of us were escaping from a few horrific years and looking for a new start. On the topic of “escape,” Moo was a runner. In fact, she ran away a whopping NINE times. She’d jump out of my arms and out of the car the second I’d take her seatbelt off. It was terrifying – she did that three times. On the other six occasions, someone else wasn’t hanging onto her leash or harness tightly enough – and I even double-leashed! Once she ran into the forests in northern Canada. On another occasion, a friend and I chased her through the forests near Princeton, NJ, at 3am on Thanksgiving weekend; we paid no attention to all the beady little eyes that followed us or the thorny branches that shredded us as we ran after Moo for more than two hours. She was returned to me from the back of a police cruiser in not one but three different states: NY, NJ and VA troopers all fell in love with my darling little coonhound. I never understood why she ran away so often, were the daily organic meals of chicken and vegetables not cooked to her standard? Or was she getting hugged too often?
She was as quirky as she was delicate. Watching her eat was a masterclass in femininity. And then she’d belch! As a short-haired dog, it was imperative that she had a wardrobe of fancy coats – with matching collars, of course – so I indulged her. Moo was a sun worshipper who spent endless hours, unmoving, basking in the sun. A couple of times, when we first moved in, the neighbor knocked on my door to alert me that my dog may have died because she hadn’t moved for an extended period of time – she was never out of my sight in the backyard so I knew she was fine – but he didn’t know that I loved watching her be happy in the warmth of the sun. She stopped sunbathing as she aged, even though I put a dog bed on the grass for her to be more comfortable.
A year or so ago, her decline began. She got into a brawl with a bad ass bunny that did a number on her face. But at least Moo escaped with her tail, unlike the bunny. Soon thereafter, she developed an eye mass that bled incessantly, a subconjunctival hemorrhage. Her beautiful body was attacked by tumors (lipomas) which also ruptured from time to time. Moo had survived Lyme Disease – twice – torn her ACL and suffered through extensive dental surgeries including four root canals, seven tooth extractions, and cutting her gums because her gnarled little teeth had been worn down from chewing through the cage that held her for the first few years of her life. And yes, I pretty much single-handedly funded the new wing at the vet clinic. Thankfully, we left that behind and got a wonderful fenced-in big yard and new home for her when she was 6 or 7.
Her resilience was enviable. Somehow, she was even stronger than me. Each time that something knocked her down, she rallied back. Six months ago, ravaged by arthritis, I began carrying her up and down the stairs to go outside – at all hours – 2am, 3am, 4am, and so on. There wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for her.
In the end, she was nearly deaf and her sight was poor: those beautiful soulful eyes now clouded by glaucoma but her spirit was unbreakable. And she was defiant until the very end. Through all of this, every vet that she saw said that she was vital and to hang onto her despite her age (which was approaching an estimated 14 years – or possibly even north of that). So I did. Even earlier in the day, she was prancing and running into my arms plus doing her routine 5:30pm “feed me” howl.
And then things changed dramatically around 10pm last night. After her grand mal seizure last night, it was time. Clearly she was telling me that it was okay to do the deed. And I held her until the very end. Today, she is finally free – free from all the pain. It took being free from my love that was holding her back and preventing her from letting go.
Lessons Learned from a Furry Companion: Reflections on Life with Moo
Where’s the lesson in all this? The lesson is “max the dash.” All we have is the time between the day we’re born and the day that we die. How we spend that time is up to us. We can choose to live in the moment and celebrate the little things, or we can squander those moments and then make a desperate plea at the end – when it’s too late because the time is up. The vet euthanizing her was puzzled why I didn’t want to spend extra time with her in “the room” (where horrors transpire daily). I explained that I had maxed out a decade of moments with her – a few more to soothe my breaking heart when she was suffering didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
I choose to max my dash. I always have. Moo and I shared the same philosophy. She never missed an opportunity to follow me into the bathroom (why do dogs do that?!) or the chance to be the first one to greet me at the door when I returned home. Sushi, salmon, peanut butter, watermelon and cucumbers were her favorite things. Steak? Meh, not so much but she savored her daily diet of roasted chicken, green beans and wild rice.
What’s next? The message that we hear often from everyone else but we forget to make it top-of-mind because we’re so busy “doing.” The message is, enjoy each moment. Don’t think about the ending, think about what’s happening NOW. Stay mindful. Be present. And embrace gratitude for what you do have — it can slip away in an instant.
Born ?? – Feb 14, 2021
The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.