We finally had to give in and have our little dog Spike put to sleep today.
It had been coming for months -- he was sixteen years old, and couldn't see well, or hear; about six months ago, he started losing the ability to control his back legs (he was part dachshund and part Schnauzer, the toy versions of each). For the past few months, he hadn't been able to keep down most of what he ate. And he was totally incontinent, which I guess went with the loss of function in his back legs.
But he was still our Spike. He still barked for biscuits and followed Dr. Skull around, sleeping practically on his feet whenever he sat down. Even though he couldn't really see, when he looked at us with his one eye (he lost the other in a fight five or six years ago) we could tell he knew it was us.
These last weeks, he didn't seem to know where he was, or to recognize us, much of the time. He was down to ten pounds (from his fighting weight of 16 pounds) and wasn't following Dr. Skull around anymore. And he was in pain.
So we did it. And our vet was great. And he went easily.
Even so, it was hard.
"He was a good dog," Dr. Skull told me. "He had a good life."
This is true. From the day we got him, picking him out at the shelter in Pocatello, Idaho, where they had him stored among the cats because he was so little, he was always a tough little guy. He ran away a lot when he was younger, making me crazy with anxiety; once when we lived in Charlotte he was gone nearly three days, and I thought we had lost him for sure then, but he finally came staggering home, found Dr. Skull on the front porch waiting for him, and collapsed at his feet. He slept most of the next two days. "I don't know where he went," I said, "but it must have been quite a dog party."
And he loved the kid, especially when she was a baby. Every time she would fuss even a little, he would come and find me and stand looking accusingly at me. "Can't you hear that?" he seemed to be saying. "Don't you hear her crying? The baby needs you!"
We got Big Dog when he was four or five, because a dog book I was reading said that sometimes thug dogs would calm down if you got them a friend. Dogs need packs, it explained. So we brought home Biggie, a blue-heeler/fox hound mix, and the book was right. Spike calmed down considerably, although then we had Big Dog on our hands, a wild if very friendly lout of a dog. He and Spike have been boon companions since, though they did have a bad habit of fighting over scraps, especially Beanie Weenies.
And Big Dog seems to be missing him. He's wandering around the house a lot, sniffing at Spike's blanket in the corner, and keeps asking to go outside, as if maybe he thinks Spike is lost out there. I pet him and give him extra biscuits and tell him (as I keep telling the kid) that things will look better tomorrow.
Sleep well, Spike. We'll miss you.