(Chuck Muth) – The little white fur-ball escaped getting smashed like a pancake by an 18-wheeler some nine years ago. But his luck ran out yesterday.
Please pardon this exercise in personal privilege, but I want to take this opportunity to give my “best friend” a proper send-off this day after Good Friday.
Back in 2014, my wife and I were driving home, eastbound in the right-hand lane on Charleston Blvd. just past Lamb – a very busy intersection – when out of the blue a little white miniature Alaska Eskimo darted out right in front of us.
I slammed on the brakes and blew the horn. He stopped in his tracks and immediately retreated back to the sidewalk. And good thing for him, because in the center lane to our left was an 18-wheeler that never would have been able to stop on time.
The dog would have been toast.
Our family regularly stops and tries to rescue dogs running loose on the street. Have done it dozens of times. Sometimes we’re able to find the owner and return him or her. Sometimes we have to turn the dog over to the Animal Foundation.
This time was different.
I pulled off into a parking lot and Gia was able to coax the dog into our van. No collar.
We immediately drove to PetSmart to see if he was “chipped.” He wasn’t.
We brought him home with us. Kids were thrilled – especially since we’d recently had to put down one of our other dogs.
They started checking “Lost Dog” ads in the paper and online while I started writing up a “Found Dog” ad to run. However…
It was clear the poor thing had been beaten. He’d back away anytime you reached out and tried to pet him or put on his leash. So the kids implored me to not try to return him and adopt the little guy ourselves instead.
Now, maybe it was the wrong thing to do.
But considering the abuse the little guy had already suffered – and the fact that the owner hadn’t been responsible enough to put a collar on him or have him chipped – the kids had a point. So I didn’t run the ad, we stopped looking for the owner, and made “Snowball” a new part of our family.
Took him to our vet and made sure he got all his shots. And though he was probably around three years old, he still hadn’t been neutered. So we did that, too. (After which I nicknamed him “NoBalls.”)
In the early days, he embraced the kids and Gia pretty quickly. But it took him a bit longer to warm up to me. His previous owner who mistreated him was probably a man. But a pocket full of cut-up hot dogs eventually won him over.
At that point – even though all our other dogs were “our” dogs – Snowball became “mine.”
He followed me everywhere. Laid at my feet all day while I was writing Muth’s Truths. Joyfully hopped in the car anytime I had to run errands. Walked with me around the neighborhood every morning. Laid in my lap at night while watching TV. And snuggled up next to my feet at bedtime.
We were all but inseparable. They don’t call ‘em “man’s best friend” for nothing.
And what a temperament. Whenever we brought home another street rescue, Snowball made him/her feel right at home. Ditto whenever my daughter, Jenna, had dogs over that she was pet-sitting.
Never an ounce of jealousy or aggression. Same with the pair of cats we have. It was a pure live-and-let-live situation.
Well, a couple weeks ago Snowball stopped eating. Took him to the vet. Some $800 worth of tests later and we discovered a kidney infection. They hooked him up with a catheter and pumped fluids and medicine into his system for three days.
Back to good as new. Appetite returned. Full of his usual energy.
So much so that my daughter, Kristen, her fiancé, and I took Snowball and their dog camping last weekend. They sniffed and peed on every tree, bush and tumbleweed they could find and had a blast playing in the river.
Life was good.
But on Thursday Snowball stopped eating again and clearly lost all energy. Back to the vet yesterday morning. Turns out his immune system started attacking his red blood cells due to the medication. It’s rare, but not unheard of. His eyes and gums were turning yellow.
The only option was a complete blood transfusion and other expensive treatments that would be quite uncomfortable and only offered, at best, a 50-50 shot at success. It was a horrible prospect, confirmed by Kristen, who works as a veterinary technician and had seen it before.
I just couldn’t do it to him. So we made the painful decision to let Snowball go.
This is the seventh time we’ve had to make such a life-or-death decision. None of our dogs have extended the courtesy of passing away peacefully on their own in their sleep.
It sucks. Big time.
But the joy each of those dogs brought into our lives has always been worth it. In spades. So we’ve developed a tradition of sorts. Immediately after saying our final good-byes, Gia and I head to the nearest bar and drink a shot of whiskey in celebration of their life.
Snowball was special. Unlike our other dogs, he was a street rescue. Those can be a real challenge because you never know their history. But this one worked out. Snowball got nine extra years with a loving family…and he certainly returned the favor.
I’m not exactly an emotional person. But this one really hurts. I miss the hell out of my Snowball. Getting choked up even writing this. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Our time together made it all worthwhile.
Farewell, my friend. I’ll see you on the other side. Rest in peace.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” – Agnes Sligh Turnbull
- “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers
- “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain
- “Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.” – John Grogan
- “Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love. They depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog. It merely expands the heart.” – Author Unknown
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.