Back in December of 2001, a week before my birthday and Christmas, I had to make the most dreaded decision that most pet owners have to face at some point in their beloved pet’s life – sending my 16 ½ year old English Springer Spaniel to the Rainbow Bridge.
I had rescued my Patchess from a backyard breeder when she was just about six years old. I had gone to the home to view some English Springer Spaniel puppies and was greeted by Patchess with a tennis ball in her mouth. I had questioned if she was the mother of the puppies but was told she was another breeder and that she had mammary gland cancer and was going to be put down. Patchess appeared to be the picture of health and was beautiful despite the fact she bore evidence of having had many puppies based on her huge, saggy, baggy breasts. I offered to adopt Patchess then and there. I was advised by the owner that she would like to get one more litter out of Patchess, as she was in heat at that time, then I could have her.
The month in that year many years ago was September. That following February, Patchess’ owner had called me and asked me to come and get Patchess. Patchess had her final litter of pups and the pups were weaned. I went right after work and picked up Patchess. She jumped in my truck and never looked back, excited to start a new life.
Of course, the first thing was having Patchess fixed but that had to wait as she had tumors on both sides of her mammary glands. There was the first surgery on one side and then a second surgery on the other side six months later. Fortunately, none of the tumors were malignant. At last, she was tumor free, spayed, and had no more saggy, baggy, breasts. Patchess also suffered from chronic ear infections which required constant treatment.
She was an incredible dog and we shared many blissful years together before she was diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction (doggie Alzheimers) at the age of 16. She was placed on meds that did help for six months but it was clear the end was near. Her back end was failing and despite all my efforts to save her, I could not defeat time.
She was the first dog I had owned that did not pass away from old age in her sleep, therefore, she was the first dog I had to actually decide to send on her journey home.
To say it was the hardest thing I ever had to do would be an understatement. My heart was destroyed. Despite the fact that Patchess could not walk anymore and was pretty senile at times did not stop her from struggling to get up from the cold, stainless steel table as Dr. Busch gave her the final injection. I will never forget the look on her face.
She looked at me straight in the eyes as if I was betraying her. I don’t believe she was upset because I was ending her pain rather I swear it was in the manner in which it was being done. After that experience, I vowed if I even had to make that type of decision again and had a choice, I would have the vet come to the house and send my pet on its final journey from the comfort of its own home. A vow which I have kept all these years later. That year, my birthday was not happy nor was Christmas very merry. It was hard to celebrate the birth of Christ when I was too engulfed in grieving the death of Patchess.
Shortly after Patchess death, one of my neighbors had left a note under the windshield wiper of my vehicle stating that a friend of a friend had a litter of English Springer puppies that he was looking for good homes for – for free. The person’s contact information was listed on the note. I really didn’t feel like calling but did solely for the purpose of finding out why this person was giving away purebred English Springer Spaniel puppies for free. The man I spoke to was extremely nice. He advised that the breeding was a total accident and that he did not feel right capitalizing on his mistake.
There were four puppies in all – two male and two female. He was planning on keeping two and adopting out the other two. He e-mailed me pictures of the pups. One looked identical to my beloved Patchess. That was it for me. The owner checked my references and I arranged to go to Plymouth, MA where the puppies where and meet this little Patchess look-a-like. The pups were six weeks old at the time. I ended up agreeing to adopt both the little Patchess look-a-like, then named Penny and a male, Zeus. The owner was adamant that the pups could not go home until they were ten weeks old. I was in total agreement. It was such a difference to meet such a caring and responsible breeder. At the time, I was working at Seely Brown Village in Pomfret, CT as the administrator. My maintenance man who lived on the premises had just lost his cocker spaniel so Zeus was to be a present for him as he adored my Springers, Trudy and Patchess who had always went to work with me – Patchess up until the time she started getting senile. Penny – renamed Trixie and Zeus, renamed Cody (by my niece) came home that Valentine’s Day.
Cody was adored by my maintenance man and his wife but their commitments became too numerous and Cody spent more time boarding with me than with his actual owners.
As a result, after about a year, Cody became a permanent member of our family.
Trixie and Cody just celebrated their tenth birthday on December 2, 2012, this year.
Trixie and Cody grew up spending many days together at Seely Brown Village. Trixie was famous for jumping the gate in front of my office door and running into the dining room at lunch time. She would go directly to her friend Tom’s table and sit on the side of his chair waiting for Tom to share his lunch with her. Some of the residents were not amused but luckily the ones that were amused outnumbered the ones that weren’t. I could write a book on Trixie and Cody’s antics and escapades. However, the point of the story is that sometimes the best presents we receive are not on Christmas. Our lives are blessed with presents all year round. We just have to open our hearts and learn to recognize the presents we are blessed with and to appreciate and treasure them. And, the best presents are not always materialistic.
Till next time, appreciate and respect each other and all the wonderful people and animals that bless our lives.