My New Dog is Gone

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When I started this blog a few months ago, my intent was simply to build an audience to support the book I’m writing, so an agent could cyber-stalk me and see that people were interested in what I had to say. Or so I hoped. But as I began to post, a beautiful yet unanticipated outcome emerged…the opportunity to not only give you prose to read, but words to feel. I hadn’t expected that.

When someone tells me my work made them laugh, or cry, or change their mind, or think differently about life than they had before, or feel like they’re not alone, it’s a gift that defies value. It’s incomparable, and for me, a much more important result than my original purpose. Whatever feelings I’m able to generate are doubled, squared, and amplified when they come back. Hearing your thoughts and opinions satisfies my soul in a way I’ve never felt before, and I appreciate it. Every day. So thank you for giving me something so rare. It’s incredible to be surprised by life when you’re halfway through the journey.

People create blogs about everything on the spectrum of anything: cooking, sports, disease, motherhood, death, demons, and gods. I write about my life, and if I had to pick a word to tightly wrap the layers of emotion I’m trying to bind together and deliver, it would be a simple one. Real. Whether I aim to be funny one day or serious the next (remember, I’m a Gemini, and was gifted the right to change my mind by Zeus himself, or the rhythm method, or two x chromosomes, or all of the above), I want to be real, because life is as much about pain as pleasure, and to ignore one in pursuit of the other doesn’t work.

When my husband’s grandfather, Jim, died in February, the only world I knew the day before shifted. Not off its axis and out of control, but a critical element in the chain of my life disappeared. Just like that. Most of us swim with a fairly predictable current every day. We ebb and flow with the tide, catch our breath in shallow water, and brace ourselves when the temperature changes, and colors darken and deepen. But when you’re floating along and suddenly slammed against a rock hidden by a breaking surf? There’s no anticipation, and you’re forced into a position of picking up whatever’s left in the aftermath.

The only thing left alive in the wake of Jim’s death was his dog Brandy. We took her in, largely because we felt an obligation to do what we considered to be the right thing out of respect for someone we loved, partially because I’m an eternal optimist, or so I thought at the time, and lastly, because nobody else volunteered.

I’m a fixer by nature. I believe that if I try hard enough, feel strongly enough, and force my will and resolve, I can change the world, or more specifically, you. I often substitute the reality in front of my face for the vision I see in my head, because I draw pretty pictures up there and the sun often shines.

When we adopted Brandy, I conveniently ignored the fact that we had avoided her for the past couple of years because she bit my youngest, Essa, when she was five. In the face. Luckily the bite was sent as a warning on Brandy’s part. She broke the skin but didn’t go deep.

I also ignored Brandy’s temperament. She was testy, unpredictable, and didn’t like anyone or anything, except Jim. He came over one day last summer wearing the remnant scars of bloody claw marks all the way up his inner arm. Brandy had attacked another dog on a walk, and in trying to pull her off, he’d been caught in the crossfire.

Regardless, in the heat of emotion and the cocoon of denial, I was determined to make Brandy one of us. For Jim. For Scot. For me. Out of a painful longing for yesterday and a life that no longer included someone I desperately wanted back.

And I failed.

Brandy never assimilated into our family. She attacked another dog, tried to bite our next door neighbor, actually bit Scot, growled at my children and their friends, and frightened my mother-in-law so much that she was afraid to walk around her in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, in a multitude of occurrences, and over a succession of days and weeks. In one visit where we had to muzzle Brandy to get her out of my truck and through the door, the vet recommended we give her a huge wake, especially the kids, and a house that was filled with grief became one augmented by an undertow of fear.

With Jim gone, we slowly realized that there was no way to replicate the life she had, and we were forced to make a decision about her future. She couldn’t stay with us anymore. The risk of her hurting a child became too loud to ignore. We researched shelters, but found that her quality of life would be no life at all. Due to her temperament, she would be caged, walked once during the day, and left largely alone.

After days of discussion, debate, denial, and tears, we came to the conclusion that the only humane choice was to put Brandy down. Scot was the person who took her to the vet. I couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength. How he did is something I will forever question. Jim was the father my husband never had, and the personal sacrifices Scot had to make in doing so say more about his character than my words ever could.

When they got to the office, Brandy was serene. There was no stress. There was no muzzle. There was no fight. Scot laid out her blanket, Brandy jumped on, and he carried her in. As he describes it, she was at peace, having curled up into herself and fallen asleep as he stroked her back and whispered that everything was going to be alright.

Often, in life, everything isn’t alright. It’s ugly, raw, and real. So I have a new definition of optimism. Optimism isn’t waking up to a bright, sunny day where the birds chirp through an open window. Optimism is facing darkness everywhere you turn, choosing the best of equally shitty paths, and believing that the road you took was somehow the right one.

78 responses »

  1. Stacie, I love your blog. It usually makes me laugh. Today it made me sad, but as always it made me think. Thank you for sharing. My day is better because of it.

    • Thanks for the support. It’s easy to put yourself out there when you feel like you’re doing the right thing, but so much harder when you feel like you’ve done something wrong. I appreciate your thought.

  2. I now understand why you’re sad today. So sorry to hear about your difficult choice, but if it makes you feel any better, I think you made the right one. You couldn’t risk her injuring someone. Huge numbers of children are bitten by dogs every year, and by being proactive, although I’m sure it was very difficult, you may have prevented a horrible injury. I’m sure there are many dog owners who wished they would’ve had this insight before their dog injured someone.

    Hang in there. And lovely, heartfelt post, by the way.

    • Even though my husband is the dog lover between us, I was the holdout. I just couldn’t handle the guilt and doubt about right versus wrong. He explained to me that the only way to satisfy my conscience was for Brandy to injure a child. Then I would have proof positive that the decision was the right one, but at what cost? Our vet was extraordinary throughout this entire experience. He didn’t offer an opinion, only advice. He told Scot in the end, however, that he had made the right choice. That helped, as does your sweet note of support.

  3. Stacie,
    This must have been a really hard decision to make. I am so very sorry. We’re die-hard animal lovers at home, and we now think you’re a heartless evil woman… Not for a second. You tried, thought hard about it, and made a decision that felt right for you and your family, and ultimately, for the dog. Big hugs my friend. And to make you feel better, how would you like to become Le Clown’s personal assistant for the week to come, because I’m about to announce it…
    Le Clown

    • Thank you, Clown. The biggest hesitancy I had in writing about this was the fear of how I would be judged. But real is real and what’s right to me may be wrong to others and that’s life in all it’s messy spectravision. I would love to be your assistant, but not your intern. I’m not a fan of inserting extraordinarily large object into my mouth. =/

      • Stacie,
        I’m having coffee right now in a public place. I let a huge laugh out and got some real evil looks my way… You’re funny. So be it, I’ll write the post this afternoon. I’m on the road today, I’ve been traveling between Montreal and Ottawa to meet lawyers… Once I get a minute, Ill let everyone know how eager you are…
        Your friend,
        Le Clown

  4. I’m so sorry for Scot’s loss, your loss and for your heartbreak. This made me tear up. Thanks for sharing! Hugs. Kimberly

  5. wowzeers! Elegant, moving, REAL…and that was before you began Brandy’s story. I have carried this burden myself, of late. And, I can say, that holding that kind of power (over life and death) was only a task I would do for someone I love more than I love myself. My mom and then my son both had terminally ill pets that were suffering terribly, but they were unable to choose the shitty path.

    Only for them would I have been able to face this challenge. Circle of life, humane decision and all that rationalization BS goes out the window when those knowing eyes look into your soul. Nothing easy about living or dying. All we can do is “believe that the road you took was somehow the right one.”

    thank you -Nik

  6. I’m so sorry, Stacie. We had to put our sweet dog Belle down a few years ago. It was one of the most heinous experiences of my life, but to echo what you so said so beautifully, it absolutely was the right thing to do. There’s a cheesy poem out there about losing a pet, called “The Rainbow Bridge,” which you maybe should or shouldn’t read. I have tears in my eyes right now, thinking about it, and about how hard Brandy probably tackled Jim when they were reunited. Hugs and thanks for sharing your heart!

    • Even after my short experience with Brandy, I think everyone should have a pet. Her personality was exceptional. 99.9% of the people I know who have dogs wouldn’t trade it for anything. Give it a try!

  7. This post had me in floods of tears – and I mean literally. Not only is it beautifully written but it reminded me so powerfully of the day I had to put my beloved old Dougal down, who’d been my constant companion for 15 years. I had to sleep on the couch with the TV on all night for weeks afterwards because I couldn’t bear the silence. It’s the most terrible, terrible experience. Good luck with your blog, Stacie – you’re a such a a great writer – you keep it real.

  8. As I told you when you took Brandy in, you’re a far better person than I am. You never stop surprising me with your endless optimism, kindness and encouragement. Truly, you’re a tremendous blogging bestie – and an even more wonderful human being. I know how hard it was to write this post; to relive this difficulty. A dear friend of mine just lost her mother – unexpectedly – this weekend. Like your father-in-law, her mother was an animal lover and left two dogs behind when she passed. One of them was aged, in poor health, blind and literally worshiped my friend’s mom. The dog was lost without her and my friend had to make an extremely difficult decision to have her put down – in the middle of arranging a funeral for her mother. But it was the right decision – even though it didn’t feel good. Even though she cried on the phone while telling me about it earlier today. But the right and necessary things in life aren’t always easy. Thank goodness there are wonderful and loving people out there like you and my friend who are brave enough to do the “right” thing. Now, her mother and the dog she loved so much will be buried together.

    You did your best, kiddo. You gave Brandy a shot that many people wouldn’t have, but sometimes, animals would rather just go to the Rainbow Bridge than be without their owners. And when that’s the case, putting them to sleep is called mercy. Lovely post. So lovely, I have to totally re-do my mascara. Brave post, bestie!

    • I’m so tired at the moment I can barely keep my eyes open, but I COULDN’T go to sleep without saying thank you. You’re not only the best blogging bestie I could ask for, you’re simply the best. You know I’ve dreaded writing that post, but only the happy part of the story had been told. And I felt like a fraud. Now I feel real, which is as close to honest as it gets. Love ya….

      • It’s the real part that you don’t volunteer so willingly at first that makes it relatable. The “real” part is what will make me think, and put myself in your shoes, and feel. (sorry to hijack the bestie love, I’m just a fan of you both.)

      • Simon,
        You can hijack Cristy’s comments any time. She’s very equal opportunity that way. The real part is the scary part, so thank you for your awesome words and support.
        Stacie

  9. Stacie: When I am reincarnated, I will come back to you as a golden retriever. I will jump in your lap, lick your face, let you pet me (my favorite part) and return to you the kindness you have shown others.

    • Awwww. I love Goldens. But not the hair. Please reincarnate as a short-haired Golden Retriever and come soon. If you’ve read any of my posts about my daughter, Essa’s love of dogs, you’ll understand why… =)

  10. I miss you Stacie Chadwick. Reading your blog make me feel I’m still part of your life – albeit an observer. I can hear your voice speaking the words as I read them. I always knew you were brilliant and you always had something poignant to say. But, I had no idea you were so good putting it “down on paper”. I wish we still lived close enough to see you in person. But, for now this will have to do. Say hi to Scot & the kids. We miss you all!

    • Who is this? You’re beautiful comment is posting as “anonymous” and I’m stretching the outer limits of my brain trying to figure it out. It’s almost like I have a secret admirer, which at my stage in life, is really exciting. =/

      • Sorry, it’s Kellie Johnson :o) I guess I didn’t login. Now you can reread it (hearing my voice tell you how much we miss you guys!) Keep up the great work. I’m truly impressed & entertained.

      • We miss you guys! I’d figured out it was someone from Chicago but that’s it. We’re planning on coming your way this summer, so if you’re in town, we HAVE to get together. Love you lots and thanks for the sweet comment Kellie!

  11. Oh, man. This hits close to home, and not just because our cousin-daughters have the same name.

    We’ve been struggling with one of our three dogs, the dreaded pit bull who is such a sweetheart to us but has twice tried, and nearly succeeded, in killing our neighbor’s dog. The first time their dog came on our property, so that was a draw in terms of liability. (There actually was a second time, with their dog outside our fence, and our dog losing her mind inside; I tried to pull Sally away, got a finger wound in her collar and wound up having reconstructive surgery on the torn ligaments.) In the latest occurence, Sally got out of a gate that I think I inadvertently left open, went up the street to the neighbor’s house and tore the other dog to shreds in their garage. Her repairs cost me a bundle, and we were distraught at the thought of putting Sally down.

    Instead, Sally is now on prozac. Seriously. We still have to keep an eye on her when she’s outside (in the fence). She still gets very anxious around stranger dogs, and if we’re expecting excitement, such as a family gathering, we’ll add valium to her diet. It’s helped, but we’re still anxious, too.

    I’m really glad we could avoid euthanasia, especially since my girls were threatening to disown me over the prospect. I don’t envy you for being able to go through it.

    Keep up the great work, cuz.

    • Thanks Barry. It sounds like Sally and Brandy might be related. I’ll always question the decision we made. We told Taylor, because he’s mature enough to process it, but we didn’t tell the girls. Thanks, as always, for your comments and support. Who knew that a blog would bring us closer? I find the parallels in our lives incredibly interesting, and always love hearing what you have to say. Please tell Michelle and the girls hello. =)

  12. Stac,
    I’ve been negligent of late in responding to your blogs…..but I haven’t missed reading one. Many of my friends, whom you know, comment regularly on your writing abilities. It’s more than writing!! Your deep and thoughtful way of expressing real life situations touches many. You know that dad had a similar experience when we had to put down our beloved English bulldog Otis! Unlike Scot, dad just could not be there so he delivered Otis to the vet,said his goodbyes and left crying. We still delight anytime we see a bulldog and someday we’ll get another when we can’t travel and just need a companion like no other!! We really didn’t know Brandy but we knew and loved Gumps. When we come out next time, it will be the first time that we won’t see Gumps and won’t have those wonderful talks. You know about our feelings about life after…..so we just picture Gumps and Brandy talking their daily walk in heaven! It’s possible!!!
    Love,
    Mom (and Dad)

  13. Stacie, We had to make the incredibly difficult decision to let our Sophie go live with a friend of mine because she was not happy living in our new home, which no longer provided her the freedom of a fenced in backyard, She made it very clear to us that she was not happy here and missed her freedom tremendously. Our only saving grace is that we now have “shared custody” 🙂 I share just an ounce of your feeling of loss and guilt over such a difficult decision. I believe we both did what we felt was right, but incredibly difficult.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Angelena. One of the nice things about writing is the ability to connect, and understand that I’m not alone in the fears I’m trying to face and the decisions I question. On some days life can be hard, but thoughts like yours make it a little easier.

    • Mari,
      I try to keep my posts light (but not as light as Le Clown, his are seriously filled with helium), but sometimes find the need to dive a little deeper. Thanks for the visit and comment. I’ll check you out as soon as I fulfill my assistant duties for Le Clown. Work is such a bitch.
      Stacie

  14. Stacie,
    This was so beautifully written. You really succeeded at making me feel your words. I love your new definition of optimism. Let’s put away the naive rose colored glasses and instead decide that whatever comes our way, we are confident that we can maneuver the crest and make it to the other side in one piece. Just Brilliant, Thanks.

    • Thank YOU Simon. I generally like to keep my posts light, but sometimes feel the need to go a little deeper. I appreciate your support so much. BTW, you got freshly pressed a couple of weeks ago, right?

      • I think this was a great post. Yeah, it caught me off guard because it happened last week for a post I wrote back in March. FP is super fun.

      • The only bad thing is when your stats go back to normal. It’s like your fifteen minutes of fame are up before you’ve even realized what happened. CONGRATULATIONS though. You deserve the attention. =)

  15. I know exactly how terribly you feel. When my wife and i were married, we got the perfect “dog” dog, a 70-lb mutt that loved me unconditionally. But when we started having kids, he couldn’t accept that the mewling little things were above him in family pack order. Slowly, over time, he got more and more aggressive, and no amount of training helped. Eventually, after one particularly frightening display, he were forced to do the same thing.

    He’d been the perfect dog for me, but he was the wrong dog for our family. Sometimes the right decisions are the hardest. Hang in there!

    • Thanks for the personal note. One unanticipated outcome of sharing something I’m not proud of is responses like yours. It helps to know others have been in, and struggled with, similar situations. I appreciate your thoughtful comment!

  16. Sometimes the right thing doesn’t feel like the right thing at the time.

    My friend had two dogs, and after one died, the other one as never the same. It would mope around, barely ate, and would cry in the middle of the night. She tried giving him special food and extra tummy rubs, but she realized she couldn’t fix the fact that his lifelong companion was gone. She took the dog in to be put down, and said he seemed ready and willing.

    Life is funny and excruciatingly sad at the same time.

  17. It’s tragic that often the right choice in our lives is not the ideal choice, the choice we wish to make. I applaud your strength and conviction.

  18. Stacie, dogs often imprint on one owner and are broken-hearted when that owner dies. They struggle to readjust to loss just like we do, and without a “rational” higher brain they often cannot adjust enough. Putting them to sleep is a kindness rather than years of them feeling lost and irritable. You tried: it wasn’t going to happen. Well done, you have done the right thing by your husband’s grandfather and his dog.

  19. Very beautiful post, Stacie. I’m really sorry for the Brandy situation–stress, angst, hopes, dashed hopes, thing you have felt privately. Given the whole picture, I don’t think you had any other choice with Brandy. You’re lucky that Scot was very supportive as well. I don’t think I could have made the trip to the vet. Dog loss is so damn difficult, and right after your father-in-law. I don’t know what else to say, I start thinking of my beloved boy who died a few years ago and, well, it just goes downhill. ((hugs))

    • I don’t want you to be sad, Laura. It gets back to the optimism thing. I have to believe that we made the right decision, and that Brandy is in a better place. Thanks for your lovely note.

  20. I love how ‘real’ you are. This was lovely. Life is generally a tragedy at one point or another, but if we spin it with enough optimism there is beauty to be found even in it’s darkest places. You definitely know how to search it out and then voice it to the world with such authenticity. That, my dear, is a gift:)

  21. As I read this post, I could see the sappy movie Hollywood might have made (inspired by the same true story). Thank you for giving us the real version, the one that reflects how life sometimes goes. I’m sorry for your losses, Stacie, but grateful for what you’ve gained, and for your ability to share it.

    • Charles, yours was the first blog I ever followed. I always love reading your work. My only complaint is that you don’t post often enough. Hope you’re well, and thanks, as always, for your support. Stacie

  22. This ensaddens me greatly–I’m so sorry to hear about Brandy and that you had to go through such a painful and difficult ordeal. You tried your best. And I’m glad that at the end Brandy had people who were kind and sensitive enough to do something merciful for her.

    Hugs, Mme Weebles

  23. I’m so sorry to hear how your dog adventure turned out; it sounds like a stressful time for everyone but you were so thoughtful and purposeful about it and you did was was right for your family.

    • Thanks for the support. I know there are a lot of people out there who could never do what we chose to, and I was reluctant to write about it. But I told one side of the story when we brought Brandy into our home, and felt wrong about not telling the other. I truly appreciate your thoughtful words. =\

  24. Stacie, I’m sorry about your loss and I really like the way you write. Yes, life is full of shit always but I love what you said about optimism. After all, that is the only thing that gets you through right?

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