Sunday, March 30, 2008


I consider myself a pretty stoic person. Well, actually I know better because I live on the inside of my walls. But I'm generally pretty good about keeping up that appearance. Even my wife buys it, and she knows me better than anyone else.

So I have to admit that it surprises me how much I have been hurt by the death of my Miniature Schnauzer, Teddy. I've only had the little guy since August of 2007, so that shouldn't be enough time to get all that attached, right?

Teddy spent most of his life, nearly twelve years, with some old military friends of ours (the wife is Navy, the husband is Army). They have a couple of acres near Jacksonville, Florida where Teddy was mostly an outdoor dog. But as Teddy started to get older and they were both deployed elsewhere, we agreed to have him come live with us so he could retire and live out his days indoors, in ease and luxury.

Anyway, Teddy quickly worked his way deeply into our affections when he arrived here. He was extremely good-natured, lovable, and smart, with a gentle disposition. He has been my constant companion, spending all day with me here in my home office, and giving me a great excuse to get up from the computer screen during the work day and go for walks outside.

Several weeks ago Teddy was diagnosed with Cushing's Disease, and though we tried treatment, it turned out that he also had several other conditions that made him deteriorate rapidly. He quickly went from what seemed like a fairly normal elderly dog to an ill-looking skin-and-bones mess that could barely stand up or walk around. So we made the hard decision to go ahead and euthanize him, to minimize his suffering and mercifully hasten what would otherwise be a senselessly painful final few weeks of life.

I took Teddy to the vet for the last time yesterday, and was present when he was given the lethal dose. The vet was very gentle with the procedure, and Teddy passed quickly and painlessly. I brought the body home and buried him under the biggest tree in our yard. I had already dug the hole a few weeks earlier, and I'm glad I did because otherwise an already unpleasant experience would have been much worse.

Being there as the last breath left my little canine friend, carrying his body out into the yard and putting him in a hole, burying him on a cool and rainy day -- you would think that these parts would be difficult. But looking back, it was like I was on autopilot, doing what needed to be done without stopping to consider the pain of it.

The hardest part was coming back into the house, hoping to hear the jingling tags on his collar, expecting to be greeted at the door by excitement beyond compare like so many times before -- but being greeted by silence. Deep, penetrating silence that cut my heart like a knife. That silence has been my constant companion since yesterday morning when all this happened, and I can't seem to shake the horrible sense of loss and pain I feel inside.

If you're like me, at this point you're probably reading this and thinking "Get over it man, it's just a dog." And I understand that. I've had pets all my life, and this is just part of what goes along with getting attached to them. I'm sure the pain will subside over the next few days and weeks. But I guess I'm just struck by how strongly this whole thing has unexpectedly affected me and my stone cold unfeeling self. I feel like I should be using this compassion on people, and important problems in the world -- not on the loss of one little dog. But knowing that and actually experiencing it are two different things.

This experience is certainly making me feel more empathy towards other people, and reminding me to comfort them in their pains and struggles, even over little things that I may not understand. I'm so often driven by logic and reason, and as terrible as it sounds, sometimes wonder if I even still have a heart at all. Now I know I have a heart, because it's broken.


  1. I understand. And I'm so sorry for your loss, buddy.

  2. Very sorry for your loss. :(

  3. It's never "just a dog". So sorry for your loss!

  4. Thanks everyone. It really is genuinely appreciated.

    I seem to spend a lot of time in this odd sort of "community" that blogging creates, so while I am hesitant to show too much of myself to the great anonymous unknown of the internet, I hope I'm learning to accept and be part of the good and helpful parts of it as well.