By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
We had to put down our English Bulldog this week. She was 9 ½ years old. The vet that came to our house to put her down described the dog (in fact all dogs at life’s end) as stoic. What she meant is that dogs don’t complain. They seem to suffer in silence making the best of whatever life has dealt them. If only people were the same.
Our dog, we think, suffered a couple of mini-strokes over the past ten days. Towards the end she was unable to walk. In fact, on her last day, she could not get up to get out of her crate (the place where she sleeps). But she did not complain. She just lay there staring up at us. Her eyes still full of life. Her stubby tail wagging (as best it did). Other than the fact she could not get out of her crate, it appeared to us as if she thought the day was just another “normal” day. Since she could not get up, we put a small dish of water just under her face. She drank just as she did every other day.
Our dog led an interesting life. My wife used to breed bulldogs. That is a story in its own right.
You see bulldogs have too much “belly” to mate on their own. (The joke that Jayne Mansfield last saw her feet at age 12 is entirely appropriate). So since the male can’t “breed” on his own, females have to be artificially inseminated. (You don’t want to know how this is accomplished).
Then to make the matters worse, the female can’t give birth on their own. Problems with delivery require the puppies to be delivered via Cesarian Section.
So as a business, breeding bulldogs is a losing proposition. That plus the fact that litters are often only one or two puppies makes it tough to make any money.
Bulldogs have breathing problems, skin problems, and on and on it goes. Suffice it to say that the local vet is our second best friend. It is simply a labor of love.
Our dog was purchased from a breeder in Maine, the original source of our breeding stock. When we moved from Massachusetts to Florida, we gave one of our breeding females back to the Maine breeder.
As we were living in Boca Raton at the time, I flew from Florida to Maine where the breeder met me at the Portland airport. I flew back to Florida with puppy in hand. On the two flights back, the flight attendants all fussed over the puppy. According to FAA rules, in order to fly with a live animal inside the cabin, it has to be in a FAA certified pet carrier.
No sooner did we take off than the attendants insisted I take the puppy out of the container. The dog had the run of the airplane. I think every passenger pet the dog at least once. The only thing the dog didn’t do was go up to the cockpit (probably some “terrorist” rule – they were concerned the dog would hijack the plane and take it to Cuba).
Then a few years later we moved from Boca to Seattle. Our dog was too large to travel in the cabin with us. And we did not want to put the dog in cargo – plus a three hour layover in Dallas. So we found a service that drives pets around the United States.
Interesting business. Three drivers – drive non-stop picking up and dropping off pets everywhere. Our dog was the “first on and last off” as Boca to Seattle are the opposite ends of the country. But the dog arrived healthy (but smelly!) about 48 hours after being loaded onto the truck in Boca.
The greatest thing about a dog is that it asks no questions about its owner. It accepts you however you are.
Our bulldog was not a “cuddler.” Beyond the fact she weighed about 70 pounds, she seemed to prefer to lie on her blanket at our feet.
Like all our dogs, she was very protective of my wife (her “master”). I could not show any affection to my wife or the dog would instantly insert herself between us. But you could not help rubbing her ears or rubbing her belly (two of her favorite things).
I have to say one of the more difficult things we are ever called on to do is to supervise putting your own pet down.
Her health, other than inability to walk, appeared to be fine. She was not in pain, was not suffering. It was very difficult to make the decision to put her down. It was all I could do to simply pet her as she went to sleep forever.
My wife and I are still in mourning. Even now, three days later, we walk into the house and clearly something is missing. Eerily quiet. We will miss her.