Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Taking a Chance: A Requiem For Our Sweet Boy

This will be my longest and probably my last post about my dog, Chance, that I will ever write. Chance went to heaven today, just after 11 am. Chance had developed a sarcoma on his spleen that was inoperable and was causing him respiratory distress for about 2 weeks. This came on rather quickly, as the video later in this post will show.

Chance was a pain in the ass. But, he was my pain in the ass and I loved him ever since we met him, just about 5 years ago when we rescued him through the American Brittany Rescue. The ABR tries to place dogs of all ages with "forever" homes and I recommend them highly if you ever decide that a "Brit" is ever to be in your future.

Right after we adopted Chance (or, in reality, he adopted us) the Whitemarsh Township Republican Club ran a "Top Dog in Whitemarsh" essay contest.

I wrote an essay about Chance and tied for second place.

The other day, I dug it out of the archives and decided that I would use it as sort of a requiem for our beloved family member. What better way to honor the memory of a pet than to tell the story of how he came to live with you.
Here is that essay (btw, this essay sparked my interest in writing, which eventually turned into "writemarsh!):
What does it take to be the top dog in Whitemarsh? Is it being the best looking dog? Is it being the strongest, most courageous, most loving dog?

Maybe you’ll know after you hear Chance’s story.

Our family was missing something. We didn’t quite know what, but missing something none the less. I work nights, and it's a lonely feeling coming home to an empty house, so the idea of having a dog would be nice. I had been looking on the American Brittany Rescue web site, as well as the Springer Spaniel web site around Christmas last year, but just browsing (my wife and I had spoken about getting a dog, but not seriously).

My fortieth birthday was approaching in February, and Karen asked what I wanted. I told her I wanted a puppy. Not much more was discussed, as Karen was leery about
getting a puppy because of the time and sometimes mess involved. Meanwhile, I was still looking online, trying to find breeders in our area to contact. I had already decided that I wanted a Brittany.

After a few weeks of looking on the rescue web site, I showed several photographs of older dogs to Karen and read her the descriptions. We decided (after much whining and moaning on my part) that maybe it was time to get a dog, not a puppy. We figured that everybody wants a puppy, but we would like to save an older dog that not
many people would want.

We hit the Rescue web site daily, looking for dogs in our area to adopt. We tried several times to adopt, but hit brick walls when we spoke to the local coordinator. After about a month, we were going to give up and just go to the SPCA when we saw a new entry on the Brittany web page. The dog was not pictured, but the description tugged on my heartstrings.

It seems the dog was a product of divorce, and was unwanted. For personal reasons, this hit close to home. Chance was given up by his ex-owner because he was left behind when the husband moved out. The remaining family didn’t really like dogs, but kept him until they felt he was too much of a liability. He was being kenneled by a man who traveled frequently, and couldn’t keep him much longer. We applied online and called the coordinator, who resided in Massachusetts. I asked for a picture to be e-mailed to us, and when we saw it, Karen and I agreed we should adopt this dog. One
problem....he lives in Connecticut.

Well, not really a problem! My sister, Johanna, lives with her husband and kids in Norwich, Connecticut so we contacted her, made arrangements, and went to seek our new family member.

After a 4 1/2 hour trip (we stopped for lunch) and 230 miles of traveling, we finally got to Jody and Del’s place in Norwich. We were going to ride up that day to meet Chance, but after such a long trip, we decided to relax for the evening.

We had a big breakfast the next morning and got on the road. Since she knew the area, Johanna drove while Karen stayed behind to watch the little ones. The dog was at a sporting dog trials field above Hartford, about 45 minutes away. We arrived just before the trials were to begin, and the man who was Chance’s foster keeper introduced us. My son, Jesse, knelt down to pet him, and he laid his head on Jesse’s shoulder...almost like he was hugging him. His eyes said, "I’ve been waiting for you my whole life, Jesse".

Jesse fell in love with Chance, so I decided right there that this was always our dog, someone else just had him until now. After a half an hour of getting acquainted, we signed the adoption papers and took Chance with us. We got back to my sisters home, where Karen and my daughter Lia were waiting, and it was love at first sight!

The rest of the story is still being written, on a daily basis. Chance is my dog, but Jesse is his feeder, groomer, walker, etc. He is very connected with Chance, he is his
dog, too.

Which gets us back to: Why he should be top dog in Whitemarsh? Chance spent the first eight years of his life looking for us. We spent the first eight years of his life waiting for him. Chance was willing to travel over 230 miles to come to Whitemarsh, to start his life all over again with his "forever" family...a second "Chance" so to speak. That makes him "top dog" to us.

Well, "forever" ended today, as I took Chance on his last walk and asked the vet to end his suffering. This is how we intend to remember our sweet boy, with his favorite game that he liked to play, just after his walks:

It's been a hard few days, but I know, deep in my heart, that it was the right thing to do...Chance no longer struggles to breathe, nor will he whimper from the pain that the tumor was causing him.

I found this poem online Monday...the author is anonymous, so I have nobody to credit these beautiful words to, but the message has been helping me immensely. I'll leave you today with the poem...

G-d bless you all:


If it should be that I grow weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad, I understand.
Don't let your grief then stay your hand.
For this day, more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We've had so many happy years.
What is to come can hold no fears.
You'd not want me to suffer so;
The time has come -- please let me go.

Take me where my need they'll tend,
And please stay with me till the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see
The kindness that you did for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I've been saved.

Please do not grieve -- it must be you
Who had this painful thing to do.
We've been so close, we two, these years;
Don't let your heart hold back its tears.

--- Anonymous ---


TheBitterAmerican said...

Very eloquent, Bill.

jcs said...

Very touching Billy, it brought a tear to my eye. Hope you guys are holding up OK this evening.

Anonymous said...

Oh Bill...been there. So sad for you deeply, truly sorry....St. Francis is looking out for him....that is the hardest thing about loving a dog; knowing when to let go for their sakes...

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