Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Celebrating the life of our sweet boy, Skeletor

After a few months battling kidney failure, our sweet boy, Skeletor ended his journey in a very peaceful and beautiful way. We had been struggling to get him to eat for months. In the past couple of weeks, it was getting worse. His water intake had gone town too. His legs were weak. He was wobbly. He had gone from 1-2 meals a day to less than 1. The night before, I fed him some chicken, rice, and yogurt. The next morning, the carpet next to his bed was covered with rice. I knew that it was time to help him move on.

I gave him some nice pets and encouraged our nearly 4 year old son Conrad to do the same. I emailed his vet, Dr. Erdman, then cleaned up the mess and grumpily made my way to work, dropping Conrad off at daycare on the way.

Shortly after I got to the office, I called the vet to get info and schedule his Euthanasia. After texting the options and details to Melanie, I broke down in tears and could barely speak to her when the phone rang. She suggested that I leave work and come home to spend some time with him. I didn't hesitate.

Sobbing the whole way home, I pulled up while talking on the phone with my mom. She suggested I spend some quality time with Skeletor, taking him for a walk and letting him do the things he most enjoyed. This was great advice!

I offered him some chicken, which he wasn't interested in. I took Skeletor outside to the front yard. I set up some shade and put his bed near the grass with some water. He was enjoying the smells and the sunshine.

I put Genevieve (our 7 month old daughter) in her stroller and we went for a short walk. Skelly seemed happy to be outside, but walked so slowly, I didn't want make him go too far. We returned to our yard, and I gave him some more water. He had a drink and relaxed on the grass for a while. I brought out the chicken he refused earlier. He wagged his tail and ate some.

One of the hardest parts about this whole ordeal has been his unwavering spirit. Despite all of the signs and symptoms of illness, he maintained his loving personality. No matter how weak, he would always force himself up and walk over to me for pets. Regardless of whatever his previous owners (captors / monsters) did to him, he retained the capacity for an overabundance of love for people. For me, especially. This made the decision to help him move on that much more difficult.

After hanging outside for a bit, we decided to go in for lunch. I set up Skelly's bed in the dining room so he could relax with us as we ate. I was far from hungry, but managed to eat.

The clock was moving so quickly toward his 2:30 appointment. He received continuous hugs, pets, and love from his family. My brother Ian was planning to meet us at the Vet's office.

Wherever we went, I brought Skeletor's bed along so he could relax right there beside us.

Melanie and I were trying to decide what was best for his final arrangements. There were communal and private cremation services available, neither of which sounded appealing to me. I didn't like the idea of his body being incinerated with other animals. I didn't like the idea of sending him for a private cremation and then waiting to get his ashes back before having a ceremony. (What would we tell Conrad in the meantime?)

We were very concerned about how to break the news to our son Conrad. We didn't want to lie to him. We had given him a primer, talking to him about how sick Skelly was, and telling him that we need to give him lots of lovin' because he may not be alive for much longer. This was to be Conrad's first experience with death. We had read about the experiences of others, and determined that we should not make it confusing for him. I didn't want him to hear the words "put to sleep." I didn't want him confusing bed time with death. I didn't want him to think that any day he goes to school, he may return home to find that he has lost a family member.

I was overcome with grief, and felt like I was having a hard time making any type of decisions. I felt like burying him in our yard was the best thing. This was his home. These were his people. There's nowhere in the world he would rather be laid to rest. Melanie supported my decision, but said she couldn't help me and was worried about me burying him by myself.

At 2:15, it was time to go. Tears were flowing as I loaded his bed into the back of my car. I walked him out to the car, picked up my dear sweet boy, and placed him on his bed. I thought about the many car rides we took, more of them to the vet than to the beach. I would have liked it if he could have enjoyed some of the things I saw other dogs enjoying, but he's always been perfectly happy just being with the people he loves. He would take a hug and some scratches from his people over a playdate with another dog any day.

We arrived and met Ian in the parking lot. I asked if he had to go back to work. He said no, and that he could help me with the burial. We walked Skeletor up to the front door. He did his usual routine of checking his messages (ie sniffing and then peeing on the sidewalk.)

Dr. Erdman's staff were very gracious as they immediately lead us to a comfortable room with a soft blanket on the floor. I sat down with my dear sweet boy's head in my lap. We all gave him lots of gentle pets and words of encouragement and praise.

Dr. Erdman assured us that we did everything we could for Skeletor. He said that it's better to be a day early than a day late for something like this, which was definitely helpful for me to hear. He explained that Skeletor would receive a shot of a sedative. This would make him get very sleepy. After giving us a few minutes with him, they would return and give him a second shot, which would stop his heart. They assured us that beyond the initial pin prick, he would not feel any discomfort.

He was startled by the first shot, but quickly calmed down. I showered him with pets and listened to his breathing. I looked in his eyes. He seemed to be very comfortable. I think he was very happy to be with his people, whom he loved more than anything. I felt tremendous sorrow and tremendous love at the same time. I thought about what this must be like from his perspective. It seemed to me that this was the perfect way to go. His breathing was fast at first, and gradually slowed and slowed. He was completely relaxed. He was completely at peace.

Dr. Erdman returned with the second injection. We lifted Skeletor to the table. They pressed his paw into a piece of clay to make us a keepsake. We wrapped him in a blanket. My brother carried him out to his truck.

We returned to our house and found a good place for a grave. We dug and dug, sharing memories of Skeletor's strength, courage, and personality. When the grave was ready, I went in and asked Melanie if she wanted to join us. She came outside with Genevieve in her arms.

I told Ian that I wanted to carry Skeletor from the truck. We walked over and I lifted him up. He was wrapped in a blanket. He felt heavier than usual. I took each step with deliberation. Taking in the catharsis of this last moment together. I arrived at the gravesite, thinking I would be able to utter some kind of meaningful words before lowering him in. I was able to half muster the word "bye" before choking up.

I bent down and as gently as possible, placed my sweet friend into his final resting place. In the very yard he spent his time running around and barking at the neighbor's dogs. Three feet from the house where he spent his time with the people he loved. He was home.

A short while later, Melanie returned from picking up Conrad. We told him about how Skeletor was very sick. We told him that there was no medicine that could make him better, so we took him to the pet doctor who helped him die peacefully. We explained that this is the only way we could help him not feel sick anymore. Conrad was upset for a short while. Fortunately, it seems he's a little too young to be hugely impacted by this kind of loss.

We asked Conrad if he wanted to go say a few words and put some flowers on Skeletor's grave. We went out back to the burial mound, and hammered in the cross Ian made for him. Conrad placed flowers and asked a few questions. I spoke a little about Skeletor's strength and love. I commended Skeletor on how he never stopped wagging his tail. Every day we shared together, no matter how sick he was, he would always manage to light up for his friends and family. This was a testament to the love and adoration he held for us, which we are extremely grateful for. We love you, Skeletor!

Rest in peace my dear friend. You were with me for 6 of the most important years of my life. With you at my side, I married my beloved wife, we were blessed with two beautiful children, and I grew into a much stronger, more compassionate, appreciative, and supportive man.

Thank you for choosing me, Skeletor.

Rescuing you was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was an incredible journey that showed me the true power of love. Love from you, a neglected puppy. Love from the world, as people from all over provided words of encouragement and donations to help us get you the heartworm treatment you needed. Love from me, more love than I knew I was capable of.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Captain Insano has been promoted to Admiral :(

Insano's adopted owner, Elmer said that he had been sick with an upper respiratory infection of some kind. He started Insano on anti-biotics and he was starting to feel better. He was going up and down the stairs, eating and using his litter box like normal.

Unexpectedly, my old friend Insano was found dead this morning.

He had lived nearly 12 years. I've been reflecting on his life, and thinking about his many interesting traits, his loving personality, and all the funny faces he used to make.

When I lived with my friend Jimmy, our friends Becky and Levi were getting evicted from their apartment and asked for our help. We took my old 1986 Toyota Celica over to pack it full of as many of their belongings as we could.

We got the car all loaded up and it was starting to get dark. The last thing they needed from the house was their little black and white kitten. The crazy little cat escaped and darted into the woods nearby.

The four of us poked around in the woods trying to find him. We had no such luck.

We were starting to come to the consensus that we were going to have to leave the poor little guy. Our chances of finding him were fading fast. Suddenly Becky shrieked with joy as she swooped him up from the bushes.

Becky, Levi, and the kitten stayed with us for a few weeks while they found a new place to live. The cat was non-stop entertaining. He was very affectionate and seemed to have been weened to soon. He would sneak up on people and nurse on their earlobes. Sometimes even while they slept!

His wacky mannerisms earned him the name "Captain Insano." He was a hoot! He was not skittish in any way. He would attack the vacuum cleaner instead of running and hiding from it. He would surf across the kitchen on our trashcan lid. He was not shy in the least bit.

When they were ready to move out, Jimmy and I told them "The cat stays." They agreed.

Insano went on to make many friends. He was always making his way onto your lap whether you wanted him there or not. He was very vocal when he was ready to be fed. He grew up to be a very big cat.

He was not a huge fan of taking baths, but he did tolerate it quite well. Insano was always the alpha cat when he needed to be. Whether it was little kids, big dogs, or even bigger cats, he would put them in their place really quickly if they tried to mess with him. He had big claws, and knew how to use 'em.

He didn't usually start fights, but he often finished them. He could never get enough attention. Some cats prefer to be left alone, but Insano wanted pets... and lots of them. He would start purring the moment you touched him. He LOVED people!

He was a great friend, and he will be dearly missed.

He always made the funniest faces!

He always found a way to get comfy... whether or not if was convenient for you. 

Despite his enormous size, he would find his way into the smallest of spaces. 

This was about as close as he ever got to Skeletor unless they were duking it out. 

He was such a pretty kitty!

Somehow he lost one of his canines when he was young. It resulted in some bizarre facial expressions!

He loved to streeeeeetch out!

He didn't like this hat we made him wear :)

He was very curious. Here he is checking out my makeshift microphone booth.


He loved to keep my chair warm for me. 

He always sat up like a human. 

"What are you looking at?"

He pined for the outside world, but then when he did manage to escape, he got a bit freaked out and wanted back inside asap! 

He was just one of the guys.

Insano and Kim

Sprawling out on the carpet

Such a cute lad

He had a fascination with people's hair, and a taste for my particular brand of hair gel. 

Self pets weren't uncommon

How can this be comfortable!?

My left-hand man

He even helped with the filing

"You didn't have anything important up here, did you?"

This is an 8 inch wide cat lounging on a 5 inch window sil. 

Chillin in our new house

On the fridge

On the laptop

"Well, that was unpleasant!"

"Aaah... this should be MY bed!"

"You don't mind if I shed on this, do you?"

"Aaaaaah.... "

"Hey, would you mind opening these blinds?"


What a handsome boy

"What's this thing you keep pointing at me?"

He had one hell of a piercing stare.

He would always find unique places to hang out.

In his golden years, he preferred dark places where he could get some peace and quiet. 

Insano, knowing you was worth every hairball I ever had to pick up.

It was worth every pair of pants I couldn't re-wear because you sat in my lap. 

It was worth every smelly clump I scooped, every time I had to hide you from the landlord, every time you spilled the garbage, every time you destroyed the blinds, and every time you knocked the items off my desk to make a comfy spot to lie down in. 

Rest in peace Insano. You are loved!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Only Skeletor could be traumatized by a Christmas card

Proving that he has what it takes to remain the biggest wimp on the planet, Skeletor has become traumatized by the photo shoot for our Christmas card this year. 

I'm not sure if it was our goofy hats, the camera flashes, beeps, or the furniture rearranging... but whatever it is, he now associates with my camera. 

It's no exaggeration when I tell you that he now hides and cowers in the bathroom or the nearest accessible dark corner as soon as I turn my camera on. 

Yes, he literally trembles in fear. 
Wowee... Skeletor you're such a pansy! :) 

Strangely enough, his bad doggie tendencies seem to be strong enough to briefly snap him out of the grips of fear. Yesterday, while he was cowering, Mel rang the doorbell and he instantly forgot that he was being scared and ran to the door barking. After a few moments, he went back to being scared again. 

He's definitely got a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. (read more about PTS in dogs here) The strangest things will freak him out. It's nowhere near as bad as it used to be though... you may recall when we first rescued the boy, he'd spend literally all day cowering in the dark hallway. Now-a-days, his wimp attacks usually don't last more than an hour or two. 

I'm happy to report that a while after his fit yesterday, he was playing with his new ball (thanks Mel!) like that mean old camera was never around. 

He has another present waiting in his stocking. Ho ho ho! 

Another bit of good news... we managed to snap some really nice shots the other day before the traumatic holiday photo shoot took place. Mel and I took Skelly out to beautiful Fort Caroline! :)

Enjoy the photos, and have a very very Merry Christmas!