Monday, January 3, 2011

Benji: 1995-2011

This isn't an FFXI related post, so if you come here strictly for that, then sorry, you'll have to wait another day.

Today I woke up with a long list of tasks to do. I ended up getting none of them done and had to bury my dog.

My sister found Benji as a puppy in the parking lot of a nearby Minit Mart about 16 years ago. She was out for a drive with Dad practicing for her driver's test. Benji was so small that my sister feared she would get run over cause she was hard to see. This resulted in her being brought home with her with the intention of being taken to the pound the next day.

Most people know how that story goes.

The part that was uncommon was that she managed to win my mom over in that one-day moratorium. Y'see, Mom hates dogs. She was attacked by one as a little girl and has hated/feared them ever since, no matter the size. The second Benji showed up in my sister's arms, she was pretty much ordered to take her back. Dad intervened. The dog was staying at least until the next day. It was getting dark out and the pound was already closed anyway.

Naturally, my sister and I are playing with Benji. So full of life and energy as a lot of puppies are. She's a little skittish naturally due to her size, but once she warmed up to you, she couldn't get enough attention.

Later that evening, Mom is sitting on the couch scowling at Benji. I'm not sure what possessed Benji to try, but she walked right up to the couch and started trying to hop up next to Mom. Benji was so small though, that she couldn't make it. Mom, being undersized herself, seemed to empathize with that. She ultimately helped Benji up onto the couch and seemingly from that point forward, Benji was officially part of our family.

Benji was you typical dog. Couldn't get enough attention. Definitely couldn't get enough food. Randomly left "presents" around the house if we didn't get her outside in time. Some of her more endearing qualities were:

- Yapped at anything that came into the yard or if the doorbell rang. Her bark could actually wake Dad up from a deep sleep (Dad's legally deaf).

- Fiercly protective of people she loved, even if someone she loved was acting like they were going to harm someone else she loved. It was a fun game to play at times to get her stirred up. You could simply hold your hand out and move a little bit towards another person. If you had eye contact with Benji, she'd rush toward you, teeth bared and barking. She would never actually bite you, but she'd certainly let you know she didn't approve.

- She never played fetch. No matter how many times I tried to train her, she'd just look at whatever I threw as if to say, "Dumbass. Now you get to go get it."

- Tuft of hair on the top of her head that was the only indication she had some poodle in her. Benji was mostly terrier. That tuft of hair was basically like pipe cleaner. You could bend/style that in any shape you wanted w/o having to use anything to hold it in place. We commonly had her running around with a mohawk.

- She had a snaggletooth. If you whistled for her, sometimes her upper lip wouldn't be covering said tooth. So the expression you'd get when she'd look up was one that looked like sheer befuddlement when it was supposed to be one of attention.

- She was scared of her collar clanging against her water bowl. Never really understood why this scared her, but it did. We tried using plastic dog tags, changing her water bowl to a plastic one, etc, but nothing worked. It wasn't until the past year or so when she started going deaf that she seemed to not care if her collar hit her bowl or not. Otherwise, she'd stand just far enough away to lap the water with her tongue outstretched.

- Loved baths. A lot of dogs do and she wasn't any different. She'd get a bath and then run around the house like a crazed animal rubbing up against anything she could.

For the past year or so, her health had been failing at a rather rapid pace. I'm about as anti-euthanization as it gets and felt if meds could keep her from suffering, that was the better option. She had a whole host of problems due to age. Irritable bowels, arthritic joints, kidney failure (which required dialysis every couple days the past few months), and most notably, going blind and deaf.

Most days, on all of her meds, she seemed fine and about as alert as a blind/deaf dog could be. She could hear you whistle for her still and my guess is could still make out shadows, but you'd catch her running into things she normally wouldn't. She found it harder and harder to walk and even harder to control her bowels.

A couple weeks ago, we had to take her in for an emergency visit due to some blood being in her urine. One complete set of tract infection meds later, the problem hadn't really cleared up, so my folks made the decision to go ahead and have her put down.

When they called me this morning to tell me the news, I rushed over to the vets office hoping I could say bye to her. On the way, my sister calls me to tell me they're holding off until she and I got there.

It's rare that people get to say goodbye to their pets in this manner. Sure, pets are euthanized all the time, but typically said euthanizaton happens after a pet has suffered something traumatic or has generally lost all sense of self. Benji was still completely coherent of her surroundings.

I got to the office and found Benji waiting for me. She was so weak, she could barely stand up, but she tried. I just held onto her for the longest time waiting for my sister to get there. Once she did, she and I just started sobbing. Even though I knew the decision to have her put down was the right one, I never imagined it would be so hard to let go.

I've lost pets before. Most infamously, my cat that had congestive heart failure She managed to hop up onto the couch I was laying on and headbutt me one last time to let me know she was leaving. She was dead the next morning. In that case, I had a sense she wasn't going to make it to the morning and I did get to say bye, but she got to die her own way. Benji really didn't.

What Benji did get to do though was have her family around her to say bye. Sitting in the vet's office with Benji in my lap shortly after she was given the tranquilizer shot (the precursor to the final euth. shot), she let me know things were ok. She let my sister know too. The dog that was unable to stand moments before managed to paw at both my hand and my sister's hand before she passed out. It was a weak paw, but we both got the message. Soon enough, she was snoring loudly in my lap.

Shortly after that, the final shot was administered and we ushered Benji off into doggy heaven.

There aren't many instances in life that will cause me to sob uncontrollably. There are plenty that might make me well up a bit, but nothing like that. After she was pronounced dead, I picked her body up to place in her box for carriage home. I didn't realize how limp she was going to be and I broke down uncontrollably, missing her box almost completely.

The vet offered to place her in a bag for me and put her in there, but there wasn't any way I was allowing that to happen. I get that vets do this sort of stuff on a daily basis and having the owners in there likely makes their job a lot more difficult. I just didn't want Benji's body to be shaped by the bag. As morbid as this sounds, every pet I've buried up until this one had been through the bagging process and the positions their bodies ended up in was just horrifying to me.

Working through the sobs, My sister and I managed to get Benji curled up in her box, placed the lid on it and proceeded to come home with her.

What Benji has meant to our family over these years can't be worded. Most pet owners will just understand. We've had a lot of pets and, while most of them ended up being taken from us way too early, the one constant that touched every single pet we've ever owned sans one, was Benji. Up until the past year or so, we would be greeted through the door by her barking and her coming up to greet us when we walked through the door. Again, this isn't uncommon for most pet owners, but most pet owners wouldn't think of it a second for other pets. However, their own pets doing this ends up being taken for granted.

We were fortunate. We knew the end was near. Even as far back as 5 or so years ago when arthritis set in, we knew. So our family simply did their best to enjoy what time Benji had left here. Sure, she aggravated us at times, but even if she got in trouble, it wasn't long afterwards that she was right by our sides getting loved on.

Benji's life was one of incredible luck and circumstances. Most can read her story and see that given where she came from.

What most won't see is that even though she was that lucky, we were infinitely more lucky to have her.

R.I.P. Benji. You were loved and you will be missed greatly.

P.S. The decision to keep her alive vs. put her down over the course of the past year has come up quite a bit. Meds generally kept her happy and moving around, but as time wore on, they weren't having the same effect. One of the biggest things that came out of our decisions was my oldest niece being old enough to remember who Benji was as she gets older. Around 2.5-3 years old, not many memories stay. Since she's over 4 now, it's far more likely she will remember and that does nothing but positive things towards Benji's memory.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry you lost your dog. I lost my cat just before Christmas in similar circumstances. She wasn't ill for as long but its never easy.


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