Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Piper and Me

Have you seen the movie "Marley and Me"? Well, if you were unsure if dogs that unruly actually existed, I am here to tell you THEY DO!!! And I can't imagine our life without ours. Unfortunately I don't have to imagine it at all. Today we said goodbye to our 13+ year old lab, Piper.

12 years ago, on a snowy day, we headed to the pound.
We searched the shelter through and through until the perfect dog was found.
In the corner, bouncing around, we saw a black lab bouncily hyper,
He stole our hearts, we brought him home and decided to name him Piper.
His first night home he made his mark by peeing on the wall.
That Christmas season he ate our tree, ornaments, lights and all!
While on our honeymoon we learned many gifts had been destroyed.
But, alas, we still loved our incorrigible, overactive boy.
One by one our children came and Piper met his match
He now had three rambunctious friends to chase him and play catch.
The only lab I've ever met who was terrified of water,
The only lab to sit on laps regardless of who it may bother.
After thirteen years of fun and love, his days are at an end.
We'll always remember Piper as both family and friend.
For all the years of unconditional love and undivided protection,
We are grateful for the time we had to share our home and affection.

Though sadness fills our hearts today we know he suffers no more
With his body and energy renewed, those angels have no idea what's in store!!!

I LOVE dogs! I have rarely NOT had a dog in my life. They make home feel like....well, home to me. A few weeks before Mike and I were married we decided to get another dog. His brother had allergies so Mike had never been able to have one growing up. I say "another" dog because I already had a miniature schnauzer, Phoenix. She had always been around other dogs and when we bought our first home the August before we were married she was all alone. Sadly we lost her a couple years ago.

We went to the shelter just to "look", but I don't think it possible not to leave without at least one pet. I wished I could rescue them ALL! We saw in the corner of a cage a literally BOUNCING black lab and went in to check him out. The first thing he did was try to chew off my engagement ring. Haha. I knew he had good taste from the start. They let us take him outside to go for a walk. The walk ended up being a fast sprint around the park. He was absolutely crazy hyper and obviously ADHD but we loved him so he came home with us. He was part of our family BEFORE we officially became one. 

As my poem mentions, he ate our Christmas tree not once, but TWICE! I was shocked he didn't get electrocuted and was sure he would die from eating the glass ornaments. His digestive system must have been made of steel. While on our honeymoon our friend, who was watching him, called to say Piper had ripped up some wedding gifts. We knew we were going to have our hands full with this guy. One night he ate a three foot hole in our linoleum floor! I have to say I wasn't too upset about that one. It was a great excuse to redo the floor. 

As the years went by and our family grew we learned how patient and loving Piper truly was. He would whimper and pace the halls if the babies were crying and never snapped when they pulled on his ears or tail. In fact, his tail was infamous for whacking legs, furniture and kids!!! It was right at their eye level, thus knocking toddlers over time and time again. Fortunately the kids escaped unscathed. 

We love the outdoors and took him on numerous camping trips and hikes. I am grateful we were able to get him out for one last adventure camping last month. He laid around most of the weekend but the cool air did him well. One day he tried to "play" with a Great Dane. You don't "play" with a Great Dane. They pummel you and you run away. Silly dog. He always slept at my feet because they are always freeeeeezing when we go camping. I will miss that. No wool socks or extra blankets can fill that void.

We don't know if something happened with his previous owners or what but Piper was TERRIFIED of water. Every other lab I know can't hold back when they see a pond, lake, swimming pool etc. Piper would sometimes dip his toes but never fully immersed himself. He also never played fetch well. You would throw a stick or ball, he would take off after it.....but halfway there he would turn around and run back. That is the ADHD I was talking about. 

Even at the ripe old age of at least ten people would often ask "How old is your puppy"? He may have been turning gray but his spirit never seemed to age. At least not until this year. We noticed he was a little stiff during the winter, which is normal for a dog of his age. This spring he stopped eating as much and spent a lot of time just laying around. We noticed he had lost weight but chalked it up to the stress of moving. A couple of weeks ago we took him in for a check up and the Vet said he was skinny but overall he was healthy. Beginning last week he basically stopped eating and drinking altogether. Then he had a seizure. Soon after his liver started failing and we knew he was suffering. It reminded me of how one week my mom was up and joking around.....and the next week she was gone. Sometimes death comes quickly. I suppose that is a blessing. We don't want to see loved ones in pain. That includes dogs because in our house pets are part of the family. 

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard enough. But watching your kids deal with it is absolutely heart breaking. Last year Mike's grandma died and Tracy took it especially hard. He has the sweetest, most sensitive little heart. I began talking to them about Piper being sick last week so they would get used to the idea. Tracy began drawing pictures and making cards to cheer up his beloved friend. We watched "Marley and Me" last night. I didn't know if it was a good idea or a bad one. I think it was good. The kids kept saying "Piper ate things like that", "Piper ran off like that", "Piper played with us like that"......."Piper is old like that"......"Piper is sick like that".......They understood at that time his days were numbered.

We had planned on waiting until tomorrow while the kids are out of school, but when he couldn't stand this morning and had bloody stools we realized we were being selfish. It was time. After school I read the kids a couple of books I borrowed from Mike's mom about death and loss. We snuggled Piper and told him how much we loved him and thanked him for being in our family all those years. The kids also brought up that now my mom has a dog in heaven. :) 

 Both Mike and I wanted to be with him as he died. Walking him into the shelter brought back flooding memories of when we got him at that same shelter years ago. He had come full circle.  Everett wanted to dedicate John Lennon's "Imagine" song to Piper (the Glee version haha). I promised I would play it for him as he passed away. I did. I don't know if it calmed Piper but he went quickly and peacefully. The music may have been more beneficial to Mike and myself.

So. As I sit here at home, it feels a little empty. Some may think it silly to devote such a long post to an animal, but Piper was not just a pet. Those who have truly embraced an animal know just what a great loss it is. The kids keep saying things like, "I hope Grandma Pam was up there when he made it to heaven" and "maybe he is with Michael Jackson and John Lennon!" The latter two comments, in case you had to wonder, were from Everett. Summer is anxiously waiting for his spirit to sneak onto her bed tonight. :)

Love you Piper!