This year has not been one for good news and I’m afraid it’s only getting worse. This week, after much soul-searching, my family decided it was time for Yuri to rest. After his beautiful comeback in February after extensive surgery to remove both stones and part of his Thyroid, Yuri was diagnosed with nasal cancer. A large tumor had taken root in his nasal cavity and had begun to grow and had been present either during his surgery or directly after. This was the percolating sound we had been hearing and were told was nothing. Yuri also had a large lesion at the roof of his mouth, which none of us had known about, but which explained his sudden issue with chewing hard food/treats and his increasing halitosis. It was so far along that none of the veterinarians we took him to could guarantee that surgery or treatment would be effective and as we had already invested much into his surgery, it was not something feasible for us to consider. With heavy hearts, we decided the best thing for him would be to take him home, let him be as comfortable as he could be in his old age and control any infection and pain with medication. And for almost 6 months that was enough.
Unfortunately, this week it became most apparent, the cancer had progressed far enough that he could no longer live comfortably. Breathing had become more than a chore, the tumors in his nasal area had spread and grown into his eye socket, to the point he could no longer see and began to bleed. His nose was constantly needing to be cleaned from drainage and bleeding and although we only had to up his pain medication once, he was not living much of a life as he would rouse himself for treats, dinner or car rides, only to be exhausted by it moments later. As much life as he clung to in the end, it was a struggle and none of us could bear to see it.
And I find it absolutely unfair.
I am angry and sad that he survived and bounced back from a difficult surgery so zealously, only to be struck down by something so disgusting and painful. I am angry that my beautiful, fuzzy, wonderful baby was overcome by such terrible symptoms and I am even more angry, that once again, we had to make the choice to end a pet’s life. It is and always will be, one of the hardest things a pet parent who truly loves their pets will ever have to deal with and unfortunately, in my lifetime as a pet lover and parent, I’ve had to be involved with it far too often. When I was in 6th grade, I had to make the decision to put my cat Willie (a pretty gray tabby) to sleep because his kidneys were failing and there was nothing anyone could do. It had to be a snap decision and I loathed having to make it. We had to put Rosie, my grandmother’s dog to sleep after taking care of her when my grandmother passed away because she was too stubborn to go on her own despite having liver problems and failing health. Ozzie, our 16 year old dog that I had known since elementary school and grown up with had to be decided for, despite surviving years of Epilepsy and its treatment because he was elderly.
And now my Yuri.
I know that it’s something everyone who has a pet must face at some point. Those fuzzy faces who love us so much they don’t want to leave and those who are too strong willed to let go trust in us to make the right decision, even though it so hard to. When they live long lives with you, it is not like losing a family member, it is losing a family member and it makes one’s heart sick. You always wonder if you made the right choice and although I know Yuri was never going to get better, no matter how much I might have wished, I can’t help but have a small part of me kicking myself for letting him go. It’s a selfish part, but it’s a part nonetheless.
My boy :0)
I will always try to remember Yuri for the beautiful, strong, terribly sly dog that he was. I will remember that he came home with us as a clearance puppy, because the night before we met him, he and his litter mate escaped their cage and had destroyed over $200 worth of cat toys and had made a terrible mess at a pet store that no longer exists. The owner was so ready to have him gone, she had marked him down, despite him being a purebred.
I will remember bringing him home and “penning” the lyrics to a countryesque song titled “The Lonely Little Husky” to which there is a taped rendition somewhere, with me as a child, holding a nearly 30 pound puppy in my lap, trying to make him dance– While Yuri wanted nothing more than to sleep.
I will remember him by all of his nicknames; Yuri Muddypaws when he would come in everyday from the backyard, covered in mud from digging and playing in puddles. The Yurinator, maybe not something he’d want to be remembered as, but certainly a tale worth remembering. And on several occasions “That-Damn-Dog” or Houndini as he slipped out of the house or his collar once more to run through the neighborhood.
I will remember all the times he put our family friends through the wringer when they watched him as we were on vacation. Somehow finding ways to escape harnesses touted as “inescapable” and wandering through strange neighborhoods, somehow charming meat market owners and grilling employees into feeding him their wares. Or his one and only trip into the grocery store, escaping from our car– jumping up onto the door of another customer’s car and peering at her through her open window, scaring her into screams, only to dash into the store; us chasing after him in time to hear “Dog in aisle 6″ over the intercom. So many bag boys were happy for the distraction as they chased him through the store until he was finally cornered in the meat (of course) section, drawn to the sent of raw prime rib.
My mom, humiliated, dragged him back to the car, expecting us to be banned from the store forever, when the owner pleaded for a pardon on Yuri’s behalf.
“Don’t hurt him!” he begged as my mother tightened her grip on Yuri’s collar to air depriving levels. She smiled at the man and said,
“Oh, I’m not going to hurt him– I’m going to kill him.”
Now, years after that escapade, we tell friends or fellow Husky owners the story gladly for a laugh and to let them know they won’t have it so easy if they own one of the extra-furry kind.
I will remember after several months of struggling to carry hundreds of Pennysavers alone, my mother ordered a special pack for Yuri, with pockets that we might split the load, so I would no longer fear having a hump from the weight of the bag and Yuri could get out of the house and work as he was bred to do. It gave us time together and also gave me the opportunity to meet new people, attracted to Yuri’s striking features. It earned me a few babysitting gigs and gave some lonely elderly folks a chance to talk to a girl and her dog who didn’t mind stopping to chat. Did I mention it got us tips?
I will always remember the excitement it caused Yuri, when he saw me getting his pack ready with Pennysavers the night before we delivered. He would always try to put it on right then and there, even though I tried to explain to him he had to wait.
I will remember the times he escaped and managed to be picked up, whether by kindly neighbors or the pound. In one instance, he got away from us and had been picked up a by a person who was likely, just trying to help, but rather than calling the information on his tag, took him to the Humane Society well out of town. Despite having to put a number collar on him to find him in their kennels and obviously seeing he had a tag, they had chosen not to call us to let us know he was safe, but waited until the next day. When my father and I arrived to bring him home, with an unwarranted “bail”, he heard us coming and started howling until we sprung him from jail.
Or the times he escaped to the neighbor lady’s house, the one who’s daughter had a Husky and knew what kinds of treats they liked. The number of times he had gone to her house, where he was babied and let sleep on the couch (a no-no at home) and given yummy treats of chicken. Or the times he rallied the troops into joining him on a break out, in the dead of winter. Exhilarating for him, miserable for Ozzie and Faith who discovered too late, they should have packed warm coats and booties for the trip. Yuri plunging on, icicles hanging from his whiskers and chin fur like jewels.
I will remember him as a loud mouth, just weeks old and scaring my father as he walked into the house reading the mail and suddenly “Hewwoh!” comes from nowhere; making my father believe someone had broken in. Or the picnic where my parents were taunting him with a Subway cookie, telling him if he said he wanted it, he could have it. After much frustration and begging on his part, Yuri finally cried, “AH WAHN ET!”, shocking my parents so much that he was handed the cookie without dispute. I will never forget the two times in his life he actually barked. Once at a gang of idiots who we had the pleasure of parking next to at a camping park, who decided to run through our campsite, causing Yuri to bark at them menacingly. Or the time one of our trashcans had the gall to roll across the yard, startling Yuri into a barking match we had never heard before.
I will remember that he adored winter, as any smart Husky does and could never be in the backyard without diving into snowbanks or eating a mouthful of snow, just for the fun of it. I will remember him frolicking and playing and bouncing in the snow, even when the rest of us hid in the house for warmth. Demanding we turn a fan on for him in subzero weather, because he was still warm.
I will remember how much he loved to open his own Christmas presents, ripping the paper off with finesse; half the time just because it was fun, not because he cared what was in it. My mother often joked we should have wrapped rolls of paper towels for him, so he would have the joy of ripping off the Santa paper and destroying the roll inside. He was never satisfied until any and all paper around him was torn into tiny, unrecognizable pieces, often the fate of important receipts and yes, even homework. His fetish for chewing was not limited to paper, but blue Bic pens someone was silly enough to leave at nose level. There were many a time when we would return home to find him blue from head to toe, proud that he had successfully destroyed another inky enemy.
I will remember that even though he became the clear alpha dog over our oldest dog, Ozzie, he was never cruel and cared for his elderly friend, even to the end. Never eating without him, laying with him so Ozzie would not be alone, even when he was at his most uncomfortable. He loved Ozzie as though they had been brothers since birth and despite their rambunctiousness, even came to love Faith and Paisley. Reminding them often, when they were getting out of hand.
I will remember little kids asking to pet him, asking questions about him;
Child: “Does he like bikes?”
Dad: “Nah, his paws don’t reach the pedals.”
I will remember all the fur, never ending in the shedding department and all the times we stood outside with him, brushing him and realizing the birds in the neighborhood had discovered what good insulation Husky undercoat was. Lining up at patio’s edge, just out of reach of the jaws of death, but close enough a good breeze would bring a tuft of soft white fur close enough for them to grab and bring home for their babies. I am happy to think of the number of nests and baby birds that are warmed by Yuri’s gift of fur.
There is so much about him that I cannot share here, because it would take much longer than people are willing to read to describe. This post would be twice as long and boring to those who did not know him personally. I concede that most pet owners believe their pet was the best of them all and that the world will not be the same when they are gone. I cannot say that the world will know he’s gone, but in my pocket of it, he has touched enough lives that his passing will be noticed. He was an incredible dog, in both smarts and beauty. He stopped people in their tracks just walking by and had the personality of a dog who knew he was pretty but loved nothing more than his family and a good scratch (and maybe a few dozen cookies). I will miss him so much as he has been a part of me for over half of my life. He has seen me through years of awkward school days to college pains. He has judged boyfriends and dog sitters, he has maintained shrew populations and caused laughter.
And today, he has brought me many tears, only because I loved him too much to see him go.
I love you my sweet boy. You brought my life joy (and experience in cleaning up bits of paper) and I hope upon hope that you are with Ozzie now, young and beautiful again, romping in the green grass together.