SAYING GOODBYE: In Memory of Truffle

On Friday, December 14, we bade farewell to our beautiful Truffle Trafalgar.  Being honest, Better Half and I are still in shock.

We have several dogs. Three were advanced in years. The smallest and youngest of the geriatric set, Piper, seems to have boundless energy (and needs a few teeth pulled or cleaned). The oldest, Zephyr, could pass for Thanatos' lap dog. Or the Emperor from Star Wars. He does have that sort of crusty wrinkle to him.

Truffle, on the other hand, had grey but was otherwise in good health - or so we thought. It was only during the last week or so that she seemed 'off'. She'd linger downstairs after we'd all gone up. We thought she was staying behind to seek out crumbs we'd missed in the kitchen.

There were other factors in her life, of course. She's always had sleep apnea - truth: she snores more loudly than I do. And she had Parvo as a puppy. It's no wonder, then, that she suffered two heart attacks.

The first came that morning, while Better Half was outside getting the other dogs in. My mother's demondog, per usual, was harrying Truffle as she went up the stairs. I heard my mother shout at him to come back down, and then she shouted, "Truffle is lying on the steps".

I can't get the image out of my head. I came out of our room and peered over the top railing, and she was flopped lengthwise on the step. I don't remember running down there, nor what I said before I picked her up. I just remember the dead weight of her body in my arms. And I said, "No, Truffle, not you."

She was breathing, and roused with some vigorous rubbing on my part.  She managed to wag her tail, but she was still weak.  We called her vet and broke every speed limit law on the way.

"Concussion", said the available vet. (Our Dr Kurt wasn't in.)  "One eye is slow to dilate, but her heart is strong."

Against my better judgement, I went with the diagnosis. It was entirely possible that she had indeed taken a spill. Though I would have run enzymes just to be safe, I'm long retired from the field. Maybe that's just not standard anymore. She sounded a bit 'gurgly' to me later, while I was handing her to Better Half.

We brought her home, and curled up in bed as a family. I dozed off with her between Better Half and I (plus all the others clustered around to remind us that they felt neglected). I woke up a while later to two low moans.  Truffle, once again, had slumped. This time, she had simply turned around on my pillow and then walked a few steps towards my belly.  This time, I knew it was serious. This time was probably The Time. Her breathing was now labored. Deep panting, though her mouth remained closed.

Our vet had closed already. Better Half frantically tried to find an after-hours clinic. None were open yet - save one in Wheeling. How appropriate that this was the clinic we took her to all those years ago. (Painful strain on her leg/hip, no worry then.)

As I waited for Better Half to throw on clothing, my phone rang - some stupid telemarketer wanting to sell me shit. I blindly swiped at screen like a madman to shut the damn thing off and, in the process, reset my ringtone and captured Truffle's last photograph. I didn't realize it until I downloaded all the photos from my phone last night.

I managed to forget my phone completely once we headed towards the door.

I can drive the route to Wheeling while half asleep during a blizzard. Been there, done that. On Friday, I made that highway my bitch, only doing the limits when passing through the quaint towns dotting the way.

The staff at the hospital wasted no time in getting us into a room to start triage. Before I had even finished the paperwork, they had assessed her vitals and fetched a heating pad to bring up her body temp. The tech's grim assessment was confirmed by the veterinarian moments later: fluid had built up in Truffle's chest. The prognosis was poor, even if we started the full effort to restore her.  It was likely that she had the heart attacks - an enzyme count would only confirm what we already knew. She was in congestive heart failure. I looked into her eyes and knew it was only through her own will that she was pushing to stay with us. Better Half and I made the Decision.

Dogs have a great capacity to understand emotion, even if they don't grasp what it means. Years of evolution alongside man has granted our canines the uncanny ability to pick up - and react to - our feelings. This is why so many dogs serve as therapy animals.

A compassionate owner has two choices to make once the Decision is final: do they leave their animal or do they stay to help them pass gently? 

I'm a firm believer of the latter.  So, once the vet administered a potent tranquilizer and left to give us privacy, I lifted Truffle into my arms and sat on the bench. I murmured to her as she slipped into a painless state: you're a good girl, Truff. We love you Truff.  Her affirming tail wags slowed, and then Better Half traded places with me so he could hold her as well.  She slipped into deep dreams while in his arms. What better way to glide from this world than while wrapped in the comforting smells and touch of your humans? Not many people get to pass on this way.  It's an honor when we can offer this gift to our pets.  I summoned the vet, and she administered the lethal injection... one never felt by my snoozing, beautiful Pom.

I'd love to say that I stayed serene afterwards.  I held everything in, nodding as I numbly paid for services. When we got back to the truck, the emotions broke loose. These are the sobs that come from deep inside, the low and pronounced wails that rattle through the throat to escape in the cold night air.  An old friend called these episodes "soul scrubbers".  When all the boo-hoos and teeny tears and other expressions made by Intellectual Humans are blown away by overwhelming grief, it is the primal vocalization that pushes out the pain while allowing cleansing breath to enter the body.

     "It's just a dog, Gruff. For fuck's sake!"

This wasn't just a dog. Truffle was my companion, and a creature that loved maternally because I can  not give birth to my own children.  Truffle was my shadow and my confidant. Why else would a grown-ass woman step into her backyard and pitch her voice to glass-breaking levels?  "Tuffles! Tufful-tufful-tufful-tuff-tuff-tuff, c'meeeere!"  I don't know what puts my mother's neighbors off more - the fact that I'm bulkier than their husbands, or that I have the capacity to sound like a full-on mentally challenged mouse.

This weekend was rough for us. Feeding time was rough. Relaxing on the bed was rough. Not hearing Pommy barks (they sound a hoarse "cup cup cup"), rough. No one stealing my pillow while I sleep, rough.  Truffle was Better Half's good luck charm when he played his racing games. He lost every game on Saturday.

But pain begins to pass. We start to dwell on the warm memories rather than sigh over the emptiness. Grief has several stages - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - but this isn't a linear construct. We tend to cycle through them immediately after a loss, and the cycle lessens over time. Acceptance never means we won't feel a pang when we think of our loved ones.  Depression over the loss of a pet isn't anything we should feel shameful about. And anger, if not misplaced, can motivate us into action.  For me, it was getting angry enough about my apathy towards life... an apathy that is most apparent by my unwillingness to blog or do anything positive that would be good to blog about.

I could have hugged Truffle more. I could have given her more kisses instead of getting wrapped up with stupid shit. If I regret that, how much more will I regret when my other dogs die? When my parents die? When my spouse dies? "If only" can be a powerful tool. "If only I had tried harder to get out of my depression. If only I had made an effort to do this sooner. If only I had put my foot down on these issues. If only, if only..."  

We all have regrets. The key is to have too few to mention. How much better it is to look back at life and say, "I really sucked at that, but I had fun trying!" than to dwell on all the things we never did because we were unwilling to push beyond our comfort zones or unwilling to stop and snuggle the dog/child/spouse/sibling more often.

When I look back at my old blog, and browse images on my phone, I stop and realize how much I did stop what I was doing to share a quiet moment with my loved ones.  So, I'll share a few of those here, for any that have managed to read through all the emotional rambling above. There are a few links to my old blog as well as newer pictures.

24 November, 2007 - Truffle at 7 weeks

We brought Truffle home on Friday, 23 November, 2007. We had found her at a local shop that sold puppies. (Little did I know that they were from a mill rather than proper breeders.)  I don't have access to Truffle's paperwork, but she was born the first or second week of October.

This was taken the same day. She excelled at being cute.  Although her Father dubbed her Truffle Trafalgar, her official name was Tea and Truffles on Tuesday.  My first blog post about her can be found here.

Truffle faced her first medical challenge a short time later. We went through nervous uncertainty, and I stayed up all night with her, fearful that she would die. This was the start of the Parvo Saga.  Part 1Part 2, and Rejoicing.

She became a fully fledged part of the family after that. She was often the source of my awful haiku.

Pesky Lawn Care Man
Outside window clearing snow
I ask you, “How much?”

~ A Pomku ~


Dog hair on my face
I wipe it in vain
Blood begins to flow

 We have a lot we look back on, most of it moments filled with smiles.

There was the Pomeranian vs the Crocus moment.
(There's a micro picture story for it.)

Bird-Eating Pomeranian (Jazz hands! Grinch Feet!) is another silly Truffle thing.

If you're interested in seeing two weensie dogs running around during a heavy snowstorm, look no further than Snow Weasels.

And then there was her penchant for getting loose and running down the street while we screamed in terror and chased her. (The old advice to walk the other direction and the dog will follow did NOT work on Truffle. Shouting "MILKBONE" at the top of our lungs usually did.)

An excerpt:

Truffle the Pomeranian, despite all her longing, has settled into her own misfortune within the vast confines of the Indoors. She glares at me through the storm door’s snot-frosted glass, behind which she has been banished to avoid the inevitable war between us: “Human, throw the ball or I will squeeze myself through the 2” opening under the back gate and have a stroll at my own leisure.”

I’m none too pleased with her after her rude display towards the air conditioner repairman today (yipping her head off and biting at his boot heels) but I grant her access to the deck. It’s only fair to allow her a moment of summer bliss. Sadly, and within a matter of seconds, the deck has become a crime scene. The patient spider is missing, its web is in strands and the Pomeranian is furiously chewing with full understanding that she needs to completely consume the contents of her mouth before I scrape them out with a finger.

I reprimand her, a quiet breath that comes out as “ruf’l” in my effort to keep the neighborhood asleep, and her bottle brush tail wags in time with her frantic jaw movement. I scoop her up and exile her to her comfortable prison once more.

Then there are all the un-blogged moments. Looking through my photos, I realize I had every opportunity to capture the memories in print. For example, Truffle always had to have a sip of her Daddy's iced tea. She loved her "Hefalumps" and "piggy" squeak toys (and made piggy sounds herself!) She was prone to getting car sick, but grew out of it in her later years.  She would break through the fence to steal stale bread from the birds on the other side. She ate everything outside (grass, leaves, berries, bugs) so we couldn't plant a mimosa in the garden! That's okay. We planted a different flowering tree. She ran around in the snow like a pro, and getting overly excited whenever I put on gloves (because snowballs!)  She hated being squired with the hose when she barked during the summer... and looked like a drowned rat as she shot us crusty glares.  She snored loudly while flat on her back.  And she loved to lick ears - painfully making a suction effect between her tongue and your ear canal. She loved sharing her Daddy's snack food, but only had one cherry sour (it was too sour for her tastes). Her favorite food was chicken, lamb, or anything handy... but she hated the "gourmet" canned wet food. Eggs were good. The more stinky, the better. Ergo, she was a Cheese Whore, but so is her Daddy.  She loved to hide under the bed the moment she realized we were going out. She hated her box. And, while boxed, she learned to mimic the other dogs' howls. Truffle had an uncanny ability to sound like any sort of dog, be it a Chidoxi, Chiweenie, or Italian Greyhound. She knew only a few tricks: "target", "sit", "up the hill", and "drink water"; she is the only dog I've ever had that would drink on command.

Oh, and Better Half's friend PokiDude liked her. He doesn't like dogs. He promptly declared her a cat on the 4th of July, and then held her a while.

27 May 2018 - Truffle loves tennis balls

10 Mar 2018 - Vigilant Stair Starers

2 June 2018 - Garden Trio

25 Dec 2017 - Christmas Glow

15 April 2018 - Truffle Comforts her Daddy

29 Nov 2018 - Truffle and Angus holding paws

26 Nov 2018 - Truffle sharing her Pouf with Piper

31 Oct 2018 - Halloween Racing Good Luck Charm

5 Dec 2018 - Good Luck Charms x 3

Zephyr is too blind and deaf to notice that Truffle has gone. Piper missing having something warm to curl up with.

It's Gus that has taken her passing the hardest. He looked all over the yard for her - and refuses to believe she isn't there. Surely Truffle must be inside while he's out, and thus out when he comes in and runs upstairs. He's tried every trick to make her materialize, including going into his box and jumping out again.  Now he refuses to play tuggy. He's more subdued. He wants to comfort us with licks, and curls up tightly beside us. He's lost a lot, our Gus has. Sammie, and the Chew Toy. Now his best bud.

17 Dec 2018 - Gus and Piper comfort each other

Edit:  I did forget to mention that I achieved a decade-long dream - dog-stacking. That's where you put a 3 pound dog on top of a 7 pound dog on top of a lardass chidoxi... and they all fall asleep together. I have no picture for it, alas.

As for that oft-mentioned but never-seen Italian Greyhound?  The farce is strong in him.

Darth InsIggius
He's not doing to bad for his age.  15 is a long time for any dog to be on this earth. Zephyr is pushing 19.