Coconut’s End

Today was the day that Coconut, our “Malty-Poo” (1/2 Maltese 1/2 Miniature Poodle) met his end.

About 6 months ago he had a lump removed from his leg. Mast cell cancer. Median survival is about 4 months, he went longer. But the cancer returned. A 2nd lump also formed under the skin of his neck.

6 months is about 3 years in “dog years”, using the 7:1 ratio. So a good life extension.

He was pain free for most of the time. This last week he’d started having mild pain from time to time, then some acute pain and yelps if things got pushed; but most of the time he was still happy and enjoying himself.

We did the Doggy Bucket List over the last few weeks. A few days ago the “long long walk” wherever his nose invited him to go. On the way back, the Big Dogs behind the Big Fence were barking. He got to do all the barking back he wanted (instead of the usual tug on the leash to “move along, move along”).

Dinners this last few days were mostly roast turkey, bits of “turkey ham”, some cheese, grilled lamb burger and an endless bowl of kibble. Along the way he also had nibbles & bits of whatever was on my plate that interested him. Buttered toast. Fried eggs. SPAM slices. Salmon. Chicken. He was not fond of pepper though, so things needed to be un-spiced. He had a weak spot for the crust of pies, in bits. Lunch today was finished with a bit of Ice Cream.

Last night, he had a bit of pain, so I’d given him some pain meds, and he wanted comforting. He got to sleep on The Big Bed next to me (yes, up on The Forbidden Bed).

Over the couple of months (since his companion dog, Cinnamon, died) we had taken him with us when we went anywhere, and then I’d take him on walks at each destination. He had a penchant for finding dumpsters to sniff ;-) He didn’t like being left alone, and with Cinnamon gone, he would be all alone for the first time in most of his life. We avoided that.

Coconut had white fur with some curl in it. When freshly bathed it would curl a bit more and look a lot like shaved coconut, thus the name.

A very forgiving soul, if you pulled some hair in trimming, or cut a bit close on the toenails, he would yelp (being something of a Drama King…) but then forgive you in the next minute. Full of energy and joy, when offered a special treat, or even if you just arrived home after being gone a long time, he would “bounce” just bouncing up and down about 2 inches coming off the ground a tiny bit.

An extremely intelligent dog, he would plan out things. Finding a way to sneak into the bedroom and get under the bed. Lurking just out of the kitchen watching around the corner for when the food was ready to be handed out, then taking the most strategic spot.

The Malty-Poo is bred to be a lap dog companion. He liked nothing more than to be in your lap, loving you and being petted, or belly rubbed, or just snuggled.

His early years included being a Street Dog in Los Angeles. Our Daughter-In-Law rescued him. Then she married our Son and they joined the clan together. When they moved to Chicago about 5 or so years ago, it was not the best environment for the dogs (Coconut & Cinnamon – a Dachshund). A 3rd floor walk up and snow in winter… Taking a toddler and 2 dogs down the stairs every few hours for a “potty break” was a bit too much work for a new mom. So I said we’d take care of the dogs (and I got to drive them to California…)

We had them for about 4 years now.

As a rescue dog, he was “street smart”, but also liked to bark at other dogs. A little dog that survived by being “vigorous” when on the street. I think he liked the “variety walks” around shopping malls and such as it reminded him of his street days. He had a knack for finding interior corners with sun and where the wind was blocked. One cold day he found a corner that was quite comfortable, where we took a short break.

But yesterday he had been holding up the hurt arm, trying not to put weight on it. Yelping a little if it got brushed by something. We had some pain meds, but they tended to make him sleepy (Gabapentin) and a bit spaced. Today he needed some to stop hurting. We knew it was time. Some of the “spark” was gone and he was tired of hurting and ready to let go.

We went to the Emergency Vet (open 24 x 7 ) and willing to let us be with him at the end even though we are Purebloods and declined the experimental mRNA jab. (Thanks for the suggestion, H.R.!) While we were expecting it to be more costly, in fact it was about $200 less than at our upscale regular vet. The were very careful to keep him comfortable and the process was very professional. We were with him to the end.

This mattered a lot as he had “abandonment issues”. Probably from being dumped on the streets to fend for himself. He didn’t like it when His People were gone for any amount of time. We didn’t want his last moments to be feeling abandoned to strangers.

So his passing was with both of us present, getting his preferred ear rubs, neck rubs, head scratches and petting.

Then we had to come home to an empty house with no-one to greet us. The first time in many years.

He was estimated to be about 12 to 13 years old, and had the best years we could give him. Private yard. Best food. Perpetual fresh water. A regular parade of Squirrels to bark at, along with the occasional cat. The “Evening Neighborhood Bark” happening about sundown. His own bed with a little heater near it in winter. And this last year or so, unlimited “couch time”. He went out on a high note, and not alone nor struggling. Loved to the end.

Now he and Cinnamon can join up in whatever Doggy Heaven might exist and be back together again.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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18 Responses to Coconut’s End

  1. Annie says:

    You gave him a lovely life…so important. It is a bleak experience losing a loved dog, especially twice in short order.

  2. beththeserf says:

    So sorry, EM. But he had such a good life with you and that is the main thing. So many dogs have lonely lives stuck in backyards.

  3. AC Osborn says:

    Anyone that loves dogs has been through this time, you did it well.
    For us the second time was enough anguish to call it quits, not being able to face it agian.
    Others can’t wait to get in a replacement to spoil.

  4. jim2 says:

    Sorry to hear about your dog. They are very special people.

  5. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – My sincere condolences. I’m feeling for you, brother.


    Good to hear that the same screwy rules here applied to the emergency vet hospitals in California. I was almost willing to bet they wouldn’t let you be with the dog at any place. But thankfully, the CA Covid Nazis bureaucrats were asleep on this one.

    Probably about the same on cost as here, too. What; about a hundred bucks or two more than the regular vet would have charged? They do have higher overhead with the extra staff and more specialty equipment than regular vet offices.

    I still can’t figure out why the emergency vet hospitals are exempt from the “nobody gets in” rules, even in California. I have absolutely no clue why that is so.


    P.S. Every now and then, when I step out and see the squirrels in the back yard, I bark at them. They are still so conditioned from the girls running them off (and the girls got a couple of them too!) that they immediately react with RUN FOR IT, GUYS!!

    It makes me laugh and I like to think it gives our dogs the last laugh out there somewhere.

  6. Simon Derricutt says:

    My condolences, for what it’s worth. I never found it changes much personally, since the hole remains anyway. At least Coconut had a lot of enjoyable situations in his last times.

  7. cdquarles says:

    Best wishes, our gracious host. Been there, done that; and a number of times. Being “country” folk, having animals come and go is a part of life. It keeps us (here) aware of our own limits and to enjoy what life brings, good or bad. We are down to our mouser cat, Rascal, for now. My niece got a new and better house, so Evie went back to live with her family.

  8. philjourdan says:

    I am glad they allowed you to be with him. Pet’s may not be as smart as humans (that is debatable given the general IQ of the population), but their EQ is as acute or higher than humans.

    We had to put down a couple of pets just as the Covid started and then in the middle of it. The first was a rescue we got at 4 weeks. A gray and white kitten I named Slim Shady (I hate M&M, but love that name). He had a lot of health problems that first year, but we pulled him through. He loved to climb up my leg and sit on my shoulder. Worked well in the winter, not so much in the summer! But he never got over 5lbs. Then one day we came home. He was about 13 months old at the time. He could not move his back legs. So we took him to the ER. Since he was so small, when they X-Rayed his hind legs, they got the whole body. So were able to find out the problem. A blood clot had left his heart and settled into the main artery supplying blood to his hind legs. The vet said he only had about a 10% chance of surviving the night and even then, he would probably not regain full use of his legs. We made the very hard decision to put him down. And I do mean hard. I have put pets down before, but he was too young to understand and did not want to let go.

    A year later, one of our older cats got cancer. We did not realize it at first (only that she had a problem and the vet was testing). BUt I found her under a bush outside looking like she was dead! So we rushed her to the ER (which also had an oncology section) and that is when the diagnosis was confirmed. This being the age of Covid, we had to schedule visits while they were trying to treat her. At first she seemed to respond, but after about 4 days, she took a turn for the worse. They called us, and we rushed in. They said she would not last much longer since she was no longer responding to the treatment. We made the decision to put her down. They prepped her and then brought her to us. She was in a lot of pain then, you could see it. But she looked into my eyes and purred when I held her. She knew. And she was ready. I held her while they administered the medicine and she passed peacefully in my arms.

    My older cat – Suzy Q, had lived a good life, and knew the end was coming and welcomed it. My baby Slim Shady had lived barely a year, and did not understand. Just like people.

  9. philjourdan says:

    p.s. THe x-ray showed Slim Shady had a congenital heart problem that had caused the clot to form. It was also why he never grew. We did not know this until then. But we never had him fixed since the Vet liked to do it when they reached 5 lbs.

  10. John Hultquist says:

    Such things are never easy.
    Thanks for the essay.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Annie:
    We knew they both had cancer (well, knew Cinnamon had breast lumps, the vet diagnosed it as likely cancer but we never did a biopsy) so we knew the end was coming. Didn’t make it any easier.

    Coconut just loved life. A bundle of joy looking for a good time. I think he knew this was the best of life for him. We originally had some “house rules” like not making a barking racket ever time a dog walked by anywhere up-wind of the yard. He learned to be more quiet, but was not keen on it. Similarly “not allowed in the bedroom” and “couch ONLY if we pick you up”. That was the first 3 years. As they became obviously “end game”, I just let the rules go.

    All the couch time you wanted, with or without invitation. Go ahead and get under the bed (and the last night on the bed). Bark at whatever makes you happy. Eat my food too. (He really liked baked salmon and fried lamb mince more than his kibble, but sometimes had a go at the kibble even to the end.)

    What he liked most was to get a bit of lap time under a blanket that we kept on the couch just for that. One of those very open loose weave things so you can still breath through it. He’d just snuggle up and get all warm and cozy. Then when too warm, sneak out a couple of feet away to the end of the couch to cool down. Rinse and repeat. Belly rubs, ear rubs, neck massage and back massage sometime solicited by a nose under the hand lifting it into “slide down the neck” position ;-)

    Part of how I knew “it was time” is that I had to start lifting him onto the couch (instead of his usual “practice back and forth then jump up”… followed the last couple of days by a bit of “yelp” if the hand position put ANY tension on the skin over the cancer. He started to be hesitant about the lift to his favorite place, and the leg would be held up away from touch once up. The balance of pleasure and pain was approaching equal, and we would not let it go to negative pleasure.

    His harness for walks no longer could be used (that neck lump) and that was one of his greatest joys. He would hunker down and pull like a sled dog if you were too slow, and just “worked the street”, finding anywhere a marker had been placed and putting his scent on top of it. Investigating all manner of interesting smells (especially like the dumpsters at malls and restaurants – something I didn’t learn until the last year)

    But yeah, 2 in a couple of months has been a bit much…

    @BethTheSerf:

    Burt, our Golden, was a back yard dog. OTOH, I spent a lot of time in the yard then ;-) He was my “drinking buddy” and the spouse was not pleased when one day he had a hangover from a bit too much beer ;-)

    @A.C.Osborn:

    This is it for us. We’re past the point of doing another one. (It would be unclear who would last longer with a puppy…)

    @PhilJourdan:

    Coconut was as “generally smart” as a lot of people I have known. He was a thinker and you could see when he had decided something like “I’ll let Cinnamon crowd the door, then when she has to back up as it opens, I’ll run out first!”…

    @H.R.:

    I think you skipped over the part where I said the Emergency Vet was a couple of $Hundred LESS than our Designer Vet… Surprised me too. Something like $250 instead of $450 (or $1500 if you wanted cremation individually with a box of ashes… from the Designer Vet…). IF I’d known that I’d likely have been taking our pets to the Emergency Vet for all their treatments, but I’d just Assumed a 24 x 7 Emergency Vet would be more expensive.

    I’m not sure who sets the rules on attendance. It might just be the individual vets.

    Per Barking:

    FWIW, I taught the children to “howl at the moon” ;-) As a family we would sometimes go out on full moon nights and have a bit of a howl. (Neighbors watching TV seemed to never notice ;-). Well, sometimes with the dogs, at the Evening Bark, I’d join them… I’d spot a squirrel sometimes, mutter in a tense voice “Squirrel!” and bark. The dogs loved it and would kick up a barking fuss pronto!

    I may bark at the squirrels yet again… once my muse recovers…

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @PhilJourdan:

    Pets with “special needs” can be the most dear to us.

    @John H.:

    You are most welcome. Just figured I’d get it down on a page while it was still a fresh memory.

    @CDQuarles:

    Growing up in Farm Country and with lots of animals, this is something I’ve been through a lot, and also something very novel… In farm country 1/2 a century ago, it was often “shoot & shovel”. Putting a Pet Cemetery in the yard. Now, like many things special from my childhood, that’s 2 crimes. Maybe three… We used ether (spray engine starter) on one very old morbid cat. An easy exit without noise or bother. Just a box and some “happy gas”. Folks in the country know about life and death and the many ways.

    The whole Euthanasia & funeral ritual is a bit alien to me. City ways… Poor folks in the country can’t pop $250 to $1200 for a dying pet, so don’t.

    @Simon:

    The hard bit is finding “habits” that are no longer needed… Walking wide around where the food and water dishes used to be. Groggy into the kitchen at first light, headed for the front door to let a “potty run” happen, then realizing I don’t need to open the door, just make coffee. Sitting on the couch and preparing for “the lift” but there’s nobody to lift. All the dozens of ways this friend was integrated into my life that now need a bit of undoing.

    Eventually it fades to just remembering the Good Times.

    Right now we’re slowly going through the house finding all the various “Dog Stuff” and getting it together for a Give Away (to someone somewhere someday).

    One day at a time extricating me from the now useless habits…

  13. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – Bark at the squirrels now and then. It’s fun, it feels good, and it honors the dogs who passed on.

    By golly! I did miss that the emergency cost was less. Glad you called them just to check if they’d let you in with Coconut.

  14. Ossqss says:

    Sorry to hear the news EM, but thankful your friend is at peace.

  15. andrewsjp says:

    EM, you did it right. Thanks for the lesson.

  16. Pinroot says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. He sounded like a very lucky dog to have found his way into your life. It sounds like both of you were better off for it.

  17. Jay says:

    EM,

    My heart goes out to you and your wife. And after your dachshund so soon. Very tough.
    You did all the right things, God bless you.

  18. p.g.sharrow says:

    At least for them They won’t have to make the move with you. One more major trauma avoided. With pets that is a problem that some don’t tolerate well, specially as they get old..

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