Today we had to put Keesha to sleep. It’s been close to five years since I last had to write one of these posts. In fact, the first ode to a dog who had passed, Shady, was the subject of my first blog post here.
Keesha was 14 years old. Amy adopted her from a shelter in Bloomington, days – maybe hours – away from being put down. She was only about a year old and as sweet as can be, but I believe she had been adopted by a family and didn’t work with them. In any event, the shelter was simply out of room. When Amy adopted her, she was skinny and shy. Mealtime with Brooksey presented some challenges because Keesha, having lived on the mean streets of Bloomington, gulped down food as fast as she could eat it and wasn’t inclined to share. Once she figured out that food would be steady, she settled down and let Brooksey have her share. (Not to say that Brooksey didn’t get nudged out of the way from time-to-time when there were tasty things in the dog bowls.) She quickly put on weight as well. In fact, she put on so much weight at one point that my buddy declared, “she’s an ottoman!”
About the only negative effect that hung on from her time as a stray (and this could have just been part of her nature) was her fear of thunderstorms. Back when she could get up into the bed, you were apt to wake up wearing Keesha as a hat when storms were rolling through.
She was generally the alpha dog, but not terribly assertive. She’d tolerate a certain amount of crap from overbearing puppies, but eventually she’d snarl them into place if they got too rambunctious. Brooksey and Shady never much challenged her. In fact, the only time there was an altercation between Brooksey and Keesha, Brooksey won decisively. It was my fault; I was on the couch eating some leftover Thanksgiving turkey out of a doggie bag. Shady was standing near me, hoping for some. Keesha edged closer, causing Shady to give a little puppy snarl. The ridiculousness of puppy Shady challenging Keesha with her tiny little snarl made me laugh. But that stopped pretty quickly as Keesha made some sort of move toward me (nothing aggressive – she was just trying to get some turkey), Brooksey came flying out of nowhere and latched on to Keesha’s neck (quite literally scaring the poop out of Keesha.) We think Brooksey thought Keesha was going to hurt me.
But, Keesha had the sweetest disposition. A stranger was just an opportunity for love. “Nobody loves love as Keesha loves love.” Her ears would go back on her head, her tail would wag hopefully, and she was just about impossible not to pet. She also had a great yowl – often heard when demanding her other great love: puppy treats. At the end, when she stopped wanting puppy treats, we knew something was desperately wrong.
Keesha had endured many health challenges over the years. At the end, she was blind, she had been diabetic and getting insulin shots twice per day for the past seven years, she survived a stroke two years ago, she had degenerative neuropathy (a doggie MS), and she had a mighty hump caused by a fatty tumor. For all of that, she still seemed to love life; happily demanding her puppy treat every day. As an old dog, she even learned a new trick a year or two ago. While staying at Amy’s mom’s house, Keesha learned that if she went outside there, she’d get a treat. So, she tried to parlay this into more treats at home – she’d ask to go out, step outside, then want to come right back in and get her treat. As I said, though, recently she did not take any joy even in that. And so, Amy and I had to make the decision to put her down. That was tough. Even tougher for the kids. Cole wasn’t old enough to know what was happening with Shady, and Harper hadn’t even been born. (In fact, Amy let me know she was pregnant with Harper the evening after we put Shady to sleep.) Needless to say, when we explained what was happening and let them say their goodbyes, Cole and Harper were very sad. I think they’re coming to terms with it, but it is a very sad thing when your dog dies, especially if you feel the duty to affirmatively act to end their suffering.
Some other Keesha memories, in no particular order:
Apparently she climbed up to the top of the back of a couch up against a wall in Amy’s apartment in Monticello. It didn’t seem to dawn on her until half way across that it was, in Amy’s words describing Keesha’s thought process, “NARROW!”
We loved playing a game where Amy and I would stand a ways apart in the yard and call for Keesha. She would cheerfully come barreling (and there is no other way to describe her running other than ‘barreling’) toward the person calling her and get some love. Then the other person would call for her, and she’d happily barrel back. Rinse. Repeat.
Her hair would shed outrageously. Twice per year she’d blow her coat. And, when she did, she smelled oddly good.
Her hair was made for cooler climates. We used to joke that the happiest time in her life was when our furnace went out for a few days in the dead of winter. Finally, the house was being kept at a reasonable temperature and everybody wanted to snuggle up to her.
When we first moved into our house in Monticello, I loved watching Keesha and Brooksey tearing around excited about all the new space after having been apartment dwellers for so long. At some point while moving in, I saw Keesha eating a treat and didn’t think much of it, figuring Amy had given her a treat. Then about 10 minutes later, I saw her eating another one. Turns out she had found a tub with treats in it, and was just helping herself to them one-by-one. There was a similar type incident when she was down in Bloomington, involving a Taco Bell burrito. Rather than just wolf it down on the spot, she was caught slinking away to another room, holding the burrito gently in her mouth.
For some reason, I felt compelled to sing songs to Keesha. Among others, there was “Oh Keesha, you came and you saw and you found me, now I’m giving you love oh Keesha.” (sung to the tune of “Mandy.”) And there was “Down on Keester Island” (sung to the tune of “Thunder Island.”) And, for whatever reason, I liked to greet her by saying “Kuh-kuh-kuh-Keesha!”
I think she hung on so long because she dearly loved her people; and certainly we worked so hard on her health for so long because we loved her. But, at the end, we all wear out one way or another and Keesha was finally at the end. She was a very good dog. Rest now Keesha. We miss you.
It’s tough to let go of good dogs. I feel for you.
Bummer. Putting down a beloved pet is no fun. We have a 15+ year old cat and it’s getting there with her, too.
Life definitely has some tough parts. This is one of them, no doubt. I think breaking it to the kids was the toughest part of the process.
Michael Wallack says
Wow! Thanks so much for sharing Keesha’s story. I know how raw the emotions of putting down a pet can be and I dread the day that I’ll next have to confront this or help my children work through it.
We currently have a dog we “saved” from the Bloomington shelter five years ago. I don’t want to imagine even having to consider putting her down. Sorry for your loss.
Man I’m sorry for you and your family. We have a lab that’s 13, older than all of our kids, and she’s starting the downward slide. She has huge tumors that labs get, and she’s already had one major surgery to remove them. They’ve regrown and I don’t think she could handle another surgery. Her joints are old and painful, and she doesn’t like to move anymore than she has to.
Then we have a 16 year old cat who is also getting pretty up there. So were expecting two major pet deaths any day now.
daron aldrich says
Thanks for sharing your memories of Keesha. Good thoughts your way and to Amy and the kids. Our neighbors had to have Sadie put to sleep a few months ago and their kids are 8 and 5. She was as much our dog as she was theirs. She would wait in their front yard for us to get home from work and bark until we took a treat to her. Pets are awesome but the end is always sad.
Glad you gave Keesha a good home.
Mike Kole says
Sorry to learn of this. It’s so hard to do. But I’ll echo the sentiment of ‘thanks for sharing the stories’ sounded here.
What a beautiful post. There’s just something magical about living with a dog that I think only other dog lovers understand. The end is indeed tough but memories of that relationship help; thanks for sharing some of them with us. Having another dog in the house also helps — I’m sure Brooksey will be getting lots of extra love.
My sympathy to you and your family.
Thanks for the sharing. Brought back painful memories of having “been there, done that” several times for my own animals and even handled the matter for friends. My wife always insists I spend the last minutes with the animal and that can feel as hard as if it were a “real person”.
Bob G. says
I grieve for your loss…pets all too often become valued members of the family.
And I have been down the same street you’re traveling more than a few times…
It never gets easier, as they ALL manage to claim a piece of your heart.
And it’s times like that I read (the poem) “The Rainbow Bridge.”
Thanks for sharing Keesha with all of us.
She will never be forgotten.
A great dog with an outstanding family that lived a wonderful life. May your faithful friend rest in peace.
RIP, Keesha, and condolences to all. Reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUNJjIwlHk8
Two Cents says
On Sunday (7/18) our beloved Maltese passed away at the emergency vet’s office. He was either going on 12 or 13. We had gotten him from a rescue which had gotten him from a shelter in Florida about 7 years ago. He also had diabetes, Cushings and thyroid issues. He had been on vetsulin first until Lily stopped making it then went on insulin about 8 months ago. He also had limited vision because of glaucoma.
But he was still feisty with normal voracious appetite on Saturday.
Sunday, he wouldn’t eat and seemed dazed. We went straight to the emergency vet clinic. We waited about 2 hours Sunday at the emergency vet before he was examined. There was only 1 vet on duty and a small staff but there were at least 3 other critical patients brought in. before and after us, within the same one hour period. So no one apparently called any of the other off-duty emergency vets nor any vet techs (who worked other days and hours) to help out this one vet with the critical rush. It was very air-conditioned at the office. His weight was normal but his temperature had dropped to 94 by the time the emergency vet got to see him. We didn’t think to bring with the insulin or syringes but on the other hand the emergency vet clinic was only about a block away from a pharmacy. Why would we have known that the emergency vet’s office didn’t stock any insulin (and maybe also the applicable syringes)?
The emergency vet made arrangements to keep him overnight in an incubator and to stabilize him there. The emergency vet was uncertain whether he had too low or too high blood sugar without a test. We went home rather than staying. He was taken to the back room incubator cage.
As it turned out, he had some possible other issues (spleen?) and a sky high blood sugar. About 90 minutes after we left there awaiting the phone call as to what his exact situation was, we got the call that his breathing had gotten overly labored and that he could not be revived.
2 other dogs brought there also died (based on their owners’ reactions) while we were waiting there. I wonder if our dog or any of the other dogs could have been saved IF each had received quicker medical attention, rather than being put on hold in the reception area because the one vet was swamped?
The tough part is we have another dog (in good health so far), who was the Maltese’s companion for the last 10 years, who is till trying to figure out where his best buddy is and why he hasn’t returned home
Linda Phillips says
A beautiful tribute; Keesha was lucky to have found you.
Steph Mineart says
So sorry for your loss. She sounds like she was a wonderful dog, and very lucky to get such a caring adoptive family.
Pound puppies are the best! My girlfriend had to put her 12 yr old shepherd down in April. Like Keesha, I think Moon hung on just because she loved Sybil so much. She couldn’t hold down food and was so skinny but still the sweetest dog.
Sorry for your loss
tim zank says
That’s a wonderful tribute to Keesha Doug. My condolences, I have one getting near that time as well, and there is no better friend than one’s dog!
Marycatherine Barton says
So sorry for your loss, Doug. Last year I had to put my beautiful Captain Lavender to sleep, after seventeen years of joy, and understand your sadness.