Friday, February 8, 2008

Peaceful Journeys, Freckles

One afternoon in October, 1993, I was watching TV in our family room after school. I looked up at one point and saw my Dad outside on the patio. That was odd, I thought. He usually came inside through the garage, never went around to the backyard. A few minutes later I looked outside again, and he was kneeling on the ground with a tiny Beagle puppy. Oh, he found a stray. Poor puppy, I thought, and rushed outside to pet it.

Our Cocker Spaniel, Belle, had passed the year before. I asked my parents for another dog, but they weren't too keen on the idea. I almost didn't believe my Dad when he told me that tiny puppy was my new puppy! My parents told me I could name her. I couldn't decide, and finally settled on Freckles, because she had tiny spots all over her body that looked like, well, freckles.

Freckles was 2.8 pounds at her first vet visit. She was 8 weeks old my dad brought her home. He got her from a guy he worked with who had a litter of 3. He held tiny Freckles against his shoulder the drive home, and she howled the entire drive. He says his left ear is still ringing today from that drive home.

Our first year with Freckles was trying, to say the least. She quickly earned the nickname Devil Dog. I never thought a dog that tiny could cause such pain with her biting. We wore gloves when playing with her to protect her hands. My Dad resorted to buying leather work gloves from the hardware store. Freckles loved books, and we had to remove all books from the lower bookshelves. She tried our patience, and more than once my parents talked about getting rid of her. It would have broken my heart. In my freshman religion class, we started each day by going around the room and each person could say something they wanted to pray for. Several classes during Freckles' first year my prayer was that my parents would not get rid of my puppy. We stuck it through, and when she turned 1 she was like a different dog. Calmer, no more biting - tolerable and extremely lovable.

Four years later when I went away to college my parents gave me a wooden Beagle statue to take with me. I set it on my desk in my dorm room. When I transferred to a college in St. Louis and moved back home at the end of the school year, I kept the wooden Beagle on my desk in my bedroom.

Even though I only lived with Freckles her first 8 years (after that I had my own apartment), she was my dog. My parents never changed her tag, which had my name on it.

Last year Freckles started having health problems. She had to go to the bathroom often, and woke up several times in the middle of the night. After several months, my parents found out she had Cushings Disease, had a tumor on her spleen, and en enlarged liver. The vet prescribed medication to ease the effects of Cushings Disease, and referred my parents to a specialist for the tumor. They visited the specialist, but in the end decided to do nothing. Freckles was 14, and if they opted for surgery, there was a chance she wouldn't survive. They decided to make her life as good as possible (as if they hadn't already made it better than any dog could hope for!), as long as she wasn't in pain.

My Mom works from home, so has been with Freckles all day, every day for the past year, leaving the house as little as possible so she would be there anytime Freckles needed to go out, which was often. It was trying for my Mom, but Freckles wasn't in much pain, and still looked happy most of the time, so my parents stuck it out.

Last night Freckles had a very bad night. She couldn't get settled down to sleep, and was restless all night. She wouldn't eat or drink. This morning she was obviously very miserable. My parents debated what would be best. Maybe they'd wait till Monday and see if she felt better over the weekend. But they knew. They called the vet, and he squeezed them in for an 11:00 appointment. During this time, I was in a meeting at work and didn't know anything was wrong.

When I got back to my desk at 10:30, I had a message from my parents on my desk phone as well as 2 missed calls and a message on my cell phone. My grandma has also battled a slew of health problems the past year, and when I saw all the missed calls I knew that something was wrong with either my grandma, or Freckles. My mom answered the phone, but handed it to my dad because she was crying. He told me what was happening. I told him I'd meet them at the vet's office. When my dad asked me if it would interfere with work I simply said, "It doesn't matter. Family is more important than work. I'm going to take care of a few things real quick, then I'll be at the vet by 11." Thankfully the vet is only 15 minutes from where I work.

I cancelled the meetings I had in the afternoon, asked my teammate to take care of anything that might come up that afternoon, then went to find my boss to tell her I was leaving for the day. Ronnie was still in the conference room, talking with a few stragglers from the meeting I had just left. I didn't know one of the people in the room, and told myself I wouldn't cry in front of strangers. That didn't turn out so well. I told Ronnie (who also has dogs) what was going on, and started crying. Ronnie is a great boss, and told me to do whatever I need to do, not to worry about work, and asked if I needed someone to drive me to the vet. I told her thanks, but I would manage.

At the vet, we hugged and kissed and petted Freckles. My Dad gave her one last backrub, one of her favorite things. The vet and his assistant were very kind. After he gave her the shot, he whispered "Peaceful journeys" to her. My parents and I petted her until the end, and after. She went peacefully. Freckles laid her head on her paw, as she always did when she slept, and looked very peaceful when it was over. Now she's with Belle, our Cocker Spaniel, and Chico, the Chihuahua my parents had when they were first married. She can run and chase birds again. But we miss her.

She never went to the park. When we get her ashes, we're going to take her to the park I take Loki and Tiberius to, and we're going to spread her ashes there so she can be with my boys whenever they are running around at the park.

I love you, Freckles, and will miss you.

Currently playing in iTunes: Pie Jesu by Sarah Brightman


Freckles puppy.jpg





Sylvie said...

I am sorry about your loss.
What a send -off Freckles had with all the people she loved most close by. You made the right choice to skip meetings in favor of that comforting departure event.
Your parents will never forget it and neither will you.
All dogs go to heaven.

Michael G. said...

Jennifer, We're so sorry for your loss. I know how much Freckles meant to you and your family. I heard many wonderful stories about Freckles when I worked for your dad at SBC.

Freckles was a very lucky puppy to be a part of such a wonderful family.

-Michael, Katie, Jake and Pedro

A Soldier's Girl said...

I'm sorry you had to say goodbye to Freckles.

May you both find peace, soon.

(From PeaceablePaws)

Mary S said...

I'm glad you were there with your parents for Freckles. I know how much you love your dogs and of course, Freckles knew that more than anyone. Sylvie's right - all dogs go to heaven. Or maybe dogs are here to bring heaven to us....

Kate said...

I'm sorry about Freckles, Jen. 14 years old is a ripe old age for a dog. I'm sure you and your family gave her lots of love during those years.