The Heart Wants What It Wants

The house is a little quieter. Dixie died early Thursday morning.

Dixie "Doodle Bug" in the Indian Paintbrush, Spring 2013

Dixie “Doodle Bug” in the Indian Paintbrush, Spring 2013

I knew when I got home from work Wednesday evening she was in trouble. Lethargic. Eyes in a faraway place. When I picked her up to take her to the animal emergency room, clumps of hair fell on the floor.

I appreciate that Denton has an animal e.r. I told myself it was possible that they could get her blood sugar back in balance and she would be back home, but I also was no fool. I declined the diagnostic bloodwork and I checked the “do not resuscitate” box.

I left her there, a clean and well-lighted place, and slept through the phone call that came at 1:21 a.m. When I awoke at 5:15 a.m., to dress and go pick her up, I saw the messages waiting. I didn’t need to listen to know.

I always wonder what a veterinarian thinks of you when you decline care. I loved Dixie. She came into our lives just two years ago and she took up a big spot in my crusty old heart that has already been through fire and rain.

When Dr. Cody Bullock diagnosed her diabetes last November, he told me some people opt right then to put their dog down and he said wouldn’t judge me if I did. I didn’t flinch. We did a good job giving her insulin twice a day and helping her adapt to her blindness. But, looking back on the past few weeks, there were signs something was amiss. She was eating less dog food. (But so was Gus, so I thought it was just summer appetite). When we were outside in the evenings, she foraged for cicadas and grasshoppers (dead, of course) to eat. A few weeks ago, she vomited. She recovered. But it was black. She was bleeding somewhere.

I kept a close eye on her, but then there was a death in the family. I left for a few days. And then I worked two Saturdays in a row. I probably missed a clue somewhere, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

My little sister called me yesterday. Her dog was in trouble. Grand mal seizures. Awful ones. Not sure yet what’s causing them. So far not under control either.

She’s bracing for the worst. But she told me up where she is, in Park City, there’s a vet that comes to your house to euthanize a pet.

I wanted that for Dixie. More than anything. Doggie hospice.

My heart was already aching.

And again, I didn’t get to say good-bye.


  1. Zoe on August 30, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Oh, Peggy, I am so, so sorrt, Dixie was such a good friend. I loved seeing her when I came over. She has lots of friends on the other side if the rainbow.

    • Zoe on August 30, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Sorry, sorry…side of the rainbow, this new phone does too much 😉 here’s a big hug!

  2. Sharon on August 30, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    So, so sorry, Peggy. I’m glad Dixie and you had each other for a while.

  3. Tim Ruggiero on August 30, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    I’ve had to say goodbye to two, now. The first, a Doberman mix (no clue what the ‘mix’ was) I was in high school, and leaving for school that morning. I opened the front door, and the dog that would be named ‘Schultz’ ran in, up the stairs and plopped down at the top as if he were home after a romp through the neighborhood. I somehow managed to talk my parents into my keeping him. He was a great dog.

    About a year after his adopting me, he became a hero. One summer night, after we all went to bed, except for Mom, who stayed up to read, a burglar quietly opened the upper level porch screen door. Some dogs are ‘guard’ dogs, others are ‘attack’ dogs. Dobermans are the ‘attack’ variety. Which means they don’t usually announce their pending attack.

    Schultz was sleeping on the floor next to my Mom in her chair when the Bad Guy was attempting entry. Mom would later say she never heard the screen sliding, but Schultz sure did. Didn’t quite spring up, but rather raised an ear. Then decided to see what that sound was, being much more quieter about it than Bad Guy.

    In a span of several seconds, the home went from nearly dead quiet to the sounds of Bad Guy screaming in terror as he fled on foot into the wooded area behind the home. In the dark, with Schultz tearing after him. My how we all laughed when my Dad couldn’t stop laughing at poor Bad Guy, Doberman biting at him while he ran haphazardly into trees in the pitch darkness trying to flee.

    If Mom or Dad ever had thought twice about keeping him around, that sealed the deal. Schultz didn’t quite understand all the praise and attention, as he was just doing his job as the “Protector of Home”. My Dad decided that the Protector needed a big juicy steak as a reward, which he did not decline.

    About a year later, the following summer, somebody left the garage door open. As was my parent’s habit back then, the car keys were usually left in the ignition. So you know what’s coming next. Some convict, who had been released from the county jail just that morning, decided to steal my Mom’s car. Schultz heard the guy was barking loudly hearing ‘something’ in the garage. It was early morning, so we were all still in bed. I went to to door to see what all the fuss was about, and saw my Mom’s car backing out of the garage. Being half asleep, I couldn’t figure out where my Mom would be going at such an early time. Had one of us got up sooner, maybe the Convict wouldn’t have stolen the car.

    I went off the Navy about 2 years later, and was gone for more than a year before my first trip back home. I still remember how happy Schultz was to see me. After jumping on me repeatedly, he ran around the outside of the house about a million times, coming back to jump on me every third time or so.

    Some 10-12 years later, Schultz became blind due to diabetes. We jokingly re-named him ‘Bonk’ as he would frequently run into things. He seemed to take it in stride. My Dad gave him his insulin shots every day, and Schultz didn’t seem the least bit bothered by it. But then the vomiting started, and the lethargic-I’m -going-lie-here-for a-while-longer started. Then the not eating so much to not eating at all. We knew the end was near. He was failing, and fast.

    The painful, if not inevitable decision as made. My Dad, for reasons unknown to me, had Schultz cremated. Last I checked, decades later, the copper tin containing his ashes is still on the fireplace mantel. I like to think he’s still on watch, keeping my Mom safe.

  4. Jon Garinn on August 30, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    So sad to hear that grief has once again paid a visit to your heart. Hopefully, its stay will be brief, quickly replaced by the joy of happy memories. We’ve lost three dogs over the past four years, and though every death was hard to bear, none was more so than our sweet little Teacup. She was so tiny…a teacup chihuahua not quite 4 pounds. Her fierceness in protecting us was matched only by ours in protecting her. I wrote a little tribute to her the night we let her go, and I’m so glad I did. I’ll always remember exactly how I felt that terrible day.

    The house named Hampshire that Teacup so fiercely defended is quiet now. Her bark, always worse than her bite, is silent. She will no longer sound the alarm when foes and friends approach. No longer will she alert Gunny and Baxter to join her at the door, whether it be to ward off a stranger or welcome home her daddies. For her entire life, she failed to understand how tiny she was. Perhaps that’s why she leaves such a big void in the hearts of those who held her dear.

    After her breast cancer took an aggressive turn, Teacup died on June 25 in the Vet Stop Animal Clinic, surrounded by Cliff and Jon and her longtime veterinarian, Dr. Vladimir de Jong. She was about 12 years old.

    She was born about a year and a half before Cliff and Jon adopted her in 2004. Her original name was Mitzi. Cliff and Jon stopped at the 651 Club (now the Rainbow Lounge) in Fort Worth for a beer, and ended up taking Mitzi home. The proprietors needed to place her in a loving home, and the Garinns were eager to provide. She arrived in a pink carrier, wearing a pink collar with rhinestones, as well as a few other “princess” accessories. The Garinns decided it was all a little “too gay,” so they ditched the pink carrier in favor of a blue dog house, swapped the rhinestone collar for one with rainbow swirls, and, most important, changed her name. Friends later observed that the Garinns had made a good choice: “There’s nothing ‘gay’ about Teacup.”

    Over the next decade, Teacup was the center of family life. Jon often called her his “precious gem,” and, despite his earlier hesitation, Cliff eventually submitted to calling her Hampshire’s “little princess.” A pink baby blanket, the gift of Cliff’s sister-in-law, accompanied her throughout her life and provided cushy comfort at her death.

    Possessing a chihuahua charm that she never flaunted, she won the hearts of everyone who saw her. Neighborhood walks often resulted in stopped traffic, as motorists caught sight of her leading the pack. She was never in want of attention, yet she didn’t seek it. As a member of the Hampton Hills Neighborhood Association, she agreed to serve as the mascot for the Neighborhood Watch program. She started a successful blog, offering “Teacup Tips” to improve neighborhood safety. At neighborhood events, she was often sought out by members of local government and law enforcement for “photo ops.” Although she once posed with Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Teacup was more inclined to fade into the background. She never wanted to be the life of the party, but everyone knew she was the heartbeat.

    After her “retirement” from the public stage, Teacup dedicated herself to domestic life. She loved using Buddy as an ottoman, proudly sitting on his back as if she were enthroned. When Buddy died a year ago, Teacup seemed bereft. Still, she loved parading her daily dog treat in front of the other dogs, knowing it made her the most powerful pooch in the pack. She also displayed great daring, occasionally escaping the confines of the backyard for neighborhood adventures. The telephone number engraved on her pink, heart-shaped identification tag, as well as her celebrity status, always ensured a prompt recovery.

    At the time of her death, Teacup was harboring a broken bit of dog bone in her little house, a last bit of loot to give her an edge over Baxter and Gunny.

    During Teacup’s last days, Cliff and Jon cared for her and showered her with snuggles and kisses and treats. Despite being in piercing pain, she managed to run through the grass with the other dogs, and found a way to finally sit comfortably in Cliff’s lap and then in Jon’s. In her final hours, she found safety in Jon’s arms, and, resting her head between her paws, staunchly refused to close her eyes, choosing instead to pass from this life while gazing at her daddies.

    In 1870, George Graham Vest, a U.S. senator from Missouri, argued the case of a man who sought damages from a sheep farmer after the sheep farmer killed the man’s hunting dog. Vest’s closing argument has become one of the most famous tributes to a dog in American history. First spoken 143 years ago, his words are fitting tribute to Teacup:

    The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw a stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation fall to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

    Teacup was such a faithful friend, and she will be sorely missed.

  5. Peggy on August 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Thank you everyone for your words of kindness and for sharing your stories of loss. They give us such comfort.

  6. Larry on August 30, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Condolences. They’re as close to family as you can get without baptizing them. They sure as hell are more loving and faithful than some human members of your family too.

  7. Samra Bufkins on August 31, 2014 at 3:05 am

    Peggy, I’m so sorry. About 6 weeks ago we lost two cats in 10 days. They were loyal, loving, longtime companions. I remember when we put our first basset hound down (raging cancer that came on quickly) there was such a hole in my heart. Our fur babies give us unconditional love, and we miss them terribly when they’re gone. Try not to beat yourself up–you gave Dixie a home and good, loving care for the last years of his life. That’s all anybody can ask for.

  8. Carol Heinkel on August 31, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Dixie joins all the dogs we have all loved over the years.
    Good dogs, good memories.
    May there be more.

  9. Cindy on September 1, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    And now I recall Oscar the Kitty. Dumb and friendly, and gone before I was ready.

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