If anyone seriously believes that dogs don’t grieve, I invite them to come visit my beautiful Chow girl, Mokie.
Monte spent his last night in our home after Dr. Beaulieau came to Maison de Lomonaco to send him to the Rainbow Bridge.
Mokie and Monte were both very excited to see Dr. B, on her first visit to our home. Monte tried to bow to her, yelping and quickly collapsing in pain. We sat with him for a while, Jim, Mokie, Dr. B and I. He quickly relaxed, and readily accepted scritchies on his ears, bum, belly, and under his neck. His tail thumped as he received bits of forbidden fruit, chocolate chip cookies.
Dr. Beaulieau asked if we could walk him for a few steps. I encouraged him to get up, and he actually took a few steps before his legs started sliding out from underneath his body and he crumpled onto the hardwood. He yelped, fell, and sighed. I looked at Dr. B beseechingly, “What would you do if this was your dog?” She reassured me that if Monte were hers, my decision would be hers as well.
I thought of the first time Monte met Dr. Beaulieau. If all worked well, she was to be my new vet and colleague. Eventually, Dr. Beauliaeu, Steve, and I hoped to open a facility together where we could work as a team to bring dogs to physical and behavioral wellness. Our first appointment was on a hot day in August. Monte, as all Saints do, was slobbering mercilessly in the heat. Jim and I were well equipped with slobber rags.
Dr. Beaulieau was nice enough to move her office fan from the counter of the examination room to the floor for Monte and provide him with a drink. He liked this, as it is what I used to do when I brought him and Mokie to work at the publishing company with me to hang out in the office for an afternoon.
Dr. Beaulieau was talking to us and suddenly, as her mouth opened, Monte shook his head and flung a ping-pong sized wad of slobber directly into Dr. B’s mouth. Jim and I gasped, I think my heart briefly stopped. Dr. Beaulieau quickly turned pale, running from the room. Looking a bit wan, she returned later and thankfully did not press charges or kick us out as we showered her with apologies.
As the years went by, many of the clients she referred to me would nod knowingly when I would mention Monte, saying “Dr. B told me about his slobber.” It was so fitting that he left her with that story, because everywhere he went he made a big impression. Most reactive dog in Click to Calm ever at Clicking with Canines. Only dog to ever fling slobber in Dr. Beaulieau’s mouth. Walking him past the local elementary school at lunch time, dozens of kids would start jumping and screaming “Beethoven! Beethoven!” as their teachers laughed and waved while Monte beamed with pride, as if he knew his devastating handsomeness made him the center of attention. Even the burliest and gruffest of road crew workers would quickly burst into laughter at the sight of him trotting along in his back pack. I doubt if a single person that spent time with him would ever forget him.
Right before Dr. Beaulieau pulled the needle from her bag, she looked at Monte, tears in her eyes, throat, and voice, and said, “Who will fling slobber into my mouth now?” I knew exactly how she felt and laughed through the tears. To the uninitiated, it surely would have sounded so disgusting, but I had to laugh because even despite such a memory, you’d have to have a heart of coal not to fall in love with this beast that lay suffering before us, wagging his tail and smiling through the pain.
I’ve often thought since, “who will slobber on my pants, walls, floors, halls, doors, ceilings, and heartstrings?” Who will pant heavily in the background of my training videos, steal food when I accidentally leave the garbage on the floor or the oven cracked, who will knock things off the coffee table to have them shatter on the floor weekly? Yes, I miss these things.
Of all his many admirers, perhaps his most devoted was Mokie.
She sat with us as we said goodbye to him, ears back and whimpering softly. Despite their undeservedly bad reputation, Chows are really remarkably sensitive and, at the risk of anthropomorphizing, I’d say she was every bit as sad as the two-legged fans which saw Monte take his last breath.
She sniffed him carefully after Dr. Bealieau left, from nose to tail. The entire time, her ears were back, her eyes closed, her face unspeakably sad. She retreated to the foyer, lying approximately 6 feet from Monte. She spent the rest of the night in this position, watching over him. She would not move, take her eyes off him, or come into the living room. She would not walk near or past him, even when called. It was as if it hurt her too much to walk past him, knowing his tail wouldn’t begin thumping in earnest, his eyes sparkling, his pink belly on full display. I knew exactly how she felt.
After Dr. Beaulieau left, I laid with him for what seemed like hours, trying to imprint on my soul the feeling of his fur between my fingers. Not wanting him to sleep alone on his last night with us, Jim and I crashed in the living room; I on the loveseat, he on the couch. I laid awake for hours, staring at him and crying. Reluctantly, I fell asleep.
When I woke the next morning, I spent another hour staring at Monte before I even got up. When I rose, Mokie was in the same position, frozen, staring, sighing when she’d look at her brother. I went to her and we cried together, I in my own way and she in hers.
When we returned home from taking Monte for his last car ride, she promptly went to the spot where he had spent his last night and hardly budged from this location, with the exception of trips out for potty breaks, for days.
Last weekend, Jim and I went out of town for his family reunion. It was the first time that Mokie had been without Jim, myself, or Monte in 4.5 years. Even when Monte was with us, she disliked being separated him for any amount of time and would be anxious without him. While we were gone, my pet sitter said that she laid in the back yard at the bottom of the stairs, staring at the drive way. She did not want to come in the house or eat the entire time.
Normally wild, playful, impulsive, independent, and somewhat indignant, Mokie is much more sedate since Monte has left the house. She seems to have, for the time being, lost some of her “spark,” a syndrome I think everyone in our home with the exception of Eartha Kitty is experiencing in Monte’s absence. She is tired and seems to have aged significantly in the last few weeks. Monte brought the puppy out in Mokie, and vice versa.
Some may say I’m anthropomorphizing, but I truly do believe that Mokie is grieving with us. Watching her, I’m realizing now that I have many new training challenges – I have to prepare her for our eventual addition of a Saint puppy, make sure I provide her with plenty of fun experiences, practice many controlled separations to help reduce her anxiety. I have to reciprocate her patience with me in my grieving process by allowing her time to process and heal from this loss. She is an “only child” now, an unfamiliar lifestyle to her.
She lost a friend, a confident, a wrestling partner, a teammate, a brother. I swear more than once I saw her rolling her eyes at Monte when I made training mistakes, making a polite joke of my own bad behavior as if to say, “Be patient with this reactive one. She’ll learn if you are patient and loving.” She truly is wise beyond all five of her years..
I am sorry for your loss too, Mokie. You taught Monte as much as I ever did and were his very first and best doggy friend. I know you miss your brother. Before long, you will help me for the second time in raising a Saint Bernard to be a Saint in the truest definition of the word. I have a lot of faith in you, you’re one of the best dog trainers I know. That’s a good girl, cub.