Thank You All

I am writing this in the silence and solitude of the Badlands in South Dakota… I needed it. As she had done every day of her life, Skip left me with another gift as she took her last breath in my arms a month ago.   Her death…She’s forced me to slow down again. To think about the important things in our lives. To cherish life. Though previously planned, we spent 3 weeks on the road without Skip. This journey has allowed me to clear my mind and slow down my thought process… To think about what is important in our short time here. I owe much of that to Skip…

It has been a VERY long month or more… Skip came home from the Vet for her final trip with me, on August 14th. I’ve remained silent since then, as I attempted to gather my thoughts and muster the energy to put my mental wanderings to paper. My absence has NOT been for lack of gratitude for all of the kind words and notes I’ve received since Skips passing. I will always cherish the sympathies extended from each and every one of you… consider this writing my “thank you” for all of your kind words. Most all of you know that Skip was more than “just a dog” to me. She was my family. My friend. My traveling companion. My co-pilot.

Robert Frost is credited with the quote: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Yet I knew long ago, death is part of life. Life does not go on forever and death cannot be avoided. Not us. Not our pets. Skip taught me that. They don’t live long enough. Our pets.

Another thing I’ve learned in my 63 years, the period from birth to old age is much more brief in dogs than in people. Not nearly long enough for us or our pets we grow to love. I harbor fond memories of Sugar the white German Shepard. Sugar, with whom I shared the same birthday, was credited with countless trophies and ribbons in AKC Obedience trials as I was growing up. Sugar is the dog by which future pets would be measured by me.

There was Tammy, a beautiful traditional German Shepard who also earned her share of awards in AKC Confirmation. She left us when I was very young. Bing, a tireless rabbit-hunting Beagle who like Snoopy, preferred to sleep on top of his dog house my step-dad built from a whiskey barrel. Trooper, a Beagle, who never grew into his oversized ears, was quite clumsy in his rabbit hunting skills, but definitely the family dog. Red, my Irish Setter enjoyed nothing more than a spot in front of the fireplace after a weekend of chasing Pheasants. Skeeter was a bit anti-social. She was a no-nonsense, bird-hunting English Pointer who always amazed my Brittany-owning hunting partners with her performances in the field. Trooper, fairly large for an English Pointer, was far more sociable and less head-strong than her breed is known for. Trooper came down with cancer, Inoperable cancer. We made her comfortable for as long as we could. I vowed after the loss of Trooper: “No more dogs. I can’t handle the pain…”.

Until I met Skip in April, 2005.

The relationship I shared with Skip was special from the day she came into my life. I owned a 1999 Western Star when she was introduced to me. She began her life as a trucking dog, traveling well over a million miles across the US in two different trucks. She has been to the coast of Maine, the Southern tip of Florida, the California/Mexico border, the Northern-most tip of Washington and every state in between. She’s shared blizzards in Wyoming, floods in Illinois,, tornados in Oklahoma, scorching heat in Utah, magnificent sunsets across Montana and indescribable sunrises from coast to coast.

Like most pet owners, books could be written about the experiences Skip and I shared during our twelve years on the road and here at home. Remembering the pleasure of those times, the companionship she provided, makes me feel this prolonged gut wrenching grief I’m enduring, as justified. I deserve to be sad. How how long, I don’t know.

As I came to accept that our time together was growing short, the memories came flooding back. Strolling the beaches in California, her excitement at the sight of cows or horses in the country, hanging out of the window as we cruised this countrys’ Interstate systems. Strolling on the Salt Flats, and watching freighters dock in the New Jersey ports… Like me, Skip endured serious physical issues in her life. Her first major eye surgery in November, 2012. The second, October 2013. A specialist from Iowa State came to Omaha to perform both operations. A diabetic condition that became difficult to control came about not long ago. In the end, between blindness, a heart condition and crippling arthritis, it was time to decide for her… Never in her years with me did I accept anything but the best care for Skip, and it was heart wrenching to accept that nothing could have been changed or done differently in Skips final days. I prayed nightly for nature to take away the decision I was about to make, but in the end, I had to choose…

We are ultimately responsible for our pets care and welfare. It was becoming more and more obvious that Skip could no longer do the things she enjoyed. She couldn’t handle the stairs off of the deck. She could only maneuver around the house by memory and her failing “radar”. She was experiencing more pain than pleasure during our strolls around the yard or the park. She preferred to lay in the front seat of the car on our trips around town instead of hanging out the window with the wind laying back her ears…

The last few months, she’d lay in my lap at three and four in the morning, while tears ran down my cheeks, knowing full well I was going to have to make the life and death decision for Skip. It was obvious that nature was not going to extend any kindness to relieve me of the most difficult decision I had to make with regard to Skip. “Quality of life…” is the term the Vet used during one of our last visits when I was begging the doctor for a miracle. I watched Skip struggling to breathe at night and prayed that we would both be blessed if she’d simply pass quietly before dawn. Choosing euthanasia left me feeling as if I was murdering my closest friend. For months, no matter how much I justified that it was “the right thing to do” there were knots in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I have been drained of emotional energy, and my own daily tasks were becoming impossible as she required hourly attention.

Euthansia is the master of guilt. No matter how certain I was that I was choosing what was best for Skip, I couldn’t convince myself that my decision was what was best.. Is it too early, too premature? Should we try harder? Another drug, additional treatment? She’s only 12 years old… In the end, I made the appointment with the Vets office to put Skip down. The clinic I have used since the beginning… The Vet who has cared for Skip since April 2005… Dr. Simone demanded that she be the one who met up with us on her day off. And I wanted it to be that way. I was appreciative of her commitment to Skip and I… She knew Skips history, she knew my attachment… She knew my concern that Skips final breath be painless and peaceful….

Skip died in my arms as the chemicals took affect… She looked up at me just as the injection began, almost with a thankful, understanding expression… Then, she laid her head across my forearm as she has done for years when we sat in the recliner…. And she took her last breath… “She is gone…” whispered her Vet… “Whatever time you need with her” as she left the room.

I don’t know how much time it will take to accept all of it. Our trip to the west has been much needed to refresh, regroup and to remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, ALL of our lives are short. What matters is what we do with it between life and death. And that includes the pets we love. What THEY have contributed to us between their life an death.


Here I am. A month after Skips passing. I’ve missed a lot, I’ve done a lot. Sherry told me the other day that there were over 200 birthday greetings on my Facebook page and I WILL go back to express my appreciation. Meanwhile, I’m back… Partially. A piece of me is missing. And she will be missed…

Thank you all…

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7 Responses to Thank You All

  1. Peggy mccauley says:

    Dennis, I am so sorry for your lost. I have followed you and skip forever. I thought he was the cutest thing sitting in the cab of your truck and him looking out the window. He’s watching down and letting you know he is near.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Dennis, my best friend, you are a lot like me, to have an animal is just like having children! I have followed you and Skip, and I can see so much of Skip in Speckles, my small Rat Terrier, and now started going through what you just did, like you it is tearing at every one of my heart strings, and so know that the day is coming faster than I can imagine. There can never be another to replace her and just don`t know if I even want to think about doing it, the tears came pouring down my checks as I read on! I would like to say, that it gets easier, but you and I know it really doesn`t! Speckles will be leaving us soon, but I am treasuring all of that time! Thank you so much for sharing and that is helping me go through almost the same thing, it was the shoulder that I am going to need!


  3. Carol says:

    Not to be concerned about thanking us for birthday wishes. They were sent expecting nothing in return. My word Dennis you certainly have the most beautiful way of expressing all you have been through and How you are coping. You really ought to write a book for all those who have lost their pet. I really mean that. I envy this marvelous gift you have. Keep doing what you are doing and live life. Seize the day. It’s yours. Keep grillin those yummy looking steaks.
    One of your friends from the Northeast,
    Carol aka Mimi


  4. Simone Guitard says:

    I’m so so sorry. We have mentioned about meeting up sometime to get our babies together. So Izzy passed a couple months ago and I’m sure they are enjoying running and playing with each other. Comforting each other till we can be with them again. My love to you and Sherry. Thank you for Sharing her with us. I so enjoyed her photos and what mischief she was getting into.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Dennis, Your tribute to Skip is absolutely breathtaking. I’ve never read anything more profound to honor the love one has for a member of their family. Love never dies so time and happy memories of your years together will help to heal your heart. Just know that she is at peace and whole again and that you can look forward to meeting her at the Rainbow Bridge. There will be a good ending.
    Love you, Marjorie


  6. Such a tribute to Skip… Remember when you got her – where has time gone. as you posted it and all your writings of her over the years. Cherish the happy memories.. Take care, you and Sherry…


  7. Jo Ann Thomas says:

    Dennis your words are from the heart. It is a beautiful tribute to both Skip and you. She was your companion and you have a right to grive the loss. Our pets give unconditional love to us. Your decision had to be difficult but out of love for Skip you gave her the gift of no longer being in pain or suffering. I pray that you will find comfort in your fond memories and peace in love you two shared for one another.


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