Wednesday, March 21, 2012

To Bury A Family Pet ......

Looking back, this post is a bit long.  It is over 3 days.

Some may think it's a bit much over a pet.  But for those who know... well, you know.  Just check the 1st post about Simon from a couple of years ago, and you'll realize why we see him as so much a part of our family.  In many ways, one of the first parts of our family.

Monday, March 20th, 2012

I wrote a post almost two years ago, about preparing your kids for the death of a pet.  Our basset hound Simon, 12 years old at the time, was having a lot of difficulty with the Texas summer, and we were afraid things were winding down for him.  After installing a water mist system that ran most days, and a little time, Simon seemed to catch his second wind.  Fortunately, we held off on having the talk with our boys, waiting to see if Simon would make a turn for the better, and he did.

With Owen October 2010

That was two summers ago.

Simon at his 11th Birthday

A few weeks ago, Simon turned 14 years old.  98 in dog years.  Old by any dog standard, but particularly for a large breed.

Since around then things have been on a major downturn.  This time, we can't blame it on the summer heat.  These days Simon can barely turn his body around.  He takes very short little shuffling steps and it's difficult for him to move even a few feet. We've been carrying him from his kennel in the garage to the back yard.

Simon's Shuffling Walk Lately

More than a couple of times we've found him barking for help because he's laid down on his side, but doesn't have the strength to roll his body upright.  Yesterday we didn't realize that's why he was barking.  He needed to get to the grass to relieve himself, but could not,  and so had urinated while lying there on his side, unable to do anything about it.  How would he make it through the day on his own?  This couldn't go on much longer.

So, on top of all the memories and sadness that I recounted the first time we thought Simon's days were numbered.  I find myself in another of those 'dad' roles, and figured it might help someone else figuring out how to deal with the same.

The first decision was to be completely honest with our boys.  For me, there's no question that honesty is the best policy when it comes to things like this.  Simon didn't 'run away', or 'move to the farm'.  We explained to them how old he is, and how he wasn't doing well.  We told them that sometimes no matter how old a dog's body is, sometimes their heart just won't quit, and that we might have to have a vet come give him medicine to go sleep.  This obviously didn't make anyone happy, but they understood.

Long Ago, Simon was Jealous of our other Babies

With that I started researching and planning things out.  Expecting that a visit from a vet would likely be the outcome.  First I checked with our normal vet, however they would rather I brought Simon in for such a procedure.  This was something I couldn't do.  In his state it's a bit traumatic moving from the garage to the backyard.  I wasn't going to make a car ride and the inside of a vets office his last experience.  Calling around a bit I found a local mobile vet that would make a house call to euthanize him.  Definitely what we wanted.

I called and made an appointment for a couple of days later at 5:30 in the afternoon.  This was perfect.  The time would allow the boys to come home from school, and we would let them know what was going to happen then, so that it wouldn't be eating at them all day at school.  They could spend a couple hours with Simon, and then we'll send them to a friends house.  There's no benefit to them in seeing the procedure itself.

This also allowed me a couple of days to sort out the other details.

With Wally in 2001 - Our First Kids

Like dad's next logistical problem.  What to do with the body.  With our first basset hound, Wally, he died in the care of a veterinary hospital.  They offered cremation of his body.  It made sense, as he died mid operation.

So for Simon, the options were either a cremation service, of which there are a couple in the area.  One would come and pick him up, and then deliver his ashes back a day or so later.  The other being burial at home.  We were all partial to burial, but just weren't sure if it was 'OK' to do.  Most information online is vague.  It all depends on where you live, city ordinances, etc. We decided it would be OK.  So now, how?

I read a number of posts of people talking about how they wrapped their pets in plastic, or in plastic bags.  This just didn't seem right.  Both from a "you're putting your pet in a trash bag" perspective.  As well as, the whole point is that the body is allowed to decompose back into the earth.

A Shelter I built for Him ~ 2004

Time to set out digging a hole.  While Simon had lost a lot of weight, this still wasn't going to be a small hole. Another reason I was grateful for some extra time.  Most posts recommended going at least 3 feet deep for the usual reasons of smell and scavengers.  Also, you don't want to be digging just anywhere if you have underground utilities.  Wires aren't as deep down as you might think.  If you're digging, be careful, call local utilities to have them come out and mark the ground if you're unsure.  Don't turn your pet's tragedy into a double tragedy!

I planned on digging the hole to around 4 feet deep near a corner of our fence next to the house.  A good place for a soon to be flower garden.  Digging a hole is always much harder than you plan on.  Particularly when you live in the Gulf Coast region.  You get to dig through quite a bit of clay.  And due to some recent rain, I hit water before reaching 3 feet.

This is how I remember Simon most days

This juxtaposition of digging what will be Simon's grave, and then going to the front of the house to check on him, feed him some eggs, and give him water is extremely difficult and mentally draining.  It's constantly causing me to second guess the decision.  He is after all, still trying to live.  So of course he eats and drinks when he can, wags his tail when you stroke his head, and still tries to be himself.  But then I remember how he was lying on the patio, unable to right himself from his side.  I'm not always working from home.  He can't be left by himself this way.  It is time.... right?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2012

One day until the appointment and the anxiety of it approaching is horrid.  Remember that feeling getting busted in school.  Realizing that no matter how much you wished, the situation was going to get bad.  All I can think of is how I'll feel that when the vet pulls up tomorrow.

To make things difficult, we had heavy storms today.  So my hole, despite covering it with a tarp, is completely full of water.  I guess I'll be spending tomorrow morning bucketing and shop vac'ing water out of the hole.  And cleaning it all up as much as possible

Simon was always patient with the boys

We still haven't told the boys that we made an appointment with the vet.  Still planning on waiting until after school.  But this afternoon my oldest son tells us:

"Remember when ya'll were talking about maybe having to get a vet to come and give Simon medicine to put him to sleep.  Well I think we should.  I don't think he's having a very good life like he is, and would rather him be peaceful instead of hurting." - quoted loosely.. but it was pretty much that more or less.

Ethan Loving Simon

Such pride in knowing that my son understands.  He gets it.  But simultaneously sadness knowing that ... well, that he 'gets it'.  Knowing that he feels the same sadness we do.

Aiden Loving Simon 

Then at dinner, when he talked about it again, both of his brothers agreed and added their own take on not wanting Simon to be suffering.  Again with the pride and simultaneous punch to the gut.  We often tell the boys how when our oldest came home for the first time, that Wally didn't know what he was, but did know that he was important.  Wally stayed by his crib, and followed us around with him for two days, as if to keep watch.  Never seeming to sleep.  Then when Wally finally fell asleep, Simon started to follow him around.  They know that Simon loves them, as much as they do Simon.

Owen Loving Simon 

Time to sleep, it's 2am and tomorrow will be here quick.  There's much to do.

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2012

This morning I started out just trying to bail the water out of the hole.. only to realize that what I was flinging over my shoulder was finding it's way back into the hole. I apparently dug my hole at the lowest spot in the yard.  So I pulled out the shop vac.  After 5 or so 6 gallon loads, and hauling it across the yard to dump, I hit the bottom.  Only to then see the water streaming in from the ground around it.  The ground is still saturated from the rain yesterday. It's making it impossible to move any earth out of the hole with it sloshing around.  Nothing stays on the shovel.  I'll just have to wait a few hours and see if the water level goes down.

Simon looking very old and tired on his last day

To add to the difficulty, Simon had a relatively good morning.  That's relative to yesterday.  He managed to get up on his own, and make his way to the front yard a bit easier than yesterday.  He had a day like this last week, about the same.  But he still can't get up from his side, and only shuffles a few feet at a time.

Our youngest mentioned on the way to school how glad he was that Simon seemed to be doing a little better......

Nature isn't making this any easier.

Aiden was talking away to Simon.
We listened in to find he was explaining to Simon
what the vet was going to do, how it wasn't
going to hurt. How he wasn't going to
hurt anymore.

A couple of hours later, and the water level was higher.  I've apparently built a swimming pool for garden gnomes.

Talking it over again, we decided that it wasn't worth putting Simon through more days while we wait for the water to recede.  So I made a few calls and arranged for a cremation service to pick Simon up after the vet is done.  Then we can bury the ashes a few days from now.

Last goodbyes with the boys

The boys came home from school, we sat them down and told them what was going to happen.  Even at their young age, they all handle grief differently.  They each spent time, together and alone with Simon as he lay in the grass, in the sun, under a bright blue sky.  I was so thankful that the weather cleared up.  I was afraid Simon's last day was going to be grey and rainy.

Last goodbyes with the boys 

We sent the boys to a friends house before the vet arrived.  The vet was extremely compassionate throughout the whole process.  Talking to Simon first, taking his time.  Through all of it we sat by his side.  It couldn't have been any better for him.

Couldn't be loved any more

We'll cry when the boys come home.  We'll cry more when they bring Simon's ashes back to us tomorrow.  And I'm sure we'll cry some more when we bury his ashes in the back yard.  But we'll lean on each other, the way a family should.  And remember Simon forever, as part of our family.

How I'll always remember Him - Ornery

Always so ornery

and cute


  1. oh my gosh... I am crying my eyes out. I am so so sorry....

  2. I'm so very sorry about your loss and also applaud you and Lisa for handling everything so well..Simon was very lucky to be in your family. Already knew your boys are all remarkable young men, this just confirmed it. Hugs..

  3. So very sorry yall had to go through this. It makes you realize when we get animals we are in it for their lifetime and this time will come. Since I have been through this very thing I do think of it when I get a new puppy.I also questioned myself with Captain.Its just had to let go.But we still get another and love and care for them. I could not imagine my life without DOGS!! They truly leave paw prints on our hearts!