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The Third Musketeer

Once upon a time (February 2007), there was a girl who wanted to get a second dog.

Knowing her father was anti-multiple-fur-babies, she approached Mama about how to convince Daddy that she should get one. Mama, being the tech wizard, suggested a PowerPoint.

Said girl made the PowerPoint, and Daddy’s heart was swayed. The family went to the local animal shelter and picked out the most adorable baby there was.

Leaving the animal shelter – in Rooster’s lap

Being the soccer extraordinaire that she was, Chicky named her puppy Pele. He came home to meet what he would believe was his mama and began his adventurous life.

First trip to PetSmart to get a collar and name tag.

Pele immediately latched on to Aubie. We had wondered how she would do with a baby fur pup since she’d been an only child up to this point.

They bonded immediately. She was patient with him as he followed her everywhere and slept wherever she slept.

It took a little while for Pele’s personality to come out. He had been returned to the animal shelter twice before we’d taken him home, so he was leery. We gave him lots of love, though, to build his trust.

And then the cuteness came out . . . along with his mischievous side.

Boy did he love that gorilla. I repeatedly sewed up holes that Pele lovingly inflicted upon it.

Six months later, the human mama (Your’s Truly) decided to add to the brood, and Molly joined the crew.

Pele wasn’t too sure about Molly the night she arrived. She flew into the house and went straight for him.

There were now the Three Musketeers, and boy were they a tight bunch.

Pele had softened the hearts of his human parents – so much so that dogs were now allowed on the couch and other places formerly forbidden.

Molly’s addition to the family ruined us completely; mischief was constantly afoot.

Much love and laughter was shared over the years. The Three Musketeers morphed into something akin to human progeny.

Aubie was the eldest and in charge of everyone. Pele was the easy-going middle child who preferred to slide through life without too much extra attention. He knew when to stand back when the others (Molly – ahem) were getting in trouble for what were probably his misdeeds.

Molly was the instigator – the one who came up with the insidious plans. Pele was her muscle. Aubie told on both of them.

Time marched on, and just like humans, the Three Musketeers got older.

At the tender age of 12 and a half, and after a suspected case of bone cancer, we bid farewell to Aubie.

Pele was absolutely heartbroken and mourned her loss for a long time. He’d refused to lay on her bed for weeks; her smell so confusing since she wasn’t there physically.

Four years later, Molly breathed her last after a fairly sudden downturn in her health. We never quite knew what befell her. I suspect she suffered a stroke that ebbed the life from her.

By then, Gambit had been a member of the family for five years. He and Pele tender footed around the house for days sensing my distress and utter devastation.

Fur babies are sensitive things, you know.

And life continued.

We had two blissful years. With the loss of two fur babies behind us, we took special care with the ones who remained and spent extra time doting on them.

We spoiled them rotten.

Life hadn’t been easy – especially after Hurricane Michael – but we pushed through, thankful for the distractions that our fur boys provided.

And then last week happened.

One week ago today, to be exact.

Pele’s health had been declining ever since Hurricane Michael last October. He and Gambit had evacuated with me; the long, middle-of-the-night ride to Auburn had done a number to Pele’s body. He was never quite the same, and it broke my heart to watch his strong, sleek body slowly whittle down. During the past three months, he began eating sporadically, even after I started preparing homemade, pet-friendly dishes.

When I took him to the vet in June, she assured me that this was normal for older dogs during summer months, but I knew something was amiss. My boy NEVER missed meals. He LIVED for food. The muscles in his back legs degenerated quickly over the past month, and his eating continued to be hit and miss.

And then the 18th . . . when Pele didn’t want to get up and potty. When I finally got him to go, things didn’t look right, and he returned to his bed.

I knew something was gravely wrong, and I told the Mr., with tears in my eyes, that it was time.

We spent the next hour and a half loving on our sweet boy, waiting for the vet’s office to open. We had a trip planned, and although I had a trusted dog sitter coming to the house, we were afraid that Pele wouldn’t make it until we returned. We didn’t want him to suffer, which was clearly already happening. Also, the thought of us not being here for him in his last moments would have wrecked us.

We took pictures with him. He was so tired that he didn’t really want to look at the camera.

The tears were flowing, let me tell you.

He had been a loyal companion for too long. We wanted to be there for him when it mattered most.

Rooster and his girl, who were visiting, said their goodbyes, and we headed out.

Dear, sweet Pele. He was so brave. He had always been a nervous wreck in the vet’s office, but he walked into the room and laid right down on the blanket they’d set out for him.

The vet examined him and told us that he was going into liver failure; his eyes were yellow – a clear sign of it. We’d also found a hard knot under his chin a couple of months back, and the vet had suspected cancer – the kind that she couldn’t remove. She hypothesized that it might have spread. She noted that his legs had lost even more muscle as well.

She told us we were doing the right thing.

Oh y’all, I don’t think a person who loves a fur baby as much as we loved Pele can ever prepare for this day.

During the next hour or so, we loved on that boy so much. We talked to him as the sedatives worked their way through his body.

We told him what a good boy he was, and that we loved him so much.

There was a moment, at the very end, when I saw a tear fall from his eye. Call it what you want, but it was a tear, and it still breaks my heart when I remember it. I don’t believe that he wanted to leave us, but he was tired. So tired.

And so we kissed on him and hugged him tight, and we cried and cried. I probably shed a thousand tears to his one.

As the Mr. and I knelt over his body, I put my hands on my sweet boy, bowed my head, and prayed for all of us. I thanked the Lord for blessing us with this precious baby, and I asked for comfort as we began the grieving process. I know that God surrounded us with angels during those moments of deep anguish.

Leaving him when it was over was the absolute hardest things I’ve done as a dog mom, and I sobbed the entire way home.

Loving is the easy part; letting go is the hardest.

We had raised him for twelve and a half years.

Think about that for a minute. That’s almost half as long as the Mr. and I have been married; half of Rooster’s life.

As a Christian, I can’t know for sure if God has a place in heaven for our fur babies. I pray that He does.

I picture the OG (original gang) – my Three Musketeers – back together again, happily reunited, in perfect health, and full of sweet joy.

My sweet, gentle giant lived a full life. When I remember him, I will always see his big smile.

To my Pele,

You were the absolute BEST dog there was. You were laid back from the start – the most calm of all of our babies. I will miss so many things about you:

  • Your dinner time reminders that usually began around 3:30.
  • Your grunt as you settled yourself onto your bed.
  • How you loved to roll around on your back in the yard and on your bed after an especially satisfying meal and the funny noises you made while you were rolling.
  • The sound of you rolling onto your back as you butted yourself up against the wall – your nails scraping along the way.
  • Your floppy ears – the softest and, probably, one of my favorite parts of you.
  • Your beautiful, exotic eyes that looked like you were wearing permanent eye liner.
  • Your woof-howl when someone dared to walk past the house – on YOUR sidewalk. Awoooooo, wooof, wooof
  • Your scratch at the door when you wanted to be let out and back in again.
  • Your stare at Daddy while he ate dinner – your wish for a bite too.
  • Your big snout at the edge of my table, looking for something to eat
  • The way you eased off of the dog bed after Gambit tried to sneakily snuggle with you.
  • Your nightly reminders that it was bedtime and the look you gave me asking when was I coming.
  • Your big body that was perfect for snuggling against. You were my real life teddy bear; you never minded when I hugged you close.
  • Your presence, which filled the house and has left a void since you departed.
  • Everything. Just everything.

Pele, we have no regrets. We loved you BIG. I know that you knew you were loved and appreciated, and I trust that you were comforted by that even to the very end.

I am thankful for every single second God allowed us to have with you. We knew, going into this, that our time would be limited, given that you were a large dog. God blessed us beyond compare.

We will NEVER forget you.

One Response

  1. WHYYYYYYY did I read this at work???? I gotta go to the bathroom now so I can hide my eyes… Oh my heart. It’s so hard – SO DANG HARD…but I will say, I did smile through all your pics & memories &know that Pele had the best life EVER. TO think he was returned to the shelter before – & then to see all the love lavished on him? You know he left this world so thankful to have been a part of your family!!!

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