Saying Goodbye to Rogie

10 Jul

The first time I remember praying to God on behalf of our Rogie, he was barely three months old. Joe had taken him to a 24-hour emergency veterinarian clinic after this new little black lab puppy had a two-day bout of vomiting and diarrhea. I was home with our sleeping boys, who were 9 and 13 at the time. In the previous year, we had lost two dogs — first, our beloved 9-year-old yellow lab, Niner, who died suddenly, and a few months after his death, our “replacement” mutt puppy, Friday. She — who was mistakenly adopted out to us by a terrible rescue organization terminally ill with distemper — was to help us heal from Niner’s loss — lived a mere 10 days.



And here we were, a few months after that, thinking the worst (more distemper!?) about our new puppy.

I pleaded to God to heal Rogie. I shared my concern that the devastation of losing three pets in a year would be too much for them to handle.  I asked, “Father, may he live a long and full life, and be sitting with us and comforting us as our boys go off to college some day.”

God gave us the favor of this answered prayer, and so, so much more.

After a sub-dermal saline injection at “24-Karat Vet” as I came to think of the emergency doggie clinic, Rogie was back to his mischievous adorable self in a few days. He was even the first to place a “present” under the Christmas tree as I decorated it (a nice, firm puppy poop. Sigh.)

His namesake was LA Kings hockey goalie, Rogie Vachon, a moniker arrived at after a naming conference akin to the NHL draft. Although there were many other popular choices, my hubby pulled the sympathy card, after reminding us that he had to call after a dog named after the SF 49ers all the while he was a Raiders fan. When his registration papers arrived from the AKC, it turned out he was the 5th such-named pup. Perfect! He was Rogie V!

Rogie V. was a chaser (and one-time catcher) of squirrels, a hater (and one time catcher) of crows, an enemy (and one-time tumbler) of feral cats, an unexplainable sounding board for humming birds (they used to hover in front of him, chirping, while he kept watch over his yard), and he reveled in the “country life” of his suburban home. He had a late-night run-in with a raccoon (and sported four white hairless scars on his forehead to prove it) and he mercifully called our attention to (but did not attack) an opossum in labor in our back yard one Sunday morning. 

He wasn’t big on fetching, despite the “retriever” inbedded in his genus. He’d get that item for you once, if you were lucky. And then, with a look that said “If you want that ball so bad, you’d better stop throwing it,” he’d lay down and admire it with you from afar. A trainer, upon seeing how stressed out he got when we kept asking him to do tasks as part of his training (he would head-butt us and tear through the yard in circles, turf flying behind him), asked us if, by any chance, Rogie was from the Bruegger line of labs.

Our affirmative answer seemed to make it all clear to her: “They’re hunting dogs, you know. Real independent thinkers. He thinks he knows better than you.”

And really, he often seemed to. His job, looking back with clarity, was to bring us joy, not tennis balls. To divert our attention from the things we couldn’t control, and just walk him for two miles four times a week, already. To give us unconditional love, laughs, chores (poop patrol) and the occasional wonderfully annoying phenomenon that is a dog who liked to eat so much, it seemed he purposefully ate too fast so he could throw up and eat it again.

He moved seamlessly into a rental house with us when he was just a year old as we did a 7-month remodel to our home. He only destroyed the backyard! He comforted us with familiarity and routine (and poop patrol) as we missed our neighbors. He provided a warm body, always putting his head or a paw on one of his people when they needed it most, when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer during that seven-month period.

We taught him to pick up the newspapers from the driveway and bring them inside (that was a fetch that made sense to him apparently) and then we had to tone down his exuberance for this task as we walked in the neighborhood, and he proceeded to pick up every newspaper he passed. Thursdays, when the local freebies came out, were his favorite.

He barked appropriately at Lloyd the exterminator, at the UPS truck when it turned onto the street, and the gardeners every single Friday of his life. He greeted most other visitors with a wagging tail, grabbing whatever cloth was nearest to his mouth — whether dirty underwear from the laundry pile or his bed pillow — so that he could somehow resist the urge to jump on them. He stole tools from the plumbers’ chest as the crouched under the sink, and he buried rawhides outside so they could get good and moldy before he brought them inside.

He gave us laughs with his reluctant obedience, and his utter exuberance for kibble and treats — and yet he never stole food off the counter (but if it fell on the floor, stand back!) He would wait patiently, drooling, over his morning and evening meal, until we gave him the verbal, “OK” to begin eating. Hilariously, during my physician-imposed two weeks of silence after vocal cord surgery, he would not eat one morning because I could not say “OK.” I had to run upstairs with my white board and a scribbled message to my hubby, asking him to lean out the window and give the dog permission to eat! After an “OK” from above, Rogie dug in, with a mote of saliva surrounding him.

He was there, waggy and sweet, as our oldest headed off to University of Texas, and as we moved him to Dallas four years later after graduation. He was there, gray and lumpy, laying in the floor of the second-born’s room as he packed to go to college for the first time.

He was there, smiling from his favorite “hotel” at the LAX Kennel Club, as we flew off to see the second-born’s college graduation in Mississippi earlier this spring.

And he was here, waiting and struggling to move and eat just over a week ago, as our youngest arrived home for his last visit before beginning his career 2,000 miles away.

In the last week of his life, Rogie didn’t do a lot of greeting at the door with dirty socks in his mouth, but you could locate him, lounging on a cushion or carpet, by the thump-thump-thump of his wagging tail hitting the floor. 

And by the trail of saliva he dripped through the house.

When he first lost interest in food last month, we thought it was because of antibiotics for an ear infection (he ALWAYS had ear infections!!!) Even our houseguest, who thankfully made it possible not to have to board him while we went out of town for a wedding just weeks ago, cooked him eggs. That probably bought him a few more weeks of life, as even his beloved home away from home seemed to take a little out of him in recent months. After the eggs were semi-successful for his palate, I began cooking for him. Yet this voracious beast, who treated dry kibble as though it were chateaubriand, couldn’t muster more than a few days of interest in my chicken/brown/rice/egg/sweet potato/kibble masterpiece.

Our poor old boy could not swallow. He would get excited for meal time, wait patiently for the signal, but then chew just one or two bites and they’d fall out of his mouth. He would drink a bit, but his water bowl remained full. He drooled constantly. It turns out, he had a paralyzed larynx.

Our sons said their goodbyes over the weekend, and yesterday, on Monday, July 9, 2018, after prayer that we would sense we were doing the right thing, my husband and I took him to our Vet to have him put down.

It was our 30th anniversary. As we wiped our eyes and turned toward the car after petting and comforting Rogie as he took his last breath, finally free of the hunger, the difficulty breathing, the aches of obvious arthritis, we marveled at the date. What says “for better or for worse” more than sharing this important but excruciating necessity of mercy? As we walked away from the vet — probably for the last time — we held hands and hugged one another.

Later, as we toasted to an extraordinary dog who brought us so much joy and just the right amount of annoyance over the years, our oldest, who had been temporarily living with us after relocating from Dallas for work, informed us that he had signed a lease on his own apartment just that morning and would be moving out in a week.

Rogie will not be there to offer comfort this time. But that’s not on him. I think he fulfilled his purpose — and beyond. We will miss him, and I’m sure, we’ll unnecessarily jump up to put him in his kennel when we hear the lawn mowers crank up on Friday mornings for awhile. We’ll look for him absently when heading to bed. We’ll hear phantom jingles of his dog collar. We’ll shed some more tears when the UPS truck rumbles down the street, only to be met by silence.

I don’t know if there’s an afterlife for dogs — but it seems like there should be. If so, I’d like to think he’s there now, meeting Niner and Friday for the first time and comparing notes on how much joy and the right amount of annoyance we brought them. And perhaps he’ll finally acknowledge his old buddy Bo, who loved him dearly but he completely ignored, even as Bo licked Rogie’s chin.

And if there’s a dog Heaven, he’ll be eating. And when he does, maybe he’ll pause out of habit for the “OK,” and then smile the way we all think our dogs smile, at the memory of a family who loved him so much. Then, maybe, he’ll eat so fast that, if he’s lucky, he’ll get to eat it again in a few minutes.

RIP Rogie V. McMahon

10-10-05 – 07-09-18

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