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good dog down

April 13, 2011

It’s mid-morning on the farm.  Plenty of birds are singing but I think it’s just to

keep their spirits and body temperature up.  It’s a cold, dreary day with a drizzle

that has the resolve of a sleazy, all-day affair.  The wind and rain ripped right

through me when I went out to split some firewood I shouldn’t have to this far

into spring.

This day must have escaped from February.

I’m normally of great good will in mid-April, reflecting the baseless optimism of

the newly-minted sun.  Today I can’t do that and the reason is at my feet: Roameo,

our 14-year-old pit bull/golden Lab.  He has forsaken his normal spot in front of the

woodstove to be close to me in the coldest room in the house.  Here he is:


He has a fine profile, yes?  He came into Jude’s

life when he showed up in the barn of her friend

Nicholas.  Nicholas thinks Roameo escaped from

a dog fighting ring near his house.  He had cuts on

his head and chest when he showed up, but would

not let Nicholas approach him for a long time.

Jude’s Rottweiler mix Robin taught Roameo how

to be a dog.  Jude harnessed them together.  Robin

pulled him most everywhere Jude went.  This helped him learn how to ride in cars

and be in public.  It also reduced his time in his safe spot, a large dog carrier covered

with blankets.


At first he would whine for attention and Robin would oblige and play.  When she’d

had enough of that, he started growling to get her to play.  This became a lifelong

habit that many guests have misinterpreted.  When a pit bull you don’t know is

growling at you, you’re not likely to pet him.

I met Roameo in his prime.  Jude and I would walk him and Robin on leashes to a

creek near Jude’s house, then let them run free along the access roadRoameo

would stay close to me as traffic whizzed by, but once we got to the creek, he would

pull full-force on the leash until we cleared the first bend and saw that no one else

was around.  It took all the strength I had to keep him controlled.

But now his power is gone.  Every day his legs grow weaker.  Yesterday I found him

halfway up the front porch steps, unable to go up or down but too proud to bark for

help. The time is near for Jude and me to make that heart-breaking decision.  It was

easy when Robin’s time came.  After increasingly frequent falls, she collapsed one

night and looked at us as if to say “You’ve got to help me out here!”

A few days later we took Robin to a beach she loved for the last time.  We carried

her down on a blanket.  When we got to the vet’s office, which she hated, she went

straight to the first exam room past the reception desk.  Roameo waited in the van.

For several weeks after, he would wander from room to room looking for her.

A week or so ago, we thought maybe his moment had come.  He had trouble holding

his head up and just wanted to sleep.  Jude spent the night next to him by the wood

stove.  But he toughed it out like the trooper he is.  I hope he’ll let us know when it’s


  1. Charlotte Wales permalink
    April 13, 2011 9:12 am

    I’m tearing up as I read about your wonderful Roameo. Letting go, and knowing when that moment has come, is the hardest thing. I have been blessed with wonderful dogs my whole life; loved them madly since I was big enough to toddle after them. My greatest dog love, Dingo, died early, at barely 7 years old, of a heart attack; she died in my arms, as there was nothing to do but make her comfortable. She’s buried beside my studio, with a eucalyptus tree, mums, a rose bush, and caladiums planted to keep her company. We put a nice rectangular stone, mined in north Arkansas, on top of her grave with the intention of having it carved on top by a dear artist friend who did incredible sand-blastings on rocks; unfortunately, Bart died of cancer of the jaw before he could get around to her stone. His Mom had died some years back in New Jersey, where our wonderful Bart was born and raised. He told me then I’d just have to be his other mother, joining a long line of both my sons’ guy friends (and a few of their girl friends) who claim me as well (never knew I had it in me to have so many kids!).

    I still have two wonderful dogs, both rescued from terrible fates – Betty Boop, who is half Lab, half Weimaraner (looks like a yellow lab, though) and a full-blood Weimaraner, Lucy Lu, who was so emaciated when Cody and I rescued her that she looked like an Auswhitz (sic) survivor. They’re both sweet and loving, but Dingo was the ringleader, and my partner, going wherever I went – smart, sassy, bossy, but so in tune with people it was uncanny. There won’t be another like her, I’m afraid, but I treasure the 7 years I had her, and when my two big girls move on, I’ll get another rescue dog – can’t imagine life without a dog! Hope you and Jude find another wonderful dog when Roameo has gone on to give your abundant love to.

    • April 13, 2011 11:04 am

      I see why Dingo was the ring leader and your partner — smart, sassy and in tune sounds just like you. It’s odd the people and pets who arbitrarily cross our path and share our journey, eh? After we had Robin put down, Jude and I didn’t get a companion for Roameo because we were already planning our trip north. When we got settled here, we went to the shelter and let Roameo pick Slinkee out. We’ll probably let Slinkee do that eventually, but we
      all three will first need to heal from the loss of him.

  2. April 13, 2011 9:43 am

    It’s so hard to know “When”; some days are better than others, and you don’t want to rob them of one day of joy. As long as he isn’t in serious pain, then I’d say let him be, it’s when the pain comes, and you can’t do anything about, it’s time to let them go. You and Jude have such loving hearts that I know you will be aware of when to say goodbye.

    I had to say goodbye to my cat Yazmine in January 3 years ago, and then the next month it was time for Thor, our black lab to go on that last ride. Yaz actually thanked me with her eyes as she sank into that final sleep. Also, when it was time for Thor, the vet came out to the car since he weighed so much we would have had trouble carrying him.

    Now all of my critters are under 5 years old, so hopefully I have another 8 years before I have to make hard decisions again.

    I wish for you and Jude the wisdom to know when to say “When”.


    • April 13, 2011 11:10 am

      Your hugs are most appreciated, Rosie. I’m working on a special post in honor of Roameo when the time comes. I know I’ll be too sad to do it after the fact. Jude’s nursing skills will help keep Roameo out of pain. We figure that as long as he can walk at all, he’s not ready. My regrets for your double loss of Yaz and Thor.

  3. April 13, 2011 12:37 pm

    You will know when it’s time.. not that it’s a good time. I think every pet owner has had to deal with the euthanasia process.. it is like losing a family member.

    • April 13, 2011 2:34 pm

      So true, Beanie. That’s why I listed this post in the “family” category.

  4. April 13, 2011 2:49 pm

    Hi Allen. This is the toughest part about pet ownership and I really hope that Roameo’s last days are peaceful and happy. My own Gadget still looks for Gypsy, who we had to have put down back in January. He’s twelve now and still THINKS he’s as spry as he ever was, but his old back is giving out on him.

    I also wanted to say that I’ve been reading all of your entries and I apologize for not stopping in more often to comment. Especially the heart-rending posts you’ve been writing about your experiences in Vietnam and PTSD… I want to do that writing justice and comment in a thoughtful way, which I have full intentions but little time in which to do it… and in lieu of that I don’t comment at all which is much worse!

    So, sorry about that.

    • April 13, 2011 3:44 pm

      It’s all good, Tiff. I’m learning how much time it takes to put up a blog you can be proud of. Comment at your leisure. I’ve had the Vietnam memories for 43 years now. They’re not going anywhere.

  5. Chris permalink
    April 13, 2011 10:02 pm

    It is hard to prepare to say goodbye to such a loyal family member and harder still, when the time arrives. We lost our old dog Princess two years ago. She was a golden lab/samoyed cross and the smartest and sweetest dog we ever had. She was two months short of 19 years old, when she had a massive stroke. She was with us during the time our three boys grew from children to men and was their constant companion and guardian.

    • April 13, 2011 10:16 pm

      Was it Princess we would see you walking?

  6. Chris permalink
    April 14, 2011 9:32 pm

    Yes, Allen, that was Princess. We still have Ayla (husky cross), but she’s starting to show her age and has to be lifted into the pickup truck instead of jumping in.

    • April 15, 2011 9:46 am

      You have our sympathies for the loss of Princess and the aging of Ayla.


  1. Roameo (1997 – 2011). « Anchor Struck

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