Winter, and Dog Love and Loss


This has been a rough month or so for my dog-loving friends. Dempsey the Boxer lost his fight with cancer just before Christmas. His owner summoned a veterinarian to put him out of his pain, but said that there was barely a flicker of life left in him by the time the vet arrived.

A couple of weeks later, a friend’s Akita, who had been born with neurological defects that affected his ability to walk and his coordination, began suffering frequent, long seizures. My friend had rescued the dog from euthanasia when he was a puppy, hoping to give him as long a life as his condition would permit. His condition proved to be degenerative, however, and the moments of his life that had any quality were increasingly outnumbered by those that were painful and scary for him, my friend also made that call to a veterinarian.

Most recently, my friend Sarah reached the end of her long road with Lenny, a mixed-breed dog with whom she had shared 15 New Year’s eves. When I first met Lenny almost five years ago, he was starting to decline, but a switch to a high-quality raw diet brought him back to peak health. A couple of years ago, Sarah made the decision to have a large mass surgically removed from Lenny’s abdomen – a tough decision with an old dog, putting him through a long surgery. But Lenny again rebounded and improved after the surgery. He stayed vital and active right until the end, which came last week.

All three of my friends suffered tremendous pain and sadness over the loss of their canine companions. All three have other dogs with whom to continue to share their love and lives, but the memories of losing their special dogs will undoubtedly flavor this season for years to come. I lost my “heart dog,” Rupert, in the darkest depths of winter in 2003, and I think about him and miss him especially at this time every year.

Do we lose more of our canine friends in winter? Or does it just seem like the saddest season?