|February 3, 2007
I'm dying inside. My heart is aching. Waves of grief rush over me me and drown my sensibilities. I feel like my heart is being stabbed over and and over and over again.
If ever you have loved a life companion deeply and thoroughly, you know the pain I am feeling. Moussie wasn’t “just a pet” or “just an animal,” he was family. He was my baby before I even had babies. Our hearts were connected from the very moment I took him into my arms. He is my love.
My Dear, Sweet Little Moussie, My Dear Little Lamb, I love you with all that I am. I have been blessed to have known your love and sweetness, devotion and warmth from the time I was 29 until 42 years old. During that time, you have been there for me for the most significant and emotionally powerful events in my life. You have been there with me through the highest highs and the lowest lows I could possibly experience.
* You helped me through the agony of my beloved Daddy’s sudden and unexpected death. The shock and devastation would have been too much to bear but you were with me day in day out, listening to me cry myself to sleep, gazing at me with your deep and soulful eyes telling me you understood my pain, offering me your warmth, strength and resolve to overcome the gaping, open wound in my heart – for you had suffered immeasurable physical and emotional pain for years before we rescued one another and you prevailed through the power of love, affection, and an undying devotion surpassed by nothing I’ve ever seen before.
* You were there when my gentle and loving Grandmother and Grandfather celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary. Their devotion and adoration for each other was unmatched and an extraordinary role model for my own loving marriage.
* And then you were there when I suffered through their passings – first that of my sweet Grandfather and then shortly thereafter, the death of my beautiful Grandmother.
* You were there when my precious Meu died after 19 years wonderful years with me and helped me through the shocking way she passed.
* You were there for my blessed marriage to Phillip and even walked me down the aisle! People still talk about that today!
* You were there for me for the marvelous adoption of my beloved son, Alex, who absolutely adores and misses you!
* You were there for the arrival of Hooshie and dealt with his desire to constantly box your tail with his big, fluffy paws even when you were sleeping. Hooshie would often lick your face to comfort you after Phillip administered IV fluids and you would reciprocate by whimpering softly when Hooshie needed the injection of fluids everyday for kidney failure in the last two years of his life.
* You were there for me for the birth of Willowbaby. She’s been walking and bouncing through the house as usual but will stop suddenly to say, “Oh, hi Moussie!” Are 1-year-olds tiny angels who still have the ability to “see” what we cannot? I’ve asked her, “Where’s Moussie? Where is he?” desperate to see you even for a fleeting moment. “Moussie there, Moussie right there. Hi, Moussie!” she’ll say cheerfully, waving and then going about her business playing or singing.
* You were there for the arrival of Kitty Squidgycat and loved lapping up whipped cream as much as he does!
* You were there for me for the death of Hooshie when his kidneys just had had enough.
* You were there through all of my complications and recoveries of 5 surgeries.
You worked at the office with us as we established our own business and all the highs and lows such a venture takes on.
You were there for every Friday movie and pizza family night. Oh, how you loved pizza!
* You were there for me for the fantastic times, the devastating times and everyday in between. Those were the best days. The everyday days.
You were faithful and devoted to Alex and Willowbaby, watching Alex walk to the bus stop every morning and lying next to the baby on the floor as she slept or played making sure she was safe and happy.
You worked at 2 TV stations (visited 3 stations) greeting guests, telling the children what the school lunch menu would be for the day and doing the weather on air.
You loved Christmas more than anyone else I know and always opened the first gift! You are resting in Heaven right now with 5 of your Christmas and birthday gifts.
You loved your birthday (January 5th) and always knew when it came up! You got very excited with the birthday song, the birthday hats, the presents and, of course, the filet mignon!
You were always stronger than me.
You were always braver than me.
You were always gentler than me.
You were always more courageous than me.
You were always just around the corner
looking for me. Even in your last hour, when
you could barely stand, you got up and walked
steps to find me as I dressed that fateful morning.
You are beautiful.
You are trustworthy and trustful.
You are faithful.
You are devoted.
You are adoring.
You are deeply missed.
You are loved.
As Uncle George said, a gentler animal he has never seen and he’s been on Earth 93 years!
Just as I spent my life protecting your little broken foot, you protected me with your life. I truly hope I did the right thing. I was guided by Dr. Shane’s expertise regarding tumors of the spleen. She told me she had never seen such a large tumor and that with your age around 14 or 15, and the spread of the cancer to your liver, it is a miracle you were still alive. I know you waited for my birthday. I know you wanted me to be fine. I know you wanted me to be happy.
You were always stronger than me! Always. You never saw your maimed leg as a deterrent. You could outrun me any day if a deer walked by or a female dog, that’s for sure! You never complained about anything - even us keeping you 10 pounds underweight to lighten the weight on your broken leg. You never cried at the vet’s, I’m always whining at the doctor’s office when I see a needle heading my way. You never complained about any aches and pains. Not a single whimper with the arthritis in your spine or the cut on your broken foot that took 6 months to heal because you had to walk on the wound with no other front leg to bear the burden of weight. It was constant pain and effort but you never once complained. Amazing resilience!
You never cried out except when I picked you up these last few weeks and pressed on your tummy too hard. I didn’t know, Little Moussie. I didn’t know. I thought it was the arthritis traveling from your back to your legs. I didn’t know that a tumor was taking over your little body and you didn’t want me to worry. I didn’t know.
On my 42nd birthday, January 31st, Phillip came in from the driveway with tears on his face. “I have to tell you something. Dr. Shane called. She has the results from the ultrasound.”
Well, gosh, I thought, it couldn’t be that bad, why all the tears.
“It’s a matter of a few hours to a few days,” his voice trembled.
What’s a matter of a few hours?? What does that mean? What is he saying? I started feeling sick in my stomach. My heart started to pump hard and my world started to spin. My eyes sought out my Little Moussie. “What are you saying!”
“She says we should make the right decision by tomorrow or Friday.”
It was Wednesday. It was my birthday. It was agony.
“What! What? What!” I couldn’t get my wits about me. Too much too fast too soon. “But I have no notice. I have no notice! What are you talking about. Moussie looks fine! He’s moving slowly because he’s getting older, that’s all!”
“Baby, listen to me. Dr. Shane says he’s a walking time bomb. If we wait, his spleen could rupture at any moment. It is filling with blood right now and if it were to burst, the pain would be unrelenting. It could be now, it could be tomorrow. No one knows. But for every moment we wait, we are playing with his life. That agonizing death could take 30 minutes. And because he has such an amazing will power, it could take longer. If he were crying out in pain, moaning and writhing about, you would never forgive yourself. You must make the right decision.”
But Moussie looked fine. To me he looked fine. Who was I to play God like that? I didn’t know he was hurting. I didn’t know he was ailing. “I didn’t get any notice. I didn’t get any time! I don’t have enough time to say good-bye!”
“It’s not about you!” Phillip cried out. “It’s about Little Moussie. Look at him! He’s looking at you falling apart and wants to take away your pain. Meanwhile, he’s in pain but he’s protecting you from it. If he dies a long, painful death you will never forgive yourself! You must make the right decision. He does not deserve to end his life in agony!”
I called Dr. Shane right away. I don’t know if she even understood what I was trying to say, the words just jumbled all together as the tears streamed down my neck. I slumped to the floor. “I have no time! There’s been no warning! I cannot do this!”
Dr. Shane was as kind and sincere as she has always been. She loved Moussie from the minute she laid eyes on him. Phillip had brought him in for a visit at the vet’s and Dr. Shane, a new vet at the office, just passed right by Phillip and dropped to the ground to stroke Moussie’s head gently. “What a beautiful baby!” she said. Moussie trusted her, she adored him. And as the years went by, she said whatever the fates throw our way, if Moussie does not just pass quietly in his sleep, but rather decisions have to be made, she wanted to be the one to pass him gently and serenely into the next life.
But you know, I never thought that day would come. I never faced it. I never conjured up thoughts of death and what ifs and maybes. I’m a consummate optimist living in the now, dealing with what happens as it happens, and with my loving husband, sweet children, all our animals and, of course, my Little Moussie, I knew I could get through anything.
After all, Moussie had been through so much – the abuse and neglect, the fearful days and nights, the rescue, the healing of his permanently broken leg, learning to not only cope with 2 ½ legs but learning how to run again, the survival joint, the new replacement pad, the mace attack and inflamed respiratory system, his heart murmur, stitches over his eye when a huge dog sunk its teeth into him, the Lyme disease, the slashed paw when some kids thought smashing glass was a cool thing to do, and all the stitches, staples and medical glue to keep that gash closed and healing. He was such a survivor!
And Phillip is such a wonderful man! He cleaned his wounds, dressed them with fresh bandages, carried Moussie anywhere we needed to go and administered IV fluids when the stress of the wound affected Moussie’s pancreas for months. And in the very end, it was Phillip who carried Moussie compassionately and tenderly on his beautiful bed, full of rawhides and treats, a long-stem red rose from Dr. Shane and a long lock of my hair tucked between his injured paw and his cheek, covered by his shiny, floppy silky ear. It was Phillip who last carried Moussie and kissed Moussie good-bye.
Oh, those beautiful ears! While Moussie was with me still, I gently cut a lock of his baby-soft, jet-black, silky fur over one floppy ear and a lock from his snowy white starburst on his chest. It was at that time he and I shared one of those final, poignant moments together, in trust and love that only those who have experienced such deep understanding and devotion can even fathom.
All the while, I was trying to get my head around the news. We only had a day or two left and we were spending every moment together.
Through the tears and mayhem, Dr. Shane tried to explain to me that Moussie’s spleen could rupture at any time and how devastating that would be. “You can come in tomorrow or Friday. I don’t think he’ll make it to Monday.”
Won’t make it to Monday! It was Wednesday! It was Wednesday! What are these words?? I have no time!
I had no time to say good-bye to my father. No time. A phone call told me he was gone. Gone? What did that mean? Gone? Well, gone meant gone. For always. Forever. And ever and ever. And now Moussie was going to be gone. I wasn’t prepared. What? I had to make a life or death decision in the next 24 to 48 hours? Just this morning I was happy, celebrating my birthday with fresh roses from my husband and breakfast with Willowbaby and Moussie. In an instant, my whole world was in a tunnel whirling around like a vicious tornado.
Dr. Shane continued. “My best advice would be to give Moussie a great time, let him eat anything, cake, cheeseburgers, whatever. Let him go in style. Then you’ll have to make a decision either way but I must say, I’ve seen this over and over and the outcome is always horrific. He deserves a dignified passing. He has been so good to you. He has always looked after you. You need to look after him. You don’t want any regrets.”
I knew Dr. Shane meant well.
So as soon as I could get my act together, I carried Moussie into my car.
Phillip had already brought the baby to Bette’s shortly after he broke the news to me. Thank God for Bette. She would watch baby over the next 3 days so I could have quiet, quality time with Moussie and eventually mourn and cry out without reserve. Cry as loud and as hard as I wanted to. Cry till my throat hurt and my shattered heart ached. Cry until my energies drained me and my eyes swelled with redness. Cry as I needed to without worrying about worrying my family members. I needed to mourn. I needed to heal the hurt. I needed to confront the pain. I needed to face the loneliness. I needed to accept the reality that Little Moussie wouldn’t be following me from room to room only to find a comfy spot to lay down and watch me with his beautiful eyes until he fell into a safe, cozy sleep.
So I carried Moussie to my car, turned on his seat warmer and headed to my mother’s house as I stroked his ears and neck the entire time. There Mom and Moussie said their good-byes, my mother losing it, crying and caressing this quiet, sweet little dog, whispering loving words into his silky ears. Then we saw Elisabeth who, too, cried and cried, but also understood the pain I was going through as she needed to make a similar decision just a few years earlier for her beloved cat, Sasha.
From there we headed to Boston Market where Moussie enjoyed some meatloaf. I bought turkey and chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. But Moussie ate very little. He ate very little these last 9 days. Again, I just thought he was lethargic from the aging process. I thought he would be fine. He always got through everything. He would see Dr. Shane, she’d give him some medicine and then he would be fine again. I had no clue!
We picked up a cheeseburger, hot fudge sundae and some cookies. It reminded me of the days when Moussie and I would go for a weekly car wash and then head to the drive-thru and grab some burgers and later some Dairy Queen ice creams. But Moussie didn’t want the burger or cookies. He looked tired…but not too tired for a little bit of ice cream. This time I actually put the chocolate on the ice cream. He had a few licks. Yum!
But he looked weary and didn’t want to eat much of anything. We headed to the office where everyone had decorated the conference room with streamers and set the table with ice cream cake, cup cakes, chocolate kisses and candles. It was a surprise for my birthday but we all decided to make it A Celebration of Moussie’s Life. We took pictures and told stories and kissed and snuggled him lots and lots.
My sister came right from The City when she heard the news and brought her two dogs. She stopped at the office. We left the conference room and had some special quiet time together. They all loved each other. But I believe her little ones knew what was wrong. My sister cried and cried and cried some more.
Thank God for my sister. She was the first person to give Moussie a bath when I first got him. She was always gentle and kind and found her first dog a month after Moussie came into our lives. She took the news as badly as I did and visited the next day bringing Moussie roast beef and grilled chicken and me some lunch as I just couldn’t eat.
From there we drove home and I laid with Moussie on his big, poofy dog bed just looking at each other eye to eye, stroking his face and caressing his silky ears. Oh, how I loved those silky ears! As soft as a newborn’s skin. You know that softness, so silken it’s like you barely feel it. We lay there for hours. And when Moussie fell asleep I called people dear to me that I knew for sure love their animals as much as I do. I needed to find the right answers. I needed to express my feelings and listen to the opinions of those I love as to what decision I should make. I needed my family and friends. They were there for me. For us.
Missy and Denise stopped by the house to say farewell. My sister called me again and her husband helped me make my ultimate decision. “The pain Moussie felt in the beginning of his life, followed by the fantastic 12 years you’ve shared with him, really, it would be a tragedy now to risk a dreadful death. You would never forgive yourself.”
That was it! That was what I needed to understand. It’s not about me. It’s not about me not having any time. It’s not about me needing to stroke those incredibly soft ears another day or two. I was risking what would be the most devastating fate for Moussie out of selfishness. My Little Moussie was dying. He was weak and weary and I just didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to face the facts. For just a few extra days, I could be setting up the ugliest ending for my little dog and setting up enormous regrets for the rest of my life. I had heard it from Phillip. I had heard it from Dr. Shane. But when Michael said it, it all made sense. That’s why you have to talk to your loved ones over and over…at some point something will click.
I decided that Saturday would be it. Dr. Shane agreed to come to our home so we would be in a loving, peaceful environment. I arranged for the baby to play with friends at a neighbor’s house. Every minute ticked toward 4:00PM Saturday.
I slept with Moussie on the floor that night and the next day, Willowbaby went to Bette’s, Phillip went to work and I took Moussie to the grocery store. Filet mignon and gravy, smoked salmon, whipped cream, anything delicious I could think of. But I noticed Moussie didn’t look as comfortable in the car as he did the previous day. He looked weary and I decided to stay home for the rest of the day.
We lay on the floor in the den on his poofy dog bed and I told him over and over my loves, my regrets, my weaknesses, and more of my loves. Moussie already knows all of that. He knows my fears, my insecurities, my dreams. But one can never hear enough of how much they are loved. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you, my Dear Little Moussiebaby! I love you! I love you! Oh, how I am going to miss you!!
By day’s end I called Emily, my neighbor – the mom of the Hannah and Alice, the girls who would play with Willowbaby on that fateful Saturday. Without hesitation, she said she’d be right over and immediately hung up the phone. She walked into the house to find me in the den on the floor with Moussie. Before she even sat down, I looked up to see tears pouring down her face. Was it her overwhelming love for animals or seeing her neighbor lying on the floor completely heartbroken? The sad scene of a girl losing her dog. I don’t know.
I do know that Emily is a Godsend. She commiserated with me, she offered love and time, and she said she and her family would take care of the baby and do whatever we needed. Emily made minestrone soup and homemade bread with honey and brought it over in a country basket the next day. She gave me strength.
But it was only Thursday. I had only been given the stomach-punch news the day before.
I told Emily I was getting my head around putting Moussie to rest on Saturday. But Emily shook her head slowly. “I don’t know if you have that long. I mean, he doesn’t look like he’s in pain, but he looks really weary.”
I dreaded the possible risk I was taking with his well-being. Moussie did look more weary than the day before but whenever I spoke to him, he would light up and his eyes would come alive and look bright.
The doctor said I needed to watch for rapid breathing - it was a bad sign. Moussie wasn’t breathing rapidly. I was going to wait until Saturday. I needed to keep talking to him and cuddling him. That night I slept on the floor with Moussie. Around 3:00AM he needed some water. We spent some quiet time together talking and crying and he looked very tired. I just had this feeling that pushing him until Saturday would be wrong. I prayed his spleen wouldn’t rupture overnight and the hours started to pass very slowly.
At 7:30AM I told Phillip it was the day. He looked relieved. “You are doing it for Moussie.” I was numb from head to toe. I was absolutely numb.
As I got ready I felt like a traitor. I left the room to get dressed and Moussie, who could barely stand up, walked a few steps to find me, his searching eyes happy once he spotted me. Even in his last hour, in his absolute fragile state, he put weakness aside to search for me. To be by my side. To be with me. I just burst into tears. Oh, Little Moussie! My Dear Little Moussie!
You are so much stronger than I will ever be. Dr. Shane loves you so very much. And she knows this depth of grief. After all, years earlier she mustered the strength and courage to put her own beloved dog to sleep. Through her tears, the strain, the broken heart, Dr. Shane let her own sweet dog go. Now, on this day, she brought an 11x20 framed portrait of her darling dog into the room with Moussie. “She will look after you, Moussie. Say hello to her for me,” the doctor said through her tears as she kissed Moussie.
Oh, Little Moussie, Dr. Shane brought you a long-stem red rose for comfort. And even when she gave you the relaxing sleeping sedative, she said it would take 5 minutes for the drug to take effect. As I looked deeply into your gorgeous eyes, as I sang you LemmeMoussie songs and told you how much I love you and would love you to the ends of the universe and beyond and would love you to the end of time, as burning tears seared my cheeks and I had to blink hard to keep focused on your loving gaze, I heard the doctor come back into the room astonished at your resolve not to leave me until you knew I would be okay. She left to allow Phillip and me the most precious last moments together as I continued to sing you soft lullabies and kiss you over and over, stroking your face from your beautiful button nose to the top of your forehead with the tips of my fingers. Oh, how you love that. Oh, how my Grandmother loved that. Oh, how Willowbaby loves that.
Dr. Shane was amazed at your passion for life and your will to overcome any adversity. But when she finally came back a long while later to administer the overdose, I felt your soft breathing on my hand. I watched your eyes intently as we looked at one another those final moments. I felt your breathing. I cupped your head in my other hand. I felt your breathing. I felt your breathing. Until Dr. Shane had to tell me ever-so-gently that your heart had finally stopped. Your heart stopped. I couldn’t comprehend the words. "No, I still feel his breath on my hand." The doctor, loving and kind, wiped tears from her eyes and cheeks and whispered, “I am so sorry.” To which I collapsed and cried out I wanted my little Moussie back! I wanted him back!!
He lay so peacefully on his own comfy bed, so relaxed, so peaceful, I think I saw finally that he looked truly pain free. But my own heart, broken and bleeding, ached so much that I couldn’t get my head around what was really happening. I wanted him back and didn’t care if I was selfish – I WANTED MY LITTLE MOUSSIE! Shoot me for being selfish, I missed him more than anyone could know and it was only the first minute!
Because we love so much, we ache so much. Because we love so deeply, we suffer so deeply. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to love this intensely. I want to give my all to my family and love genuinely and absolutely.
For anyone who had ever met Moussie and me saw that our connection with one another transcended that of owner/dog, person/pet, human/animal. Our commitment to protect one another, care for one another, love one another bonded us for life. It was an honor being with him all these years. He was more trustworthy, steadfast and dedicated than most people I know.
Moussie has affected people throughout the world. First by being on television, then by crisscrossing this great nation several times, and by endearing the hearts of loving friends and family who have come to visit from far-away lands. People have been touched by his gentleness, his charming personality, his beautiful purring, sitting upright with perfect posture looking ready to shake hands at a moment’s notice (but not doing so because of his injured paw), his history and willpower to overcome hardship, and most of all, his sweet gaze – those deep, dark chocolate eyes with the white rim and long, long eye lashes. I’ve heard countless times over the past decade that Moussie’s eyes are so expressive and deep that they look as if they could tell a thousand stories. That one could look so deeply into his eyes and never see the end. That they are the most intense, moving and soulful eyes people have ever encountered.
Moussie’s effect on people was magnificent.
God bless you, Little Moussie, My Little Lamb. I will miss you so much until we meet again. In Heaven you shall know no pain, no suffering, no fear and no loneliness. God awaits you. Daddy awaits you. Omi and Opi await you. Bebe awaits you. Geoff awaits you. Karen awaits you. Hooshie awaits you. Greyness awaits you. Meu awaits you. Mufti awaits you. Muschu awaits you. Schnitzel awaits you. All my gerbils and birds and everyone who has passed into the beautiful world of the angels await you. Until I see you again, Little Moussie, My Sweet Little Babylamb, bound and leap with your new body and strong legs and super heart!! God how I love you!!!!!!!!