Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bye Bye Sugar Pie

Poodle Heart

Bye, Bye Sugar Pie

Sug and Alf
     She was a southern beauty, a gentle lady, a demure soul. Sugar Pie to acquaintances, shortened to the more intimate and familiar “Sug” by family and friends; she was as sweet and refined as her name.  Petite and quiet, she would slip into a room with barely a whisper and coyly recline on the nearest sofa. Hair as soft and white as the first magnolia blossom of spring, brown eyes as dark as midnight; oh, she was lovely in the most classic of styles.  The men all adored her, following her trail like deerhounds on a hunt, scuffling and shoving to see who could gain the honor of sitting nearest her side.  She led them all on endless chases, never intending to let anyone truly win. It was a game of thrust and parry, deflecting suitors with a toss of her head and a bored yawn, leading others on in hopeless pursuit. Yes, she was witty like that, and even though she pretended at times to be aloof and standoffish, with her family, she was fiercely loyal and tirelessly loving.

A happy pile of sleepy poodles
      She was classic and timeless, agile and lithe, and age seemed to elude her for the longest of years. Then suddenly, as if on some secret command, it began to sneak in and snatch away bits of her life. She rested more than before; preferring to gaze across the lawn rather than run through the grass chasing a ball or butterfly or bird.  She would spend hours seated before the long French doors in the dining room, the perfect spot to bask in the warm morning sun while watching all the comings and goings from the house to the road.  Hearing was the first sense age robbed, and it was so subtle that it took us quite some time to realize that she wasn’t ignoring us, but that she couldn’t hear us.  We resorted to communicating with hand signals, which she quickly learned, and life seemed to go on as before. Then came the day when a strange dullness clouded her eyes. I had to stop and peer deep into their murky depths before understanding dawned that her sharp vision was now no more than a muted blur. Her appetite dimmed, and she no longer loved the treats and tidbits she had thrived on, preferring instead to nibble on soft foods that were hand fed, slowly, one small bite at a time.  Dementia, in all its cruelty, was the last battle she faced, and it was the harshest of all, forcing her to lose her way in her own home.  She would wander off, and then stand frozen in the driveway or the garage or the hallway, lost and confused in her own home, a bewildered expression on her face, until someone would come and pick her up and carry her back into the house. She rested more; she slept often; she tottered around on shaky legs; she became too weak to stand on her own and had to be carried up and down stairs, lifted in and out of the car, and hoisted on and off the furniture.  
Yes, Sug, you can eat it.
     She began to do strange things. We would carry her outside, then catch her eating dirt in the yard. We would take her out to the front porch, where she would begin gnawing on the blue slate stones.  She tried to eat a small concrete statue of a pineapple, but refused to eat the fresh turkey we gave her from the delicatessen. To our great horror, we came home one day and found her in the garage, licking the gas hose connected to the generator.

     “Chris,” I whispered to my husband, as we stood there helplessly watching her, “I think she’s trying to commit suicide.” 
Visit to Santa

     We knew, but we didn’t want to know, that her life was coming to an end. 

     It was not a decision we were ready to make, so we left it up to her doctor. She had stopped eating, walking, hearing, seeing, or responding, but we clung to the smallest sliver of hope that she might still endure, might still revive and might, just might, return to life as normal. We did not want to voice the truth of the situation, that her quality of life had ended, and that prolonging her being was merely for our sakes and certainly not for hers, for she was a part of our family, and we were not ready to say goodbye.

     Chris gently lifted her tired body into the car this morning and drove her to the place we had entrusted to care for her for the past twelve and a half years. He would let the professional medical team make the final call. His leaving with Sug for this final car ride was not a scene I wanted to witness, and I am grateful that he delayed the inevitable until after we had departed. It had been two days since Sissey and I had returned to South Carolina for the final semester of college; we had said our goodbyes earlier, giving her sweet hugs and soft kisses, whispering words of love that she didn’t have to hear to understand. Deep in my heart, I knew it was the final goodbye.

      In the end, it was the right thing to do. She slipped peacefully away under their tender care, released from her pain and suffering, her deafness and dementia. With a gentle sigh and a quiet breath, Sugar Pie went to the place where all good dogs go, and I’m certain she was greeted at the gates with slobbery kisses and happy barks by Gus and Auggie, her first two loves

     Bye, Bye Sugar Pie. You were one of the good ones.
Going Home


  1. Sad, sad but the right thing to do

    1. Thanks so much, Jean. It was hard, but she had a good life and deserved to die with dignity and before she suffered. Thanks for reading about our sweet gal on my blog!