adopting a rescue dog

Why the dog bed next to Mommy’s computer is now empty

This is Meriwether, come to tell you all the reason for the above title.

When we first went to pick up Sprocket from the shelter, I took him onto my lap for the duration of the ride home. He was clingy and wriggly and nervous-panting. He licked my face and rubbed his nasty scent all over me.

That night I gave him a bath. He acted no different from any of the other dogs when they got baths–cooperative, albeit unhappy. I have never met a dog that enjoys baths. When I got him out and toweled him off, he ran around the bathroom wagging his tail–something I have rarely seen a dog do after getting a bath. I reached down to pick him up and carry him out of the bathroom, and he snarled. Before I could touch him, he whipped around and started trying to kill his tail. A second later he was all happy again, sniffed my hand and licked it.

“All right,” I told him, “so you’re a tail chaser and you don’t like to be picked up. That’s fine.” And I let him make his own merry way out of the bathroom.

Sprocket proceeded to make Bramble extremely jealous over the next couple of days. He would hop up on the couch next to me and curl up exactly as Bramble usually did and wait for me to rub his belly. He sat down next to the table at dinner and waited for us to feed him scraps.

Then he went into what Mommy thought was the customary grieving stage. He retreated into himself, stopped begging, stopped jumping onto the couch. He came upstairs one night, to my room, where I was watching a movie with the two little kids. I reached down to pet him, and he growled. He started chasing his tail when he was stressed.

All Friday night he ignored my invitation to come on the bed, and he growled if one of us tried to pet him. In the end he left his place at my feet and lay down in the bedroom doorway. He would not let me touch him.

The next morning it had gone away, and I could pet him again. He ran around the yard, played with the other dogs, body-slammed Bramble. In the evening, when he came in, he lay down at Mommy’s feet and stayed there. I tried to pet him, and he snarled at me. I told Mommy that it was like this the other night. We all thought it was just a stage. When Mommy went to bed, he went with her and wouldn’t leave the bedroom. And wouldn’t let me pet him. And continued to hate his tail.

On Sunday I was sweeping the living room, and Honour was trying to pet Sprocket, giving him turkey and talking. He would not let her touch him. In the end, I stuck the broom between them and told Sprocket to stop. Honour went upstairs with the little kids, and I finished sweeping and sat down next to Sprocket. I stayed there for half an hour.

I went up to Mommy an hour later. “What do dogs look like when they have seizures?”

I told her how, while I sat next to him, Sprocket had curled in on himself and started shaking. When Mommy tried to pet Sprocket, he growled. She had to put a towel over him so he wouldn’t bite her and lifted him onto the couch. I went upstairs. I decided I had been silly thinking he was sick, and went upstairs.

I came down a while later. Mommy told me I was right. Sprocket had had a seizure. His rear end wouldn’t work anymore.

Mommy made him a dog bed and gave him food, which he wouldn’t eat. I went down to visit him when everyone was asleep and sat next to him reading until he relaxed and let me pet him. I put a leash on him, and he didn’t growl at me.

When I got up to go to bed he looked up at me, with those sad dog eyes. I started crying.

The next morning, Mommy told me that Sprocket had pooped a lot of blood. She scheduled a vet appointment. Everyone cried around Sprocket and called him a poor baby. He still wouldn’t let anyone pet him. He was too weak to hate his tail.

Mommy took him to the vet. The vet looked at Sprocket, looked at Mommy and said, “No.”

Mommy left Sprocket at the vet’s office. They were going to take care of him until he was put down. I was reading when she came home, and everyone went to talk to her on the porch except me. I looked at my book and listened to them talking. “No,” Mommy said, when everyone was asking her the same question. “They had to put him down. The vet thought it might be distemper, or maybe a whole bunch of things all at once, but definitely something with his brain.”

I keep on remembering how, that first night when we brought him home, Sprocket wouldn’t let any of us kids sleep. He was walking all over us, kissing us, annoying Ginny, and curling up right where I wanted to sleep. In the end, Ginny stopped growling at him.

I know that dog is in a special place in Heaven tonight. And I still can’t say anything to anyone without ending, “This stinks. It totally, totally stinks.” Mommy says to tell you that she’s not going to post for a while so we can all remember for a few days.

I’m so glad that we had the privilege of knowing this muppet dog.

(Small clarification from Joanna: He went downhill really hard last night after the seizure. I stayed with him but he was obviously in pain and miserable. No relaxation in his eyes anymore. He got his back end under him again by this morning but was tremoring and throwing up and had bloody diarrhea. He couldn’t be touched at all, under any conditions, without panicking. He spent a couple of hours hiding in the corner before we could get him to the vet; it was obvious by the time we got him to the office that things were dire. My vet, who is wonderful, immediately said “You know what you need to do.” She says there’s no way to tell what it is for sure unless we wanted to put him through days of testing, but agreed with me that neurological distemper was a strong possibility. Our other dogs are not in danger; I boostered the adults who had not been vaccinated in a few years as a precaution. And yes, this sucks.)

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  • Reply Karen September 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I’m really so very sorry. What a beautifully written epilogue.

  • Reply K.B. September 13, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Oh, I am SO sorry. Poor little Sprocket – but at least, his last few days were happy ones. And you are right – it does totally stink πŸ™
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  • Reply Tammy Kozoris September 13, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    *tears* sleep well dear Sprocket πŸ™
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  • Reply Erin September 13, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    So sorry… so sad…. they wiggle their way into our hearts so quickly. Even though it is tragic, I’m glad Sprocket found a home with your family for his final days. He was able to pass peacefully and full of love, rather than alone and confused at a shelter. Thank you for helping make this little dog’s final days wonderful ones.
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  • Reply Pai September 13, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Oh, I’m so sorry! I teared up reading this. At least his last days were filled with love.

  • Reply Jeri September 13, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    πŸ™ I’m so, so sorry.
    Jeri recently posted…PatienceMy Profile

  • Reply c-myste September 13, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Darn. I’m so sorry.

    Rabies isn’t a possibility is it? The biting at the tail (possible bite site) followed be the aggression worries me.
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    • Reply rufflyspeaking September 13, 2010 at 10:30 pm

      No, thankfully, he drank eagerly and licked at food, though didn’t eat much, up until the end and he never drooled. I always worry about rabies, of course, but he was in the normal ten-day hold in CT without symptoms.

  • Reply claire September 13, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    oh my dog. that’s horrible. I’m shocked. I don’t know what else to say… it sounded like he was doing great before, it’s such a shock to read this. I hope your hearts are strong, and all the kids are doing okay. Thank you, Meriwether, for writing about it. Thanks to your whole family for being there for him, and making him as comfortable as possible and not prolonging his pain.

    I just heard today that my grandmother died this morning after a long decline in a care home, and it hadn’t really hit me yet until I read this post. At first I was sad for Sprocket, and now I’m sad for my grandmother, and it’s getting mixed up… I thought I could be stoic and rational, since I wasn’t that close to her and her death wasn’t unexpected, but it’s becoming real now. I know death comes to us all eventually, but it still sneaks up on us and socks you right in the gut, emotionally.

  • Reply Brooke September 13, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I am so, so sorry. And even though Sprocket had to go to Heaven so soon, I am so glad you were able to bring him to your home and give him love and that hopefully he knew that someone cared. A much better end than what the shelter offered, no doubt.

    You did a good job, and all that you could. And far more than most folks would ever have done simply by rescuing him.

    I am so sorry. πŸ™

  • Reply penni September 13, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    It’s just not right! Thank you for trying for one little dog.
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  • Reply guinevere September 13, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    “This stinks” is right – but as Erin said, Sprocket was blessed by your family, cared for so well for his last days, instead of lonesome and unloved at the shelter.
    Sending you all gentle healing wishes as you mourn him.

  • Reply Leslie September 13, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    You gave him some happy days and then peace. Good onya. See you at The Bridge, little Sprocket.
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  • Reply Kim (LittleRockstar) September 13, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    I am so sorry. At the same time I am thankful for families like yours. That sweet, if goofy dog got to spend his last days with a loving family who wanted to understand him. That has to be better than remaining anonymous at a shelter. Thank you for sharing Sprocket with us. Sorry the ending sucked.

  • Reply Mary September 13, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Oh Meri, such beautiful writing for such a sad time.

    Godspeed little Sprocket – you certainly planted yourself into everyone’s hearts in record time. You’ll be missed.

    And thank you, Kimball family, for making his last days safe and full of love & fun. Even with such a sad outcome, you did your best for him. You really did rescue him.

  • Reply Julie September 14, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Oh, no! I am so sorry about poor Sprocket. I am glad he could end his days with a family who loved him. I sure wish he could have enjoyed it longer. Gosh, that just stinks.

    My best to all of you. You did right by a little dog who needed you.

  • Reply Claire September 14, 2010 at 12:05 am

    I am so sorry. God bless you for giving Sprocket a decent and loving home in his last days. I will go cry now.

  • Reply Liz September 14, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Poor Sprocket- and poor Kimballs. He needed a family to wait for at the bridge, and you are it. I feel for your girls-having to learn about loving and losing at such a young age sucks. You guys are angels on earth. Can’t see to type any more.

  • Reply Leila September 14, 2010 at 12:13 am


    I’m so sorry. He was so lucky to have you all there for him.

  • Reply David S September 14, 2010 at 12:16 am

    I’m sad to hear about this, and I’m sorry the week with Sprocket was so tumultuous and heartbreaking. Meri, you did a great job relating the events. Hope you all feel better soon. Please let me know if there’s anything me (or Harper) can do.

  • Reply Lily September 14, 2010 at 12:23 am

    I am so, so sorry. Sprocket was with people who loved and cared for him for his last days. Your family brought happiness back to his life and that is the most beautiful thing you did for him.

  • Reply Carol September 14, 2010 at 12:54 am

    I’m so so sorry! πŸ™

  • Reply Mandy September 14, 2010 at 1:11 am

    This is the best and worst part of rescue. I remember getting a Pemmie a few years back, who seemed ok at first but was snappy about being brushed. He had 2 of what was obviously the best days in his life with love and attention – he’d obviously been chained and abused. He died suddenly overnight and testing revealed severely damaged kidneys…someone had repeatedly kicked him enough to cause irrepairable damage. Those 2 days he was with us he was so happy to be loved and soaked up the attention. While I have had many happy rescue stories, that one was a very sad one…but knowing he had love at the end made it worth it. The same goes for Sprocket.

  • Reply 24 Paws of Love September 14, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Sorry to hear about Sprocket. So glad his last days were surrounded by so much love. Our prayers are with you.
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  • Reply Traci September 14, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Thank you for making a difference for poor Sprocket. Thank doG that there are people like you… Sprocket was lucky to have had you!
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  • Reply Michy September 14, 2010 at 4:45 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for being there for Sprocket, and for easing his way into Heaven.

  • Reply kat September 14, 2010 at 9:29 am

    so sad, as others have said he was lucky to have you at the end x

  • Reply Ann September 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I’m so sorry. Thank you for loving Sprocket for the time he could stay.

  • Reply Grace September 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I am so sorry. But also so glad he was able to have his last days with you and not in the shelter.

  • Reply Kaye Graham September 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Meri’s writing is so eloquent; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…. I felt very caught up in Sprocket’s last days, and I am so sorry that his potential happiness with your family was cut short by such severe illness. Rest easy, little guy.

  • Reply Paula September 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    How totally heartbreaking.

    Thank you for trying, and thank you for giving him a wonderful place in his final days.

  • Reply B September 14, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    So, so sorry to hear it. πŸ™

  • Reply Frances September 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I am so very sorry to read this – poor little Sprocket. I am glad he had those few days of love, and comfort, and petting with you, but how sad for so much hope to end so suddenly.

  • Reply Jamie September 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    *Hugs* to your family. Sprocket was a happy dog for his last few days because of you and your family. That means so much.

  • Reply Sherilyn September 14, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    So sorry for your loss. So glad that Sprocket received so much love his last few days. RIP Sprocket…see you on the other side of the bridge.

  • Reply Holly September 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I am so sorry for all of you. At least Sprocket knew love. Takes me back to last November with our Brandy… we only had her 3 weeks, but at least her pain was managed and she knew love at the end.

  • Reply CharlieDog September 14, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    I’m so sorry about Sprocket, but I have to echo what everyone else has said about his last days being full of love and kindness. Every dog deserves to have a piece of that before they pass on, and Sprocket got to have his too.

  • Reply Amy September 15, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I am so terribly sorry, Joanna! Sprocket was blessed to have such a caring family in his last days.

  • Reply Susan and Stella September 15, 2010 at 12:03 am

    So sorry to hear this but at least Sprocket’s last days were spent with lots of love.
    Thank you for caring so much for these lost animals.

  • Reply Raegan September 15, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Sucky things suck. Glad all the kids and dogs are safe, and that Sprocket had a restful place to spend his last days.
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  • Reply Elise September 15, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I am so sorry! *hugs* Run free Sprocket! Thank you for all you do Kimballs! He was blessed with so much love, affection, and comfy couches in his last days. Too bad that it had to end this way…it stinks!

  • Reply Leanna September 15, 2010 at 12:49 am

    The world is a better place because of your family. You gave Sprocket a wonderful life while he was there.
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  • Reply micaela September 16, 2010 at 4:18 am

    I’m so sorry Joanna, Merri, Kimballs… I had hoped to meet that cute little scruffy guy. Thank you for sharing your home and your hearts with him, for being his *family* and making his last days on Earth special. I’ll go hug my beast now, and pray for you all. Sending you much love β™₯

  • Reply Vicki in Michigan September 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I am so sorry. What a hard and horrible thing to go through.

    Poor Sprocket.

    I’m so glad he was able to spend his last days with people who loved him and only wanted good things for him.
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  • Reply Jessica Scott September 17, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    So sorry to hear about this awful loss. You guys are great people for giving that dog a few happy days before he had to depart this world. He knew love before he left.

  • Reply Kristy Wiland September 18, 2010 at 4:19 am

    My deepest sympathy goes out to you and your family. I know that you don’t remember who I am, but I’m one of the Bronte Fan Club.

    My first reaction was how terribly horrible and sad. Then I realized that, no, this is good thing for Sproket. He had a chance, however brief, to be a family dog. To be a dog who is loved. Sproket got to experience that. And that makes all the difference. Dogs don’t see time as we do, and Sproket won’t know that his time of being a loved, family dog was brief. He just knows that he got to experience being loved.

    Sproket could have gotten ill and passed on in the shelter. Instead, he got to experience the ultimate dog goal of being a loved member of a family. You gave him that. The fact that it was so brief does not matter. He was loved.

    This is why doing rescue work is so meaningful. You get to give a dog the experience of being loved, and of belonging, which they otherwise would not have. Sometimes it works out fantastically, and they find a forever home. But even when it’s very brief, they always, always have the knowledge that they were loved, and that they mattered and belonged to someone.

    I commend you, and your family, for being willing to open your hearts, home, and lives to these dogs. It does make a difference.

    And, I’m totally floored by Meri’s writing ability, as well as her emotional intelligence. I wouldn’t think someone so young could write something so profound and eloquent. Very nicely done!

  • Reply Camille September 19, 2010 at 3:52 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to your foster boy. Please continue to keep up the work of helping all the rescues you can…there’s so many that need people like you. What you gave to Sprocket was truly amazing, you got him just in time to make his last few days memorable and filled with love.

    P.S. It’s relieving to see that I’m not the only person under the age of 18 who can spell and construct a sentence. Whatever you did with your kids, you did it right.

  • Reply Jen Renton September 20, 2010 at 12:50 am

    So sorry to hear about your little foster guy. It’s wonderful that you were able to help him across the bridge, but I know how hard that is on the whole family.

  • Reply Jen September 27, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Gosh. I’m awfully late to the game, but I am so sorry you lost the little fella, and how it happened. Losing an animal is hard, particularly when they go through something like that. Big hugs to everyone.

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