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.)