It has been a Spring of sadness and loss in my world – my older rescued Weimaraner, Scooby Doo, gave up the ghost himself, soon after I lost my youngest Weimaraner, Teddy, to a fast and brutal death from cancer. It was heart breaking for me to witness the older dog’s broken heart from the loss of his younger adopted brother – yet it was also uplifting as a reminder of the depth of feelings that our dogs can have, not just for us, but for each other.
During Teddy’s hospitalization and after he failed to return home, Scooby Doo became lethargic and stopped eating or drinking. At first I thought it was a medical emergency and rushed him to the vet for ultrasounds, blood tests and I.V. fluids. This medical intervention made him extremely nervous and agitated, which I realize in hindsight was because I had misinterpreted his profound depression as a medical problem, when what Scooby actually was suffering from was a broken heart.
Whichever room they were in, Scooby Doo and Teddy had never failed to lie down on the same bed together, curled or spread out in parallel positions, always touching. Our other older dog Jazzy, a Collie mix, is an aloof gal who likes her own space and couldn’t offer any comfort to her lifetime boyfriend. Scooby Doo was devastated with loneliness, and continued on “a hunger strike,” which was so out of character for the Fastest Eater in the West that I knew I had to find a way to give him a reason to live again.
I decided to bring a new breath of life into the household when I learned that the Mid-Atlantic Weimaraner rescue in Virginia Beach had a nine-month-old Blue Weimaraner female, Maisie, who had been turned in for adoption. Maisie’s situation reminded me of adopting Scooby Doo, turned in by his owners as a 6 month old pup, and adopted by me the day he came into the Southampton shelter over twelve years before.
My sister and I had driven down from Vermont to Virginia to pick up the beautiful young lady, and Maisie came home filled with exuberance. She tried her best to rouse Scooby Doo from his depression; for a brief period it seemed as though he might have revived emotionally. However, within a couple of weeks it was clear that having lost Teddy, Scooby had thrown in the towel and decided to follow his little brother over that Rainbow Bridge. On a Friday night – exactly five weeks to the day when Teddy’s illness had declined past the point of salvation – Scooby got “that look” in eyes saying it was over, it was “time.”
I reached the vet early the next morning and she offered to come over and ease Scooby Doo out of his mortal suffering. It was a chilly morning in early April and we had lit a fire in the wood stove; Scooby managed to get up from a bed he had been on all night and stretch out on the bed in front of the toasty fire. He did not raise his head or open his eyes again.
It was almost the same time on a Saturday morning when my sister and I had driven to the specialty hospital where Teddy’s suffering had overwhelmed his ability to fight against his illness and we held his paws and each others’ hands while putting him out of his misery. Scooby Doo was the opposite: no apparent physical suffering (despite not having eaten or drunk in a full day) but with the loss of the will to live. He looked peaceful, resigned and patient, waiting for his chariot to take him across the Rainbow Bridge.
As we waited for the vet to arrive, I debated whether it would disturb him if I were to get down on the floor with him, worried that expressing my sorrow might interfere with his peaceful resignation to leave this world. As I was wondering how to be of comfort – and considering if I should sit down next to him and put his head in my lap, the exuberant young puppy came bounding into the room. Fearing that she would disrupt Scooby’s peaceful state of near-unconsciousness, I caught Maisie. I was about to banish her from the room when she stopped in her tracks. She regarded Scooby Doo thoughtfully, taking in the scene.
Before I could do anything, she quietly slipped down next to him on the adjoining dog bed. Ever-so-gently, she lay her young head right on top of his – like a laying on of hands. She lay there in utter stillness for quite some time, then shifted her head so that it lay across his neck in a protective, loving position. Then she stretched out her neck and fit it against him in an embrace of sorts. She had not known him more than a couple of weeks, but even as a young newcomer to the family she recognized what was going on.
She had an instinct about how to keep Scooby Doo company until he was freed from his suffering. He accepted what she had to offer. Both Scooby’s love for Teddy, and Maisie’s respect and affection for Scooby, left me breathless. Their deep attachment and elegant, instinctive compassion were luminous examples of pure love. As sad as I was, it heartened me to experience this surreal and awe-inspiring interchange.
Tracie Hotchner is the author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is also a renowned pet radio host and producer, having spent 7 years on the Martha Stewart Channel of Sirius/XM with CAT CHAT® and even longer with her award-winning NPR radio show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) that continues to broadcast in the Hamptons and the Berkshires. Her most recent accomplishment is the pet talk radio network she has created on the Internet called The Radio Pet Lady Network.