TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Death of a Dog

Rest in Peace, Juba.  2004-2012

A month ago today, Juba went to her regular place for dinner and then didn't eat her food.  Huh?  Alarm bells went off.  This dog always wanted more!  We went out to the back yard where I was working on my garden.  I saw her crouch down to pee and my heart turned cold.  The pee was black!

The next day I took her to the vet and they gave her some antibiotics and asked me to try to catch a urine sample.  When I brought it in later that day, they had me turn around and go back and get her.  They ran some tests and her white blood cell count was very high.  She was on an IV for three days at the vet and by Friday, he said that she either had leukemia or a serious infection where she was destroying her own red blood cells.  I asked if I could take her home and they said that it was fine.  She probably would not last the weekend.

I was told to try to get as much protein and fluids into her as possible.  If it was an infection and she could rebuild her red blood cells, she could recover.  She made it through the weekend, but wasn't keeping food down.  She was on a strong antibiotic and steroids, so they added an anti-nausea pill.  Her strength seemed to come back and my hopes were renewed.

The next blood test showed some stabilizing.  The yellow in her eyes had gone and her pee was still reddish, but much closer to normal.  Yes!  We can beat this!  But, then she threw up globs of blood.  I just knew it was over!  Back to the vet and more hope: she now had an ulcer from the medication.  Another pill would coat the stomach and allow her to heal.

I was nursing her around the clock.  Every day she looked weaker, wasting away in front my eyes, but there was still this hope, this possibility that it was not cancer.  A week later, renewed hope:  her red blood cells were increasing and her kidney function had improved.  But, now she looked like a cancer patient.  Her head had started to cave in and her belly was swollen from the steroids.  This last Tuesday her back legs became so weak that she couldn't support herself.  I made a sling to help her support her back end and that worked.  She could stand and walk a few steps, but edema set up and those hind legs started to swell. I began to accept that it was cancer.  I almost took her in to put her down then, but she perked up.  I had bought all kinds of meats, made purees, bought baby food, squirted chicken and meat broth in the side of her mouth when she didn't want to eat and she went up and down.

Through the whole thing, she talked to me.  Dogs have different barks that mean different things.  Most of the time, I felt like I knew what she wanted.  Was she in pain?  She didn't show it, at least not until the last two days.  She just looked weak and sad.  She was a big dog and hard for me to move around so I figured out a way to slide her into different rooms and could carry her up and down the steps outside to let her be outside.  She barked at the mailman up until the last day.  By Thursday night, I knew there was no hope and that I would take her in on Friday, so we had a pizza party.  I wanted to see if the smell would inspire her to eat something solid (by now she was rejecting almost everything).  She wolfed the pizza down.  Friday afternoon I took her to the vet and she was euthanized.  She was ready.  I was not.  I can hardly wrap my head around the notion that she is gone.  She was fine and then she wasn't.  Isn't that just how it always goes?

Juba 2005
Juba's story

The whole thing started with Mitchie.  I had had a couple of cats that were both getting quite old.  I lived in an apartment in Chicago and had no intention of getting a dog.  Then, Abdul, my friend and gallery partner, shows up with Mitchie who was supposed to be our gallery dog.  A whole new world opened up.  I now walked the city parks, made new "dog" friends, had all kinds of adventures that I hadn't had before because I rarely went out.


Mitchie was extremely social and expressive.  A boxer-lab mix, he loved people and was kind of a control freak, making sure that everybody was behaving the way they should.  The economy collapsed, we closed the gallery and I decided that I was fed up with how expensive Chicago had become and that I wanted out. I had been there for 20 years, struggling as an artists and had several small retail shops over the years.  Now my strategy was to just sell online and not do the brick and mortar thing anymore.  Mitchie wouldn't have it.  He would sit next to me as I worked on the computer and glare at me.  Then grimace and make all of these intense vocalizations.  I told him I'd get him a dog once we moved.


In comes Laila.  We were walking one day and Mitchie pulled me around the corner and there was an injured dog cuddled in the stairway of the building where I lived.  Laila.  She looked just like him except that she was half his size.  She was torn up and pregnant.  Ha!  Well, I thought that since she was malnourished they would not survive.  She had seven bouncing babies in my living room.  I had no idea what I was doing and would research each phase online and call my dog friends.  There was a courtyard annexed to my apartment which was really good as the puppies did have some outdoor space when they were old enough. Juba was the first born and the only brown one.  She cried like a human baby for the first three days after she was born.  It was really weird.

Laila and Juba, October 2004

Juba was the only brown one.

I named Juba after this song of Caetano Veloso's, Leãzinho.  It's a sweet song about a little lion.  Juba is the lion's mane.  You can listen to it while you look at the pictures...  (It's in Portuguese.)

Butter ball.
First bath, 2004

Christmas 2004

3 months old.

So, of course I kept her.  She was my golden girl, by butter ball.  And, then there was her little sister, Sheba, the runt.  I knew I would never go through this again, so I kept both of them.  We WERE moving to a house with a yard, in the SOUTH where there was plenty of room, after all....

Juba and Sheba, February 2005

February, 2005 (Still in Chicago)


So, now I've got four dogs, a pack.  99% of the time it was great fun.  The 1% was a nightmare.  First, the good stuff: they all got along, we went out into nature a lot.  Kentucky was perfect.  Woods, places to swim, and many, many great memories.

April 2007

May 2007

May 2007

May 2007

Juba and Mitchie, July 2007

Wisconsin with Tom, August 2007

Ice Storm, December 2009

I have pictures of every friend who came to visit surrounded by the dogs.  All of them were social and loved having guests.  I got a lot of love from them.

With Diane, who is a cancer survivor!

June 2009
With Laila, May 2010
Daughter and mother...
Disaster struck in 2010.  A utility man came into my yard without my permission.  Yes, the dogs were very friendly to anyone I introduced them to, but they were also protective and could be pretty awful, barking at people walking by, etc.  Sheba, especially, had a kill instinct that was becoming scary.  She had attacked and almost killed two other dogs, the three girls had killed two cats that had come into the back yard, and Sheba just wanted more.  She would sit for hours watching squirrels, every muscle ready for the attack.  When I heard the gate open, I yelled, "Don't come in the yard!!!!"  The doors and gate to the back yard were all open as I was expecting this guy to turn on water across the street.  He was late and I was looking out for him.  Sheba attacked and he ran down the street, leaving the gate open.

There was court and a big mess.  She bit his legs and he got $20,000 for it.  Then she bit the dust.  I was court ordered to put her down.  There is nothing worse to me than to kill a healthy dog.  At the same time, I really feel like something was wrong with her wiring.  I had her since she was a baby and she was just getting worse.

A couple of weeks later, Mitchie was diagnosed with lymphoma.  He lasted three weeks and went down.  Awful, just awful.

June 2010, right before Mitchie died.
I have to admit that things were a lot calmer though, much easier on me.  Four dogs were too many, but nobody could have talked me out of any of them.  Each one has their own particular essence and I wanted all of it.  Of all of them, Juba was my baby.  She was always near me and would stretch out her paw to touch my foot or my arm.

June 2011, Visit from Pedro
Now I was just down to the two, Laila and Juba.  Things were good. In March, I spent a month on the road with Abdul and we went to Tucson by truck for the Gem and Mineral Show.  I finally had someone who could house sit and take care of the animals, Pat.  On the way there, we stopped at a truck stop in New Mexico and this little chihuahua was running around, desperate.  Abdul said, "Catch that dog!"  (Yes, ALL of this is Abdul's fault!)  I did.  He had been there, in the middle of the desert for at least three days.  He glommed on to me immediately.  It was clear that I now had another dog, Tor.


What would the dynamic be now?  I've never really liked little yip-yappers, but this guy is loaded with personality.  Yes, Laila tried to kill him when we brought him in, but after I yelled at her, she accepted him.  Tor immediately bonded to Juba and was always laying next to her.

January 2012

The following photos show Juba's descent during this last month.  The picture above, in the leaves, was taken just this past January.  Yes, both she and Laila were showing signs of aging, but at eight years old, I thought I had at least a couple of more years with her.

Visiting her at the Vet, week 1

Back home, weak, but still looking like herself.  Week 2

End of Week 3.  Her face caving in.  She can still walk.

Juba's last day, with Tor at her side.

She's buried in front of the house where she used to lay all the time.
Nik and Pat helped dig the grave.

Tor and Laila.

I guess this post is more for me than for anyone else.  But, I know that many of you also have had pets that you loved and have lost.  Is it any different to grieve the death of an animal than that of a person?  It feels the same to me.  I've lost my grandparents and several friends over the years and the big hole that they leave behind, that spinning feeling, the sense of a time that is now gone..........  it is the same.  I think that these four dogs also represent a last connection that I had with my life in Chicago, too.  Their muzzles went white, my hair is going the same way.  They are dying and I am getting old.  Time is fleeting.

Several people have said that Tor showed up to replace Juba, that he was sent by God knowing what was ahead.  It's true that both have this attachment to me that the other dogs didn't have, but I don't know what I think about that.  I do know that he brings some youth into our aging house.  Laila likes to play, too, and the two of them have some similar toy interests.  Laila has been moping.  I look at her with suspicion.  Is she missing Juba?  Or, is something wrong with her, too?  Sigh...............

What is it in us that seeks this connection with an animal?  I cannot imagine living without pets and apparently there is a genetic bond between dogs and humans that comes from thousands of years of mutual co-existence, more than with any other animal.  I grew up with animals and recently learned something new about my childhood with dogs.  My parents had a dog named Bobby when I was two years old.  They had to go to a different town one afternoon and the dog followed the car.  My Mom thought that he would go back home, but he never came back.  Three weeks later, I was still asking about Bobby.

Bobby and I, 1963
Notice how we are leaning into each other.  And how much he looks like my black dogs...  They replaced him with another Bobby.

Bobby II kind of has a Juba look about him.  Here is a better picture with my brother when he was a bigger dog:

Do these early experiences get imprinted on our brains?  

These thoughts have been with me during these past days.  I also remembered some things that I had read by the theologian, C.S. Lewis.  Those of you who don't know his religious work might recognize him for "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".  I couldn't remember in which book he talks about this, but he said something like "if animals are needed to bring humans happiness, they will surely be with us in heaven". He talked about heaven as a full experience of the divine.  That, whatever we know here is a faded version of what will come.  He also plays with the idea that sin (the separation from God) has clouded our perceptions.  When we were in a full state of grace, all of nature did, indeed, communicate with each other. Jesus could command the wind, trees could bend at will.  From what I understand, he and Tolkien were friends and both explored this world where good and evil manifested themselves in how they treated the natural world and that old folk tales of fairies and giants and trolls were remnants of an actual world that has passed on.

I haven't found the text that I was looking for yet, but did stumble on a fascinating article about Lewis and his love for animals and how he saw their place within a theological context.  It's quite long and I haven't finished it yet (lots to digest and think about along the way).  If you would like to read it, click here.

I need to end this post at some point, don't I?  One of my facebook friends reminded me of a wonderful little video about GoD and DoG.  It makes me teary-eyed to watch it:

Finally, there is a matter of finances.  Yes, Juba's illness is costing me a bundle which I don't have:  $750.  My vet is wonderful and allows me to make payments when these things happen, but this is the biggest one to date.  I know that if this had been in Chicago, it would have been four times that, but still....  So, I'm hoping that some of you would like to do a bit of shopping in my Etsy shop to help with this.

Use this code at checkout and get 40% off of anything in the shop:  FORJUBA.  

I would trade all of my inventory if I could have her alive....  Sadly, it's not meant to be.  I was saving up to get Tor neutered, but now he will have to keep his ornaments for a little bit longer...  Heh, heh.

If you don't see anything that you like in my shop, there is a donate button on the right sidebar.  Juba will accept any amount.

And, what about you?  Is there anything you would like to share about your animal experiences?  People don't leave comments on my blog very much, and I don't know why.  But, please!  Feel welcome to leave your thoughts on this and any other post.  

Me with Bobby III, 1978



  1. Lost my eighteen year old 'Spanhuahua' (spaniel-chihuahua cross) last summer. I still have a loop of pictures of her as my screen saver on my computer. My heart goes out to you.

  2. Thanks, Helen.... That's the one thing about smaller dogs: hopefully, they last longer. Tor looks to be around 2 so if he lives as long as yours, I have a nice span ahead with him. Fingers crossed!

  3. Oh Rachel. I'm weeping for you and your loved ones, and that sad familiar story. I commend you for creating this wonderful tribute of words and pictures and love. - M

    1. Thanks, Margaret! That's what we get for loving these critters, isn't it?

  4. I'm so sorry you lost your Juba. It is so hard to lose a pet, harder than losing people. Sending lots of love and best wishes to you, Rachel. xo

    1. Thanks, Connie... I think all loss is hard if we're not in control of it. The hardest thing with pets is that they can't tell us exactly what is going on. Did I feed her too much? Not enough? Was she in screaming agony? All of those questions which most humans can enlighten those of us who are trying to help them...

  5. My first dog which was a family dog had to be re-homed as my parents moved aboard, I lived in a tiny flat in London and worked long hours. It took me two years to be a position to look after.1 week before she was coming home she died. I will never forgive myself for getting myself sorted sooner. 8 years on it still upsets me and I miss her. Currently we have a difficult dog that we rescued. He was a very badly abused and neglected and has issues. I adore him, he trusts me, but if he were to go tomorrow I know he has gone happier having a good life and knowing what love is which is how Juba will have gone. It will break my heart when he goes. This is a wonderful tribute to your friendship x

    1. Oh, Nell.... That's tough. But, in the end, you do have to forgive yourself. We are forced to live within our own limitations. I often think that I should not have any of these dogs as my financial situation is so precarious. But, I didn't have children and on a day to day basis, I can handle the care for them. It's when a crisis happens that I get upset about the lack of money. On the other hand, there are so many animals who need care, who have been mistreated like the one you have now or like Laila was. When Laila was breastfeeding, she lost a lot of her hair, enough so that you could see her skin. She has scars all up and down her body and the vet said that she was probably used as dog bait in dog fighting. I asked how she could be so loving towards humans after going through that and he said that is probably why she was dumped. Yet, when she sees other pit type dogs, she goes wild, even after all of these years. We do what we can and in the process, I think we heal ourselves and our world, even if just a little bit. Kudos to you for taking in the difficult dog!

  6. Very sad Rachel for this huge lost! I never had the chance to be that close to an animal and it's very touching to read your story! Wish you force to get through these days.
    Best to you and your familly,

  7. Three days ago, I had a dream of a woman and four dogs... perhaps, it was you... I had no idea what the dream meant, I just wondered... specially because it made me remember that some indigenous peoples believe that dogs help us in our own spiritual journey to make it to heaven... if so, remain in the joy that comes with knowing that Juba and the others will be there, helping you when your own time comes too, sister. At least, I so believe... and hope so too.

  8. Ah, Rachel, what an amazing post. I still miss the boxer, the St. Bernard, the setter, and our last, Major, a husky-chow mix. All were rescue dogs and gave so much love. I bonded more so that the rest of the family with all four, so I was really crushed when they all were gone. Our very first dog when I was a kid, Liberace, one day "went away to the puppy farm" and I just didn't understand it. This is an amazing tribute for all of us who have and have had pets. White light on its way to you - glad you picked up Tor!

  9. What a beautiful post and how it honors Juba's memory. Thanks.


    Helen (your sister)

  10. Thanks, Helen... It was so good to talk to you last night, too!

  11. Thanks for sharing, so sorry for your loss. I'm going to give my dog extra love today.

  12. This was a very moving and beautiful memory to read. I just lost my cat of 13 years, to auto-immune anemia, and the rapid descent was startling, least to say. Your beautiful memories will overshadow the last few weeks, with time. Hugs.

    1. I've seen your cat mentioned in your blog and elsewhere...... I'm sorry for your loss, too! They just don't live long enough!

  13. I've avoided looking at this because I knew I'd sit here in tears. Love to all of you, Pat Scholz xox

    1. Well, she was lucky to have you in her life, Pat! Thank you for all of the help you gave me and her during this tough time!

  14. And your last Christmas shot. May she rest in bouncy doggy heaven.

  15. So sorry about your beautiful dog Juba. I've had dogs all my life and it's so heart breaking when they have to go but they give us all so much unconditional love I feel the least we can do in return is to be for them at the end and I think you did that Rachel ! Beryl

    1. I tried! I'm still kind of spinning from the whole thing. Thanks, Beryl, and everyone else for your good thoughts. Those of you who love these critters have gone through or will go through the same and it is never easy.

      A friend sent some money earmarked for a memorial for her grave and the other two that died two years ago (she knew all of them well). I had tried planting bushes on them and they died, so I got some bird feeders and that has been great fun! The squirrels get to them (which would have driven the dead dogs crazy, heh, heh) and they provide entertainment for the live ones. And, birds do get to them, too.

  16. I was avoiding reading this for some time, Rachel, but am very glad that I read what you have shared here. My huge sympathies on your loss. Our animals are our family.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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