Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Now cracks a noble heart

...that of our brave blind beagle-mutt, Merlin, who died after a couple of quick cries and tremors yesterday afternoon. He was eleven.

He went quietly. He stopped eating on Saturday and basically slept all the time, just drinking a little if you raised the bowl or even a handful of water to his lips, until his heart (I presume) gave out on Monday. My wife came home came home at about 4:30 in the afternoon, and he managed a few tail thumps. At about a quarter to five, he gave a sharp yelp and the throes began. We were with him, petting him as he gave up the ghost on our kitchen floor.

He had been shutting down gradually since congestive heart failure became manifest around Christmas time. We'd been treating him with an amazing 6-drug cocktail (including Viagra!) since January, which stabilized him for a time, but in recent weeks he started refusing one food after another until it was hard to get his meds into him. He also had arthritis that almost incapacitated his back legs. And oh yes, he'd been blind since shortly after his first birthday, a result of retinal detachment (he was born with sight in one eye). Each of his detached retinas ruptured at different points, causing pain each time, so he had to have both eyes removed at different times, long after he'd lost sight.

When the world first went dark on him, he was afraid to move for a couple of days. But he soon got the hang of sniffing his away along (and listening -- as I wrote once, his hearing seemed sharper to me than his sense of smell), and he got along very well until the last few months. Here he is last April, negotiating a staircase.

We would have put him to sleep if he'd been in serious pain, but he wasn't. Though he'd had several 24-hour fasts in the past few months, by Sunday night it was pretty clear that he wasn't going to start eating again, and we were ready to put him to sleep within a day or two.

Merlin's vet, a brusque old-school mensch who'd taken out both his eyes at different times, was still in his office when we called a few minutes before 5, and he waited for us to bring our sweet pup in for cremation. Merlin was still warm when we left. We felt we'd left him in good hands, if that makes any sense. We are going to get his ashes and scatter them in a nearby wooded reservation where he put in a lot miles, sniffing his way along the paths.

My sadness sits alongside an eerie sense of what a charmed life I've lived. So little death, knock on wood. I don't know that I've ever watched a creature larger than an insect die.  Only possible in the past century, and in a handful of countries.


  1. So sorry for your loss, Andrew. The love of a pet is something special.

  2. This makes me very sad even though like you my life has been so easy. Thank you for the video. He was so cute. I am sorry this time has come for your family. Each time we have lost a dog the loss has been so hard. My dogs have marked chapters in my life. I have one that is 13 and one that is 11. Another chapter will end soon.

  3. Merlin, your video reminds us what "dogged" means. Good boy, indeed.