the smell of my desperation has become a stench

In loving memory

I’m not even sure what metaphor or simile to use for what my eyes and face look like right now, maybe a blowfish? What do those look like? Aren’t they swollen? (furiously performs google image search) Maybe that but without the spikes. Is that not the right scientific term, spikes? Quills? Are they quills? See how I’m trying to distract myself? How about one more question mark? Where’s Waldo? Who is John Galt? Where in the world is Matt Lauer?

Saturday evening I met up with my mother, stepfather, and my sister’s whole family for dinner, and there I learned that their beloved dog Bo (they spell it Beau but from the first time I met him he was always a Bo to me, Bo Duke if I’d had my say) had taken very ill within the last 24 hours. He’d been puking nonstop and had ceased to eat anything, and my brother-in-law knew something was horribly wrong when he pulled a piece of turkey bacon out of the crisper and Bo didn’t try to tackle him to the ground.

That has always been the emergency warning light for both of my dogs. Chuck and Coco can tell if I’m thinking of the word bacon, so if they refuse a bite of that then shit just got real.

They rushed him to the vet and after a series of blood tests discovered that he had diabetes. And things were so advanced that he was very close to death. He’d have to stay overnight and they’d see what they could do, but they couldn’t make any promises. My family is always up for joking around, and we had a few laughs that night at dinner but it was all punctuated by one of the kids or my sister choking back a sob.

They would be headed back to the vet the following day to check up on him, and I offered to meet them there with my camera to take portraits just in case. They nodded at this suggestion through tears, and my sister texted on Sunday morning and asked that I meet at her house at around 11AM. When I showed up and walked onto her porch she opened the door and greeted me with a face that needed no explanation, no words. The face of someone who fell in love with a dog, despite the barking, the incessant ROOOING!, the stealing of food from the pantry. Despite the snoring, the paw scratching your leg because he’d very much like a bite of your sandwich. Despite coming home and discovering the trash had been raided yet again. Love of a giant white belly flopping over on the floor, a furry invitation for a rub, a hug, a touch of recognition. Love for the constant shadow at her feet.

Bo had made it through the night but he wasn’t in any better condition. He would most certainly go blind. The vet thought they could make him comfortable for another few days, but his condition was so bad that he most likely wouldn’t live that long. So my sister did the impossible and made the decision to show him mercy. They took him home from the vet so that we could all come to say our goodbyes, and then they’d take him back in a few hours to have him put to rest.

I walked back to my car to grab my camera bag and somehow found my way through eyes full of tears. Uncontrollable and fast. They came so freely that I had soaked my shirt within a few steps. I’ve written many posts about Bo over the years, and he and Chuck have always had a very special relationship. Cousins, brothers, kin. Always playing, tussling, running circles in the yard. You might remember this story in particular:

“Afterward we sat them both down and talked to them about their bodies”

When I walked in the house there was reverent silence except for the faint crying of my sister’s kids. Bo was lying comfortably in his bed up against the wall, eyes closed. As I approached he lifted his head, titled it to the right as if trying to put a name to my face, and then he pulled himself up. I fell to my knees and that sick dog walked over to me and nestled his head into my lap. He remembered the sleepovers, the treats I sneaked to him under the table, the play dates with Chuck. I buried my face into the space between those ears as long as the wings of a plane. We said goodbye to each other.

I did not grow up with any pets, and I told my sister’s kids how brave they were being in the face of something their parents and I never had to go through. When it was time for Bo to leave, my brother-in-law scooped him up into his arms and all of us felt our hearts beat furiously against the wall of our chests, unable to breathe or deal with the concept of the next hour, the next minute, the next second. It was the last moment we’d spend with that dog.

Later that day my mother texted me:

I have never seen Steve so emotional. He held Beau as they gave him the drugs. Steve was racked with sobs as he related the tender way Beau looked at him as if to say “thank you” and then nestled into the crook of Steve’s arm and gently left this world. We were all touched by him.

My family drove Beau out to my mother’s cabin in Duchesne and buried him underneath the window of her bedroom there, a place he frequently loved to visit and explore, a place where he could ROO! to his heart’s content and chase wildlife without constraint.

Last night I told my mother that I had been working on something to give to my sister’s family, the only thing that I have to offer them during this time of overwhelming sorrow: the library of photos I’ve taken over the years. She responded:

They are heart broken today. No Beau at the door when they came home. No snoring last night. Joshua said he imagined Beau walked to school with him. My heart is so full I can hardly keep from crying.

This is for Steve, September, Mariah, Meredith, Britton, Joshua and Noah. You gave Beau the best home he could have ever hoped for. You and he are all in my heart.

Music is “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra

  • Cora Burke

    2013/08/27 at 11:58 am

    And now I’m crying. That was beautifully written. Poor pup! May he roam free!

  • Katie Sutton

    2013/08/27 at 12:04 pm

    dammit…thank you. Death sucks.

  • myferona

    2013/08/27 at 12:05 pm

    Making the decision and then holding my dog as he was put down were what finally made me feel like a grownup. Not getting married, not having a kid, but being in the vet’s office with a very sick dog and realizing that the grownups were not going to show up and make that decision for me. I love that your whole family got together to say goodbye to him and that you wrote this beautiful piece for him.

  • Nicole

    2013/08/27 at 12:07 pm

    Very beautiful tribute. We are huge animal lovers in my home too and I know we will have to go through this some day but the love they give everyday will always outweigh the heartbreak.. Thinking of your family.

  • cassie

    2013/08/27 at 12:08 pm

    What a lovely tribute. One thing’s for certain, Beau was loved.

  • Leslie

    2013/08/27 at 12:13 pm

    Just beautiful. My condolences to all who loved Bo/Beau.

  • Lauren3

    2013/08/27 at 12:14 pm

    Beautiful, Heather. All my love to your family.

  • Kristan

    2013/08/27 at 12:21 pm

    Soooobbbbing. And I just hugged the shit out of my own dog and then told him that he has to live forever. (He’s a 5-yr-old Beagle, Jack Russell and Border Collie mix, so I’m quite familiar with the ROO-ing, trash-digging, and general insanity.)

    I know from experience that that’s one of the worst/hardest decisions to make, and I’m so very sorry for your family’s loss. Dogs are the best.

  • Holly K

    2013/08/27 at 12:31 pm

    I get it. I really really get it. Don’t you feel like the world should offer bereavement leave for the loss of a pet? I think that’s the hardest part is some people don’t get the bond we have with our pets so to them he was just an animal but to your family he was a member just as much as a son or daughter or aunt or grandma, you know? This post made me bawl as I’ve been down this road and it’s not a pleasant one. Peace to you and your family.

  • housepea

    2013/08/27 at 12:32 pm

    Oh Beau. Rest easy, buddy. 🙁

  • Andrew Denny

    2013/08/27 at 12:32 pm

    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware / Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

  • Lynda Self

    2013/08/27 at 12:35 pm

    So sorry about the loss. Dogs fill a special role in our lives and it is never easy saying good-bye.

  • kendahl

    2013/08/27 at 12:36 pm

    Oh, sobbing. We had to put my dog down in January because of diabetes. I’m so sorry for the loss of a wonderful family member.

  • Dervla @ The Curator

    2013/08/27 at 12:37 pm

    i’m so sorry for this loss, he had a wonderful life and your tribute is beautiful

  • Kelly B

    2013/08/27 at 12:38 pm

    Beau may not have been a good dog, but he obviously was a great dog. I’m sorry for y’alls loss.

  • Kate

    2013/08/27 at 12:39 pm

    You so beautifully captured what it feels like to lose a beloved pet. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

    That said, the Brokeback Mountain video just slays me. Laughing through tears.

  • Shmarieb

    2013/08/27 at 12:40 pm

    I’m at work and I have a ginormous lump in my throat and I fear at any moment I’m going to explode into a cacophony of sobs and wails and snorts. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I have missed my Molly every day since December 10, 2010.

  • Kristin

    2013/08/27 at 12:40 pm

    Totally agree. When I had to put my dog down, I was a wreck for weeks. months. i had to take time off work. i still have a hard time dealing with it.

  • Richard Morey

    2013/08/27 at 12:41 pm

    We have a great dog also named Bo who is two years old that we are trying to find a new home for. Our other dog, Sam, doesn’t like Bo being in the house. E-mail me if you want more info!

  • Heidi

    2013/08/27 at 12:41 pm

    What a beautiful tribute. My love to you and your family. And my thanks, too, for sharing him with us over the years. I grew to love him too.

  • Kristin

    2013/08/27 at 12:47 pm

    Beautiful tribute. Made me cry for my dog all over again. I also grew up with beagles that have since passed. Rest in peace Bo.

  • Melanie

    2013/08/27 at 12:55 pm

    Never commented on a blog post before – this is well done and beautiful. With so many atrocities in the world, the love for an animal is so raw and reminds us somehow of our humanity. Thank you for sharing

  • Roobacca

    2013/08/27 at 12:59 pm

    There’s a wonderful little book called Mostly Bob. It’s based on a letter the author sent to his friends, announcing the death of his dog, Bob. It’s sad but comforting, and it articulates all the things we feel about the dogs who enter and leave our lives.

  • Robyn C.

    2013/08/27 at 1:08 pm

    Our animal companions never stay long enough. Sending waves of comfort to all who loved Beau. What beautiful gift you gave all of us with the slideshow.

  • cattail722

    2013/08/27 at 1:25 pm

    Tears. It’s always so hard. I’m so sorry.

  • rsiewert

    2013/08/27 at 1:36 pm

    I read this as I sit here with my dog of 11 years. We were told last week that he would not make it long as his kidneys have failed and he will no longer eat. The tears pour as we make the decisions as a family to let him stay a little longer or take him in…. I have not seen my husband cry much ever, but the tears come so easily this week.

  • KristenfromMA

    2013/08/27 at 1:39 pm

    It’s the hardest decision to make, but trust him. He will let you know. <3

  • Tai

    2013/08/27 at 1:48 pm

    Oh… crying in my office. I’m so sorry.

  • Sam M.

    2013/08/27 at 1:50 pm

    And tears at my desk. I had to put my labbie girl to sleep after 16 years with her. I remember that last car ride with her, my parents sobbing in the front seat. I just held her and told her she was loved and that no dog had ever meant as much to someone. Beautifully written, beautifully photographed.

  • Teal

    2013/08/27 at 1:53 pm

    I about had a heart attack when I saw the title of this blog. I thought it was about Chuck. Regardless, I’m very sorry about your loss. I lost my beloved kitty cat last summer after 16 years. Every time I was ready to put him down, he would rebound and start eating and moving again. At the end, he was so sick that he couldn’t eat or use his litterbox. He was laying in his own urine and my husband had to give him water through an eyedropper. He passed away on his own shortly after that. The next day we got a new kitty who is the light of our lives.

  • acm

    2013/08/27 at 2:02 pm

    holy crap! you just broke me and I didn’t even know the dog personally. a wonderful gift.

  • Laura V.

    2013/08/27 at 2:25 pm

    No matter how much time we get with our pets, it never seem like enough. Love to you and your family, and I hope no one ever tells you he was “just a dog”.

  • YikesDogGirlHere

    2013/08/27 at 2:35 pm

    Dogs are amazing, magical perfect beings. Losing one is truly losing a family member. Love to your family in this time and that was a beautifully written piece. I only made it through about 2 minutes of the video. I’ll try again later. LOVE.

  • Julia

    2013/08/27 at 2:48 pm

    We had to put our much loved kitty down in June of last year for much the same reason Bo had to be put down (he was 16, which is old for a cat, but like Bo it all happened very very fast) and reading this just brought all the pain and heartbreak back to me like it had happened yesterday. It has to be one of the hardest things to do as a pet owner and lover. I still miss him every day. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  • soba

    2013/08/27 at 2:51 pm

    “I heard someone define heaven once, as a place where when you get there, all the dogs you ever loved run to greet you.” My condolences to your family. Bo is watch over all of you with his kind eyes and loving heart.

  • Carin Sweerman

    2013/08/27 at 3:16 pm

    My condolences to your family and you, Heather. I know how hard this was and how heartbroken everyone is; it just isn’t fair that our animal companions have such short lives. I take comfort in the Rainbow Bridge – I like to believe it truly exists. And what a wonderful tribute you’ve given them. I know as time passes, they will get great comfort and joy from it.

  • Dea

    2013/08/27 at 3:17 pm

    Beautiful post and video. Now trapped in my office until my face returns to normal, which should take about an hour. Why do they make us love them so much?

  • Jancave

    2013/08/27 at 3:31 pm

    I’m very sorry for your family’s loss. It’s a beautiful video. Like @myferona:disqus I loved that your family got together to say goodbye to him.

  • Kecia Posey Adams

    2013/08/27 at 3:42 pm

    Oh lordy. Sobbing. I work in an animal hospital. Humane euthanasia is one of the most difficult and most beautiful things we do. Beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Christine

    2013/08/27 at 3:59 pm

    We just went through that with our dog. After years of battling kidney disease we put her down in March. So. So painful. I want to say if hes not eating try homemade dog food. It allowed our girl a few weeks of decent health (it slows the wear and tear on the kidneys) before she told us she was ready. I am so sorry you are goign through this too. Kidney disease is cruel. They bounce up and down one day and the next they are sick again.

  • tmb

    2013/08/27 at 4:00 pm

    My first dog was a rescue pug, older. I was 27. He only lasted a couple years before he got stomach cancer and we had to put him down. I believe we went straight from the vet to the liquor store.

  • TG

    2013/08/27 at 4:02 pm

    “Life is a series of dogs.” – George Carlin.
    I’m in my mid 30s and I have lived with dogs all my life. The only thing I’ve found you can do is take all the love you had for the last dog and pour it into the next one. You never forget the previous dogs, but when you miss them you always have the current one to hold extra tight.

  • Katie Arnold

    2013/08/27 at 4:08 pm

    So sweet, so sad but so beautifully worded.

    I still remember the day we had to put my cat to sleep when I was a little girl. Flopper had been my dad’s before marrying my mom, before having his two daughters and he was very emotional. He wouldn’t let anyone go with him to the vet and I still remember seeing the tears in my dad’s eyes as we buried the cat in a box in the ground between the apple trees. Animals are more than our pets, they’re members of our family and they hold a precious place in our hearts.

  • Jeanie

    2013/08/27 at 4:12 pm

    I can’t tell you how much your post made my heart hurt. What a wonderful tribute. God bless Bo/Beau and his entire family.

  • americanrecluse

    2013/08/27 at 4:28 pm

    Oh, this is so sweet and sad. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • seren

    2013/08/27 at 4:34 pm

    I laughed and had a little cry at those pictures. It’s something I’ve had to do far too many times with cats and hens. It never gets easier and it shouldn’t. But through all the grief and the sadness and the tears, it’s great to remember them and the funny things they did and how much we loved each other. (Yes, one can even love a hen.) I have two cats who are 13 and 15 and one of them has FIV. We have a 9 year old hen who won’t see too many more years. It’s rotten, but if we didn’t love them so much it wouldn’t hurt.

    I am so sorry for your loss. But oh what wonderful memories you have.

  • disqus_2LzCZMLMbO

    2013/08/27 at 4:54 pm

    She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
    You are her life, her love, her leader. She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart. You owe it to her to be worthy of such devotion.
    – Anonymous
    We put this on our dog’s head stone in our yard. It’s been almost seven years since she’s been gone. We miss her every day.

  • Breanne

    2013/08/27 at 5:18 pm

    I started watching and had to stop 40 seconds in because I started to lose it in my office.

    Heather, my love, sympathy, and condolences to you and your family. I still keep a picture of my childhood dog at my bedside.

  • Judy

    2013/08/27 at 5:20 pm

    I cried as I read this because it reminded me of the three times I have had to go through this with pets of my own: picking them up for the last time to take them to the vet when I knew it would be the end, holding them in my arms until they passed away, not wanting to let go even after that last breath, wanting to stay in that room with them forever, burying them, and visiting that grave. Even now, years later, the pain cuts deep. I agree with the others who mention how some do not understand the loss those of us feel at these moments; it’s as if losing a pet is somehow not really grieving. To me, each pet I have had has been a member of my family; I miss each of them even now. I wish all of your family healing; thanks, once again, for doing such a great job expressing feels we’ve all had in ways we can’t.

  • Faith Luna Stencel

    2013/08/27 at 5:42 pm

    You made me cry. I’ve had to say goodbye to far too many dogs, the last of whom died in my arms. All my good wishes to your sorrowful family.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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