A Loss to break the Heart

27 December 2009

Dear Betsy, Jack and the Staff at Sudbury Animal Hospital,

By now you likely have heard the voice message I left, letting you know that Chauncy died on Christmas Day.

When I left my apartment Christmas morning to join family in Massachusetts, I noticed Chauncy seemed a bit more sluggish than he had been lately. I attributed that to it still being early in the day. He declined pieces of boiled chicken, but Chauncy did eat a couple Milk Bone gravy bones (among his favorites!). I laid Chauncy on his pillow bed, said a few words to him and Hannah. Then I left.

I returned home at roughly 5:30 p.m. Christmas. As is my habit, I went immediately to check on my dogs. Hannah was her normal animated self. Chauncy lay still on the floor next to his pillow bed. As I approached him, Chauncy did not move at all and I knew something “was up”. When I touched him, I realized he had died. I became extremely emotional, as you likely can surmise. That evening and yesterday were very difficult on me.

Chauncy actually did me a favor by dying on his own. That spared me the additional anguish of having to put him down. Chauncy also granted me my one wish for Christmas: he lived until Christmas Day. I had asked him a couple times to “hang in there with me” until Christmas. He did! Some people, perhaps many do not believe in such things. Obviously, I do. (That, too, you proba-bly surmise!)

Chauncy had a good run, although I thought he would be around longer. I guess I was spoiled by Kipper and Maggi, but Barbara Welch, Chauncy’s breeder, informed me Sealyhams seldom live beyond 12 years.

Of all my dogs, Chauncy was the most unique in so many ways. Not only was he a very uncom-mon breed, he was clever and humorous. He was jaunty, showed a sense of humor and was by far the most stubborn of all my dogs! There were two ways for Chauncy: His way or the highway. LOL. Chauncy, at least until he started ailing severely, never suffered alone.

Over these nearly sixteen years since I have been coming to Sudbury AH, I have always enjoyed and appreciated your care and your love. Your way of treating my dogs and me has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Several years ago, it was Dr. Tizard who insisted a tumor be removed from Chauncy without delay. I followed her instruction. We discovered that particular tumor had grown dangerously close to Chauncy’s sciatic nerve.

I recall Dr. Kinney meeting me mid-afternoon one Sunday years ago to treat Maggi. I regret to ad-mit I do not remember exactly what the occasion was, but I am certain it was related to Maggi’s pulmonary fibrosis.

I was able to keep Kipper and Maggi “going” for a year longer than their original prognoses. It would have been nice had Chauncy managed the same, but his challenges were far greater and more numerous. Yet, I suspect the gifts Chauncy left behind were greater and more numerous.

His uniqueness of breed brought immense attention. Some years ago, before Hannah joined our small family, I was standing at a crosswalk near my apartment in Boston. A woman literally stopped in the middle of traffic, on the opposite side of the street, and called over: “My God! Is that a Sealyham?” When I acknowledged, “Yes he is!” the woman responded, “He is gorgeous.” I suggested she hasten on down the road, as her holding up traffic was getting folks angry at both of us! (We know how dangerous that can be in Boston.)

College kids loved Chauncy, frequently stopping to pet him or even sitting down to play with him. Hannah’s nose at times got “bent out of shape” because she was not garnering nearly the attention Chauncy was!

I regret I was not aware sooner that Chauncy had developed Cushing’s disease. I attributed so many of his behaviors, including his excessive urinating and increasing appetite to the KBR he was on for his epilepsy. I don’t know if that would have altered this last outcome, or made his life a bit more comfortable. They were behaviors that at times created considerable frustration and anxiety for me. At times I was not as patient with those episodes as I believe I should have been and I re-gret that.

In so many respects Chauncy was the “gentle giant”, a gentle soul in a small but large package. I recall Dr. Tizard exclaiming during one visit, “Chauncy, you are such a hunk!” In spite of his small stature, Chauncy was large in every respect. He had bear claws for feet. His canines were the larg-est I have ever seen on any dog. (I recently learned that is typical of Sealyhams.)

My sister, a lifelong cat lover who liked dogs but was not especially fond of them very much liter-ally fell in love with Chauncy. When I gave the news to her Christmas night, she broke down sob-bing. I sobbed along with her.

Chauncy was the most attached to me of all my dogs, often wailing and “throwing tantrums” when I left him behind in the apartment in Boston. Father John Zellner, my priest and mentor who or-dained me, visited me a few times in Boston. One cool, pleasant July John and I left the apartment to go for a walk. My windows were open.

As we exited the apartment building, Chauncy was wailing so loudly everyone on the street (and likely inside) could hear him. As John and I stood outside for a moment, an elderly gentleman, Chester, who lived up the street came ambling down the sidewalk. “Oh, my God!” he said. “Who is that making all that noise?”

Father John said, “Oh, that’s Vincent’s dog.” Chester slapped his hip and said laughingly, “I bet it’s the big boy, isn’t it!”

On a return trip through Virginia some time ago, I stopped at a rest area. Chauncy had his head resting against the passenger door window. Two boys, clearly brothers, came walking by my car. The younger boy exclaimed aloud, “Look! It’s Snoopy! It’s Snoopy!” The older brother, typical of older brothers, retorted, “That’s not Snoopy, stupid!” “Yes it is! Yes it is!” the younger lad re-sponded. I looked at Chauncy and said to myself, “By God, you do look like Snoopy!”

Despite whatever challenges Chauncy faced, he remained unfazed. Even during visits to your hos-pital, he always cooperated. (Unlike Hannah, the perennial drama queen!)

When my sister and I spoke Christmas night, she recalled an incident that took place during a visit to Boston with my brother-in-law. Chauncy and I had gone downstairs ahead of them. When my sister and brother-in-law came to the bottom of the stairs, she remembers how Chauncy was wait-ing; looking at them to assure they were coming with us.

One time, before Hannah’s arrival, Maggi was lying on her blanket in my apartment foyer. Chauncy was displaying various antics to get her to play. Maggi would have nothing to do with it! I turned to look. Chauncy had decided since Maggi would not play, he simply would drag her on her blanket into the living room! I burst out laughing hysterically.

Of all my dogs, Chauncy and Maggi seem to share the pedestal. Logically, I have loved all my dogs and continue to love them. Hannah has her own special place in my life. She appears to be a bit confused, even lonely in some respects. After all, she had been with him since she was 12 weeks old.

It was common to watch as Chauncy cleaned Hannah’s eyes, licking them gently. Then he would body wash her gently with his tongue. One day I asked Chauncy if he had cat’s genes!

I feel confident others will have stories about Chauncy that could fill a book. He touched lives in so many good and pleasant, joy-filled ways. He was tough but gentle, the silvered hand inside the velvet glove. I believe Chauncy touched lives as few other dogs have. I realize that may be a bit selfish on my part, but that is what I believe.

Chauncy’s spirit lives on, certainly in my life until my journey here, also, has finished. Chauncy was my sidekick through these twelve-plus years. I often would call him “Pup”. Come on, Pup, let’s go. He knew I was speaking to him and would come sauntering along with me.

Chauncy had an indomitable spirit. He was happy, happy go lucky. He faced many challenges, even recently being run over top by my landlord’s car by accident. A bit dazed with a “What was that about?” look, he fared through the moment with minor injuries.

Two weeks ago when I brought Chauncy to you, believing it was time to put him down, I had sud-den doubts. Gayle, who has worked for you for a long time, urged me to follow my instincts. “Something” told me it was not yet his time. Clearly it was not. I will always remember Gayle’s reassurance; not to do something that I knew in my heart was not quite right. His time had not come. Chauncy’s time was Christmas Day, while I was away. He had given to me my best Christ-mas wish of all: He lived until Christmas.

I cannot find words adequate to thank you, each of you, for sixteen years of loving care. Your gift to me and to each of my dogs has been the gift of friendship and love in its most genuine aspect. Your gifts gave to each of my dogs, Kipper, Maggi and Chauncy – and now, Hannah – a better journey. Thank you, for all that you have done and for the times you were there “for us” when other veterinarians might not have been.

You have provided the richest gift of all: love, genuine love.

May Our Lord’s Grace and Love continue to touch each of you, as surely it has touched you over these many years.