We put Yuki down today. He was just short of 14 years old and we had him for nearly 12 1/2 years. He has been a big part of our lives for a long time, and he leaves a big hole.
He was 16 months old when Joanne brought him home, and the people who raised him should never have been allowed to have a dog. He had been neglected, and teased, and left in an outdoor pen in a Minnesota winter. He was nearly feral in some ways. As a result, he had a very bad habit of lunging and trying to bite people - not an endearing quality. We took him to several trainers, and did everything we could to socialize him, but nothing worked. Finally, one trainer told us that we had a great dog that would never be able to be trusted around other people, and we should just accept that. Which we did. With us, and with just two other people, he was affectionate and a joy to be with. But with everyone else we just had to keep him apart. Actually, that’s not true: we often boarded him at our vet’s office, and he was fine with them. We figured out that his main problem was being protective of his humans; and whoever happened to be in charge was his human.
We got our other dog, Mochi, a week or so after Yuki, and they were inseparable for the nine years until we had to put Mochi down because of cancer. I worried that Yuki would have a hard time without his best friend, and he did. Mochi was the lead dog, and always found things to be interested in. When she was no longer there, Yuki went into a long slow decline.
He was diagnosed with primary glaucoma in November, 2012, and lost his right eye: canine glaucoma is rarely diagnosed before it’s too late. For two years we did everything possible to save his other eye: every possible medication in various combinations, and a complex surgery. But two years later he lost his other eye, so for nearly five years he has been blind, I worried that he would just give up. But he was a dog with a lot of heart and he did really well. He was able to navigate without problem throughout the house, the back yard, the front yard, and even in the park where we went for our walk every morning (on leash, of course).
I discovered that when we went to the beach, Yuki wanted to run: it was one place where he knew he could run with no fear of stepping in a hole. He would run with me at the park, as well, but on the beach he would run full speed, limited only by my top speed being less than his. Head up, tail up, and at a gallop. A joyous run.
Before he lost his sight he loved to chase a kid-sized soccer ball that he could barely grab with his teeth. He would chase it, and body-check it before bringing it back to me. I think the fact that his blindness kept us from playing ball was the hardest thing for me - and maybe for him, too.
Other things that he loved: belly rubs, throwing his toys around and rolling on them, yogurt bones, Jack in the Box hamburgers, Dairy Queen kid cones, eating cucuber leaves, laying in the sun on a spring day.
From the time he lost his right eye until today he had to have medication twice a day: first, for the glaucoma, and then for low thyroid. He never gave me the slightest hassle about taking his eye drops or pills: he trusted me, and even though some of the eye drops stung, he never objected.
I loved walking him, and we took thousands of walks. Our morning walk was the best part of my day, especially when it was the three of us: Yuki, Mochi, and me. And Yuki gave my life some structure that it wouldn’t have had otherwise, The daily ritual of walk, breakfast, medication, dinner, play, medication, back yard to pee, time for bed.
I am writing this four hours after we put him down, and my heart is breaking. The only comfort I have is that his problems are over.
He was blind, becoming quite deaf, and increasingly senile. He could no longer navigate within the house, and needed help to get from the bedroom to the kitchen. He had some obvious tumors; they didn’t hurt him in any way, and we had decided that we wouldn’t attempt to diagnose or treat them. He was beginning to have problems with his shoulders: some obvious mild pain and stiffness. He was still a happy dog, but was clearly at the end of his road.
Maybe because he was a difficult dog, I loved him and wanted only that he be a happy dog. And he was, for the most part. He took joy where he could find it, whether that was throwing his toys around and rolling on them when we got home from a trip, or running like the wind on the beach, or bounding through snow, or simply snuggling with his toy in his bed. He never got tired of treats, or his kibble, or the yogurt bones that we gave him (and that he demanded!) after every meal. He was always happy to be with his people, and in his last years he became a really good traveler.
We took a four day weekend starting last Friday, and took him to the beach, and spent his last day with walks in two parks, a trip to Dairy Queen, and all the treats he wanted. He had the best last few days any dog could want.
His troubles are over.