Goodnight, sweet dreams

Pam Frampton
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I know that the word bereaved means to be deprived of someone you love, through absence or death. I know that it derives from “reave,” which has its roots in the Germanic language and comes from the word for “to rob.”

Willie (1998-2014). — Photo by Pam Frampton/The Telegram

And now, I not only know what it means and where it came from, but how it feels.

Last week, my husband and I had to make the difficult decision to have our little grey dog euthanized.

When I think of the word “bereft,” I picture us on a raft, without oars, being tossed along on a winding river of grief. Sometimes the water is still and placid, and sometimes it’s roiling and rough.

If you think that’s amplifying the loss of a pet, that’s fine, but it’s how we feel.

Willie was a poodle-terrier cross who turned up in my life unannounced at age two and seemed to know I needed him before I even knew myself. He stayed for as long as he could. He would’ve been 16 in June.

My father likes to say he was as close to a human being as a dog could be, but I prefer to think of his many wonderful attributes as being purely of his own breed. He was loyal and loving, curious and joyful.

He was a charming con artist who could wheedle treats out of you like nobody’s business. A German filmmaker of my acquaintance called him a “cheeky chiseller,” and that was pretty close to the mark. Turn your back and you might find that the entire contents of a cheese tray had mysteriously vanished, or the whole layer of toppings from your pizza.

He had discriminating tastes. He loved asparagus and salmon, ice cream and green beans, which, when he was younger, he would shake vigorously to ensure they were dead before eating them. He had a special fondness for roast pig, which he only had the opportunity to try on one occasion, our neighbours’ anniversary garden party, which was undoubtedly the happiest day of his life due to the sheer abundance of food and attention he received.

He thrilled to the sound of ice cubes clattering into a galvanized bucket on summer evenings, because he knew it meant we were headed to the backyard and there were bound to be doggy hors-d’oeuvres.

He liked Cheerios for breakfast, but most particularly crumpets with peanut butter, and he would attempt to herd you into the kitchen if you did not present them quickly enough first thing in the morning.

He abhorred boats and elevators and would flatten himself to the ground, braced for stability, whenever he had to get in one.

“Golden slumbers fill your eyes Smiles awake you when you rise Sleep pretty darling do not cry And I will sing a lullaby.” — The Beatles

In his last year, when he was touched by dementia, he became very vocal in the evenings, but despite my husband’s best exhortations to have him “sing to Jesus!,” to “shout out to the Lord!” he was never much of a singer, gospel or otherwise.

But he was a very good companion. He loved his family, his neighbours and his many friends. He gave affection unstintingly.

Most of all he loved my husband and me, and we were an inseparable threesome, particularly after the kids started university.

The only day he did not greet us by barrelling boisterously down the stairs was last Thursday, May 1.

When we got home from work, he wasn’t there waiting, and when we called to him, there was no answer. We found him slumped against a folded stack of linen, hind legs wet from having peed himself, panting hard. He was clearly panicked, scared and unable to stand.

The veterinarian said he had had a neurological episode, likely a stroke, that at his age he would not recover.

As the sedative took effect and his brown eyes began to droop, we hugged and kissed him and told him he was loved.

His vet had always told him he was an angel with the “heart of a rock star,” but eventually his heart stopped beating.

It was a difficult decision, but one we absolutely believe was the kindest thing we could do for him, the last and most loving thing. No one deserves to suffer.

He had given so much to us: smiled his way through every day; jumped with unabashed joy at being offered something as mundane as a ride in the car to the supermarket; showed us how to express happiness with utter and complete abandon.

There should be obituaries for pets. “Willie Frampton Payette, passed peacefully away surrounded by those who loved him most, at the age of 15.”

Somewhere, I know his tail is wagging still.

Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email: Twitter: pam_frampton

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Recent comments

  • Maureen
    May 19, 2014 - 14:25

    So sorry for your loss. I can feel your pain as we are going through the same thing. Saturday morning we had to make the difficult decision to let our 12 yr. old poodle Bailey (aka Boo Boo) go. As I was reading the article I was crying for you and crying because I am hurting so bad. Our 10 yr old boxer Ms. Ali misses her little buddy. They were together so long. I believe dogs grieve not just for humans but for their lifelong fur companions. My deepest condolences. Run free little Willie.

  • Sheila
    May 18, 2014 - 07:06

    So very touching Pam, Willie was indeed was a very lucky pet to have had your love for all those years.

  • Kelly
    May 15, 2014 - 19:30

    Beautiful article about your sweet boy, Pam! Chewie will miss his annual Christmas cards and treats. It's so hard to say goodbye to these little fur babies who become such a huge part of our lives. I hope you find comfort in the many great years you had with him. xoxo

  • Brad
    May 12, 2014 - 10:14

    So sad Pam, Willie will certainly be missed, he was a great dog.. I hate for the day to come that I might have to make the same decision.

  • violet
    May 11, 2014 - 22:28

    I know you feeling i had to put down my 15 year old dog last August..she was the love of our lives all 3 kids grew up with her..the loss has been unbearable at times..but then i remember the happiness she showed us and that we bestowed upon her...ahhhhhh pets are to be cherished and loved .my family had her cremated so we truely do have her with us forever..all the best this was a great story of love for a family pet..

  • Debbie Williams
    May 11, 2014 - 19:28

    I bawled my eyes out while reading your article about Willie. We recently lost our dog too and no matter what people say, it is a member of the family that has died , not "just a dog". My condolences.

  • leah
    May 10, 2014 - 16:08

    I am so sorry for your loss, tears are flowing as I try to read these comments.Willie was so lucky to have you in his life as you were to have him.This is so sad & beautifull to read at the same time.I feel so touched in reading this as my cat Tiger is nearing her 15th year and know her time is coming.Thank you for your story,RIP Willie as you pass the Rainbow Bridge to meet your fellow friends in Heaven.

  • Pam Frampton
    May 10, 2014 - 15:39

    Thank you all so much for your kind words and condolences. It means a lot. We will never forget our dear, sweet boy.

  • mary keiley
    May 10, 2014 - 14:00

    Pam Having lost our beautiful Zacki after 17 love filled years , I can relate so well to your story about your much loved Willie. We never forget them and are better for having them even for a short while.Thanks for this ! Mary k

  • Anna
    May 10, 2014 - 13:40

    Pam and family, my sincere sympathy upon the death of Willie. Reading your columns over the years I could see how you loved him and it is like losing a part of yourself when they die. May the thoughts of what a happy and safe life you gave him make this time more bearable for you.

  • Animal Lover
    May 10, 2014 - 13:39

    As I read your story, tears come streaming down as I can sympathize with you on the loss of your beloved Willie. My dog is in her senior years as well and I dread the day that we will have to bid her farewell. They are the most loyal pet you could ever want and are great companions for both young and old. May the memories you cherish of Willie give you peace and comfort today and always. They are the best friend a human can have. Sorry for your loss!

  • Charmaine
    May 10, 2014 - 10:27

    Beautifully written life story of your beloved. I am so sorry for your loss. RIP Willie

  • Mildred
    May 10, 2014 - 09:24

    I'm sorry for your loss, Pam. God bless you and your family though for loving the precious little fella so well for so many years.

  • Harvey
    May 10, 2014 - 08:59

    Super job, Pam! I must make sure that my son and his wife read this.Thanks again.

    • Pet Lover
      May 11, 2014 - 15:51

      So sorry for your loss. I can certainly relate to your story. Just two years ago on April 30th, I had to part with my best little angel and friend of fourteen years. It broke my heart and even though I know it was the best thing and the right thing to do it did and still really hurts. I truly believe they are our angel's and will be with us in our hearts forever. Thanks for sharing your story and the expression of love for your little guy.