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I said, “I doubt she’ll notice…

What with the move and all—

She’s in a new house and the movers are showing up at 8 in the morning to unload all the stuff.

Her grand parents are here.

She’ll want to explore the new room and go down the slide.

She won’t notice, at least not tomorrow.”

Of course the first question she asked her mother when she got up was, “Where’s my doggie?”

Tenna, our dog of eleven years, the dog we got six months after getting married; that began our life together and grew old with us; that welcomed both of our children home and let our daughter ride her back like a horsey; that would curl around E on cold mornings while Burt and Ernie taught their lessons about friendship; that would go the door of her bedroom when she cried in the night; the vacuum and napkin of our lives; the one nicknamed Gehenna and Tenna Monster, because as a puppy she had viciously sharp teeth, an obstinate will, and damaged more than one library book was put down late last Thursday evening.

She’d been growing increasingly worse… but we’d thought it was only that we were entering the “expensive phase” of dog ownership. Our last two weeks in Atlanta were rather hellish, especially for young children and old dogs, both need their routines, both need their space to either play or sleep. We thought that maybe the stress of the move had gotten to her and that she would level out after a week or two in the new place. I was going to take her to the public pools; they have bring your dog days, and ever since she learned to swim in the Mississippi as a pup, she’s loved the water.

Over the summer we had noticed that it was taking her longer and longer to jump up on the bed; we thought it was arthritis setting into her hips. So many dogs, especially big dogs, especially Labrador Retrievers, suffer from hip dysplasia and/or arthritis. She’d never had either; it was time. On Wednesday before the move, she simply stopped trying to jump up on the bed.

Though we had kept her slim by never over-feeding her and by exercising her (though I must confess that after G’s birth the walks virtually disappeared), she’d always had the stereotypical Labrador appetite: “Yes.. I’ll eat my food… and your food… and your food… and whatever else you leave out on the counter.” One Easter Sunday in the mountains that T grew up in (though this disturbed my mother-in-love more than me, especially since this was in the days before children), the only Easter chocolate to be found was that which Tenna had barfed up on the carpet in the living room, on the basement stairs, on the sidewalk, and asphalt. More than once we would come home and to find that the Counter Cruiser had struck again. But neither on Friday nor on Saturday did she touch her food. On Sunday, though, she did eat, like a horse… not her regular kibble, but canned food.

As you can see from the pictures, she has always been gentle and loving with the kids…especially our daughter. And, though the 3 1/2 year old E has become, with age and with the move, quite the ornery little girl, Tenna still treated her with as much care and love as she always had. On Sunday, though, we heard a yelp from the dog, a growl, and crying from the girl, at whom the dog had snapped. All day the dog trembled as if in pain. Again, we assumed it was the hips.

I took her to our vet in the ATL on Monday to see if there was anything that they could do for her. After a thorough check, the hips seemed fine. Few 11 year old labs had the joint elasticity of ours. Still, she walked as if her hips were in pain; but, there was virtually no inflammation. She did say that there was evidence that her neurological system was in some way impaired or compromised. Regardless, the vet prescribed the typical old-Lab, hip-pain cocktail of Glucosamine tablets and Deramaxx. And, we spent the $130 on the pills because Tenna, the dog who at nine o’clock every night would retire to warm up our bed in preparation for our own retiring, was old and in pain.

On Tuesday we closed and she seemed fine, except that she kept standing up to scratch a place on her ribs with one of those awkward stance scratches. We’d noticed her doing this after our house hunting trip a few weeks before but thought little of it. That night, like the night before, she slept our bed, not because she jumped in bed, but because I picked her up and placed her there. With the movers at the house most of the day Wednesday, she spent a great portion of it out on the deck. And, that night, she kept tripping over E’s shoes, and anything else that might be in her way.

Because she kept walking into walls, on Thursday we almost took her to the vet before leaving for Lexington, but we didn’t. She’s old. The disorientation is because there’s nothing in the house. She just needs a few days of rest and relaxation, then she’ll be as good as new.

I lifted her out of the back of the Subaru and she fell into a heap on the stoop of the new house. We walked in and the little girl ran through the place ooing and ahing over everything, showing her grandparents this, that, and the other. But her doggie stayed downstairs. She walked into the kitchen, put her nose between the fridge and wall, and peed. Then, she turned to go down the hallway and fell. Tried to get up and tripped again. E said something,in a not very nice tone of voice, about the dog needing to get out of the hallway, and her mother told her that she needed to treat the dog nicely because she didn’t feel very well.

We took her to the vet at 9 p.m. Tenna dozed on and off in my arms until the vet saw her around 12 a. m. She said: “It’s either a massive stroke or a brain tumor… and given her age, her breed, your account, and her symptoms, I think its a brain tumor. If you want you can do a CT scan to confirm, but there’s nothing we can do about her health. If you want to take her home and keep her there, I can prescribe some stronger pain meds, but she will be incontinent and bed-ridden and I cannot guarantee how long she will live… or you can euthanize her.”

We wondered briefly if we should bring her back to a house that was not her home, a house at which movers would show up at 8 in the morning, only so that she could live a few more days doped up on meds. Instead, we decided to put her down; cremate her in a mass cremation and have her ashes spread over a farm. Burying her in a backyard that was not her backyard seemed strange. Plus, she was conceived and born on a farm.

T asked, “What are we going to tell the little girl?”

I said, “I doubt she’ll notice.”

But E loved Tenna. In fact, she still tells people about her dog: “Your dog is black,” she said to our neighbors on Friday, “But I have a dog. She’s chocolate. Her name is Tenna.”



Condolences. I’ve never been a pet owner but it always makes me sad when I see what my friends go through when they lose one.

I remember Tenna’s sharp puppy teeth, and how you would compress her chest to get her to calm down. Walking in the park in M with you while she swam the river. At the time, it had been years since I’d had a young dog, so long in fact that I had no memory of the kind of attention and exercise they demanded. You were training her to eat marinated carrots, which she was still doing when K & I visited in Atl. Tenna was a sweet, sweet dog.

Now I’m all weepy going to work.

Thanks for putting your grief into words for the rest of us. It brought tears to my eyes thinking about your family’s pain and how my family will also go through a similar situation in the future. My lab has been with me for 5 years. Eager to please, energetic, and an early riser from sleep (which annoys me sometimes), but he’s been a constant in my family and I don’t look forward to the day when he’s no longer with us.

Thanks for sharing your story and I know your family will cherish the memories you’ve had over the past eleven years.

I’m so sorry, BG. I’m crying as I type this…Hugs to you and T and E. I know you’ll miss Tenna so much…

I don’t have a great love for dogs, but I do have two little girls. You made me cry this morning, too. May God give peace and joy to the little girl.

Really sorry to hear this. A few years ago my family had to put down one of our dogs, who had many of the symptoms that Tenna seems to have had. What really compounds the grief is the feeling that you’re also burying a part of your family’s history, so inextricable they become with it.

I’m guessing E will not have too much trouble adapting. If she were several years older she’d probably be shattered.

thank you all for your condolences… they mean more than the receptionist who said with a very puzzled look on her face, “I’m sorry? for your loss?”

I wanted to tell her, “Please, please don’t say anything… “

i read this sad news about your dog when i got to work. I am sorry that your family is going through that.

when mb checked the mail, we got a funeral announcement for a 30-year-old German friend whose cancer killed her last week.

it is a day for sad tidings around here.

chris, mb

i’m sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.

I echo 9.

J,T,E, & G,
We are so saddened by your loss (our loss). We’re both sitting here crying. We remember all of the times we got to dog sit and spend time walking the ever-curious Tenna around our neighborhood in Decatur. She loved to explore and meet others… especially while walking on a long lead! We remember the time she ate all of her dog biscuits for a long weekend while at our apartment, and then promptly acted like she was starving when you guys picked her up! Always the thespian. F remembers me going on and on after visiting you guys in M, about how you guys had this crazy stuffed-animal killing machine! And yet she had such a kind and loving spirit (unless you were a stuffed animal). She always wanted F to pet her even though she is not an animal person. Tenna always considered herself a person, and I guess she was in fact because her passing doesn’t feel like losing just any dog. We will miss her and we miss you guys as well.

K and F

j, thank you, and i’m very sorry about your friend as well.

I am so very sorry to hear about Tenna. I never met her, but I’ve enjoyed her appearances here over the years, and of all the sad things in the world, there is something about the passing of a good dog that makes it the saddest of all losses. I hope that E gets to keep some of her memories of Tenna, though I know it will be very, very hard and sad for her that she is gone.

I cried with you today. I have been where you are, and though it’s been over two years, our Coco, who saw us through the same stage of life as your Tenna saw you, is still a treasured part of our life, but a missing part; she died at 15, and since then it feels as though there’s a hole in the fabric of our life that will never be mended, but when we look at the hole, we are blessed by the memories it recalls.

When Coco died I did two things, both of which I have come to be very thankful for. The first was to plant a Magnolia tree and fertilize it with a portion of her ashes. Some people give me strange looks, but to me, when the tree blooms its beautiful white blossoms, it warms my heart and brings me joy not only for the memories, but because I feel that there’s a part of her in every leaf and every flower.

The second thing I did was to gather as many photos and video clips of her as I could find, and I made a video / slide show. It wasn’t easy at the time, but I have been SO thankful for this. Several months after she died I came across it on my hard drive, and I pulled it up and watched it, and was horrified at how much she had already faded from my mind. I will never forget her, never, but her absence has relegated her existence to memories, and I found that they only come to life if you remember to call them once in a while.

I am not, of course, suggesting that you do either of these things, just sharing that they have been precious to me. If you do though, or if you do anything else that helps keep Tenna’s memories alive, my only wish is that you find them as much a blessing as I have.

I also questioned for a while whether I would ever own another dog, but in the midst of my grief, my closest friend shared something with me that clicked a few months later: The pain of lost love will be tempered only by the joy of new love. It took almost a year for me to understand and act, but this little girl is that joy. I do still cry for Coco, especially on days like these when I find a soul that has suffered the same loss, but I wouldn’t trade the 15 years I had with her for anything.

ron, thank you for your words… and, kita is beautiful.

we will eventually get another dog, we are, as e says, “not a whole family” now that we don’t have tenna