Saying GOODBYE never gets easier

My wife and I have chosen not to have children; our dogs are our children.  We love them, spoil them, take them on long walks, share our joys, sorrows, food, beds and sofas with them.  We truly don't believe we are missing out on a "traditional" family with children because our dogs are just as much a part of our life together and, in most cases, better than having children for far too many reasons to mention.  We have two dogs, Mabel and Albert.  And this story is about Mabel... MABEL We rescued Mabel from a shelter while still living in Indianapolis.  I think we went to go look at her about one month after Lisa and I got married.  Shortly before getting married my Doberman of almost 11 years, Barkley, had recently passed away and I really didn't want another dog as no one could replace Barkley and what he meant to me.  I have grown up with the Doberman breed and am in love with that breed so it seemed fitting that Lisa asked me if I wanted to go see a Doberman at a local shelter.  Because she was so insistent on seeing this female dog I didn't want to disappoint her and agreed to see the dog but had no intentions of bringing her home because, as I said, no dog could compare to Barkley.

Mabel taking a break after her first Christmas with Lisa and me.

We arrive at the shelter and ask to see "Karisma" (yes, that's what the shelter people had named her; whether or not they spelled her name wrong on purpose is something I still wonder about).  She was NOTHING like all the Dobies I had owned.  She was scrawny and funny looking for a Dobie.  Her back legs were not the same size as her front legs, she was severely under weight, her snout was longer than other Dobies and her floppy ears (which I do love and refuse to get Dobies ears' cropped again) had cuts and scrapes all over them.  She weighed 37 pounds which is about 30 under weight for a female Doberman.  The volunteers at the shelter gave us a treat to give her and let us into the visiting area to get acquainted with her.  From the start of the visit, "Karisma" wasn't interested in us.  She was interested in the other dogs and was trying to play with the other dogs outside the vising area.  I thought to myself, "this is a giant waste of time."  She's not interested in us, the treat, the attention we're giving her or anything associated with Lisa and me.  After about 5 minutes of trying to connect with her we were getting frustrated.  And, as we were about to give up on her she took the treat from us and started to pay attention to us.  Lisa looked at me and asked me what I wanted to do.  I could tell Lisa was interested in adopting her and I thought that she was certainly cute enough but was taking a major gamble considering Barkley had just died and this dog was nothing like Barkley.  The veterinarians she visited estimated her to be a 1 year old Doberman.

Here's Mabel playing with some goats on a farm in Indiana

We adopted her for the bargain price of $85.00 and took her home.  On the way we knew we wanted to change her name from the ridiculous Karisma to something better.  As we were driving home we threw several names around and, for some reason, we agreed upon the name "Mabel."  We loved that name and it seem to fit her.  I think we started talking about guitar names and I mentioned Chuck Berry named his guitar Mabeline and that's how we came to name Mabel.  When we took her home we could clearly tell she was traumatized, tired, hungry and malnourished.   We had our work cut out for us but despite Mabel's lack of nutrients and body weight she never lacked spirit.  This dog loved to play more than anything.  I understand why the people at the shelter called her "Karisma" and even with the misspelling of the name it was appropriate.  She had loads and loads of personality.  She quickly became our constant companion.  For some reason she was a "daddy's girl" and followed me wherever I went... even to the bathroom.  She also LOVED to sleep next to me.

Thanks for taking this picture Lisa! I look like a complete goofball but Mabel looks so pretty.

We also learned that she loved to chase other animals like birds, geese, rabbits and chickens.  While she was friendly and playful with other dogs she was not so friendly with the aforementioned animals.  Lisa learned that very quickly one day while taking Mabel for a walk.  At our house in Indianapolis there was a retention pond that attracted Canadian Geese.  We had a video surveillance camera system on a couple of doors and this one camera captured this gem below.  Lisa quickly found out about Mabel's determination in getting her "prey" and it's pretty damn funny.  Sorry Lisa... Mabel was also roped into our silly photo ideas too.  This image below made the cover of the Indianapolis Star electronic edition.

You can tell Mabel has a great personality here. She completely looks like a teenager who doesn't want to get their picture with their crazy parents.

MABEL IN CALIFORNIA Fast forward a year and a half.  We wanted Mabel to have a play companion and we went and found (actually, Lisa found this one too) another Doberman rescue.  His name is Albert and we decided not to change his name.  He was Mabel's companion for a little while but Albert wasn't socialized with other dogs so his "playing" skills were not too sharp.  But, It just meant more time for Lisa and me to play with Mabel and we didn't seem to mind that one bit.  About six months after adopting Albert the four of us moved from the Midwest to California.  Here's is where Mabel really shined.  We lived on some property in Sacramento that was riddled with ground squirrels, moles, voles, mice, rabbits and the occasional rooster (don't have any idea how the hell roosters got onto our property but they did).  Mabel's instincts took over and she was constantly bringing me rabbits, roosters, moles and voles.  She was so proud and happy.  Her personality was always her main attraction.  She was always in good spirits and readily had a "daddy kiss" for me whenever I asked.

Mabel proudly displaying her prize for me. She was so "in her element" in Scaramento

Here are two of the four roosters Mabel got a hold of and clearly they didn't stand a chance. How they got onto our property still baffles me.

We left NorCal for SoCal after a year and Mabel settled into our new LA home well.  She found a house across the street that had lizards in the bushes.  Every day was a lizard hunt with Mabel. While she never caught any she had fun looking for them on a daily basis.  There was another dog in our Condo building named Murphy that Mabel loved to play with whenever he was around.  Murphy was a very young Boxer and even though Mabel was five years older than Murphy she could wear his butt out while running and playing in the underground parking garage.  Mabel seemed to love LA just fine.  There are enough squirrels, lizards, rats, mice, and coyotes to keep her occupied.  Every walk with her was an experience and a scavenger hunt as to what Mabel would discover.  It was always so much fun.

Mabel in one of her favorite locations - sitting next to me on the sofa.

KIDNEY DISEASE In late January/early February of this year, Mabel started having some problems with walking and her mobility.  We took her to see our regular veterinarian.  Mabel was prescribed Glucosamine and a pain killer called Rimadyl.  Unfortunately the Rimadyl had an adverse affect on her and exacerbated a life long kidney problem in Mabel that Lisa or I never knew existed.  We have since learned that most Kidney issues are never discovered until it's too late.  Mabel started retaining water weight so we had to have her drained about every two weeks.  During this process the veterinarians were draining between 3-4 liters of water from her with 1 liter of fluid still inside her.  We were able to get the fluid retention under control after about 4 draining sessions and had her on a steroid, Prednisone.  But then she started leaking urine so we had to get her on another medication to control her bladder.  It seemed like she was stabilizing around May of this year.

Mabel and me. She would get up on my lap and curl up (as long as I was petting her). Mabel may have been sick but her spirit was always strong.

In June she stopped eating altogether but she was still drinking water and/or eating ice cubes.  We decided to help get nutrients in her system we would grind up her food in the food processor and add water so it would form a paste.  Once we had the paste we could add her medication and use a Turkey Baster to force feed her medications and nutrients.  She would, however, eat things like chicken, pork, beef and turkey.  But, protein is not good for dogs with Kidney Failure but both Lisa and I agreed that she deserved to have whatever she wanted.  We knew when she stopped drinking then things would be at at their end.  During this process we bought her anything and everything to try and get her to eat.  We bought every variety of dry and soft dog food, we tried the Renal food but Mabel despised that food.  We even bought jar after jar of baby food to try and get our "Princess" to eat.  By the way, Princess became her nickname over the last 5 years because this dog was awarded with luxuries and riches most dogs can only dream about. Eventually she stopped eating all foods including her beloved baby food of beef or chicken and she occasionally ate cooked beef, turkey or pork.  99% of her food became the food processed gruel we created from the putting her food in the food processor and adding water and her medications and then forcing it down her throat with the turkey baster.  Lisa and I took turns with this task and we knew she hated it but we wanted to give her a fighting chance while she still had a fighting spirit.  Most of the time Lisa and I would wear some of the gruel on our clothes, hands, arms and shoes as Mabel would incessantly try to spit out what it was we were feeding her. THE HEARTBREAK About three days ago Mable stopped drinking water and eating ice cubes.  She had become lethargic and the "fight" was no longer in her eyes.  On Saturday morning Lisa asked Mabel if she wanted to go outside and "go potty."  Mabel heard the words "go potty" and immediately dropped to the floor started urinating all over the flooring.  It was at that point we knew the Kidney Failure was in its final stages.  The toxins that are filtered out of a normal kidney function were now running rampant throughout her bloodstream and causing her confusion.  The dog whose boundless energy and playful spirit were always so entertaining, captivating and endearing were no longer there.  We had a companion who had fought as long as she could but had finally given up.  After about 3 hours of determining what to do, crying until we couldn't see, hugging each other and comforting Mabel, Lisa and I realized what we needed to do and call our veterinarian to have Mabel put down.  Our veterinarian doesn't work on Sundays but agreed to come in and take care of Mabel.  We also called our dog walker, Beatrice, to come over and say her goodbyes.  I won't go into detail here but you can imagine that if we are calling our dog walker to say goodbye then you know they had a special relationship too.  Mabel touched everyone who ever knew her and she captivated them just as much as she did with us. At 1:30pm on Sunday, August 19, 2012, we took Mabel to the veterinarian to be put down.  While I thought I could handle it I wanted to be strong for Lisa who was more tearful than I was at that point.  Around 1:45pm our dear, sweet, loyal and playful Mabel gave up her ghost.   I am relieved she is no longer suffering but I would lying if said that I am completely relieved.  When we got home I sat on the sofa and completely lost it.  I balled like a baby for a good 5 minutes.  I thought I had cried all of my tears but didn't realize how much of an impact Mabel had on me over the last 5 years.  Here's the last image I made of Mabel about three weeks before her death.

This is the last image of Mabel. She was certainly loved and admired by all who knew her.

I am just thankful Lisa convinced me to adopt her.  We needed her just as much as she needed us.  She is gone but I hope her spirit lives on and other people can have as much love and joy as Lisa and I have had with Mabel.  I am tearing up while I write this because it's hard to let go of your "kids" and especially those who had such a great and positive impact on our lives.  But what I will miss more than anything is sitting at my desk (as I am now), looking over my shoulder and seeing Mabel lying on the leather sofa and the little nudge she would give me letting me know she wanted me to rub her head.  She was "daddy's girl" and was always by my side.  Lisa and I confessed to one another that this was the hardest, most painful process we have ever had to endure.

My view of Mabel when I looked over my shoulder while working in my office.

A piece of me has died today when Mabel took her last breath and gave up her ghost.  Give your canine kid(s) a hug today and let them know how much you love them.  Because, as I have experienced, they do have more of an impact on our lives than we would like to think. Until next time, ***THE DAY AFTER FOLLOW UP*** I have been trying to understand why Mabel's passing has been so difficult for Lisa and me and have been thinking a lot about Mabel over the last 24 hours since her passing.  I think why this hurts more than anything is because of what Mabel meant and symbolized to us.  Mabel was there for us after we were married. when we changed jobs, sold our house, moved to Sacramento, moved to Los Angeles and bought our home and was part of  the transition of us creating our new, happy life in SoCal.  Mabel was also a great ambassador to the breed of Dobermans.  One of Lisa's friends, who is terrified of Dobies, was able to overcome her fears of the breed because of how sweet, loving and gentle Mabel was with her. Again, Mabel's personality always won people over.  So Mabel was the "constant, grounding element" for Lisa and me during our transitional period and new life together.  I think not having that constant element in our lives has left this painful, sorrowful void.  But she will always be with us and her soul and spirit will be with us, protecting us and comforting us forever.  She was one of the good ones. SH

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  1. Pua says:

    Seth & Lisa:

    A wise Hawaiian saying that I have always loved and clung to in times like these, resonates as I read your post:

    “The fragrance of the flower lasts long after the bloom has closed.”

    The sweet blossom that was your Mabel leaves behind her precious memories, the lasting fragrance of which will cling to you both, and all who were lucky enough to know and love her.

    I (we) hurt for the pain you are feeling, but we know that when the pain changes and you give your hearts over to just the joy of having had her in your lives, peace will come. What a wonderful life you gave her, what amazing parents you were, how boundless the love between you, what a gift she was in your life, and you in hers.

    I feel very, very lucky to know Scott, who in turn introduced me to you, Lisa, Albert, and Mabel. One can never have too much serendipity. Hugs to you all and sweet journey to Mabel.

    • Seth Hancock says:

      Thank you for this touching comment, Pua. Serendipity is a wonderful thing. We are thankful and happy to know you and your sentiment provides comfort on this sad, sad, day.

  2. Dawn England says:

    Seth, Lisa
    This was a beautiful post honoring Mabel’s life. So much love – it brought tears to my eyes. I hope you find comfort in knowing what an amazing life she had once you rescued her. One of the kindest and hardest things to do is to put their needs before your own pain; you and Lisa were able to do that.

    This brought back a lot of memories from my own “kids” passing. Years later, I still feel the depth of that loss; they change your life in ways one doesn’t even realize.

  3. Joan Sabran says:

    Hi Lisa and Seth,
    I am so so sorry to hear of Mabel’s passing. I know how much she meant to both of you and, Seth, your story is so moving. Even tho I never met her, I feel as I know her – very well. It is so very difficult to say goodbye to your pets. In so many ways they are so much closer to you than your people friends and family. I know how you are feeling. I experienced the parting of my dear cat Zoe a while back. He was with me for 19.5 years – longer than one of my children. And I was a complete MESS. My thoughts are with you both. I am so sorry. I am sure she will send you her replacement. Just make sure you are listening when she does. I know Albert is missing her too, so make sure you give him extra special attention in his time of need. Love to you both. Joan