Today, March 7, 2018 is an extremely sad day for me. Today is the first anniversary of losing my precious mini-schnauzer, Sir Shakespeare Hemingway. Exactly one year later, I am still heartbroken over losing him. Over making the decision to allow him to go to Heaven so he would not suffer any longer.
On the morning of his loss, when he struggled to walk outside, his rear legs gave out on him again. Those precious little energized legs split apart. He fell down and looked at me, as if to say, “It’s time. I’m tired. I’m weak. I’m sick. Mommy, please do something so I will not ache anymore.” His legs were so weak he could not lift them like most male dogs do when they potty. He was pitiful, deteriorating right in front of my eyes.
Sir Shakespeare was born on April 11, 2003. On April 12, 2003, I met him. There were three newborn puppies. The female was promised to someone else. I touched both male puppies gently, rubbing their ears. Little Shakespeare, the “piglet” responded with a slight moan and I knew he was the pup we wanted. He fit into my hands and I kissed him on the nose while whispering his name: Sir Shakespeare Hemingway. We visited him weekly and when he was six weeks old, I was told he could go home with us. I wrapped him in a blue blanket and we brought him home. Little Shake n’ Bake squirmed from my lap onto my chest, and there he rested until we arrived home.
Independent. Affectionate, and a unique personality – that was Shakespeare. We communicated. He slept with me, always wanting to rest on my hip – touching me. Always. He did not like it if I asked him to please move over. He responded by scooting his little body over, grumbling the entire way. In the morning, he would climb on top of me. If I didn’t respond, he reached out with his left paw to touch me and awaken me. His eyes stared deeply into mine. I kissed his nose.
When I was sick with acute bronchial asthma, Shakespeare followed me around like a shadow. He would kiss me once, then he crawled onto my chest, sniffed at my nose and mouth and refused to move. He was my nurse, caring for me while he listened to the wheezing in my chest. He would not move away from me, even if I asked him to. He simply stared into my eyes, as if to say: “I’m taking care of you. You’re sick. You need me.” He fell asleep on my chest and when I awoke, he was there. My nurse. My loving, caring little Shakespeare.
Over the years together, we walked daily, until Shamus died. Shakespeare would lead us. Occasionally, he stopped to smell a flower, or to feel the fresh breeze blowing in his ears. Sometimes he would pick up a stick and carry it while walking. He had a phobia of darkness if he was alone. On one night my husband and I got home a bit late. The breakfast room was dark. Shakespeare and our other pups slept in this room if we were not home. On this night, when Shake n’ Bake heard the car, he was barking a loud and vicious bark. When we walked into the room, he jumped on my leg, still barking. He was reminding me that he was in the dark and he was frightened. Don’t ever leave me in the dark again. You know I hate being alone in the dark.
The next morning, I placed a lamp on a table in the room, turned the light on and never left it off. Shakespeare would not be in the dark again.
As he grew older, his appetite grew. He would eat his food and if another of our precious little friends hadn’t finished their food, he would attempt to move them over so he could eat again. During his yearly wellness check-up when he was 10-years-old, the vet suggested giving him green beans and less food. Shakespeare lost weight, weighing in at 24 pounds, losing six pounds.
In September, 2016, after grooming, I noticed Shakespeare was still losing weight. Occasionally, he turned away from his food and wouldn’t eat. I struggled to feed him from my hands. He wasn’t hungry. His legs began to give away and when he went outside, he would move to a corner of the back yard, ignoring me asking him to come inside. His hearing wasn’t as good as when he was younger. I noticed if I clapped my hands three times, paused and clapped three more times, while shouting “Come here, Shakespeare” after a few minutes, he would get up and move slowly towards the door.
Although I could see Shakespeare fading away, I refused to accept it. I wanted him to fight. I cradled him in my arms, telling him I loved him and I wanted him to fight. He responded by licking my face, jumping from my arms, and when his feet hit the carpeted floor, he whined.
Our nightly ritual of cuddling in the chair no longer happened unless I picked him up, and when I reached to pick him up to cuddle with me, he wiggled, moving his back legs like spaghetti. He was in pain.
The vet said he was getting older. He reminded me that most schnauzers have a lifespan of about 14 years. Shakespeare was 13. He would be 14 in April. I wasn’t ready to lose him.
Over the next six months of his life, Shakespeare wanted to go outside less, and when he did go outside, he squatted. He could not lift those painful rear legs like most boys do. He would look in my direction, as if he was saying, “Don’t watch me. Don’t watch me fading away from you.”
In December, Shakespeare could not hold his bladder. He would urinate on the floor in the breakfast room. Sometimes he would do other business there. We placed puppy papers on the floor nightly since he was sleeping there now. I let him know I was not upset with him. I understood. His body was getting older and he was fading away. He licked my face to let me know he understood and he loved me.
On March 7, 2017, we made the decision to have the vet check him over and see if it was time to let him go. Our vet knows how much we love our animals. After examining Shakespeare, he looked at me with tears streaming down my face he said: “You’re making the right decision.”
I held Shakespeare in my arms. I told him it was time to see Shamus again. He lifted his left paw, touching me, and he kissed me one last time.
My arms were holding him as he went to sleep. The vet gave us a few more minutes together, then he asked if we were ready. Since Shakespeare was sleeping, I nodded. I heard Shakespeare’s last breath, and he was gone.
How I wanted to bring him back, but I knew he was suffering, weighing only 17.6 pounds on this date. He was so tiny now it was easy to pick him up. After losing him, guilt almost tore my heart out. I questioned everything while realizing we did the most humane thing by letting him go. I did not want him to die alone in the house with only his brothers around, nor did I want him to die in darkness.
I prayed that God would welcome him into the gates of Heaven and let him find Shamus so he would not be alone. I reminded God that Shakespeare did not like the dark, and I prayed for a sign to let me know he was ok and happy.
A few days later, I found a fly inside the house, flying around my desk. I was writing at the time so I did not pay attention to the fly until I found it floating inside my coffee cup.
“Shakespeare!” I cried. “You’re here. You’re letting me know you are OK.”
Through blinding tears, I smiled, remembering how Shakespeare detested when anything got in the water bowls, especially IF it was a fly. He would sit while taking his front paws, moving them into the water, attempting to remove the fly. After a few minutes, he would bark – his demanding little bark. He refused to drink any dirty water, or water that contained a fly.
Staring at the fly floating in my coffee cup, I picked it up, poured it out and washed the cup, while remembering my precious, silly, demanding Sir Shakespeare Hemingway.
A few nights later, I had a dream. Shakespeare was sitting on a hillside with the greenest pastures I’ve ever seen in life or while dreaming. He barked and wiggled and barked once more. In the brightness of the lights of Heaven, Shakespeare barked one more time, then he turned to run away while looking in my direction. Yes, Sir Shakespeare Hemingway Cooper was in Heaven, playing with Prince Marmaduke Shamus Cooper. Little Shake n’ Bake and Shamey-Pooh were together again.
Yes, today is a sad day for me. A day of remembrance and so much everlasting love.