Apr 1, 2023
We lost Buddy in 2021, Max in 2022, and now Teddy in 2023.
I’m truly sorry to dump another one of these “Dead Dog Stories” on you. Believe me, there’s nothing less I’d rather be doing. But I can’t let Teddy down. I loved him like I loved all my dogs.
Maybe it’s the engineer in me who demands every fact be put in it’s place and all loose strings wrapped up for the record. Maybe it’s because I’m a narcissist and am willing to share the intimate details of Teddy’s life and death to get some paltry clicks on social media. Maybe it’s because I feel the need to write about my dead dogs so I can remember them better, more accurately, and as less mundane. It’s all those things, but mostly it’s because I feel like I need to remember him as he was, and not as time and my faulty memory would fade him.
He was with us for less than four years, and he deserves a much better goodbye than from my tepid hand.
I’m sure a lot of you will criticize me for detailing Teddy’s end. No one wants to read about a dead or dying dog. I get it. But Teddy’s end is a hugely important part of his life with us, and I can’t write about him when he was a pup. Or his growing years. Or his development.
So I’ll start it where I can.
We got Teddy on Friday, April 5th 2019. We thought he was around 9-10 years old. We had to put Teddy down on Friday, February 24, 2023.
He was being exterminated by bone and brain cancer when he died. We think he was around 14 years old. There is no way of knowing.
Liana and I had been looking for another lab since we lost Coal in 2016. We were used to four dogs, and three dogs upset the balance. “Divide and Conquer” is what the Romans said, and they were in power for over a thousand years. We needed another dog, or our empire would come to a screeching, ignoble end. Like Blockbuster Video.
We were told Teddy’s owner passed away in Farmington. None of the immediate family could / would take him and he ended up at the shelter. It must have been quite a shock for the old boy considering how stubborn, old, and sensitive he was. He was promptly scooped up by Old Dogs New Digs, an organization that specializes in placing older shelter dogs. That’s where we got him. That’s where it began.
We weren’t allowed to see his previous vet records, or they just weren’t available. So we didn’t know his predispositions, and no one had any advice for us. That was a shame, because we quickly named Teddy the “Anti-Lab.” He was so unlike all our other dogs past and present. Sketti was a sweet, huge, 105lb enigma. Or as I called him, a huge Pain in the Bum.
First there was “Teddy Ballgame,” but that was too long to yell at him effectively. Then came “Yellow Teddy” from an obscure Phil Hendrie bit about negligees. Then “Teddy Spaghetti,” “Spsketti,” “Skabetti,” “Sketti,” “Skeddy,” and finally just “Skeds.”
I also called him “Small Head Ted” because, well… he had a small head in proportion to his body. People thought I was being mean….
After Teddy settled into Chez Salty, Liana and I hypothesized about the nuts and bolts of Teddy’s previous life. This is what we came up with:
1) We always got the feeling that he was waiting for his previous owner to come back at any second.
2) Teddy lived in a 1-story house. He absolutely would NOT go up more than three stairs. EVER.
3) Teddy lived with a woman. He tolerated Liana and even snuggled her at times. But Teddy never tolerated me for affection, or any male for that matter. Teddy was a one-woman dog.
4) Teddy was an only dog with minimal exposure to other dogs. He wasn’t aggressive at all, but he never bonded or even played with any of our other dogs. Except for Auggie. He seemed to have a respect for Auggie that most likely derived from Aug not giving a shit about him. Or biting him. And Teddy would completely ignore any other dog he was introduced to.
If Teddy was asleep by himself in our bed and another dog jumped up, he’d growl and skulk off to sleep on the hard floor. Not on one of the 20 dog beds we have, but THE COLD HARD FLOOR. And he would NEVER jump up on the bed if another dog was up there. Or me. After a while, he’d jump up if Liana was there. But that was it. And he never got excited about it.
5) We surmised Teddy lived with a woman who cooked him human food and fed him intermittently throughout the day. Teddy refused kibble and the concept of a feeding time.
When we let the other dogs out to poop and pee before their breakfast, Teddy would wander away and not come back for an hour or more.
We fed him the super-expensive Stella & Cheweys after we had to remove his jaw, even though human food might have been easier and cheaper. But the other dogs would have revolted and dragged our carcasses into the streets if they knew Teddy was getting human food and they weren’t. Teddy really liked lamb ears and Tripe. And he was addicted to Metamucil Fiber Cookies for humans.
Towards the end, Teddy wouldn’t eat for me. Even if it was just him and me. I fed him his Stella & Chewey’s patties by hand for a while. Then he stopped and had to be with Liana full-time. He would eat for her most times.
6) Teddy was an “Inside Dog.” All 105lbs of him. Teddy never went swimming. He hated walking in wet grass. He hated water in every form unless it was in a bowl that he could spread all over the floor whilst getting a few tablespoons in his mouth. That was even before we had to cut out his jaw. And even then, he wasn’t too excited about it.
Over the years his hatred of water and swimming mellowed as Ted respected Auggie more. It was with utter amazement we saw Teddy actually swim after a ball at Hendricks Head Beach the October before we had to put him down.
On leash-free walks, Teddy would dart out in front of everyone else and stray off the trail. Then he would become engrossed in a smell and fall behind. When he snapped out of it, he’d take the wrong fork in the trail every single time. He had no useful hiking qualities that we knew of.
Teddy never tried to escape the shop, though. That was a big plus and much appreciated.
A HUSK OF A DOG
I was vindicated in my “Anti-Lab” assessment when we did Teddy’s DNA test:
13% Siberian Husky
9% Pit Bull.
That 13% Husky explained so much about Skabetti. It was strong in him– stubborn, hated water, picky eater, independent, curled tail, and shed like a Yak in the Gobi Desert in August. And can you Husky owners out there please NOT email me stories about how your Husky swam the English Channel, ate 16lbs of dead leaves during Halloween, and won your daycare’s award for “Pup Most Likely to Have a Las Vegas Lounge Show?” That isn’t a typical Husky and you know it. You just want to email me and let me know that you have an iconoclastic Husky that you love to pieces.
The other thing the DNA test did was explain why Skabetti had two completely different ears – One Lab and one Rottweiler. Let me know in the comments which ear you think is which.
And he was the most stubborn dog I had ever encountered. He wouldn’t be fooled by the high-pitched encouragement and bits of ambrosia-like hot dogs and cooked bacon. He wouldn’t even go up for his favorite squeaky toy. If he didn’t want to go up the stairs, he didn’t go up the stairs. That was that. Liana and I put in so much time trying to get him to go up the stairs to The Barrel House. In the end, we just put some dog beds, a water bowl and a bunch of toys on the first floor for him. Of course he had nothing to do with the beds, but slept on THE COLD HARD FLOOR.
BUDDY IS NOT SPAGHETTI’S BUDDY
Sketti had no problem with Max or Auggie, but he never became chummy with them, either. He never played “Bitey Face” or did “Zoomies” with them. He never snuggled up to them and napped. He slept as far away from them as he could on THE COLD HARD FLOOR. I mean, just look at the photo to the right where Teddy looks like he’s going to freak out from being too close to Max and Aug.
And Sketti HATED Buddy. I can’t begin to imagine why anyone, anydog or any living being would even dislike Buddy in the slightest. Buddy was a lovable loser and for the most part, he kept to himself. Of course, Buddy was pretty stinky, even to human noses. But that’s not an excuse to be rude. For example, I’ve cropdusted entire supermarkets and no one ever growled at me.
Any time Buddy came within 5 feet of him, Sketti bared his teeth and growled. He’d scuffle his little stuffed toy away from Buddy and guard it like Buds was demanding it. That was the only special relationship Sketti had with the rest of our dogs– hating the kind, gentle, big, dumb Buddy.
The joke was on Skeds, though. Buddy was completely deaf and had cataracts as milky as marshmallows. He could barely see. He paid Skeds’ growling and posturing no mind and just lumbered right by him with impunity.
But Skeds never tried to bite Buddy or anyone else, either. He was just a vocal dog (like a Husky), and particularly vocal in his hatred of Buddy.
All that hate-posturing and growling became ironic. As Skeds got more infirm, he resembled the kind, gentle Big Dumb Buddy in just about every way.
A SMALL DOG’S DISEASE
He was a big dog. But you would never know it. He liked small, squeaky, little toys. That was the one thing Teddy went crazy over. Like Coal went crazy over swimming, and Aug was enamored with the free treat bowl, and Buddy liked whatever he liked; Teddle loved little squeaky toys
One day Tedsy got into the “Forbidden Closet” where Liana and I stockpile all dog contraband, food and treats. If it was any other dog that breached The Forbidden Closet, it would most certainly have been a true disaster in that foyer– ankle-deep carnage and a dog with a twisted stomach in need of immediate emergency surgery.
But Teddy only pulled out all the small toys. No food or treats, or large toys. Just about a dozen small, used toys. You can see from the picture on the left that he made some kind of Hansel & Gretel trail of them into the bedroom. There were several more in there.
Luckily for Sketti’s weakness we had a whole shop full of small toys with varyingly-obnoxious squeakers.
Customers would come into the shop and invariably test a toy squeaker. Teddy would spring up from his inconvenient spot on the COLD HARD FLOOR and run right out to them. He’d silently maneuver himself behind the customer like some Quadruped Ninja and gently remove the offending squeaky toy from the customer’s hand. Then he’d run straight back into the office, leaving the customer completely flummoxed. I would try to explain to the customer that she’d just been “Sketti’d.” Most took it lightheartedly and laughed as they should. Others were unfathomably peeved.
As I told you before, Spaghetti did not suffer me in bed like most women in my life. That being said badly, I never really snuggled with Spaghetti like the other dogs. He would love when I rubbed his snout and bum ardently, but he was not a “snuggle bug” like Auggie.
I found ticks and boils and cuts and fatty tumors on the other dogs from just snuggling with them. But it took Liana to find the large, hard, immovable growth on Sked’s jaw.
The biopsy said it was malignant. The cancer could migrate quickly, so we promptly had a surgeon lop off Old Teddy’s jaw from his first molar to his first canine. That was September 10, 2021. We gave him chemotherapy pills and a lot of love.
And sure, the surgery would keep Ol’ Skeds alive longer. But how the hell could an animal who hates food in general, and me feeding him in specific, eat food with half a jaw?
Initially, it was funny to watch Skeds try to eat his hated kibble. He’d take a big mouthful and half of it would fall out all over the floor. He was so confused! The kibble would attract our other savage curs who fought like rabid hyenas for the slightest bit of it. Liana and I held them back with small arms fire and flash-bang grenades.
Skeds would try to pick up the floor-kibble one by one, but his success rate was about 1-in-20. It could take him over 4 hours to eat half his breakfast. Then he’d be exhausted and have to go to sleep. He never got any better at it. Liana and I had discussions about whether it was his stubbornness or his indifference to food that was responsible. The weapons and grenades were becoming expensive and there just wasn’t enough time in the day to thwart all the dogs from Poor Old Teddy’s food mess.
We tried canned food with him. It was much worse. Teddy and his huge tongue sprayed it everywhere within a 10ft radius. It looked like a gangster had machine-gunned a bunch of canned dog food all over our kitchen. The other dogs would close in for the collateral damage, and had no shame in licking canned food from the drywall, floor, and even Teddy himself. Teddy would look up at us, completely happy in his filth, and go take a nap in our bed.
The solution was partially-hydrated Stella & Cheweys. If you made it just right by not getting it too wet, he could just chomp the patties down without them falling out of his jaw. We made sure he had plenty of water and fed him in a rounded-bottom bowl so he could scoop the bits up with his curved tongue.
He hated the Duck flavor, and he insisted we rotate the other flavors- he refused a particular flavor if we fed it to him twice in a row. Liana and I still had to stand over him like prison guards or feed him by hand so the other dogs didn’t overwhelm him.
He would have bankrupted us if we didn’t own a pet supply store.
I’m pretty sure this is why Liana and I didn’t go on vacation for four years.
EVERYONE LOVES SPAGHETTI
I don’t want to give you the impression that Teddy was a huge, continual pain in our collective ass. He certainly wasn’t a bigger pain in the ass than anyone or anydog else at Chez Salty. True, he was super stubborn and took up a disproportionate amount of our time, but he was also a pretty lovable character with a lot of endearing characteristics.
When he got excited about things, he’d hop up and down on his front feet and wave his head back and forth. We called this “Bouncy-Bouncy.” He’d do this when he wanted to pee, or go on a walk, or get a treat. It was impossible to know which one he was getting at until he got it. I’m sorry I don’t have a video of it. For you and for me.
When Sketti first came to our shop, he was never really interested in bolting out the door to “freedom.” Every other dog we had tried to bolt at one time or another in the beginning. Teddy was more interested with the people in the shop rubbing his ears and squeaking small toys.
He was an inside dog, after all.
He loved wearing clothes and Liana loved dressing him up in clothes. The only other dog we had would tolerate being dressed up was Coal. And he just let you put all the clothes on before tearing it all off or missiling himself into the nearest mud puddle. Yes. I just made “missile” a verb.
But Skabetti really liked the clothes, and there was no danger he’d go within 10ft of a mud puddle or anything. Sometimes we’d have to peel his winter fleece off sometime in June and transport it to a Biological Hazard Facility for safe disposal.
He didn’t use our expensive dog beds in our house or anywhere in our shop. He spread himself all over THE COLD HARD FLOOR, which meant that he was a constant tripping hazard to employee, customer, and dog alike. He especially liked the busiest spots in the office. That meant his feet and tail were consistently trod upon. And true to Teddy’s character, he’d growl, send a berating look at the offender, and move to a busier spot. I kept yelling at him to use the dog beds. Until the cancer started demanding tribute from him, he absolutely refused to.
When we got Marz, Teddy was aghast that we would let some impudent being share his space. He was not alone in that respect. All the dogs hated little Marz. Auggie bit him in the head so hard on his first day we thought Marz had a broken his jaw. That was a pleasant $1,200 trip to Maine Veterinary Medical Center at night.
Max was like Teddy. They were terrified and thought if they could just avoid the young Marz for long enough he would just go away.
I think Teddy took his cues from Auggie because Auggie left Teddy completely alone. Auggie did his own thing, and could care less about any other dog. I think Ol’ Skeds admired that and emulated the Aug Dog enough to at least humor him by fetching. Or, as I said before, Teddy really respected Auggie when Aug bit him. I have no proof of this but it seems like something
Otherwise, there is no explanation for Teddy swimming and fetching later in his life. Of course, you can destroy my hypothesis by simply saying that Hawg Dawg is the most ravenous of all my beasts and yet Spsketti remained picky until the last. Also that Aug was our most snuggly dog and Teddy preferred to sleep on the COLD HARD FLOOR rather than with Auggie in Liana and my bed.
Teddy grew into Buddy. But only after Buddy passed away. Teddy loped around. He became obsessed with having his yeasty, itchy ears rubbed. I obliged him so long my hands smelled of yeast and made our dinner guests sneeze even after I washed them.
He had dander and smelled like Buddy or even worse. His goopy eyes, loping gait, milky eyes, determination to stay alive, and goofy look with his tongue hanging out made us think of Fuddy Buddy constantly.
It was probably better that Sketti didn’t know Liana and I compared him to his self-constructed nemesis. Definitely better.
We knew Spaghetti was on his last legs when we had to remove his jaw. The cancer was in him and we couldn’t root it out.
We could slow the cancer, but not defeat it. We cut the cancerous part of his jaw out soon enough. We put him on chemotherapy pills, and that seemed to do him a lot of good. It worked for about a year. Then his cancer began to march again. In 8 months he was having trouble walking and a large, hard growth appeared on the back of his head.
He had the same gaunt look Coal and Max had at the end. Tumors erupted all over his body- both the benign squishy tumors and the hard malignant ones. He was being consumed and there was nothing we could do but watch and give him his medicine. The cancer cut Skeds down like a scythe through a heavy mist. It became a question of maximizing his life in the time he had left.
From the vet we found out his rear, left leg was thoroughly rotten with bone cancer. Incredibly, Teddy insisted on going walkies with that mutilated leg and he never complained. He limped and hopped. We brought him to the shop as usual and he loved greeting everyone and removing their squeaky toys. He had quite a collection at the end.
The vet marveled at how Teddy could even walk into his office. Liana and I knew. He was The Most Stubborn Dog in the World and he wasn’t going to let excruciating pain affect his life in the slightest iota.
Liana and I both knew the end of Teddy was very near. We finally accepted the truth and scheduled for him to put down at our house in Boothbay Harbor on Monday. Like Max before him, we wanted a final weekend with the old boy. We wanted to give him steaks and belly rubs ON THE COLD HARD FLOOR, or wherever Teddy wanted them.
Liana drove up to Boothbay Harbor with him on Friday and we met at the Boothbay Animal Hospital to discuss the weekend with Dr. Miller and to get pain medications.
For Teddy, not us.
I hadn’t seen Teddy in a few days. He was so much worse than when I’d seen him last. Liana opened the rear hatch of her car, and Teddy didn’t even twitch. Her car smelled uncharacteristically noxious. He was on his side with his tongue flowing haphazardly out the gap in his jaw. Most times I thought this was comical, but this time it was grotesque and unsettling.
I moved in to say hi to him and he lifted his head a little. He dropped it again. I don’t think he even opened his eyes and saw me. I didn’t begrudge him inasmuch as he could probably smell that I was there long ago. I put my hand on his head and gave him gentle rubbings up near his ears. He didn’t react. He would always lean his head into my rubbing hand as if to say, “more…”
But not today.
I remembered how our plans for a last weekend with Max morphed into a total shitshow with him in unbearable pain and me frantically begging any vet I could get on the phone to come over to put him down on a Saturday.
And what would happen if Ol’ Teddy broke his cancer-riddled leg on Saturday? Or worse, Sunday? What happened if he started making those awful noises Max did? The noises that made me wonder whether I’d have the balls to break out my shotgun to end it with Max? Those noises Max made would certainly have driven Liana and me stark, staring insane if they didn’t stop.
We tried bringing Auggie to see Teddy in the car. He was the only dog in our pack that Teddy showed any respect. Auggie had showed him the joys of water and pretend-swimming. No doubt it was because Auggie completely ignored him and remained totally aloof from him. And Aug probably bit Teddy at some point we weren’t aware.
Again, Teddy raised his head and opened his eyes. He sniffed Auggie and laid his head back down on the blanket. He closed eyes.
They say dogs can smell cancer, and I think Auggie could because he pivoted and jumped out of the car hurriedly. He went to the back door of my truck and waited to be let in. He knew.
There was no reason to keep Teddy Spaghetti alive anymore.
THE DAY SPAGHETTI DIED
We brought Teddy from Liana’s car to “The Room” at The Boothbay Animal Hospital on a stretcher. Liana spread a bunch of his little squeaky toys out on his blanket. He didn’t respond. The vets brought out cat food and forks.
For Small Head Ted.
We laid him on the cushions on the floor. The room was decorated in whimsical pet artwork that Teddy would no doubt have been contemptuous of. But those things didn’t matter now. Liana fed him chocolate. I fed him cat food. He seemed to revive a little then. Liana and I knew from previous experience that Teddy’s revival wasn’t anything to get excited about. Somehow it made the whole situation more forlorn.
The vet tech came in and shaved his front leg. She looked for a vein and stuck the needle. Teddy snapped at her. Dr. Miller was amazed that Teddy could feel the little pinprick through all his pain, and had the energy for a bite. Liana and I held Teddy gently down and plied him with cat food. The vet tech tried again. Teddy struggled to get up and bite her. The tech tried several more times to find a vein without success.
Teddy had such low blood pressure they couldn’t tap a vein on his front right leg. They shaved his left leg and tried to sink a needle in earnest. Teddy was awake now, snapping at the vet tech and everyone else. In my mind he was stubborn and fighting to stay alive like the obtuse 13% Husky that seemed to govern him.
I asked Dr. Miller what would happen if they couldn’t tap a vein. He said they’d have to go for a larger one in the neck. Oh Sweet Baby Jesus, I thought. What the hell would come of that?
Fortunately, the vet tech found a vein and we all paused.
Liana knelt in front of him, caressing his face and ears. I was in back of him, my hands rubbing his chest and head. Occasionally, our hands touched. It was a weird, electric energy I hadn’t experienced for a long time in our marriage.
We were not newbies in this process. We had left plenty of our family members at this altar. I kept saying to myself that the only thing worse than having to put your dog down was having to watch it suffer.
Dr. Miller asked if he could inject the sedative. We assented and Teddy’s breathing slowed. Then it was the killer injection we agreed to.
Teddy stilled. We got off him and his body writhed and twitched like a caught fish in the bottom of a boat. We had been warned about this with Coal, Buddy and Max that this happened sometimes. That stupid, stubborn, 13% husky in Teddy was clinging to his life.
Then Teddy took in a big breath and exhaled it with finality.
The room went quiet.
“Say Hi to Max for us…” said Liana.
She cried over him and I stood up. Then the tears came to me.
We only had two dogs left.
Don (Not a Dog)