On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, in the early morning, I observed my precious Prince Marmaduke Shamus walking ever so slowly. Two days earlier, he was becoming a pickier eater than he had been previously. I felt relieved when he ate a bit of dinner that I prepared, but as I watched him moving very little, I recognized something just wasn’t right with Shamus. He was not bringing me a toy to indicate he wanted a treat. When he walked towards the back door to go potty, his demeanor appeared to be saying — just let me rest. After pottying, he flopped his body down on the ground, refusing to move until I coaxed him to come inside. Inside the house, he flopped down again, never acknowledging my affections, kisses or pats on the head. I examined him. Never did he whine or indicate that he was uncomfortable, with exception of his slow walk.
We rescued Shamus in June 2001. We were told he was ‘atleast one, maybe two-years-old.’ The day I brought him home, we entered the foyer, I disconnected the leash and he rushed to the master bedroom, claiming his territory — the master shower! There, I placed a comfortable, thick pillow, a blanket and a water bowl. Shamus was home! Over the years, Shamus taught me love. When he wanted a treat, he would ‘bring Mommy a toy.’ When he wanted a bit more affection, his giant thickly coated silver gray paw would pat me, wanting mommy to love him a bit more. Always, I obeyed him. When we took morning walks, Shamus pranced tall, proud and graceful while his soft, fluffy fur blew in the wind. People would stop to tell me what a gorgeous dog he was. “Yes,” I beamed. He is a beauty inside and out. Shamus was a large part of our family for almost 11 years. Two weeks ago we took our last walk together. I noticed how slowly he moved, so I cut the walk short, thinking he was getting a bit old now to walk.
How i wish animals could vocalize what they are experiencing not through body language but verbal communication. Although Shamus could not tell me what was wrong, watching him just resting 24-7, not eating and drinking much too water, deep inside my heart I knew something was wrong. For two days, he ate very little, only taking an occasion “Begging Strip” and leftovers I had prepared for dinner. A bite or two of pork roast, a nibble of a sausage, and when he refused to eat a wiener, I knew — something is not right with Shamus.
I phoned the vet. They could see him at 2pm. Shamus struggled to get into the car. I had to lift his bottom to scoot him on to the front passenger seat. I buckled him in and off we went to Animal Medical West, Charleston, SC. Shamus rested his head on the armrest, never looking at me. This was not right. Shamus always set up proud when riding in the car. He wanted the world to see this beautiful gentle giant schnauzer rescue with the gorgeous silver gray fur. He wanted to express how happy he was to finally have a loving home. Today, there was nothing, but a tired, weak dog resting on the armrest. All I know about his background prior to our adopting him was that he was ‘rescued from a Walmart in Ridgeland, SC, during an intense thunder storm. He hated thunder storms and would always whine for comfort whenever intense thunder and lightning flashed. Sometimes, I closed the mini-blinds so he would not stare out the window. Most times, I encouraged Shamus to ‘come sit with Mommy.’ Together, we comforted each other with love and kindness, knowing the storm would pass and all would be right again.
Wednesday, the storm would not pass. When Dr. Ross arrived, she looked at Shamus, lying almost lifeless on the cold tile floor. She suggested x-rays telling me they would be right back. I waited. And waited. And waited. Glancing at my watch, I noticed Shamus and the doctor and the assistant had been gone for over 30 minutes. Never had it taken this long before. Less than three months ago, Shamus had his yearly wellness check up. He had a skin tag on his belly and a rear leg, so we scheduled surgery. He recovered quickly, although his leg was a bit weaker. Other than that, his physical was fine. He was doing well. His health deteriorated so quickly this week.
When the assistant and doctor returned Shamus, he flopped on the floor — lifeless. Before the doctor spoke, her eyes looked at me, then quickly glanced away. “This isn’t good. Is it?” I said.
“No,” she said. She showed me the x-rays. Shamus was bleeding internally. His heart was much smaller than it should be and she suspected there was a tumor by the spleen. “I can’t see the spleen,” she said. “There’s too much fluid blocking it. We can take him to get an ultrasound. He needs a blood transfusion. His blood count is only 20 – it should be 45 for a dog his size. He needs surgery, but nothing can be done until a blood transfusion.” She paused. Looked at me. “If he was my dog, as sick as he is, I would let him go.”
For minutes that seemed like hours nothing was said as I cried, and cried and cried. Shamus whimpered. I was upsetting him. I phoned my husband. He rushed to me. We met with the doctor again, considering all of the what if’s and how could this happens. How could he get so sick, so quickly?
Shamus passed away that afternoon, after we evaluated his quality of life. There wasn’t any. I did not want him to suffer and melt away. On this date, Shamus simply rested. He could not run and play. He would not bark, nor would he eat. Touching his spine before we let him go, I felt his spine bones, rushing my fingers through his back and head, I felt his skeletal frame, recognizing that he was probably malnourished. Something inside of his body was stealing his life away. Whatever was torturing Shamus was happening too quickly.
Never is it easy to let an animal such as Shamus go. For me, he wasn’t a dog, but a family member. Considering his condition, I remembered my father and how he suffered with cancer as it stripped his body from independence, strength and a quality of life that he cherished. I could not allow Shamus to suffer like my father did. So, I bent down to be with Shamus, singing him a song — a song I made up for him years ago.
“Shamey Pooh, oh I love you, love you, yes, I do. How I love you, Shamey Pooh…Ooh I love you so. How I love you so.”
I sang a new version, “How I love you, I don’t want you to go. Shamey Pooh, oh you know your mommy does love you…How I love you so, I don’t want you to go, but you must believe me, Shamus — your mommy does love you!’
OK…so the song wasn’t perfect, but I wanted him to know how much I loved him. Through biting, heartbreaking tears I sang the song as my voice cracked. Then, I kissed his limp forehead. Never did he respond.
Today, I mourn Shamus so much. I’ve experienced an ocean of tears, guilt and the what if questions. What if we chose to put him through the blood transfusion that the doctor said “might not help. We could lose him.” What if he had the surgery? His prognosis was slim.
This story is a tribute to Shamus and all the special animals that are rescued, loved and lost. Never is it easy to give up a loved one. Shamus was more than a dog. He was my gentle giant. My friend. My trustee. He listened to me when I spoke with him, until this week when he was mostly just a lifeless form still breathing but not living. When life gave me lemons, or broke my heart, Shamus would extend his paw, placing his head on my legs, or my lap, as if to say, “Pet me Mommy. Things will get better.”
How I miss my precious Prince Marmaduke Shamus. I will love you and remember you forever. Today, you rest on a necklace next to my heart. When I need to feel your presence, I touch you, knowing you are, and always will be, watching over me, loving me and keeping me safe, like you always have.
My precious Prince Marmaduke Shamus. Mommy’s gentle giant!