It has only been one day since we had to say goodbye to our sweetest Mudge. I am trying to stay as positive as possible, but I still have to constantly battle tidal waves of sadness. I can’t change what happened and I can’t bring him back, but I can tell his story and our story in hopes that at least one person will read it and take a chance on a shelter pup. That’s what we did, and our lives will forever be altered by the force that was a 40 pound pit bull mix with a big ol’ fat head.
I have to start from the very beginning. I have always wanted to volunteer at a shelter, but my schedule was often weird, and I didn’t think I had the time to dedicate. Zach (my boyfriend) knew someone who volunteered at the Burbank Animal Shelter and set up a time for me to go there and chat with her. Of course, while I was there, I had to look at the sweet pups waiting for their forever homes. And there he was – the quietest, saddest little bub named Badger.
He was fat and dirty and easily overlooked in the shelter, in fact, he had been there for 6 months already. For some reason, I knew I had to have him, and I knew that if I could get Zach to come to the shelter and see him it would be a shoo-in. He came, he saw, I conquered. In fact, the first time we asked to see him the kennel attendant was actually shocked that someone was interested. We took him into the yard at least four times and each time he peed on everything and hid under the bench while he chewed on a ball. He did NOT care about us being there. But, I still just felt like I had to have him, if only for the notion of giving a senior dog (he was supposedly 9ish) a home for his last few years.
Then I went through a series of, oh god what am I thinking moments; Will he pee everywhere? Will he eat the furniture? Will he kill Timmy? Will Timmy kill him?
But, I went on free adoption day to look at him and overheard a little girl say, “He looks like a nice dog!” and refused to let her have any sort of happiness that could be mine. I put in the papers and he walked down the hallway to get his pictures taken with his new mom like a rock star – all of the volunteers were cheering and so genuinely thrilled for Mr. Grumpy Pants. He was not thrilled and hated the hooplah.
All of my fears were laid to rest. There was no peeing inside, only chewing on balls, and eventually lots of snuggles. He always remained grumpy and a fan of his personal space (a trait that is near and dear to my heart) which earned him the nickname Curmudgeon, or Mudge.
While many people would have been turned off by his growling, we learned it was a front. That fool would growl and give you kisses at the same time. He truly, truly was the perfect dog for us.
The first few days he was home, he slept under the bed. He seemed to like to be in a tight, covered space. After some time with his beagle brother Timmy, he learned to rocket launch himself into the bed and demand to be put under the covers. After he finished eating in the morning, he would jump back into bed with me and cuddle until my alarm went off. When I worked outside, he would hop on a patio chair next to me and relax while I enjoyed my coffee and he enjoyed the sun. Man, he LOVED the sun.
When we were in Burbank, we didn’t really have many visitors and kind of assumed because of his behavior at the shelter he wouldn’t be the most social boy. We were as wrong as wrong could be. He fricken’ loved sitting on, by, or with people. He particularly liked BK and would sit under his chair with his ball, eventually offering it to him to throw across the yard, but not until after a slew of teases (he loved to let it touch his nose so that when you tried to take it away, he could quickly snatch it back). Did I mention he loved balls?
For the next year and a half we were absolutely given the best gift anyone could have ever asked for – unconditional love from a one-of-a-kind dog. He grew so much from the day that we brought him home until the day we had to say goodbye. I was worried I could never love a dog as much as I love Timmy, but this was an unfounded fear. Tato Bug was the missing piece of my heart I didn’t even know I still needed. He taught me so much and he taught his brother so much. He taught him to kick after he pooped, how to play with a ball and a moose, and how to not always be a jerk. They didn’t always get along, but they stuck up for each other, and I’ll be damned if Tim isn’t as bummed as we are right now.
Mudge was the life of our house. It tears me apart inside to not hear him sing to me as I walk into the house from work. To throw a ball and not hear him speed across the tile floor or even the grass. To not be able to howl and immediately be met with a response. My heart is broken and it will forever be missing a piece. But, it is better off for having been whole for 19 months. That I am absolutely sure of.
In January, my bub started stumbling after a walk like he was drunk (and that fool did love booze – no drink was safe around him). After a few more times we took him to the vet and found out that he had an insulinoma – or a cancerous tumor on his pancreas. Because of his age and the type of tumor, surgery didn’t make sense. We managed it medically as long as we could, but on March 21 he couldn’t fight anymore. He had a seizure on Saturday and after a dose of steroids he came back home. He was sleepy, but he had a really good day filled with kisses and snuggles on Sunday.
Unfortunately, in the early morning on Monday he had another seizure. This time he just seemed so tired. He couldn’t walk and he couldn’t make it to the bathroom. Our vet told us to think of his three favorite things and if he couldn’t do them, that it was probably his time. He definitely couldn’t go on long walks anymore, he wasn’t as interested in chewing on a ball, and as of that morning he couldn’t really hold down food. The cancer had grown too large and steroids and meals mixed with honey just couldn’t elevate his glucose levels anymore.
My boy was terrified of the vet so we tried to find a vet that would come to the house, but no one was answering at 5:00 AM. We refused to let him suffer, because that was our one job – we promised to take care of this nugget and give him the best life. For him, that was romping around, chasing Chuck-Its, and eating anything he could find. He didn’t really seem scared, just tired. Before the seizures, he would have long spans of time between incidents since we were monitoring him, and I was scared his mind wasn’t on the same wavelength as his body. That morning, they met.
It was heartbreaking, but I made a promise to be there until the end – so I was. I held his head in my lap and Zach held his paw and we gave him pets and told him how much we loved him, how happy he made us, and that we knew he stayed as long as he did for us. He didn’t have to fight anymore. And he didn’t. He was gone quickly and my world was crushed.
But, there is no question that I would do it again. I wanted to save a senior dog and I later found out that had we not adopted Mudge he would have been put down shortly after. I wanted to give an old dog a few good years to remember. It just happened that the dog who picked me was the coolest dog that ever lived. He was weird and grumpy and hilarious and loud and just the perfect fit for our little family.
Right now most of his things are in a bag in the laundry closet – partly because we are moving and partly because it hurts too much to see them. His pictures are still out, as are his leash and favorite bandanna. I might be wearing his scarf (which he LOVED by the way) and his tag, but that is just to keep a piece of him with me while I cope. I am fortunate enough to not have had a huge loss yet in my life, but unfortunate enough that this has hit me hard.
With time I know I won’t be so sad, but happy because of all the memories we were able to make. My mantra right now, which I need or I will fall apart, is: He made us happy, we made him happy. He loved us, we loved him. We promised to always be there for him even when it was hard, and we were.
I wish he was still here more than anything in the world. I wish I got to pet him more and get more Tato kisses. I wish that I would have known that when I saw him do certain things, that was the last time I would ever see them.
But, I have to remember that he wouldn’t have had 19 more months of life without us and he lived like a king in those months. He came out of his shell and learned how to love, how to accept love, and how to be so, so happy.
My heart is still so heavy, and it will be for a while. Eventually, when we get settled and most of our wounds aren’t so fresh, there will be another dog who gets a second chance with a family that will give it the world (that’s us if you didn’t catch on…). I sure hope that we will be able to connect with another dog like we have with Timmy and Mudge. For now, we will be sad when we have to be and attempt to be positive the rest of the time, even though I don’t know how long that will be the routine.
I know one thing for sure though; I will never, ever forget the boy who changed my life – even if it was just for a tiny frame of time in the grand scheme of things.
Thanks for loving me and letting me be your momma, Mudge. You will forever be in my mind and heart.