A Beau-less 2012,
How to survive the loss of your beloved pooch?
My Christmas Story
To have a dog is to lose one. We know that, when taking a pet into our homes and hearts. Like my Bernese Beau, who was my first dog ever when he came to live with me, an eight weeks young puppy in Amsterdam. He didn’t like his bench, he didn’t like his leash. He turned out to be a pigheaded, wild and sturdy fellow. It took a lot of patience and observation from both sides to form the dream team we eventually became. On top of Beau’s rich personality, it also proved to be a balancing act how to keep him healthy. We dealt with infections, inflammations, limping paws, coat problems, allergies and cancer in the end.
The first five years of his life, he joined the wonderful outlet service of a young woman called Marleen. Beau worked his way up to become the leader of her pack and joined the group enthusiastically. I cherish the videos showing him retrieving the ball together with the much faster and smaller breeds, plunging into the water, galloping on the horse paths in the Amsterdam forest. And 'my my' when he returned home! His long muddy coat, entangled with sticky seeds and rotten leafs and mean ticks. The hours I spend cleaning him and the home up, sigh! Him getting older, I walked Beau myself in the afternoons avoiding risky rough play in view of his condition.
By then Beau had matured into a very attentive and loving dog, though always the first to go out and enter the house, always walking up front. I didn’t mind, respecting his space as long as he respected mine. I really was Beau crazy, he formed the very center of my life. The allotment garden was purchased essentially for him, he had his own transport bike, his own dog elevator in the house, his daily home cooked meals, his three hour strolls each day, I never planned airplane holidays because he then could not come along. Not a day without Beau.
And now he is forever gone, a shocking fact for me. Beau died by himself on my bed on October 14 this year and I did not see it coming. Always bothered by health troubles, his vet confirmed the fatal disease on Beau’s last day on earth. Devastating it felt. I still see my little daughter flinging her arms up in the air, crying out loud in a classic gesture of pure despair. After our last goodbye, his ashes rest next to my bed. The house is silent without his omnipresence. Not that he ever barked, he was my silent partner, always at my feet, pawing his humans, loudly snoring, yawning, asking attention for going out to sniff around and meet nice females, asking for his favorite sweet bananas. To find comfort and some rest, I read and reread books of authors who had lost their dogs too, feeling what they felt and crying along with them.
Two months away from his death, I know it is time now to try and reinvent myself. Next to my heart, Beau absorbed four hours each day at the least. How to fill my life in a different and happy way again? What was I about, when not dedicated to my furry friend? Of course there is always a working life to expand, and my remaining humans to care for. But looking back on my almost nine years with Beau I know I can do more, to invest those dimensions he added to my life into something else, a life with more meaning, a life more fully lived.
Beau’s lessons to me were profound. For a human always projecting her worries into the future, he was a real time tutor. Being a dog, he fully lived his moments, joyous, loving, faithful and straight forward. A totally different way of being, compared to how I took my path in life, most of the time letting myself be confused by events from the past and the problems lying ahead. While playing the 'Beau Mantra' in my head I am now committed to stay in the here and now and act as pure and simple as life can be. Enjoying the uncomplicated pleasure for example, of just sitting with the ones I love, giving and sharing what I have in energy and love at that moment. While refilling my cup with the activities I authentically treasured like reading, writing, drawing, painting, knitting, seeing art museums, films and interesting sites in the world again.
Of course I will carry my beloved Beau always with me in heart and head, ánd in the ipod I carry loaded with more than hundred Beau-video’s. His vet wrote him a goodbye calling Beau a big and wonderful dog with a fabulous presence. So he was. I will compile his little blog stories to create a Beau book, hopefully to be published, e or otherwise. With the aim to share and collect support for fellow animals giving them the chance to live the loving life Beau has had. And of course in due time, I will open my heart and home again to a new dog, this time a rescue dog in need of a warm and caring house. Educated in the canine language Beau taught me, I can surely make a difference there. After all, who can imagine living a life without a dog companion? Dogs are awesome. When you let them, they take you along on their journey through the actual universe.
P.S. When you can advise me about e-book publishing or otherwise, I am ever so grateful, on behalf of Beau and his fellow-furry-friends, Wishing you well, Antoinette Andriese.
In memoriam 2003 - 2011
> week 40 2011 - Beau, A Formidable Berner
Sunday morning March 30 2003 a little Bernese puppy rides along with us from the province of Limburg to our Amsterdam home. Fresh from the breeder, eight weeks old. Restless he seeks shelter on my lap. He is too afraid to pee on the way and his first yellow flag is planted underneath our diner table in the kitchen. This day our fantastic adventure with Beau the Bernese Mountain Dog starts. The first weeks and years are intense. Young Beau is a stubborn fellow, who even knows how to free himself out of the bench. He loves his freedom, he loves space. Gradually we form a tight team by training together, walking and observing one another constantly. Not into strict commands, Beau grows out to be very attentive, always watches where we are going, knows how to follow us and become our biggest friend.
Although everything about him is big, Beau turned out to have a lot of health issues. Numerous times, at all hours we visit a series of several vets. With a severe pneumonia at twelve weeks old up to horrendous skin problems from his sixth year on, Beau goes through a lot of ordeals. But of course we did not only have bad times. Together we are good for some 12.600 walking tours in the woods, at the beach, around our alotment garden, and we even leisured in la douce France in Saint Tropez. And then there are his funny habits like rolling under the curtains, squash you in the car with his weight, stamp on the floor when mister Beau wants to go out, his loud snoring in the night and literally bouncing with his enormous paws into the air taking you up in his stormy greetings when you arrive home.
Friday morning October 14 2011 our senior Bernese rides along with us from the vet clinic in Wageningen to our Amsterdam home. Sick as a dog he lies on my lap. Will he even make it to home? Yes, he even manages to get through the day. As an encore we are even given the opportunity to go outside and sit outside, the three of us enjoying the sun. For the last time he sturdily lifts his hind paw to do a pee. In the night Beau leaves ahead of us, as he has always done.
Beau turned out to have a tumor in his liver and died very fast. I do not have to say to you dear animal lovers, that it breaks my heart not to have him around me any longer. What I have left now is a box of sweet memories, pictures and snap shot movies. I intend to publish a booklet about his memoirs in dedication to all the dogs and other animals that do not have the loving life that we were able to give our eternally much beloved Beau.
Meine Ruh’ ist hin,
Mein Herz ist schwer;
Ich finde sie nimmer
Wo ich ihn nicht hab’,
Ist mir das Grab,
Die ganze Welt
Ist mir vergällt.
Mein armer Kopf
Ist mir verrückt,
Mein armer Sinn
Ist mir zerstückt.
Meine Ruh’ ist hin,
Mein Herz ist schwer;
Ich finde sie nimmer
Nach ihm nur schau’ ich
Zum Fenster hinaus,
Nach ihm nur geh’ ich
Aus dem Haus.
Sein hoher Gang,
Sein’ edle Gestalt,
Seines Mundes Lächeln,
Seiner Augen Gewalt,
Und seiner Rede
Und ach, sein Kuss!
Meine Ruh ist hin,
Mein Herz ist schwer;
Ich finde sie nimmer
Mein Busen drängt
Sich nach ihm hin.
Ach dürft’ ich fassen
Und halten ihn,
Und küssen ihn,
So wie ich wollt’,
An seinen Küssen
How is Beau this week?
> week 39 2011 - Sick as a Dog
This morning Beau gets his pills on a plate with cheese and a banana. He sees me coming, sniffs the food. Normally he favors cheese, but lately he isn’t that greedy any more. Before you know it, it contains a pill, a bitter one, one you can smell kilometers from afar. He doesn’t like these. These ones have to be put at the back of your throat, and then you have to push them up front again, grind them with your teeth to spit them out in powdery pieces. Pfew, mission accomplished.
Today’s pill is not that big and stinky however, and she cleverly hides it into a piece of cheese or bread sprinkled with homeopathic drops. Sweet talking me, she holds my mouth upright, puts the bread in between my teeth, pets me under my chin. Nice. Okay I’ll swallow it, she is doing her best.
Beau’s health has been very bad for some time now. The limping has worsened and affects the whole of his body. Dark, gloomy and depressed he looks out of his, usually so friendly and soft, dog eyes. He no longer greets us. That he is hurting, is written all over him. In his blog Do Dogs Feel Pain the Same Way that Humans Do? on www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201109/do-dogs-feel-pain-the -same-way-humans-do dog psychologist Stanley Coren argues that dogs as well as people suffer from pain. They do not usually show it however, because instinct tells them not to be weak as to not endanger themselves being an easy pray. He also advocates that it is important to relieve the pain of dogs in order to regain their health in case of illness.
“… especially if it (pain) is a stressor, and in response to stress the body begins to release a set of stress-related hormones. They affect virtually every system in the body, altering the rate of metabolism, causing neurological responses, causing the heart … and the immune system to go into a high state of activity. If this situation continues long enough these organs may actually become dysfunctional. In addition the tension that the state of pain related stress induces can decrease the animal’s appetite, cause muscle fatigue and tissue breakdown… In the end the dog is exhausted as well as distressed, and this reduces the body’s ability to heal."
I could not have described Beau’s situation more adequately. This whole week we have carried him along the house, fifty kilos of dog. At the little staircase in the hall, he could barely drag his hind paws up behind him. One human walking in front and the other supporting and moving his legs at the back. In the eight years that he is living, we had to help Beau repeatedly. Only twelve weeks old, we run into our first health crisis, puppy Beau had developed pneumonia. “Whether he would make it?” The vet at the emergency clinic could not guarantee it. After a long and fearful night, we came back to visit him. We will never forget little Beau, still having an infusion, gently wagging his tail softly in the air upon seeing us. The relief! In the years following we succeeded in coping with a series of accidents and health problems from lead poisoning, dog bites and lumps to a suspect swelling in his neck, several inflammations everywhere, repeated limping to extreme skin and coat problems. His belly and buttocks still remain bald after a period of two years.
And now his paws and back. After medication, the vet’s treatment and a session of acupuncture his health improved initially only to relapse after a couple of days. “Beau shows autoimmune meningitis in every moves he makes” our vet stated. Normally only to be seen with young Bernese, according to him. How could this have happened to Beau? With homeopathic meds and a large dose of prednisone we return home with heavy hearts. Such a strong prescription to revitalize him once again. Tension. Waiting. Will it be able to cure him? After a deep sleep Beau wakes up in the night. He sees us watching and just like back then, he waves to us with his tail. Softly it wavers across the kitchen floor. Pfff, we can add another day to his life and the coming weeks his nose will be busy sniffing his treats suspiciously.
> Week 38 2011 - Beau and Bauschan or Autoimmune Arthritis
Luckily for Beau we live in 2011 instead of 1919. Back then veterinary practices were much more primitive as described in the splendidly written book Herr und Hund (1919) from Thomas Mann. There he described how his dog Bauschan had to go to the university clinic for his 'occult bleedings'. The dog was lying behind bars for observation with a ceramic water bowl. What did he suffer from?
“No, one did not not precisely yet. But the dog was there to be observed and they actually observed him. And the bleedings, were they still there? Yes they did occur repeatedly. And then they where being observed? Yes, precisely."
After eight days Mann could return for his dog and with two weeks of observation, they would be able to tell more about the dog and his cure for the 'occult bleedings'. Dog Bauschan hardly greeted Mann:
“Contempt and bitter feelings of despair seemed to have taking hold of him. >"Because you had the heart, so his demeanor seemed to tell me, to put me in this cage, I do not expect anything anymore of you."
After Mann brought his dog back home, Bauschan still remained depressed for days before finally resuming his formerly ‘faithful-funny’ habit of running towards his human, front paws on his chest, upon hearing his morning whistle.
Well, Beau is not able to do that for some time now. We still do not succeed in controlling his limping problem. It used to go away with a strict walking regime of short and regular walks. Also the use of previcox and antibiotics were of no avail this time. When Beau could not even get up by himself it was time for an acute visit to the vet. Both his elbows were shaven. After being sedated the fluid was tapped and moderin (a corticosteroid) was administered. After which x-rays were taken. A firm treatment and ditto bill! The next day however our doggy was walking without a care in the world along the streets again. In the weekend he finally enjoyed his old walk in the woods again. What was or rather is happening to his paws? The lab did not find scary bacteria’s in the samples. The photo’s did not show any sign of artrose. “Strange again your Beau”, the vet remarked. The provisional verdict: autoimmune arthritis. Beau’s system attacks its own cells causing inflammations. “See you in two weeks”, vet Steven greeted over the phone last Tuesday. Then we are scheduled to come over again, because the limping does not seem to vanish after one treatment. In the meantime Beau takes regular meds and we also follow the vets prescriptions for homeopathic meds and supplements. They seem to make a huge difference for the health of Beau as we have already concluded the past two years fighting his skin allergies. Occultism of modern times?
n.b.: According to Wikipedia Manns favorite dog Bauschan unfortunately died at the young age of four.
p.s.: Because his limping comes back big time today, and he cannot have another injection yet, we scheduled Beau for an accupuncture session this afternoon. We might give it a try?
> Week 37 2011 - Dog Breath
This week Beau yawned bare all his teeth while moving upwards in his dog lift cage. While passing me on eye level his dog breath suddenly struck me. Not unpleasantly though. On the contrary. I inhaled his breath deeply to analyze the smell. A mixture of strong sweet air reached my nostrils. Oh yes definitely Beau. Assuming correctly that each dog carries his own specific scent?
Searching at Google I come across forums facilitating questions of dog owners wanting to eliminate dog odors. Whereas the one owner advises to use baby hair lotion, the other chooses for dog perfume or swears by using vinegar. I don’t fool myself, our house and car are drenched with Beau’s whole being. It doesn't bother us any more. It is true as our very first vet once told us “you are going to get used to his lovely puppy smell.” An American site explained that puppy’s smell so good because of their mild puppy food and mother milk. And that explanation shifts the phenomenon of smell to that of food.
You are what you eat is probably also true for dogs. Recently one of my table partners was a young boxer. He was luckily allowed in the stylish restaurant. A sweet animal, jumping on my lap spontaneously, and what a smell he carried! Very salt and penetratingly sharp. When asked upon, he proved to exclusively eat kibble of a certain brand. And although several websites inform me that sweet dog odor can indicate diabetes, I don’t suspect this being the case with Beau. Beau exclusively ventilates a mix of sweet odors either coming out of his front or out of his rear end. Since a couple of years I daily cook fresh food for this allergic boy. Stews from potato, endive, banana, carrot, French beans, fennel minced meat, oatmeal, cheese, chicken, pancake, pumpkin, rice. And I have to say, with his brushed teeth, Beau’s breath is accordingly sweet. Once out of his elevator, he steps outside to parade on his Amsterdam quay. There he cordially encounters everybody, wagging while gasping happily into their faces.
> Week 36 2011 - Presence
"Noa, do you like reading?” “Eh, yes, eh I just finished a book.” “What was it about?” Ggggeggeeggee Beau is panting while pushing his nose under her arm. She giggles. The friend of my daughter is visiting us and we are eating a sandwich sitting at the table together. “Eh, yeah the book is called eh…” Fffffffwiet fffffwuut, with his big tail he brushes her arm to and fro. “Lenalist it is titled and the story tells about … Keboem! Beau has left the table and drops his body on the stone floor at the foot of the stairs. “Eh, Lena makes lists and eh…” Slirrrp, ptttllaap, slimewzzzmwah loudly Beau smacks with his tongue sliding along every inch of his mouth. “And she has a mother who is divorced … and eh.” Ghaaaahgpffrr, Gehaaafffrrrr Beau yawns while showing every tooth and grinder he has got. He turns around lying comfortably on his side and yes there it comes, his very own sonorous sound ZZZZzzzzzztttt, Bzzzzuttzzzzzzzzz fills the room. Beau could not care less about the story of Lena and the girls cannot hold back any longer screaming with laughter. What can I say? A Bernese Mountain Dog truly is a farmers’ dog.
This morning I cycled the big boy in his carrier bike to a nearby field. 6.15 AM, still damp and dark. Two flickering lights adorning his carrier at the height of his ears. It felt as an almost magical and romantic moment. Beau and me moving together along the canal and the geese in a sleeping city
> week 33/35 2011 Beau and Buck
What a brilliant romanticizing dog book Jack London’s The Call of the Wild [edition with introduction E.L. Doctorow, July 2009] appears to be. With big Buck being the hero, a Saint Bernard and shepherd cross breed. In the beginning of his life enjoying a good life in the southern states of America, Buck was stolen during the gold rush (end of 19th century) and sold to gold diggers in the cold North. Destined to live a life full of cruelty by men and other sled dogs (the law of club and fang). Defying his foes, Buck miraculously learns to survive and manages to become a pack leader. Later on in the story the dog was rescued by a person of …… only to wander off into the wild as a free dog in the end, his human being killed by Indians. Huge and strong, full of the urge of survival he succeeds in finding his place among a pack of wolves.
"When the long winter nights come on … he may be seen running at the head of the pack … leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow, as he sings a song … of the pack.”
Totally absorbed this human reads the story till the end and then looks upon her Bernese Beau. From head to his big toes he represents a real domestic homey dog. Imagine him in the wilderness? The woods of Amsterdam at the most. Though some of the descriptions of Buck would fit Beau perfectly too:
“Buck knew no greater joy than [his human’s] rough embrace … it seemed that his heart would be shaken out of his body so great was its ecstasy… he sprang to his feet, his mouth laughing, his eyes eloquent, his throat vibrant with unuttered sound…”
And then there is the smartness and insight in responding to demands and situations in their favor. Buck for example rolls over with his painful and waving paws on his back refusing to go further unless someone puts leather mules on them. Beau and Buck also share their own agenda in only following their humans when genuinely working together. The long years of training Beau proved to be lessons in observing and interacting rather than Beau merely following commands. He is a master in being stoic, very good in acting as if he is not hearing you at all. The most magical moments this human and dog enjoy lie in the flow of joining the act. Walking in silence. He walks in the front, stopping at road crossings, head up turned in your direction, scanning gaze and movements. Which direction shall we go? But this week no trip to our fake wilderness was destined for the both of us, but a visit to the vet instead. Beau enters the room and wishes to leave immediately. Head and body pointed at the door, nose almost on the door knob. Last time he was locally sedated to remove a nasty bump with big incisions. Reluctantly he climbs on the table at last. Not happily. His bum balancing on the edge, I counter his weight in order for him not to topple of. With all the flaws our vet encounters – most likely a splinter in his swollen fore foot on the left, inflammation spots on the skin of his belly, major inflammation in his left ear, internal lump of fluid near the armpit of the right fore foot – Beau is not likely to become a Buck. I am afraid we have to postpone that transformation for the time being.