Saturday, December 02, 2006

Eulogy for Andrei

There is much sadness in our house this morning. Andrei is dead.

Now, before I write more, let me explain something about our family. We regard pets as a part of the family - a very big part, at that. And when we lose one, especially one who was as devoted, loving, simple, funny - just plain great - as Andrei was, it is really difficult to cope with. I know, some people will think - even say - "Well, he was just a dog, get over it!" But that statement has only a partial ring of truth to it - yes, he was a dog - but an extremely special one and my entire family is in upheaval over his passing.

Andrei was not an old dog being only about 7 or 8 years in human years which, as I understand the calculations, this equates to being about 56 to 64 or so in dog years. But he was always a puppy at heart.

Part German Shepherd, part Akita, he was huge - very tall, very long - a big gangly mutt. My son and his former girlfriend, Amie, acquired him through some sort of animal rescue operation while they were living in the Tacoma, Washington area about 7 years ago. He was approximately 6 months old then and had been abused as a puppy.

From what they learned when they acquired him, he had been kept in some type of crate that had pressed on his back and had been severely injured from that. When they took him to a vet right after they brought him into their home, they were told then that his spine had been apparently broken, as well as his pelvic bone, and though it had "healed," the damage had been inflicted and he would have some difficulty throughout his life - pain, arthritis, things of that nature.

But, under their care and with lots of love and attention, he had thrived. He adapted easily to the Keeshond dog (Nikita) that Amie had and they loved to play together.

Almost three years ago now, my son and Amie's relationship ended and my son moved back to this area of Pennsylvania - bringing Andrie and his cat, Zoey, with him. He bought an old house here and moved into it with his two "children" - as my daughters and I always referred to his pets. And, they were Clate's children, for sure.

There was something about Andrei - just watching him lope along, the somewhat goofy ways he would respond to everyone, the sweet looks he would give us - that, as my younger daughter Mandy said this morning about him, "He was so much like Clayton (his master), that when you were around him, it felt like Clate was there." And yes, I think she is right in her assessment of why his death has hit us all so much harder than when we lost other pets in the past.

He was so much like Clate and to lose Andrei is like losing a part of my son then.

What happened to cause his death - so sudden, so unexpected - we will never know.

Because my son just accepted a job driving tractor trailer with a company that will have him on the road 4-5 days out of the week, he knew once he would begin this job, he would not be able to keep Andrei - or his sister, Zoey, the cat. And, he had been trying for the past two weeks to find a suitable home for both of them.

Because of Andrei's size, the nature of his overly friendly personality much of the time, and the limited space in our house, we were unable to take him in here. My older daughter (Carrie) and her fiance (Robert) though decided he needed to be in a home where he would still be with "family" and so they had said they would adopt Andrei. They already have three dogs in their house (Jed, Emma and Cedar) but felt they could make room there for both Andrei and Zoey.

So, a mere two days ago, the transfer was done. Carrie and my grandson, Alex, had come up and picked Andrei and Zoey and all their toys, dishes, food, etc., up and taken them to their home just outside of Howard. From all reports Thursday nite and last night, both my son's children were adapting very well to their new home and Alex was filled with joy because Andrei's first night there, he had slept at the foot of Alex's bed.

This morning, at about 7:45, the phone rang and it was Carrie, sobbing almost hysterically on the other end, trying to explain to me that Andrei had died.

Robert had taken him out this morning and he said the dog was relucant to get up, appeared to not really want to move, much less go outside - which was an event Andrei had always looked forward to, always welcomed any opportunity to go outside. But Robert had helped him up, took him out and had staked him outside for a short time till he could get dressed and ready to walk him. When he returned to Andrei, he found him lying on the ground, already dead.

We have no idea if perhaps Andrei may have had a heart problem that had never been detected or if perhaps he had some other illness that was unknown to us, so this was indeed really a terrible shock, very much a hard blow to Carrie, who now is having massive guilt trips that her brother may think she did something that caused this to happen.

So extreme was her anxiety and guilt this morning that she had a terrible panic attic - the worst she has ever had - which caused her left arm to go numb and created such pains in her chest and heartburn, that it frightened Robert (her fiance) so much that he called 911 and had the paramedics come to the house to make sure she was ok. Thankfully, it was just a panic attack but it was so severe, it did really frighten Carrie that she was afraid she was having a heart attack.

So far, most everyone in the family now has been notified of Andrei's death. Amie (Andrei's former mistress) has been called and notified of this; Clate is on his way home to take care of the details for a burial for his "son," and our close friend and neighbor, Karen, has also been told. The only ones in the family who don't know of this as yet are Alex, my grandson and Katie, my stepgranddaughter. Telling Alex of this will be very hard as he loved Andrei dearly too and was so looking forward to having him there at his mother's house to be his guardian and companion. Katie too had developed a very strong attachment to Andrei and had enjoyed taking him for walks, going up to Uncle Clate's house to feed him if Clate was delayed in getting home. She will be very upset and hurt too when she learns of this development and loss in our family.

I'm sure there will be those who may read this and think we really are a family of very kooky people who get this wrapped up in an animal and are mourning his death. Well, if you choose to feel that way, it is your perogative.

But for myself, for all my family, Andrei was such an integral part of our lives, a very much loved and valued member of the family, that we will mourn his passing not just today but well into the future.

Andrei - you were the best of dogs - loyal, loving, devoted, and just so much fun, pleasure and enjoyment you bestowed on all of us during your time here.

You will be missed, without a doubt.


East of Oregon said...

Oh I'm so very sorry about Andrei!! I know first hand about losing pets and it is terribly difficult... we love them and perhaps for a very long time and then they're gone.. it is so sad. They are lives, albeit not people, but they are lives we put ourselves into...I'm thinking of you today - and your other family who loved Andrei too.

On another note - THANK YOU so much for getting the info on the Christmas carol! I emailed you (let me know if you don't get it) with my address. I can't wait!:)

Gene Bach said...

It's always tough to lose a friend like that. I had a black lab that was my hunting partner for 15 years. Best duck dog I've ever seen. When he fell apart it was all at once and it about ripped me apart when I had to have him put down.

Had a cat named Razzy that was my buddy for about 12 years. He got a tumor in his belly and had to be put down. That one I just couldn't do so my wife took him in.

It's never easy for sure.


Dorothy said...

Man, Jeni. I am sitting here in tears. This is what that talk was about in the group. I was trying to find your original message..I'm working my way down my mail, but when I find it, I'll comment in there, too, but my god, this must be awful. Have 3 dogs and a bird and I swear it's going to be depression alley when either of these guys go. I know the woman who had Andrei must be going through such guilt right now. Anyway, I'm so sorry, hon...makes me really upset to hear of this beloved dog passing over..I know he leaves a lot of wonderful people who loved and cared for him. And I'm sure that he had a wonderful life with you and your family to make up for the bad treatment he had before you guys took him in. (((((HUGS)))))

Mike said...

It's the same way here with pets. They are like family members. I'm sorry to hear about Andrei.

Skittles said...

Oh Jeni.. I'm so so sorry. My heart is breaking for you all.

Pets are family, like you said, and when we lose one a hole in left in our hearts.