Strawberry Blossoms for Bear

It felt very strange last Tuesday morning as I stepped outside carrying Mr. T, our twenty-pound Japanese Chin, on my hip like a little child. I placed him down in the grass and watched him take off for just the right spot to do his business. For a long time, Mr. T had taken a back seat to Zoe and Bear, who required more of my time to care for them as they aged. That is not to say Mr. T doesn’t have his share of challenges as well, but his problems are more on a psychological level than a physical one. Mr. T is afraid of most people and is quite antisocial. He fears slick floors, stair steps, and anything out of place or new in his environment. So it was not strange that morning to be carrying Mr. T down the front steps (because I did that every day), but what did feel strange was that I now only had Mr. T to care for. Just the day before, FD and I made the decision to have Bear euthanized. And just seven months prior, we had done the same for our smallest Chin, Zoe.

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As I waited for Mr. T to do his morning “business” in the front yard, I noticed the first strawberry blossoms peeking out from along the border of our sidewalk. Seeing this caused tears to well up in my eyes. Strawberries were Bear’s favorite snack and, long ago, he discovered the small patch of strawberries I had growing just outside the front door. During strawberry season, Bear often faked the need for a bathroom trip in order to get outside and root around in the strawberries for ripe snacks to eat. Bear was my fruit and vegetable boy. He knew every fruit tree and berry shrub in the yard and flower beds. From year to year, he remembered the places where I sowed extra vegetable plants for the deer to graze on and, in these special locations, Bear did his own harvesting. During the months when I gardened, Bear’s black and white form could be found rummaging through various vines and plants, exploring what edibles he could find. Making a beeline to the blackberry shrubs, he would search the lower canes and, if he did not find anything, he would look my way for help in getting those plump delights from higher up on the canes. In the heat of summer, I often found him lying in the shade and munching on a yellow squash or an apple that had fallen from the tree. In the evenings, he followed me around the tomato patch to gobble up all of the fallen cherry tomatoes.

Yellow squash from the garden was a favorite summer snack
Yellow squash from the garden was a favorite summer delight.
Bear was missing quite a few teeth so he worked his snacks from every angle!
Bear was missing quite a few teeth so he worked his snacks from every angle!
A forager at heart, Bear could often be found with nose to the ground!
A forager at heart, Bear could often be found with nose to the ground! There are ground cherries in there somewhere…
Mr. T did not eat the apples but he often carried one in the house, discarding it at some point, and Bear took advantage (below).
Mr. T never ate the apples he found, but he often carried one in the house, only to discard it at some point. For Bear, it was “finders keepers” whenever this happened (below).

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None of Bear’s characteristics described to this point, however, should give one the idea that Bear loved the outdoors, because he most certainly did not. Bear was always more of a couch potato who enjoyed the comforts of heat in winter and air conditioning in summer. Resting on a dog bed seemed to be beneath him. Instead, Bear preferred lounging in FD’s leather chair. When FD came home from work in the late afternoons, Bear refused to move from the chair until FD literally picked him up and placed him on the floor. And then the “stare down” ensued – Bear’s way of letting us know he was displeased.

Another of Bear’s unique qualities, was the look he gave us when he was about to bolt. Bear’s foster mom best described the moments before he would burst into a dead run: “None of us can forget that look he would give you just before he was going to run.  It was a love/hate look – it was the cutest look you’ve ever seen, but you knew you were going on a sprint whether you wanted to or not!”

Bear also had a mind of his own when it came to entertaining guests. He was dignified and mannerly when visitors came, while Zoe jumped at legs and squealed with delight, and Mr. T took off to hide in the computer room. Bear endured folks sitting on his couch or in his leather chair for about thirty minutes, but would then saunter leisurely in front of them, stand for a second, and begin to give them the stare down before moving to the door and looking back as if to say, “Excuse me, but I believe it is time for you to leave”. Because of this curious mannerism, we often referred to Bear as “The Butler”.

Zoe, Bear and Mr. T never seemed to cooperate for the photographer during a photo shoot.
Zoe, Bear, and Mr. T never seemed to cooperate for the photographer during a photo shoot.
My mom has always been good to all of her granddogs. My siblings and I have often counted on her to dog-sit when we needed a little help. Bear never turned down being held and massaged.
My mom has always been good to all of her granddogs. My siblings and I often count on Mom to dog-sit when we need a little help. Bear never turned down being held and massaged by his Granny.
Bear was most fond of FD. Many evenings those two shared FD's big chair - FD watching TV and Bear getting a massage and enjoying a good snooze.
Bear was most fond of FD. Many evenings those two shared FD’s big chair – FD watching TV, and Bear getting a massage and enjoying a good snooze.

Bear’s confident and dignified personality carried him through the tough years too. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with Atlantoaxial Luxation, a condition that caused him severe pain at times. Pain medication helped, but we all adapted to a different way of life to keep Bear comfortable. There would have to be no more jumping up or down from furniture for any of the chin, so we closed off the living room in order not to tempt Bear. To keep his neck at a more comfortable position while eating, we raised his food and water bowls. We also discouraged activities of rough play between the dogs, or bolting off on a dead run. The area where the dogs were allowed to roam became more confined, where we could better control Bear’s activity. And then two years ago, Bear began having seizures. At this point, Bear’s activity became even more restrictive, and phenobarbital helped to control this unexplained villain in his life. To Bear’s credit, he accepted these changes very graciously – even when I noticed his eyes were looking bad a short time later. After examination, our vet referred us to an animal ophthalmologist who informed us Bear had developed Keratoconjunctivits or dry eyes, and would have to be treated with eye drops twice daily  for the rest of his life.

So for the last three years, I have administered medications and provided comfort to Mr. Bear. And when Bear suddenly developed intestinal issues this past year and began refusing his normal food (though he still begged like a champ!), I spent more time cooking his favorite foods to help keep him nourished, constantly doing research to discover what foods might help his delicate tummy. Still, I cleaned up a lot of accidents that he could not help, and I gently bathed his butt and feet afterwards. Bear had always been fussy about keeping himself clean – grooming was a lavish, daily affair for him, and I wanted to help him keep his dignity and pride.

Bear was a sweet boy.
Bear was a sweet boy. This particular look got him just about anything he desired.
Bear was a happy boy.
Bear was also a very happy boy.

Over the last few weeks, I watched the symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF) become more pronounced for Bear. CHF had taken Zoe from us as well, and I had learned to watch for the signs from her experience, so that I would not let it go too long. But Bear, always a regal and resilient personality, did not make it evident that he was suffering. He continued to beg from his spot in the kitchen, and he seemed to enjoy eating the food I prepared for him. He still bugged me each evening by pawing at me for his nightly massage, and grooming his paws followed by “air licking” continued to be a nightly routine for him. Had it not been for the physical signs of wasting away, along with shallow, labored breathing and continual exhaustion, I would not have thought Bear was experiencing any discomfort at all.

I did a lot of special cooking hoping to keep Bear nourished when he began having stomach issues and losing weight. Chicken liver and broccoli or carrots was a favorite.
Hoping to keep Bear nourished when he began having stomach issues and losing weight, I did a lot of special cooking for him. Chicken liver and steamed broccoli or carrots was a favorite.
Bear laid in this spot in the kitchen to beg for scraps while I cooked. Zoe stepped in for backup spoils. And Emma just wanted to see what all of the excitement was about!
Bear laid in this spot in the kitchen to beg for scraps while I cooked. Zoe stepped in for backup spoils. And little Emma deer just wanted to see what all of the excitement was about!
Bear often spent the last week cuddled up next to Mr. T on Mr. T's bed.
Bear often spent the last week cuddled up next to Mr. T on Mr. T’s bed.

And even in his last moments in the vet’s office, Bear managed to give us one of his signature “looks” – a sign that he had something to say. Only this time, Bear’s look was not one he gave before bolting off into the pasture on a run, or when giving guests a stare-down when it was time for them to leave the house, or when begging for food and blinking his eyelids for extra emphasis. Bear simply looked over to the side of the vet table where FD and I stood petting him, and gazed softly at us, as if he understood and accepted this was part of his journey. Then Bear turned back to face the other direction, and slipped away from us, ever so gently…
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© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 

 


59 thoughts on “Strawberry Blossoms for Bear

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. Each little one takes part of our hearts with them. Fly safe, Bear. Watch over mom and FD, Mr. T and those little deer.

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    1. I think supplements are a great idea. I know the organic and non-GMO foods I prepared that last year, actually helped all three of the chin. I could tell mostly that their coats were healthy and their eyes bright. Fourteen is a long life. Bear had just turned thirteen last month. CHF is so prevalent in the small breeds. I hope the daily supplements help Gabbie!

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  2. The “like” is only for the writing and not for the story itself. Losing a pet is devastating. It’s sad this had to happen but that was the best option under the circumstances. Our Chucky looks quite similar to Bear and can get anything with “that” look of his. Tyson, on the other hand, is quite the dignified and majestic Lord and Master! I dread to see those days when these two kids’ time comes 😦

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    1. Tyson sounds like a handful!! ha ha. I am not so sad about making the decision to let Bear go, and I know grieving is a normal part of it all. Writing about Bear (and Zoe) is beneficial to me. But the real difficulty for me right now is realizing how much I did in a day for Bear… how my entire schedule and work revolved around his needs and comfort. I feel a little bit lost. Even Mr. T is entirely too quiet lately. I think we both feel this emptiness in the house.

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        1. I do not think about it much, until it gets to the part where I worry about suffering. I never want to have any life form suffer needlessly. You just enjoy your babies… we can tell when it is time, you know. Simply enjoy the gift they bring you in the present moment. 🙂

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  3. Oh Sister, although I already knew the story, straight from your lips, it made this girl all misty-eyed again to read it. Bear was always the calm one of your bunch, as though he had manners or a certain set of standards to adhere to. And those little “blinks” he did with his eyes, you just simply could not resist him! He was such a sweet boy, and it is so evident how loved he was by his mama. You went so far above and beyond to care for him, to keep him comfortable, well fed, and though we don’t often think of it this way, you helped preserve his dignity; he was always such a well-groomed boy. As one of your readers mentioned above, “A Life Well Lived!”

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    1. Oh, Jules, you know what it’s been like for me. Thank you for your support, especially helping me understand the medical side of things, and mostly for your compassion. I can’t thank you enough for the late night texts when I needed help, or for listening to me blubber when I was overcome with emotion. And thank you also for opening up your home to us when we needed to travel back home. You always made sure Bear’s needs were taken care of and that accommodations were pleasing to everyone. I don’t think he ever had to add the “blinks” at your house… you all spoiled him so much already!! 😀

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  4. Oh Lori, I’m so sorry to learn Bear has died. Your post was a beautiful eulogy, so well written with poignant photos of all three chin. The last sentence blew me away and I burst into tears. I am so very sorry. Relieved for Bear, yet heartbroken for you and FD. With much love, Gail

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    1. As I wrote this post I had a lot of moments where my eyes went blurry with tears. It was the same when I wrote about Zoe not so many months ago. I shall never forget Bear’s look back at us just before he drifted away. It was beautiful… and so like Bear. What a gift he was… and what a gift all of our pets are. They are our connection with something greater in this life – teachers if you will, that help us achieve a greater understanding. Thank you for your kind words, Gail.

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  5. Hi Lori, I don’t often comment, but I still love each and every one of your posts. You know I had to comment on this one. I, and so many other Chin mom’s and dad’s can relate to everything you have written about Zoe, Mr. T, and Bear. You have been such a wonderful mom to all of your furbabies and I hope you will consider bringing another rescue Chin into your life. This past Sunday was 4 years ago to the day that we helped Lola with her journey to the Rainbow Bridge. It still seems like yesterday and I think of her everyday. She was our first Japanese Chin and we owe her so much. She taught us about the breed and it is through her that we began our love of Japanese Chin. We currently have 3 rescued Chin boys…Kool Mo, Oliver, and Smudge. I will give them extra hugs and kisses today in honor of Bear. Please give Mr. T a hug for me and know that we will burn our special candle tonight to help light Bear’s way to the Rainbow Bridge.

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    1. Thank you for lighting a candle… and for your loving thoughts. Your feelings reflect mine, Cindy. Zoe was our first and she is why we fell in love the breed. We got Bear from JCCARE as a companion for Zoe. And Mr. T was a JCCARE foster failure for us… with all of his social problems we saw the writing on the wall for him – and we’d already fallen in love with him as his foster parents. 🙂 The Japanese Chin will always be my favorite breed, and someday I will have another rescue (or two). I will concentrate on loving Mr. T for now, and we look forward to a little traveling. It’s been about three years since we’ve been able to get out much. Mr. T is an excellent traveler and he’s comfortable with family that he’s familiar with.

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  6. My condolences, Lori. I have been in that position where you know that time is running out for one of your dogs. I’ve been blessed with wonderful boys. As painful as the day is when you do that final service for them at least you know what happened to them, where, when and why. When I was eight we lost our 13 year old dog to dog nappers, they were stealing dogs in a residentlal neighborhood and selling them for scientific research. I remember searching the alleys and empty lots, going to the city pound (horrible place that had packed cages from floor to ceiling with dogs crammed in without regard to their safety – fortunately that place is long gone and a more suitable facility now exists where each animal is in a separate cage, except bonded pairs or mothers with puppies). That was a miserable experience and I promised myself and any dogs that came after that I would know where they were and that I would hold them as they left this world – a promise I’ve kept 7 times now and with a 13 year old boy am looking at the 8th eventually. You gave your fur babies a good life and plenty of love, that counts for a great deal. Many blessings.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your personal heartache with us. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to have one of my kids stolen… and to think it was all for a little pocket money for research. I have to believe these kinds of losses were not in vain and that there was something for all to learn in that experience. Our little fur babies share a connection with us that is something of greater depth than we often glean from the human relationship. Sticking with them until that final moment is a true gift.

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      1. Considering the love our fur babies give us no matter how we are to them, I can see no way to give less to them. I don’t remember where I read it but there was a story about how the animals did not lose Eden. That one by one they asked God if they could come and help Adam and Eve so they could remember how the love felt and so they wouldn’t be so alone in the cruel world. Then God said they could but there was the price of short lives and uncertain treatment, but the animals all said that they would accept those terms because they would all meet again after their lives in the cruel world. It was a lovely story and I wish I could find it again.

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  7. Even when you know it’s coming, this is just so hard. Know that I’m with you and fully understand the hole in you and FD’s heart today. I’m so glad you have all these wonderful pictures of Bear. I’m sure they are painful now, but will eventually be a comfort. I love you, Lori.

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    1. Thank you, my dear, sweet friend… it does hurt. I get emotional each time I read through this post (and Zoe’s too) and look at the photos. But there is healing and comfort in simply expressing my story, and to feel the love from so many people who know and understand. Thank you for your love Sandy. I think of Henry so much lately (since that post you wrote)… and then there is Emmet – who is much like my Mr. T. 🙂

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  8. oh Lori. I am sooo sorry for your losses. I am typing this through tears. What a beautiful tribute. It brought back memories of my boy Chinsir and making his food and then his last days. And then how different life felt when the daily routine of watching his every twitch, making food, dispensing medications. So much revolved around him, that when he was gone, it was hard to get used to. Much love and hugs.

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    1. Thank you, Karen… I still remember your pain in losing Chinsir. It is such a labor of love to help these beautiful souls to their last days and know we gave our best – our all, to help them along. You describe exactly how it is for me now… an emptiness. My whole day revolved around Bear’s med schedule, cleanup, and comfort needs. Now I feel as if I’m thrust into this strange place of loneliness and longing. Even Mr. T is depressed. I know it will ease in time, but right now is difficult.

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    1. . . . (And I think my twitchy finger and super sensitive tablet detected that🤔). I love them, and then I worry that I love them too much. I won’t tell about the two Norwegian Elkhounds who live with us, one after the other, until the end–the guy’s coming way too soon and suddenly, the lady-guy’s being dragged out and us not knowing what to do or how to care for her. There was a kind of guilt involved with both of them–shouldn’t I be focusing such attention on persons in my life or even not in my life but connected by sympathy and a sense of responsibility?– and a fear that I was transferring some unmet need. But the warmth I felt for them, and now for almost any dog I get to pat and talk to as a neighbor walks him by, or her (all dogs are hims to my sexist blindness, and now my cat, Charlie, curls next to me like a her)–almost any of theses beautiful creatures gives me such a lift that I am grateful for anyone who cares for them, and shares their beauty and uniqueness with me freely, as you have done here. That’s a blessing, and a tribute to the wonders of creation.

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      1. Thank you so much Albert. I simply write from the heart in each post. I am not sure we could ever love anything too much. I am not sure I even questioned why I do what I do for pets and wildlife. I only know that when a need presents itself, I try to help and offer what I can. For each of us that can be very different (what we have to offer), but I know any kind deed – be it adopting or fostering, rescue or rehabilitation or donating money – does matter. It does make a difference. 🙂

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  9. What a lovely eulogy or maybe more appropriately a tribute to love and life. We have been away and I’m slow to catch up with things, so sorry I missed this Lori. My heartfelt thoughts are with you. Sending love and cyber hugs.

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    1. Thank you, Ardys. I have been so busy with outdoor work that I haven’t been very good about reading posts, nor writing anything new. I suppose in part, my heart just hasn’t been into writing or reading and my work outdoors is good therapy for me. I have a lot to tell… those deer kids are exploring a lot!

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  10. A hunter of vegetables, a butler of home and couch. Loved and missed with whole heart. So thankful he wisely chose a attentive and caring person to share his life with that he gave the ultimate kindness in return by slipping away peacefully. HUGS and consoling paw waves to your realm

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. At the realm I believe you have a very good understanding of the finer qualities of these royal beings. Our home feels empty without our gourmet butler… and of course queen Zoe.

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    1. Thank you, Laurie. It’s been quiet around here with only Mr. T. It’s amazing how our pets fill so much of our lives.
      I hope you are enjoying this spring weather… great time to be out on that bike, my friend. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Kath. He was unlike any other boy I’ve had. Now that the strawberries are ripening, he would be happy to know that Emma deer is eating them. Every day she takes a swing by to check for ripe berries just like Bear would have! 🙂

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