Three weeks ago on a Friday, Mr. T, our eldest Japanese Chin, decided he no longer wanted to eat. I had known for a couple of weeks that he was losing ground. In the last year, there had been many health issues for him to overcome. Last August, we opted to have the eye removed that had been punctured somehow and just would not heal. Still, despite being completely blind, he managed to get around and seemed content. Then came months of sporadic diarrhea, where the cause could not be determined. His weight dropped quickly. He developed a cough, but the vet found no medical reason other than allergies. At the suggestion of my sister, Jules, I started Mr. T on a raw food diet. For the next two months, Mr. T flourished and actually improved. But lately, there were many days he refused food unless I hand-fed him. He slept more than usual, and was often restless, seemingly unable to find a comfortable position. Next, incontinence issues cropped up. Mr. T became weak, and finally gave up eating entirely. That Friday evening, I noticed Mr. T was also having difficulty swallowing water. His tongue just would not work properly. He chewed and chewed and finally that big old pink, way-too-long tongue zipped in and out like normal. But I knew it was a bad sign. So I made the decision that Saturday morning we would contact the vet. It was time.
But when Saturday morning rolled around, I discovered our vet was no longer open on Saturdays. Resigned that we would just have to wait, I did what I could to soothe Mr. T and show him the love and attention I always had. I got the last of my “velvet kisses” that day. And on Sunday afternoon, Mr. T died peacefully on his own. He never did like going to the vet anyway, so it was ultimately fitting for him to pass at home.
FD and I always joked about Mr. T’s “velvet kisses”. Most people would be repulsed by a long, smelly tongue unfurling and flip flopping, and daubing a big wet spot wherever it landed. But not me. I loved those velvet kisses.
Mr. T was our “foster failure”. Back in 2011, we fostered three dogs for JCCARE. After a few months, the other dogs were adopted, but no one inquired about Mr. T. I had a feeling no one would ever adopt this oddball. He was afraid of people, especially men. He refused to walk on slick floors, and could not manage the front door steps, so I carried him outside every day to do his bathroom business. FD and I managed to find special, rubber flooring for a runway for him to walk on in the house. Mr. T was the product of ill breeding. Instead of a big, white blaze of hair on his forehead which is common in the Japanese Chin breed, he sported an S-shaped lightning bolt on his forehead. He had monster Grinch feet, his tail was unusually short for the breed, and his nose was permanently dry and crusty. His teeth were bad, and most of them had to be removed over the years. As a result, his already extra-long tongue often hung out of his mouth off to one side, completing the “doofus” look. Because of this and a skit by comedian Bill Engvall, FD “lovingly” called him Deputy Dorkfish.
The only things Mr. T had going for him, were the most fabulous coat of hair I had ever seen, and his excellent skills as a watch dog (thus the “Deputy” moniker). Secretly, I hoped no one would ask about him because I fell in love with him from the start. So, as soon as we bid goodbye to our last foster dog with JCCARE, we adopted Mr. T into our own family. With us, he learned to trust again, and even with all of the company we entertained over the years, usually by day two, he warmed up even to people strange to him. Well, except for FD’s mother, who Mr. T never liked. He seemed to know she was no fan of dogs and he was fierce about intimidating her any time she came by. I loved that about him, as I generally held the same sentiments of her myself!
We have had non-stop family visiting us the last three weeks since Mr. T’s passing. With that, I’ve been too busy to grieve or give my own thoughts much attention. But this weekend, after the last of our company drove away, I found myself finally able to let go of being brave and nonchalant. I burst into tears a lot, and I have had to remind myself that Mr. T left on his own terms, and he left us peacefully. All of the things I loved dearly about my odd little boy are still with me, and I’m so thankful he walked with me on life’s journey. I gave more attention, caring, and love to Mr. T than I have ever given any dog I have ever known. He seemed to need more love and assurance than the others. His joyful and gentle ways assured me I had a friend I could always count on for unconditional love. And, if I could be with him for just a few more moments, I would hold him gently and enjoy every one of those “velvet kisses” he so generously offered me…
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