Tuesday, July 13, 2010


At Juli's request, since she does not have a blog of her own, I am posting an In Memoriam for Butler. Since she had been his caretaker over the last several years, I am deferring to her words so that she can say what she felt needed to be said:


I'm not sure what really possessed mom and dad to take on a puppy when there were already 7 of us running around a duplex, (and the youngest only 2 and a half). I know he was free, and offered by friends of ours, but really, it was a little crazy. His mother was a pure bred, but his litter was a surprise, so no telling what else he had in him. I don't really remember picking him out from the litter (maybe he was all that was left), but I'm pretty sure he was the runt of the litter, and he had the adorable black-and-white coloring that earned him his name (he looked a little like a "tuxedo cat", plus then when he made a mess, we could always say "(the) Butler did it..." That's the Lambson family sense of humor.

I also don't remember a lot of his puppyhood. I imagine he drove Frisky-the-cat a little nuts. And I know his penchant for taking on bigger dogs got him in serious trouble at least once with a neighborhood dog (I think he required stitches...)

I also know he was pretty much a one-family dog nearly from the get-go and that he especially did not get along with little kids. This led to his near banishment by Dad and my promise to take him as soon as I got to a place where I could have dogs. Little did any of us know Butler would be 10 years old (already a senior citizen) before I could make good on that promise. In the meantime, he did spend some time away from the main homestead in the keeping of Elise and Beckie, but mostly just hung in there at the Parker Street home while almost the first thing any visitor heard upon entering the house was "Don't touch the little black dog!" With family members, though, he could be a good snuggler.

I also remember that when I would come home from college, Butler would be my "study buddy", giving my hand something to do as I read assignments (and thereby helping me stay awake).

I remember making fun of his tongue, calling him a "snake" because he was nearly constantly sticking it out to lick his nose or something. He was a big time licker, though not necessarily of people. More like carpet, pillows, blankets, sleeves, pant legs, whatever he was lying on. Also, his own fur/skin, which could (and usually did) cause problems in the form of hotspots, till I started keeping him cut pretty short so I could keep an eye on his skin more easily and nip problems in the bud.

I remember that mom tried to save money by grooming him herself several times, and I remember he put up with it pretty well in general, but his hair just NEVER SEEMED TO END. It was way to big a job for one person (or at least for this one person) so when he came live with me, he got professionally groomed about every other month - I had them go pretty short so it would still be do-able in 8 weeks. He had a couple of really good groomers, even as he got older, blind-er and grumpier. I swear he always strutted when he came back from the groomer and *knew* he looked good (probably felt better, too). He kept the bandana/bowtie on for a good while, too.

Butler and I moved to Indiana on Labor Day weekend of 2003. I finally had a place that would take dogs and Mom and Dad finally got to let him go/get rid of him.

I remember my first apartment in Valpo was on a second floor, so that was kind of a pain. I also remember that we had a pond there, which means we had Canada geese - that Butler wanted to take on (cause they were bigger than him, naturally!). I remember that at first, I didn't let him on my bed - he had a towel to lay on in my bedroom. But as soon as I let him once onto the bed, that was the end of the towel - he was my bedhog buddy from that point on.

Valpo was also where we started to establish a lot of those routines that I've had to unravel over the past couple of weeks. Things like "Sunday dinner" (when he got canned/pouch food instead of the regular dry). And "afternoon snack" (a treat when I got home from work). And of course, "potty time". He didn't have his own bed (cause he shared mine) and he didn't have to share space with a cat yet. He did have to deal with "strangers" coming over for FHE and all three of them, I think, got bitten (but after I had warned them to leave him alone). He would sometimes "help" me in my "garden" (and by that, I mean, lay in the shade), mostly because he'd bark if I didn't have him where he could see me. Or maybe that was Cville... Oh well, that leads me to the next (and longest) stage of our time together.

We moved to Crawfordsville in October, 2005. I remember telling the helpers unloading the truck to ignore the barking box, but in general I don't remember him being a real big barker (except with the aforementioned gardening). He had a couple of weeks to settle in and then, Halloween evening, I came home to a little black kitten on my doorstep, looking at me like "where have you been and what took you so long..." I brought her in so that no one could hurt her (a black cat on Halloween has to be careful, don't you know) and after trying to find who may have lost her, finally resigned myself and let her stay. She liked to swat at Butler, but ran away pretty quick when he barked at her, so it never got more serious. I like to think it kept him lively.

Gradually, he got slower and slower. I started keeping a stiff cushion under my bed that I could pull out as a booster step for him to use to jump on the bed. My parents brought me a big ol' chair, though, and that he could get up on just fine - the "couch", too - so those became some of his favorite "beds". I'm pretty sure I didn't ever get a picture of Butler curled up on the seat while the cat perched on the back of that big ol' chair, but I wish I had.

Our walks were generally shorter - but maybe that was just me being more lazy. One advantage of his growing more blind and deaf is that he didn't tend to notice other dogs/geese/critters and so didn't challenge them (though not always - on one of our longer ones, he noticed I had stopped to chat with a horse and decided he needed to tell it who was the boss - good grief!).

Valentine's Day 2007 brought a blizzard to Crawfordsville (an honest to goodness blizzard - I felt a little like Little House on the Prairie, only thankful I didn't have to feed/milk any cows). NWS archive says Lafayette got 17 inches - I don't remember exactly how much Cville got, but it was probably in that neighborhood - in any case, it was well over Butler's head and it freaked him out a little - no lingering outside on those days! But by the time we had company in June, he was back to strutting his stuff.

Also, over time, Butler's "Bladder of steel" (he used to be able to hold it for 12 hours, or maybe a little more!) lost it's "steel" - his "hold it" window it just got shorter and shorter. I adjusted my schedule to shorten my window, but eventually he just couldn't make it a whole work day, and he refused to use a pad. Not just couldn't find it, not just missed it, he REFUSED. One day in my early attempts, I had placed him on a pad (held him there by the collar) and waited for him to go so I could praise and treat him extravagently, like they say you're supposed to do. Not only did he not go, as *soon* as I took my hand/eyes off him (I don't remember, but I'm guessing the cat was doing something) he was OFF that pad and peeing on the carpet. That's when I knew it wasn't just "doggy dementia" - he had a thing against the pads. So I started barricading him in the kitchen/utility area so at least he'd pee on tile instead of carpet.

Then there was the morning he didn't get off of the bed before his bladder let go, and that was the *last* morning he was in bed with me.

The first time that the question of "time to let him go" really came up was in March, 2009, when he experienced a more catastrophic loss of vision than he'd been experiencing with his cataracts. But the vet helped me when she said that “[I'd] know when it was time”, and I knew it wasn't time yet.

When I was looking for an apartment in Lafayette, Butler's needs were a significant consideration and one of the big appeals of the apartment I'm in now was how much tiled floor (versus carpet) was available and the easy setup to keep him off the carpet.

He had a little trouble adjusting to the new apartment (he'd been in Cville for a little over 3.5 years, after all) - some random barking at nothing, etc... but ultimately he settled in. A few accessories were added - a baby gate, a cushiony bed, diapers...

Over the past year or so, he'd been gradually losing weight (I don't think he liked his specialty kidney food much - kind of blah, I'd guess), so I went against my own policy of "no people food" to try to entice his appetite and build him up a bit (it only worked slightly) and lo and behold, the little guy had a sweet tooth (donuts, cupcakes, pie crust crispies... who knew!) and he loved raw carrots. Seriously! I could hardly believe it!

At times over the last several months, I did acknowledge that it was a little ridiculous - all the medications, the diapers, the cleanup when the diaper was off or it failed, the special food(s), the carrying him up and down the stairs...

But until that last few days, there was no question that he was still interested in life and hanging in there. He didn't eat enough to keep his weight up, but he was definitely interested in his treats. He would sometimes (when I allowed the time) just stand and sniff the air by the pond. Other times he investigated the ground pretty thoroughly (and seemed to head for the pond a few times). He still liked to snuggle on the big chair (I had to remember to bring him to it, though - something I wish I'd done a bit more of). And he still snapped at Soot when she took it in her head to tease him (it didn't happen often, but once in a great while). It just wasn't time yet.

And then it was.

The beginning of June saw me on a road trip with Mom & Dad, Elise, Beckie and Kirsti to see Sarah, and Butler and Soot in the care of Brittany, the pet-sitter who's watched over them whenever I've gone out of town since being in Lafayette.

I got back to Lafayette on Wed, 6/9/10 in the afternoon and when Brittany brought back the key, she commented that Butler has eaten very little. But he hasn't eaten very much for a long time, so it wasn't clear if it was the "normal" little bit, or even less than usual. He did seem to strain to have a bowel movement, even though they were still soft, and he seemed to stagger a bit. He just seemed a bit off. I snuggled with him while I caught up on "Glee" online and that was pretty much that for Wed...

Friday, I think he only ate the "pill pocket" that his Benedryl was in - not even the applesauce or a sweet (like his "cookies" or a cupcake). When I got home (early) from a visiting teaching attempt and took him outside, he started dry heaving. That was alarming. He dry heaved several times, and my plans to work on something productive while I watched TV online went out the window as I snuggled him on my lap instead. He dry heaved a few more times, and when he finally took a drink, he threw that up, too. Poor guy.

Saturday morning, I had an awful feeling in my gut and was literally scared to go out into the hall because I thought I might find Butler dead on the floor. Seriously, I actually prayed for strength to leave my room and deal with whatever I found. When I finally came out, he was *not* dead, but he was pretty lethargic and having trouble staying on his feet.

I couldn't get him interested in even the "no fail" treats, and I tried to smear a food supplement I'd just gotten at Pet Smart on his nose and he didn't even muster the interest/irritation to lick it off. Even though he was alive, I couldn't shake that feeling in my gut. I took some pictures of him and even a short video (yay for digital cameras), sort of to have evidence (for myself?) that he was still alive (especially the video, where I captured him moving his head from one side to another - that's all he was doing, but it was voluntary movement – it was something).

Originally, I thought I'd call his regular vet at 9 (that's when I thought they opened on Sat) to see if I could get him in or if I should take him to the Animal Emergency Clinic in Lafayette. But with that feeling in my gut, I was calling by 8. There *was* a real person there, and she gave me the Emergency Clinic number. I called them, they said go ahead and bring him in, I said I would as soon as I finished my breakfast. But I didn't finish it. I couldn't. I covered and put it in the fridge and loaded my little guy up in the car to find the clinic. A couple of false turns and we were there.

They were really nice. The Dr. ran a blood test while I waited - what I remember is that his liver enzymes and white blood cell count were both crazy. I left him there to get IV fluids and to be observed and headed to see a coupla First Steps kids that I'd scheduled as make up for missing them while on vacation. After the First Steps kids, I stopped in my apt office to check on renewing my lease, including the pet addendum. While I was talking to Robin, I got a call from the Emergency Clinic (it was an unknown number, and I was with Robin, so I sent it to voicemail).

When I checked the VM as I walked out to the car, it was the Dr asking me to call back. When I left Butler, she had said that "no news is good news" from their end and that she would only call if there was a new concern. So right away, my heart starts going again, as does my gut. I call back and she tells me Butler has had a seizure and isn't looking good. I ask what the options are, she says basically euthanasia or Purdue research hospital (they would be able to tell if it was a tumor or just liver failure). I tell her I'll get back to her and call home. Dad answers, I give him the scoop and he asks what my heart is telling me. The tears come. It's time to let him go. His regular vet told me I'd know when it was time, and I knew. But I couldn't bring myself to make the call (and I had to get to a PRN shift at Regency Place). I ask dad to spread the word and go to work.

I manage to maintain my composure in public, even as I tell Regina about it, and the shift (just a short one) goes fairly well. When I get back to my car, though, there’s voicemails and texts and phone calls from family members. So I'm a ball of tears again by the time I get - home, I think it was - that part's a bit of a blur. I know I called the vet on the way to Wal-Mart to give the OK to let him go (she reports he's had more seizures and vomiting and endorses the decision though she never likes to recommend euthanasia if there's another option). I also opt for private cremation (versus receiving the remains sans cremation or group-cremation-and-scattering), figuring it allows the most options to remain available, in case some of the family decides they want to do something in MO. At some point, more family calls. I also know I manage to keep my composure in Wal-Mart (even when a crazy thunderstorm traps me at the Subway for a bit), but again, a bit of a blur.

Since then, this week has been a week of small and less-small adjustments (from not saving baggies for picking up Butler doo, to taking the gate to Goodwill, to staying out till 10 pm on a Wed without a quick dash home to check on my little dog). I emailed several friends to let them know what had happened, and heard back from a few of them. I picked up Butler's ashes on Tues. I've eaten the donuts and cupcakes I had bought for him, as well as several of his carrots and finished off the applesauce. I've recycled the cottage cheese dishes that were serving as supplemental food/medicine dishes. And I turned the rice and beef I'd put in the fridge to thaw on Fri into a Mexican-ish cheesy-beefy-tomato casserole for my lunches.

He would have been 17 next month - a long time for any dog. We would have been "together" in IN for 7 years in September. It feels weird to look back as recently as 3 weeks ago to buying those cupcakes and getting food ready for while I would be gone and having no inkling that this was coming. It's the way such things always are, but it doesn't make it less weird when you're in the middle of it.

So anyway, that's how it happened.

And now he's gone. I wish I'd snuggled with him more. I wish I'd taken more pictures. I wish I'd been more patient sometimes. I wish I'd caught on to the diaper idea sooner. I wish the weather wasn't so extreme (the cold and heat both seemed to get to him).

I'm thankful I had almost 17 years with him (almost 7 with him as "my" dog). I'm thankful my friends put up with him. I'm thankful I snuggled with him that last night. I'm thankful that his leftovers will benefit some other dog/owner (I donated his meds to the vet and his other supplies - shampoo, diapers, etc. - to a "Home for Friendless Animals"). I'm thankful for the sympathy and support I've gotten from friends and family as I let him go. I'm thankful that I didn't have to see his seizures. I'm thankful that I didn't have to find his dead body on my floor. I'm thankful that I got some pictures on that last morning (and that Emily got some good pictures during that visit in 2007). And I'm thankful that he's no longer in pain (or blind, or deaf, or confused, or incontinent, or underweight...). I'm thankful for my crazy cat.

But I miss my little black snuggle buddy.


Julina said...

That turned out pretty epic. Thanks for making room for it :)

Love ya

Sarah Lambson said...

I don't know if Juli will read this comment, but I think the whole family can agree that she is to be commended for all she did for Butler. I can't imagine how I would handle it if I were in her place. I would probably have been a ball of tears a lot sooner and for a lot longer.

Thanks Elise for posting this for Juli. It was quite wonderful.

Emily S. said...

Dear Julina,

Epic=perfect in this case.

I am so moved right now... both by the story and the memories, but also by the tender, well-writteness of it. Thank you, Julina, for writing it down while it was fresh, and then allowing us to read it. It is deeply personal, but so powerful, too.

Thank you. Love you. Wish I could hug you in person just about now.

dear Elise,

Love you as well... and love that you posted this for Juli. Hugs to you, too!



Kelli said...

Our deepest sympathy. We still mourn our little doggy after 7 years.