I've always dreaded the day I'd have to write this.
And to be honest, I'm doing it for myself. Maybe it'll help others that have lost a pet reflect on a fond memory or bring comfort to those that are also dreading that day. But I know that I won't be able to fully close this chapter until I get this in writing. Here are a couple stories that relate to why I'm writing this and the origins of my buddy, Deuce.
I grew up loving sports and consuming a ton of sports writing. My favorite writer growing up was Bill Simmons and I remember him writing a tribute to his dog when he passed. I loved it. And I made a mental note that I'd do that one day as well, as writing always helps me process better. I'm hoping this also serves as a memory bank that I can revisit.
And speaking of being a big sports fan, one of my favorite athletes growing up was Allen Iverson. I vividly remember a post-game interview he did with his son. The reporter asked his sons name and he said, "Allen Iverson II but we all just call him Deuce." I loved that and decided that when I got my first dog, that would be his name.
It had already been decided that it would be a Miniature Pinscher but to be honest, I don't remember why I fell in love with that breed. But it preceded both of the above stories.
One way or another, my first dog was going to be a Min Pin named Deuce.
September 19, 2009
I had just kicked off my final year of college. I had a (not great) apartment with a roommate and a (not great) job that at least kept food on the table and gas in my car. But man, I really wanted a dog.
It was a Notre Dame game day and to kill time before kickoff, Tina (at that time, girlfriend) and I had decided to head to the mall. Of course, we ended up at the pet store and while window shopping through all of the puppies, we came to a group of Min Pins. One of them especially stood out due to his broken ears. He was adorable.
I mentioned how cute he was and Tina said that I should buy him. The aforementioned job didn't exactly pay well. And the apartment I was living in didn't exactly allow dogs. And as much as I wanted to take him home, I wasn't sure it was the best choice. So I made a deal with her.
"We can go back to my apartment to gather up whatever cash I have lying around and a checkbook. We can go to your dorm room and do the same. If there is enough and he's here when we get back, I'll buy him."
I was somewhat confident that enough money could be rounded up for the price tag but I was not confident at all that he'd still be there when we got back. They were getting a little bigger and they were pretty heavily discounted. But off we went to gather whatever funds were had and drove back to the mall.
And there he still was. Staring at us with his broken ears, asking to be taken home. After frustrating the cashier to no ends as I stacked crinkled bills, loose change and a check that I was fairly confident would bounce - he was in my arms. I didn't know what I was getting myself into or how I was going to buy groceries next week but I was on Cloud 9 and couldn't have been happier
While Deuce has a pretty good life for the vast majority of his time here, he probably didn't love that first year all of the time.
If you recall, I wasn't supposed to have a dog in that apartment. That meant he was to stay hidden, even though I'd occasionally come back from class and see him sitting in the window ledge. He was a 'cat' as far as my landlord was concerned and I don't think I ever heard him bark until he was two years old.
I had to smuggle him out in my hoodie to use the bathroom, taking him to a dimly lit corner of the yard behind the building. It got to the point where he'd get so excited when I put a hoodie on, he'd run up to me as fast as he could and snuggle up underneath my hoodie and pop his head out of the top. I loved that.
We soon moved out of the apartment and he lived a pretty spoiled life. He lived back in Kansas for awhile, spending hours playing with my childhood dog - Nelly. Deuce was a known escape artist, sneaking out of the side door of my parents house on one occasion and jetting off. My dad was holding the door when he snuck out and out of guilt, took off after him in what was the start of a 15-ish minute foot chase. To this day, I don't think I've ever seen my dad as gassed as he was when he got back to the house. But Deuce was home, safe and sound.
He ended up moving back to Indiana, to New York and back to Indiana with several apartments and houses in between. He was a great road trip dog, maybe even sneaking a bite of a Twizzler here and there, along with his favorite - Frosty Paws. I loved how he'd perk up the second I'd tap the brake for any reason, knowing it meant there was a chance he'd get to go outside and sniff around.
He learned several tricks that he loved to show off for guests. He loved going to the dog park, squirming with excitement from the moment the car was parked. He loved the phrase, "Wanna go for ride?" - which would cause him to spring in no particular direction with excitement. The same went for "Wanna go for a walk?" and it got to the point where we'd say words like 'hawk' and 'bawk' just to see his head perk to the side with curiosity. On the opposite end, telling him 'you stink' or 'you need to take a bath' would cause him to slowly and quietly walk away to a hiding spot.
But to tell the second part of Deuce's story, it starts with the morning we realized he was leaking urine overnight. I, of course, took to Google to find out the issue. And after researching a handful of possible causes, I didn't think it was overly serious. But we headed off to the vet (more on them later) to see what was going on.
At the time, I thought it was a death sentence. Deuce was only 7 years old. I was a wreck for a long time. It wasn't until we got into the groove with his treatment and I would seek out information from other pet owners that I realized he could live a full, happy life if he received the care he needed. And I was going to make certain that he did.
Just like humans, dogs with diabetes require insulin and to stay within a healthy glucose range for as much of the day as possible. This meant going back and forth with his food and the amounts, tracking his glucose with a monitor and making sure he received insulin with his meals every day, twice a day. Doozie didn't mind the needle pricks at all and otherwise lived a normal, full life.
Doozie. Deuce had many nicknames over the years. Doozie was the most common, from beginning to end. Ditzy, Doozie Boat, Ditzaray, Banedaynia and D-Boat. I have no idea how any of them came to be. I remember holding him up against blank parts of the wall whenever we'd move to a new place, calling him Arten D as he stared at me like I was an idiot.
And while he ended up with more medical issues than he did nicknames, it never slowed him down until the latter years of his life. In order, he had battles with pancreatitis, was diagnosed with diabetes, lost teeth, injured his ACL and developed a heart murmur. He became blind due to the diabetes and ended up losing an eye. He later started to battle kidney problems and Cushings Disease, also due to the diabetes.
But through it all, he held strong and lived a happy, healthy life. And I want that to be a main theme, incase anyone ends up reading this that has recently had a dog diagnosed with diabetes. It's not a death sentence. Your dog can, and almost certainly will, live a long, beautiful, happy life. It will be more work but the reward will far outweigh the inconvenience.
We had known that Deuce was going downhill and with his last couple of procedures, we went in with our eyes wide open to the fact that he could go at anytime.
That being said, we had a two-week European vacation planned that we knew could be a challenge. I did as much prep work for him as I could leading up to it. This included getting his glucose within a healthy range, getting him to a healthy weight and making sure anything that could go wrong had a solution in place while we were gone.
About a week after we left, Deuce started to decline. He didn't want to eat, his back legs started going out on him and he seemed uncomfortable. We had family friends house-sit for us and a local company that I'll shout out, Amber's Pampered Pets, pet-sit for us, covering his food and medication.
I cannot tell you how grateful we are for all of them as Deuce started to struggle, along with Tina's parents that took him to and from the emergency clinic nearly an hour away. When he had to go, we were still in Europe and not due home for four more days. Somehow, this group was able to bring him home from the clinic, get him to eat his food and hang on until we returned home. We are forever thankful that they somehow pulled him through these days.
August 28, 2023
We could tell Deuce was uncomfortable the night before, shortly after we returned home. He had a back leg that didn't seem to be working at all. I was able to bring him up to the bed and let him lie in his favorite spot next to me for awhile before moving him back down to a bed next to Tina, as I feared that he would try to jump off overnight and hurt himself further. I knew he'd be as comfortable as possible in her shadow through the night.
The next morning, he didn't want to eat. We knew it was time. He held on for as long as he could until we could return home and then he tapped out. While we were devastated that this decision had to be made, we were incredibly grateful that we were back home when it did.
I laid him with him. I walked him around the house and yard, reminding him of his favorite things in each spot. We laid in the sunshine, one of his favorite things to do. We let our other dog, Bodie, say goodbye. Then we loaded him up in his favorite bed, snuggling in one of my hoodies, to take him to the vet.
We arrived at the vet and let him enjoy one last Frosty Paws. He always loved them but since his diabetes diagnosis, he didn't get to enjoy them anymore. The dog that didn't want anything to do with food or movement suddenly put his nose into action and started licking his favorite treat. We sat in the parking lot and watched him enjoy it for a few minutes before heading in.
Our vet is Morris Animal Hospital. I'm not kidding when I say that Deuce may as well have a wing named after him. His chart has to be miles long. Dr. Kelly has been his vet since shortly after he was diagnosed with diabetes and has been nothing short of a miracle worker every since.
She told us how it would go and gave us our options, of which I'll spare the details. We spent the last few minutes of Deuce's life whispering in his ear and holding his paws. My final image of Deuce is him looking completely at peace and comfortable.
There's a lot I'll miss.
I’ll miss him hopping back into bed and lying down behind me after he ate his breakfast. I’ll miss him stomping around and shaking with excitement for dinner. I’ll miss seeing his Hackney Gait. I’ll miss seeing him laying in front of heaters in the winter and his big jumps up on to the basement chairs. I’ll miss seeing him carefully checking for drop offs with his paws after his eyesight went. I could go on and on.
But Deuce has a legacy, of which I'm very proud of. He's the logo for Alpha Dog Agency. Tina designed it based off of a photo of Deuce back in 2013 and it will forever be the logo of the company that has changed my life. It has, and will, bring me joy every time I see it. Here's a photo of Deuce after seeing it for the first time. Look how proud!
Speaking of joy, nothing made me happier than Deuce coming down to the basement after eating his dinner and pawing at my chair to be let up and cuddle between my legs while I worked or watched TV. It had to be his way, under a blanket and nestled between my knees. I don't know which one of us it made happier. To be honest, it's been hard to sit in that chair since he passed, especially after dinner time.
While this has probably turned into a non-sensical blathering of text, I am aware it's not a great read. But hopefully there have been parts that dog owners, or potential dog owners, can pick out and draw comfort from in one way or another.
I truly believe that Deuce's most comfortable place to be in this world was perched in my left arm. From the first day I brought him home until the last day when I had to say goodbye, he loved that safe space and the comfort it provided. I did too.
I miss him.