Earlier this week I began pondering a blog about Sleepless Nights after our oldest K9 companion began to have seizures in the early morning hours. It began last Saturday and I awoke around 11:30 pm to a unique sound and found Cletus on our bathroom floor shaking and breathing oddly. I immediately called my husband who was on his way home from a day at the race track. I was certain Cletus was dying. I didn't know what was going on. I've never seen an animal die naturally. A few minutes later, Cletus "came to" and was looking at me like nothing had happened, I whisked him outside, he drank some water and returned to the floor in the bedroom to sleep.
Five hours later at 4:30 am, I awoke my husband to tell him it was happening again. He was able to see first hand what I was telling him over the phone and Cletus began to repeat the same process. I was certain it was time to say goodbye to Cletus and even tried to talk to my husband in these wee hours about saying goodbye. He fell back asleep while I was up for a few hours thinking, crying and wondering.
We were not completely in the dark about this medical condition. Two years ago, Cletus was diagnosed with Melanoma in his lip and lymph node in his neck. We are 99% certain this is what he has, although we never did do any biopsies because at the time he was 10. Now, 2 years later, and still doing well, at our last vet appointment the doctor was surprised at the large size of his lymph node (and the fact that he was still alive) and told us the next thing that often happens is a seizure. The cancer begins to spread to the brain and there are neurological effects.
Sunday we called the vet to find out there are no real health risks associated with seizures, but the problem is multiple seizures, one right after another. A seizure causes a dog's body temperature to rise and having multiple seizures means the dog's body temperature cannot return to normal eventually leads to death. We monitored Cletus all day and night and he seemed fine so we decided to let him hang on a little longer.
Our sleepless nights returned on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday when Cletus had early morning seizures on all three days. Thursday when my husband arrived home, I got the phone call from him saying it was Cletus' time to go. Cletus must have had another seizure (thankfully on the tile floor in our bathroom) which caused him to lose control of his bowels. He then must have struggled to get up (he has a hard time with his back legs) and eventually when he did, he moved to another location within the house. My husband said no animal-human or K9-should have to lie in their own waste. When I arrived home, he managed to get into the kitchen, and when I walked into the door, his tail was wagging and he was looking at me like he always does when he greets me at the door. We got him up, helped him outside and I called the vet.
Our vet is ALWAYS open. Seven days a week! Late on most weeknights! And when I called, I got an answering machine that said they would be closed Wednesday and Thursday for a conference. Now is when the panic began, what were we going to do? I called two other places in the area, to see if they could help us and they were closed. Finally, on the third try, I located one that could help us out.
Ironically that morning Cletus wouldn't eat a full plate of soft food (which is rare, especially since we usually mix soft food in with hard for him), nor would he take his medication that we stuff into hot dogs. He even spit out the non-laced hot dogs. So I decided to take some photos of Cletus. Photos that will forever be known as those from the last day of his life here on Earth. (Sorry, none of those photos are posted here.)
But more importantly, Cletus was an awesome dog.
He was born in May 1997 and was my husband's first dog out of college. Cletus' mom was a Rottweiler, and Cletus has been classified by a rott, lab, shepherd mix. He has the coloring of a rott, the nose and white chest of a lab, and the hair of a shepherd. He lived "north of the rifle line" with him and then moved to Southeast Michigan. When my husband began traveling a lot for work, Cletus ended up staying at my in-laws house, temporarily and then permanently. Cletus and his buddy, the in-laws American Rottweiler, Diesel, lived together for about 7 years. When Diesel passed at the young age of 7, Cletus was joined by two puppies at my in-laws. Cletus was 8 at the time and not handling the rambunctious juvenile dogs well. He was snippy toward them, his hair was falling out and he was a cranky old man. I'd assume most old men would be this way if he had two toddlers climbing on him all day long. Therefore, Cletus came to live with us.
I remember the day he moved in with us like it was yesterday. I think we were at my in-laws house eating dinner and decided to take Cletus home that day. We left with him and a dog dish in the car. Cletus adapted so well, it was as if he had lived in our home for years. He slept well, he ate well, he asked out, and back in. He was even pretty good at staying in the yard.
I made a dog bed years before for our dog Rockwell, and Rockwell never slept in it. Once in a while Rockwell would chew on a bone on the bed, but he would never sleep on it. When Cletus came to our house and the colder winter months arrived, he claimed that bed. I was so happy because it had been in our bedroom for years, and I was sure some day, Rockwell would want to cuddle up in it. In the summer months Cletus usually moved to the tile floor in the bathroom.
Below: Cletus sits on the dog bed.
Cletus had some of the softest hair I've ever felt on a mixed dog. And it was always so fluffy. When the light hit it just right, you could see the deep red color in his black coat. He had the curliest tail, the tail that I miss hearing hit the floor when he wagged it or the kitchen cupboards or the side of the couch. Sometimes his tail would get caught on things, a few times it got caught on the knob of the lower kitchen cabinets, and opened the door, at the same time scaring Cletus. Another time it got caught on the cord that was plugged into the island, the handle of my gym bag and the string to the mini blinds. One spring he came out of the woods while outside, and he had about a 5' x 1/2" stick wrapped in his tail. He was wagging the tail side to side and this stick was stuck in it. Cletus was oblivious to this piece of lumber and I didn't have time to get my camera, but I'll never forget how funny he looked walking down the driveway, back to the house, with a stick swaying in the curl of his tail. When my 80+ year old grandmas would come over, they would ask how we can tell Cletus and Rockwell apart, and the first thing we would tell them is "one dog has a tail, the other does not." To us, our two dogs didn't look alike at all.
Below: Rockwell made the paper mess while Cletus just sat and enjoyed a bone.
Cletus was one of those great dogs that had quirks. By the time he came into my life, he was "an old man" as my husband called him. I called him wise man, omitting the old to his name because i felt it was mean. He used to walk into the neighbor's yard each spring and find bones and toys that belonged to their dogs. He would come home and be chewing on a rawhide in our grass, a raw hide he stole from next door.
Below: This is what we called the "Cletus Splat." Arms in the standard goal post position.
He would want anyone to watch him when he ate. If you were not watching him, he would bark at you. Our kitchen set-up allowed us to easily watch him while doing other things, so everyday I would tell Cletus, "I'm watching you" and he'd go for more food in his bowl.
Cletus rarely ever said no to any foods. He would eat almost anything. We did try to give him a dill pickle once, and he spit it out. And I don't think he likes pretzels because of the salt on them. He is also against eating lettuce. But other than that, Cletus was good at begging and his cuteness often got him a little something, especially when he lived with the in-laws.
Below: Christmas Eve 2008 - Cletus enjoys a night with the family and sports his holiday bandanna.
He loved to go for rides in the car. He would just lay down in the back seat or peak his head out of the window. One time I forgot he was even in the car with me because he was so quiet. He had to bark when we got home for me to let him out! He liked to walk on a leash but at the beginning of our walks, he would only walk behind you. And he would zig zag back and forth behind you while you were holding the leash. I would just hold the leash behind my back because with all of the zig zagging, it would get tangled up. Eventually, he would move to one side or another while we walked, but rarely went in front of me, he was always behind or next to me.
Below: One of my favorite photos. It's as if you can see the wrinkles in an old man's face...
Below: Cletus enjoys the winter snow.
Our other dog, Rockwell is a fabulous poser, It's as if he knows the camera is coming out and he has to sit up straight and tilt his head just right. But Cletus is exactly the opposite. He will look away, look down, move quickly and I struggle to get a good shot of him, but eventually we get one! It's been called "Cletus' defense" he does the same thing with a toy. When he gets one and you try to play with him and take it away from him, he turns his head from side to side, just right, so you cannot get it. It's quite funny and amazing at the same time!
Cletus was the best at giving a "high five." He can get his paw up nice and high to hit your hand. Sometimes Cletus would give out double high fives!
Today Cletus is buried next to his fried, Diesel, in the back yard of my in-laws house. We're trying to decide exactly what to put on the top of his grave, and I think the vote is a dog dish because he loved food and loved to eat. In the next few weeks, I'll find the perfect one and maybe even have his name engraved on it.
As the saying goes, "They go in three's in times like these." Today we said goodbye to The King of Pop, a Charlie's Angel and our dog Cletus.
In memory of Cletus: May 1997 - June 25, 2009.