March 30, 2019

My Inkling.

I’m grieving hard. I don’t want to forget. Writing it down helps.

Inkling the Newfoundland dog is in heaven, probably.
I'm not really religious, but he looks so darned cute with these wings.


I love dogs, and I’m especially fond of Newfoundland dogs. I’ve had other dogs before and mourned them at their passing. But Inkling was more than just my dog, he was a support system. I leaned on him because I'm susceptible to so many things including alcoholism, morbid intrusions, and depression. The attention Inkling demanded saved me from spiralling. His solid dependence was my strength. I raised him with the utmost care, using positive reinforcement and force-free training. We went for walks in the forest, and we had daily playtime. I fed him wonderful home-prepared food and treats. I taught him to do some amazing tricks – he was so clever. Inkling never had a punishment, a swat, or a leash jerk. He would not have understood it if I yelled at him. He trusted me. And when he showed signs of fear reactivity to strangers, barking and lunging at them, I rolled up my sleeves, educated myself, and did the work. I counter-conditioned and desensitized him to triggers like strangers, horses, car rides, and the vet. I muzzle-trained him – Inkling loved the muzzle! None of this was easy or quick, but we did it. Our bond deepened, and, over time, he calmed. Some might say I doted on him, but the focus on his needs kept me from veering off the road.

What happened to Inkling? Some yarn got tangled up in some bark and found its way into him. He had emergency surgery to remove the obstruction from his tummy. He didn’t make it. He was only three and a half.

I am plagued with “if only’s” and “what if’s”. I try to keep them at bay but the mind circles round and round, caught in a loop of repeating scenarios where the outcome is different, to make sense of the loss, to cope in some way. One of these scenarios is that, somehow, the yarn from my crochet clung to the back of my trousers and fell away in the garden without me knowing. Thinking this gave me some comfort. I mean, people tell you not to blame yourself, and in my head I know that dogs just eat stuff. But…I had worked so hard to keep him safe, nagging at my kids to pick up their socks, to not bring home gum with xylitol in it, to shut the toilet lid, to keep all the trash bins up out of dog-reach. I had trained Inkling to “drop” and to “leave it” in case we encountered a potential foreign body. In the end I wasn’t able to keep Inkling from ingesting 12 inches of yarn. I never even saw it go in him. I didn’t keep him safe and I will regret this forever.

Everywhere at home, I feel my Inkling. His leash and harness on the footstool; I stop and sniff them when I walk past. Opening the freezer in the laundry room, packed with containers of raw dinners, each one carefully weighed to precisely 2.2 lbs; giant freezer bags filled with home-made treats; tubs of Kong stuffing mixture; and some soft cooked food I prepared for when he would have returned home from the vet because I believed he would live. That freezer is filled with love.

The wooden stand for food and water bowls, the dog bed in my studio, the grooming table in the garage, and the slats of wood that cover up the gaps in the garden fence: my husband made all these things for Inkling. The toys carefully put away, the muzzle I trained him to love, the carpets I’d put down for traction at playtime, so many brushes, and the dog hair in that found its way into everything, including the cookie I’m now munching.

I will miss our quiet bond. The way I communicated my wishes to him, the way I could read him. The subtle nuance of hand gestures, tone of voice, and complex dog signals, the tension of impulse-control and the joy of the release command, together these things made my world good. In the last week of his life, spent in the Intensive Care Unit, Inkling was not triggered. The ICU team were gentle with him, and he allowed all the necessary medical interventions, and there were many, with nary a growl. They could even cuddle him. He was suffering a lot after the surgery but he did not have fear-based anxiety. He was a brave boy and a very good boy.

We were with him. I held Inkling's gigantic head in my hands when the vet gave him the dose, my face down on the floor close to his. I told him we were going to go outside and play. Just like a Newf, he began to snore.

I can’t believe he’s really gone.


19 comments:

  1. You made me cry. I loved watching Inkling grow. I loved watching the videos you posted of the training you did with him. I am learning to train my Frankie. In honour of Inkling.

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  2. I'm not good at consoling. I'll just say that you were VERY good with Inkling and it showed through your postings, drawings, and photos. RIP.

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  3. I’m so glad you were with him at the end. It’s so important for you both. I’m grieving with you - I only wish that took some of it from you.

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  4. You will always be his skin-mama, and he will always be your fur-baby, and it hurts so badly because it was worth so much. I wish that made any of it better, and know it doesn't, but I'm at a loss to say anything that even strives for the helpfulness of what Jamie already said for us. Just remember that Inkling would not want you to deny yourself the help he provided, as a way of punishing yourself for the fact that he can't provide it, any more. Keep living as well as you can, and help other souls live as well as they can, in his honor. ~ Leslie O'D-

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  5. Beautifully written JC, with such love, and heart felt memories that you will always have. My heart goes out to you, I know how much you loved and cherished Inkling and healing from such a loss is so difficult to say the least, I’m hoping that there is some solace in knowing how much love, care , and affection Inkling received from you and the family, an abundance of love shown in so many ways, covered him in warmth, hugs, kisses his whole life, and that you did that for Inking and he gave you his love right back. Remember the love, remember your strength and dedication. You have much to give and to receive.
    Chrissy ooxo

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  6. Oh my friend, my heart is breaking for you all over again. This was such a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to your boy.

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  7. JC I am so sorry for your loss, I can't help but cry because we got our puppy soon after you got Inkling and I knew he wasn't very old. You gave him the very best life and he was a very good boy!

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  8. I am grieving with you and I am so very sorry for your loss. ❤️❤️❤️

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  9. I was lucky enough to discover you, your art, and Inkling when he was just a pup on Instagram. I watched the love and care you poured into him and he poured into you. I, too, have an emotional support animal as I have had a lot of trauma in my background and have chronic pain. Watching the two of you and your training was such a positive for me. Even though you don't know me from Eve. I hope you know how many people love you both and are mourning your loss and mourning Inkling's passing. I agree with everyone above that he knew he was loved and you did the very best. I'm sure these are hollow words, but there are those of us hoping they give you some comfort. xoxoxo Jen

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    1. Dear Jen, it comforts me an awful lot to know this. I'm so glad to know my Inkling brought a positive to you. Thank you forever, and I wish you well.

      JC

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Cuz You Rocketh.