In Memoriam: Patton (2003-2012)
“Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.” – Charlie Brown to Snoopy, Peanuts
Patton is gone.
I wasn’t sure whether to write about that sad fact or not.
On the one hand, I’m not one of those people who puts dogs on the same level as human beings. But, I thought of Patton almost like a little brother and he was also part of Right Wing News. I’ve written articles about Patton, I’ve put up pictures of him, and I even did a video with him once.
It was inevitable that people would ask what happened to him and I thought he deserved a little more than, “He’s not with us anymore.”
When I lived in Charlotte, my roommate at the time walked in one day and said, “Hey, guess what? We’ve got a dog now!” His parents bred pure blood Jack Russells and Patton was an accidental product of one of their dogs that bred out of turn with a Husky/Corgi mix (Yes, really). They weren’t a big fan of Patton, but my roommate’s little sister adored him and wanted him somewhere she could still see him. So, my roomie agreed to take him in.
Unfortunately, Patton had a few issues. For one thing, he was supposed to be housebroken — but it turned out he was only housebroken as long as he had access to a doggie door. So, our “housebroken” dog was peeing and pooping all over the apartment. He also had a ferocious case of separation anxiety. He shredded pillows, tore up the blinds, and believe it or not, even chewed a hole in the side of the couch. He was a holy terror.
After a few weeks of that, my roommate decided he didn’t want Patton anymore. I, however, had already gotten attached to him and decided he was going to be my first dog. This was not the best of fits since I knew squat about dogs and a hyped up little Jack Terrier mix who tore up everything around him when he wasn’t pooping on it was not exactly the ideal pet for a novice.
Still, I did get Patton housebroken and convinced him to stop chewing on things around the house by splattering everything with a mixture of vinegar and red pepper. He quickly became attached as well and when I returned from my day job, I’d often see Patton pushing the blinds down with his little nose and looking out across the parking lot, hoping to catch sight of me arriving home.
Eventually we moved to the beach and Patton grew up to be an energetic, playful dog who loved cats — chasing cats mainly, despite this picture…
…Getting his belly rubbed…
…playing with toys…
….and of course, that perennial doggie favorite, sleeping.
I have all of these amazing memories of Patton.
When we lived at the apartment complex in Charlotte, he knew when another dog he liked was walking around outside, in a field behind the complex, which must have been 300-400 yards away. That seemed too far even for a dog’s sharp ears, so how he knew, I don’t know, but he just knew.
He also had an extraordinary spirit. I can still remember once when a much bigger dog attacked him by surprise, pinned him to the ground, and tried to bite him. The owner and I immediately jumped in and pulled the other dog off and Patton’s reaction was to tear himself out of my hands and go hellbound for leather after a dog that was literally more than twice his size. He was a little dog, but he always had a big heart.
He was also fanatically loyal. Of course, I remember his little celebrations when I’d arrive home, even if I was just gone for an hour or two. But, I also remember being wiped out a couple of times with the Norwalk Virus. I was so sick that I was spending 20 hours a day in bed, sleeping. Patton stayed right there beside of me in the bed, back-to-back, the whole time. I took care of him and when I was so sick that I hardly knew where I was, he did his best to take care of me.
Several weeks ago, Patton started having a little trouble breathing. I thought it was just allergies at first, but then he had a massive nose bleed that prompted a vet visit where I found out that proboscis trouble is much more serious for dogs than it is for us. The early diagnosis was cancer.
Still, they put him on a steroid and amoxycillin and he immediately began to improve — so much so that I thought he was going to prove the vets wrong and be around for another few years. In fact, he was almost back to normal. Almost, but not quite. Eventually, Patton started getting sicker again. He didn’t seem to be in pain, but he was having more and more trouble breathing. The problem seemed to entirely be in his nose and throat. Multiple vet visits didn’t provide any new help or answers.
Things kept slowly but surely getting worse and then, Patton starting going downhill rapidly over the last few days. Again, he didn’t seem to be in pain, but it was getting to the point where he spent half his day standing up as much as possible, because when he laid down, he had to struggle to catch his breath. The worst thing was that even when he fell asleep, he’d wake up and try to get his breath within a few minutes. Having read other stories of dogs with cancer online, I knew that it was all downhill from here and I didn’t want that for Patton.
That meant I had to decide whether to put him down. It was a hard call because Patton’s life was in my hands and I couldn’t ask how he felt or what he wanted. Someone told me that if Patton could talk, he’d tell me that he didn’t want to live any more like that. I’m not so sure about that. From what I’ve seen of dogs in general and Patton in particular, there’s no quit in them. No matter how sick or in agony a dog is, my belief is that it isn’t in their nature to give in. Still, the only realistic way forward for Patton was surgery and/or radiation. Even IF the treatment worked, it would have made Patton utterly miserable for several months in order to extend his life for 12-18 months unless we got extremely lucky. Those are depressing numbers and having seen the sickness and despair that radiation treatments inflict on human beings with cancer, I just didn’t want to put Patton through that.
There is no absolute standard as to when to end a dog’s life. Some people say, “You’ll just know,” other people go with “when the dog stops eating,” and still others believe in euthanasia “before he experiences an unnecessary day of pain.” My personal belief is that most people wait too long and let the dog suffer too much because they’re hoping for a last minute miracle. Patton was already getting weaker. I didn’t want him to get to the point where life was nothing but suffering for him before I decided to make a move.
So, I made the decision on Saturday to put him down. On Sunday he got to experience Doggie Disneyland and he still had enough vitality left to enjoy it. We went on a nice long walk, where he got to chase some squirrels and cats, my parents came to visit him, we played with his favorite toy, he got his belly rubbed and his ears scratched, and he had the best food he’d ever eaten in a day. After that, he had a long hard night where he struggled to breathe and sleep. I put him in the bed beside of me where he sounded like he was snoring even when he was awake. I may have gotten 3 hours rest and I’d be surprised if he got half of that. That extremely difficult night after such a wonderful day helped convince me that the timing was right.
The next morning, I took Patton in to have him put down. We sat in a nice, quiet room. The vet came in and gave him a little shot which he endured bravely as always. Within a minute or so, I helped ease Patton down on his side where he drifted off to sleep with me lying beside of him, rubbing his stomach, and telling him he was a good dog. A few minutes later, the vet came in and gave him another shot that stopped his heart and he was gone.
He WAS a good dog and a loyal friend. I’ll miss him, I’ll always remember him, and God willing, Patton is just a little ahead of me on the road both of us will one day go down before we meet again in a better place.
“I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there [in Heaven], I believe he’ll be there.” — Rev. Billy Graham