A Boy and His Dog

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We just lost our 15 year old dog Pippin. She seemed to be doing fine until a few days ago when her breathing was fast and labored. Pippin was really my son Dan’s dog. My husband Bob became his substitute when Dan went to college and later when Dan started working out of town for twenty days every month. Fortunately, Dan was home with her for the last week of her life.

Pippin was our smallest papillon. She was only five pounds and very cute looking. People always wanted to pet her and pick her up because she was so small and cute, but she only allowed my son Dan and my husband Bob that privilege. Occasionally, she would let us hold her but in her later years she preferred that only Dan and Bob pick her up so we allowed her that. She was very sweet with them but extremely protective of herself and Dan or Bob. In other words, nobody else could go near her without her barking or growling at them.

Pippin was one of four papillon puppies born to our dog Cleo in November, 2003. (Cleo, her mother, passed away a few months ago.) Pippin was the smallest but the first one born. Her original name was Snowball because she was mostly white. My youngest daughter Tessa, who was 5 at the time, named her and claimed her as soon as she was born. Soon after, she bonded with my son Dan, who was 10 years old at the time. He chose her as much as she chose him. He changed her name to Pippin, who is a character in “Lord of the Rings”. The two of them became best buddies.

Dan grew up with Pippin. She was always by his side. Pippin didn’t want or need anyone else. She was very territorial and wouldn’t let anyone near Dan. It was a problem sometimes when company came over but we always worked it out. Dan loved her and Pippin loved him. They were inseparable.

Dan was always kind to Pippin. He carried her around everywhere, talked to her, and made sure she was comfortable. Pippin brought out Dan’s kind and gentle side. He always took extra time to say good-bye to her before he left to go somewhere. He was always very thoughtful with her.

When Dan went to college, we worried about Pippin. She missed Dan terribly. She would sit on top of the couch and just look out the window waiting for him to come home. Fortunately for her, Dan didn’t go to college too far away so he would come home on weekends once in awhile. Eventually, because Dan wasn’t home most of the time now, she sat with my husband. She seemed to like men. Maybe it was because she was so small she wanted someone big who could protect her. My husband started bonding with her during this time. She was with him, like she was with Dan, together everywhere. Pippin was the type of dog who bonded with one person and then became fiercely loyal and intimate with that person. She would always be with that person.

When Dan was home, Pippin would always go back with Dan. Dan liked to read so she would sleep by his side wherever he read. She was his companion when he would play video games. She followed him everywhere. When Dan was sick or sleeping, she curled up by his side. They were always together. He cared for her deeply. When Dan was away, he would call and tell my husband how to take care of her properly. He would tell him to make sure Pippin was eating or drinking enough or that she was going outside.

We worried what would happen if Dan ever got a girlfriend. That day came. Fortunately, his girlfriend loves dogs and was able to respect and understand Dan’s relationship with Pippin. Pippin did not like to share Dan with anyone so she was not real welcoming. It took awhile but Pippin adjusted by hanging out with my husband when Dan’s girlfriend was over. It all worked out.

As I stated before, my son Dan works out of town twenty days each month now and he’s off ten days a month. Pippin spends her time with my husband Bob when Dan’s away. This past month, our whole family went away on vacation for a week and returned last week. A pet sitter came in and took care of the animals while we were gone. Pippin was fine. When we returned, Dan still had a week at home before he had to return to work. He spent his week with Pippin.

She was doing great until a few days ago when she started breathing fast. Bob and Dan took her to the vet. They did some tests and noticed an enlarged heart on an X-ray but nothing that was too concerning to the vet. Dan watched her breathing fast at night and was very concerned. She had to tilt her head up to keep comfortable. She wanted to sleep but she couldn’t because she was too uncomfortable. They took her to the vet again but she acted fine when she was there and they said she was fine.

Yesterday, when I left for work and Dan was getting ready to leave for his 20 days at work, she was still having difficulty getting comfortable. She had her head tilted up and she was breathing fast. That didn’t stop her from barking or growling at the other dogs and me though. My husband called the vet to see if her other test results had come back. They said the vet would call back later.

Dan’s flight was delayed so he could spend a little more time with Pippin. Bob and Dan decided to bring Pippin in the car while Bob dropped Dan off at the airport so they could keep an eye on her. Bob could bring Pippin to the vet after he dropped off Dan if she was still having trouble. Dan wrapped her in a blanket and held her. Shortly after they left, the vet called with the results. At the same time as the vet was telling the lab results, Dan noticed Pippin’s tongue turned gray and she suddenly lurched back. The vet said her kidney function was a little off but that was it. Dan yelled for Bob to go straight to the vet because he thought Pippin was dying. Bob was still on the phone with the vet so he told him they were on their way in because Pippin wasn’t doing well. When they got to the vet a few minutes later, her heart had already stopped.

Dan missed his plane and went back home. They scheduled him to fly out later in the day. He was trying to process everything that had just happened. We all were. It happened so fast.

It was very sad but I also feel it was meant to be. Dan was able to spend Pippin’s last week with her. Bob and Dan, Pippin’s two favorite people in the world, were with her when she left this world. They did everything they could to help her.

Whenever Dan would go away, he would always spend extra time with Pippin to make sure she was okay before he left. This time it was Pippin’s time to go and it was the hardest. Fortunately, Dan was able to be with her. The dog is gone, Dan has become a man, but because of Pippin, Dan has become a gentler and kinder man. This is a story of a boy and his dog.

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