When Milo Decided to Stay, it was a funny and emotional event, and he did make it an event! The first few words are the title of the blog I wrote about that, so if you want to read that first, go right ahead. I promise. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll wait right here while you go read that. Have you read it? Good! Now I have to write about something much, much sadder.
It’s time to talk about When Milo left us.
Milo was a good Little Man. He answered to just about anything you called him, even if it wasn’t in English, as long as you called him in a kind voice. Sometimes it was as if he knew what he was being called just by his impish behavior. For instance, he really was quite a character, and he liked to pull pranks when no one was looking. Usually his pranks were on the other dogs like nipping back legs or snatching toys while their attention was diverted. I had told a Norwegian guy I was talking to about him, and he said he sounded like a real ‘liten skit’, or ‘little shit’. I told my dad, who Milo cuddled with on a daily basis, and thus, he had a new moniker, Liten Skit! Whenever he’d get caught pulling one of his mischievous stunts to nab a toy or a treat, dad would call out, “Hey! Liten Skit!” Milo would duck his head, peer around his shoulder and just barely wiggle his long skinny tail. One laugh, and he’d rocket across the room to leap into dad’s lap. After it was established that that was indeed another name for him, he’d even coming running from another room, zooming to whoever had called him. Sometimes he’d turn his head to look at you over his shoulder with a tiny doggy grin acknowledging that he’d been caught, and he was not sorry in the least! Yes, indeed. My Little Man was a real Liten Skit at times, a real charmer, too.
When Milo decided to stay, it truly melted our hearts. He was quite obviously stopping to think about it, the unpacking of his bag of toys. His actions were so very deliberate, we all stopped to watch him. It was such a precious and moving moment. We all felt special because he had thought about it and CHOSEN us. That is a feeling I would wish on everyone, even my worst enemy. Unfortunately, no one had a camera to take a picture. Something we lament to this day.
Over the years, he’d occasionally take a walk about, but he never went very far. It was a little concern, but living out in the woods as we do, our greatest concern was predators. He was 15 pounds (6.8 kilos) at his most heavy. As chihuahuas go, he was a big boy. He wasn’t fat. It was simply his breed. It actually took us a couple of years to determine his breed as being deer head chihuahua. From the side, his head looked very much like a deer’s head and indeed, that distinctive feature is the reason for the name of the breed. They are tough, hardy little dogs, and Milo’s early life was a testament to just how tough they can be.
Milo was a rescue. I, myself, am on disability. It’s not really a turn I had pictured for my life, so after winding up back with my parents, I was feeling very vulnerable, at loose ends, and needy to have a warm little body to hold in my arms. I’d lost my previous little dog to a tragedy the year before. I already had a new dog, but she was a big girl. I love all dogs, but my neediness required a little body to nurture. As it happened, my black lab, Lady Tippy Baskerville, had an appointment at the local low cost clinic. I told the proprietor I was looking for a chihuahua. She immediately brightened up and told me there might be one available IF I didn’t mind a larger breed. He was about 10 pounds (4.5 kilos), but he was still a puppy with more growing to do. However, he probably wouldn’t grow much more, not just because of his breed, but because of the circumstances from which he’d been rescued.
After Tippy’s appointment, Linda proceeded to tell me she felt this little dog and I belonged together. The woman with whom he was currently living had just come in, less than an hour prior to my arrival, to place a notice about him with the clinic. She and her son lived in an apartment, and Milo was into everything when he wasn’t kenneled. However, when he was kenneled, he barked non-stop from the time they left the apartment until they got home. The neighbors were complaining. Things had come to a head, and Milo needed a new home. It wasn’t a decision they had come to lightly. They were broken hearted. You see, Milo’s time with them had started when he was about 8 weeks old, and at this point he was 8 months old. He’d come a long, long way, but his beginnings never left him.
The day after Tippy’s appointment, my mother and I found ourselves sitting in a nicely appointed living room set up to accommodate both a fair sized kennel and a wheelchair. I remember thinking, “I’m going to be taking away the dog of a boy in a wheelchair.” I knew we were there at their invitation. They were interviewing us for that very purpose, but I still felt somewhat like a heel. For the interview, Mom had brought a picture album to show them our home and our yard. While they were looking at it, Milo’s beginnings unfolded in a litany of horrors, and he became entrenched in our hearts. This woman had been part of a rescue operation which had raided and shut down an illegal puppy mill. Having chosen to adopt one tiny, little sad sack for herself, she took him home. She quickly realized he was in much worse shape that had at first appeared. He not only had mange, mites and intestinal parasites, he was malnourished, and examination showed he had already been physically abused. All of this by the time he was 8 weeks old! I can’t imagine this kind of treatment for a large breed puppy but a tiny chihuahua puppy? Well, obviously we passed the interview and Milo left with us. He was a stinker, and he was a joy for the next, almost, nine years.
As I said, Milo’s rough start stayed with him. He suffered on and off with skin issues, especially in his latter years. Aches and pains would crop up. He had a habit of letting out a loud squall when picked up, but it wasn’t consistent, and he was just fine immediately after. He once had a nasty injury we think came from a dog attack while out on one of his sneaky walk-abouts, and his x-rays showed a crooked place in his spine the vet said had to have happened very early in his life. Now we knew what was hurting him, but there was nothing to do but what we had already been doing, pick him up carefully. He was also susceptible to ear and skin issues. As he was getting older, we noticed he was also beginning to get stiff and a bit tottery with arthritis. His cheerful disposition was starting to get a tad grumpy. My ‘Little Man’ was becoming my ‘Little Old Man’. In the end, it was something we never saw coming which took him away from us. We had to let him go less than two weeks from the first signs of the cancer.
Sunday, November 4, 2018 started much as any day with all of our furbabies. No one was out of sorts, least of all Milo. He was his usually chipper self, but later in the afternoon, I noticed a couple of lumps behind his hind legs that hadn’t been there the day before. By Monday, the lumps had spread to his lower belly. I called the vet. The soonest I could get him in was Wednesday the 7th. By the time of his appointment, the lumps had spread to behind his front legs, and all of the prior existing lumps had gotten much larger. They had obviously begun to bother him. The vet was the same doctor who had sewn him up when he’d had his attack injuries a couple of years before. I knew he was a kind and gentle man. This time it was us, his family, who was going to need that kindness. After a bit of light probing, the look on his face said it all. The lumps were all through Milo’s little body, and the doctor wasn’t happy. In a matter of less than three days, the cancer had taken over. The official diagnosis was terminal myeloma.
The doctor told us about all the new treatments that had come out in recent years, and he also told us the expenses involved. His concern was that Milo would be put through treatments that, in the end, would cause him more suffering with little chance of survival than would be in his best interests. He admitted that if we wanted to proceed, he would take our money and provide the treatments, but he felt we deserved to know we should take our baby home and make plans to let him go.
I told him of another dog I knew of who also had cancer in his lymph-nodes who had been put on the steroid prednisone, and the medication had done wonders for him. That little guy was perky and had exceeded his life expectancy by several months already. The vet conceded that sometimes prednisone could slow, even reverse, some of the deprivations of certain cancers, and he was willing to give it a try. However, he really didn’t think that would be the case this time, and they would be there if we needed them.
Tablets in hand, we took our Little Man home and began the treatment exactly as prescribed. We waited. We hoped. We watched as Milo quickly began to grow weaker and have difficulty moving. We waited a little longer. We hoped, and we prayed. All was in vain. I held him in my arms, and as I cried, he tried to help me feel better by licking the tears from my face. As much as he was suffering, he looked at me with his great big, liquid, brown eyes full of love and concern trying to figure out how to make me feel better. On Wednesday, November 14th, I called the vet to make an appointment at the Rainbow Chapel. It was now a matter of less than two days. Milo would be leaving us on Friday, November 16, 2018.
Friday dawned bright and sunny. Clear blue skies were everywhere. It damned well just wasn’t fair! My baby, Milo, was dying that morning, and the world didn’t have the decency to be a crappy, rainy day. We got there early, not that we were in a hurry, and we caught them on a break. Everything at the chapel is done by appointment as the chapel also has its own crematorium. Although the chapel is located at our local Humane Society, the shelter is a ‘no kill’ facility, so they go out of their way to make the chapel as pretty and peaceful as any such place can be. The walls are pale blue with while fluffy clouds. Three of the four walls are fields of flowers beneath the painted on skies. The fourth wall is a large stained glass window featuring fields and hills, cats and dogs, birds and other sweet creatures. No matter how calming the room was supposed to be, waiting was taking its toll on our nerves. How? How could they make us wait!? I was soon to get the answer, and I was so ashamed.
When the receptionist arrived, she was so very apologetic. They’d had a problem with their van which put them behind schedule on pickups. Pickups? She explained that the chapel also services the local veterinary clinics and hospitals by collecting their lost babies to also be cremated respectfully. Even those lost babies who the shelter can’t save with emergency care are cremated for respectful burial. I began to feel better about the wait. I realized we were in the hands of caring people, not people too busy to be concerned for the feelings of those who came to them when there was no more hope and nowhere else to go.
I wish I could remember the name of the man who set Milo free of his pain. He was very apologetic about the wait, about the circumstances of our meeting, and about what he was going to do. It quickly became obvious it wasn’t just a job for him. He truly did care. He gave us a few last minutes to say goodbye. He took a few moments to meet Milo, and then he very gently, with love and care, gave Milo the injection. My baby was so weak, he was gone before the injection was finished.
Through it all, Milo remained a source of sweetness, laughter and love. That little dog really did have an awesome sense of humor, and he tried everyday to make the people around him laugh. He didn’t understand what was happening, but he trusted us to take care of him, to do what was best for him, and yes, I truly do wish I could remember the name of the man who put his arms around me and my mother and cried with us. That was a special man who freed Milo from the pain that had become his life. Milo came into this world in the pain of neglect and abuse by someone who should have cherished him, but he was freed from his world of pain and sickness by a stranger’s hands filled with love.
It was a cold December 31 night in 2017, and I had bundled him up on my bed to spend the night with me. He had come to me to keep him safe from the loud noises outside.
I feel it important to note that Max came along just a few months before Milo crossed the Rainbow Bridge, but Milo had let max know who was Boss Dog. I never will forget the sight of that little fella hanging off the side of Max’s face, growling and shaking, with his feet several inches off the floor. He taught that pup to respect his elders!
My mom and I were at a neighbor’s property taking the boys for a romp and a swim. Well, at least Max romped and swam. Milo enjoyed a nap in the sun in a chair to himself.
Milo liked getting out and walking for a bit. His days of sneaky walk-abouts were in the past, but he did enjoy just walking to the neighbors for a rest in a chair before tottering back home.
As you can see, he very much enjoyed his cushions. He never gave them up to Max unless there was a warm lap and a hand for belly scratching to be had.
The picture above was when we got the bad news. Below was where he had started laying in the afternoons to warm his old bones and aching joints.
Below is the table in the Rainbow Chapel at the Humane Society in my hometown. The gentleman there was very sweet. He spent a little time with Milo, and then he hugged us and cried with us. Real tears. I had not expected such loving care for all of us.
Milo passed peacefully a few minutes after this picture was taken.
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If you like my stuff, help me out by keeping me in coffee. It'd sure be appreciated! (In Memory of my 'Little Man' Milo.)