Dog Speak


Our six year old, dopey black lab lost his best buddy Daisy this week and he is confused. Of course in his defense he usually has a puzzled expression on his face. You know that lab look: one ear up higher than the other, head tilted. Add a silly dog grin and a caption above his head saying “Wait, what?” and you have Duke.

But right now he is walking around very bewildered.

I don’t know what to tell him. I don’t speak very good Dog.

We received a lovely condolences note from Dr. Kennedy that brought more tears. I read it out loud to Mitchel who couldn’t read his shaky cursive handwriting. He nodded solemnly. “Yes. He’s right. She just wasn’t going to get better, was she? We did the right thing helping her, didn’t we? She’s in heaven now, isn’t she?” Can any of us make these heartfelt statements WITHOUT inserting a weak, hesitating question mark after them. But who is going to tell us dog TRUTH better than a wonderful, experienced veterinarian, right?

Dr. Kennedy is a gracious elderly gentleman with kind eyes and an ever so slight tremor in his hands. It takes a special person to show up with the intent of helping a sick dog end her suffering for good. When he arrived four of the children were gathered around Daisy, weeping silently so as not to upset her and bring on another terrible bloody coughing fit. Small loving hands were laid upon her while the first dose of medicine made her relax. And that she did: her tongue flopped out, drunken happy dog, sleeping deep for the first time in over a week. The doctor left our back yard for a few minutes to let us all say our final goodbyes and I tried to help her put her tongue back but the kids just said “Mom, leave her be”.

“Okay, but if I die with my tongue hanging out, I want one of you to put it back in my mouth.”

None of them thought that was funny. Maria made a disgusted noise in her throat.

“No, seriously! Also, I want a mani-pedi. I feel terrible that Daisy has such long toenails.”

Dan and David finally both piped up at the same time: “They’re claws mom! And do you REALLY think she CARES that they’re long right now?”

No. She really didn’t care about her nails that were no longer filed down on their own by numerous daily laps on the concrete around the pool, chasing Duke, happy dog scooting.

Duke laid next to her while she peacefully slumbered, his face two inches from hers. He’d stayed so close to her the last couple days. Did he know? Do animals know? When Dr. Kennedy came back after ten minutes with the serious drugs Duke bristled up and half-ass barked but when the deadly medicine stopped her heart he left her side and laid down much farther away, his back to us.

Later that night, he didn’t ask for his dinner. That was always Daisy’s job. She would pounce around all frisky like a puppy and then he would say “Oh YES! You are right! It’s time to EAT!!!!” and join her in the prancing and cheering and asking. Aside from numerous daily treats, dinner was the best part of the day for Daisy and even when she was sick she still asked for her food. She just didn’t eat it.

Duke would not get on the big dog bed that he usually raced to plant himself on if Daisy made a move to lay on it. He walked around it. We all decided to throw it away. It made us sad.

Everett, the pet memorial guy came with Daisy’s ashes three days later. He was so nice and I got the feeling he would have hugged me if I’d needed a hug. He looked into my eyes and said “I’m here to talk if you need to. My phone number is on the invoice. Call me any time.” and I had to hold back the giggles as I pictured myself making that phone call.

The cost was $190.00. Pet cremations are priced by the pound; Daisy was a skinny fifty-eight pounds. My mom was under a hundred pounds when SHE died but her cremation cost was  $1495.00 and the guy there didn’t offer HIS phone number to me. I think I got ripped off. I kind of wish I’d known Everett back then. Maybe he’d have cut me a deal. But I suppose there are different rules for people. Though really? Is it any different? Mom would have thought it hilarious being taken to the pet place to be cremated.

Okay. Maybe not.

But still.

There must be some kind of government dead person tax that makes it so expensive. Maybe it helps pay for the census.

Okay, I just looked it up. It turns out that there is something called a municipal registration cost. Plus some other things including the Coroner’s certificate. So I wasn’t that far off about the dead person tax. It’s still way cheaper than paying for a casket which can range from $1000-$6500. If you want to embalm your loved one it is another $650.00. Yikes. I hope I don’t die before my 401K is a little more built up. Otherwise Grant just might HAVE to call Everett. But he and I are besties now, so I bet he’d be open minded.

But this post is supposed to be about my dead dog Daisy and Duke the recently perplexed pup.

Although I do need to say that I really hate the idea of being embalmed. If I’m going to have money spent on me to make me look better, I would like to be alive to enjoy all the oooh’s and aaah’s over how gorgeous I look. Except in special cases, embalming  is not required by law. Just so you know. In case you also feel uncomfortable with this. You can say no. Unless you’re dead. Then it’s too late.  I have just now in this post made it clear to MY loved ones that I do NOT want to be embalmed. But you might want to write some of this shit down. So your people know too.

I wonder what those special cases are that would make embalming a legal requirement? THAT would be just my luck.


The fact of the matter is Daisy and I had a very rough beginning to our relationship. When Grant brought her home, a tiny yellow ball of fur and love, without any kind of “I’m bringing a new puppy home” warning I had just completed a positive pregnancy test for baby number six. And while I was semi-excited about the human baby (I mean what are you doing to do, right?),  I was NOT very enthusiastic about the canine baby and expressed this loud and clear. Grinning Grant was unwavering in his puppy joy. Plus he’d gotten her for really cheap. A case of beer actually.

Morning sickness combined with puppy poop and piddle was brutal. Plus I felt way too old to be having another baby. I remember being exhausted and mad and I remained a little detached from sweet Daisy for quite a few years. I hope she didn’t notice. But she probably did. Females (in all species) are pretty good at perceiving negative vibes. Especially when it comes in the form of a two hundred pound screeching psychopath who can’t fit through normal size doorways (I’m pretty sure Mitchel weighed 50 pounds when he was born).

“The puppy pooped on the damn floor again!” Daisy was the ONLY one who ever actually heard me. Siwinski ears go deaf to any words that even imply that there is poop to clean up. She would hang her head in shame and would have cleaned it up herself if she had hands and knew how to use paper towels. Daisy was such a lady, even when she was a puppy. I feel super guilty.

Eleven years happened so fast.

I should have cut her nails but I was worried about hurting her. It was bad enough when I made the babies bleed and cry when I cut too close to the quick. Hurting a dog, especially a sick one, even if you mean well, is a sure fire way to go straight to hell. I tried a couple weeks ago and she pulled her foot away after one attempt. Okay girl, enough said.

I’m not as tough as I used to be. Sixteen years ago I helped our mobile vet operate on our golden retriever Sara, right on our kitchen floor. We had just come home from the hospital with baby Maria and Duncan came running into the house “Mom!!! Sara grew a wiener when you were gone!!” It turned out to be part of her uterus hanging out, all tired and leathery. Our vet told me on the phone “Try rubbing it down with sugar water to soften it up and then see if you can push it back in.” Sara and I had some serious uterus bonding in the bathroom where she couldn’t get away from the sugar water massage but I could NOT get that old puppy holder to go back in. So our cool hippy vet came to the house and we threw a tarp down on the kitchen floor and together (with Grant holding her leg out with a belt but looking away, white as a sheet) we snipped the dried up portion off and closed it up with sturdy dissolving stitches before letting it pop back inside her. It was brutal and awesome to be a part of. She lived another five years before we said goodbye to her, ironically in the very same spot that we said goodbye to Daisy.

Maybe I should smudge that area…let some smokey sage clean away any negative dog vibes that might be lingering. Maybe Duke will stop walking carefully around that spot if he smells sage. I could throw in some cow hoof and maybe some bacon bits. I don’t know. That doesn’t sound very Catholic. Maybe we’ll just cook bacon right there and let Duke have a piece or two. Then we could have BLTs. Yummy.

Yesterday I showed Duke the red plastic heart with Daisy’s ashes in it thinking maybe he would be able to smell her and feel a little better. He just looked at me blankly, wagging his tail. What good is a red plastic heart if it doesn’t have a squeaker?

I told Grant I wouldn’t be so sad over Daisy if Duke wasn’t so depressed.  “It’s just so hard to watch his despair. I wonder if we should contact Caesar the Dog Whisperer.”

He just looked at me like he always does when he thinks I am being a nutcase and picked up Duke’s squeaky ball. He threw it down the hallway and Duke left my side, noisily chasing the ball, bumping clumsily into the walls as he played his silly Duke game of hallway gorilla wall ball with his big feet. After happily entertaining himself for a few minutes he came bounding back, wagging his tail, the drool dripping ball squeaking in his mouth. Grant looked at me “Yeah. He’s pretty depressed.”

“I know” I said solemnly “It will be a long time before he gets over this one.” I should probably clip his nails.


  1. Nolsie says:

    They become such a big part of your life, and particularly your kids lives when the dog is there to help bring them up. We are black lab people, love them. It cost 400.00 to get our previous black lab Daisy cremated. My son wanted to dig a hole in the backyard. We were all so distraught the vet could have suggested having her cryogenically frozen and we would have agreed. Daisy now sits on a shelf in a mahogany box where we can see her. I guess that is good, although $400.00 vs hole in the ground? Anyway, enjoyed your post, keep them coming!


  2. Carole says:

    Love reading your stuff. Losing a dog or cat for me is the time all the grief that was contained from other losses comes out. I think your Mom would have understood the economy of the pet cremation services, definitely!


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