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Saying Goodbye To Ugly

12 years ago I graduated high school after 4 horrendously terrible years. I hated high school. It was a miracle that I graduated and my family wanted to celebrate and commemorate this monumental achievement so they gave me a choice: Disney or a cruise to the Caribbean. I chose the cruise.

Unfortunately this meant leaving our pets for a week and there was 1 pet whom we loved very much but was failing quite rapidly and would not survive a week in a kennel so we made the decision to humanely and peacefully euthanize our sweet Beagle Patty at the age of 16. It was horrible but it was the right thing to do...

I've always been a dog lover and I wanted nothing more than to return home and adopt a new dog but I lived with my parents and therefore did not make the rules of the house. Not to mention I was going to college in the fall and would not be home to care for and enjoy the company of a new canine companion. So the answer, despite my pleading was no. The answer stayed "no" until about 2 years later; after I had dropped out of college, moved home, became employed working with dogs and proven that I was sticking around and able to adequately care for a new pooch. I had been relentlessly begging my father to allow me to adopt with the tenacity and persistence of a spoiled 5 year old. He is a tough and stoic Irishman but I'm his baby and after 2 years of me grating on him he finally broke down.

But, in typical Dad fashion there was to be a compromise. I could get a dog if I paid for it, cared for it and he had to have NOTHING to do with it. He was not going to feed it, care for it or pay for it. It was MY responsibility. I was OK with this! Then he said "NO RESCUES. I don't want a dog with issues. You can get a Jack Russel. A puppy. A boy."

I think all the years of being the only man in the house had finally gotten to him. He needed some damn testosterone under the roof! He needed to know that he was the man of the house and he made the rules. So I agreed to let him think that he was and bounded upstairs to my computer where I started researching Boston Terrier rescue sites.

One link lead to another and somehow I stumbled upon a face so ugly only a mother could love it. I remember when I showed my mom she gasped "WHAT IS THAT THING!?" Horrified. She didn't even recognize that this "thing" this beautiful little creature was a dog. In her defense the picture was pretty terrible. I'll always regret that I didn't save the picture to prove it, but you'll have to take my word for it.

Her eyes bulged so big you would think that you were looking at a 3D picture; they practically leaped off the screen.. She had ears that were so big you wondered how it was possible that they could stand up, but stand they did. Her neck fur stood out straight from the sides of her neck like a lions main that had fallen away from her face; or a popped collar on a frat boys polo shirt. She had a smug smile that was hidden under a mustache and a beard. She looked wet and I'm not sure why but the appearance made it seem like she had just crawled out of a sewer pipe.

Her name was Lexi and I couldn't understand why. Lexi is such a girly name for a girly dog. This dog looked like she was pieced together by a rebellious employee who worked at the dog making factory. It was like someone took all the discarded defective parts and created this beautiful disaster and gave her the name Lexi to cover up the fact that she could've been Frankenstein's dog. Her name was Lexi but soon enough she would be called Ugly and she would be mine. Over the years she had many aliases: Lexi Lu, Lu Lu, Lu, Lucifer (for when she was being extra bad) but more often than not we just lovingly referred to her as Ugly.

Her profile said she was 2; born July 6, 2005. Just a couple months after we laid our sweet Patty Beagle to rest. Coincidence? Personally I don't think so. I think sometimes one soul needs to move on to make room for another. I do not think that Patty was reborn as Lexi because Patty was as sweet as she was dumb...I knew before meeting Lexi that she was going to be a challenge. Her profile told me that she was 2 years old, seeking her forever home. She had been surrendered to a kill shelter when she was born and rescued by an organization shortly after that. As a puppy she bounced around several different foster homes always being surrendered to a new family because of her strong will and defiant personality. The longest she stayed with 1 family was 5 months. I met her when she lived with this family. They loved her and treated her well hiring a trainer and having her put on anxiety medication to help her relax a little. They were not going to give up on this little mess and they were determined to house her for as long as necessary so that if and when she was adopted she would stay with that new family forever. For the first year and a half of her life Lexi was given up on, passed from home to home and treated like an inconvenience. 3 people came to meet Lexi when she lived with the family that saw her true potential. 3 people opted not to adopt her once they met her.

I didn't tell my dad that I had found a monster mutt, I didn't tell him she was a rescue or even that she was a she but I did tell him I was going to meet a dog. I'll never forget his face when we walked in the door. I've never seen my strong, stoic father smile so big and laugh so loud! His reaction was priceless, he was both startled and completely in love all at once. He could barely ask what she was because he was so caught off guard! He tried to regain his composure quickly and act as though he was disappointed that she did not meet his criteria but he was in love at first sight. There was no denying the connection they formed.

Over the course of the next month Lexi challenged me and there were several times that I would burst into tears wondering "what the hell did I do!?" I wondered if it were too late to "return her" and asked myself what they would do with her if I did. The day I picked her up her foster parents waved goodbye and assured me that if she needed to come back she would always have a home with them...I seriously considered their offer more times than I'd like to admit as she'd look me right in the eye and defiantly pee on the rug; then there were the times that she'd nip at me; she loved to talk back barking at me whenever I'd say "no!" she would run for an open door like a dart, shred tissues, steal clothes and eat your food right off your plate. She was smart. Smarter than any dog I'd ever met and she used her smarts to commit evil acts. I cried because I wanted a dog that loved me and I swore she did the day that I met her at her foster parents house. She bounced from me to my mom to my sister to her foster parents, then she grabbed a toy and played with her foster brother a Boston, then came back to me to stand and bark at me. "woo-woo-woo!" It was the funniest bark I'd ever heard and I swear she was saying "I pick you" before she started ricocheting around the room again.

Had I misunderstood the "woo-woo-woo" bark? Had she really been saying, "hey! F YOU!" or "you suck human!" or "I'm going to DESTROY YOU!" I knew in my heart that she was meant to come home with me. I knew that all she needed was a little love and a little guidance but she nearly threatened to destroy me those first few weeks.

Right after my 21st birthday my dad was diagnosed with cancer and it was one of those earth shattering moments where your world is rocked. He was fine one day and the next he was in the ICU with a tube down his nose and cords connected to every part of him. Turns out what he thought was appendicitis was appendix cancer which is super rare. My dad was never sick a day in his life and suddenly he was cut wide open to remove his appendix and 3 feet of his colon then stapled back together...my worst fear was losing him but he's as stubborn as he is strong and he knew he had my sisters wedding in just over a month. He was going to walk her down the aisle goddamn it. None of us knew how that was going to happen since the mere act of standing was incredibly painful but he would do it and Lexi would help.

I was so scared that this ball of boundless energy would be my fathers demise. I imagined her jumping onto his stomach and opening his wounds or knocking him over and sending him back to the hospital but when my dad shuffled into the door, hunched over holding a pillow against his stomach something snapped in Lexi and suddenly this little terror-terrier became a nurse. She laid with him while he rested and licked his hands. He called her his chemo dog. She was happy to be his furnace when the chemo left him shivering and provide laughter in the moments that he needed it most with her antics. She was like a jester putting on a show for the king and she never disappointed.

But she wasn't just there to keep him company while he rested.She knew that had a beautiful bride to escort down a long aisle so she demanded that he get up. She was a terrible walker-she LOVED to pull but for my dad she walked slowly and cautiously, pulling him gently but only when he needed it and thanks to Lexi not only did he walk my sister down the aisle but he danced the night away with my mom; his wife of over 30 years and me too. Lexi was not physically at the wedding but she was in spirit. We all knew we had her to thank for the miraculous recovery he made.

As I mentioned Lexi was not at the wedding. She went to stay with a woman I had met through the rescue for a couple days so that she would be safe and well cared for while we got everything organized and sorted out for the wedding. We loved her but having her to care for on top of all the last minute arrangements was difficult and for a dog as stressed out as Lexi it was better for all involved if she could go on her own little vacation. She did well, she enjoyed the fenced in yard and the opportunity to play tricks on a new person. When I went to pick her up the woman who was babysitting her told me a story that I'll never forget. Lexi had been out playing in the yard with the other dogs but apparently decided that she needed some alone time (typical Lexi) and disappeared. The woman babysitting panicked calling friends and family to create a search party and canvas the streets. They walked and searched for hours calling out for her but she didn't appear. The woman babysitting her started practicing breaking the news that she had lost my new addition. My sweet baby. She had no idea how she would be able to deliver this news and devastate me. She was absolutely sick with worry as she opened the door to her house to find Lexi standing on the dining room table looking at her like "where have you been, you crazy person?" As if a dog standing in the middle of the table is perfectly normal. But that was Lexi.

We became good friends over the course of the next couple months. She stopped peeing on the rug while maintaining eye contact, she stopped trying to bite me and I learned if I didn't want her to have something not to leave it where she could get it (which is more challenging than it sounds because I SWEAR she has Go Go Gadget arms and can reach something if she wants it bad enough!) We learned to always keep the toilet seat down, not to use trash cans (even pet proof ones) and protect your dirty laundry with your life unless you didn't mind all of your items looking like Swiss cheese. She taught me and I taught her. She was quick and eager to learn tricks. She learned to sit, lay down and thanks to Grandma (my mom) she learned to roll over. She learned to "leave it" and stopped stealing food off your plate. Unless of course you left it unattended in which case it was fair game and she'd help herself.

In January 2008 just a few short months after I had adopted Lexi my then girlfriend Amy from Iowa came out to MA to help me move. She was terrified of dogs and I knew this. I assured her Lexi was small and wouldn't hurt her but she was wary. Lexi had been given a rawhide pine cone as a Christmas gift from a family friend and it has become one of our favorite memories of her. When Amy walked through the door Lexi's huge eyes became even bigger as she peeked out from under her eyebrows and she started wagging her tail so fast her bum was taken along for the ride. She looked around and suddenly ran out of the room, returning with her pine cone in her mouth. She followed Amy around the rest of the night with her bum low and her tail wagging a hundred miles an hour, pine cone in her mouth. She loved Amy from the moment they met and Amy loved her. Cautiously. Clearly this dog was deranged and obsessive but she was hard not to love.

Amy became "Mama Deuce" that day. Lexi loved her Mama Deuce and changed Amy's opinion about dogs forever. She never knew how much you could love a dog or how much a dog could love you until she met Lexi and her life was changed forever.

There are so many beautiful memories I could share from her first trip to the beach, to the time she ran away at the Mississippi in Iowa, to the time she stood in her pool and sneezed accidentally dunking her face in the water; she came up looking shocked eyebrows, mustache and beard dripping. She looked so pitiful but I could not help but laugh such a deep cathartic laugh that I almost forgot she was sick and her time here with us was limited. She gave me a gift that day. She gave me a gift everyday.

Physically I had Lexi for 9 years and 11 months. She celebrated her 12th birthday with us and on her 12th year and 7th day of her beautiful life she left us. She left us brokenhearted, filled with sorrow and regret and beautiful memories...

We knew she was sick; about a month and a half ago she was diagnosed with Cushings and we found out she had a large mass taking up an entire lobe of her liver. She had started losing her fur making her even uglier than she already was but we loved her more everyday regardless. We didn't love her for her outsides; although personally I do believe that added to her charm. We loved her for what was inside. Unconditional love, a brain that never stopped and a relentless sense of humor.

She became sick on Wednesday and as we loaded her into the car to go to the emergency vet I knew we wouldn't be returning home with her. My beautiful, strong, girl was ready...but we weren't. We aren't sure exactly what happened; could've been another tumor, could've been the tumor she did have bleeding out we don't know but what we do know was that she was in a tremendous amount of pain and she was suffering.

They told us we could have all the time we wanted to say goodbye but we didn't want much. There was no amount of time that was going to make it easier and every moment we put it off was another moment she had to suffer. When they brought her into us wrapped in a thick cozy blanket and I held her in my arms and told her that my sister was coming. Her ears perked up and she looked happy, though I could feel her heart beating like a sledgehammer and I knew that she was in pain. My sister came, she petted Lexi and Lexi gave her one last kiss...then Kim left the room and I held my sweet girl while Amy petted her head, looked into her eyes and told her "it was going to be alright. The doctor asked if we were ready and I asked for just one more kiss which Lexi happily gave. She kissed my cheek and tasted the salt of my tears and then she kissed her Mama Deuce and went to sleep in my arms surrounded by so much love...I felt her leave. I felt a shudder in my chest and in my spine like her spirit passed through me on her way to the Rainbow Bridge. I felt gratitude and peace and I know that was her but just as quickly as I felt it I felt a tremendous void. It's like an abyss has moved into my chest and no one and nothing will ever fill that void.

The vet made an imprint of her paw and we will pick up her cremains as soon as they are ready. These are the last remaining items I have of my Ugly. I cannot pet her velveteen ears ever again. I will not hear her enthusiastic "woo-woo-woo" bark or the tapping of her excited feet while she waits to go for a walk or go for a ride in the car. I'll never get to see her run full speed and jump onto her Grandpa again. She left me with such beautiful memories and so many lessons but she left me. She left us...

I know she is at peace. I'm thankful for the 9 years and 11 months she was with us physically and I'm thankful for the memories we'll always have but I miss my baby. Those who knew her loved her and those who didn't would've.

My sweet girl taught me it's possible to overcome anything as long as you are determined and tenacious. She taught me about second, third and one millionth chances. She reminded me that love is unconditional and taught me not to hold grudges...she always forgave me when I wasn't perfect. She was special and unique and not just because of her appearance. She wasn't just a dog; she was my soulmate and I love her and I miss her more than I ever thought would be possible.

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If I knew it would end like this, with tears and such crippling heartache would I do it again? Would I make the decision to put myself through this? Yes. As much as it hurts to lose her, I'd do this all over again in a heartbeat because the pain I feel could never equal the love I feel for her and because of her.

07/06/2005-07/13/2017




























Comments

  1. Love and peace to you and your whole family... I'm so sorry for your loss, and grateful for the wonderful years you shared. Thanks for your story.

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