It was a tough weekend in the Schwartzy household this weekend. On Saturday, 11/16/13, I had to put down my best friend “Cali”, a 14 year old American Staffordshire Terrier who was arguably the greatest dog to have ever walked the earth. I’m pretty sure that one of the worst feelings ever in life is to have to put your dog down. I try to find the bright side in hard times so I’ve been feeling more love & gratitude for being able to experience such a great dog for so many years but it’s definitely been a sad weekend too. I’ve never been more connected to another soul; especially such a sweet and loving soul like Cali. It really has been an amazing experience.
My vet is a guy who I’ve been personal friends with since before I got Cali so he’s known her for a long time AND he just happens to be the best vet in town (Dr Mazur at Clocktower Animal Hospital). Cali wasn’t scared being in the room and it was a very peaceful procedure so that definitely helped. All day Saturday I questioned if it was too soon and if I did the right thing but Dr Mazur, my sister, and a few others kept telling me that it was the right time. By Sunday/Monday, I realized that it definitely was the right time. Cali had bad arthritis and couldn’t walk, was very old, Dr Mazur thinks she had cancer, the meds weren’t having the same affect, she would cry sometimes as if she was in pain, etc. I almost had to put her down 6 months ago but with the help of steroids and other meds, she bounced back for a good 6 months so I’m lucky that I got some extra borrowed time with her. Over the last few years of Cali’s life, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t cuddle up with her and tell her how much I loved her and thanked her for everything.
I got Cali as a puppy when she was about 9 months old. A guy I knew from highschool had her first but he had a lot on his plate at the time and couldn’t really raise a puppy (they’re a lot of work). I fell in love with Cali the second I met her so I kept trying to talk my friend into letting me have her. I was in my early 20’s, had 2 roommates, and lived in a big townhouse so I knew it would’ve been a better situation. Over the next 2 months, I kept badgering him about it and he eventually said I could have her if I really wanted to. The day I found out was one of the greatest days of my life. I got the news in Ocean City, MD during a weekend beach trip with some friends. Cali was there at the beach and I remember she chased a cat into some bushes and the cat fought back and sliced her ear open with her claws and Cali’s ear wouldn’t stop bleeding. So, my first experience caring for my new puppy involved holding towels against her ear for the entire 3 hour trip back home from the beach because it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Years later, I realized that for as much as I cared for her, she took care of me just as much.
Over the last 14+ years… if I was ever having a bad day, Cali would walk up to me and either lick my face or just cuddle up to give me lovin’. I often feel like I live a blessed life and it’s rare for me to be depressed or have a super shitty day and I think I owe a lot of that to my dog. She always had the greatest attitude, was so well behaved, smiled non-stop, and just loved to be alive and around me. I learned a lot about how to live from Cali.
I got my new pitbull puppy, Niya, about 2 years ago because I knew I would want another dog after Cali passed away and I wanted a puppy to learn her awesome ways while she was still alive. I can honestly say that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Cali has done an AMAZING job helping me raise Niya. She’s learned sooo much from Cali and is turning out to be just as awesome and pretty amazing herself.
So anyway, this is what Cali taught me:
1) Live every day to the fullest
Dogs live for the now, and we all need to remember to do the same. If Cali ever got in trouble for having an accident in the house or anything else, she’d feel terrible about it at the time. After the moment was over, she would never dwell on it and she’d live in the moment and be happy again shortly thereafter. She also learned from her mistakes. By the time she was 4 years old, she was perfect and rarely did anything wrong. We also shouldn’t decide to hold off on doing activities with our dogs if we’re feeling lazy that day. We’re all winners if we take them for a run / walk, take them on that road trip, buy them that big raw hide from Petco, etc. It’s the best thing ever for them and the look on their face is a memory you’ll carry with you for a long, long time.
2) Remember the small things
Some of my favorite memories about Cali are the small ones: the way she loved fortune cookies more than any other food and could tell I had one the second she heard the wrapper. The way she would smile at me if she was really happy. The day she learned how to roll over on command. The way she learned to bark at me when she had to go potty. The way she accepted the new puppy into the family and first cuddled up with her (and put her in check if she got too puppy crazy). The way she would sneeze every time she rolled over on her back when I’d rub her belly. The way she always needed to be under a blanket when she slept, etc. I once went to Dewey Beach for a weekend trip and had a friend watching Cali that weekend at my house. The plan was to have my friend go to my house to walk Cali Saturday night and then I’d leave the Beach at 8am early Sunday morning so that I’d be home in time that morning to walk/feed her. Well, a car crashed into the Bay Bridge and fell into the water early that morning and the only road that took me home was shut down for the entire day and I didn’t get back home until almost midnight that night. I was sure Cali would’ve gone to the bathroom all over the house since she was there alone all day but she held it in the entire time. I’ll never forget her excitement when I got home and she ran all over the house to say, “Look…I didn’t poop or pee HERE either! Or here…look! Aren’t you proud of me? How awesome is this?!!”. She held it in for 24 hours and was so excited to show me. That was incredible to me for some reason and the cutest/coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget that.
3) Take pictures (and video!).
14 years ago, we didn’t have cell phones that could take pics/video so I don’t have a ton of video of Cali but I’m so thankful for what I do have. In hindsight, I should’ve taken way more pics/video of her so I could remember all of the different stages of her life and things we did. She has looked so old the last few years and it’s crazy to see her go from a young / strong puppy to old and weak. Pics and videos are great ways to go back and remember those moments.
4) Remember what they brought into your life, and you to theirs.
Cali was my family. In many ways, she was a daughter, a best friend, a protector, etc. She took just as great care of me as I did her. A lot of people get stir crazy in their own home but I absolutely loved staying in on the weekends and chillin with my dog curled up on the couch watching movies. Something that simple was often some of the most precious times of my life. Also, if I was ever in love and the relationship didn’t work out for whatever reason and we broke up, Cali was always there to give me lovin and helped me get through a few tough heartaches with her kisses and big goofy smiles.
5) Love them every day like it may be their last.
This is how we should be with everybody we love – and with how we live our lives because we never know when our time will be up. The older Cali got, the more I could see her withering away. She had less energy, went from a super strong dog to being weak and fragile, etc. I gave her as much lovin as I possibly could because over the last few years, I really never knew if it would be her last day. I’m lucky she lived such a long, healthy, great life and her passing wasn’t such an abrupt shock (and that she went out in the most peaceful/loving way ever). I was really able to appreciate all of the last days of her life because I knew her time was near. Cali definitely loved being alive, which made me love being around her.
Cheers to the greatest dog that ever was. What an incredible run we had together!
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