Chipper was my 12 1/2 year-old cocker spaniel. Yes, I mean was. His last day was November 15.
During his half-year checkup on October 3, the vet found an enlarged spleen. It was almost three times its normal size. An enlarged spleen is a symptom of a problem, cancer, a bad infection, or a problem with his blood. One possibility was to remove his spleen. But the vet wanted to make sure that, if he had cancer in his spleen, it hadn’t spread. So we ran tests, more than we should have, but couldn’t find the cause. Two types of antibiotics also didn’t help or provided temporary improvement.
Chipper’s red cell counts were dropping and he became anemic. It became clear that surgery was not in his future and we chose to make him as comfortable as possible. A dog is anemic when his packed cell volume falls below 35%. Chipper’s was 24% two weeks before he died. The vet said that dogs feel very bad when it falls below 20%.
By the time we euthanized him, he seemed ready. He’d sit outside in the freezing cold, either too weak to move or wanting to die. He reminded me of native people that wander outside to die in the cold. He often seemed confused and bumped into things. Sometimes he’d get restless and wander around. He didn’t seem to be in pain, just tired. I had to carry him up and down stairs. He lost most of his interest in food until we put him on prednisone. But even that lasted only a month. When he refused to eat bacon, we knew it was time. He had lost at least six pounds and was only skin and bones, or as the vet said, “Skin and bones and a spleen.”
Chipper could have died as a two-month old puppy if not for my mom’s diligent care to save him from double pneumonia. She missed our last family reunion to take care of him. The pet store offered her a replacement puppy, and my mom knew that meant they would kill him.
“Cocker’s aren’t very bright, but Chipper is the stupidest cocker I’ve known,” my sister said. He always was mentally slow and that made us laugh.
Chipper lived with my mom until she passed away when he was eight. I remember him and Buffy (my other cocker) trembling on the floor of my backseat the first time I drove them to my house. He had never been outside of his yard, other than for trips to the vet. My mom didn’t walk him and she didn’t want anyone to show him that there was a world outside of his gated backyard. When my sister visited and took him for his first walk, he had his eyes opened wide.
When Chipper and Buffy became my dogs, I took them to obedience classes. They were the oldest participants. My husband, Mitch, worked with one dog while I worked the other and we’d switch halfway through class. But they both wanted to be with me, having known me since they were puppies and not knowing Mitch very well.
Chipper almost failed to pass his Canine Good Citizen test when he decided he’d rather go see Buffy than come to me. But he got a second chance and passed.
Chipper’s life changed quite a bit at my house. He got to go camping and even canoeing and hiking in the woods. He even attended one day at the 2015 BlogPaws conference.
His routine involved going for walks three times a day, and he got to meet (and bark at) many dogs. His favorite walk was to McDonalds where I would sometimes buy him an ice cream cone.
Most of all, Chipper was a foodie and this bonded him to my husband Mitch, who is the cook. Chipper loved chunks we always said, while Buffy liked bits and broth. Chipper knew that Mitch would toss him treats during dinner, or while he was cooking. Pot licking time after dinner was Chipper’s favorite time of day. Bacon was his favorite food.
Mitch gave Chipper a voice, always speaking in a deep, slow tone that matched Chipper’s slow mentality. His Chipper voice made me laugh, as he seemed to capture the dog’s thoughts.
Chipper had good health throughout his life, having only several torn ACLs on each of his back legs. But he recovered without surgery, and only needed rest.
He feared thunderstorms and fireworks, and would wake me up while pacing our bedroom. Soliquin and Treatibles helped him a great deal. The last two years he slept through the fireworks grand finale.
I loved Chipper’s smile and he was very cute. He seemed to smile more when he lived with me and his favorite time was getting tidbits from dinner.
Mitch created the Cocker Spaniels Union, Local 633 (my address). Only Buffy and Chipper belonged, with Chipper as the shop steward. Chipper always let me know if I was in danger of violating the contract by reminding me when treats were due. I even bought bandanas for them with Union Steward marked on his. Now that he is gone, Buffy is missing out on treats since Chipper isn’t there to remind me.
Chipper and Buffy made quite a pair. Buffy is now alone for the first time in her life. So far she is okay, but I’m not sure it has sunk into her head that he is not coming back.
Goodbye Mr. Chips. You were a good, funny, little dog. We’ll miss you.
My vet sent me a nice card with The Last Battle Poem from an unknown author. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeBhCZxwSCY
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