It has taken me a few years to get to this, but I am hopeful that by sharing Sweet Pete’s story, I’ll offer my memory of him some rest. It would be an gross injustice to say that Sweet Pete haunts me, but “what could have been” still causes my heart to ache on a fairly regular basis.
My family was kayaking on Easter and we found him near the river. Covered with ticks and fleas, his teeth were worn to nubs from flea biting his entire life. He was emaciated at about 40 lbs. — way too thin for a German Shepherd. He was an oldster, probably well older than 10, my weakness, and he had the kindest eyes. We all fell in love.
When we took him to the doctor to find out why he was listing to one side, we discovered he had a brain tumor. It was tough to see in detail, because the buckshot in his head and neck obscured the view on the radiographs. On day two with Sweet Pete (named after the Easter Bunny) we knew he needed radiation treatment, which the docs said might buy him six months of health.
Determined to give Sweet Pete six months of what he always deserved, we decided to treat him like family and give him a fighting chance. Through 12 weeks of treatment he gave us back these gifts:
He snuggled all night with my teenage daughter.
He protectively shepherded my 2-year-old granddaughter, keeping nefarious characters (our other dogs and a gang of roving chickens) far away from her.
He let us see him learn to play.
He let Charlie-cat boss him around.
He always appreciated my cooking.
He defined, for our whole family, what the “perfect” dog is.
On the twelfth week of treatment, right before his final radiation visit, he started to have severe seizures from the radiation (a known risk) and we had to euthanize him during a trip to the emergency clinic.
Was it worth it? Can 12 weeks of eating buffalo burgers, getting to sleep in a little girl’s bed, running on the farm, and being flea-free make up for a decade of suffering (plus 12 weeks of radiation treatments)? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that he was a good guest in our life and would have loved us and shepherded us with dignity and gratitude as long as he could have.
Now, two years later, my biggest problem is that Sweet Pete unveiled the truth lurking in the rural woods surrounding our affluent community. And that, not Sweet Pete, is what haunts me.–Betsy Banks Saul