Monday, December 16, 2013

Eulogy For A Childhood Pet: Freckles the English Springer Spaniel

We are gathered here today, 9 years late, to pay our respects to a wonderful childhood pet, Freckles the Springer Spaniel.

The Eulogy I Couldn't Give When I Was Twelve

We had Freckles for as long as I could remember. I'm not completely certain, but I believe my parents found him before I was born. Either way, there is not a moment in my childhood he wasn't part of our family.

When my sister and I were itty-bitty, we used to climb to the top of the slide while Freckles and our Doberman, Cherry, raced around the yard like missiles. We thought their behavior was both terrifying and hilarious.
Freckles the Springer Spaniel
Freckles (Photo property of Megan Folse)

Then Cherry passed away and Freckles was an only dog. Cherry had made it to 14 and Freckles was just a year or two behind. His age started to show. His dark, brown eyes turned milky from cataracts and his vision degenerated. Under his thick, white coat with large, brown spots appeared a couple of fatty tumors. If that wasn't enough, his hearing worsened. But his ears never changed. They stayed soft and curly and he never stopped loving a good scratch behind the ears.

The Last Two Years

Old age was merciless. In dog years, Freckles was about eighty; he was sixteen in human years. On top of the cataracts and tumors and the hearing loss, Freckles had arthritis. In the mornings I would give him a massage until his muscles were warmed up and he could move around. I became so proficient at doggy massages he would fall happily asleep in my arms and when I was done his liveliness reminded me of his younger days tearing through the yard. While massaging him I would rest his head in my lap and massage around his eyes, tenderly pressing his eyelids together so they looked like brown, fuzzy caterpillars. He loved that the most. It put him right to sleep.

One night Freckles had a stroke. He defeated death but the Grim Reaper took his ability to walk in a straight line. He only walked in tight circles. All day long he would spin and spin or sleep. His head hung so low to the ground and his ears were so long he sometimes tripped on them.

I spent plenty of time with Freckles during his last years because I was homeschooled.  He was gentle and loved attention. He was a silly Springer Spaniel; he was the family comedian mostly because he wasn't graceful. Before his stroke he pranced along like a short, waddling deer and he would often step on his ears while digging for gophers. His lips were often pulled back in a big, dopey grin especially when chasing the lizards that loved to warm themselves on the brick wall. He would run back and forth along the wall but they always ran higher than his short frame could reach.

I spent Freckles' last day on Earth taking care of him. It was a bright, sunny day so we stayed outside lying in the sun. I pet him for hours and hours. Because walking to and locating his water bowl was difficult, I brought his bowl to him and helped him drink. I would dip my hands in the water and bring my cupped hands to his face until he could feel the water on his whiskers. I will never forget that day.

The next morning I woke up like any other day but it didn't take long for me to realize life was changing forever. We lost an important member of our family. My parents told my sister and I that Freckles passed away in his sleep. He had another stroke but this time he didn't make it. My parents let us say one last goodbye before my dad took his body to the vet.

Saying Goodbye

My sister and I walked into the garage. Our eyes were already filled with tears and our hearts with grief. From the far end of the garage it looked as if he was in a deep slumber. Any second now he would hear us and startle awake. When I got closer I could see he wasn't asleep. There was no breathing. This staple of my childhood was gone. It's strange how having a pet can define your childhood and once they're gone, your childhood is gone. I knelt and pet him for the last time. I massaged his face like he liked but he was cold. He was as cold as the possum I once tried to rescue from a friend's pool. And he was stiff. He was nothing like the dog he had been the day before.  I loved him so much my heart felt like it would burst. I cried while I whispered "goodbye" into his ears, the ears that stayed the same through everything. "I love you Freckles".

That was 9 years ago, December 16th, 2004.

What I Wrote That Day

My parents did a great job handling the death of our pets. First with Cherry's death and then with Freckles. They involved my sister and I in the death process and even though I cry remembering this memory I will cherish my last goodbye forever. My mother also did something I am grateful for now, nine years later.

My mother encouraged my sister and I to write our favorite memories about Freckles and keep them with us. I still have the letter I wrote to Freckles and some of my favorite memories. I thought I would share them with you today.

My Letter To Freckles

Dear Freckles,
Tell Cherry we miss her and love her. I will miss you a lot but it is time for you to go. Sometimes you seem to not know who I am. When I die, tell Cherry and you to meet me at the rainbow bridge.
Your loving owner,

My Favorite Memories of Freckles

Once when I was very young, I gave Freckles and Cherry a wedding. I said to them, "You're married, so Freckles, you may kiss the bride!" They wouldn't kiss, so I kind of forced them to kiss by putting their noses together. It was pretty funny.

Freckles loved the water. He would go tubing with us. Once, Mom popped her tube and we had to go round and round trying to find our way back to camp. Freckles was enjoying the walk, but we weren't. We finally asked some stranger to take us back to camp. Uncle Bill got yelled at because my sister and dad were left behind.

Another water experience was at Leo Carrillo. We had just gotten Dusty and we found out that the sissy didn't like water. Freckles was running in the water getting soaked and sandy. We had fun. Mom stepped on some sort of bee called a Tarantula Hornet. (I think that's what it's called.)

His last day, he slept all day and I gave him water when he woke up. His tail wagged a lot. He had a great long life. I'll miss him, but he needed to go. I think that is why I don't feel as sad, because God took him in his sleep. He was happy almost all his life. If Dad hadn't found him, he'd be coyote food.

December, 16th, 2004

What is your favorite memory of your childhood pet?

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