long, dark pee-time of the soul


So it has come to this: Chopes has a tumor just about everywhere you can have a tumor, and his back legs are so weak that I have to push him up the stairs. He started peeing uncontrollably on all our carpets, and every once in a while takes a dump in the hallway. He wipes out every time he tries to make a right turn – and the night of the party, he ate a box of chocolate. He is about to be sixteen years old.

And yet, he still waggles his tail, prances around the entire place like a scrounge hound, barks at all the delivery guys, and once I get him going outside, he even runs alongside me. In short, if you weren’t cleaning up after him – and if you didn’t have an ultrasound providing a window to his insides – you’d swear he was about five.

Tessa and I are in agreement: you don’t kill a dog for your convenience. Even though he threatens to turn our apartment into a third-world jail latrine, he has given us so many years of loyal service that you just have to keep cleaning up. Put it this way: he was conceived in the 1980s. He howled outside Graham Hall when I was still a student at Carolina. The dog stays until he explodes.

Which does bring up an issue. There are no good dog diapers anywhere on the market. The disposable ones fall off when he starts to walk, and the permanent diapers with removable liners don’t cover his wiener. So I have to ask: there are a lot of frickin’ aging incontinent dogs in this world, and nobody has the cajones to step up to the plate for a real diaper?

Finally, I had to think outside the box. The last time I bought Depends™ diapers it was Halloween 1991 when I tested them myself, and I didn’t think I’d be doing that again until the year 2060. But there I was at the Key Foods on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn with a giant MonsterPak of Depends™ with every chick in line looking at me like I was about to pee on them. Man, it’s great to be married.

Anyway, I got them home, cut a tail hole and strapped ol’ Chopes in. And I have to say, so far, so good. If an adult diaper works on Señor Poopypants, then he can fade into the sunset for as long as he likes.


0 thoughts on “long, dark pee-time of the soul

  1. Mom

    Taking care of two housemates in diapers is a lot, I know, but well done, Ian. People will make fun of you… not so much for the DoggieDepends but for keeping him so long past the nuisance factor. I don’t care, I’m with you. A dog you’ve had for a long time, who has made you laugh, kept you company when no one else was around, licked the tears off your face, put up with nuisance and old age lameness with the kind of class ole Chopes has… well, no. You can’t just say, “You’re getting to be too much trouble, so…”

  2. CL

    It sounds like he’s still happy to be alive and happy to be getting so much love.
    When the time comes, some vets will still come to the house so dogs can be euthanized where they are most comfortable, rather than at the vet’s office. It’s a hard thing to contemplate, but there are some who do it.
    I had my beloved Meg for 14 years until she got cancer (as most of them seem to sooner or later)… Dogs never live long enough.

  3. JJE

    My mom just went through the very same thing with her sixteen year old dog – tumors, total loss of control of his body functions, etc. The vet basically told her that once he stopped eating and drinking, then it was probably “time.”
    So for months, day after day, sometimes hour after hour, she cleaned up after him and did it willingly because she loved him. That little dog was her last tangible link to my stepfather, who passed away from cancer himself in 1999, so she did everything in her power to keep him alive and comfortable for as long as possible. Sadly, he passed away just days after my beloved Cobi cat. It was a very bad week for our family.
    (I only wish it had been a matter of convenience with my cat – I tearfully begged the vet up to the very last second to assure me I was doing the right thing. Had he acted even the slightest hesitant in his response, that’s all I would have needed to rush out of there with Cobi. He was a good doctor – even sent me a kind condolence note afterwards, reiterating that I had made the best decision for Cobi and that he commended me for doing everything possible to save him. Still hurts like crazy, though.)
    Anyway, my mom’s carpets and floors are a wreck, but she’s having them all replaced. To her, it’s a small price to pay for the extra time she had with her little buddy.
    So here’s another “well done” from this corner of the world. And my best to those in diapers and the loving souls who change them.
    Speaking of diapers, I was doing the usual massive amount of laundry today (where the hell does it all come from?) and as I was sorting baby laundry, I pulled a wadded up Pampers (thankfully a wet one, not a dirty one) out of the hamper. The power of sleep deprivation…

  4. ken

    Kudos for keeping Chopes around despite the messy cleanup, that’s admirable, Nature’s Miracle works really well on pet odors and stains.
    I certainly hope this will be the first holiday season in three years that we don’t have to put a pet down. Two years ago, our Siamese cat Luna succumbed to Feline Leukemia. The cat we got to ‘replace’ her–Vito–was with us for only a year before FIP (which had never even heard of) got the better of him in early 2005.
    We had a bit bit of scare today as our beloved pooch Bella (3 years old) was whimpering everytime she had to jump up or down. A trip to the vet proved that she doesn’t have anything major, so we feel better about that but still have our fingers crossed.
    When the time does come you could do what a friend of ours did when it came time for his beloved Murphy (who also was a ‘college’ dog) to go. We had a BBQ and he brought Murph along to play with all the other dogs in attendance (five in all) for one last time, then he put him to sleep the next day.

  5. Mary Frances Edens

    I recently got a dog from a rescue. I am her eighth owner because she had accidents all over the house. The rescue provided me with a little “jumper” which, with velcro, fastened around her shoulders. It had a hole for her tail and a slot for a kotex. We used it for about three weeks and it worked very well. With medication (Proin) and lots of treats she is now housebroken. I returned the jumper to the rescue but I noticed it had a lable inside so it must be available for sale.
    I have been blessed with three dogs who lived to such a ripe old age that they had to be “put to sleep.” You will know when it is time and until then enjoy each other.

  6. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Chopes! I have been wondering about you since Ian’s last mention of you in one of his entries. You hang in there, buddy. Keep barking at the UPS man! Getting old is not for sissies, is it? I am glad to hear that you are being given a lot of love from your people. I hope that you get lots of treats for Christmas. I am sending you a big smooch over the Internet! My beagle Jack shouts out a “Woof!” your way!

  7. Just Andrew

    2 years ago this upcoming February, I had to put Owen down as Lymphoma got the best of him, just short of age 12.
    I really didn’t want to do it, separating out my desires to have him around versus the pain he was in was a difficult proposition at best. I didn’t want to be in control of someone else’s life, I wanted someone else to tell me when it was time, but that wasn’t going to happen.
    He had about 2 months about as you described. Then one day it was realy obvious he wasn’t having fun anymore – he didn’t get up and stopped eating and drinking. The vet gave me a tranquilzer, which I made Owen take, then we drove down to the lake and I sat with him as he looked around at his favorite stomping grounds. The drive from the lake to the vet’s was horrible. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
    2 years later and I’m in tears just thinking about it. He was a great dog and a great friend.
    I don’t know if ‘Chopes is on any meds, but ask your vet about Rymadil – it was the wonder drug for Owen. He was hit by a car when he was 3 and his back legs were stiff enough that he couldn’t climb stairs. 1/2 of a Rymadil every other day and he thought he was a puppy again and almost made it to age 12. After the lymphoma diagnosis, the vet was willing to up his dose, as the potential side effects were at that point irrelevant to his comfort care.
    Ugh. I hope ‘Chopes has lots more good time in him.

  8. salem's little sister

    I’m with you Ian. As long as Chopes is happy, do whatever you have to do. Our poodle Princess(I got her when I was 7, hence the name), lived for 17 years. She was such an important part of our family. She was my first responsibility and I remember being so proud that I took care of her. She was my play”horse”, jumping sticks and trash cans in the back yard until I got a real pony. When my dad died my senior year, she stayed by my side. I can’t imagine how many tears I cried to her. For years, she put up with Bear’s crap and as you know Ian, Bear was no easy dog. He followed her around as a puppy and grew up thinking he was a poodle. Only Salem would have a Rotweiller prancing around like a poodle(just kidding Brother).
    When I went off to college, Princess kept my mom from being alone and when she married Doug, Princess became his dog. She had a special way of making you feel that you were her most favorite, but I truly believe she loved Doug the most.
    Putting her to sleep several years ago was a tender, heart-breaking moment. It makes me cry even now. We took her to the yard at the vet’s office, laid her in the sun and told her how much we loved her and thanked her for loving us. We put her to sleep in the office, on her favorite blanket, while we kept our hands on her. I told her my dad was waiting for her and she just went to sleep. I remember being shocked at how fast it happened.
    I also had to put to sleep my most beloved horse a few years ago and she died with her big, grey head in my lap. Both experiences were terrible and beautiful. I’m so thankful that when the time comes, we can help ease our pets to sleep. I believe that animals go to Heaven, because it wouldn’t be Heaven to me without them. When I go, I hope to be carried accross on Crystal’s back with Princess running beside me.
    I’m not worried about my dogs, Parker(beagle LFMD!) and Sadie(mutt) because their going to live forever.
    So, long live Chopes!

  9. Anne D.

    Chopes somehow maintains his dignity in that pic, even with the Depends. I’m wondering why he doesn’t immediately chew it off, though? Our Daisy would!
    To date we’ve had to put three beloved dogs down, and we lost a fourth as she came out of exploratory surgery for liver tumors. It is always excruciating, but it really does help if you can be there holding them when the vet puts the needle in. Dear sweet things… how nice for humans that evolution and breeding produced furry unconditional-love machines.
    Best to you all. Daisy sends an encouraging “woof” to Chopes.

  10. Deb

    Ian and Tessa- So sorry to hear about your pup. And commenters, I’m sorry to hear your stories as well.
    CL is right: I know of at least 2 vets in Manhattan who do at-home euthanasias, when the time comes. I can only remember one off the top of my head, Dr. Leshanski. I remember him being highly recommended.
    I worked as an assistant at veterinary hospitals for about 3 years. Counseling pet owners and assisting in euthanasias were both the hardest and most rewarding aspects of the job. Seeing people who let go (and those that couldn’t) left me with the notion that euthanasia is a gift, the last we can give our pet. The grief and loss you feel aren’t alleviated, but for me, knowing that my pet simply, literally, went to sleep, peacefully, gently, is a tiny bit of comfort. On the flip side, my mom was one of those who couldn’t let go. Our family’s springer spaniel had lymphoma, and she decided to go the surgery/chemo route. When one day he couldn’t walk, she brought him in and just couldn’t be the one who made the DNR call. Sadly, he was “worked on” until the end. It wasn’t that he *was* sick for months before he died, it was that he *felt* sick. And I guess that’s where I will have to someday draw the line. The comfort of my animals (not my living quarters, and not my own needs) is what is most important to me.
    Mary Frances is correct: you’ll know when he wants to go. When that time comes, I wish you the strength to give Chopes that gift.
    Uch…I’m so sorry. Steve is dreading the death of one of our cats so profoundly that he’s begun seriously investigating cloning.

  11. Cris

    My cat Flannery went a similar route. I got him and his sister when they were only 6 weeks old in 1990. When Flan hit about 7 or 8 he developed medical problems – the details of which aren’t important, but the bottom line was that he rarely made it to a litterbox. Aside from that, though, he was very healthy and happy. It was a huge strain cleaning up after him, and I had to develop creative ways to protect my condo lest he completely destroy the carpets and wood floors. But he was my devoted buddy, and like you and Tessa, I felt I couldn’t put him down just for my convenience. He lived to be a little more than 12 when he finally succumbed to cancer. His sister’s still with me (at 16) – I think we both miss his companionship.
    Can’t remember if I ever mentioned this in an earlier post on Chopes – but I distinctly remember meeting him for the first time when he was just a puppy in Tessa’s kitchen (on McCauley Street, I think…?). I was getting ready for a big recital in which I was playing the G minor ballade… so I toasted his great name then, and I toast him again now. Here’s to many more happy days with you, Tessa, and Lucy.

  12. xuxE

    natures miracle is right up there with household staples like dishwashing soap, for me:
    1 pitbull/rotti or lab mix
    1 pitbull/great dane/pony mix
    1 silver cat
    2 small children
    it also works on wet mattresses during the nighttime toilet training years…

  13. Just Andrew

    Now I’m wondering if Owen knew ‘Chopes?
    I lived on McCauley Street from about June of ’92 to June of ’93. Owen had a fenced in back yard, but he could climb up to a low branch and launch himself over.
    Apparently while I was gone during the days, he would wait for the mailman, jump over the fence and walk the route with him, then the mailman would bring him back and put him back in the yard.
    The only way I found out was coming home early one day and finding Owen missing and then seeing him come home with the mailman, who explained to me that this was part of his daily routine.

  14. Deb

    Just Andrew- You’re killing me. What a fantastic story about an obviously fantastic dog. And you’re right about Rimadyl. Works wonders.
    One more thought: the best product I’ve found for stains is “Incredible”. No, really, that’s its name. They sell it at vets and Bed Bath & Beyond. Will take out any stain. Doesn’t really tackle odors, though.

  15. Beth

    Ditto Deb’s comment to Just Andrew (I’m always dittoing everyone–y’all are not only smart but quick on the uptake). The mailman sounds like a pretty decent fellow, too.
    Lots of warm fuzzies to all of you animal lovers, especially the ones who’ve endured serious sickness and/or loss. We haven’t gotten to that stage yet, but not a day goes past (Jordan is 10, Sebastian is 9, Isabel is 2 but had a rocky kittenhood) that I don’t think about it. Good health and long lives all ’round.

  16. Neva

    Mary Frances above is my Mom, a retired elementary school principal. I sent her a link to this post because I knew of her recent experience with doggie diapers. I introduced her to your blog a while back as I knew she would especially enjoy the political commentary. Just wanted you to know of your intergenerational appeal!

  17. Ian

    Awesome comments, all – and Mary Frances (Ms. Edens), I tried to find something like that velcro jumper for Chopes, but all they have in Manhattan are prissy little get-ups that make my dog look like Sherlock Holmes.
    If you – or anybody else around here – hear of them, please drop a line!

  18. scooby doo

    Sweet post, and seriously sorry for the canine dilemna. Love ’em up right tho’is all you can do; Sam and I are looking forward to Cmas in Nc as much for seeing cousins as all the fun dogs, like Callie the Inane rock chaser.
    PUps drool, and Chopes is cool….
    …the beginnings of Chopin’s Song (aka Mopin’ Lopin’ Puppydog Blues). In his time, our Australian Shepherd (aka Shep, aka Big Boy (biscuit eating escapade)) inspired a great bluegrass number called “Get That Squirrel”
    Wet nose kiss.

  19. ben

    all this talk about Oprah and your dog reminds me of that line in Color Purple where Celie turns to the manfolk that have treated her so badly and says something along the lines of “everything you’ve done to me is going to come back to you 10 times” (in the movie, she pointed two fingers while she said this, it was very powerful to me)… well it is the same for you and Tessa; you are both good loyal people and your treatment of C. (I actually don’t remember a time in my life when this dog was not around, and I’m 37), which is a metonym of how you treat humans, is going to come back to you 10 times – tons of good karma. This is my first blog entry and I’m scared. I am not usually this humorless and pretentious.


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