In Memoriam for the most wonderful companions that any man could ask for.
There is no truer love than that given by a dog to his master.
I am heartbroken by the loss of my sweet little "Ratface" and my dear little "Prudence".
Ratface (left) / Prudence (right)
The Story of Two Little Dogs and How a Supposed Tough Guy Came to Love Them
I had never cared for small dogs. Not for small trucks, small guns and especially not small dogs. When Ratface came into my home and my life I already owned a black lab, Faith, and a german shepherd, Trevor. I was away from the house when my then wife left a message on the answering machine that she had found a small dog at a pet store and that if I didn't voice an objection she would bring him home. In the days before common cell phone usage I had no recourse. She had wanted to name him Cornelius and call him Corky for short. I thought he looked like a rat with a rat face so that is what I called him, Ratface. With the rest of the family calling him Corky and me calling him Ratface he eventually came to answer only to Ratface. He took to following me around the house, the garage and the yard. When I would play fetch with Faith he would chase after her, barking and running, with her ignoring his presence. At first he was very timid around people in general. I suppose when all you know is life in a cage it can ruin you. I never liked the idea of a dog on the furniture or the bed but these were two battles I lost when it came to Ratface. Initially Ratface did not like to be held. This would change as the years wore on. He started out at the bottom of the bed pressed against my calf or ankle when we slept. This would also change as the years wore on as he made his way higher up my body until, at the end, he would press himself against my chest or back. Not a very tough picture for a supposedly tough guy.
Because my then wife did not get the lap dog she wanted with Ratface following me everywhere, we went shopping and found Prudence. Where Faith would ignore Ratface she would snap at Prudence whenever she came near. This would send Prudence scurrying up my arm to sit on my shoulder for safety. She would continue to do this well after she was too big to do so. Four dogs is too many for a small house, even if two of them are small themselves. We advertised and interviewed and finally found two good homes for Faith and Trevor. Two very good dogs, but dogs just the same. So life went on for a while, myself, my wife, the two kids and the two little dogs.
Life was good but life is also full of change. When my then wife and I went our separate ways I would move to Arizona and the wife would stay in California where she was well established in her job and where my youngest child would finish high school. She would also keep Ratface and Prudence and that was fine with me. I set out on my own for the environs of Tucson and signed a lease agreement where pets were not allowed. Then I received the call that I was to pick up the little dogs or they were going to the pound. The ex could not find an apartment or house in my son's school district that would accept the dogs. I do not really believe that she would have sent them to the pound but I opened my home to them anyway. I gave up the security deposit on my apartment and found another that would accept Ratface and Prudence. They have been my dearest friends and closest companions ever since.
The Most Loving Little Dog and the Sweetest Little Girl
I guess I lost all shame years ago. A burly (that is what my wife calls me though I've always thought of myself as svelte), supposed tough guy walking two little dogs late at night in downtown Tucson after another late night at work. Sometimes I would here some rude comment directed toward them but always rose to their defense. This was the beginning of my sense of duty to them, my obligation, my responsibility. I would walk them every night, no matter how late. Occasionally I would pick them up at dinner time and bring them back to work with me, sneaking them through the mantraps in my backpack. I was their world and they were becoming mine.
When I met my wife she bonded with Ratface and Prudence as her own. The little dog was mine and the little girl was hers. We took them everywhere. Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Las Vegas, camping, everywhere. Anywhere we went, they went. That is what makes their loss particularly sad. They were a complete part of our lives and we always made accommodation for them. It is difficult to find activities that we participated in without them because they were so few.
The most blissful times were just lying on the couch. Ratface would paw at the couch and wait for me to pick him up. Everyone would always tell me that Ratface could jump up on the couch by himself, and I knew that, but whenever I was around he would always wait for me to pick him up. Then he would sidle against me on a couch that wasn't wide enough for us both to be comfortable, but I always made room for him and he always was. I would bend my right leg to form a "V" against my straight left leg and Prudence would lodge herself into that small pocket and rest. She loved nothing better than to be close with a blanket covering her. She would paw to get under any of my worn shirts when I would leave them lying around. As much as Ratface had come to want to be petted and loved at all times, Prudence always wanted to please. Whenever it was time for a bath, meds or a haircut, Prudence would always surrender herself although it was obvious that she would have preferred to be anywhere else. Such a sweet, sweet little girl. Ratface would always require me to seek him out and bring him in. I would do anything to have them back in my life once again. Sadly, there is no deal to be made, no bargain to negotiate. Only days in front of me without my little dog Ratface or my little girl Prudence. They will always continue to be the loving little dog and the sweet little girl.
A Lifetime of Love and Caring
Over the last few years as both Ratface and Prudence had aged they both became victims of that process. Ratface had developed cataracts as his world grew darker, suffered loss of hearing, as well as elevated liver enzyme levels, arthritis and a limited loss of control of his bladder. His daily intake of medicines included acti-gall to control his liver enzyme levels, half of a baby aspirin for his arthritis, and proin (ppa) to control his bladder. Prudence had begun to develop cataracts, suffered progressive kidney disease and also a limited loss of control of her bladder. Her progressive kidney disease saw her go from a big ten pound little girl down to six pounds at the end. Her daily intake included one half of a Pepcid AC to control her blood acid level and proin (ppa) to control her bladder. She was also subjected to intravenous and subcutaneous saline solutions for a period one year before her loss and the period immediately proceeding her loss. Ratface came to love his daily medicine dosage as the medicine was ground down in powder and rolled into small pieces of ham or other meat. He would get excited as Prudence was given her medicine and dance around the kitchen in preparation for his treats. Prudence after a time however would not eat her medicine no matter how it was disguised. The only way to get her meds into her was to use the dreaded "throatenjammer", a device many pet owners are aware of and that I do not know the proper name for. Where Ratface was excited and loved the time for meds, Prudence was distraught and hated it. Still a sweeter little girl you will never know. All she ever wanted was to please and even though she wished to avoid this humiliation altogether she would dutifully bring herself into the kitchen for her daily dose. It was never an inconvenience, more of a daily ritual, that we had all come to participate in as necessary for their continued longevity.
Through all their later ailments they always continued to be sweet and loving. When they were younger they would bounce up on the bed at sunrise, eager to get us out of bed and start the new day with play. As they got older they would stay in bed as we rose. Ratface moving into the space that I vacated and Prudence burrowing further between the comforter and the blanket. When they were younger they would play vibrantly with each other. Prudence jealously guarding her pig ears and Ratface mischievously stealing one away and waiting for her to notice before chewing on it. Watching Ratface run about with his small stuffed animals while Prudence ran about with stuffed animals as big as her. Playing tug of war with each at the same time. Watching them chase down their prey as I tossed it. As they got older their energy levels subsided but they aged with a grace that would make most of us envious. They always retained their sweet, loving natures. They always stayed the sweet little puppies that I had grown to love.
This past summer we had rabbits that would sneak into our back yard by squeezing underneath the gate to eat the grass. When I would see them out there at night I would send the little dogs out to "Get the rabbits!". Prudence would chase them around the yard trying to corner them against the back fence. Ratface would stand there and bark, wanting to join in but unable to spot the rabbits, even when they sprinted right past him. Prudence has always been very spirited. Ratface always the follower.
Loss and Suffering
Laying to rest my sweet little Ratface is the single most devastating experience I have ever had to endure. My grief was and continues to be immense. I see no relief in sight. I should have recognized his diminished sight was a threat to his well being. My guilt and shame are also immense for not better safeguarding such a precious life. It feels as if there were a big black hole running straight through the center of me and I am filled with despair and remorse.
Equally sad is the end of my dear Prudence, one week to the day after losing the ratdog, I had to make the terrible decision to put her to sleep. It is my belief that the loss of her long time companion hastened her demise. In her last week I spent time consoling her, taking an afternoon off from work to let her lay in my lap, trying to love her up while disconsolately thinking of my sweet little Ratface. When I had to lay her to rest I had to revisit the devastation of a week earlier. My guilt extends to the loss of my little girl as well. My sweet, sweet little girl now lays in that cold, cold ground with my loving little dog.
My little dog and my little girl are gone from me in this life and I can only pray that we will be reunited if there is a next. Never has anyone known two more gentle, more loving souls. This world has become a darker and more terrible place without them in it because they brought only warmth, companionship and love. They have made me a better man through the temperance I had to exercise with their timid and gentle natures, and now they are gone. And now the best part of me is gone with them.
There are now two small graves outside my bedroom door. It is a sliding glass door and the curtain there is no longer ever fully drawn. Ratface and Prudence lie in parallel to the bed where my wife and I sleep and where the little dogs once slept with us. Ratface lies to the left, on my side of the bed, and Prudence to the right, on my wife's side, just as they did when they were still with us. I have covered their graves with river stones and each has a small headstone that is becoming polished at the top from my constant petting and stained with my tears. They also each have a round, flat heartstone on the center of their small graves just larger than the palm of my hand. Each morning I place my hands on their graves and reassure them and myself the best that I can. I let Ratface know that he is a good little dog and that I love him dearly. I let Prudence know that she is a good little girl and that I love her dearly. Always in the present tense, never the past tense. And then I pray. For them and for myself. Prayer is a new ritual for me. But I love them so much that I can't let them go. I search for an answer and pray that we might one day be together again. It is my fervent hope that I will come to an honest belief. I repeat this again before retiring to bed at night and throughout the day. I have thought that it might be easier on myself to move on if they weren't so close. But I love them far too much to have them lay anywhere else. Their little graves are my link to them. I love you little dog. I love you little girl.
My sweet little Ratface and my dear little Prudence have brought me to many firsts recently. I had thought that I had known heartbreak before but I had not. Now that I am truly heartbroken I know the depth of despair that comes with true loss and grief. The sense of loss that only the bereaved feel. They have also brought me into a search for spirituality so that I may find comfort in the knowledge that I may one day redeem myself to these sweet little souls. I have not known true prayer in my life and am selfishly praying that one day I may embrace these loving souls again. One day I may learn to pray selflessly and then I may find the answer I seek. I have also visited the missions at Tumacacori and San Xavier that are nearby. I have prayed there in the hope that my prayers may be more clearly heard. I have also posted the above picture at the shrine to Mary at the San Xavier mission. All of these things they have brought me to. If I can find spirituality in my life it will be a testament to them and to the power of my love for them to transform myself.
My Prayer for Ratface and Prudence
Heavenly Father. Please embrace the gentle, loving souls of my sweet little Ratface, and of my dear little Prudence. Take them into your custody and comfort them with your love, your kindness and your warmth. Let them feel safe and secure. Hold them in your charge until that time that I may take them for my own and feel their presence, their love, their warmth and their joy once again. Allow me to pass on my own feelings of tenderness and love to them. Show me the path to assure me that someday, somehow this will come to pass. Grant me the faith to know that what is lost, is lost in this life only, that what is lost may be reclaimed in the next.
Show them mercy. They have paid the price for my own lack of good judgment. Please do not let them pay any further for my sins of omission or neglect. Forgive me for all my trespasses against your smallest of creatures when I was younger. I cannot excuse these myself as youthful indiscretions. They were the acts of uncaring and unthinking. I ask your forgiveness in all these things save one. I will not ask what is not yours to give. My guilt and shame in the loss of Ratface I will carry all the days of my existence on this Earth. My remorse is only exceeded by my heartbreak. I am certain that the loss of my sweet little Ratface expedited the demise of my dear little Prudence. I am doubly guilty and doubly remorseful. Reunite me one day with these sweet gentle souls, let me feel their love once more, and then I will know that I have been forgiven for a sin only they can forgive. In these days of great discord and distress I pray that you do not overlook these two gentle, loving souls. Nor the man who misses them most dearly.
Please pray for my sweet little Ratface and my dear little Prudence.