You're a Good Dog

This is about as personal as it will get for me. It’s a mish-mash of photos. The good, the bad, and the ugly. A smattering of words. No real direction. But something I simply felt was necessary to put together.

Yesterday I said goodbye to Schroeder. The most difficult thing I have done, an absolutely excruciating decision to make and an even more grueling walk to the vets. With him propped up on my hip, wrapped in a blanket, snuggling into my neck. Just like all the years before.

I always wanted a pet. Every Christmas list I have remembered writing included animals. Likely starting with a horse, then a dog, then a cat, then birds. Eventually my parents gave into goldfish and newts but that was about it. I gave each of them characteristics and loved on them greatly – but I do believe not a one gave my existence much of  a thought. My mother grew up in a dog household and my father a cat household. There wasn’t time for a pet. And so no animals ever came to me on Christmas day.

Then the worst day of my life (said in the most undramatic way). My sister died and my father left. At thirteen years of age my life was shattered. I was quiet and reserved, socially awkward. My sister was my strength and my guide and that was gone. My family had broken apart and been halved in a day.  My mother and I moved and it was decided it was time for me to get a pet. For the next year I researched dogs exhaustively. I read books and websites, I took quizzes, I poured over the knowledge. The year after my life entirely fractured I had something to look forward to and to keep me from being consumed with my life events. On February 7th, a year and a week after that day, Schroeder was born. A miniature schnauzer with a bit of an odd sized head, a white dot on the inner bit of his ear, and a whole bunch of character. Weeks later he came home. His name taken from the piano playing character in the Peanuts comic.

From the get go we were a bit of a motley crew. A gangly girl and a disproportioned dog. With ears that didn’t know if they wanted to stand up straight or flop over and a questionable command of stairs. He was my shadow and my constant companion. Just after he turned one though he started with grand mal seizures. The vets recommended we put him down – there was likely damage to his brain given the length and severity of the seizures and they were not controllable. My poor mother. She begged them to do whatever they could. That this wonderful little ball of awkwardness couldn’t go that way, so soon after coming into our lives. And so he recovered. Minus some brain cells. Up quite a few quirks. An inability to learn. A strong dislike of people of the sweetest variety. A lot a bit different than before but still as affectionate.

I can’t even begin to count the number of road trips we would make. Him sitting in the passenger seat staring out the window or curled up in a ball snoring. The most random of backroads of southern Alberta were our playground and maps were to have no parts of our little ventures. Nearly every paper I ever wrote, nearly every image I have edited, nearly every email I have sent he was on my lap or by my side. He was my sidekick and my closest friend.

Through my darkest periods we would curl up on the couch together. His body fitting perfectly in my arms and his snores falling rhythmically with my heart. Regardless of a day going wonderfully or horribly his delight when he saw me was the one constant I needed.

I joke that he chose Sam. After his seizures he had a strong aversion to men. Every one he took a disliking to. Until Sam. Sam was instantaneously a friend. Perhaps I could only really love a man who my dog also loved. How I would go shoot a session and return home to those two curled up in bed together. Schroeder at his feet, or wrapped around his head. How Schroeder would inevitably wedge himself between us if given the chance.

His silly little gait. His coos when he wanted water. The schnauzer-specific conversations we would have back and forth. How he would drag articles of clothing from my bedroom if he was being ignored for too long of a time for all to see. How he would wade into the river just enough to lay down and gladly pant away. How he entertained the ridiculousness we would put on him whether it be glasses or hats. His affinity for bananas. This dog held a piece of my heart.

Earlier this year he started developing anxiety. After running errands I would return to him barking, or drenched in drool. He would angrily ream me out on my return and avoid cuddles as punishment. To the vet we went. We tried many things, nothing really seemed to help. And so when I left or traveled I tried to have someone who could stay with him nearly all day. Then it got worse. He would stop eating with my absence. What he did eat he could possibly throw up. He wasn’t able to control his bowels. So back to the vet. New medications, new therapy. Not much change. Every time I returned in a day or two he would return to his normal self and we would only try to better prepare for the next trip or few hours I would be out. This last time I picked him up from the vet he had lost over a fifth of his body weight in two weeks time. He was bones. He didn’t get better. The next morning I woke to a mess and his stressed little face staring at me. To the vet and more medications. A bit of a recovery and then a night where we were up every ten minutes to him in agony. That night we slept on the couch. Every sound awoke me and out we went. A thirty hour stay at a vet. Hydration, drugs. Nothing. No improvement. I knew at this point it was unlikely he would recover. We went for a drive into Banff, we cuddled, I edited. For two days we lived our daily routine. And then a few days ago his condition worsened. The decision was made. We cuddled and I held onto him tightly. We listened to records and hand fed him his favourite foods. My mother came out to be with me for this time and for that I am so thankful. Then we walked to the vet. Him on my hip.

No one ever tells you how hard it is to lose your dog. Schroeder was my therapy, my friend, my companion through the worse and most awkward periods of my life. He will forever be marked in my memory as being a crucial part of my childhood, my transition to being an adult, my university years, when I first fell in love, when I started a home of my own.

His life is a chapter in my book and I am so honoured to have been a part of the entirety of his.

You’re a good dog, Schroeder boy.

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9 Replies

  • Melia  

    What a lucky boy he was, too, to have been so loved and understood. All any of us can ever hope for. xo

  • Michel  

    as an awkward schnauzer lover myself, my heart breaks for you. He was lucky to have you and looks like he lived an amazing life. What an beautiful tribute to him. big hugs.

  • Emily  

    This is an amazing, amazing tribute. You’ve got a beautiful soul and you captured Schroeder’s perfectly here too with your words and of course, photographs. What a perfect companion you were for him.

    Praying for healing in your heart.

  • Stefano  

    It looks like Schroeder last you one last gift. The ability to tell his life’s story, in all of its intricacies, quirks or what may think makes us ‘real’.

    Even though I have never had the opportunity to meet your Schroeder, after reading your eloquent post. I feel like I know more about him but just as much as you as well. It was a dynamic duo and from what I have read, it seems like he was blessed to have someone as amazing as you to share that life with.
    Both of you made each other better and I think he has walked/rode/provided enough dialogue to be sure that he knew you were in a good position to go on.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful words about your friend that got you through some pretty rough times, He will always be there for you in some way. Sending positive thoughts and vibes up North from Texas, Take care Brit.

  • Annie  

    oh Brittney, what a beautiful and heartwrenching post. I’m happy though, that you were his whole life. thank you for sharing your story with him.

  • jessica  

    im so so sorry brittany. you can see from every photo, every work, just how loved this sweet little dog will always be. sending you extra love during this heart breaking time, and hoping the happiest memories of schroeder help to get your through. xo

  • Amara  

    my heart hurts for you .. it is never easy saying goodbye to our furry loved ones. absolutely beautifully written .. it had me in tears.

  • Brandy  

    what a heartfelt and heart wrenching post. I’m so sorry for your loss, what an amazing relationship you two had.