Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Goodbye, Stafford

Stafford J.

A few days ago, my best friend finished his race. Stafford left us after more than twelve years of making us laugh, loving us unconditionally and standing by us through difficult times.

We got Stafford when I was in my second year of law school. We picked him out at the pound and both Mrs. ZZUB and I instantly loved him. The first time Mrs. Z held him, his tail wagged so hard I thought it might fall off. He took to us immediately and we fell fast in love with him. The pound made us wait a little over a week before we could take him home. We went back a few times in that week to see him again. Even though he wasn’t ours yet, he’d already captured our hearts and we couldn't bear to be without him.

We had no idea.

When we did get to bring him home, he was instantly a part of our family. He’d watch TV with us on the couch and his bed was right next to ours. Staff has always loved to run and he’s always loved big boy rides. The first summer after law school, we only had one car. Mrs. Z would come pick me up from work each afternoon and Staff would always be in the car with her. His head out the window, ears flapping in the wind. And when they'd turn the corner to where I was standing, I swear that dog would smile at me!

Stafford was loyal. When I was up late writing a paper, he was right by my side. When I was studying for the bar exam, he was right by my side. When my wife was sick, he was right by her side. When we lost the baby, he was right by our side, trying to dry our tears.

The thing that was so remarkable about him was his ability to adapt. You see, despite the fact that he was loved immensely by us, he was insecure. Anytime we’d bring something new in the house, he’d get all nervous, afraid we loved it more than him. The Christmas tree gave him annual fits of dyspepsia. He was suspicious of the mail. And then the day came when we brought Zzuby home and his worst fear was realized. We actually did bring home something we loved more than him. But he never showed any aggression towards her. He instinctively sensed that we still loved him very much even if he wasn’t allowed to sleep in our room anymore. And as she grew, he fell in love with her. Zzuby kept him well fed and he tolerated being made up, dressed up and sat on. He loved both his little sisters.

I don’t remember when it was that we discovered his speech impediment. We’ve been voicing his inner monologue almost since the minute we brought him home. And somewhere along the way we realized that he had twouble wif his r, l and th sounds. He also had a stutter which was mostly controlled in his later years. He used to send me emails and leave me voicemails. They always started with “hewwo.” He was silly and I reckon he made us sillier. Somewhere along the way, he picked up the nickname, Schpupin. Only it was never spoken. If it was said at all, it was shouted, "Schpupin!" Later it became simply, de Schpup! Oddly enough, he knew that was his name. And when he heard us talking for him, he knew it was his voice. He was the living manifestation of our most ridiculous instincts.

He loved to play and he loved to pounce. When he got really excited, he’d run back and forth like he was built for speed. Indeed he was. He’d also get really happy when I came home. He’d run to the door to see me and if I didn’t give him a proper hewwo he’d follow me around and start barking at me until he got his fill of love.

And when I wasn’t home on time or I was out of town on business, Mrs. Z tells me he’d lay downstairs and stare at the backdoor. Waiting for his dad to come home.

He was waiting for me last Saturday.

I was in my office working when Mrs. Z called me and told me I needed to come home to take him to the vet. She’d found him hiding under the desk in my study.  He’d gotten sick. We knew the time had come for him. Schpup hasn’t been himself for a few weeks now. He was moving slower. He wasn’t running. His appetite was diminished and he’d developed a bad limp. There were times when he seemed confused.

Thursday night he had a horrible episode that was either a stroke or a seizure. He collapsed and we thought then we might lose him. Both Mrs. ZZUB and I got on the floor with him, stroking his head, rubbing his belly, talking to him. After awhile, he seemed ok. Not fully himself, but not in any pain or threat of harm. He was mostly ok on Friday and again Saturday morning. Until his body gave out on him.

When I got home, he looked weak. Mrs. Z said he’d actually improved significantly since she’d found him under the desk. But when I asked him if he wanted to go on a big boy ride, although his ears perked up, he couldn’t hold his head up. He couldn’t stand. Mrs. ZZUB told the girls that I was taking him to the doctor and we didn’t know what she would tell us. They said goodbye to him. She kept them in their room while I carried him out to the car. His head flopped backwards as I carried him and when I put him down to open the door, he collapsed again, peeing on himself.

I carried him into the vet’s office and they rushed us into the back. The vet examined him and confirmed for us what had become obvious. Stafford was at the end. I spent some time with him, rubbing his head and behind his ears. Telling him it was ok. He’d been a good boy.  At first, his head was laying on the metal gurney and I knew he was uncomfortable.  Schpup liked his softness so I asked them to give me a blanket for under his head.  His front paws were wet with vomit and pee.  In the fog of those moments, I was worried it was bothering him because he generally didn't like to be wet. But he was so ill, he couldn't lick his paws dry.  There was a roll of paper towels nearby.  I grabbed several to try to dry off his legs and paws for him.  It's funny the things you think about in the lonely back room of your vet's office.

Mrs. Z drove the girls to a friend’s house and then met me there. By the time she arrived, we had been moved into a smaller room.  We all knew what was coming and I thought we should have a private space.  The vet had placed an oxygen mask on him because he was having trouble breathing.  I never knew they had oxygen masks for dogs. 

Mrs. ZZUB got to say goodbye to him too.  She also rubbed his head and talked with him.  Told him he'd been a good boy. And for the last few minutes of his life it was how it once had been: Stafford and his mom and dad.

Dogs don’t have souls. I know that. But dogs can love and we can love them. Staff lived to make us happy. He craved our approval. In the days since he’s left us, we realized how much pain he must have been in for so many days before he died.  But he kept fighting through it because he was tough and because he wanted to make us happy. In the end, I couldn’t heal his body and I couldn’t extend his life, but I could reward him with the thing he seemed to crave above all else: more than softness and more than big boy rides, more than peanut butter and more than cheese, Stafford craved love and approval.  We told him how happy he had made us.  That we loved him. That he’d been a good boy.

I’ve known for awhile now that he was a special dog and I always knew when this day came it would be difficult. But I confess, I was nowhere near prepared for how much it hurts. How empty we feel without him in our home. Stafford wasn’t just our dog. He wasn’t just a pet. He was a member of our family; the most loyal friend either of us have ever known. And although he wasn’t a child in the sense that Zzuby and Little Zzub are our children, in the years before they were born, he trained us how to be responsible parents. He brought us joy and lots of laughter. He was a blessing.

If it was hard to imagine life without him before he died, in the days since he left it's been near impossible.  I see him in virtually every corner of our house.  His bed in my study and his other bed in our family room.  His water dish.  His toys. His nose prints on the back door.  
It's silent without him here.  So strangely silent.  I miss hearing his toes on the hardwood floors.  Miss hearing him running down the hall at the end of dinner, in time to scoop up the left overs.  I miss him barking at me when I walked up the front porch.
I miss the sound of him sleeping in my study as I read.  
I don't know how many of you still stop by here from time to time.  I don't know why I checked in here the other day.  But I did.  And I saw that a few of you had left comments recently.
One of the comments was from Great Biscuit.  He wanted me to know that he had prayed for us recently. It's fantastic to me that God laid me on Great Biscuit's mind and he prayed for me.  Biscuit doesn't even know my name.  But of course God does and isn't it amazing that God prompted a not so complete stranger to pray for me?  That's the kind of God we serve. 
Anyway, it occurred to me to share what had been going on with us and why God laid us on Great Biscuit's mind.


  1. Wow Zzub. You literally left me with tears in my eyes. Thanks so much for sharing such a touching story. It's amazing just how deeply our pets become a part of the family. I've felt that loss before, and I dread the inevitable day that I will come to feel it again. You are still in my thoughts and prayers my friend. I know God will be there to comfort and restore. It's so awesome to know that He cares for us in ways we don't even realize.

    Thanks again for stopping by and letting us mourn with you. I remeber well all the stories of the Schpupin and I can only imagine how tough it has been. I wish all the best for the Zzub family. Take care and if you ever feel the need for Zzub to speak, we are here and more than ready to listen my friend.

    God Bless!

  2. I am so glad I decided to check your blog to see if you had written. I have you bookmarked but hadn't checked your blog in many months. I'm so sorry to hear of Staff's passing. I was crying like a baby reading your thoughtful tribute. We too lost a dog last year and there are times I still cry about it. With time it will get easier. We have since adopted a schipperke puppy and it pains me to know that one day we'll have to go through the pain of losing her. In the meantime we laugh at her crazy antics and fondly find characteristics in her that our other dog had. We purposely adopted a dog that had a long lifespan because we know the pain is just so hard in losing them that we wanted to put off that pain as long as possible.

    Your family is in my thoughts as you go through this transition. It will get easier but there will also be a little piece of your heart missing because it's with him.

  3. I was heading for another web site, and I clicked on this link by accident. I'm so glad I did.

    I always enjoyed hearing of Schpupin's antics, and I'm sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to your family, and I'll be thinking of you.


  4. Thoughts are with you as it is hard to lose a beloved friend.

  5. Zzub I have followed your posts for years. Never commented until now. You are a truly talented writer. I feel as though I know your family from your writings.

    Sorry about your loss. I always enjoyed reading about Schupins's antics and his inner voice. Glad to see you are still with us. Your writing and your family travels have been missed. You are in our prayers...

  6. Wow.... I was killing time while waiting for my eyelids to get heavy and I went to the Dis to take a look around. For some reason, I decided to read some old pm's and yours was the last one I had gotten....the one that announced the opening of this blog. I clicked the link wondering if anything even remained here and was so surprised to see you, yet so sad to read why. Funny thing, we are getting a puppy tomorrow and I have been so concerned and on the fence with our decision. Thanks for reminding me about how much joy a dog can bring to your life. (I will try to remember that when I'm gagging while cleaning poo off my good rug...) So sorry about your loss Z.

    Hope the family is doing well! I know you were one happy guy when Bama won it all. I was with a bunch of our friends (yes, I said OUR friends.... I'm sure they will show up here soon once I send the word that you made an appearance) the night they won the SEC title, and we thought about you!

  7. Hi ZZUB, Well Frick let me know you had posted and I was so sad to read your news. I well remember your stories of Schpupin and the trip reports he helped write. I know this is a deep loss for you and Mrs. Z.

    I think of you every time I use one of my 12 refillable for life mugs, even thought most are so faded they could have come from Dunkin' Donuts.

    Peace be with you,

  8. Oh Zubb, my heart is breaking for you. I know exactly what you are going through as we lost our Shelby in August 09. Time does heal the pain but the sense of loss still continues to this day.
    Stop by more often, you are sorely missed.
    Take care, Z.

  9. Oh, no! I'm more sorry than I can say Oz! I've never forgotten you or de Schpup. And. All the crazy laughs we shared. Not for one widdle minute. Life hands us ups and downs, that's for certain, but it always goes on. And. He'll always live on, too. In your hearts. Always.

    Made love for ya!


  10. Z, I am so sorry for your loss. I know it's a big one. I recently re-read a few old TRs, one of La's and one of yours, so I have fresh memories of your Schpupin musings, and how clearly your love for him shone through in your writing. I hope and pray that you and your girls can find peace in your happy memories and the the pain lessens as the weeks and months pass.

    I, too, was thinking of the coincidence of Frick getting her new puppy today. Guess it's proof that the circle of life goes on.

    Kitty wanted us to tell you that she's read and cried but forgets her password (LOL) so she couldn't post to tell you herself.

    We miss you and I'm glad you decided to come here to share with us all. Hope you drop by more often. This place is still on my favorites, so I'll be checking :)

    Take care!

  11. Aww Zubb, I am truly sorry for your loss. I know how much you loved him. Your Schpupin tales brought a smile to my face many times, he was a special dog.

    Thank you for thinking of us, stop by more often. We miss you and your photo essays.

  12. Zzub - as mentioned Frick brought me over here.

    I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing the story of your Schpupin with us.

    Take care!

  13. I'm so sorry ZZUB.

    Strange that I found myself here. But checked out the trip reports on the Dis to see if GB's was still there. Found it in the finished ones and read the last bits. Made me want to read an old one of yours. Still good stuff. It stands the test of time.

    Unlike capris. For men.

    And Crocs.

    Also it still sucks. As do you.

    But... I mean that warmishettely.

    As normal. Ish. Ette. Ly. Ish.

    So... listen... I'm here to say... I'm very very sorry for your loss. I love myself a good dog too. And never expected to find such a good one, again. She's not yet two years old but I'm already afraid to lose her. And have decided that I'll never be without a good dog again.

    You had a good friend. Even if it seems too fleeting.

    It wasn't. It was just right.

    Take care. Keep writing. Somewhere.

    Cheers. M.

    P.S. Also I'm glad that Sher made love for you.

    Heh heh.

  14. Wow! It's great to hear from all of you! I appreciate your concern, your prayers and your well-wishes. And that some of you brought the funny. Well, that's just cake for me.

    Speaking of cake, I've recently discovered a new one that I love. So while I don't think I'll ever stop missing my bud, life moves on. And the ZZUBs are doing ok.


  15. I have a HUGE lump in my throat - I've read all your trip reports and just laughed so hard at them all - but nothing in them made me laugh harder than when Schpupin! made a cameo. Prayers for you all, it's so hard to lose a pet who is so loved - hugs!

  16. Hey there...errr...(again).


    I got thinking about what you wrote.

    Which I do sometimes. And... then... overdo it. Thinking. That is. And, sometimes, also... overbrushing my teeth.

    Which I end up regretting. Some.

    Actually...more than the overthinking... if I'm gonna be straight with you.

    Other things are meant to be overdone. Like condiments.

    MAYO. For one.

    Everyone here seems to luvluvluv overdoing that one. Mellyman uses it as chip dip. And also as "diet vinaigrette".


    What I mean by all of that is I was thinking that maybe by "cake" you meant "puppy". Yeah. I know. But then "speaking of cake, I've recently disco(u!!!)vered [ahem] a new one that I love." seems to mean so much more.

    Than you're just getting fatter.


    Anywho... it probably didn't mean "puppy".

    But... maybe... you should consider that.

    You know. In awhile.

    When you're ready.

    (And also git yerself a new golfcart so you can walk the thing properly. K?)



    I thought I'd share one more thing: we named our dog "Molly".

    Didn't last long, tho. She always knows it's her but she goes by a bunch of crazy nicknames.

    One favoUrite: susanboyle. Oneword.

    And... not just because of her springy scottish accent.

    Cheers, Mel.

    P.S. Out.

    P.P.S. I'm still pretty pleased that Sher made love for you.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. I'll always made love for Oz. ((big grin))

  19. See La, you don't have to know how to sign in. Just follow Sher's lead and be "anonymous". Better yet, set up a new profile for yourself...

    Brandt is losing her touch. How about this: "What's next?"

  20. This is not La2.

    I did not weep for at least an hour when I read that Schpupin had passed away. It wasn't the ugly, snotty cry either.

    I have not been in Silent Mourning (NONoel...take it Haley) ever since because I did not forget my password to this place.

    I didn't forget my username either.

    I do not have Alzheimer's. Well, maybe I do. I can't recall.

    I have not checked your blog in a very long time because I have not missed reading the things that fall out of your head. A little ZZUB goes a long way. Or it... a big ZZUB goes a short way? Hence the need for the golf cart?

    I'm confusing myself here.

    But one thing I'm NOT confused about is this...I'm really sorry to hear about your friend, Z. Anyone who ever read even one of your trip reports could see how much you loved him. And because of that, you made us love him too. I loved reading about his funny escapades through your writing and enjoyed me some Schpupin schpeak myself from time to time. So I'm gonna miss da Schpup too.

    In a way.

    I won't send you a card. Only because I'm not sure I could find the "Sympathy Cards for Dogs You Met Over the Internet" section in the Hallmark store. But I'm thinking of yall just the same.

    Except I'm really not.


  21. What the heck kind of name is Molly anyway? You should've named her Pumba.

  22. I'm late to respond but so sorry for your loss. I know what it's like to lose a furry family member of the 4 legged variety. I hope that time has eased your grief a bit. I had to put down my last pet in 1997 due to cancer and haven't gotten another one. It's just so hard to watch them die. Take care Zzub and thank you for such heartfelt life story of your pup.
    From Scrap4u

  23. I have been craving a trip to Disney for weeks now. I know it won't happen anytime soon, but decided to do a search on prices. I entered my search then for an unknown reason changed it and searched Zzub's world. Not knowing whether you updated or not, didn't expect you had. But, I'm glad I did. I'm sorry for your loss. I hope the pain lessens and that someday you'll find the love of a new pup in your lives. No dog will replace your first, but dogs have the power to heal our hearts. I believe that's why God put them on this earth. God bless you and your family.

    Long time lurker.

  24. I'm sorry for the loss of your dear family member, Zzub. We lost our Ginger last September after 9 short but wonderful years so we know your pain very well.

    I am very happy to see you posting on your blog again and thrilled to see the Zzubs are going back to Disney World! I was left a little numb to see you haven't been back in almost two years though!

    Found this and hope they are paying you royalties for the use of your name! :)

  25. Lurker here. Sorry for the loss of your beloved Stafford. God bless you all. Glad to see you posting again.

  26. ZZUB, I'm so sorry about the Schpupin. Losing a pet is losing a family member, and although you have those wonderful memories, it's still bittersweet.

  27. Zzub, I have often thought that Dogs are sometimes the best people. I have one myself that is slowing down and has a special place in my heart. She comforts everyone, is always by the side of the sick in the house and just makes life better. They are a blessing to us and while it makes me sad that your dear furry friend is gone, I am sure your lives were better for having Stafford in it. All the best

  28. Loafmastermom here...havent checked in on this page in a year but am happy to see it active again. Have some catching up to do but wanted to comment on this. We lost our black lab this summer to heat stroke..4 years old..Voodoo Rockstar was his name. A huge hole is in this home without him. We still have our golden retriever mix that we rescued 3 years back. He misses his buddy and my boyfriend misses his dog like a lost best friend. I feel ya, I really do.