Some of you already know, but I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make on Friday 10.30.15. I made the decision to put my sweet boy to sleep and set him free from his old body.
I had been struggling with this decision for quite awhile and everyone told me I would just know when it was time. I prayed they were right. I prayed Gunner would tell me when it was time, though he was such a stubborn, crotchety old boy that I knew he probably wouldn’t. There were a few moments during his last days where he would lick my hands clean, then lay his head on my lap and I knew it really was time. It was such a faint feeling though, because I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want it to be time yet and I kept my doubts strong.
His accidents grew more frequent and he almost couldn’t get up the ramp anymore to go outside. The nerve damage in his rear end had made it so hard for him to move around. The length of our boat was about as many steps as he could take before he would lay down and rest again. When he stopped eating his food, I knew his body was shutting down.
My sweet boy was 14.5 years old and his poor body just couldn’t keep up with his mind anymore. I know in my heart it was the best thing for him and it would have been selfish of me to keep him here any longer. Still, I wonder everyday if I made the right decision. I’ve lost loved ones in the past, but losing Gunner hurt so much more. He was my baby. I took care of him like he was my child.
I still can’t believe he is gone… I never knew my heart could hurt so much.
I want to share the story of our time together.
It was the summer of my Senior year in high school, 2001. I had been wanting a large-breed puppy and had always grew up around dogs. My mom called me one day to tell me about this Weimaraner that needed a home. The breeder had just died of a heart attack and no one had found her, the momma dog or the puppies for three days. The breeder’s friend owned a kennel in Snohomish, Washington where she took the puppies in to find homes for them. Four whole months later, all but one had found homes.
This little boy was lanky and shy. He timidly came out to greet me in the parking lot. I was told that he was the last to get picked because of how big his feet were, meaning he was going to be the biggest one of the litter. How big could he really get? His floppy ears went past the end of his little nose and his little butt was so skinny. His legs were long but he was still so tiny.
I just couldn’t leave him there! I just couldn’t bare to see his little sad face turn away from another stranger that didn’t want him. From that moment on he was glued to my side. I crate trained him early on but it only took a few nights for him to melt my heart enough to have him sleeping under the covers with me. Everyone knows weims are like velco, and that he was.
I left this little ball of energy with my grandparents for my first year of college at Western Washington University while I lived in the dorms. I would come home on the weekends to do laundry and see my sweet boy. He was so mischievous! His weim-crimes were frustrating but so loveable at the same time. He chewed a hole in the drywall once. I got him the toughest chew toys I could find and did what I could to train him and get him the exercise he needed. He loved to swim, chase the geese in our backyard and play with his toys. Most of my pictures from the early days are in photo books back in California but I have hundreds of pictures of him snuggled up in piles of clean laundry, on the couch and on my pillows. If you’ve ever been around Weimaraners, you know just how human they think they are. He loved popcorn and Cheetos, especially when my grandpa would sneak them to him.
During the remaining years of college, I lived in houses with roomates and Gunner came up to Bellingham, WA to live with me. I remember there was this one lake we would go to and he would swim for hours retrieving sticks I threw for him. He loved every minute. He was like a small pony galloping around. I always felt safe with him by my side. It was a lot of responsibility to have him while working and going to school full time, but I think it was good for me. He kept me in line, as I did for him.
After college we moved out to the countryside in Blaine, WA and lived on 20 acres. At one point we had a total of 6 dogs, 21 puppies, and 9 goats. Gunner loved his brothers and sisters – Magnum, Ayla, Missy, Aaron, Gage, and temporarily Remmi and Boone. During these years he learned to hunt and went for several-week long training camps with some other hunting dogs. He got a taste for what he was bred to do. Running through the tall grass and open fields chasing birds was what he loved the most. He could run so fast! He was so lean and shiny and muscly back then.
A series of circumstances brought us down to Huntington Beach, California in the summer of 2008. Him and I soon found a little studio apartment in Costa Mesa where we grew to love the warm weather and sandy beaches. Another move to San Diego allowed us to finally meet Peter and Betsy in April of 2011. Ever since, it has been non-stop adventure!!
We’ve taken several trips to Baja California, Mexico. We went camping in the Eastern Sierras where Gunner ran wild through the cow patties along the riverbed and roamed around near the campsite. We took a road trip up to see my family in Washington. We took the dogs through an Old Gold Mine and Peter had to carry Gunner up a tall rickety ladder. He’s gone swimming in the SoCal surf with his daddy and he went to the office with me to work on the weekends. He always loved going in the car, wherever we went. The adventures were endless.
He was 12 when Peter and I decided to buy a boat and sail through the Caribbean. We knew he was getting old and that eventually the day would come when we would have to say goodbye, but there was never a doubt in our minds that he would come with us on our biggest adventure yet. We sold and donated most of our belongings, packed up the rest and drove across the country to our new home aboard a sailboat in Punta Gorda, Florida. It was that year that I first remember noticing his back feet drag a little during our evening runs. I found this amazing harness that made getting him on and off the boat a breeze. After four months on the dock we untied the lines for good and headed to the Bahamas!
We sailed through the Bahamas, past Turks and Caicos, along the North coast of the Dominican Republic, South coast of Puerto Rico, USVI, BVI and all the way down the Eastern Caribbean island chain to Grenada for our first hurricane season on the boat. We returned to the Virgin Islands that winter, back to Grenada this year and back to the Virgins again just a few weeks ago for a total of 5,000 nautical miles. Gunner got to run and swim on so many beaches and he smelled so many good smells on all the islands we visited. He ate fresh sashimi on many passages with us, said hello to some turtles and iguanas, and lived out his retirement by our sides 24/7 as we sailed around Where The Coconuts Grow.
Luckily we were able to get him back to USVI where it feels most like home to us. We made a few trips to the vet and finally I decided it was time. For Gunner’s last dinner he got to eat fresh Mahi Mahi and sleep on the bed with us all night long. We stayed at a dock where we could run the air-conditioning all night and I swear he didn’t move a muscle. I cuddled with him the whole time.
In the morning he got a bacon cheeseburger and fries for breakfast. I was so glad he had enough of an appetite for one more special treat. We had rented a car and drove him to a nice grassy place by the water where I let him walk around (only about 20 minutes) until he couldn’t take another step. He sniffed every single bush and tree. Then he rolled around in the grass before eating three mini cheeseburgers and some more fries for lunch. He knew something was different this day. I could finally see that he was ready. Staying was just too hard.
We climbed back in the air-conditioned car, made a stop at a peaceful place by the beach and drove to the vet’s office. Up in the trees where we parked there were yellow and white butterflies everywhere! It was almost magical. Though I knew in my heart it was time, nothing could have prepared me for how much my heart would hurt from that moment forward.
Everyone tells me I gave him an amazing life filled with love but it’s so hard to focus on the love when the pain is so thick. I didn’t want him to suffer anymore than he did already so I keep reminding myself that it was because of the love that we had for each other that I made the decision when I did.
Betsy is sad too. Her brother was her partner in crime and cuddle-buddy. She loved him so much. In the last few days I’ve found her sleeping in Gunner’s spot on the bed and even sleeping on the ground by the bed where he liked to lay. Just yesterday she was in the galley just standing there facing the corner. I don’t know what she was doing but that was his favorite place to be, probably because it felt like his crate. We are giving her some extra attention, knowing she is just as sad as us.
Most of our sailing adventures are catalogued here on this blog, but there is still so much I haven’t posted yet. Eventually I’ll get around to posting all the pictures, but in the meantime I’ve put together a slide-show gallery of some of my favorite photos of Mister, my sweet, sweet boy:
For Gunner, With All My Love…
Thank you so much to everyone that has reached out with love and support. It truly does help to hear your stories – to know we are not alone but also to give us hope that someday our love for Gunner will help the heartache fade away… Even if we don’t respond, please know your words and prayers are appreciated during this hard time for our little family.