Noon Number for 6-3-2013: 1

Our favorite picture of our little piggy, frolicking on Wisconsin Point. - Alicia Kline

Grieving the death and celebrating the life of the one and only Doug Funnie.

Hello, Wilderness,

You likely have never met Doug Funnie, but chances are you've seen him. If you've followed me on Twitter, or looked in the photo by my byline here, you've seen him. And if you haven't, he's the puppy in the photo you see above.

It's with the heaviest of hearts that I tell you he's no longer with me.

My girlfriend, Alicia and I were quite excited last September, when we found out that our landlords were permitting us to have a small-medium dog. After a few weeks of looking on Petfinder for dogs in our area, Alicia was getting frustrated. I tend to over-think everything, and I kept going back and forth on dogs we might be interested in adopting, but never doing anything to seal the deal, such as going to a shelter. On September 12th, I was informed that enough was enough. We were just going to go to shelters in the area, and we were just going to take the plunge and pick out a dog.

I then took, once again, to scouting Petfinder for area dogs, expecting to pore over the photos of the same dogs I've seen for days. Instead, I found a new option, this time at my local Superior Animal Allies shelter. A fairly non-photogenic picture of a baby (what they then thought was a Lab/Basset hound) named Doug Funnie was available for adoption. After seeing this, it was agreed upon that Superior's Animal Allies, which had not listed any puppies for some time now, would be our first stop in our search the next day.

We made sure to get to the shelter before noon, and shortly after the doors opened, we got to see him. In a large corridor of cages, the puppy in the first enclosure to the right stood. He was notable for his quietness- we were told that he had not barked since he came in. Alicia and I fed him a treat each, and we came out with the intention of adopting him.

We played with him on the adoption floor and he bonded with us instantly. We heard his story- he was found in a park with his brother, who had been dubbed by the shelter "Hey! Arnold", and was rescued a week prior. Hey! Arnold had already found a family, and was on hold for adoption, while Doug was the staff favorite, being taken out by the shelter employees to sit and snuggle in the backroom, all the while still waiting.

He didn't have to wait much longer. We put in the hold application so that the next day we could take him home, left, came back a few hours later to play with him, and then the next day we had him in the car with us. Those first few days, he was scared of everything. Scared of the car, scared of the steps, scared of being alone. He would cry in his sleep almost every time he slept.

But as he started getting comfortable, Doug's personality started to take off. As he got over being abandoned, being separated from his brother, and living in a scary environment such as the shelter, he slowly became more vocal. I remember the surprise we had when we first heard him bark at himself in the full-length mirror. He'd follow us around and always be there in case we wanted to give him any attention at all, which he would accept happily. Many Wilderness Walks over the past 6 months were written with Doug at my side, at my feet, or standing expectantly at the end of the couch with a toy, or shredded piece of fabric or rope to play tuggy with.

In the almost 9 months we had him, he became the most important part of our lives. He became our playmate, our companion, our friend. We went to the beach, even in November, to Petco, travelling. He met many dogs, and was loved by most, and many people, of which he was loved by all. We were inseparable. Alicia and I have been together for almost 6 years now, but it wasn't until we got Doug until we felt like a family. And we were. He was our baby. Our furry baby with gorgeous brown eyes, a floppy Corgi-like ears with fur that would crinkle when wet, a distinctive trot on his stubby legs while trying to sneak away with something he shouldn't have, and a big tongue that would descend from his smile, of which he had many. He was so happy, and he didn't have nightmares anymore.

He was our baby.

And yesterday, every parent's nightmare happened, whether it's the parent of a human, dog, cat, or any other animal that you love, and loves you back. After walking Alicia to work, I put Doug in my car, with the intention of going inside to get Alicia's phone to her workplace, and then maybe get some ice cream after dropping the phone off. Maybe Doug would get a treat from that drive through window, but even if he didn't, he'd enjoy the ride. While going halfway to my house, I realized my keys were still in the ignition, and my door was locked. I headed back to the car, and opened the driver side door to retrieve my keys- I didn't want to inconvenience Doug by reaching over him, and maybe squishing him a little. When I opened the door, he bolted, out onto the busy Hammond Ave, into oncoming traffic, and was struck by a van. It feels incredibly preventable when replaying it, but happened too fast to do anything once the sequence of events was in motion. It was the first time he ever showed a sign of not being car-smart.

He staggered, yelped, and somehow he got to the edge of the street, where some neighbors who saw it helped. He had a cut on his leg and was clearly in shock, but I was told by a neighbor who had dealt with this kind of thing before that his lack of aggressiveness and pain in moving him was a good sign. I drove him to the emergency room in Duluth.

There were no good signs after. Not long after arriving, I was informed that Doug was in critical condition. He had head trauma that was causing swelling in his brain, and internal hemorrhaging. To fairly big problems. I had my parents, who had arrived shortly after me, get Alicia from work, and by the time she arrived, it was much more likely than not that she had come to say goodbye. We were told that even if Doug had pulled through these extensive injuries, there was likely a pelvic fracture that would be difficult to recover from, and the ramifications of his head trauma were significant. He was all but doomed from living a normal, healthy life. The kind he deserved. The kind of life without suffering, and with the love that we all shared together.

As the narcotics started to wear off, and Doug was becoming slightly more aware,Alicia and I made the hardest decision of our lives. We made the call to end his suffering, to euthanize him. We each said our goodbyes, thanking him for the personal growth, companionship, and love that he gave to us, and assuring him we gave the same things back to him, and saw the results in the way he grew to be a happy, sweet puppy. Alicia kissed him goodbye and left the room, not being able to bear seeing him go. I felt the same way, but feeling somewhat responsible, for the accident, and just for the needs of Alicia and Doug in general, I decided to stay with him. I didn't want Alicia to feel guilty if Doug died alone. I didn't want Doug to die alone.

He noticed as the medicine to euthanize him was put in. I don't know how aware of the situation he was, or how scared he was. He wasn't moving much, wasn't vocal at all, and moved his eyes around some. He looked scared. I wanted to comfort him, but he looked scared. I held him, scratched his ears, and whispered "I love you" into his ear until after his heart stopped. I hope he heard that. I hope he knows that he wasn't alone, that I didn't abandon him when he needed his daddy the most.

We don't know when his birthday was. We guessed June 13th, but we'll never know. We can't know for sure, but as far as we know, he was 11 days short of his first birthday. That was going to be a good day. Maybe we'd have taken him to Petco. Maybe the beach. Maybe it would have been warm enough to finally swim in Lake Superior- he'd gotten leg-deep in it in October, before realizing that Lake Superior in October is pretty cold.

It's been a rough 18 hours. A lot of crying. But we're getting through this. We have a great support system to help us, and they gave their time to be with us. We're very grateful to have that in our time of need. And we're grateful to have each other, too. We've been considerate enough to alternate breakdowns, to pick each other up when the other needed it. The hardest part about the grieving process so far is that Doug seemed almost genetically engineered to help us through the sad times. His comfort was gone, in addition to him.

Sleep was hard. Harder for Alicia. She had about two and a half hours of sleep. I maybe had five.

I saw him last night. I knew it wasn't real, that I was dreaming, but I saw him walking around the house. I got to scratch his barrel-chest, hug and snuggle with him another time. I couldn't even be mad when I woke up. Having him for a few fleeting seconds in a dream is more than I can reasonably expect, and it's welcome anytime.

I'm fighting through tears, and Alicia is talking on the phone, crying. Unknowingly contributing details here and there to this story. There too many details- that even our friends who weren't dog people loved Doug, or how much he loved playing in the snow, or how proud we were of him when Alicia taught him how to shake hands- to fully give you the impact he had on our lives.

I appreciate you reading this, if you've made it this far. Being able to share Doug with you, and celebrate his life is very important to me. I don't want to forget him. I wish you could have met him. You wouldn't want to, either.

We are having him privately cremated. We'll be taking him to his favorite places one last time. We'll sprinkle some ashes in the Petco parking lot, where he'd perk up at the mention of, and his exuberance won over the many people and animals who encountered him. We'll go out to Wisconsin Point, where he was able to go off-leash, and run around, never straying too far from us. We'll place him right outside our bedroom window, right outside the one where he'd get the most sunlight to lie in.

And we'll keep some with us, because he'll always be with us.

Our hearts are so heavy right now. We're both going to try to move on today, going to our respective workplaces, where we'd normally fret a touch about leaving Doug alone for 7-8 hours. Instead, we'll be coping with the loss of our still new, short-lived, but ultimately fulfilling family. Life will go on, we'll get better, and we'll pick up the pieces and rebuild our family. We'll get back into enjoying our lives, our interests, and there'll come a time where we feel as fulfilled as we felt even just 24 hours ago.

But for now, we'll miss our baby. It will be that way for a while.

Hopefully, we'll see Doug again, if not after life, then in our thoughts, our memories, maybe even in unusually realistic dreams- ones that capture the love, joy, warmth and softness of him. I'm waiting for that moment.

We miss you, baby.

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R.I.P. Doug Funnie (2012-2013)

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