Monday started out as a perfect day celebrating my youngest son’s 14th birthday. But it quickly ended in one of the saddest days we have had as a family. Our beloved dog Monte had to be put to sleep after discovering that he had prostate cancer, and that there was nothing else they could do about it. How do you write about the loss of a loved one? Let me start by sharing a little about the past eight years that we have enjoyed with Monte…
I never saw myself as a “dog person.” I loved cats growing up, and had thought of being a veterinarian. We had several cats before our boys were born, and a few while they were younger as well. Having boys, we started to feel that maybe they needed a dog to grow up with. We tried a couple of dogs out that just didn’t work with our family. One was so hyper that it was hard enough to keep up with my kids at their young age, let alone a dog who took way too much attention away from my boys. We just hadn’t found the right fit yet, and wondered if we would ever be “dog people.”
My husband had seen a one-year-old boxer named Monte in the newspaper that was at a local animal shelter. We talked about it, and I just wasn’t sure because we hadn’t had any luck yet finding a dog that worked with our family life. He and the boys drove out one evening while I was at work to see Monte, then we were all supposed to go a couple days later to see if he was still there. On the day that we were supposed to go, Jon called and said he had gotten tickets to see the Detroit Tigers play, and that maybe this was God’s way of telling us not to get a dog. I had just had my 30th birthday, so since the boys and I were going to be home alone I decided to go to the mall in the next city to go shopping. I didn’t see anything that I wanted (which is so unusual!) As we were driving home, I told the boys, “Let’s just go look at the dog.” (And I’m sure you all know how that comments ends)…
We got to the animal shelter, and since it was a sunny day they had all of the dogs outside. The dogs were barking like crazy and jumping up on the fences. All except for one: Monte. He just looked up at us like “Help me.” The lady asked if we wanted to see him, so we took him to a little consult room where the boys played fetch (funny thing is, that was the ONLY time he has ever played fetch, after that the gamed turned to “keep away”). The employee at the shelter told me that Monte had been turned in by his owner because she was retiring and was going to be doing a lot of traveling. The boys really liked him and asked if we could get him. I signed the papers, and we were proud new owners of a boxer!
The shelter basically gave us a piece of rope to use as his leash. We did not have any pet supplies, so we had to take him to Petco. I’m not sure if Monte had ever been in there, but he was strong and he was pulling me all over that store! I thought, “Oh no! What did I do? Jon’s going to kill me!” We got his bed, food and water bowls, dog food, leash, collar, and a few dog toys and pretty much used the rest of my birthday money. Shortly before Jon got home, I told the boys that we needed to hide the dog! Jon walked in the house and before we even said anything he told me, “You got the dog.” He said he had a feeling I would go get him.
Monte fit into our family immediately. We couldn’t believe that anyone could willingly give him away! For the first four days that we had him, he did not bark. I seriously thought they may have clipped his vocal cords. When he finally let out his first bark, it was deep, and he looked around like “who was that?!?” Monte never was much of a barker, even if someone was at the door. He would bark if someone left him outside too long, or at our neighbor’s dogs if they tried to wiggle through our fence, but that was pretty much it.
Monte was the biggest baby. He let the boys lay on him, and he loved to lay in our laps. He really acted like a little human. I had even caught him on many occasions laying in our bed with his head on my pillow! The longer we had Monte, the more nicknames he accumulated. We kept his original name, since he knew it, and it seemed to fit, but he was also known as “Monte Elroy Major” (by our youngest, who wanted to name him Elroy but we let him use it as his middle name), “Bo-Bo,” “Oppy,” “Bubby,” and “Monte Oppy-Poo.” Don’t ask why, they just seemed to stick. He could come to any of them.
When we first got Monte, he was so strong that I could barely walk him (remember our first day at Petco?) The first time I took Monte to a local park for a walk by myself, I told him “Now, Monte, if you start to pull on the leash we are getting back in the car and going home.” That walk lasted about one minute. There were lots of other dogs, and he wanted to see ALL of them. Back into the car we went… As I did some research, I decided to get a pinch collar for him. It doesn’t actually hurt them (if you do it right), it’s more of a gentle nudge or reminder to slow down and stick close. That collar was a lifesaver. Eventually, I was able to take Monte for 3-5 mile walks and we even progressed to running. He was much faster than I was, but of course still had fun.
Monte also liked to do a thing in the beginning days where you would run at you FULL FORCE when you called his name, causing you to either fall back or jump away. We soon learned how to prevent that behavior by lifting up one knee when he would do it and yell “Stop!” Monte loved to give hugs. He would get up on his back legs and give you a “hug” around your waist with his paws.
We tried very hard when we got Monte to keep him off of the couch. We thought he was staying off the couch. Until one night when I woke up at 2:00am and discovered that he was sleeping in the recliner. He looked up at me with tired little eyes that said “Try to make me move.” From that point on, Monte was allowed on the furniture. Luckily we had leather so it could be wiped off easily.
Monte used to always sleep with our oldest son, Adam, at night. Adam was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis at the age of 10. It was an extremely difficult time in our lives, and Monte brought a lot of comfort to him. When Adam was at kids’ camp, Monte would go to Adam’s door every night at bedtime and wait for him. It was sad, but I think Monte needed Adam just as much at night and enjoyed having someone to cuddle with. As the boys got older, they started taking turns over who would “get Monte” at night.
Monte will forever be loved and missed by our family. He was such a blessing to us, and I still can’t believe that he’s gone. This morning was my first workout since he passed away. It didn’t feel right to be working out without him there. He always laid on his bed near me, would do the “down-dog” and “up-dog” yoga moves when I did, and would often walk under my arms or legs during stretches to “help”. I never minded, I would stop and pet him, and often appreciated the extra support.
We are still trying to process what life looks like without Monte. There is a part of me that feels such loss that I want to get another dog right away. Not to replace Monte, but to help fill a void. The house feels too quiet. Yesterday, there were several times that I stopped and thought, “This is a time I normally would have taken Monte for a walk.” I’m praying about it, I don’t want to rush into an decisions focusing on just by my emotions. I also don’t want to make a selfish decision without taking into account how my husband and boys feel… I would love to hear from others who have struggled to make similar decisions and hear any advice that you have for a family grieving the loss of the beloved pet… Life can just be so tough sometimes… But for now, we have to focus on all of the great memories that we had with Monte, and thank God for the gift that he gave us for the past eight years…