A Sudden Goodbye to a Good Friend

Tsuga of Goose Creek
Image by fred1st via Flickr

For those few who have been visiting since 2003 when our yellow lab named after the Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga (“sooga), joined us, you have come full circle. Tsuga died by euthanasia Monday night.

I will perhaps allow myself to work out my grief by eulogizing him here over the coming weeks.

He died from GDV–gastric dilatation and volvulus, from eating or drinking too much too fast. It is, unfortunately, not all that uncommon in larger breeds. It is described in some places as “the second leading cause of death among dogs after cancer” and yet many people are not aware of it.

Tsuga had some episodes of profuse drooling a year or so ago, which is one of the symptoms of GDV, though his condition never became of concern before Monday night. So when he began showing the inability to vomit, obvious discomfort, panting and whining, I reviewed the condition and it seemed apparent that this is what was going on.

The good thing is that over his 8 and a half years, he did not suffer but his final two hours.

I rushed him to the emergency vet clinic in Christiansburg but even that quickly, his symptoms were such that the odds of a normal life after the extensive and risky surgery were too low to allow. He was in great pain, and we made the immensely difficult decision to send him on.

We will be processing our loss and talking about our choices for adding another dog, knowing we can never replace Tsuga.

It is amazing how insinuated he had become in every move we make around here. I look for him right behind me when I turn my chair to get up. I look for him in the doorways to decide to step over or go around him, and he is not there. I search for a place to put my feet when I get out of bed in the morning, knowing he is right there beside me, but the floor is cold and empty.

This is very, very hard, and there is no way around it. So we do the next thing, and I have never felt quite so alone. And it all happened so fast it makes my head swim.

Anybody have a lead on a Labrador Retriever breeder within a couple of hours of Floyd, let us know. We don’t want to go very long without the blessed aggravation of our next dog.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Oh my goodness, Fred, I’m so sorry for your loss. It is always so hard to lose a good friend, but I know that it is even harder when the loss is so sudden and unexpected. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.

    I can’t think of any local lab breeders that I can personally recommend, but there is a golden retreiver breeder I can recommend in Blacksburg, if you’d like to try something slightly different. I’ll look through my contacts and see if I can find a good lab breeder in the area.

  2. Oh, Fred! That must have been a tough day for you two. Your blog bears witness to a few of the great memories you have of this spirit. Aren’t dogs just so wonderful? I just don’t know how people get along without. BTW, petfinder.com is a great resource and the key to our finding Sherman in northern North Carolina three years ago. Tsuga, what a special name for a special companion.

  3. Oh, Fred! You and Ann have my deepest sympathies. Tsuga had a wonderful life full of canine joys–woods to run in, creeks to splash in, and critters to chase after. I’m glad that Reggie and I got to meet him in the flesh when we visited in 2005. I’m glad, too, that you were able to save him from suffering in the end.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear this, Fred. I know there is/was a lab breeder nearby. I spend the summers in the Meadows of Dan vicinity, and occasionally go to Chateau Morrisette winery. They have a lovely lab there, ZuZu, who is their “greeter” and she has a marvelous temperament and a true Lab build – not giant, just right. I emailed them to ask about the breeder, and they sent me the contact info. If I wasn’t in a tearing hurry this morning I could probably put my hands on it, but I’m sure if you contacted them they would be happy to put you in touch!

  5. This is just the saddest news. Being an animal lover/dog owner myself, I can absolutely relate to your pain. I am so sorry, but he had a wonderful environment in which he lived and am certain he was very content and happy!!

  6. Thanks to all, it helps to have an empathetic understanding of this sudden and significant loss. I think, with the kind help of doggeek and others, we are exploring golden retrievers, and there may be a breeder not so far away with a litter not so far off, we hope. Because this place and this time in our lives (especially as I face another winter of significant aloneness) demands the space be filled with a companion on four paws.

  7. Oh Fred, I am so sorry. Tsuga was a wily loving prince among canines, and I grieve with you. May your next little prince come along soon.

  8. I am so sorry to hear about this. Over the years, I have enjoyed your Tsuga stories here on your blog. From my own experience, I try to remember that part of loving our pets is knowing when to let them go. He was lucky to have you an Ann, and you were lucky to have him.

  9. Like everyone else, Fred, I too am so sorry for your loss. The visits to Goose Creek were that much more enjoyable with his yellow presence there. Take good care at this time –

  10. So sorry to hear this. I lost my beloved Irish Setter, at 16, to the same thing. May you find your new companion soon. Breeders.net is a good site for locating breeders.

  11. Oh Fred, I’m so sorry. We had the same thing happen to one of ours this past spring. If I hear of any pups I’ll let you know.

  12. Fred, Ralph and I send our deepest condolences. Saying goodbye to these loving and steadfast creatures is so very hard. When it comes so suddenly it is even harder, with no time to steel yourself to the emptiness that follows. Best wishes as you look for another canine companion.

  13. Oh Fred! I had hoped you would have many more years with him – my heart aches for you – 2011 a bad year for our dogs.
    Hugs Rob

  14. same here – Jay haunts our place – when I go for my walks with Mildred – I call on him to join us – he is everywhere. May this be true for you too

  15. I am so sorry! What a shock to lose such a significant part of daily living – and so quickly. My heart goes out to your both. Tsuga couldn’t have asked for better “parents” and the stories you’ve told over the years about this happy pup clearly showed the bond you and Ann shared with him and he with you. Only those who have loved and lost a pet know the intensity of the grief, but know we’re out here sharing it with you.

  16. Fred, I am so sorry for your loss. It is never easy to lose one of our loving companions, and to lose one so suddenly must be extremely difficult. As you look for someone new to join your family, please consider that the Floyd Humane Society has lots of great dogs (and cats) that need forever homes. http://www.floydhumanesociety.org/content/

  17. My, I had sticker shock in 2003 at the $200 we paid for Tsuga. Looking like that price is up by about 300%. Or more. I wonder if my pet-owning ethics might make us consider the local pound, though we have never done anything but rear our pups from scratch.

  18. I am so sorry! The loss of a treasured dog is very painful. I have enjoyed reading about his happy life on Nameless Creek.

  19. Fred,
    All of us who have let a four-legged friend take residence in our hearts know how hard it is to lose one. Your responsibility was to give Tsuga a great family, a great life and a great send-off. He will be missed by all of us who love your blog.

  20. I found my first and favorite-est dog at the pound. His whole litter was there, and they were maybe 4 months old. He didn’t seem scarred in any way by his first home, and we got to raise him in every respect. Our current dog is a rescue dog, and he was maybe 10 months old. He has been almost as dear as my first. Both dogs: black, shaggy mutts; one named Inky, the next: Scruffy. Whatever you do, I am glad you are moving expeditiously to have a constant pal with you again. At our age, dogs make so much difference in the quality of our lives.

  21. I am so sorry for your loss. From my own experience to me it was like losing a family member. And Tsuga was much too young! Thanks for pointing out the cause of his death: GVD. I read up on it and realized that my big dog had one of the warning signs recently: going out in the middle of the night and trying to eat twigs and grass. He had never done that before. I am going to have to change his diet and in general follow the recommendation on the website to which you supplied a hyperlink. Thank you so much.

  22. My sincerest condolences, Fred, on the loss of your dear companion. Having had the pleasure of meeting Tsuga, I know that this has been hard. He was definitely all Lab…big, friendly, lovable.

    You’ll never replace him, of course, but when the time is right, you’ll have an opportunity to open your home to another affable canine and make his or her life a lot brighter. There’s plenty of room at Goose Creek to stretch your legs, even if you have four of them. 🙂

  23. Fred,

    I just heard about GDV last week from a friend who bought a food bowl with lumps or bumps in the bottom of it to slow down the rate of her dog’s eating. This is supposed to help prevent GDV. I’d never heard of it before. I have one of those fast eaters–she’s a chow/shepherd/something mix I got from a rescue shelter when she was a puppy.

  24. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Just reading your blogs about Tsuga gave me much enjoyment, as I’m sure his companionship gave you. Memories are such dear things.

  25. Oh, Fred, I’m so sorry your beautiful dog is gone. I’ve not heard of GDV before–so much I don’t know! I have a Lab/Beagle mix; I’ll have to be on my guard, I guess. My condolences to you and your family. We enjoyed hearing about Tsuga and seeing your beautiful pictures of him. He will be missed by all.

  26. Dear Fred – I just now read your posts about Tsuga, I am so very sorry for your loss. I always enjoyed your stories and photos of him.

  27. Fred and Ann:
    I just read about Tsuga. I am so sorry to hear this. It’s heartbreaking for all of us. I read the post about your selection of Gandy. What a beautiful dog.

    I am sorry that I have not been keeping up with your Posts, but we have been rather busy here, with two close deaths in the family, etc.

    Again, I am sorry to hear about Tsuga, and I am so glad I got to read about his life and exploits, via Fragments From Floyd.