A story sad to tell — about a little girl Schnauzer that would change my life in so many ways and be part of some of the most important changes in my life. Corky, although only a baby of 9 weeks when we were brought together, would bless my life for fourteen amazing years.
It’s been hard to talk about and now even harder to write about, but my new inspiration and support comes from none other than a little Schnauzer by the name of Violet Von Schnorkenheimer. Having her around makes it easier to finally share Corky’s final days, and I hope that you find reading this just as comforting as it has been for me to write this.
I was lucky to celebrate Corky’s 14th birthday, but not without any changes in her well-being and concerns on my part. I knew that this was a good old age for a miniature schnauzer, and I could see over the previous six months that her health had been failing. She had partial sight as of about a year before that, and was hard of hearing, but now quite blind and deaf. That was November 2008, and just over a month later Corky was put to rest. That last month was not easy as I continued to work in both Connecticut and New York, and Corky, as a real trooper, would be there right by my side.
Her last days were mostly spent sleeping in her basket and she only woke for a quick kiss and bathroom break. Increasingly, in the end, she could not control herself and found herself peeing in bed and looking at me with sad eyes telling me how sorry she was that she could not help herself. I would kiss her with endless bouts of love and offer nothing but acceptance to whatever she needed to do. “I love you Corky and it’s okay.” In her last week she would spoil in bed and lay in it and I know how much that must have killed her as she was always clean and pretty for everyone to see. She was tired and her inner body what shutting down yet her mind and spirit were just as alive as that first day she came home with me. I knew that I needed to do do something but the pain cut through my heart just thinking about life without Corky. You see, not long ago both Corky and I lost our dear friend Edward, who will forever be part of my life, and now with Corky almost gone I was painfully wondering how life could be without both of them.
Life does not give us anything we cannot handle and Corky was alive and well to take me through Edward’s death. I take solace in the fact that even without Corky around something forever reminds me of his goodwill and amazing love for life and the people he cared about: his roses, and the knowledge he bestowed on me. Symbolized in Rosebrook Gardens, each spring the abundance of roses bloom and I’m reminded of him and the new beginnings that life has in store for me.
I knew that the Corky that everyone knew and loved was for the most part gone for good–the playful, energetic, curious, and beautiful girl had slipped away, and despite how hard I might have been hoping for it, I knew that she wasn’t going to suddenly rally and come back. Keeping her here would have been only for my own selfish reasons. So I knew it would be the end, a decision that only I could make. I packed us up and left New York as planned, but for Corky this was her final farewell to the city. I’m glad she spent some of her last time there, as I never met another dog who so effortlessly transitioned between her routines at the house with its gardens and the city with its sidewalks.
After the short drive home, I gave her a bath, and almost didn’t need water as the tears I shed could have filled the tub. While bathing, I told her stories of all the fun and special times we had together. I told her she was a good girl, a good girl, a good girl. I told her what a wonderful pet she was, and that it was okay for her to let go. I gave her a lovely comb-out, and put some special perfume on her. Then I carried her downstairs and sat her in an armchair in the kitchen so she could watch as I grilled on the stove-top a great Black Angus steak–which set off every smoke alarm in the house. When all the commotion died down, I sliced the steak into small strips and hand-fed her. Quite a treat, as the last months of her life she was on the blandest of diets due to her tricky tummy. I shared that steak with her, so this was a special last meal together.
After a last nap together, it was mid-afternoon when I took her to the vet. He’d saved her life before, and he confirmed what I’d suspected: “Mar, only you know when it’s time.” With tears running down my face, I answered, “We’re ready.” He explained he would give her a shot and she would slowly go to sleep. He would then check her heart to confirm that she’d passed away. As I sat holding Corky on my lap and surrounded by my arms I couldn’t help recall all the wonderful experiences and how she fulfilled my life and made me a better me. The memories seemed endless, but the emotion was debilitating. “What would my life be without this little salt and pepper, 16-lb schnauzer that I coddled and loved from the moment I brought her home?” I wondered. We loved, we lost, and we grew up together. But I hoped that this decision I made for her, although horrible to make, is one that someone will have the courage to do for me some day. With a full belly and my tears on her head I let go. I felt her leave her painful body and be taken to a better place. There was no need to check whether or not she was gone. I’ve witnessed, twice in my life, love leave a body and move into my soul.
Corky died at 2:20pm on December 14th, privately, and in my arms, with my tears on her head and the love of all that was good in life.
I went from the vet’s office to the car, and made two phone calls. I don’t recall getting home after that. But the news travelled. I sat in the too-quiet house, staring at the fire, but it wasn’t long until friends came calling. The support was abundant, but my pain was relentless. Although I made the right decision I was now alone.
Days passed, and the grief turned to confidence that I did the right thing. On Christmas eve, ten days later, Corky’s ashes came home and my Christmas tree decor reflected my blue mood. It was a blue Christmas without out her, no doubt.
A lot like Edward’s roses, Violet now offers the same insight to all that life has to offer. I realize by spending time with her just how diminished Corky’s health and life had become. I miss her every day, but I do not question my decision. And I have someone else in my life to share my love, so it never goes a day again without being given to a most deserving little girl.
I want to leave you with this: I’ve loved, I’ve cried, I’ve lost. But no matter what, I’ll remember a little schnauzer that changed my life.
And there you have it.