Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Euthanizing Your Dog and Good Hair Days

I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow and I had decided I was going to whack a good bit of it. My hair grows like a bad weed, you see,  so it's really not that much of a life-altering decision. The Boyfriend jokes that it grows back by the end of the week.

The trouble with my hair is that I have a lot of it. Blondes have more hairs per square inch than brunettes. Did you know that? I have a fistful of hair, very thick stuff, and it is a wrestling match to blow it out in the morning. It is also very absorbent. I had one hairdresser tell me that she'd never seen anything quite like it. It takes a really long time to dry. So much so that my arm gets tired.

*Rubs arm and looks for sympathy. Finds none.*

And this hair is also unfortunately wavy, in all the wrong places, so I have to aggressively blow it out straight. I tug, I pull, repeatedly, trying to train it to lie straight. Then I flat iron the hell out of it, if I have time. On a humid August day like today, I walk out my door and the ends immediately start to curl, like the tendrils of a creeping vine.

So tomorrow is the hair appointment, and I've come to the momentous decision to cut quite a bit of it off. It goes past my shoulders right now, and I was thinking of even going to somewhere between my chin and shoulder.


Yes, above my shoulder. Scandalous.

Those of you who have made momentous decisions about your hair will not be surprised when I tell you what happened this morning. I blew out my hair, and it softly folded itself around my shoulders. The bangs that were in my eyes yesterday and curling up at the tips are now delicately framing my face. The back of my hair which is hard-to-reach and usually an unruly path of curls and frizz are now soft, golden waves of blondissimo.

In short, today I am Brigitte Bardot.


The day before my hair appointment. Isn't that always how it goes? You decide to cut your hair off and the day before the chopping block — your hair presents its best self. As if it is saying, "Look at how lovely I am! Look how soft! How perfect! How well-behaved! Please don't cut meeeeeeeee!"

The same thing happened with my dog.

I had a black lab named Odin who lived to be 16 years old. The last couple of years were rough, as you can imagine. He lost a lot of his muscle tone, he'd always been hard of hearing and now he'd gone completely deaf, and the cataracts in his eyes had rendered him legally blind (I'm guessing). I'm sure he couldn't drive.

But he was still my sweet black puppy and his tail would thump when he'd put his doggy head in my lap. It never seemed he was suffering to such an extent that I felt I was abusing him by prolonging his life. Besides, as a Buddhist, that whole "Do Not Kill" rule echoes in my mind, so I felt it was not my place to play Decider in the life of a dog. I wanted him to die a natural death, free from my having to make that choice.

Another year passed, and I went from having to find Odin in the backyard to place a gentle hand on his shoulder to let him know it was time to come in, to having to carry him down the three stairs that led out of the house. He'd lost some of the use of his hind legs, and the vet had assured me that it was not painful. At this point in his life, he had a degenerative disease of the spine, and he would gradually lose control of his body as the damage progressed up his spine.

"Will you tell me when he is suffering?" I asked her.

"I will," she said.

At one point I was convinced Odin could no longer continue in this condition, and it seemed selfish of me to keep him alive. I had another dog, a sweet German Shepherd named Elsa whom I was also concerned about. They were the best of companions, and I didn't want to leave Elsa alone in the house without her best friend.

Odin continued to lose muscle tone and weight, and when I lifted him to carry him down the stairs outside, he felt like a hollow bag of bones. I finally made the appointment with the vet to put him down. I was well aware of the "Do Not Kill" rule but the rule was based on the premise of not causing harm. So as far as I could see, I was causing more harm by allowing him to continue on like this.

The day before the appointment Odin perked up.

Oh, he was wiggly and waggily like a puppy. He was nosing me playfully and rolling over for me to rub his belly. He and Elsa were nipping at each other, and mouthing each other on the doggy bed they shared.

Jesus Christ Siddhartha Gautama.

What was I to do?

Curled up on the doggy bed, they both looked at me with wide, moist puppy eyes that seemed to say, "Please don't kill Odin. We love each other. We're happy. He's not suffering. Please Mommy, don't kill us."

And so I cancelled the appointment.

A couple of months later I had taken the day off of work after spending the entire night awake with Odin. He had lost control of his bodily functions, and I think he was sick. All night long I carried him in and out of the house. I sprayed Resolve Carpet Cleaner on the multitude of stains he had leaked that night. I washed and re-washed his doggy bed and various old comforters over and over again throughout the night, as each clean, warm bed was soon soiled and had to be changed again.

By that time it was pretty clear I was running a nursing home for dogs. I'm sure my friends thought I was nuts but no one was saying anything. Not to me, at least.

"Do you think I should put him down?" I'd ask.

"I don't know," they'd say.

"Do you think I'm making him suffer by letting him live?" I'd ask.

"I think you'll know when the time is right," they'd reply.

I'd ask the vet too, and she would say the same thing. She reassured me that his spinal degeneration was completely painless to him.

Until that night I did not believe my dog was suffering. When I came home at night and sat on his doggy bed, he'd rest his gray face in my lap and thump his tail. So long as he did that, I felt he was happy.

Until that night, my dog still had the energy to thump his tail. That night he did not. That night he was just a suffering bag of bones. In the morning, I call the vet, sobbing. I begged them to take us in immediately, and they did.

I cried as I patted Odin's face, my face next to his. I talked soothingly to him, "You're such a good boy, Odin. You've been such a sweet boy your whole life." Of course he was deaf and couldn't hear a thing. And he was pretty much blind so he probably couldn't see much of my face either. But he did feel my hands stroking his face — petting him as he sighed and softly went to sleep.

Today I am petting my hair.

I don't get the sense that it's suffering.

I may have to cancel the appointment.


  1. Aw, nice doggie, so sad...but off with the hair, woman!

    (great blog)

  2. Eh, it's just playing you, if you cancel the appointment it'll go back to its unruly self. Don't get sucked in, CHOP IT! Muahahahahahahahhaha


    Umm, whatever lady, it's your hair... ;)

  3. You both are like a Death Panel to my hair, aren't you?

  4. ok, I got so overwhelmed by the dog story that I couldn't focus on the hair. sorry

    *refocusing* go on and cut it (the hair) because tomorrow you will wake up and it will be the hair from hell again.

  5. Yeah, just make me cry in the morning like that. I thought this was going to be about hair.

  6. Gah! I hate crying in the morning. I'm going to have a swollen face all day.

    I was just about to post a blog in which I verbally abused my dog for being like a miniature Beethoven, but I'm not going to treat my bitch like that. Except I still get to call her a bitch whenever I want, right?

  7. Ok that story really twisted my emotions. I don't have any advice about your hair because I'm crying about your dog.

  8. This was very, very hard to read . . .but I still say cut your hair . . . perhaps that'll learn it to present its best foot more often.

  9. Gah, Mandy. Thank you for the touching blog. I'm crying in my cubicle, but sometimes that's a good thing.

  10. They're right about the hair! It's a trick. do not, I repeat, do not cancel the appointment. You will rue the day.

  11. Hahahaha. Wait. Am I a dick for laughing? I'm pretty sure I am. It was all girly and then dead dog and then girly again. It was like reading a tilt-a-whirl.

  12. I may never recover from the dog story. I haven't had one since I was little. He died when I was 12, and I closed my heart to everything with fur. *sigh* *sob* Darn you.

    As for your hair... It IS a trick! Hair ALWAYS knows when it's about to be changed, and it ALWAYS looks awesome the last day. However, you do have really lovely hair, that's a tough call. I think we should play with one of those hair style experiment thingies. I THINK you'd look awesome with an edgy (longish) bob, but I also can't imagine you without the long. I'm no help.

  13. Kurt: I felt like a bad person framing it that way, but I did it anyway. I think that's some sort of literary bad karma on my part.

  14. The dog I just left behind at "home" is 16 years now. He's had seizures, but the medication he takes completely clears him of them. The weird thing is, he's like the Benjamin Button of dogs. He acts more and more like a playful, happy go lucky puppy with each passing day. It's bizarre.

  15. It's so hard to let go of our animal friends. *sigh*

    Due to intense humidity, I'm dealing with spontaneous afro-ism. Trimming only & braiding is my answer.

    No hairy advice here.


  16. It's not very nice to make people cry! *Sniffle*

    Oh, and the hair? Chop it. :)

  17. why you wanna go and make me cry like that with the dog story..sigh..reminded me when we had to put ours down.

  18. you know my vote on short hair.

  19. I hope your hair gets better :P
    My little buddy dog, Bandit lived until 18. found him one morning with all four paws splayed out laying in his own urine. I don't know how long he was laying there, but he had a human like expression of hurt ,so I picked him up and held him for a couple of hours.
    It broke my heart completely.

  20. Why is it that in every story ever told about a dog, the dog dies in the end? Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Marley and Me, Sight Hound, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and now Mandy's Blog.

    Maybe we learn more about life from dogs' deaths than we do from their lives. We learn about important shit like when to cut our hair...

  21. I am man enough to admit I have shed tears for varioius reasons. I had a similar experience with my dog Wrigley. And now I feel like if you cut your hair, I might cry. Don't do it man, don't do it!!

  22. Have you ever cried over a bad hair day in the same way as a dead dog day? Do you miss your hair when it's cut? Are you in fact ,having an affair with your hair?
    I could continue , but I'm already in trouble with this comment :P

  23. Mandy, I LOVE this post. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

    I'm with you all the way, the perfect hair on haircut day, the perky dog on forever nap day...everything.

    If my daily reading of blogs were a Skinner box experiment, this post would be the rare treat that makes it all worthwhile.

  24. Steamy: I knew you would like it, as it is wildly inappropriate humor.

  25. The dog bit is killing me. I, unfortunately, know exactly what it is like. Your blog brought back the pain I felt in similar circumstances. Sometimes I think I get more hooked onto animals than people.

    As for the hair, well, I lust long hair. I would never tell you to cut it.

  26. We finally made the decision to put Chrissie down when she could no longer was a very hard decision. We were fortunate enough to find a vet who came to our home and put her to sleep. It was so bitter sweet, but she died in the comfort of her home with both of us crying and holding her as she peacefully died. We know it was the right decision; it was the kindest thing we could have done for her.

    The hair will always grow back!

  27. my hair...same thing !
    always wonderful right before my appointment !

    and the dog story....KLEENEX !

  28. I used to be a wild hippie with shoulder length hair. I must have gotten it cut off at some point because it's gone. But I don't remember the incident.

    ~Mickey Joe~

  29. Hi Mandy,
    Cut your hair, it will grow back.
    The story of your dog brought back memories of the wonderful dogs in my life. Most are long gone but the joy they brought is priceless.
    Thank you for sharing.

  30. Great post, Mandy! I had to cover my dog's ears during the middle section as I was reading aloud, but it was still great.

    I think it's high time the Dorothy Hamill cut came back. Go!!

  31. ha ha! I found you!! (lost my bookmarks in the great computer fail of 09)

    love the post.


  32. Well, what do you know? I can get on your blog again from work. Why don't they inform us about these changes to the proxy server?

    In any case, I'm sorry about your dog. However, his name was Odin. And that rocks.

  33. Arrh!

    Dog bless

  34. Great, now I'm crying AND feeling bad that I cut all my blonde hair off last year.

    We had a black lab that we had to put down a couple years ago after her two diseases got the best of of the hardest days of my life.

  35. Awwww...not fair!!!

    I should be working but instead I am covertly reading your blogs and now that I'm crying EVERYBODY know I'm not workin'!

    My dog, Tippy, died in my arms at home (she was old and frail and died choking on some was terrible). My mother always regretted not taking in our family dog, Muppy, earlier but Muppy would do the same thing...perk up then Mom would put it off. Then one day he was so Mom balled all the way to vet. It's always hard to say goodbye to your dogs.

    Don't go to your hair stylist in it now!

    Your title reminded me of one of my favorite Sedaris stories "Youth in Asia"...I was telling someone about it the other day...I need to dig that one up!

  36. Well I am having to make an appointment with my vet because my dog has kidney failure and I was told that he would be ok but he is getting worst everyday that goes by. So I feel your pain and I am going to miss my pet Lab Spade.

  37. I had a black lab. He was 13 when the time was right. You just know, when you love them.

  38. There's nothing like a dead dog story to make me cry like a little girl.

  39. It always breaks my heart to read those kinds of stories (though it was beautifully written) just makes me realize I will have to go through it again in a few years with my dear sweet Beagle...

  40. I lose all the blood in my arms when I blow dry my hair and am cranky for the rest of the day.

  41. OMGawd ... I just happened to stumble onto this blog and I am utterly shocked ... mostly cuz I went through THE EXACT same thing with my black lab just shy of 2 weeks ago .. EVERYTHING .. the laundering, the sponge bathing after every BM and every time he urinated ... Shadow collapsed 2 weeks ago today and never regained use of his hind legs. For months the vet had prescribed anti-biotics and all sorts of meds trying to figure out his weight loss. Not until we FINALLY took him in the following Monday evening after he collapsed did they tell us about this 'disease'. And just like your dog, once we decided the way Shadow was living was no way for a dog to live, he perked up Monday ... unlike your dog Shadow was only 1 1/2 years old and his mind and hearing were sharp ... I am SO sorry for your loss ... I am heartbroken and still trying to make sense of it all ... I am angry at the vets for not telling us something sooner ... and well .. I miss my dog.