Farewell, Twinkles

Twinkles_Shopping_Bag

From commentor Tony S:

On a recent Friday, we had a meal in silence for the first time in 11 years. Twinkle Toes, our 17-year old merry little beagle, had died that morning.

She had been our friend, tormentor, companion, interruption, amusement, and sometime inspiration for every one of those years. Every movement she made, every thought she had, every action she took, was focused on us. How much attention we were giving to her. What food we had, and might be willing to share. How she could turn her official status as alpha of a pack of six, four dogs, and two humans, to her advantage. How she could get petted, stroked, cuddled and find a cushy shoulder, or doggy butt, to lay her head on.

Even her speech, as it was, focused on us. Most dogs bark at things. Twinkles barked for things. She was an adult-almost-senior rescue, and her behavior showed a degree of familiarity with cats that bordered on indifference. Her litany of cat-like behaviors included insistent snuggling up and sleeping on various body parts. And then there was smushy face. Cat’s eyes usually aren’t that gloopy, so, when the rub their heads against yours, it’s warm and comfortable. One of Twinkles’s favorite ways of saying thank you was to press her head against your eyes so hard you’d see colors even with your eyes closed. Then she would stroke up, down, and around. Tissues were a must. Paper towels a good idea.

Twinkles had a cat-like voice. In the two thirds of her life that we knew her, she never, ever, ever barked. Instead, she yurped. It was sort of a half, maybe a quarter bark; almost a meow by beagle. In their own way, the cries were eloquent. There was a difference between “It’s dinner time,” “You’re having a snack and not sharing it,” and “You haven’t petted me enough today.” But the yurping would go on until satisfaction was attained. Like a canine metronome. For hours. We timed it. Once every five seconds. Until she got what she wanted. Since she left us, there has been a vast, beagle-sized silence in our house. It’s also inconvenient.

Twinkles was a canine timer and alarm system. She had Addison’s Disease, an illness where the body becomes unable to process energy without help. So she got a steroid pill every day. I gave it to her early in the morning. If I was late, I got yurped. We served dinner at 6:30 every evening. At 6:00, a grumbling whine began. By 6:25, it was yurp city.

By all rights, Twinkles should have been dead or in prison. She was an adult dog when she was found tied to a lamppost on Peekskill’s Main Street. She’d been there for so long her paw was bloody. Worse, she was a cripple. Her left front leg was twisted, turned out like a ballerina’s, which gave Twinkles an odd, loping walk that caused regular tumbles whenever she tried to run.

Dogs of this type are rarely if ever adopted from shelters. People want cute puppies, not gimpy grownups. But, when we purchased our house in 1999, it came with Gypsy, a super-senior beagle. We lost her three years later, when she was about 20, and had kept adopting older dogs in her memory.

We love adopting older dogs. I think Dixie Charline, the most senior pup we took on must have been about 16 when we adopted her. Our most recent addition, Snarls Barkly, was at least nine. Older dogs are great for many reasons. First, someone else has done the hard work of training them. Also, Celine and I are in our 50s. We want mellow, not some rattling bundle of energy. And, finally, we think it’s a terrible injustice that a dog which has lost the home it may have had for many years may not find new companions simply because of their age.

At five or six, Twinkles was a relative youngster when we took her on. She’d only spent a few weeks at the Elmsford, NY ASPCA. In part, that was because kept calling to see how she was doing. After we’d checked in for the third or forth time to see how the lamp post beagle was doing, the shelter said we should just come down and get her. So we did, and found we had secured a truly merry companion.

Disabilities can bother people. Twinkles didn’t care about her limp. For one, she was a dog, and didn’t have a higher ego that could get bruised or cause her to feel shamed. As a beagle, walking–movement of any kind, really–wasn’t her thing. People were, and food. Status was important only in that it meant she got her dinner bowl first.

Rescue dogs also come cloaked in compelling mystery. The first time Twinkles got seriously sick and was X-rayed, we found out her front paw was held together with a bolt and her back one with wire. Someone had put a few thousand dollars into her–and yet she wound up in the street, and then, in a shelter, alone and personless.

We had another hint she was special when we sent Twinkles to get fixed. Her papers came back with the notation, “Nice dog. Needs to loose weight.” We certainly agreed about the nice part.

To not have a person is a terrible thing for a dog. We’ve spent tens of thousands of years shaping these creatures so they crave having people in their lives, or feel terribly incomplete without them. Home isn’t just comfort to them; it’s a vital, essential need that must be filled. Twinkles gave us one of our better lessons in this when she came down with Addision’s Disease and had to spend a few days in the animal hospital.

With sleeping as her favorite hobby and eating her most joyful activity, Twinkles seemed like the ultimate in relaxed canine companions. One aspect of Addision’s disease is the Addisionian Crisis, which can bring a dog from full health to seizures and death in the space of 12 hours. Twinkles went into the hospital on Sunday on one of her crises. The vet told us she wouldn’t be leaving until at least Wednesday. I called early Monday morning to check up on her.

In the background, I heard “Yurp. Yurp. Yurp.” as we talked. Five second spacing. By noon the vet called and said “Come pick her up. Now. Please.” Twinkles wasn’t just vocalizing. The skin on top of her nose was rubbed off. She knew where her home was, and wanted to get there as fast as possible.

Dogs are intensely political creatures. Twinkles seemed to be above all that. What she wanted was a warm shoulder to sleep on and a full belly. If she had to pull rank to get she was ever-willing to do so. Our younger dogs have proven to be far more crazy than any seniors that have ever stumbled into our lives. Monty is a beagle whose size makes him verge on being a foxhound. He’s also the only purebred we have.

Incredibly obsessed with food, Monty, is also, for a dog, a mechanical genius. One evening Twinkles disappeared from the bed for an unusually long time, then came staggering back, belly bloated and eyes glazed. Monty had figured out how to open the refrigerator. Twinkles had sensed this and exercised her authority. We had guests coming that weekend. Two roast chickens, three loaves of bread, and four pounds of cold cuts vanished, with only empty plastic containers to show they had existed.

Monty could easily have put Twinkles in the doggie hospital. But she was the boss, and knew it. Twinkles had obviously had terrible things happen to her. She just didn’t give a shit, so long as she got the food and attention she deserved. When Twinkles was anointed Alpha, she took the position with grace and style. Our other dogs understood her status, and worshipped her daily–literally. Jessica would spend half an hour a day licking Twinkles’ face, while Monty dedicated himself to spending hours making sure her inner ears were surgically clean.

Always watching. Constantly thinking. Ever manipulating. If a being has a personality, is it a person? To me, this isn’t a philosophical question. Twinkles wasn’t human, but she was a unique and special individual. Some of the dogs we have that came from rough backgrounds run and hide when they sense their humans are under stress. Twinkles always came closer. There would be a bump on the leg, a nudge, and a demand for some smushy face.

She took care of her people. It’s what a best friend does.

One of the things I like best about Balloon Juice is the way it mixes community and insight with calls to action. We had 11 great years with Twinkles. The next time you’re looking for a dog, please consider an adult or a senior. And, perhaps, when you choose one, you’ll hear a “yurp” from a faraway place, and know you’ve made the spirit of a wonderful being happy.

twinkles pack Pups_Wallpaper_Size2
twinkles sleeping
twinkles IMG_20110419_210737

Twinkles_Last_Evening1






70 replies
  1. 1
    IowaOldLady says:

    What a great dog. And what good memories.

  2. 2
    CaseyL says:

    What a beautiful tribute. You did great by her. Condolences for your loss.

  3. 3
    c u n d gulag says:

    We feel your loss.
    Our heartfelt condolences.

  4. 4
    Liberty60 says:

    I’m a going to hug my dogs now. Brb

  5. 5
    raven says:

    Sweet pup, I guess it’s time to find my poem.

  6. 6
    raven says:

    We who choose to surround ourselves
    with lives even more temporary than our
    own, live within a fragile circle;
    easily and often breached.
    Unable to accept its awful gaps,
    we would still live no other way.
    We cherish memory as the only
    certain immortality, never fully
    understanding the necessary plan.
    — Irving Townsend

  7. 7
    Tommy says:

    I am a little more of a cat guy, and I love my cats:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/w.....149528657/

    But I have never had a dog and looking to get one. I’ve been looking around and I think take your advice. Sure I’d like a puppy. A few great rescue places near me. Everybody wants a puppy. I will opt for an older dog. I am just a huge hiker/walker/camper. I can’t take my cats for a walk.

  8. 8
    Yatsuno says:

    Aww what a sweetie. Bless you Tony S for your compassion. And may Twinkles be forever catching rabbits in the new existence.

  9. 9
    Woodrowfan says:

    I am so sorry. I hope it helps to know that you gave your sweet dog a loving home and a good life….

  10. 10
    raven says:

    @Tommy: You may not care but if you go to the three dots in the lower right hand corner of the page and click on “view all sizes” and then right click on the picture and select “copy image location” you get a blind url that shows your image but not your entire account.

    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/.....1361_b.jpg

  11. 11
    WereBear says:

    How beautiful! I find dogs and cats and horses to have such distinct personalities. Can souls be far behind?

    It is very true that we don’t always have to adopt “babies,” and in fact, I encourage older adoptions and have done it many times, myself.

    Here’s a trick for bonding when we adopt an older pet:

    Look for the Kitten Face

  12. 12
    MomSense says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to Twinkles.

    Sending my condolences.

  13. 13
    raven says:

    The Senior Dogs Project
    ………..”Looking Out for Older Do
    gs” ………..

    “Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.”
    – Sydney Jeanne Seward

  14. 14
    Tommy says:

    @raven: wow you learn something new every day. I did not know that. I don’t mind if folks have access to my entire Flickr account but I like to know shit.

  15. 15
    WereBear says:

    @Tommy: What cuties! That guy in the back looks like my Tristan, Lord of Pickledish.

  16. 16
    raven says:

    @Tommy: Yea, you can also disable the ability for people to copy the url like I did or even download a shot. The reason I like to use a blind url here is to prevent the account from being “harvested” by bots.
    It’s still not that hard to swipe a picture but it can help.

  17. 17
    jenn says:

    A wonderful tribute that drove me to tears. Thanks for the PSA!

  18. 18
    JPL says:

    Twinkles was a beauty and what a lovely obit for a special dog. Hugs to your family.

    Miss Moxie was three or four when I adopted her and that was such a perfect age. Easy to train and easy to love. She died in July and I’m still not ready to adopt another animal yet but have been looking at the rescues on the humane society site. There was a ten year old at the humane society awhile back. Since I’m not ready for another dog, I decided to wait but did check the site and she was adopted. Currently they have a five year old that is receiving medication for heart worm. I’ll check back but I’m still not quite ready, darn it. If a dog is being treated for heart worm is it safe to be around other animals?

  19. 19
    Tommy says:

    @WereBear: I want a dog so bad. Never had a dog. If as I said cause I’d like it to walk and/or run with me. I want a German Shepherd. I want a large dog. But gosh darn it I read shit online and they have so many health issues. The inbreeding. I keep coming back to a mute. I work for myself and often times I pick up and go someplace. My cats can get by with me out of my house for a day or so. A dog not so much. Responsbility :).

  20. 20

    What a sweet old doggy.

  21. 21
    raven says:

    @JPL: Yea, it’s an internal med (strychnine) I think. But the doggie need to be kept very quiet.

  22. 22
    raven says:

    @Tommy: Yep, hip dysplasia is very common. We loves our cockers bit goddamn they come with so many problems. Go with a mutt if possible.

  23. 23
    WereBear says:

    Get a mix for the hybrid vigor.

  24. 24
    AliceBlue says:

    {{{Hugs}}}.

    What a beautiful, loving tribute. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

  25. 25
    Bubba Dave says:

    I’m not even a dog person, and I am all teary-eyed now. Beautiful tribute.

  26. 26

    @Tommy:

    You should check with jeffreyw who comments here or posts at What’s 4 Dinner Solutions with TaMara. His wife works with a rescue org in southern Illinois and I bet they could find you the perfect doggie pal that also gets along with cats.

  27. 27
    kideni says:

    Beautiful tribute, Tony S. The last photo is particularly compelling.

    You’re so right about the joys of older pets, and it’s fantastic that you and Celine open your lives and hearts to so many of them.

  28. 28
    Tommy says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): I will look for him/her. I do actually worry about a large dog and my cats. My cats are pretty laid back. Heck I don’t even declaw them. But if cornered by a large animal they will lose.If a dog killed one of my cats, well we’d have issues.

  29. 29
    Yatsuno says:

    @Tommy:

    I do actually worry about a large dog and my cats

    Two words: Great. Dane. Big, athletic, gentle as all get out (they made a concerted effort about 60 years ago to breed out all aggression) and big piles of wuv. But get a cross, pure Danes can have health issues.

  30. 30
    kc says:

    Aww, sorry. She sounds like a great pup. What a nice tribute to her.

  31. 31
    Ash Can says:

    Tremendous essay, wonderful tribute. Condolences to the entire Tony S family on their loss.

  32. 32

    I’m going to hug my own little rescue beast (that I thought was a mutt but turned out to be a mini schnauzer). He’s small, so I have to be careful not to hug him as tightly as I’d like to right now.

    A beautiful tribute for a beautiful dog. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  33. 33
    JPL says:

    @raven: I’m going to be taking care of little Nona the end of the month but if Willy is still there in November, I might have to pick him up. link

  34. 34
    Princess Leia says:

    Thank you for your tribute. I was scanning the local shelter today and saw two senior black labs. How well you have captured my sadness for them – especially the old ones- who are so unlikely to find a home. Bless you for taking on Twinkles and your whole pack. May she be going from treat to treat in the great beyond, yurping to her heart’s content.

  35. 35
    greenergood says:

    Thanks for your lovely description of Twinkles – it’s always amazing to read how a critter just implants themselves in our lives without us even realizing it. I’m a cat person but have never adopted a kitten: too many older cats are just waiting to be brought into a forever home. Even the ‘ferals’ that have edged into my life every now and then – they make me so sad when they nudged happily up to a hairbrush or accepted bedding down in a laundry basket full of old sweaters – makes me realise they had a human once, but were abandoned and remember when things were easier. You made a lovely old hound very happy, and it looks like you make a habit of it! Good karma!

  36. 36
    MazeDancer says:

    Such gorgeous writing. Such a fabulous tribute to clearly a spectacular dog. I cried all the way through, somewhere between sadness at Twinkles being gone and joy that she had such a wonderful person and home to love her.

    Thank you for letting us know Twinkles. Thank you for letting us feel such doggie love.

  37. 37
    shelly says:

    Goddamn -it. Everytime one of these threads are up on Balloon Juice I start blubbering.

  38. 38
    mai naem says:

    This is just such a sweet wonderful tribute to a dog who was obviously so loved and cared for.

  39. 39
    Dee Loralei says:

    What a beautiful love story and tribute to such an obviously great dog.

  40. 40
    Mary G says:

    I slept very, very late and am probably commenting on a stone dead thread, but I just wanted Tony S. to know what a great tribute to a great dog this was. I was crying by the last picture. It makes me glad I didn’t get a kitten like I had planned, I got the two problem cases that had been in the shelter more than a year who hate every human but me, and now HBM a little bit.

  41. 41
    geg6 says:

    Wow, Twinkles was obviously a great dog to inspire such a lovely tribute. My condolences to you. …wipes tears…

    Now I’m gonna go hug my rescues, Koda and Otis.

  42. 42
    Jay C says:

    Condolences and sympathy to you, Tony: and your whole (human- and canine-) family. It must be an awful loss as it always is with caring humans who make members of their family out of loving, but shorter-lived species: it sounds like Twinkles had (and gave) a very good life with (to) you: sorry for your loss…

  43. 43
    Ann Marie says:

    You were both very lucky to have each other. I grew up with a beagle and they are great dogs.

  44. 44
    Ruckus says:

    Tony S.
    Sorry about the loss of your friend. You paid a great tribute to her. Many of us can wax on about older dogs but it is true that rescuing an older dog is like making a new old friend, they have the personality already developed and they aren’t going to change for you. You both learn to put up with each other, a wonderful thing.
    And I remember you talking about Snarls Barkley before, what a great name.

  45. 45
    SectionH says:

    *SNIFF* Of course I’m tearing up. That was a wonderful tribute to Twinkles. My best to you, Tony S. She was a lucky girl, and you were lucky too.

    And yeah, we adopted a 12 yro rescue last March. A cat, because tho’ we love dogs too, we travel too much to be a good family for dogs. To watch her blossom has just been amazing.

  46. 46
    phoebes-in-santa fe says:

    That was a beautiful eulogy about Twinkles and your family. You gave her both a good life and a good death and a dog or cat can’t ask for anything more than that. And maybe you’ll add another older dog to your family when you feel you’re ready.

  47. 47
    phoebes-in-santa fe says:

    @Mary G: Mary, taking two older cats – problems, even – will earn you plenty of good points for where ever you end up! I hope you’re enjoying them and they’re enjoying you. I’ve never particularly liked kittens; I’ve always adopted full-grown rescue cats.

  48. 48
    WereBear says:

    @phoebes-in-santa fe: Older cats can be the easiest life-blend in the world.

    I recently wrote a blog post on how the different ages of cat adoption work:

    The cat acquisition continuum

  49. 49
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Tony S, that is just a beautiful (and beautifully-written, might add) tribute. I’m sorry for your loss and cheered by the lovely memories you have of her and were kind enough to share. The photos are great, too. Thank you, and bless you for being such a good person.

  50. 50
    satby says:

    Beautiful eulogy Tony. My deepest condolences on your loss.

  51. 51
    Joy says:

    So sorry for your loss. It’s amazing the impact these creatures have on our lives and the havoc they wreak with our emotions when they leave this earth. It’s a beautiful tribute. Twinkles was one of a kind for sure. How lucky you all found each other. Godspeed Twinkles!

  52. 52

    Man, I’m sorry. Friday was a year to the day that we said goodbye to Abby the brittany spaniel, so I’ve had this kind f thing on my mind lately. I still feel like it could have been only a few weeks since we had her. I wish there were something I could say that would help, but I know there isn’t. It’s something that has to heal, and it will heal, but as you already know, the wound aches something awful while it does.

  53. 53
    Joy in FL says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your sweet dog. I’m so glad you had her.

    I had to put my Great Dane to sleep in June. Then my orange kitty Arthur had some problems that suddenly went out of control, and I let him go on Sept. 18.
    I couldn’t take the empty house, so I looked online for a senior pet. I found a cat and dog whose owner had to go to a nursing home. The animals were in foster care for 2 months with a very nice couple.

    I met Mandy and Tigger last Wed and brought them home Friday. They are perfect for me.
    http://mandyandtigger.tumblr.com
    And I love Balloon Juice people because I can share this and know you folks know what I mean.

  54. 54
    Persia says:

    What a beautiful dog and a lovely tribute.

  55. 55
    WereBear says:

    @Joy in FL: Bless you!

    They look like awesome personalities.

    The way I see it, we don’t demand to know our human friends from birth. Why should our pets be that way?

  56. 56

    What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful dog. They leave such big paw prints on our hearts.

  57. 57
    Kifaru1 says:

    I have a senior basset who has a double-heart murmur. She was about 7 when we adopted her and she is now 11 years old and still going strong. Not sure where she came from but she wants to be dominant (over other dogs and men/boys), but she tries too hard. She does not like red pickup trucks or being picked up. I have never heard her howl, just the continuous “Give me what I want” bark. She can take the top off of a child’s cup with her teeth and play a mean game of fetch with her red squeeky ball (and only HER red squeeky ball, not the imposter ones)….. It is very gratifying as they know you saved them :) Fly free sweet Twinkles, to the grand buffet in the sky. I know a couple of doggies named Kify and Mocha who can show you around…..

  58. 58
    khead says:

    This post is a really wonderful tribute. BJ at it’s best.

    Sorry for your loss Tony.

  59. 59
    Linda1961 says:

    What a beauty! My condolences on your loss.

  60. 60
    Leslie says:

    @Liberty60:

    Ditto.

    Wonderful tribute, wonderful dog. Thanks.

  61. 61
    Tony S says:

    @Tommy: Hi. This is Tony. Twinkles was never a great walker. But beagles are hounds, and hounds love to not only walk, but chase. We think this is how some of our beagles got “lost,” because we really can’t see them being abandoned, since the were such great companions.

    But they don’t always get lost. One time I was walking all four dogs on a triple leash for Monty, Jessica and Twinkles (this was before Twinkles entered the shopping bag phase illustrated at the top of the post). Monty is an incredible escape artist. He shook off his harness and headed for the hills. We were up at my parents former place in Ct. about a mile from home. I spent an hour calling for him, and then slowly made my way home.

    My wife greeted me with the comment, “Why did you send Monty home an hour ago. He was screaming at the door like he’d been hit by a car.” (Beagle voices vary wildly. There’s a difference between a bark and a scream. Monty knows it. So does our neighborhood). Though Monty had only been on the road once, he’d made his way home in about five minutes.He’s a bit of a demented pup.

  62. 62
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Beautiful post. May Twinkles rest in peace. She was a gorgeous doggie.

  63. 63
    Tony S says:

    @kideni: Thanks again, everybody. A word about the last picture. I’m actually ashamed of it, because I hesitated a little too long in letting Twinkles go. A word of advice to those who own elder dogs — when your Vet offers to kill your pet, do it. On Monday, we took Twinkles in for tests and the vet realized she had a tumor on her chest and in her leg. By that point, Twinkles was basically unable to walk. I should have had her put down right then, but I wanted to give her one last chance. That wasn’t the best idea. A dog that can’t walk has no idea why it can’t walk. It just knows it’s uncomfortable and scared. Twinkles had a very anxious few days, and that just wasn’t her style. I’ve had situations where I wasn’t sure time was up, but in this case, I was more than certain.

    BTW, I know this thread is probably done, but, if you want to hear her “yurp,” here it is:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U–YUuozAQc

  64. 64
    Jane2 says:

    Condolences on the loss of Twinkles, who sounds like one heck of a fine dog.

  65. 65
    koz kozman says:

    That was beautiful I truly feel for you and am so sorry for your loss…
    She was a cutey…

  66. 66
    LanceThruster says:

    Condolences. It’s good to read about companions who received (and gave) love in abundance to the end.

  67. 67
    Manyakitty says:

    I’m so sorry. Dang all this crying at work stuff…

  68. 68
    Iceskatingschnauzer says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Twinkles sounds like a perfect doggy companion. I just lost my little man Fred in August (he would have been 16 just before Christmas) and the grief is still raw. There is nothing that compares to the love and gratitude in the eyes of an old dog receiving love and care up until they close their eyes for the last time. RIP Twinkles.

  69. 69
    Johnny's Mom says:

    @Tony S: That is a beautiful yurp. She was a beautiful girl, and it would seem, a little bossy. I say that with affection. I love the bossy ones. I am very sorry for your loss.

  70. 70

    Oh it’s so sad. I know exactly how you feel and i can totally relate. It is really painful to lose a furry bestfriend. I lost my almost 11 year old last January, although i feel better now, i still miss him a lot and still long for him. Anyway, you have such a wonderful tribute for twinkles. I’m sure twinkles felt unconditional love from you too.

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