“Will you stay with me?”
“Until the very end.”
Kermit was adopted on Friday. It was a beautiful moment but it didn’t come with the usual fanfare of a long-stay dog finding their home. Kermit was adopted by one of our directors whom he lived with for the majority of his time in foster. It turns out, she was his home. Not her house, but her heart. That is where he lives now, and in the hearts of all who knew and loved him.
For those who don’t know his story, Kermit was picked up as a stray several years ago, one of the most emaciated dogs we’ve ever seen. Medical testing revealed malformations that landed him in a hospice foster. Kermit and his stubborn Italian foster mama had other ideas, however. Fattened up and watched over with love, he rebounded. Even still, he was given maybe two years at best. When we said goodbye to him on Sunday, Kermit was four and a half years old. He claimed more of life than fate wanted to give him and lived it to the fullest, despite a lifetime of medical and behavioral challenges.
In truth, Kermit’s real name is Eeyore. It’s the name he was given when we first met him at APA! and it’s still how we all think of him. After three years in the shelter system, someone thought the name change might get him adopted. But his name was never the problem. Eeyore loved everyone; people, kids, dogs, cats. He loved them all but he couldn’t really live successfully with any of them for long. He had sensory issues, an inability to self-calm, and moments when he drifted somewhere far away that none of us could reach him.
And yet, through the years, Eeyore learned to connect. He bonded and loved and lived. He brought laughter and his unique quirky charm everywhere he went. He is easily one of the smartest, most highly trainable dogs ever to grace the earth. If training and love could have saved him, Eeyore would have outlived us all.
Love leads you to exhaust all options. Love makes you fight the notion that you cannot save someone. And love is ultimately what pushes you to make the hardest decision you’ll ever make. It’s from love that courage and strength spring, even in the face of heartbreak. It’s love that forces you to do right by the dog you want so badly to be well, to stay until you can depart hand and paw together.
When we first met Eeyore, years ago, his medical and behavioral conditions were unique but manageable. They remained so over the years, though we knew it would take a home as unique as he was to meet his needs. But something changed this summer. Ultrasounds and tests didn’t explain what as we’d hoped they would, but it was clear to all who knew and loved him. He often seemed physically uncomfortable, his struggles to get oxygen became more frequent and longer in duration, his stress outlets like chewing toys more obsessive. He was less able to enjoy favorite things like hikes through the woods and needed to be held more to help him calm down. The moments that he left to the place only he could go became more and more frequent. And so we had to answer the question, how much more can we ask of this dog?
One of the dictates of Eeyore’s medical needs was staying on a low sodium diet. This week, he dined on things like french fries, burgers, gelato, and tacos for the first time in his life. He could not believe the deliciousness…all these years he’d been excited about cheerios! He also got to spend time with the many people who loved him and helped care for him. He was surrounded by love through the very end and will rest in his favorite backyard spot with an orange tree planted just for him.
Eeyore lived a good life. It’s one of the things we all try to console ourselves with but it’s there to reach for because it’s true. For as long as he was in the shelter system, he spent probably less than a month physically there. He made it clear that was not going to work for him and scored himself an immediate spot in foster. For much of his time, he’s been in what turned out to be his forever home.
Eeyore made a lot of friends, from human to canine to feline. He sniffed a lot of sniffs. Ate a lot of greenery. Chewed countless toys and tugged and tossed them with vigor. Once he discovered the magic of cuddling, he made up for lost time and declared himself an official lap dog. He nommed down treats and emptied kongs like a pro. He drove his foster brother nuts. He developed an impressive resume of nifty tricks and skills. He explored endless trails and practically learned to drive a car. He loved and was loved in return.
Explaining his unique challenges was a somewhat daunting task, but explaining why we loved him was always easy. Eeyore, we love you. You are a good dog. Each person that you’ve met is lucky to have known you and to have shared as much of your world as we did. We will carry your love and your lessons always. Goodbye, Eeyore, beautiful, ridiculous, wonderful dog. And thank you.