It’s a big day for me.  Today, I am taking down my ‘hiatus’ notice, and am again available to help new and existing clients with their dogs.  The road I have followed these last six weeks since Tycho’s death has not been straight, and neither have I reached the end of that road.  But I believe that part of our family’s healing process is that I again start to look outwards, by helping other people/clients with their doggy training needs and problems.

As for my own family of animals: they have been speaking from their hearts and I needed to listen. I have lost count of the number of vet visits I have made in the last six weeks as each of our cats became ill in turn since Tycho’s passing. I don’t know about you, but I remember when I was at school and university (I know I’m not the only one that goes through this stuff), I would often spend the first few days after our year-end exams with a heavy cold or flu – as though my body had been holding in all that stress and tension, and when the pressure came off, my body would go ‘whew, now I have the time to have that cold that’s been brewing’. So too our cats.

In the first two weeks after Tycho’s disappearance, all of them started to suffer from vomiting and diarrhea.  Lexie, our black cat who suffered the most under Tycho’s predatory drive, and consequently became the most ill, is still not entirely well. He has developed a kidney infection that has been ongoing for more than a month now and he is still on antibiotics for it. His toileting habits have become, shall we say, “unclean”, and I’m hoping that his inappropriate eliminations will go away once his kidney infections clear up, but that is taking some time. Harry, our 16 year old tabby cat, has developed hyperthyroidism on top of his already existing renal failure, and now really does need his subcutaneous fluids twice a week.  Even feral Chloe, our polydactylous calico, has been ill.

Our remaining two dogs have also changed. Changes for the better. Kira, my little kooiker, is learning to play again. She is finding that toys are no longer stolen away from her by Tycho and she is taking great pleasure in inviting me to a game of tug with this or that squeaky toy. The squeakier, the better. This wasn’t something she ever dared to do whilst Tycho was with us. Meanwhile Dakota, our Berger Blanc Suisse, has regained the characteristic even-temperedness and good nature that is typical of his breed. At least at home. We no longer have mad hours of overly intense play between him and Tycho, and so he is generally much calmer.  Outside of the house, he is showing signs of nervousness towards certain other dogs, and I am working to try to resolve this in him.  He is also besotted by the cats.  Now that the barriers in the house are coming down, he loves spending much of his time just watching them with a completely goofy expression on his face.

So where are we humans in our process of grief with Tycho?  Well, the initial denial was of his temperament and happened before we euthanized him.  The isolation we have felt since his passing has been very much present.  I asked blog readers to please not criticize me because I feared my ability to handle it (and thank you, readers, for doing that).  My husband and I loved Tycho from the bottom of our hearts, and we lived with him for 2 years and 8 months before finally taking the decision to save our other animals at his, and our, expense. I am still saddened.

A chapter in our lives has closed, although the grief is still ongoing. We humans in the house still miss our Tycho, but I don’t believe that any of our four-legged companions do.  It is time for me to come out of my shell, and be a part of this world again. The legacy left by Tycho is becoming one of calmness and stillness. Tycho, you were an authentic dog, with some real issues.  I hope that you have understood why we did what we did, that you are now at peace, and will forgive us when we meet again at the rainbow bridge.

My story matters because Tycho mattered.

2 thoughts on “Tycho’s Legacy: In Search of Healing

  1. Karen, I am sure that there is nobody who would deny that your decision was the right one. Still that doesn’t make it easy and I imagine it is hard to not second guess yourself.
    You were the most wonderful mama to Thyco. He was lucky to have you. He was tormented and unhappy. You did the most loving thing. I am glad you are getting back to helping other animals. You have such a gift! XO

  2. Karen,

    I discovered your blog yesterday, and today I have read your posts about Tycho repeatedly. What a lucky pup he was to have had you and your husband as his human parents! I feel for you, and so much of what you said about your Tycho feels familiar to me.

    I have an 8 year old, 50 pound doberman mix that I adopted when my children were in their early teens and I was divorced and single. Incredibly anxious and skittish, afraid with new people, I often felt that she had a doggie-version of anxiety and multiple personality disorder. Despite that, she bonded wholeheartedly and deeply with me. She enjoyed other dogs until about 5 years ago when she was attacked, although not seriously physically injured, by a neighborhood dog. After that she still liked dogs, but was much more hesitant, understandably.

    I then met my new husband and we moved to the country where there is lots of room to run. She has enjoyed the last 3 years in this freedom, though we have observed her escalating dog aggression when she is on-leash and over that time she has bitten my “stepdog”, breaking the skin on 3 occasions. The 3rd time was very recently, and I am no longer in denial about my beautiful girl. When they had initially met they overall did well together, though they have never become truly bonded. As I reflect back on this I realize how much worse the behaviors have gotten over time.

    I know my pup is stressed about the youngest child leaving home for college this year. And because a new puppy came to live with us this summer. She is not warming up to the puppy, no matter what I do with behavior modification. Perhaps I was terribly naive, but her total lack of ability to work through any aspect of this has been a surprise. We live with gates and pens, and each of the dogs are getting less of our time as we take turns rotating them in and out of gated areas. When she is behind a gate and the puppy gets anywhere near her she snarls, growls, shows teeth, snaps. She has always shown some resource guarding, but this is worse and she now resource guards me. In retrospect she was doing this before we got the puppy but my stepdog had learned to work with it. We had tried Fluoxetine about a year ago and it made her worse. After the latest bite to my step-dog we began her on Trazodone.

    That’s working. Sort of. While she is overall significantly calmer, she still cannot tolerate the puppy under any circumstances. She is unable to be soothed when people come to the house, is still unpredictably anxious, and curls her tail under her even when I’m petting her. Anticipating her triggers is not possible most of the time, though we manage the ones we know about. This week I talked to my vet about a sedative so that we can comfortably have guests visit over the holidays. I seriously wonder about her quality of life, even though it’s better on the Trazodone. She is happiest when she is running outside, but with any pain at all, even from a scratch from the thorn bush or a limp from having dashed off after a squirrel too quickly, she behaves like all of the world is against her. It is awful to see her like that. I am the ONLY one who can cut her nails. It means terrible anxiety for her, but she allows it. So far.

    She is not re-homable for all of these reasons, plus I really think that being separated from me would be a fate far worse than what she feels now. I hate the thought of giving up on her but am coming to terms with the fact that it’s okay to let her go, gently, lovingly, before something terrible happens. And I can’t shake the feeling that something terrible will eventually happen. My stepdog is on edge, I am on edge. I can’t trust my dog, even with the improvements that Trazodone has brought. My husband is very supportive but sad for me and for us, given that he has grown to love my pup, too. She seeks him out for attention, but only if I am at home.

    I believe that she was “born this way” and that I have given her the best life she could have possibly had. And I feel the same way about your story of Tycho. I imagine you can understand that I feel like I am under pressure to either live with the eventual consequences of not taking action, or live with letting her go when there is not a crisis happening right now. Indeed, the good times are very good. But they seem to be slowly slipping away so that I resort to multiple medications to keep her world comfortable, and ours. Like you said, I hope she will “forgive me,” even for thinking about all of this. And at the same time, I somewhat guiltily acknowledge that when I make the decision I believe I will need to make, I will feel relief, healing, and a decrease in stress along with the waves of grief. So that’s another reason why I wanted to respond to this followup post.

    Thank you so very much for posting this.

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