R.I.P. Abby Flower - Our Dear Four-Legged Friend

Abby Flower died peacefully at home today with the kind assistance of Dr. Robert Turrou of the Redlands Pet Clinic. She had just turned 11 at Christmas. Abby was a female Landseer (black and white) Newfoundland, "Newfie" to lovers of the breed.

Broken-hearted, Phyliss and I finally decided we had no choice but to put our dearest friend, Abby, down. We put off the agonizing decision for quite awhile, as long as we could, but it was her time. Traumatic as it was, we wanted our decision to be based on her needs, not on what would make us feel better about ourselves.

Abby had a huge inoperable cancerous tumor on her left shoulder. It must have weighed 20 pounds or more, and had interfered with her balance for at least a year. She had been slowing down for a year or so, more at some times than others. Then during the last month it became obvious that the end was approaching.

At least I got to spend the day with her, just sitting on the floor beside her for hours, talking with her, stroking her, loving her. I told her how much we loved her, and how she was the best four-legged friend a guy ever had. I told her we humans don't understand what was happening to her any better than she did, and that I truly hope and believe (and pray) we will see each other again someday. I think she understood. She would periodically lay her chin on my leg while I talked with her, sometimes  in a shaky and tearful voice.

When I'm hurting I find great comfort in the Psalms. So I read Abby (and myself) the 23rd and 91st Psalms. When my parents died, I also took comfort in Numbers 6:24-26, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 7:1-4, and Matthew 5:3-12. May the Lord bless and keep you, dear Abby. May the Lord make his face shine upon you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace forever. Amen. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).

Phyliss and her son, Seth, were also there at the end to say goodbye. So she knew she was much loved. I suspect that's part of why she hung on for so long. Newfies only have a life expectancy of 8-10 years. Abby made it to 11, so strong was her spirit.

After Abby was gone, we shared a chili supper which had been in the crock pot all day. Considering the circumstances, that, too, afforded us some small degree of comfort as we sat around the table assimilating our loss.

A friend is coming over tomorrow with his track hoe to dig the grave. Abby will be interred under the big Ash tree on the north boundary of the property. 

We asked Dr. Turrou what drug he was using, and he said sodium pentobarbitol. It seems that we are more merciful to animals than humans these days. "Experts say there is a much more humane way of killing [than current methods of lethal injection] specifically, through the administration of a single dose of sodium pentobarbitol." In Abby's case, the sodium pentobarbitol did its job well. Abby appeared to go to sleep and pass away very peacefully.

Phyliss made a photo album in memory of Abby, which you can view by clicking this link.

I found the following poems on the Internet, and they do seem to help ease the pain a little. I think they were made for our human friends, but I believe they also apply to our animal friends. Maybe others will also find them comforting.

From Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem In

Memoriam:27, 1850:

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.


We seem to give them back to You, O God
Who gave them to us.

Yet as You did not lose them in giving
So we do not lose them
by their return.

Life is eternal
love immortal
and death is only a
and a horizon is nothing
except the limit
of our sight.

Lift us up strong
Son of God,
That we may see further;
cleanse our eyes that we
may see more clearly;
draw us closer to Yourself
that we may know ourselves
to be nearer to our
loved ones
who are with You.

Benedictine sisters
Clyde, MO 64432

EPILOGUE By Phyliss Flower

I’m not sure Abby knew she was a dog. John and I were her pack, and like the pack animal that she was, she expected to be included in all activities. She would pout when I came home from work Friday evening, knowing that when John finished teaching we would go out to dinner and leave her behind. I am sure she never understood that.

As she aged we spoiled her more and more. She was the best-fed dog around and shared our people food. She loved everything from steak to green chili. She did not like tomatoes, onions, asparagus, or beets. When begging at the table (yes, we enabled that as she got older) she would refuse to take something she loved from us, if she suspected we were holding out on something better. Once she found out there was nothing better, or if there was and she got that first, then she would gladly take the item that was offered initially. We never quite figured out all the dog rules she demonstrated. For example she would often go around and eat out of each of the 4 cat bowls before eating her food. But not all the time!

In the summertime Abby loved supervising us in the garden. She would venture out into the rows under the hot sun, to check out what was going on, then eventually retreat into the shade of the trees on the cool grass and was content to watch us work. After supper every night when we stepped outside the back door she would bark and lead the way to the gate, telling us it was time to go back to the garden. We would sit in our chairs, with Abby taking her spot in the grass, and enjoy the spraying of the rain bird sprinklers on the plants, as the sun set behind us. Abby often moved just close enough to the edge of the garden to catch some of the spray. We stayed until the stars came out. As we headed back to the house, she always was reluctant to follow, hung back and watched what we were doing, making sure we were really going inside. Then when she was sure, she would follow.

Abby loved to chase the ball outside in the yard, but would growl and run and seldom gave it up without a playful fight. On cold days or at night the same game was played in the house with her squeaky stuffed ball. Only this time she really enjoyed tug’o war with the ball after chasing it. Abby and I were closely matched in weight and she usually won when she and I were tugging!

Abby ALWAYS had a sweet spirit, and in the tradition of dogs being man’s (and woman’s) best friend, she gave her unconditional love 100% of the time. Towards the end, she stood against all her infirmities and never gave up, or complained. She passed on to her resting place with those who loved her best, John, Seth and me, by her side.

Rest in peace, Sweet Abby Girl.

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