Rest easy, our sweet baby, Tristan

I debated on whether or not I would even write this post, but I decided that to share my life is to share this. I have vowed to reveal myself on this blog, and I think it is safe to say that anyone reading this knows how much of a dog lover I am. Well, we lost one on Thursday, and it has been a very tough last four days.

Tristan has an extraordinarily special place in my heart for many reasons. I adopted Tristan while living in Chapel Hill, attending UNC-Chapel Hill. I had just moved into a small house on my own to escape from the old dorms with no air-conditioning, and needed a companion. Yes, I had Gabby at that point, but she was inseparable from my brother’s Chihuahua Hercules at the time, and I couldn’t split them up. So they stayed with my family in Nags Head, and I began looking at the Chapel Hill shelter for a dog. The first time I went, none struck me immediately, which is what I was hoping for. I saw lots of cute puppies, but I just wanted that feeling of seeing a dog and thinking, “This is going to be my dog.” I went home and called my mom, telling her I might just get one of the puppies but I wasn’t sure what to do. She told me to keep looking. I probably went back less than a week later, and there was this tiny, bare-bones mutt who immediately locked eyes on me and whined the second I was out of his sight. And I just knew. I asked to see him, and there we stood in a small kennel. He briefly said hi and then began trotting around the space as if to say, “So, when do we get out of here?” He was so small that I thought he was a puppy. He was also extremely skinny at a whopping 14lbs. When I asked about him, they said that he actually was not a puppy at all. They estimated him being between 3-5 years old and that he had been picked up just roaming the streets, very malnourished. None of this made a difference to me, and I quickly made him mine.

I picked up this mutt (still no name) about a week later, after he had been neutered, and was ecstatic to call him mine. I deliberated on a name like he was my first born son and settled on Tristan, a name I remembered from a Brad Pitt movie called Legends of the Fall. Yes, I love Brad Pitt and think he might possibly be the sexiest man on earth beside David Beckham and my husband, but I just simply loved that name.

I wanted Tristan to sleep in my bed with me, but he wanted no part of that. He was a bit on the nervous side, and from day 1, had stomach problems. I took him home to Nags Head with me the first weekend and went to our vet, where he treated him for worms. Tristan slowly gained weight, and was eventually a healthy, 35 pound ball of energy. He has never met a stranger in his life and got along with our other dogs perfectly. During a rather unhappy time in my life, he was always by my side. That was 2003.

As I came home for weekends, holidays, and summer, Tristan bonded with everyone in my family, especially my brother Fletcher. Hercules died a year later, and along came Sheba. For whatever reason, Sheba took to me. When Fletcher decided to go to college in Florida in 2006, he wanted to bring a dog. At this point, Gabby and Sheba were now inseparable, ruling out him taking Sheba. I knew that Tristan would be the perfect companion for Fletcher, just as he was for me, and off they went. Tristan had the time of his life in Florida with my brother because he took him everywhere: the beach, the sound, and endless other car rides.

Tristan eventually stayed with my mom these last couple of years, thanks to the juggling act that we play with the many dogs we have. While Chad and I live in the main house (where I grew up), my mom lives in our attached apartment and my brother lives in a separate converted carriage house also on the property. I say this just to paint the picture of how all of our dogs are essentially “family” dogs. We see them all daily, and love them all always.

To make a long story short, Tristan (at age approximately 11 years) had been dealing with unexplained bouts of nausea since mid-January. This got increasingly worse despite trips to the vet to figure it out, and he eventually lessened his eating until it came to a complete halt about 3 weeks ago. Still with no answers, we began to really worry as he began to loose pound after pound. His teeth were cleaned in case of infection and various other things were ruled out, but still no cure. We eventually had to have a feeding tube put in through his neck, and I began feeding him pureed dog food through a tube. Tristan was obviously in a bad place. All of this came to a head on Wednesday night when we noticed a piece of the tip of his tongue missing with a white discoloration on the edge. He breathing was fairly heavy and his weight was down to 21 pounds (almost a 15lb loss), and finally my mom and I decided to get in the car and make the 3 1/2 hour trip to NC State’s Veterinary Hospital at 8pm. We arrived a little before midnight, immediately met with grim possibilities. Cancer was the obvious possibility, but others thoughts were just as bad.

We had to leave him there overnight because he needed fluids, and they needed to begin some tests. We slept maybe 5 hours in a nearby hotel before an even worse day began. We worried and speculated all morning, waiting for any bits of information. Many ideas were thrown about, even to the point that we thought we would be bringing him home with an anti-seizure medication thought to help a salivary gland condition. Needless to say, the C word came back up (specifically lymphoma-a 2-3 month estimate of life remaining) again after an ultra-sound showed an extreme thickening of part of his stomach lining. A couple hours later, we were making the toughest decision of our lives, and put Tristan down. My mom couldn’t bare to watch, but I stayed with him until the end. I do rest easy knowing that I was the last thing he saw.

While I feel great sadness for my loss, I know that this was the best thing for my suffering pup. I feel happy knowing that from the day I brought him home in Chapel Hill until the day he died, he had a wonderful life filled with nothing but love. We opted to allow the vet school to do an autopsy, so that Tristan’s case will be studied and used to help gain knowledge for use with future dogs. I equate this to humans being organ donors, and I know that Tristan would want that.

On our drive home, we were just outside of Raleigh when we were immediately met with a huge rainbow. I’m not one to overly believe or not believe in things like that because I really don’t think it matters whether ghosts or signs are real. I don’t need to base everything purely on science or faith. All I know is that it was a beautiful rainbow, and Tristan, you are a beautiful soul. Thank you for all the love you brought to our lives, and I hope that we did the same for you.

Here he is, (I think) just days after bringing home from the shelter:
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A more recent photo below, but I plan to make some scans of a few other prints we have found:
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2 comments on “Rest easy, our sweet baby, Tristan

  1. Gen, no one could have written a more pure tribute to dear Tristan. I know it wasn’t easy, but it is from your heart, and that is where he’ll always be. Thank you, love you, Dad.

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