Calliope, March 2012 - February 2013

We should have had 14 years together.

Today Calliope passed away of kidney and liver failure.

She was 11 months old.

I spent about a year alone. I knew I needed a dog but I was afraid of the commitment, newly living alone for the first time in a decade. I spent the strangest 6 to 8 months of my life, separated from our three dogs Molly, Lucy and Carter during my divorce, and I couldn't be sure I had the time to raise a puppy right. Over time, my ex and I worked out a marvelous system around the dogs and I saw plenty of my best friends. Still, a puppy was missing for me. Molly and Lucy, cavaliers and the loves of my life, were nearing 11 and I wanted to give them a chance to train a new friend and the new dog to carry on their legacy. Finally! Things lined up and I knew I'd have the time to be there for the new puppy. I immediately started my search.

I was careful in selecting a breeder. I met quite a few dogs. I was looking for someone special to join me. Calliope and I fell in love at first sight. She was TINY but bold. An old soul that lived for fun and frolic. Truly a rare combination in either of our species. I couldn't wait to bring her home.

In June, I picked her up with Lucy. After a few weeks we traded and she met Molly. My plan worked perfectly. Calliope was amazing. Housebroken in an instant. Cuddly, playful, sparkling! My home and my life were filled with her energy! Callie didn't seem to be growing, however, and I thought, "How lucky, I'll have a puppy for 15 years!" Sadly, in October, her eating tapered off and she started to fade. "Failure to thrive" is how the research spoke of it.

Testing showed two forms of kidney failure. Her liver function was also off. I was crushed. My new darling girl was passing away. I cried at stop lights. I cried always. Then I watched her and realized Callie had no idea how long she was to live. She was happy and she was dancing around the house just like she did before she was diagnosed. She was eating her modified diet and maybe we'd have years. I needed to take her out and show her the world. So I did. Calliope broke hearts all over the bay area.

Sadly, we did not have years. She faded fast and her energy disappeared. She was no longer full of life and on our vets recommendation it was time to say goodbye. Carolyn and I held her until she was gone.

Variation from the norm is where all the fun is. Callie didn't live long but she burned bright, had a blast and made a very large difference in my life. I am a changed and better person for the 8 months we had. She taught me something about living in the moment, not worrying about tomorrow and that tiny puppies can have huge hearts.

Thank you Carolyn, you were a wonderful mom and she loved you. Thank you to the crew at Alto Tiburon Veterinary Hospital for all you've done for so many of my friends, for so many years. You guys were crying with us and I appreciate that. Most of all, thank you Calliope.

Here's an iphone video of her favorite game. It's how I'll remember her.



  1. Some of my best teachers have been dogs. We lost our Emma a couple years ago very suddenly.  She was the brightest most intuitive being I have ever known. Sorry for your loss.

  2. Sounds like you need to have a talk with that breeder.  I think they owe you a dog (or a refund might be better). 

      1. i’m not just saying that.  A friend of mine who was very serious about dogs bought a pure bred male of a fairly rare breed and it was a while before his testicles dropped. She said “If both his balls don’t drop, the breeder owes me. That’s just how it is.”

        1. We got a puppy from a reputable breeder, and she failed her first physical due to a heart defect.  The breeder was horrified, thanked us for telling them, stopped breeding her entire family and gave us a new puppy.

          Sometimes there has to be a practical element to these sorts of things.

          1. Exactly, because otherwise there is nothing to distinguish a breeder from a con man.  Also, irresponsible “breeders” ruin the health and value of the breed, and by doing so hurt the business of responsible breeders by diminishing the value of the breed. 

            Many breeds are prone to specific health problems later in life, but no breeder should sell a puppy that has problems in it’s first year, unless it’s something like “Oh, his tail turned out to be 1″ too short to be a champion.”

        2. It doesn’t matter whether you’re right or wrong. Telling the grieving owner he might be able to get a free dog (or a refund) on the day his puppy dies is – extremely – tactless. It’s something you to bring up after things have settled a bit.

  3. I feel saddened by your loss. I have two pups who I love very much and when the day comes I have to face what you just did, I don’t know what I’ll do.

  4. A fitting and beautiful eulogy. Sorry for your loss.

    My dog of nine years was recently diagnosed with a bad heart murmur and fluid on the lungs, and although she’s my mum’s pet, no one in my family would doubt that really she always comes to me first. I treat her more like a little sister than a dog, and it broke my heart when I found out about her illnesses. But I have resolved to enjoy her and the fun and joy she brings instead of worrying about what could be. I know people question why pet owners get so upset when their pet is ill, or passes on, but it’s indescribible. They are family.

  5. I’m sorry to hear about your dog!  It’s very sad.  I hope that you find the strength to love again and get another dog and love that one with all your heart.  Dogs and cats become as much a part of our lives as the children and significant other.  It’s so hard to see a pet go, and leaves a huge hole.  But to know that they had better lives for being with us, that’s what counts.  She was such a cutie and I feel a few tears welling up now.  Take care.

  6. I’m very sorry to read this Jason. Nothing hurts quite the same way as losing a dog. I hope the grief passes quickly and the memories linger long.

  7. I am so sorry to hear about your loss, it is so difficult to lose someone who loves you with such purity and devotion. Last year, our dog passed away from kidney problems and also just assorted old age stuff (he was 16) and it still weighs on my heart.

    When he was diagnosed with kidney failure, I found this wonderful yahoo group:

    I am sorry this is too late for Calliope, and sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do, anyway. But for our boy, the support and information we found on that group helped us help him to live several more years of high quality, happy life. If anyone reading here finds themselves in a similar situation, maybe it will help you and your critter, too.

  8. Very sad, and I’m sorry for your loss.

    This may be too soon, but – especially if you are considering getting another pet – might the pain Calliope (and you) suffered be associated with inbreeding? I’m sure the breeders you selected are thoroughly conscientious, but some of these purebred dog lines have high and seemingly unavoidable incidences of severe conditions.

  9. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

    I know how you feel. Last September, I had to put down Ziggy (age unknown, but probably over 12), due to terminal kidney failure. Their lives are much too short.

  10. I’m sorry for your loss, Jason. When my dog went to the hospital recently I became a complete mess, and couldn’t even function. I’m glad she pulled through — people, DO NOT buy any dog treats made in China, for godsakes — but I can only imagine the loss you’re feeling. I can come close, though.

  11. So sad to get a puppy for the reasons you did and have things go so badly so soon. Must be a horrible loss. I’ve had to make the same decision with a couple of much older pets, but I’ve never faced this with a young pet when there are so many hopes and expectations.

  12. I’m really sorry for your loss, man. I’m a new dog owner and can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like when something happens to my little Sagan. But: a breeder, really? You paid someone to make you a new dog when there are thousands of dogs sitting in shelters waiting for good homes? Please think about adopting a rescue dog if and when you’re ready for a new pup in your life. Again, sorry for your loss, and I’m sorry if this seems insensitive at all. I just can’t understand why dog lovers would reward people who create more dogs by paying them money when there are so many dogs that will be euthanized because there aren’t enough homes for them.

    1. Jason did look for a rescue dog I know this because I helped him look on and also cavalier rescue groups in & around the bay area.

  13. I can barely read this.  My eyes seem to have something lodged in them.  I’m sorry.  I rescue pound puppies whenever possible.  I urge anyone who has the means to save just one if you can.

  14. I’m sorry to learn of your loss Jason. This was a touching eulogy for a beautiful pup. I lost my dog Karma last fall to cancer after a year long battle. She would have been 5 this spring. I was stunned at how much Karma’s death affected me and found the shared stories in Betty Carmack’s book “Greiving the Death of a Pet” helpful and insighful. She has also been running a free monthly support group for decades at the SF SPCA first Tuesday’s of the month:

    I wish you all the best and hope that you’ll have a dog back in your life soon.

    1. Agreed. She’s a beautiful little creature and it sounds like you gave her a wonderful life. That’s the best anybody can do. I’m just sorry you didn’t have more time to keep on doing it. Take care. 

  15.  So sorry for your loss :( She was much too young to go. I remember the horrible feeling I had when I was eleven, and our five-year-old Lab wasn’t eating. This was the most voracious and energetic dog I ever knew, who devoured everything, and I immediately knew something was terribly wrong. He had copper toxicity and within a week was gone from our lives. It’s sad when any pet goes, but when they seem to be stolen from you so early, it just seems so unfair.

  16. I say this without a trace of irony or hyperbole: the most loving relationship I’ve had in these 48 years of living was with Dagmar, a shepherd mix I rescued from the North Shore Animal League (I tear up just writing this, 12 years after I lost her).   My sincere condolences.  

  17. She was such a wonderful lapdog. I loved how she would lie on me when I reclined in your lounger. I’m really sorry, Jason.

  18. My condolences.  I hope that your heart will mend, and the memories will become joyful rather than painful, soon.  She was obviously a prefect match for you.

  19. My sincerest condolences on your loss. I lost two of my greatest little friends to feline renal failure. Both fought bravely for nearly a year before passing peacefully. It’s a cruel emotional roller coaster as you convince yourself that at any moment they might make a miraculously full recovery. I too feel strangely that the experience, one I would never wish for anyone to endure, has made me a better person. Those precious few months when I nursed my boys on a daily basis still bring me great joy whenever I think back on them. Calliope comes across exactly as you described; joyful and full to bursting with joie de vivre. Take care of yourself, and I hope that you find yourself with another special animal in the future. 

  20. very sad indeed… I’m very sorry for your loss… I’ve had the pleasure of several pets over the years… and my heart breaks each time one of them passes on…

  21. I’m so sorry you lost such a dear friend, and that your time together was so painfully brief.  She was so beautiful!  I’ve lost feline companions, and I know the grief that comes with losing such a loved friend hurts really, really badly.  My thoughts are with you.

  22. Man, I had to reply when I read this.

    A little over a year ago I moved across the country for work, I ended up in a city that I didn’t have any friends in, I knew adopting a dog would be good for me and I had the free time needed to devote to a little puppy, so I took the plunge and adopted one.

    I went out and fell in love with a little red fluff-ball of a dog, she curled into my arms when I met her, as if she was the one doing the adopting. 

    One day she chewed an electronic cord of mine and I yelled at her, the look on her face, sheer horror, made me feel like a monster and I have never yelled at her like that again, for the first year in the new city she was the one being in my world that was thrilled every time she saw me and we enjoyed exploring our new surroundings together. She is also a helluva wing-man/wing-dog? and I ended up with more then a couple girls numbers from dog walks.

    A few friends of mine from out west noticed that I was posting a lot of pics of her and they commented that they wished they could have a dog, one friend asked what I would do if something ever happened to her and I was alone again in a new place, I told him “Don’t even ask that, do you want to see a grown man cry?”.

    Sorry to hear you lost your furry friend, I don’t have any kids but I know I would be crushed if I lost my four legged pal.


  23. Jason, have your liver and kidney function tested, as soon as possible.  If there’s an environmental toxin in your household it will take the family members with the least body mass first.

    Edit: Bleakly hilarious that some of us would rather be ideologically hip than practice a simple caution. Personally, I don’t make medical decisions based on uninformed guesswork when blood tests are readily available, and I won’t ignore a canary in a coal mine just because I don’t eat birdseed. Meaning no disrespect, Jason, if you’re still reading this- I know Calliope meant a lot to you.

    1. (Rolls eyes, shakes head).

      Unless Jason is from the same bloodlines, and has been eating a 100% identical diet I strongly doubt that his liver and kidneys will be compromised.

      1. there have been issues inregards to liver and kidney damage in relation to dog food, (Marketplace, a Canadian consumer show) said the food is still sold.  The brands mentioned were not inexpensive nor from China. The show is available through CBC tv websight, easily found.

  24. I’m so very sorry. It is always devastating to lose a little friend, and even more so when they are so young. My heart breaks for you and little Calliope.

  25. Jason, Calliope’s days were numbered as all of ours are. You can find some comfort, I hope, knowing hers were spent with a loving and responsible person who gave her a warm home, a full bowl, clean water, and devotion to her security and well being. And she gave you her happy vibes, trust, and devotion. All in all I would call it a win/win for you both, however short your time together.

  26. ugh, just shove that dagger deeper in my heart.

    back in December i lost my puppy at 10.5 months to renal displaysia – his kidneys were underdeveloped.  i can say with confidence those were the best 8 months of my life.  i’m feeling your pain.  don’t be afraid to seek grief assistance.  it really can help.

      1.  e-hugs.  i know it’s a cliche, but it does get less painful with time.  don’t force yourself to look at photos or video for a bit…allow yourself time to mourn.  eventually it won’t hurt as badly.

  27. I’m so so sorry for your loss. I lost my best friend the Monday after Thanksgiving 2010. You gave her a great life, take comfort in that.

  28. I’m sorry for your loss. I adopted a dog that passed 12 days after I got her home. She was old and had arthritis, and a mammary tumor (the vet told me), but I felt I could give her a comfortable life for at least a year. Turns out she didn’t have that long.

  29. I’m with you, man. There’s nothing like a dog, but there’s always one that seems like the reason you were put here. If you’ve time, you can read about my little border collie Sugar here:

    The time her and her brother came into my life was the most remarkable thing that ever happened to me. the fact that our best friends have so much shorter lives than we do is proof to me that there is no such thing as a just and loving god.

  30. I also said goodbye to a dear companion today. I was blessed to have much longer with my doggy, but it never seems to be long enough. Six and a half years ago I went to the pound to pick up a funny little pomeranian mix from Animal Care and Control in Brooklyn. He was mangy and matted, already 9-10 years old with two other families in his past, but Goody immediately lit up my life. He kept me going through more than I could have imagined, and kept on smiling longer than I thought he would have. My boyfriend only just met the sweet little fuzz ball that brightened so many of my days, but the fact that he did was so important to me. I knew I’d have to face the fact soon, but it’s impossible to prepare. Earlier this week, it became clear it was time. I cried every day, and didn’t get a single thing done. I spent all day today with my 16-year-old puppy, trying to make him as comfortable as possible and thanking him for all that he did for me. On the way to the animal clinic, he was calmer than he had ever been in the car. I could not have asked for a better veterinarian. He was so gentle, let me hold him as long as possible, let me stay until the very end.

    Calliope was so lucky to have an owner like you for her short, sweet life. Coming home to find this here set me off onto another crying bout, but I want to thank you so much for it. Thank you for caring for a sweet little dog, even if you did not have enough time with her. It’s so sad when a dog must go–all they do is add good to this world, and it’s seems so cruel that they should ever suffer. Thank you for being another person who cares so deeply about their doggy, and thank you for helping me feel a little less alone now that my best friend is gone.

  31. What a heart breaker…  She looks like a total spitfire in that video.  From one Cavalier fan to another, I’m so very sorry for your loss.

  32. Established fact, several dog foods are not labelled properly, and stats say kidney and liver damage directly related to food products.  Seriously, check out “Marketplace” at the CBC television site.  Legal cases are already pending.  My vet told me to go for “High Science” food which was pricey but safe.  I don’t know if that is still true.  My condolences for your loss.

    1. you mean Hill’s Science Diet?  it’s trash.  no dog food should have corn in the first 3 ingredients.

  33. Jason, thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry you had to go through all that, but like you say, remember the good times, and I can tell that she was a very happy puppy.

    Your story strikes very close to home, because I almost had to go through the same thing last year.I adopted Hendrix a couple years ago as a kitten, and although I was never really a cat person, I loved him to bits. I live alone, and every day I would rush home after work to see him.Everything was fine at first, and I think he was happy, but one day last August I found him hiding under the bed, which he never does. At first I didn’t think much of this, so I kind of left it.The next day, he was still hiding under the bed. When he came out of hiding, he was sluggish, didn’t eat or drink much. He then went to his litter and this is when I noticed something was wrong, because he was trying to pee but couldn’t. He looked like he was in a lot of pain.I immediately took him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with some kind of urinary problem (stones/crystals in his urine) which was blocking the tract. He needed immediate surgery.At this point, I was worried, but I thought everything would be OK, he would come out of surgery and be his old self again.But it turns out it was a lot worse than I thought. After the surgery (which went fine), the vet told me that it was a very close call, and had I waited a few more hours, he wouldn’t have made it. This was the beginning of my nightmare…My first thought was “he will be OK, surgery went fine”. Got a call the next day, letting me know that his *something* level in his kidneys was quite high due to not being able to pee for so long, but that it was slowly coming down.The next day I’m waiting for the call to let me know that he’s recovering. But instead I am told that his levels haven’t dropped as much as it should have… and they’re not too sure what’s going to happen.

    This is where I completely break down. I start blaming myself because I didn’t react right away that first day I noticed something wrong. I am crying all the time. I took a couple days off work and just stayed in my dark bedroom, crying.

    The next day was even worse. The vet tells me that he is not recovering, the damage to his kidneys was just too much. 
    He gave me a choice: give him another 24 hours to see, or to just let him rest. The hardest decision I’ve had to make in 32 years. I was in no state to think clearly. I was still blaming myself for what happened. His condition was clearly getting worse every day. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pull the plug. After the vet assured me that he was in no pain thanks to the medication, I decided to give him one more day, not out of hope but because I couldn’t let go, and I just wanted to spend one last day with him. That evening I went to see him at the vet. I just stayed there looking at him, crying, for a couple hours.

    I’m ready.
    Or at least I convinced myself that I was. 

    That night I went home, not wanting to think about the next day. I have no idea how I got home, I had barely eaten anything in the last 3-4 days, still blaming myself. I would call my mom, and just end up crying for 10 minutes without saying a single word. I was in such a f***ing mess. I finally fell asleep due to exhaustion.

    The next morning, I get a call from the vet.
    Immediately I fear the worst. He must have passed away during the night, or something.

    But instead what I hear is an excited man shouting “It’s a fucking miracle” (exact words).
    To everyone’s surprise, Hendrix had completely recovered overnight. They had never seen anything like it before.
    Of course, more crying for me, albeit a different kind.
    I don’t know how it happened. Nobody knows. I like to think that my presence there had something to do with it. Gave him a reason to hang on, a reason to fight (no matter how ridiculous it sounds).

    This was the longest week of my life, and it really taught me that life is at the same time so very fragile, but also so strong, so resilient.

    Hendrix is now on a special diet for the rest of his life (though he seems like like it), he’s completely recovered, and I’d even say he is healthier than he ever was.

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