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Gus: 2008 – 2020


Gus breathed his last precious breath today, Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 11:57 a.m.

Here are some pictures from Monday night, his final on Earth.

Around 7 p.m. he lay down in his little bed. You can see how the tumor was distorting his face, causing him to be buck-toothed.

He jumped up into my lap and looked intensely at me. I wondered what he was thinking.

I put my hand on his head. It seems to comfort him.

Then he licked my fingers.

He turned on his side, which is virtually a command to “Rub my belly!”

I sobbed a lot Monday night. But lest you think I’d deteriorated into a soggy old mess, I will admit that I watched reruns of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and laughed between the tears.


We awoke at 6:30 this morning, just as it was getting light outside. Gus was beside me in bed, on the big white towel I’d set out for him so the blood dribbling from his mouth wouldn’t get on the bedding. I put my hand on his rib cage; he turned his head and licked my fingers.

I gave him breakfast. He slowly wobbled over to his bowl, took one sniff, then turned around and jumped up on my big chair. Okay, so no appetite: what difference does it make at this point. I looked at the clock: 7:48 a.m. The vet would be here in less than four hours. At 8:15 we went for a little walk. A thick ground fog obscured trees just a block away. For some reason, John Lennon’s “Imagine” was going through my head. We got barely 30 feet from the front door: Gus had no interest in taking a walk. He just wanted to go home and lay down. He walked very slowly back. All right.

The vet was scheduled to arrive at 11:30. I took Gus out for our final walk at 11:15. As we left my place, I said, “Gus, this is the last time you’ll ever be in my house.” He looked up at me as if he knew.

Gina, my friend next door, who loves Gus almost as much as I do, showed up. She took this, the last picture ever of Gus and me together.

Then I saw the vet coming down the street, holding the box that would shortly hold Gus’s body. He was very nice, very sweet. Since he had asked not to do the euthanasia indoors due to the pandemic, we did it in the breezeway next to my building.

Gina came with me. It was hard, very hard. First, I held Gus close to my heart as Dr. Smith injected him with a sedative. It took about 5 minutes for the little guy to fall asleep. Then Dr. Smith put a soft blanket on the ground and asked me to place Gus on it. His little body was limp, but his eyes were open and his pink tongue was hanging out of his mouth. He looked almost cute. But when Dr. Smith got the syringe with the pentobarbital ready, I completely lost it. Couldn’t watch. Hid behind a wall, gasping for breath. Gina said something. I realized it was my responsibility to Gus to be his witness, so I turned and watched. In went the needle. Everybody was crying. Gus lay still. Dr. Smith said I could say goodbye. I got down on my knees while Dr. Smith and Gina kept a respectful distance. I covered my dog with kisses and whispered things in his ear. My tears fell on his soft fur.

Dr. Smith made a paw print of Gus, which I shall always treasure.

He gently put Gus into the box. Afterwards, Gina and I went for a walk. She was so kind, so gentle, so loving. We talked. Then I called Marilyn, who truly also loved Gus. We’d spent a lot of time together over the years, and Marilyn used to watch Gus at her house when I traveled for work. We talked, remembered, sobbed, as I had sobbed when Marilyn’s Golden, Maisie, died. Both Gina and Marilyn told me I should get another dog. I don’t know.

I dreaded going back home. An empty home, with no Gus to greet me. I saw his little bed by the patio window. Empty. Never again to hold him.

And now, whatever is to come. I miss Gus more than words can say. My heart aches. I feel a thousand years old.

Next to my computer is a King James Bible. I opened it at random. It was The Book of Job:

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away.

  1. Timothy Don says:

    Steve, I am so sorry for your loss. It took great courage for you to do this, and I appreciate your sharing it. Hang in there. You are not alone. We will get through the pain. Together.

  2. Judi Levens says:

    When my cat was getting ready to pass someone told me that I would know when it was time when he stared into my eyes. I can’t describe it but I knew he was saying everything between us and it was time to let him go. I am crying with you now…sending love and comfort❤️❤️❤️

  3. Thank you Judi.

  4. Thanks Timothy. You’ve been great.

  5. Stu Friedman says:

    Steve, as I read your moving accountt of Gus’s departure, I was drawn back to the day and moment when we said goodbye to our little girl Blaze. The place on your heart that’s Gus’s is never replaced. It is always there. It took 6 months for my wife to get me to the point of even thinking about another dog. When it is time you will know. Our new dog Pepper had her own place in our hearts, and joy has returned

    Mean while, my hand is on your shoulder. I do understand. You had the love of, and from a dog. In time Steve, your heart will heal. All the best.

  6. So damn many things make me cry, and you comment sure did. Thank you, Stu.

  7. Kate Peltier says:

    Oh Steve,

    I am so sorry. Gus was SO special and the two of you were so special together. It’s so hard to lose a loved one during this time and it hurts, it really hurts. I’m so glad you were there with him during his last moments because you were his world. You performed the last great act of love for sweet, sweet Gus. Be gentle with yourself in your grief.

  8. Thanks Kate. Your words mean so much to me.

  9. Cheryl Termo says:

    Steve, I only know my version of this experience. Following yours brings it all back. The trust they put in us in their very final moments is something i won’t soon forget. Thank you for bringing us along. So moving. Take care of yourself.

  10. Thank you for coming along. Much love.

  11. So sorry for your pain. Thank you for finding the worst courage imaginable, before Gus’s pain became unbearable. It is we who have to feel that toughtest pain of all, mercy. Lots of love.

  12. Peter Cargasacchi says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. He was a trooper to the very end.

  13. Elizabeth Vianna says:

    Steve – so sorry Gus is gone. You made me weep. These creatures are so perfect and saying goodbye is just unbearable. I wish you comfort in the days ahead and healing through all the beautiful memories of a life well lived. Rest In Peace Gus.

  14. Private first class Gus.

  15. I know you understand, Jo.

  16. Steve, My deepest sympathy. I have gone thru this. It is difficult though you will feel Gus’s energy around and the memories resurface. Gus is always with you.

  17. Is this The Goddess Athena? If it is, it’s great to hear from you!

  18. My heart hurts. I have a lump in my chest. I understand. With sincere love and sympathy.

  19. I have that lump in my chest too. Yesterday, while Gus was dying, I thought I was having a heart attack. Thank you, Annette.

  20. I am so sorry for your loss. I had to euthanize my cat of 14.5 years on October 20 and your writing brought it all back to me. Thank you for sharing your heartbreak.

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