In Memoriam

Masasyu’s Fellow Traveller “Travvy”
February 27, 2008–March 15, 2019

My Travvy is gone.

It all happened so fast. Last Wednesday morning he was his own self, trotting along on our walk, sometimes sniffing the bushes to “see” who or what had passed by recently, other times heeling smartly and looking up at me as if to say Aren’t I good? How about a cookie?

As usual, I had a fistful of mini biscuits in one vest pocket, string cheese in the other, and a “bait bag” of mixed Charlee Bear treats and turkey dog pieces slung over one shoulder. So I’d give him one.

Early Wednesday evening he was flagging so noticeably that I aborted our walk not long after we set out. I was concerned but not worried. We’d been here before, or so I thought. Rocky Mountain spotted fever comes on suddenly like this. Get him started on doxycycline and within a day or two he’d be his own self again.

Not this time. The next morning he was too weak to get into the car, even with my help, and I wasn’t strong enough to lift him. So our vet and her assistant made a house call. Trav lay in the leaves next to the car, unnaturally calm while she checked his vital signs and drew blood.

He didn’t have a fever; his temperature was too low. The real wallop was his red blood cell count, which our vet said was “scary low.” His profound weakness was due to extreme anemia. Her thought was that this might be due to internal bleeding, and that could be related to a tumor. We agreed that x-rays were in order. Since her x-ray machine was on the blink, she made a 2 p.m. appointment for us at Animal Health Care, the better-equipped but still small vet hospital at the airport. Before they left, they helped me lift Trav into Malvina Forester’s cargo bay.

He showed no desire or capacity to go anywhere. This was as unsettling as the disastrous bloodwork. If you know Trav, or malamutes in general, you do not leave them unattended in unsecured spaces: if there is mischief to be found, they will find it, and if there’s none to be found, they will create it. I went in for a bit but then came out and sat with Travvy, stroking him and scratching his ears and trying to read a back issue of the American Prospect.

The x-rays showed a mass on the spleen. We had them read by a radiologist, who confirmed my vet’s reading: they couldn’t be certain, but what they saw was consistent with the low temperature, the very low platelet count, and Trav’s extreme weakness and apathy. We were most likely dealing with a splenic tumor and related internal bleeding.

Here’s where the realities of living on an island kick in. “Most likely” suggests a degree of uncertainty, but certainty comes at a price. The Vineyard supports several veterinary practices these days, but no fully equipped veterinary hospitals. For specialized care and treatment we have to go off-island. “As soon as you get on the boat,” said my vet, “it’s $5,000.”

Not only was certainty expensive, it came with a poor prognosis. If the tumor was malignant, it had probably already metastasized, so surgery even if successful would likely buy us only a few months. Trav turned 11 last month. Our apartment is on the second floor, and I’d just demonstrated to myself that I couldn’t lift his 80-pound weight without help. The prospect of transporting him off-island in his current condition was almost unthinkable.

I decided to bring him home for the night, with evening and morning doses of doxycycline and prednisone on the (very) off chance that this might be tick-related. Getting him up my outside stairs was a chore for both of us. I supported his hind end with a sweatshirt sling and he climbed with his forepaws. At the top of the stairs he thunked himself down, exhausted. I gave him two doxy, wrapped up in peanut butter, and was encouraged that he managed to eat them.

In the morning he seemed a little more alert. He even got up on all fours to drink some water. He still had no appetite, but he did eat a few kibbles that I scattered in front of him. Maybe, maybe . . . ?

No. Getting him down the stairs was as hard as getting him up. He collapsed at the bottom. With the sling I encouraged him to get up and try to walk far enough to pee. He couldn’t do it. I called my vet and said “It’s time to go.” She had two appointments but would be free at 10:30. I said we’d be there; she offered to come to the house again. I said “We’ll see.”

I’m not sure how I finally got him into the car. At one point I gave up and called the vet to ask her to come over. The line was busy, so I tried again. This time we made it.

All the way down Old County Road I played Dave Carter’s “When I Go,” the song that got me through Rhodry’s passing 11 years ago.

Travvy passed peacefully in the back of Malvina Forester, with whom we’d travelled so many miles together. There’s more to the story, but I’ll leave it for later. That fistful of biscuits is still in the pocket of my vest.

Spring, spirit dancer, nimble and thin, I will leap like coyote when I go
Tireless entrancer, lend me your skin, I will run like the gray wolf when I go

I will climb the rise at daybreak, I will kiss the sky at noon
raise my yearning voice at midnight to my mother in the moon
I will make the lay of long defeat and draw the chorus slow
I’ll send this message down the wire and hope that someone wise is listening when I go

. . .

And should you glimpse my wandering form out on the borderline
between death and resurrection and the council of the pines
do not worry for my comfort, do not sorrow for me so
all your diamond tears will rise up and adorn the sky beside me when I go

© Dave Carter


About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
This entry was posted in dogs, home, music and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to In Memoriam

  1. Chris McIsaac says:

    Susanna, I’m so sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You made a beautiful tribute to Travvy. Come to think of it, you’ve been making beautiful tributes to Travvy all along. He must’ve known how well he was loved by you.


  3. Karen Milano says:

    Our eleven year old rottie, Tara, died of the same affliction, same exact symptoms. A tumor on the spleen that was bleeding out. If it makes you feel any better, we are on the mainland and had access to the best you can do for them, and still, she had to be put down within a month of the weakness setting in. You did the right thing. Thinking of you during this sad time. He had such a wonderful life with you, may you find comfort in the knowing.


  4. Walter Foery says:

    We’ve never met but I’ve been reading your posts on and off for quite a while– I think it was Don Dale from the copy editor’s group who first steered me your way. You had me in tears. I’ve always loved reading about your walks with Travvy; I have a 10 year-old Husky who loves his walks in the woods with his brother lab mutt. We’re normally a three dog house but our 18 year old (!) Cattle dog mix died in the fall and we’re waiting til Spring to bring the pack up to full-strength. Believe me when I say I feel your pain; there are seven buried on our property and I miss every one of them. Best wishes and pleasant memories to you as you grieve your beloved friend.


  5. Christy says:

    I’m so, so sorry for your loss. It was almost certainly hemangiosarcoma, and the metastases would have been extensive. Spleen is a common metastasis site, but so is the brain, which can eventually cause terrible seizures. Treatment wouldn’t have bought him much, if any, time. You did the right thing, even if you hadn’t been on an island.

    My dog died of the same cancer in November. It was such a terrible shock — fine one day, on death’s door practically the next. I would have done almost anything to have more time with him — except pursue futile treatment and risk having his death be at a time when he was alone or in extremis.

    My thoughts are with you.


  6. Sara says:

    So sad to hear this.




  7. My heart is breaking for you.


  8. Anna Edey says:

    I am so sorry for your loss – I understand how very important both of these lovely dogs have been in your life. Lucky dogs, lucky Susanna. May another perfect doggie soul enter your life again.
    And by the way, I love your writing.


  9. So very sorry to hear of Travvy’s passing. Losing a companion is never easy and I always feel it is so unfair that those of the canine persuasion never stay with us quite as long they deserve…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. David Fielder says:

    Susanna, Libby and I are so sad for you. We will miss seeing you both on the road and heading Travvy’s woohoo of greeting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You will, however, probably see me on the road. 🙂 I strolled down Dr. Fisher this morning feeling I was missing part of myself, and why did I have both hands free? Everyone I run into asks me where my buddy is.


  11. Oh I am so, so sorry! He was so much a part of you I have trouble separating him now…you were bookends… And he was clearly a dog’s dog… worthy of the tribute you give him here! He will be missed by his unofficial fan club…my heartfelt sympathies!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mvobsession says:

    Tears in my eyes and in my heart. What a wonderful tribute to Trav, your buddy, your friend. When it is time to go they let you know. We lost our almost 15 year old Chappy a few years ago much the same way you lost Trav. It’s beyond hard to lose them but the memories are priceless. If a new pup or dog is meant to be it will find you, sometimes when you least expect it. My deepest sympathy to you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, so sorry for your loss. I feel like I knew him.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Joyce says:

    So sorry for the loss of your beloved friend.


  15. Juleann VanBelle says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us, Susanna. It sounds like Travvy died like the true gentleman he was. Please know we are thinking of you both. Dogs rule . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Bonnie Nestor says:

    Deeply, deeply saddened by this news. Sending virtual hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Joanie R says:

    I have followed your blog for several years and have admired your love for Travvy throughout your writing. I am sad for you and know there is a hole in your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. marjorie561 says:

    Have followed your adventures with joy, and savor the comfort of sharing these last times with him. Thanks for inviting us in to walk (as we can) with you on the sad road of loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. helenglenn says:

    Oh dear. Thank you, I say on his behalf, for making his life as wonderful as it was and his death as easy as it could be. It was hard for both of you for much the same reason. Good-byes are difficult at best.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. lloydthayer says:

    thank you………..thinking of you both. sending love. crying.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Susan Holmes says:

    If the blog world had an “I grieve with you” button, I’d have used it here. Travvy will live on in your heart and, through your writing, in the hearts of all your readers and friends.

    I didn’t have a blog when I lost my beloved spaniel Alix one day shy of her 18th birthday. Even if I had, I don’t think I would have had the strength of heart to write about the experience. Your passion and love for all that’s important to you shines through your writing, and I thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Helen Green says:

    Beautiful Susanna. I was crying by the end of the description, I love the ending poem. I hate to say it ,but I’m glad it was fast, sounds like he was totally normal until the last 24 hours.
    The thing that has always struck me when I have a lost a dog, is how they are entwined in your entire life. I would think about them at work, when I’m driving and could always hear them at home in my house.
    I have been telling myself when Beckett dies ( he’s 10) that I will get an older dog ( I could not deal with a puppy ) a rescue dog that hopefully has grey hair. I don’t why but I just want someone that’s broken in by life, like me.
    Thinking of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It felt like Travvy and I were about the same age and doing pretty well for it: slowing down a bit but not too much.

      So far the hardest part is coming home from somewhere and he’s not poking his nose through the deck railing, waiting for a cookie. Or maybe waking up and he’s not there hogging the pillow. Walking without him feels like part of me is missing.

      I’m 99% sure there’s going to be another dog. Puppy? Not sure. Malamute? Not sure about that either, but as a mal-loving friend said, there’s nothing else with the same kind of personality.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.