What time is the right time?
It’s a question I have been asking myself for about a year, as I watched age have its way with our beloved schnauzer, Tori.
She had lost her hearing, was partially blind and sometimes would lose control of her bowels, walking across the room with poop balls dropping behind her, which could actually be somewhat funny unless it was during a dinner party.
In the end, her last days were made up of eating and sleeping and running into walls and falling down stairs.
But she was really something in her time.
When I hosted a morning show on Fox 8, she was my co-host. During those years, she did a stand-up routine at a Cleveland comedy club called Hilarities and she had a birthday episode from Memphis Kiddie Park.
When we were in the studio for live shows, she was always at my side. Unless she really liked the guests.
She really liked former quarterback Joe Montana. I mean, really liked him.
I’ll never forget how she jumped off my chair and right onto his lap, where she proceeded to lick his hand nonstop for the entire interview. He kept talking but I was so distracted that I had no idea what he was saying as my dog tried to lick all the age spots right off his hand.
Another memorable licking episode came when I was interviewing actress and comedian Molly Shannon, a Shaker Heights native. Tori hopped off my chair and proceeded to go after her legs, vigorously alternating between the left and right.
"What did you do? Rub your legs up with Liver Snaps?" I asked the former "Saturday Night Live" star. When she guffawed at the question, I thought it was quite the feather in my cap because she is a really funny woman.
Eventually, Tori’s days at the station came to an end when she started barking and charging at children. I suspect this might have had something to do with the little girls who lived next door at the time, who didn’t quite understand the concept of an invisible fence. So Tori became mildly aggressive toward anyone between the ages of 3 and 11.
It was the topic of water cooler conversations for days when she chased the sales manager’s children down the hall. I apologized profusely but he seemed OK with it, saying he had told his boys not to move from their seats while he stepped out for a minute. As little boys are prone to do, according to a secretary, they stayed seated for a minute or two and then decided to sneak out and explore.
Imagine their surprise when they turned a corner to find what had to appear to them to be a rabid dog. She quickly caught up to them, barking at their heels as she chased them back to their father’s office. Both boys bug-eyed and out of breath, their father was waiting for them at his office door while I was bringing up the rear, yelling at Tori.
That was the last time she went to work with me.
In the years since, she enjoyed a quiet life at home where she was known to eat a whole pie off the dining room table, and one time she managed to get a foot-long Italian sub off the kitchen island and scarf it down before being caught.
It’s memories like these that swirled in your head when you’re trying to decide when the right time is for that last, long ride to the vet.
I had, in fact, made two previous appointments but canceled them both, causing my friends to call me the Governor.
But there was no stay Tuesday, when my son and I watched Tori take her last breath. We are both self-proclaimed ugly criers so we mustered up everything we had not to blubber as we left the office.
It's the same office I had left two years ago this month when I had to put my sweet little Lulu down. She was only 3 but was suffering the ravages of encephalitis, and her quickly deteriorating condition left me with no option.
I know there are people who believe that dogs don’t go to heaven but I’m not one of them. The morning after Tori died, the sky was the most brilliant pink and red I think I’ve ever seen. I imagined God painting it that way to let me know that Tori was home with him, safe and sound, playing with Lulu, and instead of Joe Montana's, she was licking the nail-pierced hands of Jesus.
You can say it’s silly but I say it is comforting, and this is the right time for some comfort.
Contact Robin Swoboda at Robinswoboda@outlook.com.