I've been nursing my dear Sweetpea through end stage Cushing's for months. She had wasted away to nothing and lost control of her hind end in the last weeks. When I had to persuade her to eat and drink over the weekend it was obviously time.
Sweetest Pea was the runt of thirteen pups. I took her in at three and a half weeks, while she could fit in my hand, otherwise she would have starved. She caught up quickly, at one point reaching eighty five pounds, and until her ninth year, was healthy, strong and beautiful.
Her dad was a local lab romeo, her mom a pit bull. As a puppy she would hang out in the back of my pickup truck down at the marina waiting for me to get off of work. When folks would ask her breed I'd say - Gulf Stream Retriever, and usually get a nod and a knowing look. It was hard to keep a straight face. It was better than having the "pit bull discussion".
Despite her breeding, a strong prey drive, and an arch enemy dog in the neighborhood who had to be put in his place now and again, Sweetpea was very gentle, even maternal with the various strays that showed up at our house.
Favorite activities were beach walks and swims. I would help her out past the breakers, and then we'd swim and swim parallel to the beach. She would let me prop her up for a bit when she got tired, and eventually ride a wave back in to shore. She could dig to China to hunt up a ghost crab in the sand, and quickly learned to snap off the pinchy claws asap so she could torture the crabs safely.
Sweetpea was smart and persistent with a smattering of sly. Add agility, and this was a dangerous combination. I once caught her dropping the last piece of a just out of the oven, cooling on the kitchen counter bundt cake on the living room rug as I came in the front door. Guilty as hell look standing over the pile of crumbs with an already bulging belly... nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
She went very peacefully this afternoon. I think she was relieved. I know I was. It was a blessing to see how calmly she breathed after receiving the preparatory sedation. I realized it was the first time I'd seen her relaxed in literally years.
Sweetpea was a loyal, loving companion. She is buried in a lovely spot on the farm. I will miss her terribly.
1/21/99 - 7/31/12