It’s been a little over four weeks since we lost Winston and to be honest, we‘re still reeling from it after having spent the last 12-months doing whatever we could to get him back to full-speed and almost pawfect health. In some ways, Winston had super-pug like powers because he had defied all the odds and recovered from every challenge thrown our way … we thought we were finally over the hump. Unfortunately, in the end his body told us what he couldn’t, and we made the decision to end his suffering, knowing intellectually that we were doing the best thing for him but emotionally still hating ourselves for doing it.
It’s the first time Andrew and I have had to make the decision and although we had discussed what we would do if Winston’s circumstances deteriorated to the point where his Specialist advised us that we were out of options, we were still blind-sided by the phone call when it did happen. I think we both even said something along the lines of “What do you mean he’s not recovering, Winston’s recovered from everything.”
Photo: Winston and Charles resting after a big Christmas with our friends and their kids
Our last Pug Louis died at the ripe old age of 14 and we were content that we had given him the best life we could when he was with us, and that it was just his time to go. But with Winston, he was still ‘full-throttle Winston’ until approx. 36 hours prior to his passing, including going to play group and commanding his usual measure of treats and pats from everyone there. How could his body have failed him so quickly? I still find myself asking “what did we miss? Should I have done something different? Was I so happy that he had made it through hell last year that I just didn’t see the early tell-tale signs? Does this mean that I didn’t love him enough to notice?” All questions that I know will never be answered but has equally made me wonder, if I am thinking these things, what is going on in his brother, Charles’, head. What is Charles thinking noting that one minute his brother was by his side (as always), and the next we were saying goodbye to him in the hospital after he had passed. In the days after, we watched Charles wander around the house at different times walking into rooms to then immediately turn around and go back to his bed alone, and we could not miss the look on his face when we walked through the door without his brother in tow that first week.
For those not familiar with Winston and Charles’ story they were rescued by Pug Rescue and Adoption Victoria as 18-month old pugs; both with health issues that in part were the product of neglect. Pug Rescue worked wonders on the boys and after 6-months of loving care were ready for their fur-ever home. The challenge the team had was that the boys had never been apart and were reliant on each other to the point that the decision was to put them up for adoption as a pair. Luckily for us, we were looking for a pair of Pugs to adopt at the time and one look at their adorable faces meant we became an instant fur-family of four.
Photo: Winston and Charles watching their dinner preparation intently
Fast forward nine years later and Andrew and I are faced with the challenge that had been avoided with our adoption; the separation of an 11-year bond that was stronger than the typical sibling bond. Add to that the fact that Winston was the alpha in their relationship and we now have a boy who is lost without his brother.
Initially, we knew Charles would be lonely and confused, and we employed many different care options to try and support his grief process whilst we went through ours. We’ve had family members drop in and check on him when we were at work, we arranged to work from home one day a week each to try and break up the work week where he would be home alone, we even researched doggy day-care options that would be able to accommodate his emotional and health needs. What we have found is that it’s more difficult than originally thought noting he is a Pug who has arthritis, is a shy guy naturally who prefers to closely follow his Hooman around the house or watch closely from the comfort of his strategically positioned bean bag. Not really doggy-day care material.
So now Andrew and I are faced with the dilemma of needing to balance Charles’ immediate needs of possibly finding a friend who will give him the emotional support that Winston did, without increasing his anxiety levels by introducing another Pug into the house too soon; as well as our need to grieve.
Fortuitously an opportunity to Pug sit a little cutie who Charles knows from play group and who is of similar temperament to him for a couple of weeks popped up unexpectedly. We agreed to the “sleepover” with the proviso that if it was too much for Charles that she would go stay with another friend. I can admit I had mixed emotions; high hopes of the sleepover for Charles, but both Andrew and I were equally worried that it was too much too soon and that we were making it worse not better for him.
Photo: The last time Winston and Charles were at the Groomers, SuperMutts, together
I am a firm believer that a Pug-parent knows their Pug and their needs better than anyone else; we love and live them 24/7 and I think that gives us insight into their personality nuisances that an outsider will never pick up on. However, it doesn’t stop us from second-guessing ourselves every time we interpret what we think their trying to communicate to us via their facial expressions, snorts and huffing. For me, Charles’ behaviour over the last few weeks felt more and more like he was lonely for the company and companionship that his brother provided him and for that reason I felt that the sleepover was worth the risk especially if it helped with the loneliness.
I can report that the sleepover has been successful from the perspective that Charles has calmed noticeably and although both Puggies do their own thing, there has been bean bag and couch sharing without argument or too much snorting. What this means for the future is still to be decided, but for the moment we’re just relieved that the sleepover has helped Charles’ immediate emotional needs as well as give Andrew and I hope that if we do decide to adopt a new sibling for him that it won’t be a huge mistake.
I’d love to hear from other Pug-parents who have experienced similar concerns after the loss of their Puggie; how did you deal with your grief as well as support your remaining Puggie(s)? Did you try something that did or didn’t work that you’d be happy to share with us?
Until next time Puggies, have a wonderful week and look forward to snuffling with you soon.
From Donna and Charles
Founder of Pug Parties and Pug Supermodel
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Other articles in the Pug Love series:
In loving memory of Winston https://pugparties.com.au/blogs/grumble-news/in-loving-memory-of-winston
What is your Puggies super-power? https://pugparties.com.au/blogs/grumble-news/Pugtastic-the-one-thing-that-makes-your-pug-fantastic
When one-Puggie home is not enough https://pugparties.com.au/blogs/grumble-news/when-a-one-puggie-home-is-not-enough
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