Gone across Peterson

Qila, looking across the river

On the evening of August 7 our then 10 year old male Samoyed, Qila, gave three sharp cries. When I reached him in the living room moments later he was listless and disoriented. His gums were whiter than they should have been. After our experience just two months before with Jenny our first thought was bloat.

I examined him as thoroughly as I could and found no indications of abdominal distension even under the rib cage. We called our vet at home and she recommended that we monitor the situation, take him to animal emergency if we thought the situation warranted it, and otherwise bring him in in the morning.

The next morning Qila was much improved—practically back to normal. We took him to the vet’s where they drew blood and took X-rays. After examining the X-rays, the vet said she saw some things that didn’t look right and recommended we take him to a veterinary imaging center in the north suburbs. When we got the results of the blood test later they were completely wacky (just three months before they had been perfect).

At the veterinary imaging center the next morning they shaved Qila’s tummy and gave him an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed a large tumor in his liver which, judging by its conformation was in all likelihood a hepatoma—a malignant tumor of the liver. The veterinary radiologist pointed out other indications that suggested that the cancer had spread to other areas of the liver and to adjacent organs.

We elected not to have either a biopsy taken nor the tumor removed. The veterinary radiologist told us that with the position and extent of the tumor (and presumed spreading) the operation would be difficult, his recovery lengthy, and the prognosis poor at best. Chemotherapy would be the next step.

We would have been willing to go to the expense to prolong Qila’s life but not to prolong his death. At 10½ and with his family history, Qila’s life expectancy was likely to be no more than two years or so and we had no intention of putting him through pain and impairment for the rest of his life merely to prolong that death.

The next day we consulted with our primary vet and the next week with our rehab (and alternative care) vet to learn how we could best support Qila’s system to give him the best quality of life we could. The supplements and medications prescribed by our vets have gone a long way to improving Qila’s health and spirits and I have no doubt that the excellent care he received from the health care team we assembled prolonged his healthy, active life.

In complete contradiction of all predictions Qila lived far longer than the two months suggested by the veterinary radiologist back in August. Past Thanksgiving. Past Christmas. Past New Years and through the winter, into the spring.

He began to lose muscle mass as he lost the ability to process proteins and fat properly. We adjusted the supplements and medications as his condition changed.

I don’t know how to explain to you my relationship with this dog. I don’t look on him as my child. He’s not precisely a friend—the relationship is closer and more intimate than any friendship. I have spent nearly every moment of every day of the last ten years with him. During his puppyhood and young adulthood I still maintained an office and took him with me every day.

He has gotten me up every morning and seen to it that I went to bed at night. He made sure I got plenty of exercise. When I was sad, he comforted me. When I was lonely, he was there.

He is my own, personal therapy dog. Or, perhaps, my other self—the better part.

Last night as Qila walked into the kitchen for his evening meal he stumbled and couldn’t rise. His gums were blanched. He was weak and disoriented. We rushed him to the vet’s and they confirmed that his tumor had burst and his abdomen was full of blood. It was time. Last evening we euthanized him. He was without pain and aware to the end, surrounded by the staff at the vet’s office, tears in their eyes. They had stayed after the office’s regular closing time, giving up their own time to be with us and with Qila, a favorite for many of them.

When given his choice Qila has always wanted to walk across Peterson from where we live. On the single occasion in his life when he got away from me to my horror he ran across Peterson. Samoyeds are frequently difficult to train to come when called and Qila has always been terrible in that respect. When he got away I called and called, initially in a firm, calm commanding tone, later in a cry of despair. I finally got him under control but I have rarely felt such sorrow, fear, and despair as in those few minutes between the moment I dropped the lead and he ran away and when I finally got him back again.

Now he’s gone across Peterson forever and no matter how I call he will never come back.

21 comments… add one
  • I’m sorry for your loss. You know the New Yorker cartoon where the dog is muttering, “It’s always good dog — never great dog?” Sounds like this was a great dog.

  • Dave, this is a beautiful and heartbreaking piece of writing. You have clearly given Qila the life and eulogy he deserved.

    Deepest sympathies.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, especially coming so close after Jenny. How are the puppies taking it?

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, Dave. This was a sweet tribute to your friend and companion.

  • Katie Link

    I’m so sorry Dave. What a lovely tribute to what sounds like a wonderful dog. It’s hard that the last, best thing we can do for our pets is to not just let them go, but to help them leave when it’s time.

    I had to laugh over your comment about sams not coming well when called. It must be genetic, I haven’t had one, nor have I heard of one that has come when you call them after a break out. ‘Ahh, the sweet taste of freedom’, you just know that’s what they’re thinking.

  • Anne Link

    When I lost Boom’r last month I was sent a card with the following quote. I think it says it all.

    “Dogs lives are too short. Their only fault. Really” – Agnes Sligh Turnbull

  • Dave,

    My condolences. I know exactly what you mean when you say that your dog was more than your friend, that is exactly how I feel about my dogs. The picture is also quite fitting as well.

  • shaun Link


    I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Twice I have had to put down dear four-legged friends. It is every bit as difficult as saying goodbye to the two-legged variety.

  • Ann Julien Link

    Qila, what a wonderful spirit, so strong, such a leader, kind and gentle: much like Dave. Qila was Dave’s animal counterpart/companion.

    I too will miss Qila, and i wish you, Janice and the pack he has left behind the best balm to your hearts, whenever it can come, as you grieve his loss.

    Love, Ann

  • Debbie Link

    What a beautiful tribute to your life together! This poem has helped me…
    Lend Me A Pup
    I will lend to you for awhile
    a puppy, God said
    For you to love him while he lives
    and to mourn for him when he is gone.
    Maybe for twelve or fourteen years,
    or maybe for two or three
    But will you, till I call him back
    take care of him for me?
    He’ll bring his charms to gladden you
    and (should his stay be brief)
    you’ll always have his memories
    as solace for your grief.
    I cannot promise that he will stay,
    since all from earth return,
    But there are lessons taught below
    I want this pup to learn.
    I’ve looked the whole world over
    in search of teachers true
    And from the folk that crowd life’s land
    I have chosen you.
    Now will you give him all your love
    Nor think the labour vain
    Nor hate me when I come to take my pup back again.
    I fancied that I heard them say
    “Dear Lord Thy Will Be Done,”
    For all the joys this pup will bring,
    the risk of grief you’ll run.
    Will you shelter him with tenderness
    Will you love him while you may
    And for the happiness you’ll know forever grateful stay.
    But should I call him back
    much sooner than you’ve planned
    Please brave the bitter grief that comes
    and try to understand.
    If, by your love, you’ve managed
    my wishes to achieve,
    In memory of him that you’ve loved
    cherish every moment with your faithful bundle,
    and know he loved you too.
    Author Unknown

  • Emily Julien Link

    Dear Dave, Janice and my dog-cousins:

    I can’t tell you how very sad I am today. Mom called and told me about it, and sent me the link to this post. I’m crying now even as I write this. Qila was a GOOD dog. He was there for a lot of my life. I remember Qila as a puppy… and he was always there. A good, good friend. I’m so sorry for your loss and I’m here grieving with you, for it’s my loss too. My good cousin-dog.

    Today I looked out over the river as I walked back to my dorm and I said, “Take care of him. He was a good dog.”

    All my love,
    Emily, your niece

  • Connie Schoenly Link

    My then 15 year old son Grant wrote this when his first dog Samantha. a wonderful setter/retriever mix was facing death. I picked it up off his bedroom floor all those years ago and it has always brought me confort at these sad times. Hope it does the same for you.
    Samantha, let it be told. Seemed she’d never grow old. For us she was the only one, A sparkle in the rising sun, A twinkle in the gleaming eye, A cloudless early morning sky. Better than any person here. Comforting every troublesome tear. Although she could never say a word, her thoughts and feelings could be heard. Make it through. this day is yours. Samantha let it be told, in my heart she’ll never grow old.

  • Dave,

    I’m very sorry to hear of your loss, even through such a lovely eulogy. My best to you and your family.

  • Jackie Link

    What a beautiful picture and tribute.

    I can share your sorrow though I never met you or Qila–because I lost one just like her several months ago.

    My sympathy to you.

  • Just crying.

  • Sorry for your loss Dave. Our best to you and your family.

  • Mary Link

    Qila was special. Qila was the first Samoyed I ever became friends with. What a naughty puppy! I can still picture him barking all night in the kitchen (as I tried to sleep on the sleeper sofa in the living room!). Qila always remembered me when I came to visit, even if a year or two had passed. What a great feeling, riding in the back seat of the Explorer with Qila next to me, my arm around him. Smart, headstrong, warm, gentle, sensitive—our “Q.” I know it seems like he really has gone across Peterson and out of your reach, but it’s only his body that couldn’t stay. He’ll always be with you on North K. Love, Mary

  • Don Rubovits Link

    Janice and Dave –

    My tears are a tribute to Qila and your relationship with both him and your fellow members of the pack.

    With great affection,

  • Jim Wahler Link

    A beautiful tribute to an exceptional dog.

    Having to put my very first dog down in January is still fresh in my mind.

    Though she was 16 1/2, I only had her company for 3 1/2 years.

    My primary regret is that I might have held on to her a couple of months longer than I should have. Although we didn’t mind cleaning up her ‘accidents’, in retrospect, I believe the fact that she had lost control bothered her much more than us.

    I hope Tika was at the Rainbow bridge to greet Qila.

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