“To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice, though inasmuch as he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman.” ~Hermione Gingold
Similar to a few of my other difficult-to-write pieces–Until Death Do We Part , I Had Spinal Surgery in Mexico and Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide, this one will be hard, if not heartbreaking, for me to put into print.
But I must.
I owe it to Seamus, to our family and to our children to honor his memory and legacy, to memorialize this sentient being that was so much more than “just a dog”…to tell his story.
The feelings of profound sadness and loss don’t go away on their own. Expressing them with the written word is one of the ways in which I choose to process through them…to journey through the waves of deep mourning to arrive to where only memories of laughter, adventure, kisses and warm, furry snuggles remain.
This is my tribute to you, Seamies…
Our three-year-old twins Mairead and Liam were just starting to sleep through the night when my husband Frank surprised me with the grandest 38th birthday gift of all–a puppy! Working as a firefighter and away from home for days and sometimes weeks on end, he wanted to bring a gentle dog with a big bark into our family.
Living in San Diego at the time, we traveled up to Bonsall for the four required visits, until at last, at 9-weeks old, we were able to bring Seamus home to begin his life as an O’Grady!
We Chose Each Other
Seamus was from a litter of nine chocolate, roly poly, running, jumping, kissing, wagging balls of Labrador love.
Although our twins were a bit overwhelmed and cautious at first with this energetic, playful, new presence in their lives (that was almost their same size!) the three of them became the best of buddies in no time at all.
Honoring our Irish heritage and love of traditional Celtic names, ‘Seamus‘ was ever-so-fitting for this handsome, destined-to-be addition to our family. My Mother’s dinner time calls would now be “Mairead…Liam…Seamus”…
They say you can approximate the adult size of a puppy by its paws. At 9 weeks old Seamus’s were huge and by 6 months he was practically full grown, knocking over everything in his path with that big tail and chewing through all of our shoes one by one.
Seamus Immigrates to Mexico
Seamus moved to Mexico with us when he was five years old, making the four-day drive South in the back seat of our SUV, drooling the entire car ride down on the back of Frank’s neck.
From San Diego to San Pancho to San Miguel de Allende, to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle–with many Stateside and Baja trips in between–Seamus lived an amazingly full and adventurous life! He was a well-traveled dog with no shortage of fun and shenanigans with his human family.
A Gentle Giant
If you were ever lucky enough to be in the presence of this Gentle Giant, you would have known what a special, wise, kind soul he was…a noble gentleman, a comedian, a loyal playmate, a never-do-harm puppy with a heart of gold.
Seamus’s favorite place in the world was the ocean. That, and being with his family…especially in the ocean.
Seamus Gets A Sister
Seamus wasn’t what one would call a lap dog (we never told him that), weighing in at 95 pounds of slobbery love! We not only wanted him to have a companion, but also for our children to experience the gift of adoption and the taking in of another sentient being.
Seamus had been an “only dog” for the first seven years of his life and while he was initially excited to have what he thought was an occasional playdate in Luna, he went through a period of acting slightly concerned with this new addition to our family, bringing me more treats and toys than normal.
In short order, Seamus realized that Luna had a permanent status in The O’Grady Tribe and that he now needed to share the attention, walks and pats on the head.
He handled it like a gentleman and graciously welcomed Luna into his family with lots of slobbery kisses, love barks and tail chasing around our yard!
Our sweet boy had suffered from skin ailments most his life–made worse in the jungle heat–and in the past year had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism for which he was receiving treatment. In spite of those challenges, he was a very happy, active boy…a sweet, lovable chocolate lab. While he was in his senior years at almost 12, he did not have any joint or musculature issues. In fact, on one of our recent stateside trips, Seamus had a thorough check-up including a head to toe x-ray whereupon the vet stated that he had the skeleture of a 5-year-old dog!
On the Sunday morning before Valentine’s Day, instead of being greeted by my normally goofy and happy pup, I found him sitting sideways at the top of our back laundry door, clearly in discomfort and not interested in eating at all.
He looked up at me with sadness in his eyes, turned away and laid his head back down. My heart skipped a beat knowing that something was seriously wrong.
I went outside to get a better look and saw that his left back leg was swollen and curled up and that he was unable to stand or walk unassisted.
What had happened???
Was he stung by a scorpion? Did he somehow fall, twist or break his leg? Was he bitten by a snake?
My mind went through all of the possibilities of what could have happened to our boy, who just one day before seemed fine on his afternoon walk. While he was slowing down, he was still mobile and always up for some playtime at the beach.
Seeing my big, sweet boy in obvious distress and pain, trying to navigate those 95 pounds on three legs, was heartbreaking and so concerning, to say the least.
We took Seamus to the vet, fearing that our day had arrived or was soon in sight, but Dr. Jorge said to give it a few days with anti-inflammatory injections and oral meds at home. And so we did, willing to do anything to give him some more time with us–as long as it was free from pain and suffering.
Dr. Jorge ruled out any venomous poisoning or bone break, conjecturing that Seamus might have tripped and fallen and therefore perhaps sprained his leg, but to me, it seemed to be much more serious.
A Mother’s Intuition
I knew in my heart that we likely weren’t going to come out of this one on the other side with dry eyes or intact hearts, even for as much as I wanted to deny the reality right in front of us.
Over the next several days, Seamus continued to suffer and decline. His breathing became labored, he lost interest in eating, could not relieve himself without being lifted up and moved to the grass, and then he began to hemorrhage and bleed externally.
We knew it was time. Time to do only what love propels you to do. Time to do the right thing. Time to do the humane thing. Time to release Seamus from the physical condition that now held his body captive in pain with no apparent hope of improvement.
In a “perfect world” or a “best case scenario”, maybe Seamus would have passed in his sleep. But life and death are not so neat and tidy and they certainly have their own timeline.
I believe that Seamus wanted us to each have our individual and then our together time as a family to say our goodbyes, and we did.
Thank you, Seamus, for the gift of you…thank you for picking Valentine’s Day–a day of love and friendship–as your day to transition from one energy form to another. Thank you for the undeniable impact you have left on each of our hearts.
Rainbow Bridge, Valentine’s Day
I laid with Seamus throughout the day, in those last hours with my sweet boy in this realm.
I brought him warm, lavender infused towels from the dryer and sang, talked, laughed and cried with him–telling him all of the funny stories about his life as a 9-week-old puppy up to now, this very moment as my senior pup, hours before his rainbow crossing. I named all of the people and animals that loved him, each and every one by their first name. He looked at me with acknowledgment and understanding, hugged me, wrapped his paws around my arms, smiled, snorted and slobbered with all the energy he could muster up. Noble and gallant to the very end.
I asked Frank to bring home the largest bone he could find, but Seamus was not interested in it at all.
We picked our children up after school, came home to get Seamus, and the five of us drove to the vet’s office for our 4:00 appointment.
To say that the next few hours were excruciatingly painful and very emotional for our family would be an understatement.
From my husband Frank’s Facebook Post:
Our dog Seamus had to leave us this afternoon.
If there were ever a dog to represent unconditional love he was it.
He taught me many lessons regarding being happy in a moment. I do and will miss him mightily.
I hear the ocean outside my window, and I feel his physical absence palpably…but, I know he is free from that pain he tolerated with no complaint and he is happy and at peace.
He grew up with my babies, he was one of our babies, he was part of our O’Grady Tribe. I am so grateful to be part of a family that stayed with him until the end, grateful to Dr. Jorge at Pets and Vets in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for his sincere compassion and care and his tenderness not only with Seamus but with us.
My hope is that we can all carry forward a bit some love, tolerance and compassion in this oftentimes hard world we live in. I have to say that I marvel at the strength of our children.
They were with Seamus until the end…laying with him on the floor of the vet’s office, giving him their hearts and love with hugs, petting and no shortage of tears until well after his heart stopped beating.
Seamus died literally surrounded with love and touches…and touches and love were what he lived for.
My family, Seamus included, give me reason to marvel every day.
It is beautiful outside and I will reflect on Seamus’ life, my children, Liam and Mairead, my amazing wife Katie and us as the family we are often throughout this day.
Peace and love to all of you.”
We had Seamus cremated and released his ashes into the ocean blue, his favorite playground.
On this particular day, in this particular spot, there were whales and dolphins gathered together, splashing and playing around. Seamus would be in good company here.
Seamus, you will always be our Gentle Giant, our Guardian Angel, my Big Brown Bear.
The Cycle of Life
The life and and death of our Famous Seamus is a powerful reminder of the transient nature of life, that all things have their time and place…their beginning and their end. Life is a precious and fragile gift.
That same puppy face that we saw the first day we met Seamus in 2007 was the very same puppy face we kissed goodbye as Seamus took his last breath on Valentine’s Day, 2019.
“Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk to me as if I were
I loved you so…
‘Twas heaven here with you.”
~Isla Paschal Richardson
Love hurts. Love extracts her price. But she also gives, tenfold. Love stretches our hearts in ways unimaginable, changes the mosaic of who we are for the better, if we consciously allow it to.
Lucky are we to experience it in its fullest, most unconditional form.
RIP my King. We love you forever and a day…
*I have been receiving an amazing amount of feedback to this article, including the sharing with me of this story that got the waterworks going all over again: The Dog Who Means Nothing to Me