Tag Archives: cremation

SLUGGER – By Maribeth Shanley

Sweet Slugger

I remember this day.  I put Slugger and Pooker in the back seat.
Pooker immediately climbed over into the front passenger side.  As I got in the car,
I looked back at Slugger.  This photo of him captures the essence of who he was.  He was laid back, sweet and had the biggest heart of any dog I’ve known.

Slugger’s unexpected death marks the end of an era for Bob and me.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, Slugger passed. We thought and, more, hoped that he would be with us at least another year or two. It wasn’t meant to be.

Bob and I woke around 6 a.m. as one of our dogs was flaying on the bed. Getting knocked by a foot, we were startled out of our last few minutes of sleep. Bob sat up and turned on his bedside lamp. It was Slugger who was thrashing. We thought he was having a terrible nightmare, so we tried shaking him awake. No amount of shaking helped. It seemed he had lost control of his body.

As Bob climbed out of bed, I pulled Slugger close and held him in my arms as I stroked him and assured him he was safe. As long as I was holding him and stroking his head, he was calm. We both knew in our hearts that this was the end for our sweet little boy. Bob dressed as I reassured Slugger and kissed his head. Bob then climbed on the bed, and I handed Slugger to him, but not without another terrible bout of  lost control.

Once dressed, I leaned over the bed and picked Slugger up and carried him down to our jeep. Bob grabbed a blanket and a towel. He helped me climb in the back seat with our little bundle in my arms.

If you’ve ever had to climb especially into the back seat of a full-sized jeep, you know how difficult that is especially holding a child; in my case, a fur child. It’s like trying to climb a rock wall without the ability to grab something to hoist yourself up. With Bob’s help, we slid into the back as Bob helped me wrap the blanket around Slugger and slide the towel under his body. We had no idea what to expect next.

The Myrtle Beach rush hour was underway as Bob maneuvered his way through traffic as he had to slam on his brakes several times. Driving in Myrtle Beach is a nightmare any time of the year, but especially during the summer season or any major holiday.   Like leftover turkey, there was still leftover traffic from Thanksgiving weekend. The torons (a variation of morons for tourists) were still in town. Couple them with transplants from all sorts of States who brought their unique bad driving habits with them and you have a mess. There are several daily accidents on the route we were taking.   I gently reminded Bob that a seatbelt didn’t secure Slugger and me.

Slugger rested in my arms as Bob made his way to Banfield Hospital which is located at the back end of the PetSmart store.

Once Bob parked the Jeep, we walked into the store and began walking toward the back end.  As we passed the last aisle and made eye contact with Tracey, one of the receptionists, she said something to the other receptionist, got up and guided us to one of the exam rooms. Tracey intuitively knew why we were there.

Two year’s prior; we carried Slugger’s brother in only to find out he had diabetes. The familiar, kind receptionist, with a sad expression on her face, guided us to the room, said something and shut the door. Moments later, a vet assistant came in and asked a few questions. She pulled up Slugger’s computer record typed something in and told us she would get Dr. Chapman. Before she left, I tried to lay Slugger on the folded orange blanket the assistant placed on the exam table. However, Slugger immediately began thrashing again. So, I picked him up and backed up to the bench where I sat holding Slugger.  The assistant forced a sad smile, nodded approval, and left the room.

A few seconds later, Dr. Chapman followed by the assistant entered the room. The doctor picked up the orange blanket and tried to place it between Slugger and my lap. She acknowledged there was not much she could do for our boy as she also gently suggested that it was time for Slugger to leave. With tears in our eyes, we both acknowledged that we knew his time had come.

As I held a former fur child, Munch, so many years prior and felt her body go limp, I swore I would never go through that again. Now, however, I knew it was the only alternative. I also promised years ago that, if I can be there, no fur child of ours would ever die alone. Unless I die in my sleep, I hope I am not alone when I die. Therefore, how could I allow my child to die without being lovingly held close?

I pulled Slugger to my bosom reassuring him that it would be okay. As he stroked Slugger’s head, Bob, still standing also reassured him. The insertion of an IV into a vein caused a lot of blood, as the doctor quickly wrapped a bandage around Slugger’s leg to hold the IV and stop the flow. She talked to us, but I don’t recall a word she said. I’m sure she was explaining something when her assistant walked back in with a tray. As she inserted the first needle into the IV, she said, this will relax Slugger so he can pass quietly. She then stuck the second needle in and, because of what I was sensing from his body, I asked if it was instantaneous. She said yes as I also felt Slugger’s heart stop.

Dr. Chapman and her assistant left the room as I pulled my phone out of my pocket and began searching for the cremation service we used for both Pooker and Sissy, our cat who died shortly after our move to the Myrtle Beach area. Sissy was 21 when she passed in Bob’s arms.

As I talked to the female owner and spouse of the business founder, when I told her where we lived, she explained that they didn’t drive that far out. However, after I told her we wanted to bring Slugger home so our other dog, Bailey and our two cats, Skeeter and Sassy could say good-bye, she acknowledged that she would make an exception. After all, we were permanent customers of the crematorium.

We explained our plans to the assistant who reentered the room. She retrieved a coffin-shaped box and laid it on the table. Bob helped me put our little boy in the box, remove his harness, and cover him again with the blanket we wrapped him in for the journey. As we walked out, we could hear gasps from the other two receptionists. Everyone knew both Slugger and Pooker. They were a favorite pair for the hospital staff.

As we arrived home, Bob carried the box with Slugger into the house. Bailey met us at the door. He was curious about where we had gone and where Slugger was. Bob lay the open box on the floor. He had questioned whether Bailey, who celebrated his first birthday in June of this year, would be traumatized. My gut told me he would not be as I reminded Bob that we gave Slugger the opportunity to say goodbye to Pooker. “My intuition tells me it’s a good thing to do. That way, Bailey won’t feel confused as to what happened to Slugger. Nor would the cats.”

Bob stood as I sat on the sofa. Bailey sniffed Slugger as did Skeeter. Sassy was asleep somewhere else in the house. Later, I realized that my intuition was right as I acknowledged that Bailey’s behavior was calm as if he recognized that death was the natural order of life.

Slugger is now in the hands of the crematorium owners. They will return him to us in a few days. They will place him and the blanket in a small box with scroll carvings on the lid and a gold plaque on the front. It will read:


Bob calls me the queen of catalogs because of all the catalogs I receive. I’ve been shopping over the internet way before it became popular, so everyone who gets a list of catalog buyers gets my name and address. I do love my catalogs with all the merchandise I can dream of buying. One item, in particular, speaks to me. It’s a doormat which reads, “Ring the doorbell, let me sing you a song of my people. The dog.” As such, let me sing you a song of my Slugger and Pooker. I promise not to keep you too much longer.

The day Bob and I met both Slugger and Pooker took place shortly after losing our first little boy, Skipper. Skipper also died from diabetes which is common in Schnauzers. However, unlike Type 2 diabetes for humans, canine diabetes is a death sentence. It behaves as does Type 1 human diabetes.

Skipper died the first evening we moved from Naperville, IL to rejoin Bob in the Nashville, TN area.

Skipper wasn’t gone long before Bob expressed, “Maribeth, you need another dog.” Unsaid was the same for him. “We” needed another dog to fill the hole left by Skipper.

Skipper was a Miniature Schnauzer. We fell in love with his breed, and, so we decided to find another miniature.

Bob contacted a professor who taught at the University of Tennessee. He owned and showed schnauzers. He gave Bob the name of a married couple in the Knoxville, TN area who bred and showed schnauzers. The couple’s two females had just birthed a litter each. Most of the puppies had been spoken for, but, from talking to Bob said they had a male who would be a perfect match. That puppy was Slugger.

The day we drove to John and Diane Steffy’s house, I felt completely detached from reality. I was still deep in mourning of Skipper, My Little Boy Blue. We sat on their sofa as John brought two puppies into the room. One of the puppies was energetic and playful. He ran around the room chasing toys. The other puppy walked over to me and raised himself so that his front paws rested on my knees. As I looked at him, I immediately fell in love with him, so I picked him up as he rested on my lap. Still feeling removed from the event, about a half hour later, Bob said, “It’s decision time, Maribeth.”  I responded, “Well, if I have to choose, I chose this one (on my lap), but I’d like to take both of them home.” Although I was in a fog that day, my intuition was not at all asleep. I could tell from their behavior that both puppies were emotionally attached.   Diane Steffy said, “John and I will leave you two alone for a few minutes.”

Once gone, Bob asked, “Can we afford both puppies?” I am the designated financial officer in our marriage, so I knew from the huge profit from our Naperville home, we could indeed afford both. I said, “Yes.” The matter was settled. The Steffy’s returned to the living room, and we were soon on our way with the two puppies.

As we headed back to the Interstate, we decided to stop at the Petsmart store just off the exit to buy the boys collars and leashes. The smallest puppy who won my heart immediately fell to sleep. The happy-go-lucky dog who also sat on my lap now was wide awake. I could intuit that he wasn’t as sure of what was taking place as was his half-brother.

Before leaving the Steffy home, we learned that the puppies had the same father but different mothers. The smallest puppy was nine-days younger than the larger puppy. I had already decided that the larger puppy would be named Slugger after the Louisville Slugger baseball bat. I believe that Skipper had communicated that name to me during an earlier event. Bob liked the name. He would choose the name for the younger puppy.

As we pulled our vehicle into the Petsmart parking space, I could tell that Slugger still didn’t feel comfortable. I’m sure he could sense that my first choice was his smaller brother. Nonetheless, I was determined to change Slugger’s mind.

The puppies in the cart were a hit in the store. Once we made our purchase, a red collar, and leash for Slugger, and a blue collar and leash for his brother, we walked out to the parking lot. We opened the back door to our SUV, placed both puppies on the inside pad and put their collars and leashes on.   Bob grabbed the little puppy while I grabbed Slugger. The minute we put the puppies on the ground I saw a visible change take over Slugger. He was now confident that he was where he was supposed to be. It was amazing to see this event.  My intuition was alive and well. Slugger was going home.

Life with the puppies was a trip. Soon Bob asked if he could name the smaller puppy Pooker. It was a loving nickname he had given Skipper whom he would walk every day after arriving home from work.

One Sunday morning, as I sat at the kitchen table, I heard a strange noise. I called up to Bob and asked, “What are you doing up there. You’re making a lot of noise.” He answered, “Nothing. I’m sitting at my desk reading the newspaper.” I then thought, Uh, oh, what are the boys up to? I got up, walked into the foyer and turned to my left which was the dining room area of our very open floor plan. There the two dogs were. Pooker was down at one end of the huge dining room window, and Slugger was at the opposite end. The window sat only inches from the floor. They were facing each other as they ate the window sill working their way to the middle. The house and sill were brand new. We had purchased a spec house just in time before another buyer put a check down for it. And so began the story of our two sweet little boys who both grew to become wonderful grown-up boys. With all our hearts, Bob and I hope that one day, we will reunite with Slugger, Pooker and all our past wonderful fur children.  They all taught us far more than we taught them.  They love unconditionally, never consider divorce and bring us joy every minute they are near.

Until we meet again, sweet babies, play hard and love harder!


Filed under Maribeth Shanley, memory

The Pain of Losing a Family Member – A Tribute to Pooker

Someone once said to me, “Losing your fur children becomes easier.”  Another person once asked, “It was just a dog.  Why are you so upset?” 

My answer to the first comment.  It does not at all become easier.  In fact, it becomes harder with every death of a fur child.

My answer to the second person, I can only repeat the quote on the front of the card sent home with us and Pooker’s cremated remains. 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”  Anatole France

I was mourning my last fur child, Skipper, when Bob and I brought Pooker and Slugger home.  I wasn’t sure I was yet ready for another child, but Bob thought it was the best thing for me.  Skipper died of diabetes and complications as a result of the diabetes and a second disease he suffered from for many years.  The existence of puppy mills was just being learned by the public and, given the circumstances of how we were given Skipper, we suspected he was a victim of a mill.  We thus, thought his diabetes was also a result of poor housing conditions, so Bob decided to look for a credible Schnauzer breeder.  We lived in Nashville, TN at the time.  Bob found a show dog breeder four hours from Nashville on the outskirts of Knoxville, TN.  

We drove to the breeder’s home on a Saturday.  When we sat down in their living room, they brought in two puppies.  The two boys were brothers.  Slugger was the boy Bob was originally told about.  I sat watching Slugger gleefully run around the room playing with his toys when Pooker strolled over to me, raised himself up as he rested his tiny paws on my knee.  I picked him up. 

Prior to picking him up, I noted that the two dogs were very close with one another.  We were told they had the same father but different mothers.  They were born nine days apart.  Pooker was not only the smaller of the two, but he was the youngest.

About a half hour later and after tossing Slugger’s toys for him to fetch and hugging a cuddly Pooker, it was time to make my decision.  Bob asked me which dog I wanted to take home.  My answer, “Well, if I have to choose one, I choose this one (Pooker).  But, I’d really like to bring both home.”  At this point, the breeders excused themselves so Bob and I could discuss.

We had just sold our house in Illinois and moved to Nashville.  Being the money manager (Bob lovingly calls me the CFO) I told Bob we could afford both.  Satisfied, we left with both dogs.  They sat on my lap on the passenger side as Bob drove.  We planned a quick stop at the PetSmart store just prior to hopping onto I-40.  Pooker immediately fell asleep.  Slugger, however, was wide awake.  I sensed he wasn’t certain about what was taking place.  I know he recognized my preference, so I became focused on changing his perception.

We parked in the lot in front of PetSmart and carried both dogs into the store, and put them in the baby seat of the bascart.  Of course, as we rolled them to the collar and leash isle, people cooed over the cute puppies.  Both dogs were eating it up.

We bought a blue collar and leash for Pooker and a red collar and leash for Slugger.  The minute we put Slugger’s collar on and attached his leash, I could sense a total change in his disposition.  He knew he was where he belonged, with his forever parents and his pal and brother. 


Over the next eleven years, the boys grew and enjoyed their lives with us.  Pooker gravitated more toward me as Slugger gravitated toward Bob.  We became a happy family.  Our Nashville veterinarian called the boys bookends.  I referred to them as “the boys.”  They experienced true love.  From day one, it was obvious we made the right decision bringing them both home.  They loved each other immensely

It was interesting to watch them grow up to develop different personalities.  Pooker was a cuddler.  He’d allow me to carry him in my arms like a baby.  He often encouraged our friends to do the same.  Slugger was more independent.  He definitely didn’t want to be carried like an infant.  He is a loyal, sweet dog whose face would melt your heart.

Both boys enjoyed impeccable health care.  Longtime customers of Banfield the Pet Hospital, we purchased the Optimal Health plan for both boys.  Banfield pet hospitals are located at the back end of PetSmart stores.  Although we were told it wasn’t anything to be concerned with, Pooker always sounded like he had a little congestion.  It led me to make the statement early on that if either dog became ill, I knew it would be Pooker.  Of course, I hoped I was wrong, but I’ve found over the years that I have an intuitive sense which isn’t always a happy sense to possess.

Last year one of the boys’ two yearly comprehensive exams left our Vet concerned about the results of one of Pooker’s tests.  His blood sugars were slightly elevated.  She wasn’t alarmed but told us she’d check him again in a few months. 

In May of last year, Pooker became ill.  He stopped eating and was lethargic.  We took him in for an exam.  The news was devastating.  Pooker had diabetes and his pancreas was inflamed.  Our vet could do nothing more for him and suggested we take him down to the Charleston, SC area, two hours away, to be checked by an internal medicine specialist.  That was the beginning of our painful journey.

Pooker was diagnosed with pancreatitis and he was severely dehydrated.  The clinic needed to keep him there for several days.  They got him rehydrated and calmed down his pancreas.  At the end of the week, he was ready to come home as he was put on a special diet as well as insulin.

After that episode, Pooker would become sick every month until it became more frequent.  He and I made many trips back down to the Internest and he spent several more days at the hospital.  At one point, they had to operate on him, removing his spleen and gall bladder.  After each stay, we were told that, with the proper dosage of insulin, his diabetes could be regulated.  However, I looked up diabetes in dogs on the Internet and learned that veterinary medicine had made many strides over the years.

Diabetes in dogs is complicated.  Instead of the disease affecting them as Type 2 diabetes affects humans, canine diabetes is more like the deadly Type 1 diabetes often called Child Diabetes.  This information stunned me and helped me to realize just how sick Pooker was.  Being a Schnauzer also complicates the situation.  In fact, one vet told me that schnauzers are prone to just about every disease a dog can get and it affects them more dramatically. 

Soon after his first hospital stay, I came home from a weekend in the D.C. area.  I sat down on the sofa with Pooker and looked at his eyes.  I could see he had developed cataracts, just as our last dog, Skipper had.   We were about to get one of the cataracts removed when we learned that, unlike with most breeds, it is an emergency situation with Schnauzers.  Thus, by the time we got him to the eye vet, it was too late for him.  He would be blind for the remainder of his life. 

We had lived with our other diabetic, blind dog, Skipper.  We were prepared to live with Pooker’s blindness.  This time was different, however.  We were about to move into our new house when he lost his sight.  So, instead of encouraging him to get used to being blind in his current environment and then having to get used to being blind in a new environment, we made the decision to baby him.  After all, in the new house, he could now fall down two separate flights of all wooden stairs. 

Baby him we did.  For instance, during the middle of the night, we took turns taking him out to relieve himself.  There were many times too when I would spoon feed him because he wasn’t interested in eating his entire meal.  Pooker would always let us know when he needed to go out.  He would voice a little bark.  His bark let us know that he was either thirsty or he needed to relieve himself.  He was good about alerting us immediately every time, even during the night.

When his appetite would disappear completely, we knew he was extremely ill.  The last time, we took him to Banfield and was told we needed to take him back down to Charleston, we did.  Again they got him rehydrated and calmed down his pancreas.  I was out of town when Bob picked him up that weekend.  He was told that Pooker was doing well and, so, when Bob got him home and I arrived home, we felt optimistic.  However, the optimism didn’t last long at all.

He came home on Saturday.  By Wednesday evening, he wouldn’t eat.  The clinic was supposed to send Bob home with an appetite stimulant in the event he lost his appetite again.  That Wednesday evening we called down to the clinic’s emergency hospital.  The ER vet tried to call in a prescription to our local CVS.  However, by the time she did, the CVS was already closed.  The next morning, Pooker’s vet called it in and we picked the prescription up.  By Thursday evening, he still wouldn’t eat.  During the day, I talked to the nurse at the clinic and she told me it usually took about 24 hours for the stimulant to work.  We decided not to panic and would try again in the morning.  However, we didn’t make it till the next morning.

At about 10 p.m. we all turned in.  Pooker was restless.  He threw up a little, so I kept a towel close by in case he were to throw up again.  He did, and what he threw up was heartbreaking.  He threw up blood, lots of blood.  We both knew he was dying.  We talked about taking him to the all night clinic about fifteen minutes away in order to have him put to sleep.  We were about to do that when something stopped me.  Intuitively, I felt it wasn’t what we needed to do.  Thus, I told Bob I was going to sit with him in the living room.  Bob stayed in the bedroom comforting Slugger who was asleep on our bed. 

I wrapped Pooker in two blankets as we sat down.  I held him in my arms for a half hour as he calmed down and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.  I don’t know what I expected.  Part of me hoped he would make it for awhile longer, but something also told me he wouldn’t.  I kissed him and stroked him as I talked to him before he fell to sleep.  We sat there for about four hours, when at 3:52 a.m. he took his last long breath.  I knew it was his last.  My hand was under the blanket and lying on his heart.  I felt his little heart stop.  He was gone.  I called to Bob and he came out and sat with us.

I remained in the living room holding him until about 8 a.m. when I called Heavenly Paws Animal Crematory.  The owners were the same people who cremated our little 21-year-old cat, Sissy two years earlier.  During the last few hours, Pooker’s brother, Slugger was able to say good-bye.  Poor Slugger had a hard time with Pooker’s illness.  He watched us carry Pooker up and down the stairs.  Toward the end, Slugger needed to be carried up the stairs.  Nearly four weeks later, he’s just now beginning to walk up both flights by himself.

Our cat, Skeeter, has been devastated as well.  Soon after Pooker was diagnosed and after moving into our new house, we brought two kittens, a brother and sister home.  It took Bob two years to get over losing Sissy.  Toward the end, Bob attended to her every need.  The man who for 46 years claimed he was NOT a cat person, found out that he was indeed a cat person simply because he’s an animal person.  Skeeter, the boy cat, began cuddling with Pooker in his bed.  Skeeter could tell Pooker was ill and so, he became Pooker’s constant companion.  Before we left to rendezvous with Heavenly Paws, I lay Pooker on the spare bedroom bed so Skeeter could say good-bye.   Three weeks later, Skeeter was still looking for Pooker, especially if I brought out something with Pooker’s scent on it.


This past week, I began sleeping with Pooker’s prize possession, Froggy.  Where toys were toys for Slugger who would throw them up in the air and catch them or run with glee when we would toss them for him to chase, for Pooker, toys were possessions.  Froggy was his favorite possession as he would constantly try to sneak out the door with Froggy in his mouth.  A few times he got away with it.  Once, I found Froggy outside.  He was soaking wet.  I’ve repaired Froggy numerous times when I would spy white fill seeping out a hole.


This week has been especially difficult for me.  I’m not sure why, but it has been.  I even had to skip an important meeting with the group, Horry County Democratic Women’s Council of which I am a member because I have been feeling sad.

Time will heal our wounds.  However, I already know that I will continue to occasionally cry over the years when something brings him back to me.  After all, after eleven years, I still cry for Skipper.  Our animals are our children, and when they go, it hurts like hell.


The above photo is one I sent to the Charleston area Veterinary Specialty Care clinic.  I call the photo, Elvis has Left the Building.  I sent it to them after we received a beautiful sympathy card signed by many of the caregivers who paid great attention to Pooker especially during his hospital stays.  Everyone one of them loved our little boy.  He was a sweet boy who could win your heart just by looking at you with his sweet eyes.

We love you, Pooker.  You will forever live in our hearts.





Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing