Goodbye, My Little Princess

a month ago - #Gogo#goodbyes

I saw a picture this past year of David and myself just before we moved into our home on 15th St. I looked like I was twelve: a pasty and clear complexion; no receding hairline. David looked like another person. I don’t remember us ever looking so young. That picture was taken a few months before we got Gogo - almost 17 years ago. Going back to what life was like 17 years ago is not easy. I try to come up with other memories around that time and I have specific instances, but I have no memory of the sorts of things I thought about at the time. The people that have been in my support network for the past ten years hadn't yet entered my life. David and I had only been dating for two years.

Seventeen years ago is a long time. That's when I met Gogo.

I was heavily grieving after losing my dog, Dorian, and I decided that a new dog would help me say goodbye to Dorian. I read up on Canaan Dogs and liked what I read: they are smart, lazy, and strong-willed. They take care of their hygiene for the most part. Since they are a young breed, there are very few instances of diseases from inbreeding. I contacted a breeder in Rhode Island, Renee Donaher (now Renee Kent - thanks to Gogo!), and made an appointment to go meet her and her Canaan Dogs. Gogo’s mother Lucy had just given birth. The puppies were barely moving - just little chirping, fuzzy potatoes. Lucy was a giant drama queen and had me captivated from the beginning. Renee had warned me that Lucy was hormonal and she may act weird. When Lucy was let into the room with me, she looked at me like were long, lost lovers reunited after a terrible ordeal. She slunk her way over to me, placed her head in my lap, and stared sadly into the distance. How could I not want a puppy from this litter? I told Renee I wanted to move forward with getting a puppy and Renee asked me what I wanted out of a dog. I don’t remember the specifics of what I said, but I vaguely remember saying something about wanting a dog that's playful, something of a trickster, and independent. I was describing Gogo perfectly. I met Gogo at around 6 weeks when Renee was taking the litter to New Jersey. Gogo didn’t want anything to do with me. I was trying to play with her on the hotel bed, and all the wanted to do was escape me and jump off the bed. I was starting to wonder if she was really the dog for me as she seemed not interactive at all.

Gogo is the left most puppy in the photo.

A few weeks later, my sister and I drove to Rhode Island to pick up Gogo and take her away. Renee met me in the driveway and handed Gogo to me. I don’t know if Renee pulled some trick but Gogo was all over me like we were long lost lovers - smothering me with kisses. She was so happy to see me and I fell madly in love with her the instant she was in my arms. Gogo sat in my sister’s lap for the long ride home and started to shiver with fear at being with these strangers. We stopped at a McDonalds and let her nibble on a hamburger and she decided we were okay. Gogo spent her first two nights away from home sleeping with Sis. For most of her life, Sis was the only one that was guaranteed to get licks upon arrival. David, Sis, and I played with her all night and Gogo stared back at us with a cheerful and analytic gaze. Later on, David and I would describe that look as her "reporting to the mothership" look - she would stare at us with her ears fully up, communicating to some unknown source.

When Sis left, we pulled out the crate we bought to keep her in. I was going to shower for work and decided to put Gogo in the crate while I showered so she could get used to it. I put her in the crate without a fuss and went into the bathroom. She started to cry and I ignored it since I had been told that the worst thing you can do is let a dog out of a crate when they’re crying. She cried a little louder. And louder still. Within five minutes, she was shrieking murder. It no longer sounded like a dog - it sounded exactly like a wild hyena. I became convinced that she was losing her sanity or had her paw twisted and stuck in the crate door. In an uncontrollable panic at the horrible sounds I was hearing, I ran to the crate with a towel around my waist and opened the crate door. Gogo immediately took her crying down to a residual whimper and stumbled into my lap, curled up, and went to sleep. I let her sleep for a bit before we tried the crate again and this time, I got out of the house as the crying started. We battled for years over that crate. I was convinced she was going to become crate trained. She screamed every time she was left alone. She never spent more than three hours at a time in the crate but she hated every minute of it. I put a towel in the crate for her to be more comfortable. She would fold the towel over, poop on the uncovered section, then fold the towel over the poop so we wouldn’t know until hours after we got home. She would occasionally escape out of the crate and wander through the construction zone of our house down four flights of stairs until she saw the workers on the ground floor that she knew. They agreed to just let her stay in the backyard and keep an eye on her since it was easier than hearing her scream all day and Gogo loved sleeping in the dirt and the bushes. We used to leave her in the room that became my office. She ripped up all the carpet in the room and screamed. We got complaints from the neighbors in the form of handwritten notes left on our front door saying that we were going to be reported to the ASPCA for cruelty to animals if we didn’t take care of that poor dog that was clearly being tortured. I would occasionally say to people on the street that were meeting Gogo that we just moved into the neighborhood. When I would point out the house, they would look at me with disbelief and say "This tiny dog is the one that’s making all that noise?!"

When you first get a puppy in NYC, you are told that they can’t go out on the street because their immune systems can’t handle diseases like parvo and distemper. There are little puppy playgroups at vet’s offices so you can let your puppy socialize with other puppies. The second or third week we had her, I took her to a puppy playgroup. I arrived a few minutes late. I was very much looking forward to seeing her happily play with other puppies. Everyone was sitting cross-legged in a circle watching their puppies stumble around and play. Gogo sat on my lap and was afraid to go anywhere. People commented that she was afraid and would say "Aw. It’s okay, Little Gogo. There’s nothing to be afraid of." But still she didn’t move from my lap. Other puppies came up to sniff her and she gave them a little growl. Eventually she moved forward and put one paw tentatively on the floor and then another. People commented that she was getting over her fear. “There she goes. Good girl.” Within the space of about five minutes she went from timid little creature to full on terror. She literally pushed other puppies over. She would run up behind puppies and pounce on them while they were unaware of her. She backed one puppy into the corner and if he ever tried to leave the corner, she would turn back around and snap at him so that he cowered further into the corner. She ruled that puppy playgroup like a third-world dictator. I tried to calm her down, but she was bent on domination. I started getting glares from other owners, so I scooped her up, apologized, and never went back.

When she got a bit older, we tried the dog run a few times, but she just didn’t like other dogs all that much - though she was never overtly violent.

She was still a howling maniac whenever we left her alone, so when she was old enough, we took her to daycare during the day. It helped calm her separation anxiety. A few times we arrived at night and she was the last one there. I would walk in the front door and hear her in the back screaming that she was left alone. She was so happy to see me. She eventually let me know that she didn’t really like day care and wanted to stay home. I made a deal with her that she had to be better behaved if we were to let her stay home. That was around two years of age and she was much better about being left alone after that.

This brings up a point about Gogo: I could speak to her in full sentences and she roughly knew what I was saying. She was smart. It was like having a little evil genius in the house. But while I was sometimes exhausted with her constantly trying to manipulate me to get her way, she was also a great companion. After the age of two, she learned to stop testing limits and just go with the flow. I could take her anywhere and trust her to size up the situation and act appropriately. If she thought she could charm someone, she would. If we were at a store and the store owner wasn’t into dogs, she wouldn’t push it and would just keep to herself. She became my best friend and I wanted to take her everywhere I could.

We took her to a separate kennel when we traveled out of town. When I went to pick her up after being gone for a week, they commented that she was a good jumper. I told them that we have to lift her up on the bed to sleep with us because she refuses to jump. She’s a terrible jumper. Why did they think she was a good jumper? They explained "Well...we kept finding her in the lunch room where the employees hang out. We have no idea how she was getting loose, so we assume she was jumping the fence. We got tired of putting her back in the play area, so we just let her hang out in the lunch room. She seemed happier there." We never found out how she was getting loose at that kennel, but I doubt that it was from jumping. We eventually switched to having a house sitter when we would go out of town so that Gogo wouldn’t have to go to a kennel.

Sometimes we would be shopping and The Gogo’s would come over the radio at the store and I’d look at her and say "It’s your namesake band, Gogo!" And I’d try to get her to dance with me.

When we were first looking for a dog, David said that he didn’t want a dog that licked. I sort of ignored his request because who doesn’t want puppy licks? One of Gogo’s greatest achievements is that she got David to BEG for her kisses. We developed a regular routine on Sunday mornings. David would hold a piece of pancake up and say "Gogo? You know what I want. Give me a kiss." She would stare at him, trying to figure out how she was going to get that piece of pancake without having to kiss him. She would start with half-hearted attempts of barely sticking her tongue out and not making contact. Then she would come straight at him and at the last second, turn her head to the side and stick her tongue out - like a doggie air-kiss. He would give her just a little bit to encourage her. Eventually she would give him a full on kiss and get the pancake.

She also taught me the Art of the Grand Re-entrance. Usually during dinner she would come running down the stairs all excited and come greet us with a big smile. We’d shout "Look who it is!" And usually we’d give her some of our food. Then she’d disappear for a half hour and do the same thing - each time running into the room all excited as if she just came back from vacation. Each time we gave her more food.

There was a hairdresser that lived down the block named Dorothy. Dorothy and Gogo loved each other and every time we walked by, the other women at the salon would say "Dorothy! Gogo’s here to visit!" Also on the block was a chihuahua mix named "Roman". Gogo and Roman hated each other with a passion. Whenever they saw each other, they would both snarl, bare their teeth, and bark their heads off. One day, I was walking Gogo down the block and I saw Dorothy petting Roman on the sidewalk. I thought "It will be interesting to see how this turns out" and kept walking like nothing would happen. When we got close, Gogo ran up to Dorothy all excited. Roman saw Gogo and started snarling and snapping his head off at Gogo. Instead of retaliating, Gogo widened her eyes, threw her ears back in faux-fear, and pressed herself against Dorothy’s legs. Roman didn’t let up and Dorothy yelled at Roman to calm down. Roman’s owner apologized for her out-of-control dog and left. Gogo, having won her battle against Roman, looked up at Dorothy with love and got the treats in Dorothy’s hands. Later on that walk, we saw Roman on the other side of the street and Gogo barked at him from across the street - her eyes sharp and her hackles up.

Gogo was in a photo shoot for a Japanese fashion magazine.

My other favorite Gogo-puppy story was when David and I decided to take a day trip to Fire Island. We packed a lunch, rented a car, packed a beach blanket, towels and headed out with Gogo. I drove and David was in the back seat with Gogo. She did not do well in the car. She puked. Then she puked again. David no longer had a clean spot on the towels that we brought, so he pulled out the big white sheet we brought as a beach blanket. She puked on that. We hadn’t even left Queens and half of our towels and blankets were covered in barf. On the fifth vomit, we decided this wasn’t going to work and we should head home. I took the first exit and was at a light on the overpass to head back when I looked to the back seat. David had the towel in front of Gogo’s chin as she started curling the corners of her mouth and convulsing. Instead of throwing up into the sheet that David was holding for her, she projectile-vomited past the sheet and all down David’s bare leg. At that moment, I thought about the beautiful beach day I had envisioned for us on Fire Island with the three of us running on the beach and having a picnic lunch juxtaposed with the reality - covered in Gogo vomit. I burst out laughing at the preposterousness of it. David thought I was laughing at the fact that he just got barfed on and shouted "WE ARE PULLING OVER THIS CAR AND I AM DRIVING HOME AND YOU ARE DEALING WITH THIS!" Fair enough. I pulled over. David took the driver’s seat and I sat back with Gogo. She threw up two more times driving home. When we pulled up to the house she got out of the car and had a giant diarrhea attack on the sidewalk. She got to our front door and puked one more time just outside the door and you can still the stain from that vomit today. She slept the rest of the day. David and I cleaned up and went to a movie.

When she was four, we got Oz. I was really nervous that she was not going to like having another dog around and that she wouldn’t get her daddy time. For the first week, I walked them separately. One day, I walked Oz, then I took him home and put a leash on Gogo for her walk. Gogo and I got a couple of houses away and you could hear Oz crying at being left home alone. Gogo stopped. She looked back at the house then looked up at me and then back to the house. I understood that she felt bad for Oz being left alone, so we went back and got him. I walked them together from then on. They were never very affectionate together, but they were often next to each other. I used to joke that they looked like the cover of an album of 70’s love songs.

When we got Oz, we noticed that Gogo did not walk smoothly. We knew that she had bad knees and would need surgery at some point. She was starting to put on weight because she didn’t move as much. Oz had such a beautiful wolf-like gait and Gogo looked like a car with square wheels in comparison. We scheduled her for surgery. It was a really awful time. The first time we picked her up from the hospital, David carried her out while I waited in the car. When they left the hospital, Gogo was slowly scanning until our eyes met and she gave me a look I will never forget. She had been needing me more than anything and now that she saw me, she knew it was going to be okay. I know this sounds a little crazy and that I’m ascribing things to Gogo that seem beyond typical dog behavior, but I’m telling you - there was something about her. There was a tremendous amount of depth to her. There was more in her than any other dog I’ve ever encountered. I had one more instance of her communicating things beyond dog-life to me when we got home. She had a hard time peeing on one leg in the backyard and fell over in agony. Her leg was so swollen from surgery that I didn’t know what to do. I felt like if I tried to touch her I would only cause more pain. And quite honestly, I was an emotional mess seeing her in so much physical pain. I called for David to help and he did. She gave me a look that was - not disappointment - but something like it. She was having a hard time and she needed me to be Daddy. She didn't need me to be a mess. She needed me to be the light at the end of the tunnel for her. I had a big growing up moment at that point, put my own bullshit aside and became the loving, confident, and consoling daddy she needed me to be. And I liked to think I remained that for her the rest of her life.

During her recovery, she couldn’t walk more than a few steps. So I got a little red wagon to carry her around in. It took some getting used to since she didn’t like being in moving vehicles, but it definitely helped her state of mind to get outside and see things. I would carry her to a nearby park and lift her onto some grass for her to painfully hobble around and then head home.

As part of the healing process from her knee surgeries, I signed her up for aquatic therapy. There was a place near us that was a doggie daycare center with a pool. You could pay for sessions in which someone in a wet suit would gently hold on to the dog to encourage them to increase their range of motion on their hind legs. It definitely worked when it was all said and done - her recovery was very successful - but she was as dramatic about it as possible. The very first time she went in the pool with the therapist, she absolutely freaked. I was sitting off on the side and she paddled to me in an absolute panic. The look on her face communicated that she thought she was going to die and needed me to rescue her. The therapist was holding onto her belly so as much as she paddled, she couldn’t get anywhere. She splashed and whimpered out of fear and frustration. I felt awful that I couldn’t do anything to make this moment better for her. I was either going to laugh or cry. I chose laughing. There was nothing else to do. And I took a couple of photos.

On the second day, she fought like hell against the leash to not go in. We dragged her into the pool and she started swimming again. The instructor would hold on to her as she swam circles in the pool. She slowly started putting a little more distance between herself and the instructor. At one point, he looked at me and said "I think she’s starting to enjoy it!" At that exact moment, Gogo had slowly put enough distance between her and him that he couldn’t catch her and she was right near the steps out of the pool. She bolted out of the pool and made a run for it. It cracked me up that she had deceived the therapist into thinking she was enjoying the pool just so she could plan her getaway. We tracked her down and picked her up and carried her back. I think we did 6 sessions in total and Gogo and I both couldn’t wait for them to be over with.

Once Gogo healed, I decided to try taking both of them out to Fire Island. She never got used to the car, but if I left when the traffic wasn’t too bad, I could get them out without an incident. She loved Fire Island more than anything and would scamper around the beach like a bunny. I think the sand was great for her knees. She even escaped once and I lost sight of both her and Oz. I eventually found Oz and then took him to the last place I saw Gogo and he took me to her. She was so happy to be on her own, without the dead weight of her daddy to cramp her style.

When Oz was about 10 he got very sick for a few weeks. We had to hospitalize him and he completely lost his appetite. During his recovery, I was able to get him to eat cooked chicken breasts which I boiled. After I cooked them, I decided they might like drinking the water that the chicken was boiled in, so I filled their water bowl with the chicken water. Gogo took a taste and was addicted. She stood at the water bowl (which was big) and kept lapping up the chicken water. She would occasionally lift up her head to pant for a couple of seconds, and then put her head down and noisily lap up the chicken water. She didn’t stop until it was all gone. I was on the phone cleaning when I looked at her and her mouth opened. She didn’t convulse at all. A stream of chicken water shot out of her mouth like a drinking fountain. She saw the escaped chicken water and started lapping up the puddle in a panic. I quickly excused myself from the phone call and put a leash on her. We went for a walk and she had two more incidents of chicken water escaping her mouth - just like a drinking fountain - and Gogo trying to get the chicken water back in. I forgot to David the whole thing and the next morning he said "Gogo woke me up five times last night to go outside to pee."

Oz passed away a couple of years after that. When we put him down, the vet suggested that we keep Gogo in the room so that she could see that he had passed away. After Oz’s heart stopped, the vet left to get her car. Gogo came over, sniffed Oz’s body, then went behind a chair and threw up (I realize a lot of these stories involve Gogo throwing up. She didn’t actually throw up that much but I guess the best stories involve Gogo spitting up or throwing up.) She was very exuberant after Oz was gone and I wondered if she was happy to be the only dog in the house again. But a couple of times, I heard her sitting in a room by herself and whimpering. I think she missed him a great deal but always wanted to appear happy in front of us.

Her health was pretty bad at the time (she was 13) and I was not sure if she was going to be with us much longer. Her appetite was tentative and she was spitting up a lot. I had heard that getting a puppy helps senior dogs live a little longer. And I wanted a puppy, so we got Rocket. When we got Rocket, she became enormously depressed. I have no idea what was going through her head. Was she sad that she was not an only child anymore? Did she feel like Rocket was there to replace her? She fully stopped eating and was very despondent. It was depressing to see her totally give up like that. David and I had a slight panic that getting a puppy was going to mean the end of Gogo, so we decided to leave Rocket in the city with a dog sitter and we took Gogo to Fire Island - just the three of us. It was her favorite place in the world after all. We smothered her with love. She felt much better after that weekend and started eating again.

Rocket was total torture for her. Gogo was definitely showing her age and moved very slowly around the house. She was also deaf. I would see Rocket hiding around the corner as Gogo gingerly descended the staircase. As soon as she arrived at the last step, Rocket would jump out from behind the corner and scare her. He constantly tried to get her to play with him and she would just grumble at him or fully snap, which Rocket thought was great. They had constant wars about the beds. One time I came into the room and Gogo was in Rocket’s pen in his bed and Rocket was barking at her to leave. For all of her hatred of crates and pens, I thought it was hilarious that she was choosing to be in one just to taunt Rocket.

The theory about a puppy extending the life of a senior dog totally worked with Gogo. At 13, I thought she was going to go any day. She lasted another 3 and a half years - whether by joy or by being annoyed by Rocket. We'll never know which. But I swear that having him around turned her clock back by a couple of years.

Gogo’s descent into old age was long and slow. She often had trouble eating. I was usually able to switch up her diet to get her interested in eating and bring back her energy level. David and I joked that if cats have nine lives, she was well past that and was on to at least her twelfth life. She occasionally had ailments but she would have rather died than take medication. We couldn't get her to take anything - she'd always find the pill. And she became so finicky about food that if she thought there was medicine hidden in the food, she would stop eating that food for good and I was running out of food that she would eat. I managed her health via nutrition and it worked for the most part. But even working miracles on the nutrition front, eventually she seemed like she was barely there. She would pace most of the night. She would get lost at night and sometimes I’d have to help her get out of a corner because she was too confused to understand where she was. Sometimes she would go downstairs to poop in the living room in the middle of the night and then get stuck coming up the stairs and would start crying for help.

Sometimes she would make it all the way up the stairs but not be able to finish the top three steps. I would come to lift her up the last steps and she would run all the way back down to the bottom and wait for me there. It annoyed me at first that she wouldn’t just wait three steps from the top. But then I started picking her up and saying "I know what you’re doing, Miss Gogo. You want to be in daddy’s arms for as long as possible, so you make him carry you all the way up."

Two years ago, we took her and Rocket to Fire Island. What used to be her favorite place in the world just didn’t make her happy anymore. She paced the whole time. Every time I took her for a walk, she pulled to the dock where you catch the ferry and would look for the ferry and then look back at me to say "Take me home." I would say "Sorry, princess. It’s not time to go home yet." It was clear at that point that she just wanted to be home where everything was familiar.

David couldn’t deal with her at night, so I set up an inflatable mattress in the Bollywood Room to take care of her if there was a problem. We were convinced she was going to go any day. That ended up being about six months of sleeping on the inflatable mattress. We kept thinking it was time, but she would have a rebound the next day. We kept thinking that she was alert during the day, she was eating, peeing and pooping. So really... there wasn't a problem. She was ravenous for each new day. She had a stubborn grip on life. She stopped going out on walks because it was too disorienting for her since she had severe cataracts and was deaf. The backyard was fine for her.

I’ll admit that the last six months were very hard. She became increasingly uninterested in being house-broken. Sometimes the pacing and panting for hours would drive me crazy. I resolved during that time that I only had one thing to do: love Gogo. When I felt myself getting frustrated, it meant that I needed to give her a love bomb. And it worked. It always perked her up a bit and made her sleep a little more deeply that night.

On her last day, Evan and Renee (her breeder), were visiting from out of town. They commented how well Gogo was doing. She seemed alert. I said that she normally doesn’t spend much time down in the kitchen, but I agreed that she did look alert. For dinner, I fed Gogo her homemade mush and I fed Rocket his usual tripe and chicken back. Gogo went right over to Rocket’s food and took his chicken back from him. He was a little confused that she was stealing his food and tried to take it back but she refused to give it up. I went over to Gogo and tried to get her to drop it, but she wouldn’t. If she wanted it that badly, I thought I’d let her have it. She had eaten chicken backs her whole life but not in the past year because she had become unable to digest them. Maybe if she was alert during the day, she had a signal that her body was doing well. So I let her have the chicken back. It took her a while, but she loved it and ate the whole thing. I gave Rocket another chicken back. Then a couple of hours later, she started throwing up. She must have thrown about about 12 times that night. David came home and saw her have a seizure. She was miserable - panting, pacing, unable to stand, and unable to walk. It was time. We had a very difficult walk to the vet emergency center. They put a catheter in her and said that she had been turning blue. When they brought her in with the catheter, she was pretty much gone. She didn’t look at us. She wasn’t even fighting anymore. We gave her a peaceful and tearful farewell. Looking back on it, I think she knew it was her last day and took the chicken back as her last meal. She had been acting so out of character that day. She must have known something was wrong.

Oh, my little princess. You ruled my world for 16.75 years - the last one of your litter alive. I can’t remember what life was like without my little Gogo to come home to. Even 3 weeks before you passed away, when I was in India, you would wait on the first floor and stare at the door and wait for me to come home. When I first got you, I had Dorian less than six months before he passed away. Every day, on every walk of the first year, I prayed I would have you for a nice long life and my prayers came true.

You were gentle and sweet and my little biker chick. You were smart and manipulative and a love bug. You were an evil genius and devoted family member.

Thank you so much, little Gogo. You’ve altered me forever. I’ll miss you more than I can ever say.

Thank you so much to everyone that helped take care of her and make her so happy: Ruben, Rodrigo, Rosie, Justin, and Betty. Thank you so much to Renee for giving me such a magical little creature. There will only ever be one little Gogo and she was mine for almost 17 years.

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Gogo spent the morning destroying a stuffed animal in the Bollywood room. The room was completely dark. We turned on the light and saw nothing but white fluffy carnage.
I had been looking for this photo to show Mom while she was in town and I didn't have it handy. But now here it is: Gogo at Christmas. This was done a few years ago when David and I went to St John and left Gogo at a kennel. They dressed her up in a Christmas collar and somehow convinced her to smile for the camera. Though I don't approve of dressing up dogs for photos, this will go down as one of my favorite Gogo photos.