And Now there are Three

We stood sobbing on the sidewalk in the blazing heat. Hugging each other tightly, Aspen pressed against my leg. We had gone in as four….and now there were three.

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Porter came into our lives almost exactly three and a half years ago. We had just lost Maddy and were like a ship lost at sea. Lonely and at a loss, Jim stopped by the Humane Society one day and the next thing you know I received a text with a blurry photo of a black dog. The message read “This is Porter. When I hugged him, he hugged me back”. I knew in that moment, that Porter was destined to become a Delameter.

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The last six months we had seen noticeable aging in our little guy. It began with increased difficulty in climbing the steps at our rental house and he was sleeping longer hours but, of course, he was old.. Because he was adopted we will never know his true age but believe he was in his early teens; old age for a big dog. And yet his eyes were bright and his tail happy. Although we were certain he would never see South America, we hoped for many months ahead with the pack together.

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Porter was silliness personified. He was playful and goofy and none who knew him will ever forget his happy dance whenever he saw his favorite people. He had some serious separation issues and Jim, his very favorite person, only had to wander to the campsite next door, or even just to the other room, in order to experience the full excitement of his return in form of the Porter dance.

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Although most decidedly not a cuddler, Porter loved a good hug and part of our morning routine was a big hug from me on our way out the door. But his most endearing trait was his “eye hugs”. Some dogs are kissers, but Porter showed his love by gazing deeply into your eyes with such emotion you felt literally enveloped in a hug. His very favorite thing was for us gaze back while gently rubbing his ears. I will so miss being hugged by my sweet little guy.

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These last three months were an incredibly happy time in his life, with the pack together nearly 24/7. We walked endless beaches, shared street tacos, explored Baja and some nights all slept together in our bed. It was really the only thing he ever wanted… to be together.,

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As he continued to slow, we developed a new routine with one of us speeding along with Aspen while the other meandered at Porter pace, stopping often to mark our way. As the days passed, his pace decreased, but we didn’t mind. We simply were relishing in his company as we slowly covered less and less of the beach. Then he got a cough. We saw a vet who, without benefit of x-ray noticed his swollen throat and put him on antibiotics. We prayed it was that simple.

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We were often curious about Porters past. That is how is is when you adopt. Especially an older dog. You wonder what happened to them? How did they end up at the Humane Society? Porter was a thinker. An over-thinker, actually, who spent quite a lot of time seemingly quite concerned. For the first two years we had him he would not lie down in the car, choosing instead to sit anxiously in the corner as though concerned we would lose our way. Only with Aspens guidance, and ability to sleep anywhere, did he finally succumb to car napping, and to such an extent that when we left for the road his favorite spot became the backseat of the truck, fully outfitted with an orthopedic dog pad and body pillow.

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As we drove to the vet in La Paz I was already in tears. I knew. The last two days had seen a dramatic shift in Porters condition. He slept at least 22 hours a day and would have happily slept more if we hadn’t roused him for walks to, at the very least, take care of bathroom business. His breathing got increasingly labored and his appetite decreased. More telling, the look in his eyes. I had flashbacks of Maddy, remembering with vivid clarity the look in her eyes before that final car ride.

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The first exam showed a loss of two pounds in the last week and nearly white gums and while the vet attempted to offer up possible good options, the look in his eyes told me that he knew too. But, you have to try and a blood test was the first course of action. We left in silence, not sure how to fill the next couple of hours when all we wanted to do was wrap Porter in our arms and make it all better.

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Porter was a particular dog. He liked his fur to be clean and orderly and rarely even had dirt on his white paws, a dramatic departure from Aspen, who is generally covered in dirt. And yet, they learned so much from each other. Porter learned that chew bones are actually for chewing, not simply burying. He learned that there was no use trying to avoid her cuddle tactics and we would roll with laughter at the look of resignation on his face as she would lick and lick his ears. He learned to eat carrots and sweet potatoes and apples, although he never did develop a taste for green beans.

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That last day we drove out of La Paz to Tecolate beach. We all shared a torta for lunch, overlooking the incredible aquamarine waters. We told happy stories of some of our favorite Porter moments, and we cried a little.

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The blood work was bad. Really bad. But the vet wanted to explore all possible causes and so began an ultrasound that would reveal a particularly aggressive cancer that was affecting his kidneys, spleen and heart. We had one very sick boy on our hands. And with that…. any hope of more time was extinguished.

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When you adopt an older dog you are setting yourself up for heartache. Obviously there are no guarantees, regardless the age, but having now adopted several older dogs we know going in that our time with them is limited. And yet, the unbridled joy of knowing you have given some special dog an incredible final home is worth more than the pain of losing them so soon.

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We all huddled around Porter as the medication sent him on his final path, crying and stroking his fur while whispering sweet nothings in his ear. I repeatedly stroked his small, soft ears, my heart breaking knowing I would never again see them flop softly as we walked down the beach. Aspen, who had been unnaturally quiet and patient all day, reached up and softly held her nose to his for several long seconds, saying goodbye in her own way.

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In the end, we gave Porter all he ever wanted, which was to be with his pack. And we stood by him and were together in the end, all there to send him on his way over the rainbow bridge.

One final nap together.

One final nap together.

** A special thank you to Dr Gabriel and his wonderful staff at the Dogtor House in La Paz. He wanted so badly for their to be a different outcome but when that was not meant to be helped Porter peacefully go on his way. **

 

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44 thoughts on “And Now there are Three

    • Thanks Jen… as all of the messages have come in we realized just how many of you had met and known Porter and how many others have just followed along on our journey and feel they knew him. So heartwarming.

  1. My heart is breaking for you all. I’m so happy Aspen got to say goodbye to her brother, we should all be so lucky to be surrounded by our family in our last moments. Sending love to you all.

  2. Rhonda & Jim,

    So heartbreaking to hear about Porter, it is never easy saying goodbye. He was a lucky dog to have you in his life.

    • Hi Michelle! Thanks so much. I know you understand the hearbreak as well. We were just grateful for our time together and that we were there in the end.

  3. Well, you have me crying over her in Playa and I’ll be sure to give our two pooches an extra big cuddle tonight and give them some extra play time too. It is always hard to watch dogs age—it is something we continue to grapple with as our two fur kids slowly begin to show that they are no longer the young pups from years gone by. You and Jim clearly have such big hearts as so many elder dogs languish and are overlooked at shelters; it’s true that there are extra challenges with older dogs, but they love just as much—if not more!—as young dogs. How wonderful that you were able to give Porter such a loving home and take him on some grand adventures in his final years. And clearly you gave him excellent care all the way to the end. One of the reasons we are planning to stick around this part of the world for as long as we have our two dogs as travelmates is because the quality of care is so excellent and the price is such that we never have to worry about what their medical needs might cost us.

    Much love to the three of you!

    • Awww Steph.. we had been thinking of you and Tony, knowing your fur babies are getting on in years too. I’m so glad you have them there with you to cherish these last moments… however long that will be (and we hope you have a long time!). He was a well loved pup who enjoyed a fantastic adventure and his loving pack to the end. What more can you ask for? XOXO

  4. Sending hugs and healing thoughts your way. I know that pain all to well. He was one very lucky boy to be loved so deeply.

  5. A beautifully-written tribute that no doubt was cathartic for you to share with those of us who never knew Porter but can relate and sympathize with you in your loss.

    • Thank you Liana. You are exactly write. Although I cried myself dry writing it, it is important to share our wonderful pups story. Both the good and the bad are part of life and he lived a good one.

  6. A beautiful and moving tribute to Porter. You’re doing a wonderful thing. Thanks for making an elder’s final few years so special.

    • Thank you Patti. The tears are still flowing but we are finding our way. We were so blessed he and Jim found eachother that day.. lol.. and that they’re both huggers!

  7. They just don’t live long enough. They say we will be reunited one day. What a day that will be.

  8. Oh, what a beautiful tribute to a good friend. Losing pets is undoubtedly one of the most difficult things one ever endures. Porter found wonderful humans in you two and my heart breaks for your pain. We know too well the feeling of that empty house, or the dog that should be sleeping on the bed in the sunshine. Sending love from Patagonia.

    • Thanks Jen. I know you guys know all too well the pain, having just experienced it yourself last year. We are still expecting to see him at times, but are feeling blessed that we still have Aspen to lick away the tears.

  9. Ah, this made me cry remembering losing Bear and Macy. Porter was a blessed guy to have found you- you loved him when it mattered and you loved him until the end. Please give Aspen extra kisses and snuggles. XO

    • oh I know.. all the memories come flooding back so easily don’t they? Luckily, Aspen , AKA cuddle machine, is up to the task of comforting her weepy parents! Love to you guys.

  10. We also lost our big dog this fall and saw Dr Gabriel. Your story brings that time back to me. So hard to part!

    • oh Stephani, we are so sorry for your loss. Pets bring so much to our lives and their passing is so very difficult.

  11. Our thoughts are with you Jim and Rhonda. We feel your pain. Losing a member of the family/pack leaves a whole that isn’t quickly filled. We appreciate you sharing the story of Porter….John&Paula

    • Thanks you guys. While the pain is terrible, the love they give to our lives makes it all worth it. Happy travels to you guys and hope you find your own special fur baby soon.

  12. We are so sorry Jim and Rhonda – we will miss Porter Happy Dances! I’m glad he went in such a caring way.

    • Oh yes, we will all miss that dance. I wish we had been able to adequately capture it on film but never seemed to have a camera recording at the right time. He loved you guys so much and fully included you in his extended pack. Thanks for loving him too 😉

  13. It’s just the worst kind of pain. Porter was so lucky to have you … as you were to have him. So sorry.

  14. I’m so sorry. I only knew him through this blog, but Porter was obviously a very special dog, and you both are very special people for having chosen him (or really letting him choose you with that hug!). I like to think that all our wonderful companion pets are waiting for us over the rainbow bridge to start the last big adventure, one that will go on forever. Aloha e Porter.

    • What a lovely sentiment. We, too, believe one day we will be reunited with all of our fur babies and humans. Until then, we are grateful he chose Jim and we got to share an all too brief moment in time together.

  15. Just read this in the car—Cried all over again. Hugs from the Kiwis again… You guys are awesome and he was a lucky pup to have found you in his autumn years.

    • Thanks you guys. Hug your little girl tight and pray you have many good years ahead. We were so lucky to have had him in our lives, if only for a few, short years. XOXO

  16. I have been through the same scenario and it’s about the worst thing to go through. I look at our five year old rescue now and wish I could freeze time so she would not get any older. But she is such a joy as I’m sure your dogs are that everything we go through including those weekend night trips to the pet emergency hospital are worth it.

    • Well… now just one dog. We started with two… Maddy, our inspiration for driving the PanAm instead of backpacking passed away 3 1/2 years ago. Porter, of course, just 2 weeks ago, so now we’re just down to Aspen. But yes, it is all worth it.. in spite of the pain. While Aspen is younger, both Maddy and Porter were a good 10 or 11 years old when we adopted them. People ask why we adopt older dogs, knowing we won’t have extended time with them; but it is incredibly life affirming to give a fantastic home to an older dog, knowing that their final years are the best.

  17. This had me in tears – I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. It’s lovely that you had such quality time together at the end though and it sounds like Porter loved being part of your family.

    • Thanks Amy 🙁 It was terrible and yet heartwarming that his last days and months were exactly as he wanted.

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