“What does one wear to a euthanasia?” I asked my partner in complete seriousness as I ripped through my closet two Tuesdays back. I had insisted on taking my dear friend and Dogster’s community manager, Lori, to the vet for her pup Beasley’s final appointment, and I felt completely ill equipped for the task. But I couldn’t let her do this alone.
Lori and I have been inseparable since my start at Dogster almost five years ago, and we’ve been through much together: plane rides to far-off pet conferences, getting acquired alongside the sites by new parent companies, even impulsively getting matching secret Art Deco tattoos. She was there for me when my own dog, Mr. Moxie, dove from a third-story window and came close to losing his life. I will never forget how she put on a brave face though she wanted to puke at the sight of his mangled paw and drove us to the emergency vet while I shook with tears and clutched his tattered form to my chest. Now it was my turn to be the tough one in the driver’s seat while she held her beloved Pekingese close and cried on the way to the clinic.
I pulled a red dress out of the closet, figuring it would be an appropriate nod to Beasley’s Chinese empress roots.
Beasley was royalty from the first day she waddled her way into our lives: all sass and swagger, confidence radiating from her lone eye to the tip of her wildebeest tail. She came to us as a foster from Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, plucked from death row in Southern California and shuttled up the coast in a small plane in true empress fashion.
As soon as we met her in her little “Adopt Me!” harness, we knew Lori would fail miserably as a foster mom, and we even joked about starting an office pool around how long it would take her to decide Beasley wasn’t going anywhere. Our managing editor, Vicky, also teased that Lori should start writing her “foster fail” article from day one. (We did get an article from Lori about that not too long after.)
In the end, it was only as soon as someone expressed a serious interest in adopting Bee that Lori’s resolve broke. She told us how she cried for two hours after ending a call with Beasley’s potential new mom. The very next day she was confessing to Muttville founder Sherri Franklin that she couldn’t give Bee up. And how Sherri laughed, saying “I am surprised it took you so long!”
Beasley’s last full day on Earth was beautiful. It was notably warm for San Francisco standards. I called Lori to see if she wanted some company, knowing the decision to put her beloved dog down was killing her, and she asked me to come and drive Bee to the beach. Beasley loved the beach, she told me. It was one of the first places they’d visited together, two years ago on the Fourth of July. And so it was fitting that Bee would get one last visit before making her way to the Rainbow Bridge — on the first week of July 2014 by a strange twist of fate.
The second we got out of the car and Beasley smelled the ocean air, she was more at home than I’d ever seen her. She seemed calmer, as though she was meant to have the salty breeze lifting the cinnamon tufts on her little biscuit head. We walked her to the water, stopping now and then to hold her tight and tell her how much she was loved.
Lori lowered her to the wet sand at the shoreline, and we watched as she walked in tight little circles — the telltale sign of the brain tumor the vets suspected she had — seeing how she got a little thrill every time the water went over her feet. We helped her into the surf, and let her run into the remnants of a wave before scooping her up in a blanket and taking her home. There, Lori would have a warm bath (followed by an extensive grooming session, one of Beasley’s favorite things) and a seafood dinner (also her favorite) waiting.
The next morning, I parked in front of Lori’s house and called her, asking if she wanted to take Beasley to the car or if she wanted me to come up. She asked me to come inside. “I’m not ready,” she said, “This is so hard.”
I found her in a bathrobe in her bedroom in tears, with Beasley sitting under a rocking chair looking like her old self.
“She looks fine — what if I’m doing the wrong thing?” she asked.
I told her she had to remember the weeks leading up to this day. How Beasley’s quality of life was diminished by the tumor. How her days were spent walking in increasingly tight circles, restless, sometimes getting stuck in corners for hours. How her potty habits were getting worse, and we’d find her walking in circles that took her through her own waste sometimes.
“If we take her today, we’re doing her a kindness,” I told her. “We need to let her go with dignity. You were the best friend she could have ever asked for, and this is one last thing you have to do to help her.”
We headed to the Irving Pet Hospital, just a few blocks away. The clinic was home to Dr. Joe Fong, Beasley’s vet, who we hoped would be there for her last visit. But when we arrived, we learned he was away on a personal matter.
“Do you want to reschedule?” I asked Lori, knowing she had her heart set on Fong being the one for this sad task, but she shook her head, saying she couldn’t go through the long list of “lasts” again only to bring Bee back here.
Instead, Dr. Anna Devincenzi took care of us, asking if we wanted to be there for Beasley’s final moments. We said we did, and she left us in the room with Bee for five last minutes. The second she left, Lori and I both burst into tears and I felt like a fool for thinking I would be the strong, unblinking friend in the face of this sad event. We pulled ourselves together for Beasley, and we petted her and held her between us and told her she was our perfect little girl, until a vet tech came in to take Beasley into the back, where they would prepare a vein to receive the euthanasia solution.
She came back to us with a neon pink bandage wound around her leg, propping up the receptacle they had set up for the solution.
“Can I hold her?” Lori asked the vet, hoping Bee’s final moments wouldn’t be on a cold examination table.
“Of course,” she said. Earlier she’d told us she was sorry she had to meet us for the first time under such circumstances.
Then Beasley was once again between us, secure in Lori’s arms. The vet explained to us that there would be two needles: one to relax Beasley, and one that would stop her heart.
Lori held Beasley tight while the first solution made its way through her veins, and we smiled as Bee started snoring in complete relaxation. Then it was time for the euthanasia needle, and as the liquid made its way out of the syringe, Lori whispered one last goodbye to her beloved Pekingese. Devincezi took a stethoscope to Beasley’s chest moments later and told us she was no longer with us. Then she let us have some privacy.
We wept, and we petted Beasley’s beautiful head. Lori pointed out that the pink was disappearing from the insides of her ears as life left her little body. She closed Bee’s one eye. Her tongue peeked out from behind her snaggle teeth and we laughed, saying only Beasley would make one last cute face to cheer us up before we had to hand her off for cremation. Later, we would toast Bee’s memory with cans of sparkling white wine.
In a few weeks, she will return to us in a box that simply says “Beasley” with her paw prints on the front, the same way Lori’s beloved Basset, Lucy, did. And she will sit next to Lucy, and Miss Madhi who came before her, on a shelf in Lori’s home that is reserved for the remnants of only the most special souls — those who teach us simple humans how to love unconditionally and to weather every storm with a smile and a wag.
From Managing Editor Vicky Walker:
Beasley — or “Bee-KNEE!” as Lori likes to holler at random moments — was a waddling furry meatloaf of a dog. She had a knack for getting under the wheels of my chair, so I learned not to make any sudden movements. I think the chair would have come off worse than Beenie did, because she was a solid little tank.
You’d think those stumpy little legs might slow her down, but she was surprisingly speedy and could often be seen nosing around other people’s desks. Then she’d flop down and go to sleep on the spot, looking like a canine version of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” ads. We learned not to stand up too fast for fear of tripping over a snoring pup.
Those same stumpy legs would pedal frantically in midair as Lori scooped her up for another round of snuggles and belly rubs. Beasley submitted patiently to all the attention, probably because, as a Pekingese — bred to be Chinese royalty’s lapdogs — she felt it was her due.
And it was.
From Senior Editor Keith Bowers:
Beasley was a mutant of the highest order. Lest you pester me about defaming the late stumpy little pirate of a Frankendog, I’ll explain that to me, mutant is a term of endearment. I consider myself a mutant, and I’ve applied the term to numerous loved ones who live on their own terms in the margins, regardless of prevailing attitudes on appearance, decorum or behavior.
We at Catster and Dogster are all mutants in some form, so we naturally related to Beasley. She was a proud little Biscuit Head — a name I gave her because her cylindrical haircut really did look like a furry biscuit. She moved at her own irregular pace, always with a demeanor of self-satisfaction and solid disregard for any derision that might come her way.
Beasley wasn’t a “love bug” of a dog in ways you might think, but she ever sought companionship as if following some prehistoric call common in all of us, using her limited perception and locomotion as best she good to waddle closer to whichever fellow mutant was nearest. See you on the other side, Biscuit Head.
From Social Media Manager Liz Acosta:
The beguiling Miss Beasley — the one-eyed witch dog who could see all the universe and its stars spinning and whirling. Who, with her single dark eye, cast a spell of love on me, so I found myself both bewildered and enamored with her. It is with that same eye Beasley chased off an ex-Mormon boy, who was probably made of more straw than man anyway. The lesson Beasley taught me is that men come and go, but the sway of your hips is forever your own. Even with one eye, a few scattered teeth, and a body seemingly made of two (or three or five) different animals, Beasley demonstrated that beauty is in the (lone) eye of the confident and the compassionate, and that love is indeed sightless … or at least lacks depth perception.
Back to the star dust you were made of, dear Beasley, where you can bewitch us from the twinkling heavens above.
Special thanks go out to Muttville, which sent this special tribute to Beasley to Lori as soon as they got word: