February 11, 2017 By: Shannon Arner
I’ve been in the pet industry for a long time. In veterinary hospital settings, then on to my own business of Professional Pet Sitting, so I have seen a lot of pet loss. Pet parents who are clients of ours have the tremendous grief that cannot be described. This grief that I also have for their babies, as a care provider to their pet, is weighty, but
never until this past Saturday evening, February 4, 2017, did I have a remote idea of the kind of grief that exists in this world, until I had to say goodbye to my sweet Pharrell.
Pharrell came to me, just after I graduated college. I went to the SPCA one afternoon and decided I wanted to adopt my very own dog. One that was not our family dog, but my very own companion. I knew I wanted to adopt because we had a family pup as a child who was also adopted, and we always felt we had done something great for him and it made us feel so warm that we saved him. Once I arrived to the shelter, I walked up and down the hall, wondering how in the world I would ever pick one dog out of all of these pups who wanted to come with me, and then I saw Pharrell. His tag said his
name was “Blue”, which I found odd. The description card also said that he was an American Staffordshire/Chihuahua mix (Chi-bull), which I still chuckle about. How did that happen, exactly? Nevertheless, I asked if I could take him outside into the relief area to spend time with him. As soon as we got outside he jumped all over me, licking, giving kisses…I knew immediately that this little boy was all mine. I knew that very moment that the day he was no longer with me would kill me. It was a day I would dread his entire 15 years of living.
I went through the process of adoption, filling out the paperwork and I had to wait a day until I was able to take him home since they were then going to neuter him and take care of all of his vaccines. I went right to the pet store that afternoon, stocked up on the fanciest bed I could find, lots of toys, food, and treats, and sat waiting, counting down the hours until I could go get him the next day. When it was time, I went to scoop him up from the shelter and I put him into the car. He was in a daze from recently coming out of surgery and he sat quietly in the car seat I also purchased for him, until we got home. I brought him in and we just stared at each other. Neither of us could quite figure out what to do next.
I turned on MTV (which actually played videos at the time) and a Snoop Dogg video came on, featuring Pharrell Williams. I was intrigued, trying to figure out a name for my baby boy, and liked the name Pharrell, and the way it looked and sounded. It was unique and so I chose it that day, Pharrell was my son from that day on.
Through the years, Pharrell was treated like a person, not a dog. I know, I am the pet mom a lot of people cringe over, but for me, he was my child in every sense of the word. I dressed him, took him for walks around Lake Lynn every single morning and afternoon, took him on car rides with me…we were inseparable. Pharrell became synonymous with who I was as a person. Shannon is and was Pharrell’s mom.
When my husband and I got married, we joined his two cats, Wilson and Kiko, and my Pharrell. They meshed fairly well, but Pharrell knew he was not from the animal species, he knew he was my son and decided he was going to be treated that way. I happily obliged. When Gerry and I got married, Pharrell wore a bowtie, and kept running under my wedding dress so he could be as close to me as possible. It was as if he didn’t want another man coming in between he and his mom.
After we got married, Pharrell continued to be our son, but was most definitely his mama’s boy. We lost our cat, Kiko later and as Pharrell began to get older, around 10 years old, we adopted Betty White. Betty was a rescue and we thought she would keep him youthful and wanting to play more, plus we wanted to give another pup the chance at life that our other pets had. Betty White and Pharrell had some rough patches as Betty White had some food and resource hoarding issues (she had starved and been emaciated as a pup) so we worked through that, and it worked. Pharrell started being more agile again, and playful.
As years passed, Pharrell started to struggle with arthritis so I bought him a stroller. We continued to move forward, every once in a while, it would hit me that he was becoming a senior and I would push it out of my mind. Anytime I thought about him not being here one day, I would become so distraught. It was a day I dreaded since the moment I brought him into my life. I often told people that I should probably seek therapy for the anticipatory grief of one day not having him, but then put it out of my head.
In recent years, I would see college friends and they would ask about Pharrell and seemed shocked he was still with me. It slowly started hitting me again with his age, but still, I couldn’t fathom him not being with me. Last year, we lost Wilson, our 19 year old cat. We also lost a pet client who lived to be 16, and another who was 23, so I started having some solace knowing that he could be around for years to come. On Pharrell’s 14th birthday last year, like all birthdays, it was an exciting one. We decorated, put streamers and 14 signs everywhere, and I made him a doggy-friendly birthday cake and let him go to town on it.
The past few months, I noticed his arthritis getting a little worse, so I started putting heating pads on his beds, I took him for more stroller rides, and massaged his joints 2-3 times a day. He slept in a crib, that was once Gerry’s, beside my bed. It made him feel comforted, but every single morning, around 4am, he would whine to come into bed with me. I happily obliged and he would crawl under the covers and sleep until morning, in the crook of the back of my legs, behind my knees.
His joy for life didn’t cease. My husband would often tell me that he would say to Pharrell, “your mama is going to be here in a few minutes” and he would wait by the door with excitement. Each and every time I walked in that door, I scooped him up like he was a baby, and kissed his face and his belly. It was our own moment, each greeting, that no one could take away, or dare understand.
Last week, Pharrell had a bad day, which lead to off and on good and bad days for about a week. His last day, February 4, 2017, he was at the NC State Veterinary School. He had spent a few days in the Internal Medicine department so they could figure out what was wrong. When our options ran out, I refused to let him be inside a facility, but he could hardly exist off of their IV medications. It was torture to see my son like that. I spent the whole day there, taking him out in sessions, holding him in my arms, walking in the sunshine, letting the rays beam onto his face, and gave him constant kisses as he licked my tears away, continuously. I screamed for the universe, God, whomever to listen to me, asking, “how will I go on without my son?! How do I do this?!”. Pharrell tried to comfort me; he gave me love and kisses and tried to make my heart less painful, but it didn’t work. He kept licking my tears away. It was a like his own personal salty fountain of his mom’s tears. He kept licking them as if to tell me it was going to be ok. But it wasn’t.
As day went into night, I held my sweet son, asking him to please tell me if it was time. He did, in his way. I made the decision to help him go into peace, as he was struggling. We went outside of the vet school, with cows in the distance, under a cloudless night sky, full of stars as he took his last breath. I felt my boy’s heartbeat stop. My own heartbeat, outside of my chest, just stopped. It is something I cannot get out of my head and it is killing me. My sweet angel…my son…my heartbeat, is gone.
We rented a house in Beaufort for our vacation this year, so we could take both of our babies. Maybe I knew this would be the last vacation with Pharrell, or maybe I wanted him to see the ocean again… I don’t know exactly, but my plans of having him with me were completely blown away by his passing. The house where I would spoil him with more attention and TLC has been a place where I mourn, and wonder how I will enter our home again without Pharrell.
I write this, maybe as a means to be therapeutic, but to also try to find a way to bond with other pet parents who have lost and feel the way I do. I try to recall all of the parents who have lost their furbabies in the 17 years of me caring for them, and I know they have survived it, so maybe I can go on, too? That, in some small way is comforting… knowing that they can continue to live without their baby. At this moment, it seems to be an impossible feat as I struggle to do anything but be in pain.