5/19/85 – 10/22/01

(16.5 years old)

… in loving memory

Where to begin… I guess at the beginning! Dusty was "Jacki's baby" at first before we got married, so Jacki will tell this part of the story…

I had been wanting a little furry friend for many years after moving out on my own, but this one summer day I woke up and decided this was the day. I was bound and determined to find "my" very own little fur-baby. I first checked the paper and the humane shelter, but there were none that fit the bill. I specifically wanted a "little, fluffy dog."

So I went to the pet store. I had first picked out a little terrier, but when they put him in the little glass play area for me to see him better, he just didn't seem to respond to me much. Then my eye caught this little fur-ball in the next cage over—it was love at first sight! They put him in the play area, and when I reached down to pet him, he jumped and jumped and licked me and wagged his little tail… I knew I had found my baby…

I didn't know what to name him at first, but the next day when I took him to the vet for his first checkup, they asked for a name. I was looking at his birth certificate and saw that his father's name was "Dusty's Rusty"—which meant his grandfather was named "Dusty"—so that seemed appropriate, and so "Dusty" was my new little friend's name. Here is the first picture I ever took of Dusty shortly after I got him:

Dusty's 1st picture—how could I resist that little face?!


dustyAs Dusty grew and we became close, I learned that he adored being held on his back and slowly scratched on his chest area. We spent many hours like this—along with playing, bouncing, potty-training(!), chewing all the furniture! That was a doozy! He had chewed the legs on almost every piece of furniture I had, and I told him he'd just better NOT chew on my brand new piano or else…!! And guess what the only piece of furniture was that he never chewed?! Sweet little thing—he spared my piano legs.

Dusty had several nick-names… Dusty-bear, Sugar-bear, Baby-bear, Little Bear, Precious little punkin', My little Lover-boy, Fuzzy-butt(!), Butt-o-Fuzz, Fur Flop, Flop-Mop, Dusty-mop… and when he got a little older, the most common name Gorden called him was "Little Man"…

dustyWhen we got married, Dusty stayed at "Grandma Charlotte's" house (Jacki's mother) for a while. For some reason, Dusty loved to fight with "Skipper" (the German Shepherd that lived there). I guess being a little guy felt he had to "prove" himself! Shown is a photo of them playing tug-of-war with a sock. Take a look at that "determination" on Dusty's face, with his little ear slung back!!

Unfortunately, one day Skipper had had enough of Dusty and snapped back at him during a fight… and Dusty lost his right eye in the ordeal. But with all that fur, you couldn't tell very much, and he was still a cutie-pie as you can see here! We hated that this happened, but Dusty quickly adjusted—he had the most adaptive little personality you've ever seen. He was content no matter what happened and he never "complained" about anything…

dustyDid this tragic event convince Dusty to leave Skipper alone…???!!!

HECK NO!!! He still went after Skipper every chance he got! A funny scene commonly witnessed between them was when Dusty was inside and Skipper was outside—both staring each other down through the sliding glass door. As long as the door was closed, they'd bark and bark and growl at each other. Then the minute the door was opened, they'd "freeze" and just stare at each other!! Then when the door was shut, they'd go at it again!! It was hilarious! One time we opened and shut the door between them several times, and they just kept starting and stopping barking at each other like an "on/off" switch!! (Boy, if we'd only gotten that on video, we could've won $10,000!!)

dustyEven with only one eye, that little eye could say volumes! Gorden especially had a hard time resisting giving Dusty whatever he wanted when he looked up at him with that bright, shiny little eye!! This earned Dusty yet another nick-name—"Little Big-Eye"!

A very good "Dusty" picture… This is what he looked like in his "prime."

Dusty was extremely smart—he knew about 25–30 words!! Some were: "Dusty, come here", "night-night", "Does Dusty love Crystal?", "Dusty wanna…" (fill in the blank—he knew what all these meant: go bye-bye, go to Grandma's, cookie, goodie, cake, bath!) Sometimes we'd try to trick him, thinking he just knew that "Dusty wanna" was going to mean something good. We'd say "Dusty wanna....... bath?!" and instead of getting excited, his little ears, which had perked up at the beginning of the question, just drooped!! It was hilarious!! Gorden could say, "Dusty… let's get a bath"—and Dusty would start moping down the hall towards the bathroom. Sometimes he'd go right in! Other times, he'd sort of "innocently" slip past the bathroom towards the bedroom and peak back at Gorden to see if he was still watching! Gorden would say, "Dusty… bath"—in a semi-stern tone—and Dusty would resign himself and turn slowly around and mope into the bathroom!!

We also would shorten the phrases and Dusty would still know what they meant. If we said, "Go," he'd run to the front door! If we said "out," he'd go to the back door. If we said, "Grandma's" or "Grandpa's," he'd run all over the house, barking and trying to hurry us up! He KNEW he was in for an awesome dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house—usually roast beef (his favorite) or chicken or pork. We then noticed that on Sundays (the day we'd go over there after church) Dusty would start getting excited around 12:30 before we'd even mention it! Somehow he knew it was "Grandma-day" and time to GO! We wondered if maybe it was because of our routine on that day, so we tried tricking him by altering the routine… Nope. He KNEW it was time and looked at us like we were crazy!!

Dusty also talked back to us! He had this uncanny little sneeze that sounded just like a 4-letter word!!! He always seemed to do it when he got frustrated about something—so it was hilarious! He kept us laughing! The funniest thing he ever did, though, was one night while we were both sitting in the living room and Dusty was in the middle of the floor and passed gas! He must not have known what it was or either it tickled him, because he TOOK OFF running and went and hid behind the couch!! He then peeked out from behind the couch and looked at us! He didn't know what that thing was, but it sure wasn't going to get him! We laughed so hard at that we almost cried! smiley

As Dusty got older and lost most of his hearing, the smart little booger learned SIGN language! We could point to the front door and he'd know we were going bye-bye. We'd point to the back door and he'd know it was time to go out. If we snapped our fingers and pointed at him, then at our feet, he knew we wanted him to "come here." And later on, when Dusty's vision got weak and he couldn't really see our pointing, he learned that if we held the car keys up to his nose, it was time to go—and he'd get all excited and run to the door just like always! He was definitely a smart little doggie…

dustyAny presents for ME?!!

One Christmas, we had wrapped a present for Dusty with some doggie-chews in it, and Dusty took it between his little paws and opened it himself!! So every Christmas after that, we had to really watch the little stinker or he'd open all the presents looking for his!!!


Mom gives Dusty a treat out of his Christmas stocking… (and YES, he got CHOCOLATE!)

"Now, THAT's more like it!" says Dusty!

Boy, am I pooped!


Dusty and Daddy… one of Dusty's favorite places to sleep—in one of our laps!


When Jacki got sick and had to stay home, Dusty never left her side… We used to just think Dusty hated being by himself—which was true—but now we both believe that even more, Dusty felt it was his place to comfort and protect Jacki while she was home by herself. He'd follow her everywhere! As he got older and slept more, he'd sometimes wake up after Jacki had gone to another room—he'd immediately hunt her down! "My little protector"…

dustyDusty with his hair bow – Without it he could barely see through all that hair!

A favorite past-time of Dusty's was to sit at our back sliding-glass door and watch the squirrels! He was fascinated by them and would watch them for hours at the time… We fed the squirrels out back and sometimes on the back porch, so they'd come right up to the door and look in at Dusty! Sometimes the squirrel and Dusty would just stare at each other—it was so cute! Dusty would be almost trembling he was so intensively "on guard!" He could be anywhere in the house, and if we'd say, "Dusty! There's a squirrel!" he'd come running from wherever he was all excited!!

Interestingly enough, we eventually became foster parents for orphaned baby squirrels through St. Francis Wildlife and cared for over 75 squirrels in our home over a 10-year period! Dusty would have LOVED that!!

We thought many times that we were going to lose Dusty… When he was 10 years old, he hurt his back jumping out of a chair, and we thought he was going to require expensive surgery in another city. But we tried keeping him still for a while by keeping him in his "playpen" whenever we'd leave the house to keep him from jumping. He pulled through just fine, thank God!

Then when he was 14.5, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and we again thought his time was almost up. But Dusty was a fighter! He pulled through again and did very well with an occasional Lasix to keep the water off his lungs…

So when he turned 15, we decided to really celebrate! We ordered him his very own birthday cake from Publix!! Dusty ADORED cake! It was so funny telling them what name to put on the cake!! Wonder what they'd have thought if they knew it was for a little doggie?! smiley

C'mon already!! I smell CAKE!!


Oh boy! CAKE!!!


You can almost SEE the enthusiasm in his little eye!

Oh, yeah - that's the stuff!!


Look, Ma!! I made a mess!!


Dusty surprised all of us (the vet included!) by living all the way to ANOTHER birthday! We had to risk having anesthesia to have his teeth cleaned, but he did just fine, thank God! For his 16th birthday, we went one further and had a full-blown party for him, with guests even! He got another cake, though this time he didn't eat any on that day because he was already so full from eating "Grandma Eloise's" pork roast! Oh, yeah. Dusty was incredibly spoiled—is there any other way to have them?!! I know many pet-lovers spoil their pets, but I think we took the cake on that one (pun intended!)… Not only did Dusty beg for food and get it every time, but as he got older he actually begged FROM HIS BED and wanted us to bring the food to him!!! Now that's the epitamy of spoiled—not even bothering to go to the table to beg but begging from bed! And did he get the food brought to him? OF COURSE!! How could we resist?!!

One night that was especially funny was when Marc (Jacki's brother) had come over to have pizza and watch a movie together. Dusty was back in the bedroom sleeping and did not make a peep—that is until the pizza arrived! He started with a low-level whiney-beg… which grew into a full-fledged BARK! He got very insistent!!! Marc asked what the heck he was barking about, and Jacki explained he was begging for pizza!! Marc could hardly believe a dog could be THAT spoiled—And Dusty got some pizza… smiley

As Dusty got older, he would sometimes get picky about what he'd eat, so we'd try just about anything. He'd gotten to the point he wouldn't eat dog food at all, then he went through a spell of eating only cat food… then he didn't really want that either—he wanted people food! One of his favorites was Rally's hamburgers! So we'd go to Rally's many times a week to get Dusty a hamburger! And he actually seemed to get healthier after that—eating "real food" instead of processed dog food or cat food.

dustyDuring the last couple of months of Dusty's life, he got really tired and slept a lot. Here, he'd drank some water and then just fell asleep on his bowl. Precious little Baby-bear…

dustyHere, he'd fallen asleep in between his food bowl and his water bowl… He'd sure get into some crazy positions!

Dusty in his main "night-night" with his cute little ear flopped up...


dustyOur last picture of Dusty before he died…

Dusty loved to sleep like this—with his little neck propped up on the side of his bed. It looked like he'd have a neck ache, but he loved it! And he many times slept like this—with his backend hanging out of the bed—probably because he liked the coolness of the tile floor.

And notice the 2nd bed—his "summer" bed so to speak—so he'd have a choice of beds depending on what mood he was in.

He also had a bed in the living room and a rug in the music room!

No… Dusty wasn't spoiled one little bit… smiley

I bet many children would love to have been cared for like we cared for Dusty.

Dusty's Last Weekend

Dusty had stopped eating and drinking several days before his last weekend. We had tried to feed him with a large syringe and also gave him some water this way, hoping he would snap out of it one more time (he'd gone through spells like this before, but they would only last a few days at the most). Dusty cried many times during his last few nights and we couldn't figure out what he wanted—he didn't have to go to the bathroom, didn't want any water, seemed okay, so the only thing we could figure is that he was getting stiff with the arthritis during the night and wanted to change positions but couldn't. He slept through most of the weekend except when we'd wake him up to take him out or try to get him to eat or drink. On Sunday, when we got home from church, he was crying—he had gotten stuck with his back legs under our dresser and couldn't get up. It broke our hearts to think of how long he might have been like that. We debated on whether to take him to "Grandma's" as usual and decided we just could not leave him alone again and that this would probably be his last trip to Grandma's and that she and Grandpa would want to say goodbye to him… He wouldn't eat anything over there—not even the usual after-dinner M&M's Grandpa would give him. On Monday, Gorden went to work, and Jacki spent the whole day caring for Dusty—looking after him, loving him… Here's her account of that day…

My heart of hearts knew it was Dusty's time the minute I picked him up that day. I could see he was getting more and more listless and non-responsive. When I picked him up, I could feel his poor little weak body. He had lost so much weight—from 27 lbs. down to 17 (and probably less since it had been almost a week since he had last been weighed). When I pet his face, I could feel and see the poor little frame around his eye. My heart nearly broke out of my chest when I realized just how sick my baby really was…

It was "Mommy and Me" time for me and Dusty. He would go to sleep a while, then would cry about every hour or so. I'd rush to him, pick him up and assure him I was right there with him and for him. I'd take him out and try to steady him on his precious little wobbly legs to see if he needed to go—he didn't. Late afternoon, he did go one last time for me. I'd take him back inside and stand him or lay him by his water bowl to see if he'd drink—he wouldn't. I laid him on our kitchen counter with a towel under him to make sure it wasn't too hard for him to lay on. Then I'd pet him and pet him and hug him… gently give him a little water with the syringe the vet had given us. Then I'd sit with him in my rocker and rock him, hold him, sing to him… John Denver's "My Sweet Lady" came to mind, so I sang it as "My Sweet Dusty" and changed some of the other words to match what was in my heart. I'd hum him a lullaby and tell him it was okay to "go to sleep." I sang a song I only remembered the first part of (a lullaby): "Go to sleep, my little one, little one. Go to sleep, my baby, my own." (Does anyone know that song? It's from some movie, I think.) Then I'd break down into tears and just hold him. Then I'd gently lay him back down in his "night night" and watch him a while, petting his pretty little ears till he'd fall asleep again. This went on throughout the day…

One time as I was holding him and rocking him, I begged God to let him be able to hear my voice one last time. I don't know if he could hear me, but I know he could tell I loved him. I called him all the terms of endearment I'd ever called him—he had so many… (He has always reminded me of a little teddy bear—his coloring, his gentle personality, etc.)—"my little Dusty bear… sugar bear… baby bear, sweet boy… sweet baby… little bear… I luvs my Dust… my little Dusty… sweet little boy… my precious little Dusty…" and "Little man" (as Gorden called him). He had been truly loved—and in that we had no regrets.

After reading the supportive info at Petloss.com (which helped me tremendously through this whole process), I had talked to Gorden over the weekend about us taking action to help our little Dusty be at rest, and Gorden was hoping that he'd go peacefully on his own within a few days or a week… But my heart just cried for us to able to help Dusty not to suffer like that anymore. I couldn't stand it for even one more minute—much less a day or more. I get upset when a little frog or lizard gets trapped in our house and we find it starved to death. And that's what I realized Dusty was doing… I just would not have it. I could not…

When Gorden got home, he went to Dusty and picked him up. I told him about how our day went and also that every time I pet Dusty a bunch of his beautiful fur would come out into my hand—I feared he was starting to be poisoned by his liver or kidneys not working… (I was right, as we found out later.) Gorden rocked him and we talked about how we realized Dusty was not going to get any better—but only worse—and how we could just sit by and watch him go down even further? That's not fair to him. Gorden said he just wished Dusty could talk to us and tell us what he wanted. I said, "Maybe he has…" Gorden said he just can't bear to lose him. I said, "Darling, he's already gone… Dusty—our little Dusty-bear—is not there anymore anyway…" He looked down at Dusty and realized it was true. The glean had gone out of Dusty's little eye—it was just glazed over, and he was in a daze. He was not responding to us at all when we'd touch him… Gorden wanted to try one last attempt at getting Dusty to eat. He gave him a little pinch of his birthday cake (which was the day before), because even when Dusty had been at his sickest through the years—he would ALWAYS eat CAKE! This time he did not. He sniffed a little at it, but turned away from it. We both knew that was it. If Dusty would not eat cake…

Gorden cried and cried, and I held him and Dusty both and we cried together… Then Gorden made the call to the vet… We wrapped Dusty in a towel and took him for his last ride—his last "bye-bye." Both of us were crying our hearts out. I was holding Dusty and loving him and telling him how precious he is and how he's been such a "great little doggie" and my sweet little baby. I told him how much I love him and that I'd never forget him or what all I've learned from him (see "Things That Dusty Taught Me"). We got there and no one else was at the clinic—a very nice thing. I don't think I could bear to see other little puppies at that time…

When Dusty's doctor saw him, he just looked at us with such love and concern and caring. He told us that last Wednesday when he saw Dusty (he'd stopped eating just a few days before that) he could tell something had "changed" and he had even noted in his chart that it was probably close to the end for little Dusty. But then Dusty was still at least responsive, would still walk around and still "scrubby face" every time we put him in his little bed—letting us know he was happy and content. This had all changed. We asked the doctor to please just check his little mouth and make sure there wasn't a problem there that would stop him from eating—he'd had bad teeth before and would stop eating temporarily but would always start back within a few days. He looked in Dusty's mouth and said it looked fine—but then he said he could really smell a strong ammonia smell on Dusty's breath—which meant his little kidneys were definitely failing. He explained that when they get like that they may not be in "pain" exactly—but that they just feel horrible and weak and uninterested in food. He shared that he has some human friends with kidney failure and they've explained how it feels. He said that if Dusty were human, he would be going on dialysis. He explained that the toxins weren't being cleaned out of his system and so he was slowly being poisoned. It's interesting that I knew that even before the vet said it—I suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity myself and have similar symptoms when I'm exposed to certain chemicals—my legs get weak and shaky, I get very fatigued and lethargic and weak, my hair falls out… I realized that I really did know how Dusty was feeling and knew that we were absolutely doing the right thing. I'm so thankful for this. From that moment on, Gorden and I both felt a giant relief—a peace came over us—totally sure and having no guilt that this wasn't the right thing to do. I looked down at my little bear and told him this was one last gift I was giving him—through the tears, that is…

(Note: As I write this tribute page for Dusty, I just realized it is exactly the time of day that 4 weeks ago we lost our precious little Dusty… how appropriate.)

The doctor explained that he is using a new method for euthanasia that seems to be much better and much more peaceful for everyone involved—including Dusty. Instead of doing the IV injection right off the bat, he gave him an injection of a sedative. Then he and the assistant said we could have a few minutes with Dusty and they left the room. We cried and held each other so tightly. I said, "This is the right thing to do…" and Gorden nodded his head and said "yes it is…" I looked down at Dusty—he was very relaxed and calm… I leaned very close to his face and said, "It's okay, little bear… It's okay to go now." Gorden said, "Go to sleep, Little Man…"

They came back in and did what had to be done—reassuring us the whole time that this was the right thing to do for Dusty now. The vet told us he felt it was his responsibility not to let a pet go any longer than necessary and that Dusty had really gone downhill since he saw him last week. It was very gentle and peaceful. The only weird thing was that Dusty started drawing up a little and even exhaled a few times—this really startled us! They assured us that this sometimes happens and that he was gone—that the nerves and muscles sometimes do this. To me… it sounded like the little "sigh of contentedness" that Dusty would always do when he'd found his bed and gotten comfy and was about to rest peacefully…

We brought him home with us. Gorden's father is a wood worker and had built a beautiful blonde wooden coffin just the right size for Dusty—with hinges and all on the lid—and a soft bottom inside it, with a little pillow for his head. He'd made one like this for Crystal, too, a few years back when we'd lost her. We laid Dusty in it, and I felt the urge to brush his beautiful hair one last time… Then I put his brush in there with him—he always used to love "gettin' hair-brushed" and would come running for me to brush him—of course, he thought that meant "play time" and would play and bite at me, etc. I realized how long it had been since he was able to do that… Gorden put a "goodie" (doggie biscuit) and a Hershey's kiss in there—Dusty adored chocolate, even though they all swear it's terrible for them! At his age, we let him eat whatever he would eat… Then I said we needed to put an M&M in there for "Grandpa" (Gorden's dad)—he'd always give Dusty a few M&M's after Sunday dinner at their house, and if he forgot, Dusty would let him know about it. smiley

We took a few pictures and put Dusty "night-night" for the last time. Gorden found the little blanket he had put on Dusty the night before and draped it over the coffin so Dusty wouldn't get cold. As we had our "prayer time," I told Gorden it was just unbelievable to look at that box and know that Dusty was really in there. Gorden said, "Our baby's gone..." I said, "No… he's not gone." Gorden said, "He's in here…" pointing to his heart. I told him we'd never forget all the love that Dusty gave us. When Gorden prayed, he thanked God for allowing us the privilege and honor to have this precious little gift for so many years to show us a little about what God's love is like. I cried again when he said that—it's so true. You know "dog" IS "God" spelled backwards. smiley

The first day after we lost Dusty was very strange. I kept going to the bedroom to "check on Dusty." I kept hearing his breathing and gentle snoring sounds—though I knew they weren't really there anymore. It was way too quiet that morning. Dusty usually woke me up when he'd get out of bed and click around the bedroom (we have tile floors). I didn't quite know what to do with myself and cried some—remembering Dusty's "good days" some—and felt like my heart was breaking. But I'm so very thankful for his little life… We thought we were losing him two years ago, but were blessed with two more good years.

The next day I stopped and got a hamburger and onion rings from Burger King and when I got home my heart almost broke in two… Every time I'd go to get some food before, the first thing I'd do when I got home is go over to Dusty's bed and give him a little—he adored onion rings! I started crying that I couldn't give him any onion rings ever again and then I decided to take one out to him anyway. I laid it on his grave and told him again that I love him and miss him terribly and that he was such a good doggie…

I bawled all the way back inside, but I felt a little better.

The next day I was asking God to comfort me and to let me know Dusty was okay. A few minutes later I saw two squirrels running all over our back yard playing! This was such a neat sign from God… I looked out at Dusty's grave and said once again, "Dusty see the squirrel?!" So now Dusty can watch the squirrels again…

Gorden has also had a hard time adjusting to Dusty not being here. For the first several days he was late for work because his morning routine of caring for Dusty was all out of whack. He didn't quite know what to do with himself. It's so hard to believe just how much of our lives a little fur-baby can become! We both feel such a mixture of emotions—mostly deep sorrow—though we know we did the right thing for Dusty and that he appreciates that.

Two days after we lost Dusty, Jacki wrote a special song for him called "Precious Little Friend". We have it on YouTube for anyone who wants to hear it… We also have it available as an mp3 download in our Music Store. We have compiled some Scriptures on mourning, comfort, and joy that really helped us during this time of grief. It is our hope that this song, this tribute page, and these Scriptures will help to give some comfort to others who are grieving over the loss of a beloved pet—or any other kind of loss…

We know each day will get a little better, and we're so thankful that we felt no guilt whatsoever about what we had to do… It had gotten to the point where we realized we were going to feel even MORE guilty if we DIDN'T do something for Dusty. So we are at peace… and Dusty is at peace…

Goodbye, our Precious Little Friend…

– Mom and Dad
November 19, 2001
(4 weeks after we lost Dusty)

NOTE: Over the years, Dusty's song has touched many other people who have lost their precious pets! It was even featured on petloss.com—the site that helped Jacki copy with losing Dusty. People have used the song for their pet's funerals, made their own YouTube videos using the song in a tribute to their pet, etc. It does our hearts good to know that Dusty is still touching lives…

Listen to Dusty's Song on YouTube Audio file also available, as well as sheet music. See our Music Store for more info.

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