A Story About My Slightly Perfect Friend


Whiskey Lilley-Gerblick – 2004 – 2011

I normally use this blog to complain about things. Petty things, honestly. This time though, I’m taking a rare transgression into the genuine. I am saying goodbye to a great friend and a member of my family, Whiskey the dog.

I’ll get everyone up to speed first. On March 4th, 2011 Becky was getting ready to head out to Vegas for her bachelorette party. As she was getting ready I noticed that Whiskey was laying lethargically in the middle of the floor. It seemed a bit strange because he was usually eager to go outside in the mornings. I told him it was time to go outside, and he slowly rose and walked to the back door. When I let him out, he very slowly walked to a random point in the yard, peed without lifting a leg, and then plopped down. It was then I realized something was seriously wrong. I noticed a bit of a stumble in his steps, and I feared something in his back had flared up, and started to dread the possibility of more spine issues. It was very difficult to hide both Whiskey’s odd behavior and my own worry, but I knew it would be a bad idea to let Becky spend her bachelorette party worried about the dog, so I stayed quiet (she did notice he seemed a little down, but chalked it up to a random funk).

Virtually the moment Becky’s vehicle was out of sight I called the vet and brought him in immediately. This was the second bad sign – Whiskey can’t help his excitement about any car ride, but he lumbered to the garage with the same lack of enthusiasm as he did going outside. The vet tested his limb mobility and it seemed fine. There was no evidence of spinal disc pressure. She noted that he seemed tired, and then saw that his gums were pale. Our vet is very good about mitigating owner concern, but I could tell she was not pleased with his discovery. She said that sort of thing can signal anemia, but that it could also be Tick fever. She loaded Whiskey up with some injections, sent some blood to the lab, and sent me home with yet more drugs and told me to let them know how he was doing tomorrow.

I set him down in his bed by the window with food and water close by and went about my day. When I came back several hours later, Whiskey was in the exact same spot. He hadn’t eaten, and did not seem at all interested in moving, let alone getting up. But I helped him get outside to go to the bathroom, and he could not stand on his own. Panic set in when I looked at his gums and they were stark white. At this point I rushed him to the emergency animal clinic.

When they saw his condition, they rushed him into triage immediately. This was the moment I had my last calm moment of the night. I was envisioning the high bills, for sure, but I felt good that he was in the care of doctors. About 15 minutes later, a doctor emerged with a grave expression and introduced himself, like on a television show. He explained that Whiskey was in bad shape, and used phrases like “do you understand what I’m telling you?” His red blood cell count was too low to oxygenate the body, and he suspected liver failure or severe anemia, and told me to wait while they ran more tests. When the doctor¬† re-emerged about half an hour later, he informed me that Whiskey was anemic and would need an expensive blood transfusion to live through the night. From there, it would be a matter of constant and uncertain medical management of the disease. Apparently, Whiskey had been hiding this disease very well for likely years, slowly adapting to it until today, when he reached his limit. I listened to the doctor’s speech about quality of life and humane euthanasia with some degree of shock. He asked if I wanted to mull it over, but I already knew what needed to be done. 18 months ago, Becky and I took a big hit to repair his back when he injured it. We only had one of those hits in us, and with the wedding coming up we could not afford to go through it again.

When they brought Whiskey into the exam room, I finally understood what I was seeing that day – he was ready to die. I held him, I told him what a perfect dog he was, I said goodbye, and I called the doctor in. I stood with him as they gave him the injection. He went incredibly quickly and peacefully. I walked out with his collar.

I thought a lot about Becky having fun in Las Vegas, and how important it was for me to allow her to enjoy this once in the lifetime event. But it was going to be hard for me to carry on knowing about her ignorance of this terrible event.

I spent the weekend managing my grief and figuring out how to break the news to Becky. It wasn’t until now that I’ve been able to start thinking about the past, about our lives with Whiskey. His story begins in 2005. Becky and I were not living together yet, and she decided she wanted a dog. I remember being out to dinner with her at Macaroni Grill. We were playing an epic game of Hangman, and her answer was “A puppy for Lilley Lush = someone to always drink with”. How (little) much we’ve changed. I met Whiskey for the first time when I walked into Fort Awesome for my weekend visit. Becky wasn’t home yet, but there was Whiskey. He walked right up to me and got on his hind legs, showing his most prominent character trait right away – his love of humans.


Our first picture of Whiskey

Having a dog brought Becky and I closer together. After a few years, it started to feel like practice – having a life to care for, and the responsibilities that brings. Practice for what will someday be a human life, in all likelihood. This amplified when we moved in together. We were becoming parents.

Ask anybody who has met him – Whiskey was a phenomenal dog. Aside from an early propensity to rummage through the kitchen trash can and seldomly chew up our underwear (just the underwear), he was near perfect. He never barked, he was immediately house trained, he wasn’t a picky eater, and the only recorded instance of him biting anyone was a groomer who got a little too fresh with the nail clippers. Before his health problems, you couldn’t ask for a more low-maintenance dog. As I mentioned before, he adored humans. He wasn’t so eager to associate with his fellow canines, but he was a fixture at all our parties from the day we got him, actively mingling with everybody. I couldn’t tell you how many times guests threatened to steal him away.


Whiskey with one of his favorite toys

Whiskey partying

Whiskey had a few funny quirks. He was known to jump directly into people’s laps just when they were least suspecting it, and often followed up with a face lick in the mouth region. And oh, that tongue. Whiskey licked us so much Becky once reported it on a vet checkup. I still remember the conversation:

“Any unusual behaviors?”
“Well, he licks a lot.”
“What part of the body does he lick?”
“Oh no, he licks us a lot.”
The vet writes in the notes: “Licks owners excessively”

As I said before, Whiskey never barked or growled at anyone, except about one in every 50 people that stopped by the house would put him on the offense. It was completely random. We think Whiskey could detect some very well-hidden evil in people.

My favorite Whiskey behavior was something he picked up when we moved into our house. At some point he claimed the front living room as his second bedroom, and when Becky and I would sit down to watch TV we would see him shuttling his toys back and forth from the bedroom to the living room. There’s Whiskey carrying the olive to the bedroom. Two minutes later, he’s taking it back to the living room. Then, he’s taking another toy to the bedroom. Arranging his toys was a night time routine.

Drawing of Whiskey done on iPad

I’ve had many pets in my life, and not to disparage any of them, but I don’t think any have enriched my life as much as Whiskey did. Growing up I had only cats, and although I have nothing against cats, their personalities typically don’t allow you to become as attached as you do to a dog. Knowing that I had my girl, my home, and my dog has given me a ton of inspiration when I’ve gone through rough times. I am going to miss him immensely. At this point, it still feels strange to leave the house or come home to it, because I’m not putting Whiskey in his crate or letting him out. The little memories are the toughest things to deal with for me. Every time I remember something he did or see something that was his, I feel a little squeeze in my chest. I know this is how loss feels, but it’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with it.

Feel free to leave some comments here and share your memories of Whiskey.

Goodbye, Doggen. You were one of the all-time greats.

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