Unshelved comic strip for 12/23/2004

Goodbye Tella

Here at the Barnacle household there are a lot of tears and shaking of heads after the sudden death of our beloved dog Tella late last night.

Nutella was a 7 year old chocolate Labrador Retriever. She was Sara's and my first baby. She was a well travelled dog, having visited 38 states and one province on our cross-country RV trip. Sara did extensive obedience training with her and it showed. She was a well-behaved dog, especially for a Labrador, who knew lots of tricks both useful (walking in heal) and fun (balancing a cookie on her nose and barking on command). Tella was so gentle with children that many dogless friends used her to help get their kids used to dogs. Our 17-month old daughter could take Tella for a walk on her leash without fear of being bowled over. Tella loved to dress up. Well maybe not, but she tolerated Sara's annual Halloween costume tradition with good grace, appearing as a Reese's Peanut Butter Dog, a Tootsie Roll, and most recently as the Sugar Plum Fairy, tutu and all.

Last night Tella had just greeted us all and enjoyed her favorite experience - eating a bowl of food - when she suddenly collapsed and gradually stopped breathing. I checked for choking and attempted to administer CPR, but that massive labrador chest made it impossible to even find the heart, and she died in my arms. We rushed her to the animal emergency clinic anyway, but when I lifted her limp body to the car I knew it was already too late. The emergency room vet said it was likely a heart attack, and that there wasn't anything we could have done. It was hard to see her die, but I'm certainly glad we all didn't come home half an hour later.

We had Sara's brother Damon bring the (very sleepy) children to say goodbye. Theo, who has always had Tella around, seems mostly to understand what has happend and cried a little last night, but one of his remaining neurological issues revolves around feeling emotions, and so it's not clear if he'll really experience even a four year old's version of grief. Rosie seems too young to understand what has happened, but she loved Tella and I'm sure she'll miss her presence. Sara and I are devastated. Tella leaves behind a gaping doggy-shaped hole in our life.

Last night it seemed impossible to want to celebrate Christmas, but now I'm cautiously looking forward to some happy times.

This Unshelved strip

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