For us, at Hungry Dog Heaven, the birth of a new year provides us a chance to offer love and hope to our four-legged friends struggling through the long, cold nights of winter. Those four-legged friends aching for a warm home, a big heart and the promise of security.
As Hungry Dog Heaven celebrates the ten year anniversary (!!!) of our very first batch of cookies, we want to honor those who have shared our love and compassion for animals. Friends like Missy and John, who have been tireless advocates for displaced pets, in particular those mistreated and abandoned due to the perpetual problem of breed discrimination. Friends we have never met in person, yet have been so very fortunate to have in our canine-loving circle. In 2009, when my "brother", Chaos (a 150+ lb. Cane Corso), injured his leg and accumulated thousands of dollars of medical expenses, it was Missy that rallied a virtual community to make generous contributions to my family. Their compassion continues to remind me of the goodness of people.
On Christmas, when we were surrounded by the warmth of our family (two and four-legged alike), Missy and John were at the emergency vet making the most difficult decision a pet parent ever has to make. A day for joy and celebration, for this family, will always carry with it the memory of Mugsy's final moments and the deep sadness and emptiness that follows. We want to start the new year by honoring Mugsy, and his family.
Hungry Dog Heaven is pleased to debut the "In Memory of Mugsy" treat. Each bag has been specially priced to include a $1 dollar donation to Liberty Humane Society (serving Jersey City and Hoboken, NJ). In addition, during the month of January, Hungry Dog Heaven will donate an additional $1 per bag (plus our standard 3% charitable donation). If you would like to donate more, we've made it easy for you, too!
as told by his parents
Mugsy was supposed to be a cute pocketbook dog, but that idea didn’t last too long. At the local shelter, where Mugsy was dropped off that very day back in 2003, he was a tiny, blue eyed, five-week-old being fed formula from a bottle. The shelter staff estimated that he would grow to be maybe 35 pounds. How could I resist?
I couldn’t! As John stayed at the shelter, I ran to the nearest ATM to get the cash I needed to take Mugsy home. Being bowled over by puppy breath, it was SO incredibly easy to fall in love with Mugsy but he was not always easy to live with. Separated from his mother at five weeks, there were other details of his short life we would never know – but we saw evidence of something traumatic when his fear aggression began to take shape.
Our first vet had no bedside manner, did not greet Mugsy appropriately and immediately expressed his anal glands…at which point Mugsy turned into Cujo. Office visits were never the same after that – after struggling to muzzle him and failing, sprawled on the floor of the examining room, John and I were told they would not enter the room and would no longer treat Mugsy. Um, “Thanks.”
We were leaving on a plane in a few short hours headed for London and Paris. That office visit put a damper on the vacation where we left as a dating couple and came back engaged – but came back encouraged when John found a vet that was willing to bend over backwards to treat Mugsy and help us.
We were both 100% devoted to Mugsy and committed to working with him. There were nights I cried because he was so difficult; when he chewed the sofa or the entire club size package of toilet paper; what neighbor did he lunge at and cause one of us to fall and get dragged, etc. But, we didn’t give up.
We drove 30 minutes to training classes for 4 months. We saw a behaviorist, who gave us no encouragement, but still we moved forward, with Mugsy on his gentle leader at our side. Call us crazy, but we brought home another rescue, Maddie, even after we were told Mugsy should be in a single pet home. For weeks we would sit in the kitchen, each with a dog on a leash, letting them sniff each other, pull apart, interact and pull apart. We praised heavily, we treated heavily and all along Maddie was just clueless girl. “Come on! how could he not love me?”
And you know what? Mugsy did come around! It took a long time with tons of effort and doubts that it might not work…but we never gave up on him. I recall our immense sense of pride when both dogs chewed their treats on the same dog bed at the same time!
Once we discovered we were expecting our first child, we were flooded with concerned family, friends and co-workers suggesting that maybe it was time to let Mugsy go. What would he do to the baby? Why risk it?
All we could think was they were crazy. We read up on what you should do – like bringing home the baby hat for the dogs to sniff...they sniffed and then found their spot on the bed for the night. When we did come home, what happened? Mugsy (at 80 pounds) and Maddie just started at Brendan in awe. When he cried, they jumped. When Maddie would be getting out of hand with her clumsiness, Mugsy would chase her away from Brendan. Mugsy shocked us when one night he placed his favorite pull-toy on Brendan while he was sleeping…Mugsy had found his boy! From then on Mugsy would lick, lick, lick Brendan’s hands and feet – we encouraged it. After Brendan’s first time eating baby cereral, Mugsy was there to clean up his face with kisses. Weekend mornings were filled with everyone cuddling in the bed while Brendan lifted his feet for Mugsy to lick. Then he would explode into deep belly laughs.
By the time we brought home our second son, Connor, Mugsy was a pro! He was a lucky dog to not only have one boy to love him but TWO! Right off the bat Mugsy showered Connor with kisses, checked on him when he cried and snuggled for naps with him on the sofa…what a full life we had.
On Christmas Eve, I actually had to chase Mugsy from trying to get into the boppy with Connor! Well it wasn’t much of a chase - it was a simple command of ‘off”. Mugsy just wanted to snuggle. How I wished we let him snuggle; little did we know that was the last night Mugsy would snuggle with any of us.
Mugsy was a little “off” the week before, but only for a day and then he was back to being his old self. We just thought that getting close to 8 years old was starting to slow him down some. As we prepared to set out for the holiday with family, John returned from the walk with Mugsy dragging his feet (knuckling) with very labored breathing. Once in the house, Musgy collapsed, legs splayed with a look of fear in his eyes.
Brendan teetered over, stepped on Mugsy’s tail, then gave him some big hard pets that Mugsy loved. I coaxed Mugsy into the kitchen with a Hungry Dog Heaven cookie (Mugsy’s favorite), since they just arrived the day before and then were open and within reach. That was Mugsy’s last meal.
What chaos our house was in a few short moments! But before I knew it, I was behind the wheel of my cousin’s truck driving Mugsy to the emergency vet, where I had convinced myself he would stay over night for some fluke thing and he would get better. There was no other option in my mind.
Mugsy, our long legged 80 pound pit-bull-mix, with fear aggression, who was the sweetest dog if you knew him, was put to rest while John and I cradled him and told him what a wonderful dog he was and how we loved him.
Upon initial examination Mugsy had an elevated heart rate, a low temperature and pale gums. We were told he must be bleeding internally. We consented to x-rays and could hear our weak pooch giving them a hard time through the wall, but then it got quiet and the vet came back. In addition to the x-ray that showed a massive tumor on Mugsy’s spleen, she had a huge syringe filled with blood that was from Mugsy’s abdominal cavity. Everything pointed to a splenic tumor that was most likely hemangiosarcoma (an aggressive cancer). Even with it removed and chemotherapy, Mugsy would have been looking at maybe 6 more months. We were not comforted when the vet explained that there was nothing we missed - that we could not have changed the point we were currently at.
Most likely, Mugsy had a bleed a week before and it stopped and he returned to normal. But we only had two choices Christmas Day: 1) stop his suffering now; or 2) have him transported to another hospital for an emergency surgery to have the spleen removed. But there were no guarantees that Mugsy was even strong enough for that. So with tears streaming down our faces we made the decision to end Mugsy’s suffering and to allow him to pass with dignity, in our arms on Christmas Day 2010.
Mugsy was not easy-going. He was high-strung, fear-aggressive, and automatically black- listed because he was part bully-breed. He made vacation planning and company in our home a challenge and sometimes downright impossible. With our love and devotion he became the kindest and gentlest dog around our two sons. He never once tried to eat them (LOL), and even accepted the clumsy love of an almost -two -year old boy as he was dying. He did not ‘lock his jaws’ and maul us…he just stole our hearts forever and will always be our ‘gentle giant’.
The reality is that Mugsy was taken from our family too early. But, we would like turn our sorrow into an opportunity to spread the message that having a child doesn’t mean you have to give up your dog. In fact, even with Mugsy’s fear of strangers, he was able to prove that is not the case. All it takes is patience, love and supervision and you too can have a loving family that can include a family dog.