(November 11th, 1998-September 25th, 2016)
Where to start?
We said goodbye to our beloved little Bichon Frise, boy, Finnigan today, just 47 days before he would have turned 18. It seemed somehow fitting to say goodbye today because it was St. Francis of Assisi’s annual Blessing of the Animals at St Wesley’s United Church. We‘ve attended many times over the years, but last year felt extra special because he was so old and the minister was so loving and compassionate to him, and to me, when I started to cry. I knew then that our days together were numbered.
And I guess I already knew that the day we adopted him, on November 7th, 2009 just two days before his 11th birthday. We never dreamed he’d be with us for 7 years or how much happiness, sunshine & light he’d bring us once he got healthy, felt safe & secure, and loved by us.
His name was Fingili, which is Persian for love. Obviously someone had loved him for some of his life, but he was in sad, neglected shape when we came upon him. Grossly overweight, he’d just had many decayed teeth removed and was a drooling mess. He’d also had numerous pre-cancerous moles taken off so he was full of shaved spots and stitches. His soft fur was bedraggled looking and he just seemed so in need of some love. And love him we did.
We had a 14 year old Bichon gal named Casey at that time. Adding a Finnigan to the family seemed apropos. He loved her, she tolerated him. At first he was so overweight he could barely keep up with her, but as the days passed, and we continued to walk and build up his stamina, the pounds melted away and he became a healthy 16 pound guy. For two wonderful years we were blessed with the Mr. Dressup duo of Casey and Finnigan. They were good company for each other…he irritated her as his playful, happy little man personality bloomed, but she put up with him and his attempts to engage her in play. She had no interest in him and his tiny squeaky toys, but he tried nevertheless.
When we lost Casey at Christmas in 2011, Finnigan was 13 years old. We were all so lost without her. She was the alpha and he lost his walking buddy. It didn’t take long for us to realize we needed another gal and just two months later, on February 7th, 2012, a 9 year old Bichon gal named Pixie came from Chicago to join our family. Pixie and Finnigan became a strong bonded pair and he bloomed with a new gal in the family. We all did.
These two were great friends and became the eyes and ears for one another as Pixie lost her hearing shortly after she came to us and Finnigan started to lose his eyesight around that time, too. They spent their days walking with me each morning to my neighborhood café for my daily latte, curled up on the red chair in the window waiting for us to come home, enjoying the warm, sunny winters in Palm Springs, riding on the backs of our bikes in their little seats, and boating beautiful B.C. during the summers aboard our boat, the aptly named “FInnigan’s Wake”. We had so many adventures together.
When you adopt seniors you know your days together might be compromised by their age and health but none of us were prepared to say goodbye to Pixie just three short years later, on February 26th, 2015, from cancer. I believe this was even harder on Finnigan than us, because his companion who he walked with, whose lead he followed to “show him the way” was gone. It was devastating. Here we were, trying to prepare ourselves for the fact that our senior guy, who was 16.5 years old at the time, was likely getting close to the end of his life, and instead, we lose our younger gal who was just 12. Clearly Finnigan wasn’t ready to go anywhere without us!
We found out, about a year ago, that his back legs were developing major atrophy when he started to stumble a lot when he walked. His heart was very healthy, but his legs were becoming weaker. Still, we all soldiered on, just slower and for shorter distances. His eyesight was poor then, but he could still see mostly just light and dark and shadows. Although he’d slowed down through 2015, he was still happy, quite healthy, and just the sweetest, cuddliest, little monkey you could imagine. It was a sad day for us last year when his eyesight became poor enough that we noticed he couldn’t play with his toys anymore.
With those little back legs becoming weaker, and his eyesight becoming ever less, the crazy thing is that he could still go up the stairs in our house each morning, part of his daily routine, until the end of February this year! After that time, he would attempt to come up, and when he couldn’t complete what he was determined to do, he’d bark at us until we came and carried him up. We were all trained!
Of course this story leaves out so many endearing details about his life, his likes, his amazingly happy personality. How we’d make a “gun” with our fingers and shout bang at him and he’d fall over onto his side, but how he could never play dead because he was just too happy and excited for the treat awaiting him when he pulled off his trick, so he’d really just fall over and pop right back up. How he’d beg for food by sitting up on his butt and frantically wave his paws at us, in perfect unison, and then let out an ear piercing shriek if he was not rewarded with a tidbit or two. Or how he’d try to hang way out the window when we were in the car because he LOVED the wind in his face. Or how he always slept on one of the pillows above our heads and every morning, really, really early, he’d crawl under the covers and curl up against my husband’s body and sleep tucked into him. Or how he’d jump up on the dining room chairs when we were eating, plop his butt down on the chair and place his paws on the table, awaiting what he thought should be his own suppertime… or how he’d climb up on the furniture and drape his arm over the armrest while more or less sitting upright as if to say, “Yes, I appreciate the furniture and all the comforts it has to offer.” Or how happy he was to be in his little seat on the back of our bikes as we rode around town. Or how he’d bring his teeny squeaky toys over to us again and again to play with him. Or how he’d try to crawl into Casey or Pixie’s bed with them and make them furious, because he wanted a snuggle, even though they weren’t interested in snuggling with him. Or how excited he’d get when daddy came home every night and he’d greet him at the door with a lick and then tear into the kitchen because he knew it also meant suppertime. Or how he’d let us do anything to him – dress him up in silly costumes – whatever we wanted to do, he was up for it because he was just that kinda’ easy going little man. So many memories that I can’t even mention them all here.
So here we are. Over a year and a half later after saying goodbye to our beloved Pixie, and now he’s letting us know that he’s tired. His hind legs get weaker as the days go by, his appetite has decreased over the past month (and eating was his favorite thing on the planet. We could tell the time of day by Finnigan’s meal clock!) and he sleeps most of the time. Some nights he can be unsettled and restless for several hours during the evening. Even with all of that progressing, he is still a happy, sweet little guy. So soft & fluffy. He still looks like a little bear cub & not the old man that he is, until you notice that his big brown eyes have turned a milky blue as his cataracts have advanced. Our little man loves to have his chin scratched and to have his ears massaged. He is less sure of himself in the house these days, so doesn’t really like being on the furniture anymore, but when he’s sleepy he still loves a good pillow nest on the bed. When our two Bichon gals, Tilly and Lily, bark with excitement and happiness when we come home, he wakes up and comes to the door to bark with excitement and happiness, too, even if we’re not sure that he really has a clue about what’s going on.
If we are lucky enough, most days he still happily greets us with a bit of a tail wag and a lick on the hand or all over our faces, just like he used to do every morning when he woke up on our bed, and every time we came home. I still walk through the door every day, look for him and say, “Hey little buddy.” He responds to that by stumbling over, with his funny gaited walk, and letting us cuddle him. Then he wants his treat!
There wasn’t a person who met Finnigan that didn’t fall in love with him…friends, relatives, neighbors, his facebook peeps…he was known as the little guy with the smile. There are too many “Finnigan Fans” to mention them all, but you know who you are!
What can I say to help people move forward and adopt a senior? You will not be disappointed if you do. Your days with them may be shorter than if you adopt a younger dog, but every one of those days will be so full of love and sunshine that you can’t imagine not having them in your life! Please remember that life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
My darling boy, Finnigan, each day with you was a gift. You have been a precious bundle of fluff that made our lives happier & fuller with you in it, and made us better people by teaching us that unconditional love comes to us in all ages. We are thankful that we adopted you, but more thankful that you adopted us.
Your heart is pure and your soul is free. We will always love you and never forget you. I expect that your Bichon sisters, Casey and Pixie, will be waiting for you and that some day we will all meet again. R.I.P. Mr. Man, our special guy Mr. Figgliggy.
Goodnight little Prince.
Love you forever, Mommy and Daddy David