It is with tremendous sorrow that Frank and I (and Unca David) must tell you that our beloved beagle, Bayley Murphey, passed away this evening, at 5:35 p.m. PST, Friday, 2-March-07, age 12 years and 6 months.

Bayley had been slowing down considerably in the last six months, but we chalked that up to advancing age and didn’t think much more of it, because he still seemed to be his same old familiar self. But he started getting seriously ill — and being seriously and observably not himself — about three weeks ago. He started drinking way more water than usual, shivering and shaking a lot, losing his appetite and also losing weight, becoming listless and lethargic, and eventually spending most of the day asleep and having to be carried up and down the stairs even to do his business.

Before we went to sleep on the morning of February 28, we had put him to bed in his usual spot between us as usual — intending to take him to a vet this weekend to see what was wrong — and at 2:30 a.m., he started having a frightening and intense seizure, unlike anything either of us had ever seen before. We rushed him to the emergency care facility in Antioch and were told that he had acute renal failure, cause unknown, and was blind from the seizure. The blindness would clear up in a couple of hours, but more seizures were possible. Acute renal failure is usually seen in dogs who have consumed anti-freeze, but if he had ingested something like that, it would have happened very quickly, not spread over three weeks. We will never know the exact cause, but other than the possibility of a toxic plant or chemical in the back yard, it was most likely due to his age. We had known that something was strange with him but had no way of knowing that it was anything this bad.

The emergency hospital took care of him for five hours, and then we took him to a regular vet in Brentwood when they opened. That vet was not optimistic and put him on a course of IV fluids and antibiotics for 48 hours, and we took him home during the evenings. I stayed up through the night with him while he continued fluid infusions on an IV line. Unfortunately, Bayley’s blood counts, though they did improve, didn’t bounce back enough to justify continuing to put him through all of this. He didn’t get any stronger and couldn’t/wouldn’t eat anything. By the end of this week he had already lost 15 pounds and was quite weak. The poisons were building in his body again.

After work on Friday night, with the vet telling us that Bayley had “hit the wall,” we concluded that putting him to sleep was the only realistic alternative to letting him die a slow and agonizing death, probably from starvation. Before this illness, we had hoped that he would eventually just get older and die in his sleep one day, sparing all of us this kind of situation, but unfortunately, it was not to be. I signed the euthanasia order, a very painful moment.

We were able to spend a final hour or so with him, saying goodbye. Finally, I told the vet we were ready, and Unca Frankie, Unca David, and I gathered around him holding him. I held his head and talked to him as the vet slid the injection syringe into the IV line. It was over in less than 10 seconds. He died very peacefully, sliding away into sleep as I held his head.

Because I don’t want to leave him behind in California if (when!) we get to leave, Bayley will be cremated and his ashes returned to us within two weeks.

Thanks for bearing with me through this long and difficult e-mail. And to those of you who welcomed Bayley into your homes from time-to-time, or befriended him during visits to our home, thank you for taking him into your heart. We miss him terribly. It’s amazing the impact a little dog can have on your life, and the hole that results from his passing.

Give your animals (or kids, or spouses, or even a stranger on the street) a hug. Life is all too fleeting and short.

Frank wrote the following to our friends in LA, and it’s a nice coda: “Lord Byron once described a deceased dog as “one who possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices.” Those words better describe Bayley than any I could come up with.”