The Gilsey Dogs

My husband Fred listens to you all the time; I am more of a moderate, Sorry!

We are dog lovers. As a matter of fact, we have three shelter dogs, Herbie, Bailey and Stella. We adopted Herbie from the local SPCA after we had to put our beloved Smokey to sleep (Smokey found us in December, 1984 – she was sitting on Fred’s welcome mat outside his apartment in Paterson, NJ). We adopted Bailey from the local Humane Society after we had to put our much loved Taffy to sleep (Taffy also found us – in the parking lot of Fred’s apartment complex in February, 1987, a few weeks before our wedding). In 2005 we adopted Stella after seeing her picture in a pet boutique in Long Branch requesting a new home because her current owner could not keep her. It turned out that we knew Stella’s human dad’s sister. Now we are all one happy, loud, rambunctious family, which also includes our 16 year old daughter, Amanda.

I bought your book; actually I felt compelled to buy the book. I tried to call your show on Thursday, November 8th (“Joanne from New Jersey”). I was disconnected three times and was finally to be put through except that the show ended. I was terribly disappointed. I wanted to share some advice with you and siblings your listeners concerning animal “siblings” when one of them needs to be put to sleep. When the unfortunate time comes it is important for the surviving animal siblings to be present and have an opportunity to say good bye by being close to and sniffing their dearly departed friend. We learned this the hard way.

In January of 2001 our adored Taffy needed to be put to sleep. The day before she became very ill (she was 14 years old) and I took her to the vet. The vet determined that she was bleeding internally and that her organs were shutting down and she was in pain. When I received this news Fred was at work. In 1999 we needed to put Smokey to sleep. Fred and I were with her and Fred held her. As you know, it was the most difficult thing we had ever had to do. When the time came with Taffy and Fred was at work I was beside myself and did not know if was strong enough to be Taffy’s “rock” but I knew I had to be there for her. I could not let her go through this alone. As difficult as it was I needed to be with her, hold her and tell her how much we loved her. Waiting for Fred to come home was not an option. I called my friend Kathy who went with me and stayed with Taffy and me. I was so glad that I was able to put Taffy’s needs above my own feelings of sorrow and fright. I only hope that my being there was a comfort to her. She trusted and loved me and I hope that I did not let her down. I am glad that her last thoughts included my holding and comforting her.

Unfortunately, I did not consider the impact this would have on Herbie who only knew that his buddy Taffy had been taken away the day before. As the days went by Herbie became extremely depressed. We had noticed this with Taffy after Smokey, which is why we adopted Herbie in the first place. Seeing the pain Herbie was in I decided to go to the Humane Society just to look. As you know, just looking is nearly impossible therefore, home came Bailey. Poor Fred was again at work and Amanda was at school. While they were away, I found Bailey, brought Herbie to meet him and proceeded to bring Bailey home. Herbie immediately liked Bailey and they got along wonderfully, however Herbie’s missing Taffy changed him forever. He has remained a little distrustful and edgy. I think he still wonders what happened to his friend. Maybe somewhere in the back of his mind he does not trust me quite so much anymore.

Some time later, I think perhaps I was reading a pet advice column where someone was explaining a similar problem. The advice the columnist gave was to have the other animal(s) present during the “procedure”. It makes perfect sense. Animals are extremely perceptive. Nature has given them the ability to cope with the different phases of life and death. They cannot speak therefore they need to have coping skills to help them maneuver all that life entails, which of course would include death and dying.

Last summer, my in-laws needed to put their beloved Cocoa to sleep. Cocoa was a 14 year old chocolate lab with a three year old sister, Maggie, a lab mix. Maggie was extremely attached to Cocoa. I told them that Maggie needed to be present when they put Cocoa to sleep. My brother-in-law was skeptical, but my sister-in-law, a nurse, saw the necessity and sense in having Maggie there. They brought Cocoa and Maggie to the vet. Maggie, who is normally quite rambunctious, as is any three year old lab mix, was quite subdued. She stayed close to Cocoa. After it was done, Maggie went over to sniff Cocoa and put her head on Cocoa’s. She was quiet but miraculously seemed to understand. When they brought Maggie home she was still quiet but she went over to all of Cocoa’s favorite places and would lay down in some. The next day she was back to her old self. I am sure she recovered so quickly because she was able to understand what happened to Cocoa and to say good bye.

As you can imagine, I have many dog stories, which would only be natural after having five dogs plus taking over the care of my parents’ chocolate lab, Obie in 1996 after my mother died and my father was unable to care for him (he was 14 when he came to us). In 1996 we had Smokey, who was 13, Taffy, who was 11 and Obie, who was 14. We were affectionately known as the geriatric home for dogs. We certainly became experts on how to care for older dogs.

I just wanted to share what I consider important advice for families with multiple pets. I hope it helps.

In the meantime, I am reading your book a little bit at a time. I need to take a break because it brings back so many memories, both happy and sad. I felt much the same way about the book “Marley and Me”.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

Joanne from NJ

4 Responses

  1. Marc Says:


    Like you, we had two dogs and one had to be put down. Fang and his sister, Sarah, had a close bond. Rather than thinking that Fang was depressed because he didn’t know what had happened to his sister, I believe that dogs can communicate in ways that we humans don’t understand and that he did know what happened. So no one has to beat themselves up if they’re thinking that they may have done the wrong thing by not taking the other dog along. Maybe that would have been even more traumatic. We don’t know.

  2. The Fischer's Says:

    Yeah Joanne!!! I know this famous woman. This is a great writing!

  3. The Fischer's Says:

    Yeah Joanne!!! I know this famous woman. What a great writer!

  4. The Fischer's Says:

    Yeah Joanne!!! I know this famour woman. What a great writer!