Chip, or his official name given at birth Prince Chip Harris, made an impact on our family from the day he arrived. Today was his last day with us. In what was one of the most excruciating decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life, Tuesday night I emailed our vet that it was time. They called the next morning and were very kind and understanding as we scheduled our last day with him.
My wife Jennifer and I had struggled to get pregnant. We had just moved to Pike Road, Alabama from West Monroe, Louisiana to be closer to my family. I had changed jobs 3 times in rapid succession upon arriving in town, Jennifer had changed once too. To say there was a lot of stress in our life would be an understatement.
We jointly decided though that we wanted a puppy. A small puppy that could live in our house and not shed everywhere. We already had two large dogs in the backyard and a cat in the house that desperately wanted to not be there any longer. Adding a puppy probably made the least logical sense but we were excited.
I found him In the local paper. CKC Shih-Tsu puppies are ready for Valentine’s Day. We went over to the family’s house and there were multiple little Chips. One little boy broke away from the pack and went to Jennifer. She picked him up and right there and then we knew that little guy was ours. I pulled out our camera and snapped a picture of our new addition.
Jennifer is a teacher so days before he came home she had her class help pick his name. The rules were simple, it must be a boy’s name, and it must have a Disney movie connection. He could have been an Aladdin, Simba, or a host of other names but Chip won. Chip, the little cup from the Beauty and the Beasts movie to be exact. His name was very fitting as our boy was going to be small and this particular movie was one of Jennifer’s favorites.
Social media was a burgeoning new tool, so I decided Chip needed his own profile. I helped him sign up of course, and soon after he had 100’s of friends. Most were his momma’s students, many of which are still friends of his to this day.
Being that he was our baby, Chip even went on trips with us. We drove to the Tennesse mountains that following Thanksgiving and Chip went along for the ride. A trip to Mississippi to visit family. Summers meant nieces and nephews at the house. Lots of little fingers to nibble on! But little did he know he was in for a big change soon…
Chip was 3 years old when in the summer of 2008 Jennifer and I learned that we were going to be welcoming two babies into our house in the spring. Chip was going to be a big brother.
I remember well the first day that we brought JC and Sidney home, we laid them on the floor in blankets and introduced them to Chip. He carefully walked up to them with his nose twitching breathing in all of the new smells. They would make little noises and he’d bounce back in surprise.
It wasn’t long before his protective instincts kicked in. These were our babies so they were his babies too. He’d sit in between them watching any person who wanted to come near.
As they grew and became more mobile he’d be so patient as they’d grab a fist full of fur or take a gentle pull on his tail. Never a growl or a bark, it just came in the job description.
His favorite time was when they got fed. Little giggles filled the room as he patiently waited for little hands to grab their food and release it for him to clean up. Rarely did we have to clean the floor and Chip may have gained a little weight during that time too.
As life continued the same thing happened to Chip that happens to us all. It became harder to go up and down the stairs. His hearing faded. His eyes began to fail him too leaving him reliant on feeling his way around the house. When he resigned himself to not being able to hop on the bed any longer, it began to feel like the end was near. Long faded the desire to be held, petted, or even to go for a walk. Aging is a cruel process.
At 16 years of age – we were left with a choice no one ever wants to make. At what point is it the right time to end his pain? I wish I could say there was an easy answer because we looked for it. In the end, it’s all the things that let us know that now is the time. Truthfully, we put it off for months hoping selfishly that death would come in his sleep releasing us from having to make this choice.
Our veterinary office has a page on their website that explained what to expect. The date was set for Saturday, March 19, 2022, at 11 am.
We broke the news to JC and Sidney and they were brave. Tears were shed but they knew it was time too.
At the suggestion of a friend we decided to plan the best morning that Chip would have loved, more for us, than for him at this point.
We started with a bath. Can’t have our boy going out and not being clean and smelling his best. After drying him off he got a bone to chew on. His teeth were fewer in number than they used to be but he gnawed a little on it and moved it around.
Afterward, we loaded up in the truck and Chip sat in back in between his children. We rode up to Chick-fil-a in East Chase to get our favorite breakfast like we used to do every Saturday morning together. Today, Chip got his own box of hash browns to eat all by himself.
Our next stop was the dog park. Just last year he would follow us around but today he just did circles. He didn’t know where he was or what to do so we all stood there in the chilly air.
A lady at the park asked Sidney how old Chip was. Sidney replied, “16.” She didn’t know what day this was for us and him but her reply hit home. “I hope my dog lives that long”. She was absolutely right, we were amazingly blessed to have Chip for as long as we did.
After a while, we got back in the truck to head to our next stop. Maybe I just wasn’t ready but today felt like a good day to ride through the park. Over the bridge we went to the museum then to the Shakespeare Festival before looping back to Vaughn Road.
We passed a Starbucks on the way there and decided to get him a pupacino. Basically, it’s whip cream in a cup. He stuck his tiny snout in the cup and licked as much out as he could out.
We arrived at the vet and Jennifer asked like she would any other day “Are you ready?” JC immediately broke down and said “No.” I jumped out of the truck and hugged him and began to cry. Jennifer wrapped Chip in a blanket and the four of us entered the vet clinic all crying together.
They escorted us without a word to a room they had prepared. There was a blanket laid across the exam table and we placed Chip on it. We gathered around him and told our favorite stories. I told about how he would stand on his front two feet with his hiney in the air while he ate when he was a puppy. Jennifer told us about the time he got out of the house and I ran down the street holding my pants up as they fell with a flip flop in my hand yelling “Chip!!!” We talked about why God gives us animals and that it was our time to comfort him and thank him for being there for us.
Our voices broke in between the tears but it was time. We let them know that we were ready as we could be.
The assistant walked into the room and told us what would happen next. He was taken back to get an IV. When he returned, Dr.Tanner was there with him. He was given a shot to relax him. Chip who had been pacing now calmed down and laid on the table. The final shot was given and his breathing slowed. We thanked him over and over and told him how much he was loved as all four of us petted him and cried. After some time, we covered his little body in the blanket we brought and left a little piece of us there.
I told myself as I laid in bed the other night listening to his nails click on the tile floor that I’m not going to miss hearing that. I’m not going to miss his soft kisses on a fresh wound. I’m not going to miss him riding on my left knee as I drove around town running errands. I’m not going to miss him cleaning our floors. But I know it’s a lie. Chip will be missed for these reasons and so many more. So many more that I still don’t even realize all the ways he impacted our lives.
Thank you, Prince Chip Harris. Thank you for choosing us.