Monday, October 13, 2008

Bear with Me

Okay so I know not everyone is an animal lover. But I happen to be a huge animal lover - well to most animals anyways - well actually - mostly a dog lover. If you've never had a dog, it will probably be difficult to understand what I'm about to write about and I'm well aware that if you're one of those people, you'll probably roll your eyes and click the X button to close out - I'm okay with that! This is for the people that are dog lovers.

2 years ago today, I had to make a very big decision. It was actually Friday the 13th. The Saturday before the 13th, my pup, who was 11 years old (who most people mistook for a puppy because of her exuberant personality), had started breathing abnormally. Monday morning, I took her to the vet. She had a heart murmur that had showed up a few months before after a very bad episode with her eating chocolate. She spent several days being treated (they had to slow her heart down with medication) and as a result of how bad her reaction was (she was 9 pounds and ate 6 packets of hot chocolate mix) she had a heart murmur. The vet told me that she had congestive heart failure- very common at her age and with the murmur but many dogs can live with this for their entire lives. We started medication to control the symptoms - and went on our way.

Two days later, I noticed it wasn't better. She was panting constantly and clearly uncomfortable. I contacted the vet again, and he recommended I see a heart specialist. I immediately called the heart specialist, who couldn't fit us in until the following Monday. We had no other options, so I went along with it.

Two days later, now Thursday, I woke up and burst into tears. Bitsy was clearly uncomfortable and something wasn't right. I called the vet again. He offered for me to take her to the emergency specialist out in Virginia. Ian had spent the night the night before, and because I was so upset, decided to take the morning off of work and go with me to the specialist.

We got there, signed all this paperwork, got an estimate for the visit (aka - I thought I'd have to sell my organs to pay for the treatment) and we left her there. We got home around 11 am and just as Ian was going to head off to work, he decided to stick around to have some lunch. By about 12:30, I got the phone call.

The doctor started off by saying what a charmer my little pup was - that she was wagging her tail and so happy to be fussed over. She then said she had good and bad news. Good news - no congestive heart failure. Bad news - they did an x-ray and found tiny white spots all over both lungs, with one large one at the corner where the artery connects to the heart. As the blood was rushing through, little pieces of the tumor were breaking off. Essentially, she was bleeding internally. She said she was having trouble breathing and that if we could have an oxygen chamber (a little box that enables pets to receive oxygen) in our home, that she could breathe normally and act completely normally until she dies on her own, but that since we can't have that type of machine in our home, the only option was to put her down.

I dropped the phone and for the first time lost complete control. Ian knew what was going on before I even told him. He held me like he had never held me before. We cried together as we drove to pick her up from the emergency vet. As sad as I was, all I could think of was that I wanted to get to her.

They brought her out and she was so excited to see us - body wiggling, tail wagging, smile showing. She had an extremely rare trait - she smiled enormously. I wish I could describe it - it looked like she was pulling her lip up to bite, but was in fact smiling. She would snort when she did this as well. I grabbed her and held her the entire way home. She LOVED being in the car, and especially loved putting her entire head out the window for the ride, whether it was 10 degrees or 100 degrees. I opened the window and held as much of her body out the window as I felt comfortable. I wanted her to enjoy every last second.

She acted almost normally for the first couple hours we were back home - clearly being in the oxygen tank had helped her. But she soon went downhill again. I had made an appointment the next morning with my regular vet for the dreaded task. Once she started breathing badly and panting, I think she knew. All she wanted was to lay in her crate, sucking on her toy. I held her, sat next to her crate and pet her. A few friends came to see us. Apparently she touched some of my friend's lives (or my friends simply knew how crazy about this little thing I was).

I cooked her a gourmet meal and fed her any treat she wanted. I figured, if she going tomorrow I might as well make her happy. We walked her and sat outside. Seeing how upset Ian was really showed me something about how much he loved me, but especially about what this pup was all about. She had a way of getting to people. Ian really hated her the first few months he was around. But she was determined to get to him just like she had with our family. She'd sit with him to help eat ice cream, or snuggle with him. She won - she got to him alright.

Normally, she slept with me in bed. But that week she had been too weak to jump up onto the bed and was much more comfortable in her bed in her crate. I had been waking up every couple hours to check on her. I was startled in the middle of the night by something waking me. I opened my eyes and she was laying next to me on my pillow, waiting for me to open my eyes. As soon as my eyes opened, she attacked me with kisses and her big smile. This is how she often woke me up on weekends - staring in my face smiling and snorting until I'd open my eyes. Then she'd attack me with affection. I think she wanted to do it one last time. We woke up the next morning and she had jumped up on the bed to snuggle with Ian one last time. Call me crazy - but I firmly believe she knew.

We took her to the vet and waited. The vet was nice enough to schedule us when they had no other patients. I was an absolute mess. My mom was out of town, but Ian and my Dad were there with me. Both guys kept their sunglasses on to keep looking tough. But there was no hiding my sadness. I didn't care what I looked like or looking tough. My Dad kept asking if I was sure I wanted to be there. There was no question about it - I wanted to be there. I held her as she was sedated. She was calm and just laid in my arms. She went very peacefully. The vet then just left us alone. We all sat and cried.

I had grown up with tons of dogs in our house. But not one had quite touched me like she did. She was unique, loving, and truly a (wo)man's best friend. Friends came and went, boyfriends too, and even on my most grouchy days, she was there for me. If she heard me cry, or sense my sadness, she would come sit with me, snuggle, make me laugh. Even after I'd gone off to college and my mom would take care of her, as soon as I stepped foot in the house, she was back to being my pup. I was incredibly sad for weeks, even months after I put her down. But I was comforted knowing that I had done the right thing. I had taken care of her.

To this day, even though Tessa is a huge part of our lives, I don't think anything will compare to that cute pup that so touched my heart. And if you've made it this far, thank you for continuing to listen to my little tribute to her. I sometimes think I'm crazy for thinking that an animal could touch my life to such an extent - but she did, and I can't deny that. I truly miss her.


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  2. i remember that little pink Ralph Lauren shirt!

  3. wow i cant believe its been 2 years! bitsy was a great dog, i remember when you showed up at my door with the horrible news, i was so upset. its great to have such wonderful pets in our memories, i still cry over missing lucky!

  4. Ack - I'm crying at work!

    See - its the bond I've formed with my dogs that turned me vegetarian. People don't seem to understand it but after looking my dogs in the eyes and truly sensing that they have feelings... I just couldn't stomach eating a cow, a pig, a chicken, etc.

  5. This post totally touched my heart because I have recently gone through the same thing (I say recently but it was one year in April). She was 12 and beautiful and affected my life so profoundly and positively. Isn't it amazing what an impact our dogs can have on our lives? *Hugs*

  6. I loved her smile!!

    I remember that week and how hard it was for you...she was so special and will luckily always hold a great place in your heart!

  7. I'll never be able to forget what a precious little pup Bitsy was and how special she was to you. She was truly YOUR dog from day 1. And she truly had a lot of your personality.
    I also regret that I was not here with you during those last days. Even though I came home early I would have liked to have spent the last days with Bitsy because she was so special to all of us. You are right. There will never be another dog like her, whether she was going to empty my purse out or smiling or taking a year to housebreak. She was a bichon who thought she was a doberman but she loved people. We will all miss her.

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