April 8th wasn’t supposed to be a day I’d always remember, but it was a day I knew would always come. For the last couple of months, my four legged fur baby – Pogo (or how I often called Pogo-leeg) was sleeping a bit more than usual. He celebrated his 14th birthday on February 22nd, so I attested it to old age. I
have had two elderly dogs and they were both sleeping more. So why wouldn’t I think that? Then, the last few weeks things shifted.
Pogo had an upset tummy all the time. We gave him some probiotics and bland food. It seemed to help a bit, but then it came back. He has a heart condition, so I thought maybe this was a contributing factor. What does the heart have to do with his digestive system? I don’t know. I was trying to rationalize. Finally, 2 weeks ago we made an appointment for him to see his doctor last Saturday. We thought he had a parasite.
I google’d like crazy and although it seemed like it was going to be a bit of work to help him recover (if that’s what it was) it still seemed like he’d be ok. Looking back, I think a part of me knew it was something more but didn’t want to face it.
My husband took Pogo to the doctor. I couldn’t go. I get too anxious and cry for every little thing and in turn make my dogs even worse and more anxious. I told him to give me a play by play.
My husband called and said they found a tumor and were running blood work. They were thinking a million things and I kept asking “is it cancer?” “No, they don’t think so. It could be diabetes. It could be benign affecting his lymphnodes.” I breathed a tiny bit of relief and crossed my fingers. They were going to do an x-ray and run some more tests. I apprehensively looked at the clock because I Had to be at an open house in 1 hour. Was I going to need to cancel?
Then my husband called back and said it was cancer. That was the beginning of the tears for me – and I haven’t stopped since. But… he could live a long time with it and they’ll just keep an eye out. Maintain ‘quality of life’. Ok. I can do that. They sent him home with some meds for his upset tummy.
I’m not sure what happened that day. A part of me thinks Pogo went to the doctor and he knew we got the bad news and finally felt like he could make his way from this world. It’s what i tell myself. I’m probably full of it right now – but let me have that. I’m struggling to cope. Each day got worse and worse. He struggled to walk. He stopped eating. The meds weren’t helping one bit. He slept non stop and he barely lifted his head when I’d come into the room. This wasn’t like him. He was the one that was always by my side. When I worked in my office (like I am right now) he would either sit behind me on the chair (really uncomfortable, but who cares? he looked cute and was happy) or would be under my desk. When I came home, he’d be barking and at the door. I’d pick him up, walk over to the bed, and he’d nuzzle his head under my chin. (like a cat) and make grunting noises of joy. None of that happened anymore.
Thursday came. I called his doctor. I asked a lot of questions. We knew removing the tumor wasn’t an option. With his heart and age, he’d probably be worse off – if he even survived. I asked the questions. “Can you give him fluids through an iv? get his nutrition back? what about pain meds? anything else?” There wasn’t much they could do.
I called my husband. I was a mess. I was crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. I knew it was time but he said “let’s take him to the doc tomorrow and see if there’s anything they can do.” I made an appointment for 2pm. I started to rationalize. Pogo was a diva, he’s just faking it – right? He’ll be ok, right? He’s 14, Chihuahua’s live a long time. And then the other side of my mind – the ugly logical side. He has a tumor that’s taking up half his body. He is sleeping non stop. He’s lost 5 lbs in the last few weeks. (this would be like a human losing 60-70 lbs) But I guess we hold on.
I went to a work party that night. I wasn’t in the mood, but I needed to get out of my funk. I actually had a decent time while I was there. But cried all the way there and all the way back. When I got home, Pogo was worse. We put Jackson to bed that night and Larry and I stayed in our bed going back and forth until well into the morning. We knew it was time. We both realized it. We said our goodbyes – without saying goodbye. We loved on him so much that night. He didn’t respond much. He’d open his eyes and look at us, but go right back to sleep. We knew we’d be making that hard decision soon. I just don’t think we realized it would be within hours. I tried to go to sleep and woke up sick and having severe panic attacks. I was throwing up non stop. Larry dropped me off at the emergency. They gave me fluids and something to calm my nerves. It sort of worked. I thought I had food poisoning. Looking back, I know what it was. I was just broken hearted.
When I got home, we managed to sleep for a few hours. We still had plans to take Pogo to the vet at 2pm. We called Jackson’s school and said he’d be late. Neither of us had gotten a drop of sleep and felt it was safe to drive. I woke up at 10 am and showered. Then I checked on Pogo.
He was dying.
I knew he was. He looked so different. He was struggling to breathe. I called the vet – or I woke up my husband – I’m not sure which came first. And I said I didn’t think he’d make it until 2 pm. Mind you, the vet was now used to me calling bawling my eyes out. But they were so so so patient with me – and so kind and sympathetic.
They said they were booked out for the day, but we could come in whenever we wanted. They’d figure it out. Larry rushed Jackson to school. I took Pogo outside for the last time to potty. He came back in and lied down by the couch. I covered him with a towel and just pet him until Larry got there. I was watching him and honestly thought he would go at any moment. As we were driving to the vet, Pogo made a few gasps of air. I pet him and told him to hang on. We’d help him go peacefully.
I said “I can’t believe we’re going to be coming home empty handed.” Larry said “we may have to.” I think Larry was still holding onto hope – or trying to help me – I’m not sure. We got to the vet – and they walked us into the back room. They had the room set up, a blanket on the table so he’d be comfortable. Thank you – for not making him lie on a cold steel table.
I asked them to give him pain killers right away. They did – and he seemed to relax a bit. We spent some time alone with him in the room while they got the injections ready and Larry and I said our final goodbyes. Pogo knew what was about to happen – either because it was at our hands or he knew his time was up on his own.
They gave him a sedative first. I held his tiny head in my hands and he maintained eye contact with me the whole time until he fell asleep. I’m pretty sure I was talking to him – but I don’t remember what I was saying. I was calm – shockingly. Then, when he fell asleep – they gave him the injection. He stopped breathing shortly after and then his tiny heart followed. He looked at peace. In fact, it’s the first time he had looked so relaxed for weeks.
They asked if we wanted some time with him and I said no. He looked peaceful and calm and asleep – it’s how I wanted to remember him. I knew he was gone. When they told me his heart stopped beating I remember sort of collapsing on top of him and bawling my eyes out. He was gone. I couldn’t believe it. Where had the last 14 years gone? I remember getting him when he was puppy like it was yesterday.
When we left the vet, I cried in Larry’s shoulders and just kept saying “I can’t believe he’s gone” over and over. I’m saying it to this day. I’m saying it at this moment through blurry vision.
Damn you Pogo – you claimed my heart in such a way. You broke it too, but I would do it all over again if I could.
Today is day 4 since he’s been gone. His picture and paw print is next to my computer. I’m happy if I can make it an hour without crying. Today was better – I feel like I’m finally coming to terms with it. There was so much guilt over the last 2 days. “Was there anything we could do? Could we have saved him?”
Then today, I found a few articles that helps people with dog hospice care and what the final stages before death looked like. After reading the article, we think he really only had hours left with us – and those last hours can be grueling for an animal passing at home ‘naturally’. I’m glad we did what we did – but damn if I wish I couldn’t rewind time.
I’ve joined a pet loss group – and it’s helped tremendously. We held a memorial for Pogo on Saturday night. (or a party, according to Jackson) There’s been a lot of tears – from all of us. But we’re all helping each other through it. Our four legged buddy is so dearly missed. But I’m so happy I was his mommy. He was definitely a momma’s boy. And he made 14 years of my life so much better.
At the suggestion of a friend, we spent some time with some shelter dogs yesterday and it was therapeutic. I was nervous that it would feel like a betrayal. But it didn’t. Those dogs need love and I do too. It’s like we are therapy for each other. One of the shelter dogs (I swear she has Pogo’s eyes) is coming over tonight. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet, but I can’t stop thinking of her. We want to introduce her to our other dog and see how that works. See how she feels at our home and most importantly, see how I feel with her in our own home.
I’ll admit it – there’s a part of me that says ‘ but I haven’t even brought Pogo’s ashes home yet’ and it feels like a betrayal. But I actually think this is one dog he would’ve gotten along with. My biggest struggle, I believe – is that I don’t believe in the Rainbow Bridge. But I know that since matter can’t be created or destroyed, that Pogo will always be with me in some way. If anything, he’ll live forever in my heart.
To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.
Pogo – February 22, 2002 – April 8, 2016