Z
First, thank you for this forum. For those of us who get thoughts and feelings out by writing, this is a wonderful thing.

This past Tuesday, I had to bid farewell to my good friend of 15 years, Charley. She just had her 15th birthday in July. We knew she was old- she had taken to sleeping a lot over the past 18 months, didn't hear so well any more and was slowing down in getting up and down from the floor, but she was still strong on her walks, part of our day and never missed the chance to greet us coming home.

My family and I are in the middle of moving across the country. As a military family, we move every 3-4 years. Part of our routine is that Charley and I would drive ahead of my wife and daughters, live in the empty house until the moving truck came, and get the new house set up for the family. It was kind of "our time", where it was just the two of us (and the goldfish).

We arrived and I got Charley set up with her new vet. We caught up on her initial exam and vaccines- she was in good shape for her age but probably about 2 pounds or so on the thin side. This past Saturday, I took her for a booster to one of her vaccines. She normally feels kind of yucky after shots, so I wasn't surprised when she skipped dinner and slept most of the night. During the night she was pacing and got sick a few times- again, nothing out of the ordinary after she gets vaccines. Sunday, she threw up several times, was panting and seemed weak in her back legs. She still hadn't eaten and the vet wasn't open on Sunday, so I made sure she had water and was lying down. Again, it wasn't abnormal for Charley to be sick like this for a few days after eating something in the yard or being on medicine. I left for a few hours to go help my brother-in-law do some work on his house and have dinner. When I got home, my girl hadn't moved much or drank any water. I resolved to take her to the vet on Monday to take a look.

When I got up for work, she had been sick again that night, but in a different room. I went to  work and came back 8 hours later and Charley was splayed out on the floor like she had collapsed and couldn't get up. I took her to the Emergency Vet, who said she was very dehydrated and had low blood pressure. She took IV fluids and her pressure returned and held at normal levels. They did an ultrasound, gave her an anti-nausea shot and I brought her back home to recover.

It was late in the day when we got home. She was still weak and I carried her in to her pillow. I wanted her to rest and recover from the fluids, and I sat with her on the floor for a bit. She was resting, but was panting and her breathing seemed a little ragged. I propped her head up and she seemed to breathe easier. Still living in an empty house, just the two of us, I took my blanket and pillow from the air mattress and slept on the floor by her side that night, her head propped on my arm so she could breathe. I cried my eyes out and I think it was then that I knew.

The next day I returned to work, hopeful that the fluids would set in and Charley would be returning to normal when I got home. Again, she was splayed out on the floor so I rushed her to her vet. She was calm, breathing normally, but wouldn't move. Her whole demeanor told me that it was time and she was ready. Her blood pressure had dropped again, worse than before. She was still dehydrated and blood work indicated kidney failure. It was time and I wasn't ready.

The vet was great and everything ended quietly and peacefully. I was a wreck, more than I have ever been. I didn't have my wife or family here, and was saying goodbye to my best friend. I drove home in a daze.

I've had to hold it together at work and was just waiting to punch out so I could cry in my car on the way home. Her empty pillow, nose prints on the glass door, the smell of her in the carpet- all get to me. I cry and pray at night with her urn, her empty leash is still in my car. I just can't part with these things just yet.

She was my friend, one a very few. From 5 weeks old, our adventure took us all over the country: California, Oregon, Ohio, Florida, Washington. She looked after my family when I was on deployments and took care of them when I couldn't be there. I retired from the military a few months back- perhaps this was a spiritual way of passing the watch back to me.

The stages of grief that we read about, those are real. However, I seem to be going through all of those at once. I denied she was sick on Sunday- I wasn't ready to accept it so I rationalized that it was one of her "normal" bouts of vomiting. I have "what iffed" and guilt-tripped myself since Monday: "did she NEED that vaccine? Was it the last straw for her old kidneys? Was she in pain? Did YOU let your friend suffer too long? Why didn't you spot this problem and do something earlier? Did you owe her more dignity than that, because you "knew" but couldn't make the call?" Likely I won't get answers to these, and I understand that. While I know some of this is normal, it sure doesn't make the process easier. I reflect on the last week and the times I may have been a bit harsh when she got sick on the carpet, or skipped a walk because I had to get up early for work. I just pray that she was lucid enough at the end to know how much I loved and appreciated our time together.

The house is quiet now and very lonely. For a 40-year old man who's supposed to be tough, I have been pouring out more emotion than I did during the past 20 years. We were a pair, destined to be more than friends since the beginning. While some of the initial sting is passing, it is still hard. I am dwelling more on the good times now and not the mistakes I made in her passing. I still hear her clicking on the wood floors, lapping her water bowl and half expect her to be on the other side of the door when I come home. Although she can run, jump and hear now, it is still very hard getting through my day without my friend.

Charley, we miss you. You were always, and will remain, Our Angel. Charley.jpg 
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RaenAngel
I have no advice, or words of comfort, but I felt drawn to reply anyway.

Your girl is absolutely goregous, and I know she understands you did everything you could. I believe dogs know how to tell us they are ready. While we want those few last moments with them, they too want it with us. I hope you find peace.

You may be a 40 year old man who is "supposed to be tough", but you have more "toughness" than you know, by doing the right thing for your furry child.
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Z
Raen,
Thank you for your reply. I saw your post earlier about your losses and my heart goes out to you.

I also can't offer much by way of advice- this is still very fresh in my mind. I video chat with my wife and kids and we share the good times and provide comfort. I let everything out when the emotions arise- it's almost a blessing that I'm in the house alone so I don't feel embarrassed doing so.

As the days go on, I wouldn't say it's "easier", but my mind is starting to move from guilt and anger into the million funny/happy stories we've had together- some that I haven't reflected on in years.

I will keep you and your two loved ones in my thoughts.
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FClaire
I'm so sorry for your loss also. I also have no words of comfort really, but know exactly what you are going through. We lost our beautiful dog Ollie a week ago today, totally devastated. I cannot stop crying and I'm so full of guilt like yourself. Ollie had a lung disease but took it all in his stride, or so we thought. Two weeks ago we went away for a few days. But the hot weather came and he suffered in it. He was staying at home with my daughter. We never left him so felt really guilty going. My daughter was really worried so we came home a day earlier. We kept him cool and made sure he was ok. He seemed to settle, so as usual we just carried on with life. The following week he seemed to settle more and we thought we were having a good week with him. The vet rang on the Thursday and I even told him so. Still wanted his walk Thursday evening still eating drinking. But that week he was more clingy, we had noticed. We just ignored it. So wish we hadn't but we weren't to know why. Maybe its because we were away the week before. I dont know because it didn't usually bother him. I went shopping with my daughter on the friday, he stayed with hubby who said he'd been fine. I'm so full of guilt wishing we'd never gone away the week before, because he wasn't great and we missed 5 extra days with him. Guilty because I wish I had not gone shopping with my daughter that friday, if I had known it was going to be our last day with him (crying now) He suddenly collapsed on the friday evening, we rushed him to the emergency vets. Begging him to hold on. He was then transferred to hospital with us. So she could try and treat him through the night. Felt so guilty leaving him. We got that awful call the next morning to tell us he wasn't coping well without oxygen and to get there as fast as we could to talk about what's next. After discussions knowing in my heart he wasn't well, we had to decide to let ollie go. The hardest decision of our lives. We spent time with him, but you could tell in his eyes he'd had enough. Well so my family say. I'm still full of the what if we could have done more for him, we should have tried. He may not wanted to go. But I think I know now in my heart he wanted to. Why did he want to leave us(crying) So that last week of him being clingy I think he knew, but if only we did. He was giving us one more week, because of being away the week before I suspect. He was so strong. I also have the guilt of telling him off at times, use to say he was a bloody nuisance! But he knew he still could wrap me around his little paw! My heart is breaking for him, I desperately want him back, I realise not going to happen. miss him so much. The grief seems to be getting harder day by day. I'm just about functioning. The house is so empty without him. Cannot believe we have lost him. Just wish if we had known we would have given him more TLC , but he was strong and just got on with it. How were we to know. Feel so guilty. I feel your pain and so sorry to you again xx
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Z
FClaire,
Thank you for sharing about Ollie. I am so sorry for the hole he clearly left in your life and I think we are going through much of the same thoughts about our loss.

I am having a hard time being functional as well. I'm going through the motions, but my heart isn't in much. I forget to eat, kind of slog my way through the day. I've got a house packed to the brim with moving boxes that I just can't motivate myself to get to. Moving is always hard- I used to blow off the work by taking Charley for long walks or spending floor time to avoid the unpack; that is certainly not making things any easier.

I share some of that guilt you mention in your post. While my friend's body was failing at home, I was at my brother-in-law's house clearing brush and eating barbecue. If I had only known then what I know now, I would have done SO much differently that day. Would it have made a difference? I don't think so, but the "what ifs" haunt me.

When I reflect on it: it was her time, and she let me know. The decision at the vet was very clear and I didn't have to worry that it was wrong. When they did X-Rays at the vet, they also found a mass at the bottom of her heart, which hadn't been a problem but may have spared her suffering later. My wife always said that she couldn't be there when the time came for Charley- it would be too hard. Charley left when she didn't have to be there, sparing the guilt. These are masked blessings that I have been able to pull out of the sorrow. Yesterday, I also learned that Charley passed on the anniversary of my wife's grandmother's passing. When I look, it was time, almost the perfect time- but I still miss my friend. Time heals, but we have to let it.

Thank you for sharing and taking the time to read our story. If Charley had gotten along better with other dogs, perhaps she and Ollie would have crossed paths in the next adventure.

Will keep you an Ollie in our prayers.

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