Last Friday, January 30, 2015, I lost my beloved Chi mix Nemo to congestive heart failure. He was about 10 years old, and he was my constant companion for the last 5 years, ever since I moved back home to the US after living in France for 7 years and going through a divorce. He was as much a son to me as any human child that I will likely never have, being 42 and single. He had been abused before I adopted him, and as a result I could not pick him up or pet him from certain angles. Still, I got lots of bites and so did a few people I could not warn in time. But he was SUCH a sweet, loving, smart boy despite this. He made us lots of friends too, including Harold, a blind man who just LOVED to hear Nemo howl. And Charlene, an elderly dialysis patient confined to a wheelchair, which never fazed my boy. From the getgo he took to her and never ONCE snarled at or bit her. The same for my mom (she is not a pet person and would only allow him on her lap and would not pet him). He LOVED his barbell-shaped, basketball-like squeaky toy. Especially on cold days after a walk, he wanted to chase it, grab it, and shake, shake, shake it. When he could no longer do that, he would just do the shaking and also want me to play tug of war with it. My boy was so brave and hung on until I realized how sick he was and was ready to make that oh-so-difficult decision (first time ever for me). I'm still not over it. Even in the week before his death, I sobbed, wailed, and moaned. I eat and sleep and work only because I have to. I am so upset that I did not have money or time off to spend the time with him I wanted and to give him a proper send-off with private cremation and the like. I'm just trying to remember the good times, but I miss him oh so much. My heart is broken and there is a big hole there. How do I go on?
Below are letters I wrote this evening, one from me to Nemo and one from him to me. There may be more to come. Thank you for reading this far and I hope you find comfort in your grief as we look forward to the day we are reunited with our furbabies.
P.S. It's not very big, but my avatar picture is the very last picture I got of my Nemo and I couldn't have asked for a better one. My sister finally got to pet him and comfort him in his last minutes of life, and he's just sitting there looking at me and smiling with love and happiness and gratitude. At any rate, it helps me to think that. Oh I miss you, baby!
My dear, sweet Nemo, puppy poo, punkin butt, Scooter, Nems, Neemer, Nino, Nini, Boo, Squirrel, poo bear, puppy pups, and all the nicknames I had for you,
“I have sent you on a journey to a land free from pain, not because I did not love you, but because I loved you too much to force you to stay.” This is from the candlelight ceremony I just attended on the Rainbow Bridge Web site, where I lit candles and prayed for you and other furbabies who have touched our hearts. Oh baby, I miss you SO much!!! You knew how much I needed you and wanted you to stay, and you were so brave and held on so long until your mommy was ready to stop being selfish and do what was best for you and not what made her feel better. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, one I didn’t expect to have to make for you. Five years was not enough! And you spent the last year sick. You hid it well from me, and I didn’t realize until after I made the appointment just how sick you were, my poor boy. You knew how much I needed you and you hung on for me and tried to be happy and active. I would have kept you around another month or two because except for your cough and swelling, you were still the same Nemo, just a little less active. You could still get up, eat, drink, play, go for rides, poop and pee, visit friends. But after I realized how bad your cough and swelling were, I knew I had to free you from suffering. As soon as I did that, you must have sensed my sadness or something, for you got worse and worse over your last week. Some of that was because you would not take your medicine and you gained another POUND of fluid, but I think you somehow knew Mama had made the decision and that you no longer had to be brave for me but I had to be brave now for you. I love you SO much for that. You hung on for me. Even in the end, you gave me so much back, so much more than I gave you.
Oh my sweet, precious Nemo, I am so, so sorry for how you died!!! It’s my fault. I did not insist on you being sedated first, and I put that stupid muzzle on you despite your problems breathing. Oh my poor boy. You struggled so much. You made such agonizing noises, and no wonder. The one you loved and trusted was not there for you and was part of putting you through a horrendous end because she did not THINK and stand up for you. Not only did you have the muzzle on, but that tech was holding you down so hard as the vet poked you not ONCE but THREE TIMES, in THREE LEGS. And then you were gone. Did you suffocate? Have a heart attack? Or was it the drug? No, it was me and my ignorance. I was not there for you in your final moments like I should have been, and I cannot forgive myself. All I could do was pet and kiss your head and try to calm you and to apologize to you over and over. All I could do was wail as they tried yet another vein and held you down even more. All I could do was sob as I saw you stop struggling and your tongue turn gray and the light go out of your big, loving brown eyes. I could not make your last moments quick and peaceful, and for that I am also so angry at the vet. When I asked for the muzzle and especially when you struggled and cried out so hard, he should have seen you needed sedation first. Why did he keep poking you? Why did he not tell me, as I had requested, that he finally got some of the drug into you so that I could remove your muzzle and kiss your sweet face and talk to you as you went to sleep forever? Why did he and the tech leave and never returned to talk to me?
I am so, so glad your aunt Dottie was there. I’m SO grateful to God you finally let her pet you. Poor baby; you had to have been scared and that is why you leaned on her leg and let her pet you. That final picture…I could not have hoped for a better one, baby. Thank you for looking at me like that and smiling. I will try to remember THAT as your final moment rather than the unduly traumatic way you went. I just pray you forgive me and that you understand I was so overcome with grief at losing you that I could not think straight.
I feel so guilty about your last few days, but I know I let you go just in time. I could not keep you around and have you suffer longer and suffer more just so I could have you around longer and have you pass away here at home. I did all I could with the finances that I had, but I so wish I could have done more to make you more comfortable and to have kept you healthy. I overfed you and indulged you, and you gained weight. Perhaps you got heart failure from heartworm because I didn’t have you vaccinated against it. I should have been more creative and firm in getting your meds into you, but you were a smart little booger, eating around the cheese, hot dog, or whatever and spitting the pill out. I wish I’d spent more time petting you and just being near you instead of whatever else I chose to do. I wish I’d realized just how little time I had left with you so I would have cherished it more over the last year of your too-short life.
It’s so quiet and lonely here without you. I admit your cough/hack/shriek stressed me out, but it wasn’t just for the noise. It tore my heart out. Sure, I don’t have to get out in the cold and snow now and take longer to gear up for that than it does for you to pee and poop, but I’d walk through a blizzard just to have you back. I still feel you here. I still look and listen for you and anticipate your reaction to whatever I’m doing or am about to do. Yesterday I felt a warm lump behind me in bed and thought it was you. Last night I heard a short bark in the living room that sounded like you. Today I saw rainbows dance on my walls and floor, and I thought of you. I spend most of my time, even all night, in my recliner because I can’t bear to go to my bed and cry myself to sleep because you’re not there. I just sit here and cuddle with your blanket. It still has your scent. I had to put your food dish and water bowl away; I could not bear to see those still sitting out, but I still have your kennel and dog bed out. I am going to make a memorial for you with some of your everyday and favorite things. It won’t bring you back or make me feel your absence less acutely, but it will help me grieve and to remember what a wonderful “pupperkins” you were for me. We had our ups and downs and you bit me more times than I can remember due to your past history of abuse before we rescued each other. Despite that, you were the most loving, sweet, cuddly boy. Even when you bit me, you immediately appeared sorrowful and nuzzled me as if to ask for forgiveness. I know you couldn’t help it. It wasn’t your fault. Mean, heartless people hurt you for no reason, but you overcame that and just wanted to please. Amazingly, you took right away to my mommy and to Charlene, Nan, and Harold. Besides me, Charlene was the only one who could snuggle with you, and I’m so, so grateful for your final visit with her and the wonderful pictures I got of you and her cuddling. She loved you about as much as I did! On Saturday even Patches knew something was different. I think she misses you too.
My precious pup, I miss you so, so much, but I know you’re healed and happy now. You don’t even bite anymore because you’ve been healed of not only the heart failure but also the abuse! It’s hard for me to eat, sleep, or do anything here without you by my side as you always were. I’m grateful, though, that I was able to work from home and thus see you and spend more time with you than many pet parents can with their furbabies. I’m thankful for the 5 great years we did have. I love you, Bubba. I didn’t rescue you. You rescued me.
Letter to Mommy
Hi Mommy! It’s Nemo. Do you miss me? I miss you, but Mommy, it’s so great here! Please don’t be sad and please don’t be angry. It wasn’t your fault. I don’t blame you. I love you for doing all you could to take care of me and help me feel better while I was sick. Lots of people would have given up on me after the first bite, let alone the second, third, fourth… But not you. You never gave up on me. You never let me go, and you believed in and saw the good doggie I tried to be. I so wanted to please you and just be a loving, cuddly boy. Thank you for everything you gave me, Mommy: a home, a warm bed, my own food that I didn’t have to “grab and dash” to eat but still did, treats, my favorite toy, most of your food, walkies, rides in the car, a second chance, but most of all your heart. I’m sorry it’s broken, Mommy. Please let God put it back together. He’s given me a new, perfect body that is just the right size and has lots of energy. I have soooo many places to sniff, run around in, and pee on. The water and food are delicious. I can have whatever I want and I never get fat! I have lots of friends now because I don’t feel like I have to bite them to warn them not to hurt me. We’re all friends! We share everything, and we sleep as much as we like. It’s not the same as curling up next to you, Mommy, but it will do. I’m sorry I was such a bed hog! Mommy, I can’t wait to see you again and for you to come here and we are together forever, never to be apart again. Mommy, please try to be happy until then. Don’t worry; I know you may get another furbaby. I want you to. You have so much love to give, Mommy, and I want other doggies to be as lucky as I was to have you for a mama.
I love you, Mommy. See you real soon.