Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tripping Over My Shoes Ep 3: Goodbye, My Love

A picture I took to send to Michael while he was at basic.
One of the most significant events to happen to me this year was the loss of a loved one. Twice. The first time isn't as dramatic. Michael left to join the military and we started a long distance relationship. It was hard. His 12 weeks of basic were a nightmare. I know the only reason I made it, that I didn't feel so alone was because of Diana. She was my mobile Michael.
The picture above illustrates something about her that we both loved. She was a ball of energy that loved jumping and leaping and punching you in the face until you rubbed her belly.
If you were laying down to take a nap, however, she loved laying down with you and snuggling. Sometimes she would lay down on your head... not quite comfortable, but she was too cute to be mad at.
She was still very subdued at this point. Very loving, though :)
This is Diana shortly after she showed up on our back doorstep. It's the only picture I took of her before she had recovered. If you look hard, you can see her very bony rear. Hell, just look at her face and you can see how unnatural she looks. I remember making a point not to take many pictures while she was like this. Why should I have? I didn't want her to ever be remembered as this husk of a beautiful dog.
I used to have a post about how she came to us. I deleted that when I came back to blogging. I'll recount it.
It was when we lived in the rear house. Michael and I had over a coworker and his nephew. We'll call them Big E and little E. Big E had been in a long distance relationship for a few months at this point, and part of the making it work was nightly phonecalls. We had little E over because he wanted to play video games all night to celebrate his birthday and because Michael and I couldn't make it to his real birthday party due to work.
I was on the computer playing The Sims 3, just building up a family. Big E's conversation was getting heated with his significant other, and he was making his way to the back door to go out and get some privacy, or that's what I assume his reasons were.
I remember hearing the back door open, and hearing E stop talking. The door slammed. We heard a "Uh... guys... did you adopt a dog?"
Michael jumped up and got ready to grab a bat. This was less than two weeks after he had been bitten by a dog while walking to work. I could post pictures of the bite, but it's... fascinatingly gruesome. He still can't feel that section of his calf. I still get nightmares about taking his adrenaline-pumped phone call at work.
I watched Michael open the dog to see a very small, very bony, very shivery dog. It was cold and drizzly that night. She'd looked like she stood up when E opened the door, but was frozen there, either out of fear or out of lack of energy. I got the impression that she'd wanted to run, but lost the energy halfway through getting up.
Over the course of the next hour and a half Michael used some hotdogs to coax her into the kitchen. Every time I went over to check on him she was a little bit closer to him, nibbling on the little hotdog bits he'd given her.
Eventually she was in his lap, and he was trying to hold her to warm her up. At this point I stepped into the room with a towel and to close the back door, as I didn't want to startle her with too many people before she was more comfortable.
The first time we tried taking her out for a walk she didn't want to leave the front door.
The first thing we noticed was her collar. It was covered in blood and mud and other bodily fluids. The funny thing was, it was very tight on her emaciated body. We thought of that, along with behavioral traits she showed as she was recovering, and realized she was most likely abused and wasn't lost... more, she'd escaped from a very horrible household.
The next thing we noticed was that she was covered in ticks. Michael took several hours and tweezers and matches (used after the ticks had been removed from her) to start to de-tick her. 
After she'd relaxed a bit under his care, we took her to the bathroom and bathed her. She didn't like it at all... but she stopped struggling when her body gave out. All I was to do was hold her head up to make sure Michael didn't get any water in her nose. I remember being vaguely worried that she would bite, and then looking into her eyes. I've never seen such a defeated look in someone's eyes before. 
So we bathed her of the blood and urine and feces and mud and wrapped her up in blankets and towels and set up a little bed on the floor of the restroom. Michael, being the practical and levelheaded thinker he is, decided that we should keep her in the restroom until she was completely tick free. We set her up with some chopped up hotdog bits in a bowl as well as some water. I remember making a point to put them as close to her head as possible, so she wouldn't have to move at all. It didn't look like she wanted to move from her little cocoon, anyway.
We both had to work the next morning. I remember running home as soon as I was cut, not bothering to wait for Michael. Worst case scenarios had run through my head all morning. She needed more food. She'd hurt herself. She'd ended up dying because we weren't there to help her.
When I opened that bathroom door, she looked up from her little pile of linens, and I noticed for the first time that instead of a normal length tail, she had a little nub. That was the first time I saw that little nub wiggle. It's all she could do to show that she was excited to see me, and I will treasure that memory forever.
Several months later, at a Disc Golf outing. You can see Michael's scars from his bite here.
We kept her in the restroom for three days. On the fourth, while I was home and Michael at work, I left the restroom door open while cleaning. She followed me around as best as she could, staying close enough to lick me whenever I moved.
We didn't need a leash whenever we walked her.
We looked for her owners. I'm glad we never found them. We'd fallen in love with her too fast, anyway. We finally gave her a name, as opposed to calling her Girly.
Diana.

In Roman mythology, Diana (lt. "heavenly" or "divine") was the goddess of the hunt and moon and birthing, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals.
Michael wanted to name her Diana after the Roman goddess, and I had no ideas. So Diana became our little hunter. Hunter of our hearts, that is.
She had a dog bed, but she always preferred to pile up my clothes and lay on it.
 Diana was a labor of love. Initially she hated people. She never bit, but she would bark at and hide from anyone that wasn't Michael or I. By the time she left us, she would love coming up to and loving new people. We never got to fix her dislike of other dogs, but I know we made leaps and bounds in progress.
Over the time we had her, she changed from a subdued, scared dog into a ball of energy and love.
She wasn't a lap dog, but she sure loved climbing into our laps and getting comfy.
After Michael left, she became my rock. I poured all of my time and love into her, and continued training her to behave better on the leash. When we moved from the small apartment, I purposely looked for a house with a large yard so she could run around more. What a bitter slap to the face that house and yard ended up being.

Look at those beautiful eyes. Here she knows she's in trouble for the mess she made.
See the mess around her? That was her. See how I couldn't get a good picture of her? That's because I could never get her to sit still.
She was so well behaved with me. I loved coming home after a long day of work and finding her excited and happy to see me. I loved sitting on the couch to wind down and having her join me. Of course, she always tried to steal my food, but I learned to adjust.
The day Michael left for basic.
I noticed something was wrong in early July. It was a few weeks after we'd moved into the house. She had stopped eating as much. The enthusiasm was still there, but I noticed her food was hardly touched. She went through the same thing when we'd moved the last time, so I simply changed her food. Gave her more canned food with some dry food mixed in. It seemed to get better in terms of how much she ate, but she still seemed to lose weight. I wish now that I'd taken her in sooner. I blame myself for what happened next.
One night in early August I got home near midnight after a rough close at work, and brought her in from outside. I remember opening the back door for her and noticing that she didn't run inside like she normally did. She responded when I called to her, but it was like she didn't realize the door was open. She stood there on the porch uncertainly until I coaxed her inside.
After she finally came inside, something clicked in my mind. She wasn't responding to visual stimuli.
I broke down and hugged her right there, and took her to a local emergency vet clinic.
They said she had a nasal infection that had affected her eyes. They prescribed antibiotics and gave me special vet food, meant to help her maintain her weight and keep her hydrated.
They also told me that she would get worse before she got better. That some side affects of the medication included lethargy and diminished response to other stimuli. 
I watched as my dog stopped eating and drinking. Then she stopped reacting to my voice. She only responded to my touch. I was watching my dog digress to the husk of a dog she had been when she first came to us. Poetic, if you want to think of it that way. Fucked up, if you want my opinion. No matter how many times I called that office, I was told it would pass. They'd seen nothing that concerned them. Just keep waiting.
 I let her sleep with me the night of August 10th. I'd researched things to do with a blind and potentially deaf dog. Let her roam around and get acquainted with her surroundings. So I left the house open for her to explore as opposed to keeping the bedroom door closed like I normally do.
I heard her moving around all night. She never whined or barked. Just moved around. I was used to her making noise if something was wrong, so I just slept and let her be.
The next morning before work I found her dead in the bathtub.
I paid extra for an autopsy with her regular vets. They said she'd had a tumor that reacted badly with the antibiotics. If she hadn't been prescribed that specific antibiotic she would have continued just fine without anyone being any the wiser until it was too late.
Our baby was sick and never showed it. But I still feel guilty. Like I'd failed her. Like I'd neglected the signs. Like she had been trying to tell me something was wrong even as she ran around me in circles because she was so excited I was home.
I walked for 5 minutes and it was exhausting!
This post is meant to act as some sort of closure for me. In reality I don't think I'll ever recover. Not only is this the first time I've really dealt with death, but I was alone in dealing with it. I had to move her body to the porch for the vets to pick her up, as I still had to work and they wouldn't be able to pick her up before I left. My work told me they still needed me when I'd called to tell them what happened. And I was too distraught to think clearly about how messed up that was. I wrapped her in her favorite blanket and used that to pick her up. 
I still can't sleep very well. I relive having to pick her up and particular details about that morning I'd rather forget. It makes my heart race and I wake up feeling like I just got a shot of adrenaline. Michael can't do anything on those nights besides hold me until I'm out of tears.
I called my parents before I even called work that morning, and they drove up and spent a few days with me. Mom scrubbed the bathroom three times and threw away everything that had the stench of death on it. They tried their hardest not only to just be there, but change around the house just enough to not completely debilitate me while being there.
It was still a slap in the face every time I looked out back and saw how big the yard was, or pulled up in the car and didn't see her waiting at the fence for me.
There is no happy ending for me here. I haven't taken a single step in recovering. Guilt racks me every time I think about this past summer, so instead I don't think about it.
I forced myself to write this in an attempt to start the process of moving on. In letting others know that she did exist, and that she will never be replaced. I apologize if it was hard following the flow of my thoughts. As you can imagine, it was hard to write.
Would I do it all again? Absolutely.

3 comments:

  1. Ohhh, my heart just breaks. I wondered about that doggie that had come into your life, but had hoped it was just that you couldn't keep her while moving around. I cried reading this. It *does* get better though. I've been through some traumatic pet deaths, one right before my eyes. I think each one was harder to get through than people deaths. It takes time, but it does get better.

    Hang in there!
    ~Deb

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  2. I am so sorry. I cannot even imagine the heartbreak. Your photos of her just shine with her personality and beauty. Thank you for sharing her with us.

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  3. Oh Liz, I am so, so sorry for your loss. I, too, have been crying while reading this. I know this is not what you want to hear, but will be hard to move on, and it WILL get better as time passes. Don't feel guilty, you were the best owner you could have been and you couldn't have known. *HUG* She was a beautiful dog and I am sure she is watching you from the rainbow bridge (if you haven't heard of this, read it, it will hurt but it will also help in time).

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