Our hearts are completely broken.
My precious Dora has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Although she'd been slowing down a little in recent years due to the beginnings of arthritis, she had no known illnesses. She was 11.
Here are the last three photos I took of her. July 29. Little did I know then that she would leave us in 9 short days.
Looking back at these photos, she did look a little tired. Not sick, just tired. Still beautiful, though, and a willing participant in whatever the humans were doing at that moment. Always.
Her sudden illness and passing happened unexpectedly Monday, August 8, and is one of the saddest days of my life, preceded only by the death of my father, Jon's father, and my grandparents. She fell ill and died in a 3-hour stretch.
Monday morning, we played a little ball-ball and hung out in the backyard. I did some things on my computer at the kitchen table and she did her perpetual Scooby-Doo "RUFF!" and other canine vocalizes while ramming me in the knee with her stumpy nose, as usual, alerting me it was time to be fed. "Tell me, Dora! Tell me." Later, she did it again, just for attention. She was her consistent, spunky self, barking her descending "BAAARRRRRWWWW" at evil street passers-by and following me into every room in the house. She scratched at the back patio door after being out for about one minute, even though we had reminded her for years that she was indeed a dog and should therefore enjoy occasional outside life. This happened about 10 times that day, as it usually did.
I wish, now, I could remember what the middle of her day was like. I suspect it involved a lot of sleeping, as the boys and I headed to the pool. Early evenings usually found her napping, as well, before dinner was ready.
At 8:00 pm, I was at the stove, cooking a procrastinated dinner. Dora was walking toward me on my left (we always called the hounds "sharks" at cooking time because the smell of heated butter and meat often intoxicated them into teaming up and circling us, as if we were their prey). Suddenly, I saw her legs go out from under her, assuming she had slipped. "What's wrong, Dora?!?" I tried to pick her back up, and so did Jon. She could not stand on her own. She just fell pathetically sideways. He got her to the carpet, where she laid down, put her head between her sweet little paws, and breathed laboriously. We knew something was incredibly wrong, so I cried as I carried her to his car, where he had gotten a soft blanket for the back seat. "She can't even stand up!" That would be her last ride. It would also be the last time I held her.
During the 5-minute emergency vet trip, which, in my head, took about 2 hours, her breathing was slowing and I feared she might die before we even got there. I was so confused about what had just transpired! In-between shifting gears, I kept my right hand back on her hip and kept talking to her, telling her what a good puppy she was.... continuously talking, beyond panicked in my head, but trying my damnedest to have a calming demeanor for this beloved animal. I was definitely speeding and just hoping we could arrive before anyone cared about my driving.
Finally, we did arrive, about 8:10 pm. I left the car on (A/C!) and ran into the animal hospital, telling the sweet nurse that my dog couldn't walk. She quickly came out to the car and carried her in for me (wish I would have done it; I just wanted her to hold the door... looking back, I should have insisted).
They whisked her back to triage and put her in an oxygen cube (cage with a plexiglas front, complete with a small porthole for petting). They got her stable but there wasn't much of a pulse. (We saw none of this at the time; the vet explained it to us later.) Jon's mom got to our house to be with the boys and he was there with me at the vet after just a few minutes.
After a while, we were allowed to go back and pet Dora through the small porthole in the plexiglas. She looked at us, but just wasn't herself. She was nervous.
The EKG soon showed a strong heart, and we were relieved. All that ball-ball playing, shadowing every human in motion, and hippity-hopping up and down the stairs paid off in the heart category. The vet said she must have had a seizure at our house but was doing better then and he wanted to do some more tests overnight. While he was talking to us, she had another seizure, so he went back inside, then came back out to tell us the possibilities. Still, she was stable and we were discussing possible causes for the sudden seizures and possible medications we could start in the coming days. We left at 10 pm and were to call back in the morning, because "no news was good news" and he'd have the test results in a few hours.
Before we left, we went into the back again and petted her, telling her we'd be back first thing in the morning. She was on valium by this point, but awake, and lifted her head as we took turns petting and talking to her. She looked right at us. Right in our eyes. She seemed okay. We left worried, but not terribly. We knew that whatever this was would be a life-changing condition for her, but that we would have some answers in the morning.
After being home one hour, the dreaded call came around 11:00 pm. Apparently she had seized again and gone into cardiac arrest. Their CPR attempts did not work. She died there. On the table. We were not with her. This will haunt me forever. I can only hope the valium was still in her system so she wasn't scared about anything.
Our last time seeing her alive was in a plexiglas cage. I just keep trying to go back to how she turned her head toward us as we spoke and petted her. I petted her "softy ears," as we talked to her and we kept telling her how much we loved her. I hate to think she saw us walk away then and hope beyond hope she turned her head back around as we left, her final memory of us being the loving strokes and kind faces and voices.
When we got the call, we woke up the boys, briefly explained the sadness, and headed back to the vet, where they had promised we could see her one last time. Jon and I told the boys they could stay in the car while we took turns going in, but they both wanted to go. It seemed like the totally right thing to allow and the totally wrong thing to allow at the same time. We obliged, and our entire brave little family sheepishly entered the building and walked back the hall to a room we'd not been in before.
The very kind staff had her laid on her right side on a table under a blanket, her sweet little head exposed. We petted the softest ears ever one last time, kissed her, and told her how much we loved her and would miss her. I kept stroking those sweet ears and also the spot I always used to love to trace just above her nose. This was the hardest thing our little family had ever endured together. We were all strong and brave.
I remember the first time I saw my dad cry, when we lost our Springer Chum. This was the first time our boys have seen the same from Jon, and that was perhaps the most difficult part of all for me. Andrew took it really, really hard. Still, looking back, this closure was exactly what we all needed.
We did not have an autopsy performed ($700), but the vet is fairly certain she had an undiagnosed brain tumor for some time that must have ruptured, causing the sudden seizures and quick decline in health over the three-hour period she was at the vet.
As I cried over the next few days (still cry every day), Andrew continually asked me if I was okay. He asked me again today. I had posted about Dora's death on facebook and sweet colleagues hugged me about her and cried with me periodically on Wednesday, my first day back at school for the year.
Maddie is another sad part of the story. In Monday night's craziness, I remember her sniffing Dora and pacing a little as I whisked her out the door. She picked up on the fact that something was terribly wrong. She is definitely still moping and keeping a lookout for her best friend of 10 years. She can't remember a time Dora hasn't been with her. This is another thing that rips our hearts out. I worry about her being so lonely when we all head back to school August 17. Dora kept her going mentally and physically and spiritually. Yes, we plan to try to fix this with an eventual companion, but those talks are definitely tabled for a few weeks as we all learn how to adjust to this new normal (I HATE the new normal, by the way. We all do.).
She will be cremated and placed in a beautiful wooden box. We plan to scatter some of her ashes in the backyard, where she so loved to run to retrieve her ball-ball. The rest of her cremains will be kept under our bed. She was always with us in that bed, and will always be close to us there.
Dora was a sweet, funny, beautiful, vital member of our family. I knew that when she lived, and it is so much more apparent now that we have this enormous void. She is terribly missed. The house is boring and quiet and almost motionless without her body, although I know her spirit is and will always be with us.
I believe wholeheartedly in signs from beyond and she gave me one yesterday. I was digging in the pet cabinet for a Kong treat toy to entertain poor lonely Maddie when I left for school, and instead found an unopened canister of tennis balls. Waterworks. Right then, I had to leave. As I was heading to the front door, I heard a thump at the patio door, amazingly similar to the ones heard when she would throw herself against it, demanding inside. It was a female cardinal who had flown into the door, sat on the patio furniture for longer than I thought natural, then looked straight at me and flew away. It was our sweet boxer's sign that she is still very much here and to take note!
Dora was my first ever baby. Although time will make the pain of her absence fade a little day by day, I will miss her as long as I live on Earth. I will miss laughing at something she did every single day. I will miss her questioning "Voooo?" I will miss her ramming me in the knee when she needed attention. I will miss her pushing the ball into my lap with her tongue, in hopes of play. I will miss her cuddling in bed with us, where of course she had to be RIGHT ON top of us in a King bed. I will miss her wiggle nubbin' (nubbin'-rubbin'). I will miss her boxer "cradling" and always needing to curve her body to fit into yours as you sat, and often putting her butt right on your foot. I will miss the way she would chase my feet under the covers. I will miss her monster creep pose. I will miss her adorable butt-up stretch, and butt-up frozen pose when she wanted to engage Maddie in play. I will miss her never failing to greet anyone at the door, her entire body shaking from excitement. I will miss her licking, especially sweaty legs (gross at the time, and I would die for it right now). I will miss her talking to us to beg us to get the ball out from ridiculous places, like beside her water bowl (you can't get that, Dora?) and IN her water bowl.... woof woof woof! I will miss her playing fetch with that ball ball any time, day or night - she was ready and excited. I will miss her lifting her head from the couch the moment she thought I was going upstairs for the night, so she could hop right in. I will miss her occasional dingleberry during outside time that "chased her around" and made her run like a mad dog until a kind human got rid of it or it (rarely) flew off by itself. I will miss her hopping down the steps two legs at a time. I will miss her running to the kitchen when we finished the paper towel roll; she knew the sound and wanted to chew it up. I will miss her running to the freezer when she heard someone getting ice, begging for one herself. I will miss our nicknames for her, most of which have origins I can't even remember: Double Trouble, Double D, Baby D, Double, Dubs, Dub Dubs, Dor-rah-rah, and the team of them together being the puppies and the poochas. I will miss her weird pattern of picking up just a few pieces of food and carrying them over to the carpet to eat them. I will miss her sweet muffled barks and crazy feet in her dreams as I am sure she caught that blasted squirrel EVERY time. I will miss her making her "bed" by turning circles and often covering herself up in blankets on the couch. I will miss her "dogging up" Jon's pillow the moment he would get up, even if he had meticulously made the bed and covered it well. I will miss her digging in her pit under the swing set. I will miss our walks, where she pulled and tugged half the time and then felt like passing out for the second half. And I will miss hundreds more things I've not thought of yet, but that I am sure will pop up from time to time for the rest of my life.
I love you so much, Dora, and will forever. There is a huge part of my heart that will always be devoted to you. Someday, we will meet again.
|Gorgeous, curious girl, just this past winter|
|First photo I snapped at the TX shelter when we met her; she'd barely be still long enough for any shot|
|Our first babies in 2006. Texas|
|The famous "monster creep" She did this pose the day she passed, too! Loved it.|
|Licky loo, always. Sometimes annoying, always endearing.|
|One of my favorites, ever. We had just brought Andrew home |
and she was figuring out what the fuss over the new creature was all about.
|Partners in crime! What a team. Maddie has suffered a major, noticeable loss, as well.|
|Pretty sure a treat was involved in this Christmas shot that I believe was captured 3 years ago|
- There is sorrow enough in the natural way
- From men and women to fill our day;
- And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
- Why do we always arrange for more?
- Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
- Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
- Buy a pup and your money will buy
- Love unflinching that cannot lie--
- Perfect passion and worship fed
- By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
- Nevertheless it is hardly fair
- To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
- When the fourteen years which Nature permits
- Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
- And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
- To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
- Then you will find--it's your own affair--
- But...you've given your heart for a dog to tear.
- When the body that lived at your single will,
- With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
- When the spirit that answered your every mood
- Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
- You will discover how much you care,
- And will give your heart for the dog to tear.
- We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
- When it comes to burying Christian clay.
- Our loves are not given, but only lent,
- At compound interest of cent per cent.
- Though it is not always the case, I believe,
- That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
- For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
- A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
- So why in Heaven (before we are there)
- Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
- Rudyard Kipling