Thursday, June 12, 2014

Oreo...My Heart Shattered

I’m sure the title of this blog has you guessing why my heart is shattered over oreos…unless you know me. And if you know me, than I can guarantee you know Oreo.

Oreo…my handsome, amazing, loving, best dog ever! What can I say about him that could do justice to how wonderful of a companion he has been to me over the past 7+ years? For someone that was such a big part of my life I could not imagine him leaving this world and not sharing him with you.

cutie isn’t he? I dare you to not fall in love with that face. I know that my mom and I couldn’t resist it.

It started back in 2007. I had graduated from high school a year prior and was working the evening and night shift at our local hospital. I worked when everyone was asleep, and slept while everyone was at work. I was living with my mom and step dad at the time and it was a lonely schedule. I desperately wanted someone or something to greet me when I came home and to simply just be excited at my existence…sounds selfish, but I think that’s why a lot of us get animals; we want the company and to feel special to someone in this world.

Cue Rudy the Pomeranian. I unfortunately do not have pictures of my time with Rudy. It was short lived and, while I tried, I could not break him of his habit to randomly attack me. I still have scars on my hand from one of the times he came after me. Remember the pork chop incident mom?

Once I gave Rudy back to the place we had rescued him from I was nervous to try with another dog. I knew that I really still wanted one, but I was scared to have it turn on me. I saw a picture of Oreo on and emailed him to my mom. He was all the way in West Virginia so I told her I knew it was too far, but I wanted her to see how cute he was. I was secretly hoping that she’d say it wasn’t too far, but I wasn’t holding my breath since the whole Rudy incident. Some people asked how I picked him. I would always reply that his face was adorable and he was a Parti he had to be fun if Parti was in his name :)

To my excitement she said she thought he was super cute and said that it wasn’t too far and to go ahead and call them to make a time to go see him and possibly pick him up! I called and on February 1, 2007 we headed to West Virginia to meet Oreo. Long story short I fell in love with the little guy as soon as I laid eyes on him. I knew that I wanted to take him home with me so we weren’t there very long. On the drive home we stopped at Chick Fil A for my first ever milkshake. I got an oreo milkshake and had Oreo in my lap. When I put my drink in the cup holder and turned away the little bugger licked all my whipped cream off the top! Every time we ate anything oreo flavored and Oreo would beg for a taste I would tell him that we didn’t support cannibalism. 

I read that you are supposed to keep a newly adopted dog in a crate and introduce them room by room to their new home. I have to admit I didn’t do this with Oreo. From the moment I picked him up we were completely attached and I couldn’t stand the thought of him sleeping alone in his crate when he was perfectly fine in my bed. After the whole incident with Rudy I was tentative that Oreo would turn on me but I’m embarrassed to say that now. After 7 ½ years of love that dog never had a mean bone in his body. He never even thought to hurt anyone. He got along with other dogs and cats and just loved everyone. He was timid and shy at first, clinging to me when new people came around, but after a while he would warm up to you. And you would know he loved you because he would snuggle up to you and fall asleep. I remember the first times he did this to my sisters Brittany and Rachel. We were all surprised and I remember Rachel asking him if he mistook her for someone else LOL. I loved seeing him grow  to accept my loved ones.

As he got older Oreo started to develop more and more issues. He had luxating patella which eventually came to mean that he couldn’t jump on or off furniture and that when he had to go potty I had to take him outside and put him in the yard because he couldn’t go up and down stairs. In my opinion, this was a small task to perform for someone who gave so much love unconditionally. I didn’t even see it as a chore; it was just something that had to be done. As Oreo got older I did what I had to do to work with him and make things easiest for him. His knee got so bad I didn’t trust him at the groomers so I started grooming him at home. He had lots of funny haircuts, but I finally got it right after a while. In addition to that he also had a collapsing trachea that caused him to cough a lot when he got really excited or if he was too hot. Luckily this was pretty manageable and didn’t cause him too much discomfort at first.

This past December things took a turn for the worst. I found out that Oreo had an enlarged heart that was putting fluid on his lungs. This combined with the collapsing trachea put him in a fragile state. He was immediately put on fluid medicine, heart medicine, and medicine to help with his blood pressure so that his heart wouldn’t have to work so hard to get oxygen around. He was also started on a thyroid medicine because it appeared that he had a thyroid issue as well.

I want to take a moment to note that his vet is an amazing man. Dr. Pressman at White Plains Animal Hospital really cares about your pet. He’s not out for your money, and doesn’t do things unnecessarily. I wholeheartedly trust him with all of my animals. It was Dr. Pressman that I took Oreo to in December and he was the first vet to ever realize that my dog had the heart issue. Every other vet just told me to get weight off of him (even though I kept saying I wasn’t over feeding him or giving him treats) and no one ever tried to see if part of his coughing was due to something other than a collapsing trachea since that was common for his breed.  Dr. Pressman genuinely cares about the quality of life of the animals you bring to him. He puts time and thought and energy into finding things to help, without risking the health of your pet with dangerous medications or doses.

Fast forward to May 2014 and Oreo was struggling with coughing even on his medicine. I knew it was because it was getting warmer outside so I worked with Dr. Pressman on trying to find the right dosing of medicine to help Oreo find the most comfort. Down went the air temp in the house, cue the dehumidifier and ceiling fans.

Unfortunately Oreo just slowly started getting worse. By the first week in June he wasn’t even able to get through a night without coughing every 30-40 minutes. As the days went by the coughing increased and was round the clock, day and night. Monday morning June 9th Oreo’s trachea collapsed and he struggled getting it open. Up to that point he had only struggled with coughing, but now he was having the issue of the trachea collapsing in addition to the coughing. We had experienced this before on occasion, but it hadn’t happened since I got married and moved Oreo to a house where he was the only dog. It was also short lived and didn’t accompany the coughing. I decided to make an appointment with Dr. Pressman in the hopes that there was something that we could do but fearing that I was going to have to put him down; I was a complete wreck. My mom drove me to the vet with us both fearing we would have to say goodbye.

Dr. Pressman stated that Oreo was very fragile. He said he understood my concern about his quality of life and that Oreo wouldn’t have made it this far with anyone else because I had done so much to accommodate him and pay attention to him and his issues. He said we could tweak his medications to see if it would help. It wasn’t a guarantee that it would work and I wouldn’t have to put him to sleep, but it was worth a shot! I left so excited that I still had my pup with me. 

Unfortunately Oreo took a turn for the worse on Monday evening. His trachea collapsed 3 times in one hour so badly that I had to try to help him open it back up. His tongue turned blue and he just looked terrified. I regretted not putting him down earlier in the day and making him suffer. He never improved, and his trachea collapsed every 20-30 minutes from 9pm Monday evening until 4am the next day. I had decided to put him to sleep and text my family to let them know. I knew that I would want to back out of the decision for my own selfishness of wanting to keep him around. But I knew that by telling them I wouldn’t back down. If Oreo’s trachea had collapsed while he was home alone and he couldn’t open it back up he would have died suffocating, terrified, and alone. That thought broke my heart and was what I used to push me forward knowing that I was doing the right thing. He was too amazing of a dog to risk letting him go that way.

I spent all day Monday with Oreo, Monday evening I slept with him on the sofa…well as much as we could sleep with his struggles, and all day Tuesday until I had to let him go. At the suggestion of a friend I got him some fries and gave him part of a McDonalds burger on our way up the road to the vets office. My mom, husband, and I were in the room with him and I held his paw and rubbed his face as they pushed the injection and he drifted off for his last sleep. We brought him home and buried him and he’s got a nice little area decorated with white stone and a black “O” made with glass pebbles.

In my opinion, if you cannot be there for your pets last moments, you should reconsider getting a pet. I understand everyone processes grief differently, but I wouldn’t be able to handle passing my pup off scared and sick and have him be surrounded by strangers. I’m sure that there will be people who disagree, but that’s the great thing about an opinion…I can have one and you don’t have to agree with it.

I also don’t think you ever get around the feeling of guilt. No matter what you will always find that 1% of the time your pet was ok during their suffering and focus on it and tell yourself you should have given them more time to see if they would have gotten better. Chances are they wouldn’t have, and then you would be stuck with grief and guilt over not doing it sooner. Monday evening I regretted not doing it that day, but come Tuesday when I had actually done it I regretted following through and questioned myself. Second guessing your choice is very unproductive and damaging. We don’t have the opportunity to go back and change things so don’t beat yourself up over it.

Letting an animal go is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. While many of us hope that our pets will pass peacefully in their sleep, the reality is that this very seldom happens. Nine times out of ten you are going to have to make that tough decision. And you will make it and everyone will tell you it was the right thing to do but you’ll still struggle accepting it. Just remember that the pain and sadness you feel is a small price to pay for the love and joy your special animal has brought you.

I’m still grieving and I know I will be for a long time to come. It gets easier every day, and realistically you cannot grieve 100% of the time. I look at his pictures and sometimes I smile and other times I fight back tears. Oreo was my baby. With my husband and I struggling to have kids of our own and everyone around us getting pregnant and having kids it was even harder to let him go. But all of my reasons for not wanting to let him go were because I wanted more time with him. I’m sure he wanted more time too, but it wasn’t fair to keep letting him struggle through life. Dr. Pressman kept mentioning a point of no return that Oreo could get to where he would be too unhealthy to recover from and I felt that he was there. 

A friend shared this poem with me and it really helped me and touched my heart:

The Last Battle
Author Unknown

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done?
For this – the last battle – can’t be won.
You will be said I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hands,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so,
When the time comes, please let me go.
Take me to where my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me until the end
And hold me form and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree,
It is a kindness you do for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you,
Who has to decide this thing you do.
We’ve been so close – we two – these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

People will ask if you’re ok, and you won’t be…but in time you will. My husband used to tease me for how many pictures I took and had of Oreo. He said he bet I had more pictures of Oreo than I did of him. I told him it was because Oreo didn’t tell me he didn’t like the picture and make me delete it. I am thankful for each and every one of those pictures and cherish them. In the words of my friend Jess “Time heals everything but damn time takes forever.”

Our pets are clearly part of the family