My mom never let me have a dog. Maybe that’s why I’ve always longed to fill my home with a fuzzy wet nose and the tapping of happy paws.
In 2006, my sister and I visited a friend and saw a puppy slumped over
her chest. He was so calm, I had to check if he was still breathing.
Instinctively, I ran over to pet and hold him. He nuzzled under my neck
and fell asleep. The cat and dog with whom he shared a home had not
welcomed him into their circle. He enthusiastically tried to fit in but the
cat scratched his eye in disapproval; they had to rehome him. I jumped
at the opportunity and finally had a canine companion.
He grew up to be a wild child, chasing his tail in circles and making
everyone laugh; a natural clown. Winning the majority of contests he
entered, he became a hit! Gracing the Riverdale Press was only the
beginning. He had a string of charity events lined up, but his stardom
was cut short in 2010, at the tender age of four.
We were running around playing chase one afternoon. He loved that
game. I still remember him pouncing back and forth, sliding around
with his tongue hanging over the side of his mouth. He never could get
a grip on those hard wooden floors. Suddenly he froze with a blank
stare in midplay and tipped over. Startled, he got up and hid under the
bed. Deep down, I knew something was wrong but convinced myself it
was the surface. After all, Odie had always had a clean bill of health. A
few days later, he fell again this time seizuring and foaming at the
mouth. My friend immediately drove us to the emergency room. This
commenced the longest week of my life. The good doctors at the AMC
ran a series of blood tests. They all came back negative. A positive
test would have been welcomed. He was transferred to the
Neurological department. All tests were negative again. Our worst
fears actualized; it was Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE). A team of doctors
met with me and explained that it was a swelling of the brain. I asked,
how soon can it be fixed? With a long pause, the doctor said “There is
no cure, I’m sorry”.
Other breeds have been known to survive, but no pug ever has. Part
of a pug’s endearing look is in part, due to their cute compact heads.
The size of their head is also why they don’t survive. Odie’s head was
extra adorable. A few days ago we were just playing, he was happy.
I stared at his sedated body with phenobarbitals in his system and his
questioning button eyes staring back at me. He continued to have
breakthrough seizures, barely awake. One night, he sat up gasping for
air. Xrays showed one of his lungs collapsing. With a tube assisting
him, he stared at me in a panic. Doctors now surrounded me asking
me to make a decision. Sleep deprived, I begged them to give me time
to process everything. Just a week ago, he was sprinting down the
hall. We had so much to do, he couldn’t slip away yet!
I took him home and held him against me. His soft warm body, curled
up next to mine. I called another doctor for a 3rd opinion. She made a
home visit and concluded what the other two had. I had to do what
was right for him. I called my friends and family.
We opened a tub of liver treats and for a moment he lit up and it
seemed like the old Odie I knew. A carefree spirit, who thought
everyone wanted to play with him. He stumbled towards the tub, diving
head first into the treats. He ate as much as his tummy could handle
while walking in circles and bumping into things. Momentarily, all was
good again. We played with him for the last time when reality settled
back in. The doctor placed the injection. I held him in my arms, told
him how much I loved him and watched him close his eyes. His
breaths farther apart until the curve of his back no longer rose, his
tongue hanging. I continued petting him until he was wrapped up and
gently taken away. He would no longer suffer again.
I had just separated from my fiancé and now I had lost my loyal
companion. I would come home expecting Odie to greet me at the
door with a toy. I would hear a quick scurry in my sleep and wake up to
the cold emptiness. His toys laying around served as a constant
reminder of his absence. His paw print brought comfort every so often,
following each indentation of his pad.
A year and a half later, I let go of the guilt and donated most of his
belongings. It was time to let another dog into my heart. Somewhere in
between, I fell in love too. Months of rummaging through petfinder.com
led me to Edgar (now Eddie). Eddie was found on the streets and I
became a foster failure within a few days.
Eddie is the opposite of Odie, a Brussels Griffon mix from a killshelter
in South Carolina. A laid back Southern gentleman who thrives on
naps and petting. He continues Odie’s legacy by advocating for
homeless animals in pet shows and walks for cancer.
The hardest part of sharing my life with Odie was saying good bye.
Somehow through this pain, I was able to find hope. Eddie taught me
to love again and I cherish every day with him and, my now husband.
There are several ways to express grief. It can be therapeutic. Some people paint, others write. I wrote this […]