One of our two dogs died today.
We have- well, now I guess it is had- two chihuahuas. I've had them for ten years minus a time at my parent's home during college when my rental didn't allow pets, and they are/were 11 years old. My parents, sister, and I picked them out at the humane society back when I had just finished my freshman year of college. We were only intending to adopt one pet, but the two dogs we fell in love with were sisters and the humane society wouldn't separate them. So with us they both came.
In a short period of time, they became both a part of my life and my parents' lives. As I mentioned previously, they lived with my parents for part of the year without me during my junior and senior year of college, and then became my road dogs after that. At that time, they became a huge part of DH's life as well. We moved almost every year for three or four years, between my schooling, DH working, my finally working, and our first home purchase.
All throughout this time, they were such, such good dogs. They took some behavioral training not to have accidents or constantly bark in our various apartments, but on the whole they adjusted so easily to all of our frequent moves and new places. During their lives with us, they've been very much sweet, cuddly dogs. They loved a warm lap, a gentle pat, and loved to bathe us in licks if we'd allow them. They would freely give their love right back to us happily. When we came home from work, both dogs would come running to the door every.single.time in excitement to see us. I couldn't leave a room without both dogs following me at any time, because they just loved me and wanted to be so close. They also loved each other so very much. The two dogs have...had... been separated only once or twice before, and it had only been a few hours. One of those times, Lilo had to get an impacted tooth removed, and when she came home, I don't know who was happier to see her or more concerned about her groggy state- me or Nani. Each night, they would curl up happily next to each other, give each other a few licks, and then fall asleep contentedly.
When little man came into the picture, I knew everything was going to change. At their last vet visit before his birth, I cried the whole time. I recognized fully that this was the last time they'd ever be my babies- as we so lovingly referred to them- because I was actually having my own babies now. I knew that things would change but vowed to myself that I'd try to make things as easy and happy for them as possible.
Time passed, little man was born and grew and grew. Soon, we became pregnant again with little lady. I think this was somewhat of a turning point for me as a person and a pet parent in many ways. There was so much stress and fear at the beginning of her pregnancy that some days I just couldn't handle all of what I was given. As our dogs became older, they were always fed and let out and given the occasional pat and treat, but it wasn't like it had used to be. At the end of a long day taking care of our toddler while very pregnant and extremely stressed out, there were many days when I just couldn't give any more. The lap cuddles and treats decreased as my time and ability to give attention decreased.
When little lady was born, I had even less time. To make matters even more difficult, the dogs became much more bold. Behaviors such as raiding our trash cans, having accidents in the house, climbing on the table for food, and even lashing out when scared (such as when around other dogs, during storms, or when the doorbell rang) became much more common than they'd ever been in the past. I'm sure this was a combination of less attention to them and less attention to what they were doing, as they had much more time to get into something before I'd notice it happening if I even did catch them while doing it. Some days, sadly, I'm sure that there were more words of anger than there were words given to them with love.
And I could have done better. I should have done better.
On Friday, none of us were in the house much with the dogs. DH was working and I took both kids to the Children's Museum to meet up with a few mommy friends and their children. By the time we got home, got the kids fed and into bed, and cleaned up the house a bit, it was almost bed time. Neither dog seemed to be doing anything out of the ordinary at that point in the night, and they were taken outside before bed and then went into bed happily, just like normal.
This morning, was a different story. When DH got up with little man for the day, they went downstairs to the dog kennel, just as they normally do. One dog was waiting to go out. One dog was not.
DH tried waking Nani, and when she didn't move came to get me. She was cold and stiff and nothing like the happy little ball of love she usually is. Was. It was obvious that she'd been gone for several hours at that point.
I've never gone through something like this before, and I didn't know what to do other than sit outside of the kennel and sob in sadness, disbelief, anger, and guilt. I know that this didn't have anything to do with me, and that I didn't cause this, but I can't remember the last loving pat I'd given her, the last treat she'd had, or the last cuddle she'd seen from me. Staring at that cold, little body in the kennel, I just didn't know what to do, for her or with myself.
After talking to our vet, they told us we could bury her in our backyard or bring her in to have her cremated by them. I couldn't even touch her to take her out of the kennel, so burying her was not an option for me, as well as the fact that I'm pretty sure our neighborhood has rules against that. I had to have DH take her out of the crate, but he couldn't bear to hold her either at that point, so he just took the whole set of bedding and all and placed it gently in the bottom of a large cardboard box.
I drove to the vet by myself, with that cardboard box in the back of my car, sobbing. Crying to her, apologizing, telling her how much I love her, how I wish I could have done better for her, how I will do better for her sister. Telling her how sorry I was that we never had enough money at one time to put up that fence for them to run around our yard, for not holding her more during thunderstorms and fireworks. Thanking her for the love that she brought to my life, for the joy that she brought to little man and our family, asking forgiveness for the fact that I couldn't bear to pick up her cold, stiff body and hold her for one last goodbye.
I'm still trying to process, trying to accept. I'm nowhere close to healing yet, but I have to be. Because I don't get the luxury of losing it over the pain I'm feeling right now with so many other people depending on me. It's not healthy for either of my children to see me in so much pain for very long. But I am in pain.
I'm still in the process of figuring out how to go forward while my heart is so heavy. How to make my other dog- her sister- feel comfortable and loved when, or well now that her other half is gone. How to tell little man that Nani is gone when he sees Lilo running around or I call her to be let out each time during the day. I know you're not supposed to tell your children your deceased pet is sleeping, so that they aren't afraid to go to sleep, but DH and I couldn't figure out fast enough how to frame it better this morning when we needed him away from the kennel so that we could take care of her.
I'm sure eventually we'll figure all of that out. As my mom always says, "It will heal with the tincture of time." But right now, it's still very, very raw.
|rest in peace my sweet nani belle.|