Give to Live
By Jon Aldrich
I received a lot of positive feedback on my last blog, “Taken for Granted”. So, I wanted to write a follow up article to tie up some loose ends. A number of people also inquired how Oreo was doing and I greatly appreciated the thoughts and support. Writing has proven to be good therapy for me, and since the markets have been relatively calm recently it is a good time for another change of pace article. And trust me, there will be plenty of times in the future (probably before too long) that I will be writing articles attempting to explain the crazy things that are going on in the markets, tax codes, or some other financial related topics.
The last article discussed Oreo’s diagnosis of bone cancer a few weeks ago. Fast forward to Labor Day weekend. We wanted to get up to the lake one more time and try to see if Oreo could enjoy one last weekend at the place she so loved. We had been managing to keep her pain under control for the most part up until this time, but as we went through Friday night, it was becoming apparent that the mix of 3 drugs she was taking just wasn’t up to the task. She had what appeared to be a mostly uncomfortable night, even though we were giving her meds every few hours.
We decided, the next day to take her in the afternoon to the emergency vet in Appleton. The place was a very nice, state of the art facility, but since it was the only emergency vet in over 100 odd miles in any direction it gets very busy, and Labor Day Saturday was no exception. I think we were there over 3 hours until we could see the vet and obtain a prescription for additional meds. That night we gave her the additional meds and were given clearance to increase the doses of her other meds as well. This helped her get through the night a little better on Saturday.
On Sunday, she slept most of the day as she had a large amount of opioids in her system and really only got up to eat, take her pills and go outside to go to the bathroom. But she still seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable and would quietly whimper a little bit with many of her breaths. Again, Sunday night she appeared mostly uncomfortable at night as she tried to sleep in her bed in our bedroom. Bone cancer can be such an incredibly painful disease. We don’t really think she slept all that much and her stomach was making a lot of noises, probably from all the pills she had been taking. Needless to say, my wife Tammy and I did not sleep a whole lot either. That night we both knew that tomorrow was the day we would have to do what we had been dreading to do since we got the diagnosis a few weeks ago.
Monday morning we woke up early to head home and beat all the traffic. Before we left though, I wanted to take her out on the dock one last time, since we weren’t able to take her out on the pontoon boat during the weekend. The lake was the calmest I had ever seen it in all the years we have been going up. There was some fog out, and it was totally placid. The water was very clear and the minnows that congregate near the shore line were teeming. Over the years, Oreo would spend hours in the shallow water of the shore chasing these minnows and pouncing on them like “Tigger” from Winnie the Pooh. In all the hours and years of trying, I don’t believe she ever came close to catching one, but she never gave up. Talk about perseverance.
She stood on her three good legs on the dock looking down into the water, and it took a little while, but she finally noticed the score of minnows in the water, and her ears perked up a bit and I thought she was going to jump off the dock into the water. She knew she was unable to, but she still enjoyed a few minutes just following them with her eyes probably wishing she could just have 5 minutes to chase them like she did in the good ole days.
It was around this time that I remembered a cartoon I had seen somewhere a couple of years ago and clipped into my saved file, knowing it may come in handy later. It brought tears to my eyes then, and it really hit me now. It perfectly explained what Oreo was probably trying to tell us these last few days if only we could understand her:
We had hoped to employ a local service where the vet comes out to your house and they euthanize your pet at your home, but it was Labor Day, and was very tough to schedule someone to make it out. So, we called the emergency vet in Janesville and they reserved a room for us, so we could come right in. Everyone there was so compassionate and helpful. We took care of the paperwork ahead of time so we could just get out quickly after it was done.
They took Oreo back to a room and put the catheter port in her leg and then led her back in the room where Tammy and I laid on the floor with her favorite thick blanket. They told us to take as much time as we needed with her and when we were ready to push a button for the vet to come in and administer the injection. After about 20 minutes of laying on the floor next to her saying our tearful goodbyes we pushed the button for the vet to come in. Within a couple of minutes her pain had ended, but ours was beginning. But that was ok, we would gladly take her pain from her so she would not have to suffer any longer. It was so peaceful, but it was also so difficult.
We came home and buried her in our yard next to our previous rescue dog, Snickers. Both graves are marked by a special engraving noting where our faithful friends rest. The rain which had been coming down hard for a good part of the day had left, and the sun had returned.
With our oldest son away at college, and our younger son now working and being able to drive, the house had already been a lot quieter the last few weeks. But now without Oreo’s barking and running out to greet us when we got home, or the click, click, clicking of her walking on the hardwood floors in the house, or the raiding the kitchen counter for food, emptiness abounds. Having dogs for almost all of my life it is difficult now without having one around.
The pain is hard, as anyone who has lost loved ones can attest to. I also probably have some unresolved grief from losing my father two and a half years ago to, ironically, bone cancer. However, that is the dilemma with having a pet. You know that although you will have some wonderful years with them, you will likely have to give them up at some point in time. You need to give to live. By this, I mean that for all the days, months, and years that you have them in your life you know that you will have to give them up somehow someway, either from natural causes or having to put them down. The pain of having to give them up is excruciating, but if you did not have all those years of joy with them it wouldn’t be so painful now. That is the case with anyone that we love.
I look back and know that the nine years Oreo was in our lives were fantastic. I also look back and think of a great life we provided for her especially since she came from a rescue shelter and who knows where she may have been before that or ended up if our paths had not crossed on that day we went to the shelter nine years ago.
Goodbye, my friend.