The End of an Era: Losing Part of Yourself

The End of an Era: Losing Part of Yourself

My heart is broken once again. I have lost another love so dear to me. On Friday, April 10th, not long before midnight, my beautiful sweet 13 year old Siri passed away in my arms. I have written about her struggles recently. Aging is a harsh reality that loving dog parents would prefer to do without. First her mobility was compromised with increasing restrictions placed upon her body. And to add insult to injury, her brain betrayed her and allowed dementia to take hold. Dementia meds helped greatly with the latter but an ever rotating protocol of medication, supplements and other treatments could not reverse the lack of strength on her hind end.

In the weeks leading up to this moment, Kenzo and Trent showed increasing stress about her condition. It was interesting to note the completely opposite choices they made to deal with the situation. Trent chose the loner position, opting to retreat to the second floor where he knew that neither could venture. Kenzo opted to spend nearly every moment near her in some way.

After a medication error on my part a couple of weeks ago, where I accidentally gave her his Tramadol, I rushed her to the ER because of the contraindication between that medication and her brain medication. It was a confusing and chaotic time with my hysterical phone call to the ER and fast exit from the house. I returned an hour and a half later with Siri in tow, with her having thoroughly enjoyed the car ride. Upon seeing Siri be carried back in the house with the help of her harness, Kenzo promptly plopped down on her mat set up along side of her and offered a huge grin of relief.

20150415_SiriKenzo1200Her condition deteriorated since that day (unrelated to my mistake) and I was torn about what to do. She was not in any obvious pain but her quality of life was so back and forth. But she smiled so brightly with any attention; it was obvious that she was still happy enough. When she started refusing most meals a week or so ago, I suspected that she would not be with us much longer. I made an appointment to have my vet see her to help me decide whether it was time and then canceled it because I wanted her to pass at home. I tried to make arrangements to have my vet come to my house but she wasn’t available for a home visit until several days later. I no sooner made that appointment then she surprised me and not only ate a full dinner but had a dessert of Wag-Gurt. The happiness that small success gave me cannot be overstated.

The next day she refused food once again and my reality set in more starkly. I started to worry about leaving the house for fear of returning to her having died alone. I tried to arrange for other vets to come sooner, without success. I was not willing to end her life in a vet’s office. I wanted her to pass in comfortable surroundings with her “brothers” nearby.

The last day of her life, I agonized about leaving for the three clients I had scheduled. I was frantic and sobbing constantly that day and could not have functioned at my job anyway. My clients thankfully understood. I spent the day lying with her on the floor. We laid on her mat and padding in the sunlight shining through my kitchen door and my sweet girl smiled all day. I had not seen her look that happy in weeks. After the dinner she refused, we moved into the living room as usual. She had trouble getting comfortable and I lay besides, her holding her close. She seemed to settle finally and then got restless again. She suddenly started moving her head to one side and with a great gasp, she went limp in my arms. She was gone. I sobbed uncontrollably while the boys slept nearby, seemingly fearful of confirming what they expected that I couldn’t accept sooner. I don’t think that I have ever felt more alone, with my two living dogs and my dead dog in my arms at almost midnight on a Friday night. But the power of social media is great. That same connection is available by texting close friends. Within seconds of my cry to the world, I had offers of immediate help from those close by and emotional support from those at a distance.

After being reassured that she would be fine overnight, I cleaned her up and covered her body leaving her head on her pillow. I surrounded her with her favorite things. I lit a candle and anointed her with essential oils. I urged the boys to pay their respects but they were not ready. They remained where they were. We slept restlessly that night.

A good friend arrived the next morning to assist with getting her to crematory. As we paused before taking her to my car, I wanted Kenzo and Trent to say their goodbyes. They both came and sniffed her and Kenzo bowed to her. A touching gesture to be sure, I wish it had been caught on camera.

My house is so empty even though it is full with my two boys. Siri was one of my original crew who started me on the path that brought me here. She taught me so much about fearful dogs. She came so far from where she started, as one of seven puppies rescued at six weeks of age, from a woman whose Rottweiler mated with the neighbor’s German shepherd. She threatened to a co-worker to drown them and that co-worker’s internet plea led to all seven of the “dwarves” finding their way to a network of foster homes, with four of the puppies ending their initial journey at my house for fostering. She is the one who never left. A dear friend has two of her surviving brothers.

Everywhere I look, I see her contributions to my life. Her “big balls” that she carried around constantly from room to room, until the last 6 months of her life, are scattered in various rooms. The products of our final months together are abundant. Laundry baskets with freshly cleaned towels and hospital pads, a full doggy pharmacy with every possible medication and supplement that could ever be needed by a senior dog, disposable pee pads by the pound, her Help Em Up harness draped over a kitchen chair where I laid it to dry after washing it that fateful night. I wanted it to be dry by morning so I could move her from her bed to her regular daytime spot. It will not be needed now. Her orange Kong, so uniquely colored and chosen just for her, will go unused and tucked away in her memory. Her ceramic bowl will not be needed. Her leash hasn’t been used in months. Even taking her with us on the car rides, it wasn’t needed. She could not walk by herself anyway.

Every moment brings another memory. So many things that I miss: how she would bark at the boys when it was time to come downstairs in the morning, her chasing me and barking when I ran around with them at the cemetery off leash, calling her Baby Button, her head tucking under my chin after sneaking a quick kiss when I greeted her after returned from working, seeing her and the boys play so vocally in their upstairs playroom, seeing her eat snow and grass with gusto, walking her with such ease because she was perfect, having her “tell off” one of the boys because they were too careless with their body awareness, how she used to bark fiercely at anyone who had the audacity to come too close to my Xterra. I vividly remember the way that she acted when Kenzo first arrived to live with us, hiding under the end table for a bit every evening until she finally came out to “put him in his place”. They were fast friends from that moment. She was once deemed imposing by a past boyfriend. She lived fully and deeply and with a zest. She was imposing. She aged gracefully and with kindness. I will miss her so much.

There are of course things I won’t miss. Mountains of laundry, worrying myself sick when she wouldn’t eat, the calluses on my hands that developed from carrying her with the harness and most distressing, worrying about whether I would come home and find that she passed away without me here. I would gladly take all of those on again to have more happy healthy days with her.

I have just two dogs now. This is foreign territory for me. Every evening, I get the supplements gathered in a small cup, to go with their breakfast. Every evening without fail, I count out three pills for each rather than two and I cry a little. Every workday I start to prepare 3 Kongs and then catch my breath, a huge lump where my throat should be. I know this will pass. But what won’t pass is how much I miss Siri and that is okay. I want to know that I loved her that much.

So many people offered me so much support. I cannot properly thank each one of you. But this particular sentiment really resonated with my soul so I share this with you all. Thank you Rachel, who so recently went through the same heartbreak, for knowing how this would help.

Aaron Freeman, You Want a Physicist to Speak at Your Funeral

Please feel free to share your own losses below, coping strategies, remembrances, etc. And love your dogs fiercely. Every. Single. Day. Their time on this earth is far too fleeting.

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  1. Kaiser Soze April 15, 2015

    Sorry for your loss… :-(
    I get a glimpse of this with an aging dog every trip to the vet for something that might be scary. Every day is precious, so enjoy their company to the fullest possible extent!

  2. Jackie Michalik April 15, 2015

    Dearest Siri… She will forever be remembered as the “scary” dog in that “chick with all the magnets” truck. No one ever dared to clean your door jams with Siri inside. You could feel her bark go through your soul. To this day, I have not yet grasped how to deal with my own death(s), but I’ve found a whole new struggle loosing Siri. I did not realize how much I could truly love or admire someone else’s pup until I received your text message. When Merlin and Kera passed, I grieved for you. I had a much different connection with Siri, so her passing affected me just as it would with the loss of a close friend. She was my friend and I felt honored to have some final time with her.

  3. Linda (Linzey) Carlson April 15, 2015

    Debbie~ I am sobbing after reading this…….I am crying for you,for your dogs and also for all the losses I have been through,that never leaves me…..yes, we get past the grief eventually,but the love never ceases for them…..I still cry if I talk about dogs that have been gone for 30 years……the love always remains…..I can tell by what you write,how you describe your devotion ,that there are other people who love and take care of their 4 legged companions as I do……when ya love them so much, just seems like you are the only one that has that incredible bond with them,but I know there ARE others that would do anything for their canine loves……I dont know how there is anything left of people like us, for when we loose them, part of us dies,part of us goes with them……and I have had so many lost loves,……always have been a multiple dog house,and right now I am facing the horrific pain of loosing our 12 year old dear friend, our weimie Zeus…..He has had cancer since adopting him at age 7 ,5 years ago…..I too have dolled out many meds,natural supplements,and fawned and fussed over him, cleaned his mistakes that he could not help , done tons of dog laundry to keep him and the other dogs clean and comfortable…..hoping to lengthen his life….I know it is now not long…..the pain is welling in me ,and I pray that Zeus is as fortunate as your girl by passing at home in my arms….we have no vets that will come to our home so that the dogs can pass at home, we have always had to take them to the vet,and I so wish they would just pass in their sleep so they would not have to endure strangers touching them and so forth…..I will say a prayer for you and Siri tonight,and my beloved Zeus……..You are a blessing to the dog world……they give us the most incredible love,and the most painful loss.But it is more than worth the pain for the years of happiness they bring,and hopefully we give them………Hugs to you……

  4. Linda (Linzey) Carlson April 15, 2015

    I forgot to mention that after loosing one of our dear souls, I have a ceramony of burning sage,and I sing an Indian song ,a song of loss and to help the spirit travel to the other side…..

  5. cindy clay April 15, 2015

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey with your beloved dog siri. It’s very therapeutic not only to write down your feelings but also for others to hear and relate to losing a loved one.I pray that eventually time will heal some of the hurt you are experiencing. What a amazing dog mommy you are with your pack I’m inspired.

  6. Melissa April 15, 2015

    What a beautiful testament to Siri. Brought tears to my eyes and a pain in my heart for your loss. Enjoy your memories. Hugs to you! My thoughts and prayers are with you!

  7. kelly behen April 16, 2015

    I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing a beautiful tribute to your girl. Not sure how I got to your fb page but we have several friends in common – most w/Caucasian Ovcharkas. Rest easy Siri <3

  8. Atiya Abdelmalik April 16, 2015

    Debby, you touched me so! Thanks for sharing what I know is a very difficult journey. I was encouraged to adopt a dog after losing my son 6 years ago. Two weeks after my horrific loss I adopted Buddy, a senior Yorkie. I was told he had kennel cough but as a nurse it was clear after one day that something else was going on. Buddy loved me from the moment I picked up his matted, raggedy but absolutely adorable body. It was a very cold December night and Buddy’s breath smelled so bad we had to drive home with the windows down. When I got Buddy home he adjusted to his new dwellings as if he’d been here his entire life. I cried almost every minute during this time. I was in shock after losing my son. Buddy cuddled close to me as if his heart could read my heart. Within two days my husband and I were at the emergency Vet hospital after the Humane Society apologized for not catching that Buddy didn’t have kennel cough but severe congestive heart failure. Buddy was in severe respiratory distress and there was nothing they could do for him. I was more than traumatized and couldn’t wrap my head around what I was experiencing only two weeks after losing my son. I made up a song for Buddy and wrapped him in his blankie. The vet cried with me as Buddy was put to sleep in my arms as I sang the “Buddy” song. The Humane Society was deeply sorry for my experience and soon afterwards I got a call stating they had a healthy puppy, a Morkie (Maltese/Yorkie) who was just dropped off. The owner did not have time to take care of him. I named him Nemo and after two years I rescued a puppy mill dog, a Maltese who I named Dori. They are my heartbeat! I don’t even want to think of the end and after badgering my vet about their life expectancy she stopped me and said enjoy every moment and don’t overwhelm yourself with the end. I’m doing just that, capturing memories and enjoying every moment. On the night I lost Buddy, to help me get through the experience, the Vet said what would make it easier to manage this loss? I replied, I’m sending Buddy to my son. I envisioned my son’s bright and beautiful smile, holding Buddy in his arms and Buddy breathing with ease.

  9. Colleen May 5, 2015

    What a beautiful story of your beloved Siri and the last few days of her life. I hope that your writing helped in your grieving. So poignant and soulful, tears flowing as I read her passing in your arms. I have never had this experience, however I saw my daughter’s favorite pet guinea pig die in her arms when she was just 10 years old. I will never forget her pain but it was in her arms Cinnamon left this earth and it gave her a picture of her first experience of true love…. comfort and peace. My thoughts are with you.

  10. Marta TOwne July 17, 2015

    I want to reply to this, but I just lost my LHasa APso Teagan two weeks ago and it’s just too fresh. She was the last member of my original pack and her loss is one of three hard hits in the last few months.

    Maybe later I can come and add more….

  11. treauredog July 23, 2015

    my heart breaks too reading these stories. I lost the light of my life only2weeks ago- my precious little chihuahua girl, I loved her so very much and i can’t believe she has gone. One minute she was her usual vibrant self and the next she was dying- her spirit already gone. It isn’t right.

  12. Harry April 21, 2016

    Sad story, pets really have a massive effect on our lives.

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