What an absolute crazy insane couple of days it has been! Thankfully I'm fairly flexible in some areas and have learned that plans change, opportunities arise, death happens, life goes on and either you learn to roll with it or it'll roll you over. I'm warning you now; you'll need a seat belt, tissue, steering wheel and direction signal if you intend to keep reading. Go ahead, I'll wait......
....got your tissue? no. Well, I cannot be held responsible if you end up crying and shorting out your computer, I gave you fair warning...
It starts last summer, late August-ish early September time frame with a decision to put our Boxer Harley down, she's never really been a fan of other dogs and with other dogs in the area and small children it was a risk and a liability we just couldn't have. The thought of her hurting a small child or another dog would be more painful than the loss of her and we knew it was the right thing to do. Despite every attempt imaginable and within our resources nothing worked. Yes, the behavior was stopped in that instant, but not permanently, so the call was made...several times.... I'm not going to into details, but suffice it to say, it was just not Harley's time. Since Harley never showed any aggression to us or humans, just other dogs she was allowed to sleep with Andrew, and they had a bond unlike any I've ever seen with an animal. She was his dog and he was her boy. She was so gentle and kind with him and he adored her. It was beautiful. Fall rolled into winter and Christmas and winter, we lost Hyacinth, then Coreah, I knew it still needed to be done, but just couldn't bring myself to do it right then. Call it what you will, I just couldn't. During this time I continued to try to work with Harley in the hope that I could make it work with her, she was my dog, my responsibility and as smart as a whip, crazy intelligent. I wanted more than anything to be able to rehab her and knock the dog aggression switch into a permanently off position. For Andrew, for us, for me and for Harley. It didn't work, and the fact remained that she was still dog aggressive and I was just sweeping it under the rug, in a manner of speaking I was avoiding the fact that I failed. I failed my dog and my son. Failure sucks in so many ways. Sunday we were visiting my parents and there were many children around, I had a hold on Harley so I knew she wouldn't go anywhere but she tried to lunge at another dog - while a niece of mine (who'd already been bit by a dog) walked by. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. I could not live with myself if she hurt a child inadvertently in an attempt to get to another dog.
I made the call Monday morning. I talked to the kids and told them that the decision was theirs to make as to whether they went with me or not to the vet's office. Ron was working at home and they were able to stay here of that's what they chose. Andrew immediately told me he would go and Faith went back and forth. I went to talk Ron and change my shoes, I needed to put something other than crocks on to dig a hole to bury her in. Andrew collected his thoughts for a minute and headed outside. I went out a few minutes later grabbed a shovel and noticed him talking to a neighbor, when he saw me headed to the makeshift graveyard he came to my side shovel in hand and said, "I'm going to help dig the hole Mommy, she was my dog too." And went to work. As much as I'd cried that day and in the previous months for this dog nothing prepared me for the floodgates that erupted forth at his comment. I grabbed him and held onto him and we sobbed together. I sobbed for the hurt he was feeling, at the loss of his dog, and for the glimpse of the man my son is turning into. I could not have been more proud of his strength and courage. I sobbed at the fact I'd failed in my attempt in avoiding this and I sobbed at all the recent losses, and we continued digging.
Once the hole was dug, we took Harley outside in the sunshine and played with her, loved on her and took lots of pictures, it was bitter sweet. When it was time Faith made the decision to come with me to the vets and all three of us loaded into the truck, Harley in tow and headed to the vet's office.
In a comedic twist of irony the road to the vet's office was closed and there was a rather lengthy detour and in the state of mind I was in I called the office 1/2 hour after the appointment was scheduled for - lost! I drove to an intersection and told them where I was and they gave me directions from there and I made it about 50 minutes late! We'd always called Harley a cat in a dog's body because she was so much smaller that Coreah and what boxers typically are. Between the previous appointment cancellations and the detour and showing up almost 1 hour late she really did have 9 lives! We walked into the office, I filled out the paperwork, paid for the services and then into the room with tears running down my face, children and dog in tow. If ever I needed strength it was at that minute.
We all sat on the floor with Harley and loved on her, telling her she was a good dog, that we loved her and to let go and go find Coreah. It was hard. Oh so hard, but even in that moment I knew it was the right thing to do, I could not shirk my responsibility off to somebody else and take a chance that something awful could happen, knowing what I knew. Harley started snoring and for once I didn't try to get her to move her head to stop, I let her snore in all her glory and just a few short minutes after that she was gone. We cried a bit more, pulled ourselves together and had the vet help us load her into the truck to bring home for burial, next to her beloved best canine friend Coreah. It was a long tear-filled ride back to the farm.
It had recently been brought to our attention by the neighbor (who lives 3 houses down) who had it happen that just a few nights prior(less that a week ago!!) he'd experienced an attempted home invasion. He's fine, just not liking what happened at his home and especially since he was home in bed when it happened! Talk about a violation! What is wrong with people??!!! So for me I'm thinking this is not a good time to be without a dog. Not to mention the void that loosing the dogs left. A friend of mine with huge circumstantial changes had a dog she needed to re-home. Not what she wanted to do, but what she felt like she had to do. She wanted us to take him, we both agreed to give it a try. She's headed out of town for a break and that'll give us a chance to see if it'll work here. Talk about Providential timing....I went to pick him up, Ron called and said one of the alpacas was down and wouldn't get up and that it looked bad. I was over an hour away! Ron put Garlic's winter rug over him and I scooped up the dog, accessories and my kids and flew back to the farm. Yes, all this has happened since Sunday afternoon, it's Wednesday!
Monkey was acting fine; well as fine as Monkey ever acted, when I left. I got home went to the paddock where he was laying and when I first saw him I thought he was already dead. It looked as though he'd already checked out. It's an hour + drive and I'd had an iced coffee.... Monkey was still alive - good! Now I need to pee! I sprinted into the house, unbuckling my belt and stripping my "public clothes" once inside. I peed, changed and donned a do-rag and was back outside in the paddock in less that 3 minutes. No joke.
I took a temp, gave him a once over, checked for fecal pellets, checked limbs and his neck. It wasn't looking good. Not knowing what else to do I called the vet, I cannot stand seeing an animal in pain and this was not like Monkey at all. The vet had just made it back to the clinic for the day and despite the fact it was after hours she would come out. About 1/2 hour later she pulled in and opened the box on the back of the truck, any animal lover would love to have all those supplies and the knowledge of uses, that is a fully stocked truck. I have a ton of emergency supplies, but mine pales in comparison. One thing I don't have but intend to get is a stethoscope. She changed into barn boots and headed to Monkey's side. Her initial comment upon seeing him was "Wow, he's about as checked out as he can be huh?" He didn't move when the vet moved in close to him. Not good. We did manage to get him up and he started wobbling, more so than ever before. (FYI, Monkey is the one that already went one round with the meningeal parasite and suffered some severe neurological issues and had a humdinger of a case of eczema before we got him. The previous owners almost lost him.) He was sort of disoriented and seemed confused and hummed for the rest of his herd and then started to collapse. The vet and I who'd been following him watching and talking reached out to steady him and helped him to the ground. Monkey was in rough shape, old, had a weakened immune system because of the severity of the eczema and checking out. The vet said that even if we had a place to work on him with warm fluids and what have you he'd not likely make it or if he did it would likely be just prolonging the inevitable and the most humane thing to do would be to put him down. This is coming from a vet clinic that I have a very high respect for and they are big supporters of supportive care and trying everything. I asked her of he was suffering and he answer was, "He's clearly stressed and likely uncomfortable." I said, "OK well I'm ok with putting him down, I do not want him to suffer any longer." It's not what I wanted to happen, (Monkey had my favorite color fiber and such a cute personality) but somehow I knew on the way back to the farm that this would likely be the outcome, I have no way to explain it, I just knew. It was nothing that we did or didn't do, it was just a matter of being his time and I can accept that.
We walked him carefully over to the makeshift graveyard, which seems to be filling up quickly and humanely put him down, holding his head next to my heart, patting his neck and telling him he was a good boy he slipped quietly and peacefully from this world.
After the vet left, I had a quick bite to eat and headed out, shovel in hand - again and started digging. It was a cold, misty, gloomy night and perfectly fitting for what I seemed to be doing a lot of lately as the death toll rises.