Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Dakota Douglass~~November 3, 1996 - September 29, 2012

I ventured out to the backyard swing today for the first time in a week and a half.  That's where I normally do my morning devotional. 

This usually takes over an hour because Dakota, our 16-year-old keeshond, has always insisted on being out there with me.  He loves the outdoors but his hearing over the past year diminished greatly, so I end up spending more time making sure of his whereabouts and reigning him back into sight.

Today's breeze made it the perfect Fall day.  On days like this, the wind would blow across Dakota's fur and he would look majestic, black/gray fur sweeping in the wind, his head held high and tail tightly curled wagging against the breeze.

That vision hit me hard and the tears began to flow.  Today marks ten days since we were faced with the most difficult decision regarding this beloved family member

Six month ago, Dakota had what we thought was a stroke...we let him outside before bed, and when he headed up the backdoor stairs, he couldn't make it.  He just fell over.  We brought him into the house and he weaved around the room with no bladder control whatsoever.  With peepee lines encircling all over the living room floor, Rebeka quickly picked him up and took him back outside until his bladder was emptied.  Carrying him back inside, we noticed his ears were limp and his head cocked downward to the right.  We didn't know what to do, so Rebeka made a bed by the couch and slept next to him. The next morning, his ears were still limp but he seemed much better, and within 48 hours he was back to normal.  Three months later, the same scenario happened, this time without loss of bladder control.

Three Monday's ago, it happened again when we let him outside first thing that morning.  Like before, we waited to see if he would improve.  By Thursday, he had not.  Late for school that morning, we carried him to the car, and he went to school with us (which was customary when I worked at school).  When Keith came to school to pick me and the dog up, there were blood stains in several spots on the truck.  When we arrived home, we checked him to see where they were coming from. 

Around his bootie, the hair had fallen out and about an inch and a half diameter spot was "leaking" blood.  We knew then we needed to take him to the vet, and I felt in my heart that this was it.  The whole week he kept going in the same circle...

with the exception of when we let him outside.  After a few minutes, his lungs would fill with the fresh air and before we knew it, his head perked, his tail curled and he almost pranced as we smelled eveything in sight.  So we still had hope that he would recover.  It was night time that was the worst though.  For over a week, he would circle around as if he were afraid to settle down.  When he finally settled, he would wake up after a couple of hours, yelping in "terror."  It would send me flying out of the bed and holding him telling him it was okay.  Thursday and Friday, I finally put him in bed with me so that when he woke up and screamed, I would be right there.

With all of our chaotic schedules, it has been difficult for all of us to get together for any length of time, and so we rearranged all we could in order to take him to the vet on Saturday. 

Saturday morning came. 

Feeling as if the day was moving in such slow motion, I began dressing.

Keith came home from work, and changed clothes.  I fixed him some breakfast.

Rebeka, finished with track, changed her clothes, sat on the floor and just cuddled with Dakota, telling him what she and Hannah loved most about him, and how much they loved him.

With nothing else to detain us, we carried him out to the car and headed to the vet.

When we checked in and they asked for a description, they wrote down, "possible euthenasia."  The words stung. Though the waiting room was full, they called Dakota's name within 5 minutes.  Keith and Rebeka had taken him back outside to what might be his last time to bask in the beautiful fall day.

After checking him and watching him, the doctor said he had a tumor in his bottom, and by the looks of Dakota's behavior, he was pretty certain there was one in his brain.  What we thought was him crying out in pain during the night, the doctor said was not from pain but from waking up disoriented not knowing where he was~~i can't tell you what that did to my soul...

The tears were already welling up in all our eyes with the confirmation that he was in pain and that he would not get any better but only worse.  We watched him as he paced the same circular pattern around the room, panting with head cocked down to the right, tail hanging.

Dakota didn't like going to the vet.  We so wanted to be able to take him back out to the 96 acres, let him romp one more time before the inevitable.  But the doctor has to carry out these things...in the room. 

The doctor left while we tried to communicate our thoughts, unsuccessfully.  We all knew what had to be done, but we couldn't bear the thought of it.  We all sat in the floor cuddling him, talking with him...that made him sooo happy.  His face said it all..."I love you guys so much!"  That just made us cry even harder.  The doctor came in, and he knew what our decision was and, without a word, left again for the meds. 

When he returned, he explained that he would give Dakota a sedative to relax him first.  After it had taken full effect, he would then euthenize him.

It didn't take long for the sedative to take effect.  It is the most relaxed Dakota had been in days.  He seemed so content just to be in Rebeka's lap with Keith and I cuddling with him.  By this time, we were all so broken, and we didn't even try to hold back what was going on in our hearts.  Dakota slipped into a peaceful slumber just from the sedative.  I'm sure he was gone before the second injection.  Before the second injection, the doctor had us lift him onto the weight table, and he raised it up to our height.  Ten seconds later, the doctor confirmed the inevitable.  We just kept stroking his fur and talking to him. 

The staff put him in a box coffin for us and drew a heart to indicate where his head laid, and they loaded it in the back of the van for us.  We called our dear friends, Dale and Cindy, whose parents had been so kind to rent us our first home in middle Tennessee for the first 3 years:  96 acres of field, woods, creeks and hay.  That's where Dakota was happiest.  That's where he spent the best years of his life.  That's where we decided he would be happiest being buried. 

That's where we took him.  Dale and another long-time friend, helped us decide where to bury him, and 45 minutes later, the job was done.  Before heading to Charlotte, we stopped by the house for shovels and his belongings.  Somewhere in that time, we built a cross and routed his name and dates on it.

Today my devotional only took me 20 minutes. Just like so many of the daily activities I have done for the past 16 years, they have been changed by his absence.  These are the things in which I am confident will cause me to grieve for him for a long time to come.

Hannah's biggest concern was that she would not be here when he died...these were the words she posted for the world to see:

Dear Dakota,
I'm gonna miss you so much. I can't imagine going back home to life without you - what am I gonna do without my best snuggle buddy? I'm so sad that I didn't get to say bye to you! I know at times, I would laugh at you because you acted so much like a person, but I refuse to believe you were just any old dog. No normal dog could eat my entire chocolate birthday cake or a tub of rat poison and live. No dog could look at you at make you feel like he understood exactly what you were going through. No dog could act like he was a puppy for almost 18 years. I didn't know I could love an animal so much, and I really hope that all dogs do go to heaven, because I can't imagine it without you! I love you buddy!

Rebeka, the one who made sure Hannah knew and the one who just waited on the phone to skype her to share this time with her, wrote:
My dear buddy boy,
I believe today has been one of the hardest days to go through. I am gonna miss burying my face in your fur when I cry or just wanna feel loved, and knowing that you would always be there for me to comfort me. I don't remember life without you and it is going to be so weird to not have you
around. I love you so much, you were and always will be the best dog ever. I love you!
The stories are endless.  We called him the dumb dog because he defied so much: he defied gravity, he defied all the odds, he defied all abilities, and on several occasions he defied death itself.
He was strong and fast.  He was loyal and protective. He was funny and soft and cuddly.   He embodied everything a family dog is supposed to be...and he was ours heart and soul.
They say a dog and his owner tend to look alike and take on similar personalities.  If that is the case, we are one lucky family. 

A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn't care if your rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?~~Marley And Me
That is why my cup runs over tonight...