Two weeks ago I helped Owen cross the Rainbow Bridge. He suddenly developed peripheral vestibular syndrome and the world was spinning around him. He lost his ability to walk, he stopped eating, he was disoriented, and while there was a chance he could recover, recovery would involve him being hospitalized to start, and a lot of rehabilitation. With his other conditions (hip dysplasia, arthritis, degenerative myelopathy and Cushing’s) Owen’s vet felt very strongly that his quality of life would be diminished to the point that he would likely be suffering, I agreed. Below is the e-mail I sent to the group I volunteer with, the group that brought me Owen.
Meanwhile, I will continue to share Owen’s Bucket List – remembering him and all we have done together still makes me smile.
Words I always knew I would have to type someday, but it doesn’t make it easier. Forgive the novel, but it is Owen’s story, and I just need to share it for those who didn’t know him, or us.
I still remember Owen at his first clinic. He sat in the corner with David, Maria and Erica, so unresponsive and sick he went back into the van. I told you all not to send him home with me then and there. The next clinic he was with Bryan, so shut down you had to pet him a few times before he would notice. That was the clinic I brought him home – that is completely David’s fault. I stopped for a cheeseburger for him on the way home and he refused to eat it. Granted, he refused to eat hamburgers for a while and the joke was that he heard he was a hamburger intake and wasn’t going to fall for it, because he knew what it meant. It took him a year to learn to enjoy cheeseburgers.
Owen has been a fighter from the day I got him, and well before that. How he managed to survive as a stray I have no idea, and don’t really want to know, but this dog continually amazed me with his independence, and heart. I suspect he would have gone on fighting if I let him, but, I had to make a decision. A long time ago I promised Owen I would not let him suffer, and he was suffering. Owen came down with peripheral vestibular syndrome, and the likely cause was a tumor in his inner ear. While there was a chance it was idiopathic and he could rebound, it would require hospitalization, and his balance would always be compromised, and with his other health issues it was likely life would be a struggle. His life was already starting to be a struggle – he had been wanting to go on shorter walks, he wasn’t rolling over for his daily belly rub as easily, and he was panting more and more. Plus, the vestibular syndrome was getting worse, not better, and that is not usual, and not a good sign. Yesterday Owen didn’t want my help getting up even though the world was spinning, today, he let me help him. That is not Owen. Dr. DeVries initially had me come in to talk about treatment, but when he saw “Handsome,” he told me if this was his dog, he would not ask him to go through treatment, and I had to agree. So today I told Owen he could stop fighting, because he wouldn’t have on his own. He went to the bridge with his head resting in my hands. As hard as it was, it felt right, and Dr. DeVries agreed, we’re both glad I gave it a few days to be sure.
Owen had major mobility issues from day one, hip dysplasia, arthritis, ACL issues and later degenerative myelopathy – on top of all his allergy and digestion stuff, and then the Cushing’s. When his vet told me Owen had probably lived most of his life in pain and didn’t know life could be less painful, I broke down, and promised Owen that was going to change. I always knew my time with Owen would be limited so I created a bucket list for him. He and I did a lot together – he hiked many trails, got his CGC and touched a lot of hearts – as the neighbor told me last week, you can just look at him and know he is a good dog – he was. He visited the kids I work with, he adored my Grandfather, and he was Aaron’s first dog (and he set a high standard). And he taught me oh so much – I thanked him for all of that. The only dog I’ve worked with that was returned from a placement for being too good. But even when he was returned because the adopter felt she didn’t deserve him I fought the inevitable for a bit and didn’t accept what Owen knew from the start – we belonged together.
I am attaching some pictures, because it is me, and I have to. The first is his picture from NYC. One with his buddy Kate who we saw at the vet’s yesterday, then two in the Adirondacks, one from my parents house a few months ago, and then one from just two weeks ago of him surveying his yard, along with a few of my favorite face shots.
Thank you for pulling him from NYC, even though I thought you were crazy at the time for bringing up one more emaciated senior shepherd. He got his cheeseburger, but thankfully his life did not end there. And , I kept my promise – he got lots and lots of belly rubs.