We’ve had Dietrich the dachshund for 11 years now. We got him our first Christmas together, just over a month after our wedding. He was a gift from John’s family He was 11 weeks old, and just about the cutest puppy I’d ever seen. He was tiny and had a little belly that just about dragged the floor. He got in the bed with us that night, he burrowed under the covers and we worried he would suffocate. He was fine. Come to find out, dachshunds love to burrow. Over the next few years he proved himself to be as stubborn as any dachshund ever was, but also as sweet and loyal and funny as well. But he suffered from asthma and frequent ear infections, and the medications required to treat them took their toll on his overall health.
Six years later, I was looking at Petfinder, hoping to find a buddy for Dietrich. At the Arlington animal shelter was a portly black and tan dachshund with a sweet face. Fred came to live with us that day. Dietrich wasn’t sure he wanted a buddy, but Fred didn’t give him a choice. He snuggled right up to Dietrich and a sweet friendship was born.
One year after that, after losing a precious German Shorthaired Pointer we’d had for less than a year (a rescue as well), we still wanted a big dog around the house. We went to the Humane Society to look at a chocolate lab. He was HUGE. But around on the next row of cages was Zeus, a 7 year-old Weimaraner with horrible teeth and separation anxiety (pretty much a Weim trait). We had fallen for his sweet demeanor though. He came home with us too. He became my shadow, whether I wanted him to be or not. Though so anxious, he was so sweet and loved nothing more than to sit on my lap. Yes, on it.
So for the last four years, we’ve had these three boys together. They have made us laugh so many times, given us comfort and love and kisses when we needed it, and warmed us in the bed for those winters (and made us excessively hot in the summers…but I wouldn’t kick them out–they were too sweet and snuggly).
But they got old. It seemed to happen overnight. Dietrich had another asthma spell and had to go on a round of steroids. The vet thought it might be helpful to keep him on a very low maintenance dose. Unfortunately, it lowered his immunity and he ended up with an awful ear infection and skin infection that almost killed him. We nursed him back to health the best we could, fearing he wouldn’t recover. He did, at least somewhat. But we knew that when he had another asthma spell, he couldn’t handlebars steroids. It would be “time.”
Fred was already portly, but just became obese. Morbidly. He didn’t even eat excessively, because we monitored his intake. He just seemed to put on weight anyway. He got to where he could hardly get up from lying down, and struggled to breathe sometimes after very little exertion.
Zeus’s teeth got worse, and many of the ones he had left fell out. He would scratch and bark at his gums at night. It was so pitiful. He had to go out much more frequently. He was declining, just like his brothers.
Yesterday, Dietrich was struggling to breathe, coughing a much as not. It made me so sad to see him suffering. And we knew that the others were not doing well either. We knew that today was the day. My mom came over and took pictures of each of us with the dogs, and we cried some.
This afternoon, John and I loaded up our three old guys into the van, took them by my mom and dad’s (where the kids were dyeing eggs) for the boys to say bye (we’d been out most of the day), then headed to the vet’s, where they were already waiting for us. They kept a room open for us so we could go straight in. That was so helpful, as I was already in tears. They were so kind. I left John to pay and rushed to the van to cry in private.
I knew it was the best thing for them. But it was so hard. There’s a big hole in my heart tonight.
There’s some good news, though, some honey for my wounded heart. We also got two puppies today (the plan was just to get a girl, their sister, but we couldn’t find her. We brought Alice out but realized she’d be much happier with her brother…so we came home with two!). Alice and MacGyver (guess who picked out which name…) are probably a Great Pyrenees/spaniel (I think English Springer Spaniel) mix. They are just so adorable. They are fluffy and soft and oh-so-sweet. Mac is 25 pounds at 9 weeks. His sister is more like 30. That girl has some BIG paws! The boys are so excited about their new babies. It’s helping them a lot. And me too. I’ve still cried tons of tears today, but having a sweet puppy beside you seems to dull the pain a little.
Having a pet is just one of those risks you take with your heart. You know there will be some (or a lot) of pain, but it’s all worth it for that love and companionship. I wouldn’t raise my kids any other way.