|Jan. 2, 2012 -- Holding Gabi for the last time.|
Today would have been Gabi's 14th birthday. We miss her tremendously. Brenton still looks for her in our bed (where she slept at my feet every night) and on her pillow downstairs (we haven't moved her pillow from the front of our fireplace). One day last week when we were leaving for school, Noah was shutting the kitchen door to the garage and yelled, "Bye, Gabi!" He stopped, turned to me and then kind of smiled, like he'd temporarily forgotten she wasn't there anymore to say bye to.
We are thankful that she lived a healthy life. She developed cataracts in the past year and was completely blind, but got around great. Things started to change in early December though, when she started wheezing chronically one night after we put the boys to bed. I checked her mouth to see if she'd swallowed anything, but didn't find anything. I called her vet the next morning (she wheezed and coughed throughout the night) and Eric took her in. The vet did an X-ray and said that she had fluid build up on her lungs due to an enlarged heart. He gave her a few prescriptions for her heart and a cough suppressant and told us that she would need to be on meds the rest of her life. It wasn't great news, but it wasn't awful news either. She was, after all, a senior dog.
It took her body a few days to get used to the new meds. She didn't eat the entire weekend, but finally did at the start of the next week. I took her back two weeks later for a weight check and she'd lost weight. We chalked this up to the fact that she'd not eaten for three days. She seemed fine and was taking her meds great, but then on Dec. 24, she stopped eating again. She was a bit lethargic and refused to take her meds. Knowing that she had to have them, I crushed them up and put them in to a small syringe with water and force fed them down her throat (which she did not appreciate at all!) On Christmas Eve, while Eric and I were downstairs getting some of the boys toys together, she walked to her water bowl and then collapsed while walking back to the couch. She was wheezing and breathing heavy. Eric and I just layed down beside her until she calmed down. Christmas morning came and went and she kept to herself on her pillow the entire day -- no interest in eating or drinking.
On Monday, Dec. 26, I called her vet and asked to bring her in. We were supposed to leave for Hendersonville that morning, but didn't want to get on the road without knowing what was going on. Her normal doctor was off, but the one on-call was very thorough with her. He took her temp (which was low), checked her gums (which were pale), listened to her heart (murmor had significantly increased) and took more X-rays. There was no fluid build up this time, but his exact words were, "I'm really worried about Gabi. I think she's much sicker than she looks." He told us that if she started eating and taking her meds again that we might have another month with her. If not, we needed to be prepared to take her to an Emergency clinic in Hendersonville and that she may not make it, but just for a few more days. He prescribed two more prescriptions (one for pain, the other for her immune system). He also gave her subcutaneous fluids under her skin to try and re-hydrate her. I left the clinic in tears.
Holding Gabi, I opened the door to the garage and Eric greeted me with her favorite toy, a squeaky gator, that he found buried in our hall closet. She hadn't played with toys in years. We both kind of collapsed and just cried. We loaded the boys up in the car and Gabi sat on my lap the whole drive to our hometown.
The next day, Tues. Dec. 27, we visited with family and took her to my aunt's house. My sister brought over natural pet food for her to try and PetSure (Ensure for dogs). We'd managed to get her to eat some no-sodium chicken broth (thanks to my sister's suggestion) and she woke up hungry and more alert on Weds., Dec. 28. Eric's mom made a pot roast (which was always one of Gabi's favorite things to beg for) and she ate it up like crazy and drank tons of water. She did this for the next few days and we thought we might be on the road to recovery.
On Friday, Dec. 30 we drove back to Knoxville. But the very next day, she stopped eating, drinking and taking her meds. By Monday morning, Jan. 2 we knew we had to take her back to the vet. She was extrememly lethargic and refused every food we offered her. She'd also not had a BM since Dec. 27, so we thought that perhaps she was "backed up" getting used to new foods and meds and that's why she didn't feel like eating.
Eric took her in that morning and the vet said he'd give her an enema, but that she'd need to stay a few hours and we could pick her up later. As soon as Eric got home though, the doctor called and said he wanted to run some numbers on her bloodwork before putting her through an enema. He called Eric after the results came back and the news was not good. Her numbers were way off the charts and he said her lethargy was due to being more uncomfortable than anything. Her kidneys were failing her. When trying to treat the heart, it's hard not to affect the kidneys and vice versa. When treating the kidney, it's hard not to affect the heart. He offered us two options: put her in the UT Vet Hospital ICU (with the chance that she might bounce back and stabilize for a few weeks, tops) or make the decision to put her down. There just wasn't an option for us that would heal or fix the problem. He said he supported either decision we made and that he'd be happy to come to our house to put her down.
I drove back to the vet's office to pick her up, where I was hugged and greeted by the sweet staff members who had tears in their eyes themselves. I told Gabi's vet that our boys were still napping and that I'd like for them to say bye to her before bringing her back later that afternoon. I made the appointment for 4:45 p.m. that day and it felt like an eternity waiting for that hour to arrive. Eric and I both took turns holding her and lying with her by her pillow. We got a few pictures and explained to the boys that Gabi would be going to doggie heaven. It was hard for them to grasp, especially Brenton, but Noah asked, "Is she going to go play with the other Gabi dogs?"
After discussing it with Eric we didn't feel that having her put down in the chaos of a home with two boys would be very peaceful, so we opted to take her back to the vet. Eric didn't want me to drive myself, so we loaded up the boys and headed to the clinic. After a very tearful goodbye from Eric in the car, I took Gabi inside. Eric drove the boys to Chick-fil-A and then waited for me in the parking lot.
I walked into the clinic knowing I would not walk out with her. The receptionist didn't make me wait in the lobby, but immediately took me to to a private room. Once she closed the door, I lost it. I couldn't believe our time with Gabi was really over. It had been such a wonderful 14 years together, how could this be happening? After a few minutes in my arms, Gabi started to gag. I held her over a trash can and she threw up a thick yellow substance. Dr. Jones walked in after she'd thrown up and said he was a symptom of renal failure -- ulceration. He then looked me straight in the eye and said, "I really think you're making the right decision."
He went over paperwork that I had to sign before the process could get started and then told me what to expect. He explained that he would give her an initial shot to completely relax her. This took a few minutes to take effect so he left the room. Within a minute, Gabi became like a limp noodle in my arms. I just rubbed her and told her how much I loved her. Then he came back and placed her on the table. He put her on her right side so that he would have access to her left back leg. He shaved small piece of fur from her thigh and attempted to insert a catheter in her veins. It took four attempts for him to get this inserted because the renal failure had caused her veins to become so brittle. After the he got the catheter in, I saw him pick up the syringe with Barbitol, a barbituate that would stop her heart.
I rubbed her little head with my left hand and placed my right hand over her chest. I felt her heart beating slowly and then couldn't feel it anymore. The doctor checked for a pulse and said, "Tyra, she's gone." It happened so quickly, but more importantly painfree. I stayed in the room with her for a while and just leaned over her tiny little body. I kept kissing her and telling how much we loved her and how thankful we were to have her in our lives.
Since we didn't want to bury her in the backyard (in case we move), we decided to have her cremated. The pet cremation company came to the clinic and picked her up. She was ready two days later. I drove to Lenior City to a beautiful home on the lake to pick up her ashes. They'd given us a lock of her hair, a paw print and a tiny white box that contained her ashes. I bought a small, cherry-colored wooden box (urn) to put her ashes in. We also put in pictures of the boys, a family picture and a copy of the Rainbow Bridge poem. If you've not heard of this poem take a moment to Google it.
We certainly felt the love from family and friends near and far. Dr. Jones sent us a teddy bear and poem with a card signed by the entire staff. One set of friends made a donation to the National Arbor Day Foundation in Gabi's memory. Ten trees will be planted, marked and registered in the beautiful Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California. Both of our moms got us two precious books -- "For Every Dog an Angel" and "Doggie Heaven." I highly recommend them both and have read them with Noah.
It's still tough not having Gabi around. I cried at some point every day the first week she was gone. I got lots of phone calls, emails and texts from sweet people wanting to check on me. The routine of our day is different, too -- not carrying her up the stairs at the end of the day to go to bed with us, not talking to her, not taking her outside, not feeding her, not being greeted by her when walking through the door, not holding her and loving on her.
Even though Gabi was a quiet dog (literally since her vocal chords never fully developed), the house has felt empty, like a piece of our family is missing. She has just always been there. Every moment. Every milstone. Everything. I got her when I was 16, so there have been graduations, college send offs, moving in with us, getting married, buying a house, bringing the boys home from the hospital . . . the list goes on and on.
We have so many great memories that we will cherish forever. We are so thankful Gabi was a part of our lives for nearly 14 years.
Here's a look back at some of our favorite pictures of Gabi. We didn't get a digital camera until 2005, so that's where these photos begin, when she was just seven years old.
|Christmas 2005 at JenMommy's house. Gabi always got lots of treats at Christmas!|
|New Year's Eve 2005 in Houston, TX. We drove from Knoxville to see Eric's family and Gabi was great the whole drive. She enjoyed taking naps on top of my clothes in the suitcase during the day when we'd be out running around.|
|Feb. 18, 2006 -- Eric's 25th birthday and it snowed!|
|Enjoying delicious strawberry cake from Eva's Bakery.|
|Cuddling with the birthday boy while he played PlayStation.|
|Nov. 2006 -- For some reason we signed Gabi up for a Turkey Trot one-mile dog run. She did great, but was pooped by the end of of it! For those of you that knew Gabi, she wasn't the most athletic of dogs :)|
|Nov. 28, 2006 -- My 25th birthday. As always, Gabi was there to celebrate lots of birthdays with us.|
|Dec. 2006 -- Christmas Day. She was wearing a cute t-shirt that said "Rudolph ain't got nothin' on me!"|
|I still have this sweet pink collar and tag with her name on it.|
|Feb. 9, 2008 -- Here's Gabi meeting Noah for the first time, just two days after he was born. She was very curious, yet very gentle with him.|
|Feb. 2008 -- Whenever Gigi came up, she always wanted to make sure Gabi got in the picture, too!|
|March 2008 -- Easter Sunday. This was also Noah's first trip to church.|
|May 2008 -- Our first trip to the beach as a family of four. I have a framed picture of Noah's chubby baby feet and Gabi's furry tail in the sand together.|
|Sept. 2008 -- This was taken on the first gameday of the '08 season.|
|Nov. 2008 -- Napping was one of Gabi's specialties. Whenever guests came over, she'd usually find the person that was least likely to move and cuddle with them!|
|Nov. 2008 -- Gabi and Noah being silly.|
|Dec. 2008 - Christmas Day.|
|Jan. 2009 -- Noah's giving Gabi a treat on her 11th birthday.|
|June 2009 -- Gabi was apparently Noah's accomplice in the great TP incident at JenMommy's house.|
|May 15, 2010 -- Brenton's first day home from the hospital and our 6 year anniversary. He was just two days old when he met Gabi. If Gabi had a bubble over her head it would say, "Oh geez, not again! Another crying baby in the house..."|
|Jan. 30, 2010 -- Gabi's 12th birthday. She really enjoyed vanilla Blue Bell ice cream.|
|Brenton was a bit surprised to find Gabi on him though!|
|April 2011 -- Hanging out with the boys.|
|May 13, 2011 -- This was Brenton's first birthday. We let him open presents on the deck and Gabi enjoyed being outside with us.|
|Dec. 25, 2011 -- Gabi stayed on the couch or on her pillow most of the day. We knew it could possibly be her last Christmas with us. At one point, we caught Brenton laying down next to her on the floor . . . like he knew she didn't feel well.|
|Jan. 2, 2012 -- This is the last picture of the boys with Gabi. We headed to the vet right after.|
|Jan. 2, 2012 -- Here's Brenton giving Gabi some last minute love.|
|Jan. 2, 2012 -- I stayed on the floor with Gabi for most of the afternoon.|
|Jan. 2, 2012 -- Eric and our first "baby."|
|Jan. 2, 2012 -- As much as we didn't want to believe it, we knew she was telling us to let her go.|
|Here is the urn, paw print and teddy bear that sits on top of our dresser in our bedroom. Before leaving the house today, I reminded Noah that today is Gabi's birthday. He asked to touch her paw print which I thought was sweet.|