Monday, September 21, 2020

The Story of Us

When I walked into the Greenville Humane society puppy room  in March 2005 our eyes met. You were still drowsy from surgery the day before but you didn’t take your eyes off of me. I asked a volunteer to meet you, and she took you out of the crate and let me hold you. I sniffed your head- you smelled like pee- like one of those shitty pet stores at the mall. You curled up in my lap and I knew for sure we needed to be in each others lives. In your first 10 weeks, prior to that day in March when we met, you had a very rough life. I promised that your life would be easy and full of love from that day forward. 

We moved to Mexico not quite a year later. You loved it so much. It was hot and you always found the sunniest place to go lay and soak up the sun. Occasionally you’d come back inside to get water, your fur hot to the touch, but with a huge grin on your face. We had many adventures in Mexico- you enjoyed hanging out at the beach but never really liked swimming. You’d hop on your back legs in the water to avoid swimming. When it came time for me to leave an abusive relationship and leave Mexico, a few good friends offered to watch you until I could return a few months later to bring you with me. 

The 4 months we spent apart were difficult. I got updates on you, but I missed you terribly. The day I returned for you, initially you didn’t recognize me and acted the way you did with strangers- by backing up and being cautious. You were curious though- I could see that you were trying to remember who I was, and after sneaking you a small piece of pork at our friends house, you jumped up on me and started giving me kisses. You remembered. 

We flew to San Francisco a few days later for our new lives. I was worried sick about you on the flights from Cancun to Denver, and eventually onto SFO. The flight attendants were amazing and kept me updated that you were doing just fine. We landed in SFO and you were happy to be done with an extremely long day of travel. We settled into our new lives and began our new adventure. 

It was less than a year later that I took you  to a park to meet L. We had just gone on our first date the day before, and he wanted to meet you. We met at the Los Gatos trail and you jumped up on him, tail wagging, full of happiness. For 99% of dogs out there, I feel like this is an expected response to meeting someone new, but for you this was monumental. You were always fearful of new people, especially men. But when you met L, your eyes locked and you felt comfortable and relaxed. (I knew then, that I needed to be with him forever). 

We went on many adventures in California. Sometimes L would take you across the Bay Bridge - which you absolutely hated- L did too! To pick me up from work. We went to wineries, we went to the huge dog park in alameda, we were inseparable. While at the dog park, I would walk behind some trees- and it was hilarious to see you walk up to men similar in size to L and be excited only to realize it wasn’t him and then continue looking. 

You got the nick name “CB” aka “Churro Bear” from when your dad and I went to a Giants game- there was a vendor yelling “Hey Churro!” And we started saying it to you- and since you were a little bear to us, well Churro Bear it was. 

We went to Chrissy field  multiple times, and honestly we were convinced it was your favorite place in the world.  

Whenever you would dream, and your legs and paws would move, we always said “he must be running around Chrissy Field.”

In January of 2011 we drove across Route 66 to start our new lives in Chicago, and stopped at many of the oddities along the way. After a few days in the car you were so incredibly happy to run around free at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Tx. We also stayed at a Hampton inn. We arrived in chicago in the middle of winter- you weren’t a huge fan unsurprisingly, but we had each other. A huge blizzard hit a few weeks later and you got to play in the snow  seeing you bounce around in the deep snow made me laugh. 

Our time in chicago was great. We would run on the lakefront, and you would chase anything in front of us that moved. We would sprint to the object- a paper bag, or other piece of garbage usually, and then you would give me a “my bad” kind of look. When our eyes met, I always felt that I knew what you were thinking.  We always had fun sprinting after squirrels and garbage. You trained me to be an excellent squirrel spotter- that I would detect them before you, and hold the leash better so it wouldn’t break a finger. 

In 2017 we decided you needed a brother. We started our search for “puppy brother” at several animal shelters. Given that you didn’t like most dogs, we knew either a puppy from a shelter or breeder would be our best option (knowing our skill level, time commitments, and breed characteristics that would fit in our family). We met several dogs, one of which was - a 6 month old terrier/border collie mix who was described by the shelter as “rambunctious” and I initially  thought it could  be a good fit (because border collies are high drive so rambunctious didn’t scare me)  until we met it. It was off the wall crazy and didn’t interact with us, and knew it would take intensive training to have a dog with probable  mental issues. And given your disposition, we needed a better fit for our family. I felt somewhat conflicted looking at breeders but we knew to have success in our family, that we needed a dog with a known history, breed characteristics that fit in with our lifestyle,  and sound temperament. 

We brought Ze Pequeno home in June 2017, and you didn’t like him at all (expected). We should have gotten you a large doodle. We would joke that your type was poodles, doodles and lean dogs with long legs- like greyhounds. You’d stretch your neck up when you’d encounter one of those types and act silly. (You hated pugs, frenchies and boxers).  Eventually you warmed up to Ze and it was so awesome to see you playing in the house together. If there were 2 identical toys, and Ze was playing with one of them, you had to have whatever one he had. Not the other. I never thought you’d be BFF’s and snug (although Ze wanted nothing more to cuddle you) but I hoped Ze would give you some extra energy- and I feel he did. 

In February 2019 we noticed the first sign of problem- you pooped in the house after being taken out. At the time, it didn’t seem significant but looking back it was the start of a rapid decline in your health. Your back legs already were experiencing muscle degeneration. So in May, we contacted K9PT to come and help out. Our vet had always recommended PT- but that would have meant taking you across the city Which would have been a burden on you. K9PT made house calls. We saw great improvement in the first session- between stretches and laser therapy it was great to see you not so stiff. We knew your muscles wouldn’t grow back but to have additional mobility would give you a better quality of life. We continued with weekly sessions. You even jumped up on the couch for the first time in a year  after a few sessions!

In June we took you to Milwaukee- we wanted to spend a nice weekend with you without Ze. (Zé enjoyed going to day care a ton anyways.) We met Kim and Steven and their sweet kitties and then went to some breweries in MKE. “Look at the dog in the boots!”  Sometime in early 2019 we had to keep rubber bottom boots on you because you had trouble walking on the wood floors- but also due to you dragging your back legs a bit and wearing your nails down too much.  It was a wonderful weekend with my boys. 

In early August when L was away at a conference you had your first of several episodes where you were unable to get up for days at a time. You’d also refuse any type of food Or water I would offer. I honestly thought when this happened in early August,  that you were going to die. I’ve never cried so hard or for so long in my life. This was the first time that it really hit me that you would not live forever. I slept on the floor next to you. After a few days you were able to walk again (very wobbly) and eat. I was hopeful. 

These episodes happened a few more times- each increasing with frequency, intensity and duration. Each time was more heartbreaking than the first. We brought you to the vet but there was nothing clinically wrong with you. We knew you had dementia - after Francisco from K9PT had mentioned dogs could get it at one of our first sessions. We had bought supplements to help with cognitive issues but it was a gamble if you’d decide to eat them (and we should have started them years earlier). Honestly I was angry that our vet never mentioned the possibility of dementia to us previously - with better care and diets, dogs and cats are living much longer than before and are experiencing more cognitive issues. They just wanted us to come in for more tests when we should have been doing hospice care instead. 

In mid September I called the vet to schedule a “wellness check” to determine your quality of life from an outside perspective. You weren’t eating much, you had to wear a diaper in the house, ans I was going out of my way to buy anything and everything I thought you’d eat- rotisserie chicken, ground beef, liverwurst, while L was getting you 5Guys burgers. By Thursday or Friday of the week, I had called to reschedule the appointment to not be a wellness check but instead to give you the dignity you deserved. 

I took a half day on Friday to spend more time as a family. We got 5Guys burgers and you seemed to be rallying. I snuggled with you as much as you’d let me - and you continued to go after Ze- the only consistent thing you would do despite the dementia. At night, I once again told you the story of us as we looked into each other’s eyes. 

On Saturday morning, I took Ze for a run. I felt guilty that I couldn’t take you after logging thousands of miles with you over the years. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. 

I took a photo of Ze and a lady approached us asking if we would like her to take a photo of us- usually I would decline (since we are out on the lake all the time) but this time I wanted a pic. 

We went to Stans Donuts, because you  loved their donuts almost as much as 5Guys. You enjoyed every bite of the birthday cake donut we got- the same one you would get for your birthday each year. 

After donuts, we walked to the park together. You loved this park- but definitely not as much as you loved Chrissy Field. We took many pictures and laid in the sun before returning home. By this point I was feeling a tremendous amount of grief because you were rallying- you had just walked the furthest you had in a long time without struggling- were we making a mistake?

We took some more pictures at home and then put Ze in his crate and loaded you in the car for the short drive to the vet. When we got to the vets office, they immediately directed us into a room so we wouldn’t not have to wait in the packed waiting room. You walked into the office fearless, which solidified that we were making the right decision- as previously you would have started shaking, panting and protested going in. The Doctor asked us some questions before taking you back to get an IV- again you walked with her without protest- something you’ve never done before. 

We laid you down on the blanket and stroked your fur, and told us how much we loved you and thanked you for being the best boi that we could have ever asked for.  You transitioned to your next adventure in the most peaceful way possible- surrounded by people who loved you. We took a moment with you before saying goodbye forever. I stroked your soft ears and smelled your paws one last time so I wouldn’t forget your signature frito smell. 

Walking out of the vet’s office with only your leash, boots and collar, was nothing short of heartbreaking. We drove home, hugged Ze, and then went to get lunch. 

We had some drinks to toast to your incredible life. We went to another bar for another round to numb the the void of missing you. 

The next day we ran the Fox Valley 20 miler. We dedicated this race to you, our big fox. Post race we went to More brewery and drank a beer aptly named “space boots” which we thought was appropriate for your next adventure.  Coming home was tough- it was the first time I couldn’t put a race medal around your neck. You always looked so proud when I put medals on you. You were my original coach. 

It’s now been one year since you went on to your next adventure, and we joke that you are living it up in the 5Guys in the sky (and going to the Culver’s with Heidi). The last 6 months of your life we were probably 5Guys biggest customers- because it was one of the only things you would consistently eat. 

In the past 366 days, I believe you have sent us many “signs” or at least I’ll attribute them to you. 

From almost stepping on a chipmunk at the fox valley 20, to the “Churro” Bat on our balcony, to koolaid man at the start of the chicago marathon (we used to joke you were koolaid man because you would bust into my bathroom because the door didn’t latch properly, Ohhhh Yeahhhh) - I feel you near us. 

Thank you for being you, Hampton (CB, Churro Bear), and thank you for all the memories you gave us.

How we imagine your life is currently:

Hampton 🌈 : January 15, 2005 - September 21, 2019