Love. It’s a funny thing. You can’t predict where love will come from. You can’t predict when it will enter your life. You can’t always predict when it will leave your life. Sometimes it leaves with a goodbye. Sometimes it silently walks away. Just as it can begin without a beginning, sometimes it comes to an end without an ending. In such a case, one never loses those feelings, they just push them aside and move on. The sad part of life is no matter how much you love someone or something, there is no guarantee they will be with you forever. So what do you do when you find out that the most precious part of your life may no longer be around within a matter of weeks, or maybe months if you’re lucky. For some the answer is easy. Imagine having this extraordinary love; this love like none you have ever experienced in your life. Would you be surprised if I told you it may be the love between you and your pet? You may laugh at this notion. I may have also disagreed once. Even though I have loved my previous dogs, I am not sure I would have gone so far as to say a love between a person and their pet could be so deep that their very existence makes life all that much more…..more what? Here I lack the words.
My dog: Obi. Obi the Dobie. Obi-Wan Kenobi XX. My guardian and protector. My loyal, faithful, super-adorable, lovable companion. My dog has shown me this very special love. I cannot even truly describe it, it is that special. But I will try. When we are together, he is glued to my side. Sometimes it seems literally. He is a Doberman, a breed known for being “velcro” dogs, because they do attach lovingly to their owners and like to lean against you wherever you may stand. If you sit….well, they are happy to accommodate that as well. Obi is no exception. My 100-pound Doberman is a lap dog at heart. When I lay down at night to go to bed he will lay with his body between my legs, his chest on my belly and his head on my chest so I can snuggle and pet him until we are ready to move into our comfortable sleeping positions. This beautiful creature is not short on love by any measure. I don’t think there is a human being alive that has shown more love than my dog has shown me. And as such, I probably love him more than I ever thought would be possible. But nothing lasts forever.
About a month ago, my baby started coughing. It was right about the time he received a brand-new bone for Christmas. So we automatically assumed he had bitten off of piece and got it stuck in his throat. I called the vet to ask if there was anything that could be done, and the vet suggested we give it a few days to see if it would work itself out. In the mean time, my baby turned 9. After about a week of coughing, I was about to take him in to see the vet, but then it seemed like he was getting better. So I did not follow through. A day later, his cough fired up again and was much worse. I made plans again to take him to the vet. Then he seemed to get better yet again. This cycle continued over the course of a couple of weeks. Each time he his cough was worse, scheduling conflicts made it difficult for me to rush him in to the vet, and when we could get there, he seemed better. Then one night, when his cough appeared to have gotten better, we were lying in bed and I could hear his breathing. Heavy breathing with a thick gurgling sound. I immediately knew that meant he had fluid in his lungs, he would go to the vet the very next day – no matter what.
The vet wouldn’t be in until that afternoon. So Obi was dropped off, and I waited to hear from the clinic while at work. The day progressed very slowly. I am sure that it seemed even slower for my poor baby as he sat in a kennel all alone at the vet’s office. That afternoon, I finally received the phone call. I was provided with all the details, short of a diagnosis. He had an enlarged heart, an irregular heartbeat, and fluid in his lungs. All symptoms of congestive heart failure. As any normal person would these days, I immediately looked up CHF in dogs and learned that this could be congenital for Dobermans. The bad news…once it develops, even with the best case scenario of treatment, they may be lucky to live a year. I broke down crying. I was not ready to face the fact that my lovable pup may only be around another year. Sure he is already 9 and a large dog, but I was hoping to exceed expectations and have him until about age 12. I guess that is no longer a possibility. After I got myself together and convinced myself not to despair (after all, nothing “bad has happened yet”), I went to the vet to pick my baby up.
As I sat waiting in an empty lobby for what felt like forever, I started to get anxious. Why were they taking so long? Did something already happen? What could be worse? Of course my fears were unfounded, as the vet was just busy. When he was free to talk to me, I was given further details of Obi’s symptoms and what could possibly happen going forward. It was suggested that we get an ultrasound of his heart. We agreed to set that up, and I went home with over $100 worth of heart medication for my dog. Was it necessary? I was told some of it was immediately necessary, with the most expensive being optional until the results of the ultrasound came back. The ultrasound wouldn’t take place for another week, and I could not wait for treatment. So to me it wasn’t an option. I wanted whatever I could get to help my dog now, especially if there were any chance this medication would help improve his heart. I didn’t care that it cost $100 for just this one medication. I regularly pay $100 (or more) for concert tickets. You’d better believe I would pay $100 for medication for the most precious part of my life. We proceeded home, and settled in the routine of medicating him every morning and every evening; waiting for his ultrasound appointment.
The day of Obi’s ultrasound finally arrived. Once again, he was dropped off in the morning, and I had to wait to hear from the vet when it was completed. Optimistic me expected his heart to be better. I expected that the medicines would have given us a miracle. I expected the unexpected. I wouldn’t get it. When I arrived to pick Obi up, it was confirmed, his heart was rather enlarged. Now forgive me if I mix some of the medical explanations up here. I already don’t have the best memory, but sometimes it’s more difficult to understand everything when you find yourself emotionally weak. I was told Obi’s heart produces impulses at a rate of 24%. It should be at a rate of 40%. It was a miracle he had not simply passed out on a regular basis due to the lack of blood flow. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and he is in the stages of heart failure. We could give him another heart medicine that would help his arrhythmia. While this may have a positive effect and “keep him from dropping dead” as the vet put it, it could also bring forth its own set of problems by dropping his blood pressure too low. I had to outweigh the trade-offs. Not having this medicine could kill him, but giving him this medicine could also kill him. What kind of choices are those? I could see a cardiologist for my dog, but apparently there aren’t any in the immediate area. Fighting back tears and jokingly telling the vet that he was killing me, I kept myself together and asked him how long he would guess Obi would have, good or bad. Then then my world was crushed. He could make it a few months… or he may only make it a week. How could this be? My dog has always seemed rather healthy. We feed him only top of the line dog food. We limit people food and unhealthy treats. He looks healthy. He acts healthy. He’s still spunky like a pup. We did everything right. But that didn’t matter.
In my car, the tears fell. I knew I was highly optimistic to once think such a large dog could live to be 12. But now it would be extremely optimistic for him to live to his next birthday. My heart is slowly breaking, but all I can do is love my baby harder than I’ve ever loved him before. He is irreplaceable. I cannot fathom where I’m going to be mentally the day he moves on. I will lose the biggest love of my life. But I won’t lose that love, for he will always be with me. All I know is I don’t want that day to come.