Wednesday, August 3, 2016

To Pepper

To Pepper
That's Pepper. Yesterday, I got up early to take her to the vet for dental work. Her breath had gotten bad lately and our regular teeth brushing didn't seem to be helping. On a prior visit, the clinic's doctor explained they might need to extract a tooth or two depending on the x-rays. We brought her in on Tuesday morning, and the vet would call us when it was time to pick her up. But when they called, they told us she passed away after they gave her anesthesia. The doctor gave her epinephrine and performed CPR for over half an hour, but none of that worked.

I am a puddle of bad emotions. Mrs. Done by Forty and I are crying into each others shoulders, and I keep screaming and sobbing into a pillow, and making bargains with God. I keep thinking that maybe this is some demented prank perpetrated by the vet -- that any moment, they're going to drop her off at the front door and say it was all a gag, and I don't think I'd even be mad at this point. I just want her back. I know this is crazy, but I would gladly give up all our money just to have her back. I can make more money. I can't make another Pepper.

Pepper was my very first dog. We got her a couple weeks after moving into our first home in 2010. When we picked her out, she was just two handfuls of fur and sweetness who just wanted to be close to you. Here's a photo of her from the day we brought her home.

To Pepper

Pepper might not have been a dog you'd immediately describe as "well behaved," but her peccadillo was just ignoring the concept of personal space. She'd jump up onto the couch and lay right across your lap, or sit right on top of you with her face an inch from yours, wondering why anyone would not want to be in touching, or breathing, distance at all times.

She'd still follow me around the house like she did ever since she was a puppy. Resting her head on my lap when we watched tv. Pawing at the door a hundred times a day to be let out, hoping I'd follow her and toss the tennis ball.

I am rage level angry at the vet, who didn't mention the risks of anesthesia when we consulted with her. When confronted with this on the phone, she kept repeating "there's always risks with anesthesia" after recording our call, to protect herself and the clinic, I'm sure. Still, pointing to common knowledge about anesthesia is not exactly the same thing as discussing those risks with a patient, and making sure they're making a decision with all the information. 

I am looking for someone to blame. Every five minutes that blame shifts from the doctor and back onto me. Pepper was my dog. My puppy. Her breath wasn't so bad. Why couldn't I have just left well enough alone? Why couldn't I have been cheap this one time, and let the specter of a thousand dollar vet bill stop me from bringing her to the doctor? Why didn't I research the risks of canine dental work?

My brain is kind of torturing me now. I know on some level that there really isn't anyone to blame for this. We were trying to help our dog, and the vet was, too. We were all trying to give her a better life, and she did have a good life. This was just one really unlucky day.

I've found that there is a positive in all the crying and bad emotions: Mrs. Done by Forty and I are leaning on each other. We're closer, realizing that each of us needs to hold the other up right now. She cries on me, then I cry on her, and we do it all over again until our brains go numb for a while.

We have a better idea of what matters, and what doesn't. Family matters. Friends matter. Our dog, Jax, matters. But work doesn't really matter that much. With the level we're at, past the concerns about having a place to live and food to eat, money doesn't really matter that much. Maybe I've been writing about all the wrong things.

My therapist gave me a technique when I lost my grandmother. She told me to write a letter to her.

Pepper,
I am so so sorry for what happened to you yesterday. I know you didn't want to go to the vet, and I should have listened to you, baby. I know that was scary for you. I made a bad mistake and now it will be a while before we see you again. 
There are a lot of nice people where you are now. I want you to make friends with a nice family, and they will take good care of you. You're going to find a family who will toss the ball with you, and will give you baby carrots for treats, and will let you sleep in their bed at night, and rub your belly whenever you want.
You are a good girl, Pepper. You were nothing but sweet to us. Your mom and I miss you very much, and so does Jax. It will seem like a long time until we're back together, but time goes faster than we think. 
We love you, Pepper. You are such a good girl. We'll be together again someday, baby. 

To Pepper

48 comments:

  1. Sending caring thoughts your way. I know it's tough, and I'm so sorry for your loss. For what it's worth, this was a beautifully written post.

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    1. Thank you for those encouraging words, Kristin. On top of all the sadness, my internal critic was screaming at me the entire time I was writing this, telling me, "This is sentimental! No, this is SENTIMENTALISM." He may be right, but I'm happy if others like it anyway.

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  2. Losing any pet sucks, but losing that first dog especially sucks. I'm sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thanks, Mark. The first cut is the deepest, for sure.

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  3. I am so, so very sorry. I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face, wishing I had some words to comfort you, but unfortunately, there just aren't any. It's so hard to lose a pet, under any circumstances. But to lose one that way... my heart just breaks for you, and for Mrs. DBF, and for Jax, and for the vet, and especially for Pepper. What a beautiful girl she was.

    CatMan has lost several pets during routine procedures. Two died, and one came back paralyzed - so I know all too well that there are no "risk free" trips to the vet. The one that got paralyzed didn't even undergo anesthesia, the vet just dropped him and broke his spine. So every time I have to take one of my babies in, I hold my breath the entire time.

    Still, there are perils and risks to NOT taking them in as well. My cat Princess, who I lost in November, had terrible teeth - and I opted not to have them done because she also had bad kidneys, and I feared she would not survive anesthesia. Of course, ultimately, she ended up with oral cancer - probably because of her bad teeth... And part of me can't help but think that maybe if I hadn't put off dealing with her teeth for so long... maybe her bad teeth contributed to her kidney problems... maybe, maybe, maybe...

    Ultimately, there just aren't any "right" decisions in these situations. None of us has a crystal ball, and there aren't any do overs. All you can do is make the best choice you can with the information that you have, and that's exactly what you did. I am sure Pepper knows how deeply loved she was. And there will come a time when you will be able to think of her and remember the joy she brought into your lives, instead of just remembering the pain of losing her.

    Please know that I'm holding you in my thoughts and prayers.
    With deepest and most heartfelt condolences,
    Cat

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    1. You always write the best comments, Eco Cat Lady. And I'm sorry if this post made you emotional or sad -- I wrote it mostly because it's kind of therapeutic for me to write, since I don't really want to talk about it with people IRL.

      I remember you writing about Princess. It's very hard to know what the right thing to do is ahead of time. Like you said, you make the best decisions you can with the information you have, and then you just hope for the best. We were unlucky this time.

      Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, and for being a good friend.

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  4. Very sorry to hear about the loss. It's always tough to lose someone you love, even when it's a pet.

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    1. Thank you, Tawcan. I am ashamed, somewhat, to admit that I am much more hurt by this loss than I have for some family members passing. I know that's callous to say, but it's true. I rationalize it by realizing that my pets are a much bigger part of my life, my day to day and my emotional life, than a lot of my extended family.

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    2. I don't think that's callous at all. Losing a pet is different - they give us such unconditional love, and they leave such a huge hole when they go.

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    3. Thanks again, Cat. You know just what to say.

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  5. Oh man you have me crying too. Man I cannot say how sorry I am to hear about Pepper (I call my cat Pepe that so it hit really hard how I'd feel if that happened). I seriously can't imagine what you must be feeling. I'm so, so sorry!

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    1. Thank you, Tonya. Sorry if the post made you sad. Give Pepe a big hug for us.

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  6. So sad to hear of your loss, and how courageous of you to write such a beautiful post. Our first dog was called Pepper too (a dalmation). I know the pain when you have to say goodbye, but that must be amplified when it's under these kind of circumstances. It's good that you and Mrs. DBF can offer comfort to each other and grow stronger through this experience, and your observations on what is really important in life are truly poignant.

    I wish you comfort at this time of great sadness.

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    1. Thank you, Organised Redhead, which I think I'm going to steal as a new nickname for Mrs. Done by Forty.

      It makes me happy to know your first dog was named Pepper, too. We might have a lot in common.

      Thank you for writing such a nice, note. And congrats on the new position, too.

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  7. OH my dear, dear friend. I am so sorry. Many, many hugs to you. Know that I will be praying, praying for comfort and peace for you guys. Know that all dogs go to heaven, and that you will indeed see her again someday.

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    1. Thank you so much, Laurie. The notion that she's up in heaven with nice people, and that we'll get to see her someday, is giving me a lot of comfort.

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  8. Sorry to hear the bad news. For me, writing is therapy. I'll bet it helped a bit to write this post.

    Don't kill yourself over it. My favorite quote for shit like this comes from Dr. Seuss:

    “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

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    1. That's a beautiful quote. I'm going to share it with my wife -- I think it'll really help get our minds right.

      You're right: writing this was a kind of therapy. I don't really want to talk on the phone or in person about it, but writing this down was good for me.

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  9. So sorry to hear about Pepper, I'm sure she had a wonderful life and was so lucky to have you guys.

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    1. Thank you, Mrs. Pop. That's what we keep telling each other: she had a good life.

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  10. Oh no :( :( :( I'm so shocked and sad to hear about this. Please remember all the wonderful times you had together and that you will see each other again some day. Hugs and deepest condolences.

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    1. Thanks, FireCracker. I appreciate the kind words and the hugs.

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  11. I'm so so sorry. I'm glad you and Mrs. DBF have one another during this time of grief. It hurts my heart to think of what you two must be going through and I truly hope your beautifully written letter to her helped you in even the smallest of ways to get through this. Thoughts and prayers with you, friend.

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    1. That's a really thoughtful note, Mrs. FI. Thank you. It helps to know we have friends out there in the PF community.

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  12. I am so sorry to hear about your dog. She sounds like a wonderful pet. We lost our beloved Peanut two years ago and thank god we got our new dog in a month. I can't imagine what we would do if he were to leave us right now. My condolences and best to you all.

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    1. I'm sorry you lost Peanut, Jason, and we're definitely thinking of when we should bring a new pet into the home. Our other dog, Jax, definitely knows something is wrong. He's Mrs. Done by Forty's dog from before we even met, and he's ten now, so he was the pet we were mentally preparing to say goodbye to. Anyway, he knew Pepper half her life, so he seems about as depressed as we are right now. Our vet thinks a companion would be good for him.

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  13. Oh, Brian, I'm so sorry. We recently lost a kitten very suddenly, and that pain isn't something I'd wish on my enemies, nonetheless people I like and respect. I think you're right.... It's something I've struggled with, too... Money is definitely not the most important thing in life. It's a fun little tool, but matters so very little to our souls. I'm sorry this happened. Don't blame yourself, although I know it's hard not to. Maybe, though the pain is horrific, this was Pepper's parting gift to the family she loved: bringing everyone closer together. I'm sorry it has to be born from a place of such terrible pain, though. You guys are in my thoughts.

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    1. Thank you for the words of encouragement, Femme Frugality, and I'm sorry to hear about your kitten. Losing a friend suddenly is especially hard: you don't have time to prepare or say goodbye.

      Today's the first day I haven't really been blaming myself, so I think it's going to get better. And like you said, maybe Pepper is bringing us closer together.

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  14. Oh wow, I really sympathize as this was my biggest fear when I took my dog in for dental work this spring. I knew the risks of doing it and the risks of not doing it and paid the high price for a vet that I trusted with dental xray capabilities. Even so, I was in tears leaving the dog knowing he might not come home. He did survive but if he hadn't, I would have been a mess for months. Even my Dad's passing the year before did not make me cry like the thought of losing my dog. Now I have a surgery consult for my other dog and I am in the same position, knowing he could die from anesthesia except this time it is for a tumor so it is life threatening. We love our companions so much. I grieve with you.

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    1. I really hope everything goes well for your pet this year, Daizy, both with the anesthesia and the tumor treatment. We'll say a prayer for your dog.

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  15. What a beautiful and wonderful dog. You can just tell.

    Several years ago, I was having a coffee and two women were sitting near me outside. At first, I was kind of shocked by what one of the women said: "I feel terrible about this, but Fido's death was more difficult for me than my mother's passing was."

    But after a day or two, I realized that the woman was being honest, and that many people (including myself) can feel the same way. Who's caring for the other, human or canine? We both are, with all the love we have. The relationship is so strong that we'll never quite get over it.

    The beauty of it is that so many dogs are almost magical in their loving and devotion. It's so difficult to reconcile. But I'm sure that Pepper had a great run, and you made it so. And that's a huge deal.

    It will get better, I promise.

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    1. Thanks so much for that note, Erica. I know what that woman meant. My grandmother's passing, while hard, wasn't really anything like this...which brings its own guilt, of course. But like you said, it's a unique relationship we have with our animals. They rely on us so completely, and love us so unconditionally.

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  16. I am so sorry for your loss. We too are huge dog lovers and still mourn the loss of our last dog at 16. It was and continues to be four years later the most difficult loss so far in our life. Our current dog just had this same procedure done and this was my fear going into it. Words can't describe how sorry I am for the loss of your beloved family member. The hurt will be there for a long time but so will the good memories. Pepper will be waiting for you in Heaven. This was a beautiful post and have us as I'm sure many others in tears. Know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

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    1. Thank you very much for the thoughts and prayers, iFreebies, and I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your last dog. I really appreciate your comment.

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  17. Sorry for your loss. When I lost our family dog of 12 years it tore me up too. I hope that you find peace. Your family is in our prayers.

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    1. Thank you, Clint. It's amazing to hear all the support from fellow pet owners.

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  18. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a dog can be harder than losing a family member in certain cases. Glad you two can pull each other out of the shitty hand you've been dealt and come out stronger

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    1. Thank you, Evan. We're definitely leaning on each other, and I think that's the silver lining through all this: Mrs. Done by Forty and I growing closer.

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  19. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is the same to me and to many others as losing a child. Please try to find peace and healing in the good memories and in time. You wrote a beautiful letter to her and she surely knew she was blessed with a family that cared and loved for her as you all have.

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    1. That was a really nice comment, Tony, and it brought a smile to my face.

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  20. My heart is broken for you guys. Have read your blog for almost a year, but this post truly touched me. My husband and I have a wonderful dog who looks like an older, heavier version of your Pepper. There behavior even sounds similar. Praying for you and your wife to find comfort. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Alicia. You never know who's reading the blog, and it means a lot that you've been here and commented.

      Please give your "Pepper" a big hug from us, and maybe a treat. Thank you for your prayers and support.

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  21. So sorry for your loss. We have two mini doxies. As you may know, small breeds have more dental care issues. Now our two are middle aged, we have their teeth cleaned every year. We know anesthesia is a risk, we also know dental decay effects other parts of the body.

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  22. Thanks for the kind words, Maverick. I think anesthesia is pretty darn safe, from what we're reading, so I think you're doing the right thing with the cleanings.

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  23. Wow, that actually bought a tear to my eye. Seems like such an unfair way to leave this mortal coil but you were only doing what you thought best for your dog. The risk of passing away under amnesia must be very small even for animals otherwise they wouldn't do it so it sounds like pepper was very and sadly unlucky.

    Sending you, Mrs DbF and Jax best wishes from the UK mate

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    1. Thanks, FIREstarter. We are starting to get a better handle on things. I'm not crying every day, so that's good.

      I think you're right: the risk of anesthesia is low, but I suppose there's always some risk. Just unlucky.

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  24. I'm so very sorry for your loss. I hope this finds you well although it has only been 2 months. I came home Friday and my 16 yo Gracie could not walk. It was clearly not just a bad day. Previously fighting any notion of putting a pet down my heart broke for her. I spent the next morning and afternoon with her then took her in and stayed with her all the way. I was able to say goodbye but was no where near prepared for my intense grief. My heart goes out to you both.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about Gracie, Marcos & Jillena. That's a sad story, but I'm happy to hear you were able to say goodbye. That's been the hard part for us.

      Thank you very much for the kind words and for coming by to comment.

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