From the time I started this blog 6 years ago, I knew that there was one post I would have to write. Probably one of the hardest posts I would have to write. Because the thing about animals is...they die before us.
The last week of April Kabo slowed down considerably. My father-in-law even commented that he "was on his way out the door". He barely ate, rarely got up from the bedroom floor, and obviously was just not himself. I told myself that he IS a 14 1/2 year old dog. But I knew something more was wrong, I just didn't know what.
The following Monday I took him to our beloved vet and she confirmed a kidney issue. So he was super dehydrated. I got blood work and x-rays and a urine culture done, then meds and fluids and went home. I was cautiously optimistic, because Kabo had beaten every other injury or sickness that he'd ever had. Not that there had been many, but there had been a couple. Besides, this is the best dog in the world...he will never die. Even so, I texted Workaholic and told him the situation, and then mentioned that I had always wanted a family picture with him and I, Sam and Charlie, Kabo, Kale and Sampson. Just the seven of us. I thought nothing more of it.
Later in the afternoon on Monday, I had one of my weekly late pregnancy appointments with my baby doctor. When he asked what was going on, I casually said that my dog was possibly in kidney failure. His eyes got wide and said "You too?!" His 7 year old Bernese Mountain Dog had succumbed to kidney failure not too long before. I asked him for the story, and he hesitated before detailing out her symptoms and behavior and what the vet told him. And when he told me that she was gone about a month after diagnosis, it hit me that everything he had just said was just what I heard at the vet and observed in my own beloved Fonz. I left that appointment feeling dejected, but not hopeless. Each day that week, twice a day, I hung up 2 liters of saline on my living room ceiling fan and Kabo laid underneath while the fluid created a bubble under his skin. He perked up, but still refused to eat unless it was soft food out of my hand.
Friday morning came, and it was his follow-up appointment. We were going to do more blood work to see if his function had improved, and also get the results of the urine culture. As I stood in the almost-scalding hot water in the shower, I realized that he was REALLY sick. As in, not recovering kind of sick. I'd had my doctor's story in the back of my mind all week, but the reality of the situation hit me that morning. I began to cry, and I cried and cried and cried. Finally I was able to finish my shower in time to leave for the appointment. The closer I got to the clinic, the more dejected I got. The tears began again and I could not stop them. I didn't even try this time, just wiped them away enough for me to see where I was going.
The actual appointment is still a haze. Two different doctors came in to talk with me, confirming kidney failure, showing me his results and cautiously offering medication and options. I took the medication and enough saline for the weekend and promised to come back on Monday. But not before looking into my vet's kind, wide eyes. The eyes said everything. He was not going to recover from this. Again I broke down. I had never actually thought that this would be the way he would go. I thought I would have more time. I thought it would be cancer, and I wouldn't have to say good-bye so quickly. As I sat crying on the floor of the exam room I knew I needed to call my BFF and ask her to come and visit us on Monday. She is a vet, and could do the euthanasia at home. That is one thing that I always knew, he would be home when he passed. He would be with me. He would not go alone.
I had changed Kabo's grooming appointment for the following week to later in the day Friday. I was taking all precautions, and he was smelly and dirty from soiling himself while laying down. He knew he was filthy and it affected his mood. I dropped him off and warned them that he was in kidney failure and probably had not much time. As in...three days. They called several hours later, waaay after I thought he would be done, to tell me that they could not give him his regular summer cut. He could not stand long enough and kept urinating all over the table. I choked back my sobs as I asked if they were at least able to bathe him. "Oh yes", she assured me. So I gathered everyone in the car and headed to pick him up. We were headed straight to the lake from there. Workaholic had surprised me and booked a photographer to come to the cottage and take family pictures on Saturday. I didn't even ASK him to do it, he just did it because he knew that was what I wanted. And there was no more procrastinating. It was now or never.
The same dog who could not stand on the grooming table long enough to be shaved stood the ENTIRE DRIVE to the lake. A solid hour and a half. As he stepped out of the van, I couldn't help but admire him. His blond fur was clean and soft and his eyes reflected the feeling that he knew he looked good. He held his head high and wandered off to do whatever it is he does when he first gets to the lake. I continued the fluids that night and the next morning, and then went outside to meet the photographer, who knew the situation. We immediately did the family shots, then released Sampson from the grip of a happy 3 year old. We did more shots with just me and him, him and the girls, shots with Workaholic and the girls, and shots of just the girls. It wound up being a lot more than I expected, but was pretty happy with the shoot. I knew he was a little low on energy, but I had to take what I could get.
Sunday was not a good day for Kabo or me or Workaholic. We went home and I did more crying. I stopped the saline, there was really no point now. Workaholic fed him a lot of bacon and some other human food, went to bed and I cried myself to sleep. I just kept telling myself that I could not believe that this was it. This is what I had been dreading for 14 years. I did not sleep much and figured out the logistics of when the girls would be gone and when they would be home and when we would do the deed. Monday morning slowly rolled around.
It was any other day as far as my kids were concerned. We had been prepping Sam that Kabo was very sick and might die. Understandably, she did not want him to die. He was HER dog. She had known him since she was little, and he used to make her laugh. When we went for walks, she was the one to hold his leash while I corralled Kale and pushed the stroller.Of all the constants of her life, he was one that had always been there, since the beginning. Never changing. Always there.
Workaholic and I sat with him for a long time before we let him go.I could not stop stroking his fur, burying my face in it, taking in his signature smell. I've already forgotten what he smelled like. We talked to him, I assured him it was OK, it was time and I knew that. It was time for him to go to the Rainbow Bridge and be healthy and happy and run and jump and play again. Like he did when he was young and strong. And then he was gone.
My BFF made the comment that he had held on for me. It's true. I never imagined he would live to see me have three kids. He fell a couple of weeks shy of doing that. As much as Sam knew that he was always there for her, for me truer words had never been spoken. From the very beginning, when Workaholic and I were seniors in college, he was my boy. We roller bladed together, all over campus, time and time again. I took him to the local parks that were wooded trails that all said to keep your dogs on leash and I let him off of the leash. We practiced and practiced how far he could go and when he had to come back. When I graduated, I decided to buy a house with a large yard so he would have room to run and play. When we moved to Florida, we didn't go with a condo near the beach; we bought a house with a fenced in yard and a pool. When I lived at my parent's house, he lay in the back yard for hours upon hours, looking out into the darkness. Watching, listening, protecting. He rarely wandered out of the yard, but was brought home once by a very nice lady. I took him every day I could to the job site of our new house, and when the sod was finally laid down, I have never seen a happier dog. He raced in circles and rolled in the soft grass, so happy that the hard clay and mud were gone. I made him endure a dozen foster dogs, the birth of one child, then another, then introducing a cat into the house, and finally a puppy.
Through it all, he stayed near me. Not necessarily by my side, but he always knew where I was. He would lay near the bedroom door so he could see me in bed and also look down the hall, guarding us. His favorite spot was at the top of the stairs, where he could see out the windows down the street of our neighborhood. He'd sit in the landscaping at our house, and was so quiet and still that neighbors walking their dogs didn't notice him. He would stare down the street, waiting for me to come home. He always seemed to know his boundaries, I rarely had to have him on leash. He just wanted to be near his mom.
He was an AKC Canine Good Citizen and everyone who met him loved him. His soft fur, his gentle demeanor, his quirky antics. His obedience. Even people who do not like dogs liked Kabo. They knew that where I was he would be close behind. The ones who were around when he was a puppy don't even remember his high energy, the energy I had to harness in again and again so as to not piss people off. He could swim in the lake for hours. We often let him out and forgot about him. When we'd go looking for him in a panic, there he would be, digging for rocks in the lake in front of our house. He so loved digging for rocks. Even if he did not know what to do with them if he actually got one in his mouth. He just loved the water.
That high energy pup matured into the absolutely perfect dog. Sure, he only came when he knew I was serious; and he thought "fetching" was actually more of "chasing and not bringing the ball back." As he got older and more frail, I watched with joy when he got his little bursts of energy and ran circles in the yard or wrestled with Kale. He still loved to catch snowballs and he LOVED last winter, with all the snow. How appropriate that the snowiest winter was his last. He'd stay outside until he could not walk because of the ice and snow packed into his paws. To him, snow was joyous fun. And you couldn't but help catch on to his enthusiasm.
I know he left me 2 weeks before I had Penelope because he knew what I could handle. He knew that he had surrounded me with enough people to love me and support me through whatever life threw at me. He didn't need to be here on Earth anymore.But I sure am happy that he was here for 14 years. He helped shape who I am today. He will forever live in my heart and my soul.
To my Kabo...I'll see you again when the time is right. I love you.