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Goodbye, Louie

Dachshunds

John and I said goodbye to Louie Thursday morning after a rapid decline and a horrific night of suffering physically for him and emotionally for me Wednesday night. He was about 14 or 15 years old, and he lived an amazing life.

He found John in Savannah back in 2004. He lived down the street from the house John grew up in and kept coming over to play with the dogs they had. John took him back a couple of times and he returned over and over again. Finally, the last time John took him home, the owners told John he could have him. John named him Louie and they were immediate best friends forever.

He was the most charming, sweetest, friendliest dog ever and had so much personality and the biggest, saddest eyes that made you want to endlessly feed and pet him. You knew what he wanted and when and most of the time, it was food.

He had a stomach of steel. One time, when John and I were dating and they came to spend the weekend with me, I made some cream cheese chocolate chip cookies and left them on the table to go watch a football game with John. When we came back, the Ziploc bag the cookies were in was ripped open and there were no cookies to be found. Not even a crumb. Missy, our Jack Russell, was sick as, well, a dog for the rest of the night, but Louie just pooped a lot after and was fine.

Before John and I met, he was in the army and stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. At the time he and his ex-wife Angel left for Alaska, Louie could not fly because he was not adjusted to the cold of Alaska. Instead, John and Angel found a couple on Craigslist who were horse trainers and driving their horses from Savannah to Fairbanks and for a small fee, they were willing to drive Louie up there with them.

This is how freaking charming Louie is: he was supposed to ride in the back with the horses the whole time, but not too long into the road trip, he found his way into the lap of the wife and rode there the rest of the way to Alaska.

Louie was KING of loving car rides. Sometimes when we took him outside to go potty, he roamed around to each car trying to figure out how to get in. When we lived in Smyrna, he ran out of our apartment when we left the door cracked accidentally and scared this poor woman to death when he ran in front of her car. When she stopped (thank goodness) and opened her car door to check on him, he ran to the driver’s side and jumped in the car with her. John and I ran out and John had to pick him up out of the car and bring him inside. He was not happy.

He always knew when we were going to leave too and worried so much he would get left behind. In his younger years, he sang an opera every time we walked out the door and didn’t take him with us even if we were just going to put bags in the car before we came to get him and Missy and take them with us.

Dachshunds

John was his absolute favorite person, through and through. When I first met Louie, he made it clear I was not his “real mom.” He and I went round and round as I tried to get him to back away from me when I ate at the table or to get out from under me whenever I was in the kitchen. He preferred John’s sister Sara, who took care of him in both Savannah and Alaska when John was shipped to Iraq for a 16-month tour of duty, over me, and he always had so much to “say” to her whenever he saw her. I always said he had to tell her how horribly I treated him because I didn’t let him sit in my lap while I ate dinner or didn’t just give him my dinner every night.

I never had indoor dogs growing up, and I never understood the close relationships people had with their dogs. I just thought they were cute and fun to play with but that’s it. It took me a long time to warm up to both Missy and Louie.

It was hard for a while because they were both so needy. Before they and John came along, I could go places at a moment’s notice and not worry about coming home in time to feed or take the dogs outside. I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night because one of the dogs really had to potty. I didn’t have to deal with dog hair, vomit, accidents, or incessant whining and barking.

When John first moved in with me after he was out of the army, he joined the national guard and wound up spending 4 months at Fort Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia. I came down with the flu the day before he left, so I spent the first week he was gone feeling near death on the couch. This was probably when Louie and I first started bonding because he jumped up on the couch and laid at my feet nearly the entire time.

Dachshunds

The first picture on this entry was taken on April 23, 2017. We lived in Chicago at the time, and that morning, he woke up and could not use his back legs at all whatsoever. They just dragged behind him. Everything I read said once a dachshund’s back goes out, that’s it for them because of their body structure.

He looks happy but he was in tremendous pain.

That day was the first day I began worrying about losing Louie. I thought he might die that day or that we would have to put him to sleep as he laid on the couch with his head in my lap, panting heavily in pain. We took him to the vet and she gave us some anti-inflammatory medication for him and told us to shorten his walks, keep him from jumping up on or down from furniture, and make sure he got lots of rest.

His life slowed down considerably after that point, though he still went to the dog park in our neighborhood with Missy and ran around to all the dog owners and requested they pet him and tell him how cute he was and barked his tail off.

Thankfully, he returned to Georgia in October 2017 with us despite several scares. The second picture in this entry is from our road trip from Chicago to Atlanta. He was the best passenger ever. He occasionally looked out the window or leaned his head over for me to pet him, but he mostly slept in the seat for the duration of the trip.

Life slowed down even more so for Louie once we got settled back into Atlanta. We got him a comfy bed for his crate and my mom bought him a nice bed to have in our bedroom, and he often slept next to John’s side of the bed. If I ever closed the bedroom door while John slept and did not let Louie in the room with him, he cried and cried. He also cried and cried when he was ready for John to get up and pet him and feed him, haha.

He had quite a routine down. He was supposed to eat dinner around 5 or 6p, then sit and watch us eat dinner, then clean our plates. After about 9p, it was time for him to go outside, then come in, go to his room, get his treat, and go to bed.

He got to where we could open the door and let him go outside, do his business, and come back inside without a leash and without us watching him every second he was outside. Unlike Miss, we never worried about him taking off for the parking lot, especially because it involved running up a pretty steep hill for an old dog with a bad back and short legs.

Last Christmas, my friend Sia bought John and me a little Christmas tree and decorations because we didn’t have the money to buy a big tree and didn’t have any decorations. John had to work Christmas Eve and it was just Lou, Miss, and me, so I decided to try to take a picture of them in front of the little tree.

It took some wrangling but miracle of miracles, I got the third picture in this entry. When I looked at it, I started crying because I knew it was going to be our last Christmas with Louie.

While we were in Chicago, we noticed Lou had a mole on his chest but didn’t think anything of it because he had a lot of bumps and moles all over him. I called them his old man liver spots.

But then that mole started growing and the growth picked up rapidly over the summer of this year and it started oozing and bleeding. We thought it was some sort of fatty cyst and harmless for a little while, but in late August, I decided Louie had to get it checked out because it was almost as large as a tennis ball.

The vet biopsied it and said it was cancerous and needed to come off so we scheduled the surgery. The morning of his surgery, the vet called and said while examining Louie before his surgery, she noticed his belly was really rigid and Louie, normally calm and quiet, yelped when she pushed on it. She then did some other tests and determined his prostate was enlarged.

The surgery was postponed for early October and he was given anti-inflammatory medication as well an antibiotics to see if the swelling in his prostate would go down. This was when I noticed he started having a lot of poop accidents in the house and then, once on the antibiotics, he seemed to almost stop pooping entirely.

He had the surgery on October 2nd and everything went well. His prostate had reduced in size so the medicine seemed to help but he still could not poop. He tried and tried. I gave him canned pumpkin and it didn’t help.

When I took Missy to the vet two weeks ago because she’d developed another mouth infection (her third in the past year), I told the vet my concerns about him not pooping as well as how lethargic he’d become and that I think he had a seizure a few nights before the appointment. She was most concerned about the constipation and said his prostate was enlarged again and pushing down on his colon and bladder, making it hard for him to relieve himself. She gave me some more anti-inflammatory medication to give him to see if it helped.

Last Monday night, Louie was restless all night long. Usually, the only time he was like that before was if John was at work, but John was home and in bed. Neither John nor I slept that much Monday night because Louie could not get settled. Tuesday morning, we got up and took Missy to the vet to have four more teeth removed, and when we came home, Louie was still restless. When the vet asked us about Louie that morning, we told her he still couldn’t poop and how restless he had been the night before. She said we were at the point of keeping him comfortable, that he didn’t have much time left.

We didn’t realize then how little time there really was left.

He kept following both of us around when we got home so I sat with him on the floor and hugged and petted him then John put him on the couch with me so he could vacuum and I petted and hugged him some more. He wanted John more than he wanted me but John wanted him to go to his room so he could settle down and rest. We gave him some medicine and he finally laid down and rested.

Everything began going downhill Tuesday night.

First, he kept trying to go outside and go to the bathroom and couldn’t and then about 6p, vomited twice outside, something he almost never did. He came back inside and did not want to eat or drink any water. He just laid on his side by the back door. I laid on the floor and petted and talked to him for a while. We tried to see if he could get up to go outside, but he could barely hold his head up.

John and I stayed up til 3a hoping to find out who the next governor in Georgia would be and gave up around that time. I picked Louie up and carried him to his bed in our bedroom because I was worried about leaving him alone in the living room all night in case something happened.

I woke up to Louie vomiting again Wednesday around noon. He managed to walk over to my side of the bed then flop over on his side again. I woke John up and told him, “Louie is dying and he is in a lot of pain now.” He’d started panting Tuesday afternoon too but by Wednesday morning, he was just lying on his side and breathing in short, quick bursts.

The vet closed at noon on Wednesday, which now makes me wish I’d woken up earlier in the day because of how much he suffered Wednesday night. I emailed the vet and told her what was going on and she said to bring him in first thing Thursday morning.

Wednesday night was the worst night of his life and mine. John had to go to work so I sat watching Louie off and on. We gave him some anti-inflammatory medication to help him rest and it worked for a while before he vomited it up. Nothing was being digested and he did not go to the bathroom, even as an accident, all day.

I guess the gift in not being able to take him to the vet Wednesday morning was that he had more time to say goodbye. I laid on the floor next to him and petted him, kissed him on his forehead, and told him how much I love him and how good a dog he has been. I joked how I knew he didn’t like me at first because he and John were supposed to live the bachelor life once John’s first marriage ended and I ruined that, but I knew he secretly loved me because I fed him so many snacks and rubbed his belly and back for him and took him on car rides to Montgomery to run and bark freely all over Mama’s backyard.

I called Caleb over FaceTime on my iPad and he and Mama both talked to Louie and told him how much they love him and what a good, sweet boy he is. He visibly relaxed seeing Caleb’s face, as Caleb became his second favorite boy in his final year of life. Not surprising since Caleb and John are a lot alike.

Louie dozed off some while Caleb and I talked but then opened his eyes and looked around for me. I caught his eye and reminded him I was with him.

I went to bed around 3a again and I found a relaxing playlist on Spotify to play to help Louie relax and maybe rest and help me rest. I was just falling asleep finally when he started dry heaving again. He’d done it once towards the end of my call with Caleb, but then calmed down, but around 4a, it started up again and the whole room smelled acrid and the smell burned my nostrils.

I had to get up and go lie down on the couch in the living room because of the smell and the sounds Louie made when trying to vomit again and again.

Thankfully John got home about two hours early Thursday morning and was able to go sit with Louie and pet him and talk to him. I sat with Louie while John went to put a towel in the backseat of my car for Louie to lie down on and Louie started wildly looking for John.

John carried him out to the car and got in the backseat with him and I drove us to the vet.

I could barely talk when I walked into the vet’s office and told them why I was there. The vet tech had me come into one of the rooms and she closed the blinds. John carried Louie into the room and held him in his lap. He was completely slumped over. Didn’t raise his head or wag his tail. You could see in his whole demeanor he was done.

The vet tech asked if we wanted the vet to examine him to see if there was anything we could do to prolong his life. I looked at John. He looked at Louie and then told the tech, “No, I’ve never seen him as bad off as he is right now. It’s time.”

She said okay and took him to the back to put the IV catheter in.

She and the vet came back a few minutes later. The vet told us how sorry she was about Louie, that she knew he didn’t have much time left but didn’t realize his decline would come so quickly. She laid him on the table and told us she would first give him the anesthetic and make sure he was out. His eyes were open the entire time, but she waved her hand in front of his face and there was no movement in his eyes. I think he stopped breathing then too because I had my hand on his side and watched his belly and there was no movement.

Then she gave him the barbiturates that stopped his heart and checked for a heartbeat. Within less than two minutes, he was gone.

His eyes were still open and he was still so warm. I couldn’t stop running my fingers through his fluffy salt and pepper hair. He was so soft, like a fluffy pillow. I kissed his forehead several times and told him we love him and will miss him so much. The vet hugged us both and told us he will be in good care, that he will be cremated and his ashes will be spread around a communal garden.

When we left our apartment with Louie, it was sunny and so beautiful outside. We went and got breakfast at Chick-Fil-A afterwards and when we came out of there, it was cloudy, gloomy, and grey like it had been all day Wednesday.

I realized Wednesday night while talking to Louie that I have known him almost exactly half of his life. He was so full of energy when I met him. He loved talking shit to his cousins (much larger cousins, I might add) whenever we visited them in Savannah. He was so passionate about food, car rides, his schedule, squirrels, and John. He is so lucky John was able to take him in when he was still so young and give him the long, amazing life he would not have gotten otherwise. John is so lucky he got to be so dearly loved by such a sweet boy.

Louie isn’t just a dog. When I met him along with John and Missy, he became my family and stole a big chunk of my heart. I had no idea how much he would steal when I met him 7.5 years ago. I have cried more in the past three days than I have in a very long time. So much of it is because of how deeply I miss him, but also, there’s a sense of relief because I’ve held my breath for the past year and a half. I knew when his back went out, his time was coming to a close, but I didn’t know when. He held on for so much longer than we expected, and I am thankful for all the borrowed time we got with him.

Our apartment feels so sad and heavy and empty without him, but he isn’t gone from us. I can’t stop talking about him. I still think I hear him at times and I keep looking for him every time I go into the kitchen to get something to eat or drink. It is going to be so hard to adjust to life without him.

I told him Wednesday night, when he gets to Heaven, please look for June and keep her company. She’s not a big dog lover and she probably won’t give him her bacon at first, but keep working on her. Not even June can resist his charm.

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