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10th April
written by Oakie's Mama

Oakie passed away yesterday, Thursday April 9, 2015 a little before 1:30pm.

Oakie’s heart started to deteriorate when he was 10. The vet noticed a very soft, but unalarming murmur. It wasn’t until Oakie turned 11 that the vet suggested he be placed on heart medication for the rest of his life. The idea of forcing pills down Oakie’s throat made me feel sad, but if you disguised the medication inside fresh chicken or dog treats Oakie didn’t care, he’d inhale it like it was the best thing he ever ate. Sometimes the pill would dislocate from the food inside his mouth and he’d spit it out. It was so frustrating when he did that. I eventually discovered Pill Pockets, and that worked like a charm. Oakie loved the pill pockets and always looked forward to getting medicated :-)

Shortly after Oakie turned 13, the vet noticed the hole in his heart had expanded. He gave me the devastating news that Oakie had maybe one year to live. I didn’t think he’d make it to his 14th birthday. But Oakie was a trooper. He loved life, and he lived like he was still a puppy. He ran and jumped until his legs gave out. He lived for chicken treats. He lived for the love of his mama and his family.

Oakie’s old age gradually began to show, and he started to slow down. At first he could no longer go down the stairs. Eventually he stopped climbing up the stairs. It was too hard on his little legs. He had arthritis in both his hind legs and in one of his front legs. We lived at my brother’s two story house for four years. He loved that house, and the backyard was his kingdom. In September 2014, Oakie and I moved down the street into our own four story townhouse. I carried him up and down the stairs. Every time I went to another floor, he followed, begging to be with me and to be carried. It was so sweet, yet so sad. But I wanted him with me on every floor, too. There was one incident where I had left the house to go to dinner. I left Oakie on the second floor. He thought I had gone up to our fourth floor bedroom. When I came back to the house, I found Oakie halfway up the stairs sleeping on the steps. He had almost made it to the bedroom, but he stopped about five steps short. My sweet little trooper.

At the end of January 2015, one of Oakie’s hind legs locked up and he hobbled on it in pain. I took him to the vet, and he put Oakie on the arthritis medications Adeqan and Metacam. A couple days after the visit, the young-hearted and peppy Oakie I had known for so long was back. He played and ran like a crazed puppy. It was so good to see him this happy. I thought it was a sign that Oakie would live for years and years. Then two weeks passed, and Oakie stopped eating. He was vomiting and had diarrhea. My parents took him to the vet, and the tests showed he had end-stage renal failure. The arthritis medication killed his kidneys and was slowly killing Oakie. He was put on dialysis for three nights. This was on a Tuesday in mid-February. I was in New York at the time, and I took the earliest flight home Wednesday morning to be with him. His uncle from Los Angeles also flew in to see him. Oakie is a very special dog, we all loved him so much and wanted to be with him. We took him home from the vet on a Friday afternoon. He looked so miserable. I thought he would pass in the next couple of days. I wanted him to be comfortable and with us when he did.

A week went by and Oakie seemed to get better. He was walking on his own and had interest in eating his treats. He drank water on his own, but he wouldn’t eat his food. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t want to eat bland, tasteless food made for renal health either. To keep him strong, I would stuff his cheeks a little bit at a time. At first he would protest and fling it out with his tongue, but eventually his hunger gave in and he’d swallow it. He lost a lot of weight during his hospital stay, and he continued to lose weight at home. This went on for about a month, but Oakie was getting better each day. I thought I could nurse him back to health and happiness.

On Friday March 20 after I took Oakie out to poo and pee before bed, he stopped drinking water on his own. He would go up to his bowl and look at it, make a light smacking noise with his tongue, and walk away. I thought he had lost interest in drinking water, so I kept him hydrated with a syringe, filling his cheeks with water until he swallowed it. On Saturday morning, he did the same thing with his water bowl, but this time his mouth was filled with mucus and it was drooling out. He had stopped swallowing his own saliva and would no longer lick his lips or nose. I still had no idea why this was happening, but I continued to give him water through a syringe. On Sunday as I was feeding Oakie, I got a glimpse of his tongue. He had stopped drinking on his own because his tongue was folded back at the tip. He wanted to drink, but he was in too much pain. My poor baby. I cried for him. I took him to the vet on Monday March 23, and he told me it was an ulcer. His failing kidneys caused his tongue to have an ulcer, and his stomach probably had ulcers as well. This tore my heart open, and I felt so horrible and guilty for trying to keep Oakie alive when I had no idea he was in so much pain. The vet gave him an antibiotic shot that would last for 14 days (when this was happening, Oakie turned around and bit the vet, causing him to jump and inject himself with the needle. Haha!), and he gave me a bottle of carafate suspension for his ulcers. I mentioned to the vet that it may be time to put him down, but he felt encouraged to keep him alive because despite the ulcer, Oakie unexpectedly looked very well for a dog with his condition, and the medication would ease his pain. After all, Oakie was a trooper. That night after the vet visit, Oakie perked up. He started playing with his toys and even ate his treats, something he gradually stopped doing after he first came home. The meds were working great, and it was good to see Oakie behaving like a dog again. He still would not eat or drink on his own, so I continued to feed and hydrate him in my lap like he was a baby. He was my baby, and I’d do anything for him. The ulcer on his tongue healed. The part that was infected fell off. I still don’t know where it went. I think he ate it.

Everyday that Oakie had a bad day, I would think about euthanizing him. I think he knew my intentions because the next day he would have a good day, and I’d rethink putting him down.

The antibiotics started to wear off before the 14 days. Oakie started vomiting regularly every day after March 31. His retching noises were painful to hear. He had one day of dark brown to black diarrhea, and I knew it was time to let him go. My brother and sister-in-law were coming back from vacation that weekend, and I wanted them to be there when it was time for Oakie to go. They loved Oakie so much, and he loved them too. My husband found a vet that did at-home euthanization, and on Friday April 3 I called to schedule his last day on earth for April 9, 2015. I wanted it sooner for his sake, but that was the earliest opening.

In the days leading up to his death, Oakie started to fade quickly. I took the week off from work to be with him. At times he looked very dazed and would stare at me. I wasn’t sure if he was actually looking at me, or if he was just spaced out. He continued to vomit. Monday night he threw up in his bed when I was in the shower. He was so weak he couldn’t get out of bed to vomit on the floor. He eventually pulled himself out and collapsed five feet away with a trail of undigested food behind him. I stepped out of the shower and found him like this, scared out of my mind that he had passed and I wasn’t there beside him. I picked him up, and he looked at me to let me know how much he was hurting. Thursday couldn’t come soon enough. I stopped feeding him on Tuesday. I knew it would only upset his stomach. Anything and everything I gave him would come back up. I only fed him water and some Pedialyte to keep him hydrated. He threw that up too. By Tuesday night, it was down to only water. He was so dehydrated that he didn’t throw up any fluids, he would only vomit air. It was still a terrible thing to hear, and he’d give a sad whine after each retch. I still cry when I think about it. All the pain he was in. He didn’t deserve any of it, and I have so much guilt for keeping him alive for so long.

Wednesday came. My last full day with Oakie. I started to clean up some of his belongings because I knew it’d be too hard to do after he was gone. I laid him on blankets on two chairs that faced each other with armrests that would keep him from falling off while I went upstairs to clear his bed. That’s when I heard him retching. It was a terrifying sound and louder than usual. I flew as fast as I could downstairs and found him with his head hanging over the chair. He had tried to sit up to vomit, but he was too weak. Instead he rolled over and threw up off the side of the chair. That was the scariest few seconds of my life. Again, I thought he had passed and I wasn’t there beside him. I picked him up, and he looked at me. He was ready to go. I took him over to my brother and sister-in-law’s home (his favorite place) Wednesday, and we spent the night in our old room. I took him out to his backyard. He recognized where he was and went to his favorite spot to pee. He threw up air that night, and he also had an intense amount of black diarrhea that had a weird chemical smell to it. His kidneys had totally shut down by now. I thought he would pass Wednesday in his sleep, but ironically his heart was too strong and wouldn’t give up. I stayed up most of the night with him. Every once in a while he would thump his tail. I would pet his head and he’d thump his tail harder. I wasn’t sure if he did it because he was in pain or because he was happy to be with me; I would like to think the latter. He tried sitting up around 4am. I got up to help him, expecting him to vomit. He just sat and looked around his old room. I picked him up and gave him a short tour; we went into the bathroom and I showed him where he would sleep on the tile when it got too hot for him in the carpeted room. I showed him where I used to hide behind the door from him when we played hide-and-seek. I showed him the closet where he used to dig his nails in the carpet. Then I took him back to bed and let him sleep on me for an hour. He had a few spasms of pain, and eventually he vomited air four times. I let him sleep on his own bed so he could be more comfortable. We woke up early and I saw he had released a drop of urine. He had refused to drink water the night before so I knew his bladder wasn’t too full. I had a plastic bag and paper towel under him so I encouraged him to pee in the room. He wouldn’t go so I took him to the backyard and he did his business. Even in his old age and deteriorating condition, he still had the amazing ability to control his bladder.

That Thursday morning I held him and we looked out the window to see cars passing and neighbors walking dogs, something we did often when he was well. He loved to bark at anything that moved. His eyesight had already worsened before he had renal failure, so he didn’t see everything that strolled by. At one point his head tilted when an old man walking his dog passed the house. Oakie was fading quickly by 11am. He was in and out of consciousness. I held him in my arms, waiting for the vet to arrive. He would look at me and stare into my eyes. His heart was beating strong and loud. His eyes would shut halfway and his jaw would fall open, and I could feel and hear his labored breathing through his mouth. I saw the ulcers had come back on his tongue. They weren’t there Wednesday morning, but they were very present at that moment. A couple of times his eyes would widen and his mind would come back, but by 1pm he was pretty much gone.

The vet came around 1pm. She could see he was close to death and tested his legs. His arthritis was so bad that he recoiled at her touch. She gave him a shot of valium to help him relax. She then shaved his left leg and put a catheter in it. The first shot she gave him was a sleeping medication. As she injected it we all spoke to Oakie, telling him how much we loved him and would miss him. Every night before bedtime when Oakie was well, I would say to him, “Oakie, go to sleep, go to bed, goodnight!” He’d listen and go to sleep. I said the same thing that day, and he fell asleep quickly. The second injection was an overdose of anesthesia. It only took a matter of seconds to work. I felt Oakie’s strong heartbeat fade and eventually stop beating. My baby died in my arms. It was the saddest and most traumatic experience of my life, and I keep replaying it over and over in my mind. I cried out the pain in my heart as I held my sweet Oakie. I adjusted him in my arms. His head limped backwards, his jaw opened, and his lifeless eyes were still open. That’s when it became real to me that he was truly gone. I held him a little longer, his body was still warm against mine. The vet came back and I gave him to her. During the transfer his head flopped violently to the side. Seeing that tore an even bigger hole in my already broken heart. As she held him, I gave him one last kiss and said goodbye.

I haven’t stopped crying since. I miss him so much. He was my first true love, and my baby boy for the last 14.5 years. That night I had a dream about Oakie. In all the years I’ve had him, I rarely dreamt about him. I don’t know why I never really had dreams about Oakie. If I did they were mostly about him getting loose from the house and running away to someplace I couldn’t get to in time. But that night my dream of him was a sweet but short one. I went upstairs to see him, and he was sleeping on the floor waiting for me in my parent’s old room (I was sleeping in their room that night IRL). He had his chest wrapped in a towel like a burrito. I can’t remember but I think he had socks on his hind legs. When Oakie was sick, I bought him some non-slip socks towards the end of February to help him walk, and he wore them everyday until his passing. In the dream he was skinny as he had been for the last month after he got sick, but he was happy and well. I crouched down to pet him on the floor, and he greeted me with a wagging tail. It was a sweet moment, but it only lasted a few seconds.

Every sound I hear I think it’s Oakie. When my brother and sister-in-law asked me to stay the night at their place again I immediately thought, “No, I need to go home and take care of Oakie.” After Oakie passed, I was looking through some old videos of him and saw one where he was begging for chicken and I thought, “Oh, I need to buy more for him this weekend.” He’s all I’ve known for the last 14+ years. He’s who I lived for and scheduled my life around. Life will never be the same.

Oakie is survived by his mama, his papa (sorry it took 14 years for you to finally have a papa, Oakie), his Uncle Andrew, his Auntie Joyce, his Uncle Steven, and his Grandma and Grandpa. We all loved him unconditionally, and we miss him so so much.

Oakie, you are always in my heart, and I will never forget you. Goodnight, my sweet baby boy. Mama loves you.

I love you, Oakie.

I love you, Oakie.

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