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It's tough having pets. It's harder to let them go.

It's tough having pets. It's harder to let them go.

Christmas of 2011 I saw a Facebook post by my friend Dr. Jo Ellen Hassan (Georgetown Vet) that one of our clients was going into Hospice and his 13 year old Chihuahua needed a home. I didn't need another pet (I had 7 cats and one dog at the time) but I thought this dog must have been very confused going through a change so late in life. I agreed to bring her home and see if she got along with everyone (which she did) and decided to keep her. She was very overweight--her owner fed her mostly people food so she had some health issues weighing over 12 pounds at the time. Her ideal weight would be 8 or 9 pounds. Dr. Hassan did blood work on her, cleaned her teeth and I took her home. It took a few days but before long she was in the kitchen every morning jumping and dancing as she waited to be fed. Every night she was in the bed with me and she HAD to sleep not WITH me but flush up against me. Every night. It became a routine.

She never fussed with the cats unless they fussed with her. She would find her place on the couch and if she saw any activity outside she'd bark. Out on our walks she was my body guard. Nothing phased her. Dogs five or six times her size were more afraid of her as she barked as if to say "this is my family, go away."

Her original name was Precious, which I hated, so my neighbor Annie suggested calling her J Lo (Jennifer Lopez) because she was a Chihuahua and a diva (well, not really) so the name stuck.

A few weeks ago J Lo had an episode of pancreatitis and, ultimately, it also exacerbated her weakening kidneys. When we were all in the kitchen getting breakfast, she was still in bed under the covers. She became terribly finicky about what she would eat and as time went on she began to thumb her nose at more and more foods. Finding something she would eat became an issue. We put her on meds to give her kidneys more time and to ease any discomfort her aging joints might be having. But ultimately her quality of life began to suffer and I hated to see her like that. As she ate less and less we even tried an appetite stimulant but she was less and less steady on her legs, less active, and clearly not as happy (I stopped seeing her tail wag in a way that always made me smile.)

Today I said goodbye to J Lo. It was harder than I thought it would be. I only had her for a little over two years but I fell for her as did everyone who met her. I could not see her health decline and just stand by. I hugged her, I told her I loved her, and that she would be free of her health issues as Dr. Fuller helped her fall into a deep sleep. Even before I took her to the vet, I looked in on her in my bed and saw my other dog, Scarlett, next to her, as if keeping watch. It was so very sweet.

Loving animals may be easy, but loving them enough to let them go is never easy. All pet owners know this. While she is no longer suffering, I am already missing her. I will miss feeling her next to me in bed or jumping to sit next to me in the recliner. I will miss her protective barking and how she told big dogs who was in charge.

Special thank you to Amy, Stevie, Wendy and Dr. Fuller for their compassion today at Palmetto Animal League. To Dr. Hassan for her care and Dr. O'Quinn for putting up with my incessant questions and emails.

Rest in peace little girl. I love you.

 This is my fondest memory of little J Lo. If I put her food bowl on the floor, Scarlett would undoubtedly eat it. So I fed her on top of a cardboard box behind the couch. She would eat and then climb over the couch onto a cushion and fall asleep. But this was a daily routine as we made our way from kitchen to food bowl...and it still makes me smile.