Thursday, May 30, 2013

Oreo comes with us

We were in the backyard when the brunette twin said, "If we wanted we could dig up Oreo, right?"

I replied, "We could, why?"

Brunette twin: "Would he still look like my dog or would he just be bones?"

Mom: "He'd look like your dog honey. He only died on Monday."

Brunette twin: "So if we dig up Oreo a few years from now he'd just be bones in the flower sheet right?"

Mom: "Probably. What's in your head baby?"

Brunette twin: "If we move we'd have to dig up my dog and take him with. He's part of our family forever even though he's dead. He comes with if we move."

Mom: "We're not planning to move so we'll talk about it if we ever move."

Brunette twin: "Ok, but Oreo comes with us."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Moving on, but not that far

We were leaving the house last night when the brunette twin stopped at the garage door and looked behind it. She whispered something and then smiled. I said, "Were you talking to Oreo?" She said, "I told him to take care of the house, just like I always do when we leave."

I knew she was thinking a lot about her dog yesterday. We had a whole bunch of little girls over after school for an end-of-the-year party. The brunette twin walked around with his collar for a while. She wanted it close, as if it would keep him close to her. When she walked I heard his dog tags jingle together. I held my breath once because I thought I saw Oreo out of the corner of my eye.  When I realized he wasn't coming back I cried a bit.

The blond twin stood by his grave yesterday afternoon and talked to him about her day. She cried a little as she talked about how much she missed him. She kept telling him how much she loved him.

It was all heartbreaking.

It has only been two days since Oreo died, so the shock is just wearing off. We're trying to figure out how it all works without him. I still feel like I should go for a walk every day at 8:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. This morning I went for an 8:00 a.m. walk to drop off some shoes their friend Amira left at our house. It was a route I walked often with Oreo.

Some of his stuff, like his water bowl and tie-up, have been moved. I can't bring myself to move his leashes yet. I know I'm not going to use them, but they've been hanging on the staircase post for nearly three years.

Today the girls decided to look at new dogs on a couple of animal shelter websites. They decided that Mommy wouldn't be so sad if we had a new dog. I told them Mommy wouldn't even talk about it until fall. It was just too soon.

As Daddy pointed out, I spent nearly every day of the last three years with Oreo. There really wasn't a moment of my day when he wasn't around, and that was ok. It's not a complaint as I knew what I was getting into when we adopted him. It's like my shadow has disappeared.

I have to stop thinking that he's just in another room. We all have to stop looking for him in the backyard. Twice yesterday the brunette twin stood at the patio door and said she thought she saw Oreo waiting to come in. Days have to pass when the bellowing, moaning sound he made just before he died leaves my thoughts. I have to be able to close my eyes and not see his face as his eyes turned red and he died. Until then, another dog isn't even something I can discuss.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

People to tell and more tears

One of the things about Oreo was that he was well-known in the area. We walked him to and from school every day. We walked him all over the area on off days. People expect to see him with us.

This morning when we were getting ready to go to school, the blond twin started crying. She said, "Please can we drive to school. I don't want to be seen without my Siberian Husky."

I immediately understood. Every day when we walked to school kids tried to pet Oreo. Kids on the bus waved to us. Everyone would notice if he wasn't with us. If we drove, then we'd all be missing. If you didn't see us then people wouldn't expect to see Oreo.

All day long we told people. We told the crossing guard and parents we talked to every day on the school corner. I told the neighbors. I called the veterinarian's office. I cancelled the kennel we reserved for our vacation.

When I walked up to get the girls from school a neighbor asked me, "Hey, where's your dog?" I told him that Oreo had died. His eyes teared as he told me what a beautiful, special dog he was.

Our girls have a Girl Scout outing scheduled so I told their troop leader. She cried and kept saying, "I'm so sorry."

It was all awful, but also comforting. We always thought he was a sweet, crazy dog. Of course, we lived with him and loved his quirks. It was nice to know that other people adored him too.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A terrible sound and lots of tears

I had Oreo out for his normal after-dinner walk when he just stopped and sat straight up. He didn't try to lie down. He just sat. He wouldn't budge. I knelt on the street to pet him and see if I could figure out what was wrong. He wagged his tail and seemed fine. As I stood up, he turned around and headed home.

He did this often when it was really hot. He also had done this when he was really sick a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes he just didn't want to go for a walk. He just wanted to go home.

When we got home he drank some water and sat on the patio. He seemed  really exhausted so I asked my husband how Oreo was during earlier walks. He said the dog was pretty normal. His last walk wasn't that long before his after-dinner walk since we were a bit off schedule, so we decided Oreo was just done walking for the day.

A little while later my husband said, "Oreo is a bit off." We decided to watch him closely for the next few days and decide if we had to take him back to the vet.

I was in the house getting something to put on the grill when I heard the most blood-curdling, horrible sound. I ran outside and saw my husband staring at Oreo. The dog had changed positions. Now he was close to our chairs, with his legs pointed in one direction and his head facing another direction. The sound he was making was awful. I'm not sure I can describe how terrible it was.

A minute or so into his bellowing the girls screamed out the window to see what was wrong. As Daddy was talking to them, I saw Oreo's eyes turned red. Immediately after he stopped breathing.

Oreo died on our patio. Our sweet, beautiful, loving, hyper-active, gentle boy was gone. Just like that. No warning. No second chances this time. Oreo was dead.

We stared at each other and him for a few minutes. We kept watching to see if he would start breathing again. When it was clear the he wasn't going to start breathing, we started talking. We had to tell the girls. We had to call the vet. We had to ...... And then tears ran down my face.

I called the vet, but there wasn't an emergency option. I didn't want to talk to a stranger at the local emergency vet clinic. I called my brother Steve to ask him some questions. As I was talking to Steve I just fell to my knees and started sobbing. It was suddenly real as I told him.

While I was on the phone, Daddy brought the girls downstairs. When I walked back to the patio, they were crying and petting Oreo. We all sat with a box of tissues. It was terrible.

When I had him at the veterinarian's office last Tuesday she said she thought he had a seizure. She said it would probably happen again. At some point she said a seizure would probably kill him. She also said dogs live a long time with seizures.

He seemed to be doing so much better since he was taking the medicine. He was slower than before, but he was our boy. Every once in a while I'd pet his head and say, "Welcome back boy. I missed you."

Now we can't pet his head. We can't watch his tail wag. We can't tell him that's he's a good boy. It's all over. Rest in peace Oreo. You were a very good dog. We will miss you terribly.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Maybe Gramma can be a jockey

A conversation on the way to school...

Brunette twin: "It's not fair that I'm so tall. I wanted to be a jockey."

Blond twin: "Maybe you can be a horse owner instead. You can hire a jockey."

Brunette twin: "How would I find a jockey?"

Blond twin: "What about Gramma? She's short enough to be a jockey?"

Brunette twin: "I don't know. We'd have to really make the stirrups short and shorten the reigns a lot. She's really short. Is Gramma too short to be a jockey?"

Blond twin: "I think she'd short enough to be a jockey. I don't think you can be much taller than Gramma and still be a jockey."

This went on for several blocks. All I kept thinking was that the girls were missing one important point. Gramma cannot ride a horse. Even if she wanted to be a jockey, she's probably a bit older than the preferred age for a winning jockey.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The new dog looks a lot like the old dog

The new vet gave Oreo some antibiotics which seem to have helped him quite a bit. He's not using the house as a bathroom and he's more alert.

He's not really our dog anymore, though.

He looks like our dog. The girls celebrate every time they think Oreo is doing something "normal." They say, "Look, it's our Oreo again. He's back." There are moments when we see flashes of our dog, but there's a blank look in his eyes to remind us he's not the same dog.

We all have a new reality. Oreo is still with us, but he's a very different dog. Whatever happened, be it a stroke or seizure, there are permanent changes to his personality. Oreo is distant and slow. Last week Oreo would have run after birds in the yard and hunted small rodents. This week he spends his days stretched out on the patio. Nothing seems to grab his attention.

He's not interested in what's going on around him. Rather than pace the yard and mark his territory, Oreo seems disinterested in the world around him. If something does catch his attention it's short lived.

We're glad he's still with us, but still mourning the loss of our dog. We liked his out-of-control personality. He was always animated and interactive. He basked in the attention from his family and friends.

Our new Oreo is quiet and subdued. He's mellow and distant. He's a new dog in our old dog's body. It will take some time to get to know him again, but I'm sure we'll all find our new comfort zone.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Two hours and lots of tears later

Oreo and I spent more than two hours at a new veterinarian's office yesterday afternoon trying to figure out what is wrong. The vet asked a lot of questions. She grilled me about Oreo's habits and recent activities. She ran blood work, urine tests and took x-rays. She went through more possibilities after each test was completed.

Nothing came up which would explain Oreo's current health problems. The doctor said she was a military vet and has been in private practice for 25+ years. She had never seen a case like his. This made me feel both better and worse. I am glad she was so thorough, but uneasy that none of his symptoms made any sense. I figured that something would start to make sense given the number of tests and questions.

The vet gave us some antibiotics on a hunch that there was one more possibility. We need to give him the medicine for a full week, but if Oreo's behavior hasn't changed in a couple of days we should make an appointment with a specialist.

This is where it gets hard. We could run dozens of tests without finding what happened. I think the answer is we will run tests on anything that can be resolved with medication. If it's just for information, I'm not sure we're going to go down that path. Of course, we're not there yet so it's all just speculation.

I came home with all his tests and x-rays. I showed the girls Oreo's x-rays and we talked about how great his insides looked. In fact, all of his tests were perfect. The girls kept asking what was wrong with Oreo. We talked about how we were still trying to figure out the problem. We didn't give them any false hope. The blond twin cried and said, "I want my old dog back. The one who smiles at me and plays with me." The brunette twin said, "I don't want Oreo to die." We all cried a bit at that.

The blond twin made us smile when she said, "If only he'd get better. We'd play with him all the time. We'd never ignore him like we did before."

It's a life lesson for all of us. We need to "play" with those important to us as often as possible. You never know when it will be too late to do just that.

Monday, May 13, 2013

From 100 mph to a special needs dog

Oreo is sick. I mean very, very sick. After a weekend of worrying and medicine and calling friends/family for advice, it's pretty clear that this is not going to end well.

We don't know exactly what happened, but we're pretty certain he had a stroke or whatever the doggie version of a stroke is. My once crazy Husky is a blank slate now. He has no emotion and simply wanders like he cannot figure out what he is supposed to do. My beautiful, full-of-life dog just stares blankly at me when I call his name. It's like he recognizes the word, but doesn't remember what it means.

He has been eating a little and drinking a bit. When I tried to give him a treat this morning he just stared at me like he didn't know what it was. Usually he's bouncing back to the living room rug where he always gets his treats. Today he sniffed it and walked away. An hour later it is still sitting there.

He seems to have lost control of his kidney/bowel functions. He's making messes all over the house. It's not like he's squatting or lifting a leg. He just stands there and it happens. He stands a lot now. He used to go to a spot and plop down. Now he goes to the spot and stands like he cannot remember how to plop down.

Today for the first time he is whimpering a bit. He did it once yesterday and we took him outside thinking he had to go to the bathroom. Now I think it might be a sign that he's in pain.

It's all bad and it all sucks. I've been in tears most of the morning as I realize now how bad his condition really is. We have an appointment with a new vet this afternoon. I hope there is something they can do for him, but I'm not holding out much hope right now.

When we got Oreo I joked that he had ten years in our house. After a long, happy life he would be gone when the girls were out of high school. We'd truly be empty nesters when the girls went to college. We're only two years into his ten years. It's way too soon.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The moment we've been waiting for

Last night we were watching the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild when our power went out. It was raining lightly, but it was not storming. There wasn't a great wind howling through our house. We didn't have any lightening or thunder. It was a nice, gentle spring rain.

As soon as the house went dark my husband and I stood still. We waited anxiously to hear the new generator start. It's the reason we installed the generator after all. When the power goes out, the generator automatically starts.

We held our breath for a few seconds and then we heard it. My first thought was that it was the most beautiful sound ever. My second thought was, "Man, that thing is loud."

Really, really loud to be precise.

Of course if we lost power for any length of time the entire neighborhood would have generators running so ours wouldn't sound so loud. We've lived through that before and you go to sleep with the noise and wake up with a headache because of the constant generator rumbling. And, that's not really a complaint. When you are without power you're happy to hear the generators.

We were pretty happy last night. The generator wasn't on for long, but it worked as we hoped it would. Now we know for certain that all the work was worth it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let's play kick the ladder

The brunette twin has an unpleasant new game she plays at night. I like to call it Kick the Ladder.

The game goes like this. At some point every other night or so she rolls over and kicks her bunk bed ladder. The ladder briefly lifts off the floor and then crashes back down. It's only an inch or two off the ground, but it certainly makes a lot of noise on the way down.

It took me a few weeks to figure out what was causing the thump as I was completely asleep before hearing the thump. My immediate reaction is to sit straight up in bed and try to figure out the sound.

At first I'd walk the house checking all the doors and windows to see if someone was trying to break in. I always thought the sound was close, but couldn't figure out the source. For a while I thought a raccoon was trying to get into the house. It has happened before. When we first moved into our house a raccoon tried to remove the siding on our second floor and get into our house. Actually, the raccoon would have ended up in our bedroom. We spent quite a few sleepless nights listening for the raccoon to come back, even though I'm pretty sure my husband scared the raccoon when he was banging on our walls like a madman. I was pounding under the windows too. It was not a restful night for either of us after that.

I figured out the issue when I went in to tuck in the girls one night on my way to sleep. The brunette twin rolled over, kicked the ladder and made me jump. The good news was that the sound had a source, even if it wasn't a source we could control.

The brunette twin still plays Kick the Ladder. Whenever I hear the sound now I check her bed first. If her foot is within a few inches of the ladder, I don't wander the house checking every door and window multiple times. I simply move her foot and head back to sleep.

Friday, May 3, 2013

None of us will ever ride Braveheart

The girls gasped last week when the stable helper said, "I think we'll put you on Braveheart." The brunette twin started talking to her sister in a low, animated voice. I put on a brave face and hoisted myself on the horse.

Within seconds Braveheart tried to buck me off his back. I steeled myself and smiled at the girls, who were asking me if I was okay. They were talking in the fast, high-pitched voice little girls get when they scared.

I looked at the stable helper holding Braveheart and said, "You need to stay very close to me and make sure I don't end up on the ground. Both of our daughters love to ride. If I end up on the ground they will not come back. I will blame you all for ruining their love of horses." The teen stayed close to make sure Braveheart didn't toss me to the ground. I survived, actually had fun and made plans to return.

Today we took my second lesson. The girls are close to double-digits in lessons so they are feeling pretty comfortable now. I am still not comfortable, but I realize that one lesson isn't going to make me a cowboy. I'm willing to put in the time until I feel comfortable. We all had good, mellow horses who are good for beginners.

About 15 minutes into the lesson, Braveheart tossed the young woman on his back to the ground. He then started running around the horse ring scaring the other horses. He ran directly towards the blond twin's horse. She started crying and shrieked. You could see the terror in her eyes. It took about ten more minutes before the stable helpers got Braveheart under control. During that time we all stood near the ring walls. I kept talking to the blond twin. She kept crying.

The woman who was thrown got right back on Braveheart. I don't think she really wanted to, but the class leaders kept saying, "It's ok. If you ride you'll eventually fall. You're getting back on Braveheart, right?"

After class the blond twin just broke down. She made it through the class, but she didn't look happy. She cried a lot on the way home and for a while after we arrived home. She wants to go back, but only because I promised that none of us will ever ride Braveheart again. I mean we'll come back to another class if Braveheart is the only horse available.

I don't need to see him throw anyone else to know that I don't want out girls on Braveheart. It's not even something we'll discuss. The blond twin made me pinky swear. And you know you never break a pinky swear.