Four weeks ago, our family said good-bye to our sweet girl, Olive. She was a special little dog, one of a kind, and not just because she was ours, but because she endured so much pain and suffering, and still had the sweetest, gentlest heart.
Our daughter adopted Olive three years ago. She was a rescue from Texas, had heartworm, and was recovering from surgery to amputate her right back leg after being hit by a car. When we first saw her she was pitiful, curled up in her kennel, trembling, trying not to look at us. I knew the instant I saw her there was no way my daughter was leaving without her. We brought her home and put her in the back yard with our other dog Bailey. She looked so happy to see one of her own that I thought, “Okay, she knows she’s in a good place, it’s all going to work out.” Then she hobbled to the nearest hiding place she could find, wedged herself between the BBQ and the fence, and wouldn’t come out. We gave her space, hoping she would feel comfortable enough to come out on her own. It took several hours, but she got hungry and finally came out to eat. And that’s pretty much how the next few months went. I would think we were making some progress, and then something would frighten her, a sudden movement, a noise, a dropped object. Each time she would try to run and hide, but her fear and instability would cause her to fall and flail about, crashing into furniture and walls trying to get away. At first we would reach for her in an attempt to stop her from getting hurt, but the fear in her eyes told us she thought we were trying to hurt her. Eventually we learned to just step back from her and let her flail. As awful as it was to watch, at least she could tell we weren’t the ones causing it. It took months of patience, love, and a little help from trazodone for her to realize she was safe and no one was going to hurt her anymore.
Despite all Olive had been through, there wasn’t an aggressive bone in her body. She never growled or showed her teeth, not once, even when she was afraid. She was timid and shy, but once she realized she was in her forever home with her forever family, her personality began to emerge, and she took over the household. She loved to cuddle, resting her head on your shoulder, staring straight into your eyes with a look that could melt your heart. She hated to be alone. Even if she could see us from the next room, it wasn’t good enough, she had to be where we were. She was an early-to-bedder and every night around 7 o’clock, she would begin pacing back and forth between the bedroom and living room where we were watching TV. It was her way of signaling she wanted to be “tucked in.” So off we would go to finish watching TV in the bedroom.
She loved her “big sister” Bailey and followed her everywhere. She slept as close to Bailey as she possibly could, crowding into the same dog bed even though there was another one right next to it. On walks, she followed Bailey and had to sniff everything Bailey sniffed. She wasn’t all sugar and spice though. When coming home, we weren’t greeted with the typical doggie hello, but sassy barking as if to say, “Where the heck have you been?!!” It earned her the nickname Sass-bullilla. And even though she was timid and shy, she didn’t hesitate to defend her family from strangers ringing the doorbell or the evil weedwhacker.
Olive had an adventurous side. She loved to go kayaking with our daughter. She would sit in the kayak looking so content, wasn’t the least bit afraid to be on the water. She even had her own little life vest. Olive loved our morning walks, but couldn’t walk too far for obvious reasons. So we got her a wagon. I know some people thought we were crazy, one lady jokingly referred to us as “the staff,” but if anyone deserved a little spoiling, it was Olive. She made a lot of friends on our walks, even had a boyfriend, Satch, also a pit bull and missing the same back leg as Olive. What are the odds! When she spotted him, she would take off running until she met up with him. For a dog with only three legs, she sure could move when she wanted to!
We knew from the beginning that Olive’s injuries had been severe and would most likely shorten her life, but we decided that we would make whatever time she had as happy and comfortable as possible. Once she settled in, she did better than we expected. She grew stronger and steadier on her feet. There were still visits to the vet, but they became less frequent. Olive was doing so well, we kind of fooled ourselves into thinking that maybe we had been wrong. Then early this year little issues with her health started cropping up again. She was increasingly unsteady on her feet, started falling a lot again, and began having trouble getting herself up. We had to pick her up and carry her more often. She didn’t want to get up in the morning to go for our walks, and then didn’t want to get out of the wagon. She wasn’t happy to see other dogs anymore, not even Satch. She had problems with diarrhea and dehydration. She would gag when drinking water as if it hurt, eventually refusing to drink at all. I had to soak her food in water to keep her hydrated. She was eating fine, but still losing weight. She had always been a “talker,” but stopped being vocal. She whined constantly despite being on pain medications. She stopped hogging the bed at night, staying in the same place and hardly moving at all. She was not her normal happy, sassy self, and I could see pain in her eyes.
Eventually, you face the reality that nothing you do, no veterinary treatment or medicine is going to help. Olive had already suffered so much in her short little life, it wasn’t fair to put her through more pain. So I called Caring Pathways.
Olive spent her last morning sleeping in her favorite place, our bed, surrounded by her whole family. Bailey laid by her side for most of the day. We took turns spending time with her, petting her, and telling her how much we loved her. A couple close friends came to say their good-byes also. Olive would occasionally open her eyes and look at us, but mostly she just slept. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to be in pain. It was early afternoon when Dr. Eddie Desko arrived. He had an amazing bedside manner, and was a calming presence for all of us. He was patient and kind with Bailey even though she made a nuisance of herself begging for his attention and sniffing around all his stuff. He explained the entire process, and gave us all the time we needed to say our final good-byes. When we let him know we were ready, he helped Olive leave this world peacefully, loved and surrounded by her family. He left us alone with Olive and gave us time to compose ourselves. Afterwards, I watched him wrap her little body in a blanket, pick her up, and carry her out to his car. It was heartbreaking to see Olive leave her home for the last time, but it was comforting to see her handled with such care and respect. I really can’t say enough about how wonderful Dr. Eddie was.
Olive was our sweet little girl with a HUGE personality. She was loved by our whole family, and we miss her terribly. Our home seems so empty without her. Bailey is not the same dog these days, she mopes around and lays in all of Olive’s favorite spots. The only thing that makes losing Olive bearable is knowing that her suffering is over, that she’s crossed the Rainbow Bridge, her body is whole again, and she’s pain free, healthy, happy, and living her best doggie afterlife.