Saturday, September 11, 2010

Toby – The Sweetest Pup of All!

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Today, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life – telling our veterinarian that it was ok to end the pain of my fifteen year old English Cocker Spaniel, Toby.

I became Toby’s ‘mom’ in February, 1999; I had just moved into my condo in December, 1998, and knew I wanted and needed a companion. So I headed down to the Pets Supplies Plus store down the street. An organization called ‘Critter Connection’ is there every Saturday with dogs, seeking new homes for them. I saw two dogs that were of interest to me – a Springer Spaniel and Toby, then 3 ½ years old. What sold me were those soulful brown eyes! He was a gentle and sweet boy from Day One. He always followed me – never left my side when I was home.

He loved to hike. I knew he was a trooper when I took him to a park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the first summer I had him, and he easily joined me in a seven mile hike. He always stuck like glue no matter how far I went! He did have a good sniffer, and was easily distracted, but he always hurried to catch up.

He also was quite the swimmer and retriever. We had a toy for him called an Air Kong; he retrieved it on land and sea! He retrieved that toy up until a couple months ago. I figured I’d cut the poor fella some slack after he turned 15 (which was on July 5).

I had a ton of nicknames for Toby (who was named by his first owner): T-Bone, Sweet T, Tobias, Bun, Baby T, Bob (not sure where that one came from!), Mister T, Bob-o, and on it goes.

A new member of the family joined us on June 10, 2005, when Fred and I were married, and he moved into the condo with us! The fellas became fast friends. Life changed for all of us in May 2007, when a coworker of Fred’s needed to find a new home for her English Cocker Spaniel named Shelby. We decided she needed to become our newest family member (the photo at left was taken the night we picked up Shelby). It seemed like it was meant to be, as her birth date is June 10, 2004 – the year before our wedding date!

Initially, Toby was not too keen on having a little sister around. But I think she gave him a second wind and kept him – and all of us –young! They didn’t get along too well at first, but in time, they were like two peas in a pod.

Toby was always the most gentle, sweet, and precious pup. We all can learn a lot from dogs, and Toby was the master teacher. He never judged whether or not I was good enough; I always was to him, no matter what. He extended love to us beyond measure.

Although he was fairly healthy all of his life, I knew there was a problem on Thursday, when he couldn’t keep down his breakfast, and didn’t eat his dinner. On Friday, he wasn’t interested in eating or drinking; he didn’t even want his treats, which he begged for like clockwork at 7 pm (the kid knew how to tell time!). We were able to get him to drink some water, but it did not stay down, either. This morning, we knew we had to take him in to the veterinarian’s office. He usually sleeps in our bed, but sometimes he gets too warm, so I proceed to put him in his bed, which is on the floor. That was the case last night. Mother’s intuition told me that my time with him was coming to an end, so I made a space for myself on the floor next to him for what ended up being his last night.

There were no previous signs that he was struggling. As an example, Fred and I took Toby and Shelby (our other English Cocker Spaniel) out for a walk on Wednesday. Fred and Shelby were running; Toby and I were trotting behind. I sensed he wanted to keep up with them, so I let him off his leash to see what he would do. He caught up with them, and kept up! I did not expect that, three days later, he would no longer be with us.

Despite his age, I was not prepared in advance for the decision that had to be made today. The doctor initially did some blood work and took some x-rays. His liver enzyme levels were off the charts. She next decided to do an ultrasound, as she considered that he might have cancer. The results of the ultrasound were that he had a mass at his pancreas that was obstructing his duodenum. In addition, his stomach was full of fluid. There were a few options:

1.   Take him to a specialist for surgery– not a good option, as his heart may not have been able to tolerate the anesthesia.
2.   Take him home with us after the veterinarian (a wonderful lady named Sandra Jones) had injected him with an anti-inflammatory and pain relievers. This was a temporary ‘fix’ – in the event I was not ready to say “goodbye” to him right then and there.
3.   Euthanasia.

I was not happy with any of the options. Again, despite his years, I thought I would have an unlimited amount of time with him. Unrealistic, I know. But I don’t think there is any way to prepare oneself for a day like this.

Along with a mixture of lots of prayers and tear, Fred and I discussed our options for about an hour at the vet’s office. My inclination was to take him home to be able to spend more time with him before I had to finally say “goodbye.” But I knew that there was never going to be enough time. Fred knew what the right and best decision for Toby was going to be. I finally made the most unselfish decision of my life, and let Toby go to his final rest (albeit, I delayed the decision for as long as I could…).

I pray that there are dogs in heaven. I was comforted by a sign hanging up in the room that we were in – ‘Heaven's the place where all the dogs you've ever loved come to greet you.’ I pray that we will be together again, and that my mom, who went to be with the Lord on December 24, 2004 and loved Toby with all of her heart, is playing with him right now. What a joyous reunion that was – and will be!

At this point – almost three hours later – I am at peace with the decision. I know there will be waves of grief over time, and I will definitely miss him a lot (I am a little drained emotionally right now). But I am choosing to focus on the wonderful years that we had together. He was a special little dog, and I am so glad that God blessed me with that amazing and loving animal for so many years. He will always be in my heart. 

4 comments:

Marlayne Giron said...

Oh Andrea; this breaks my heart. My 8 year old Cocker that looked just like Toby died of the same thing. My vet spent $1500 of his own money trying to save our Beatrice after we ran out of $. It was the most heart breaking experience; I cried for months afterwards. You did the right thing for him; it's just so hard because you feel like you just can't tell them enough times how very much you love them and how much they have meant to you before they go.

Barbara E Brink said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. toby sounds like a sweet dog. We had a miniature poodle named, Caleb for seventeen years and it was very hard to say goodbye to him a couple of years ago. I'm sure there will be dogs in heaven. Randy Alcorn has a great book, Heaven. It has a chapter about such things. I think I agree with his conclusions. A new heaven and new earth will have all the things God created here--only perfect again and better.

Carole said...

I cried with you through Toby's story, Andrea, as any pet lover surely would. You need to read the chapter on pets in Randy Alcorn's book entitled "Heaven." The whole book (500 pages) is wonderful, but deep, so you might just want to borrow the book for that chapter or two. It will give you a lot of comfort.

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Ladies - thanks for the kind words.
Carole - a friend of mine told me about the Randy Alcorn theory. I need to find that. I like the idea of seeing him again! That sign on the wall helped me to make the decision. I was not dealing well with the idea of never seeing him again....

 
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