It’s 4:30am as I sit here and write this. My head still hurts from crying all day yesterday, and much of last night. I knew this was coming. In some ways it helped, but only in some. I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
Over fourteen years ago I went through some major health stuff. When I finally made it back to work, I was weak; but managing. They had me training someone for our job. Over the course of three days, the person I was training had learned of my health challenges and it turned out many of them were in common with ones she had survived. She didn’t like that I lived alone while I was going through everything. “You should at least have a dog.”
I had looked into getting a dog, I told her, but between the pet deposit on my apartment and the cost of the dog I just couldn’t afford it, especially with all my medical expenses. I don’t do puppy mill dogs. If I went to the pound I’d want them all. I found a gal in my office who had one, but she wanted $300 for it because it was an AKC papered-Lhasa Apso she had bought for her daughter who was moving and didn’t want to keep him.
The next day I came into the office and the lady I was training handed me a check for my pet deposit and told me I could pick up my Lhasa Apso from the lady in the office whenever I was ready. She had paid the entire amount for me. Needless to say I was floored. No one had ever done anything so kind for me, especially someone I had known for only three days.
When I first met Kobe he was a tangled, overgrown ball of matted fur. Because the daughter hadn’t wanted him, he was left outside on his own most of the time, not cared for. It didn’t matter. It was love at first sight. He was mine. His actual name was Colby III (yes, “the third”); but his owners called him Kobe and I didn’t want to confuse him. He was only a year old. A black, course-haired Lhasa with a white patch at his chest.
If you’ve ever rescued a dog you know how grateful they are to you. They know when they aren’t wanted. They know when they’ve found someone who loves them. He laid on my feet while I sat at my desk. He laid on my feet when I used the toilet. He followed me everywhere. Once he pulled away from me when I was walking him and he ran away…disappearing around the corner to the parking lot. I ran, praying a car wouldn’t hit him. Suddenly he was running back straight at me with the look of a terrified toddler, his eyes screaming, “Where did you go???”
I soon taught him to sit, lay down, shake (with both paws), roll over, beg, and give kisses. His kisses. There were times I thought I was his salt-lick. He loved to lick my legs when I laid down to sleep. Drove me nuts sometimes. When I was sick he would lay down next to me and lick my throat. When I tried to sleep in he’d sit on my hair so I couldn’t move and lick in my ear! Sometimes, for no reason I can think of, he’d walk over to me, touch his tongue lightly on my leg, and then turn and walk away. It always cracked me up. I know a lot of people hate dog lick. I never have. It was always sweet to me.
Kobe was small, about 18 pounds; but from the other side of the door his bark sounded like he was Rottweiler-sized, which made him perfect for life in a small studio apartment. He was also formidable and protective.
Once my back went out at 2 in the morning. I tried to force myself up to use the bathroom but ended up passing out, hitting my head on the bathtub. It took me almost 3 hours to crawl to the phone to call for help. Kobe was next to me the entire way. He whimpered and circled me as I tried to move; and when I stopped moving he’d lick my face. When the firemen came to help me, he had all FIVE of the big guys backed up against the wall. He wouldn’t let them near me. I had to explain to them that he knew something was wrong and was just trying to protect me from strangers. One of them got down on his knees and started speaking kindly to him. Only then did he calm down enough to let the fireman move him into my kitchen.
Most nights he slept snuggled up at my feet. If I turned away from him he’d move up behind my knees or my back. I called him my furry hot water bottle. Even in the 117 degree heat in the summer with the a/c broken, he still wanted nearness.
He still did at the end. He’d had a congested lung for nearly a year. The vets disagreed on what was causing it; one thinking cancer or valley fever and the other thinking merely an infection. Four rounds of antibiotics and steroids did nothing. He didn’t seem bothered by it, aside from the occasional cough. He was perky as ever. Eating and doing everything else normally. He’d loved moving in here. Renting a room from a friend with two dogs gave him an instant pack. He wasn’t sure what to make of it at first; but soon he was following around the largest (and youngest) dog, watching her every move. We joked that he wanted to be like her when he grew up. She put up with him walking under her (he could actually walk under her belly, because of the size difference).
The day before yesterday his breathing changed. It became rattling and wheezy. It was much more labored. They had already told me there was nothing more they could do beyond extreme measures I couldn’t afford. He was fine when he was laying down, but when he’d move he’d erupt into prolonged coughing/choking. Even still he wanted to be near me. Sitting at my feet while I worked. Forcing himself to follow me if I left the room. But he was changed. He seemed confused. I had to pick him up to put him outside and then he just stood there instead of going into the grass of the backyard. He had stopped eating, uninterested in even his favorite treat. I had to lift up the bowl of water for him to drink. I laid him on my bed so his head could be elevated as he laid down; but as I turned around to work he’d breath harder, more urgently. He didn’t want me to leave him.
During my first break of the morning I laid down beside him. Almost immediately his breathing became desperate. His head raised up and back until he could see me and then he went limp. He stopped breathing and his heart stopped. I screamed for my friend to come. We said our goodbyes. Then he moved. Incredulously we watched as his breathing started again, only seriously labored. Again his head raised up and back until he could see me. I told him it was ok. I was with him. He wasn’t alone. Again he went limp. Again, what seemed like minutes later he moved and breathed again. I was nearly hysterical. I was ready to rush him to the vet. I didn’t want him to suffer; but he HATED the vet. I didn’t want his last moments to be full of fear. This time his breathing gently slowed, and stopped. I felt his heart stop. We waited. No movement. No more. The alarm signaling my break had ended went off. It took just over 15 minutes.
A friend came and I wrapped him in his blanket and we took him to the vet for them to confirm he was gone. I couldn’t bear the thought of burying him if he was only in a coma. They came out to the parking lot to check him so I didn’t have to come in. They confirmed. He was gone.
I’m so thankful I had him. I’m thankful I didn’t have to make the choice to put him down. He was fifteen years old. Fourteen of those we spent together. My friend told me the fact he wanted to be with me, to stay with me when he died, spoke of our closeness as many dogs seem to go off to be alone when they die. I hope that was true. I hope that he loved being my companion as much as I’d loved him.
I have a furry water-bottle-shaped hole in my life now. I keep thinking I hear his paw move on the floor. I worry about stepping on him when I put my feet down from the bed. I think for a second I left him outside.