6 years ago, I became a parent for the first time. Not in the traditional sense, I wasn’t pregnant or anything like that, but I did become responsible for a little baby, albeit one with fur. Many people wouldn’t consider getting a dog as an initiation into parenthood, but when you’re cleaning piss and shit, potty training, feeding, teaching, and chastising a living thing for wrecking your paperwork (whether it be chewing it up – dog, or drawing all over it – baby), then I’d say that’s pretty damn close to what you’re going to get with a human. We’re talking newborn to toddler trials all mixed up in one bundle of adorable floppy ears, and big innocent eyes.
Seriy was the light of my life, and one of my closest companions. He was the little living thing that made me a responsible human being, and who comforted me by curling up next to me when I was sick or stressed. He was like a living heated, weighted, blanket – a true balm to my anxiety disorder. When he wasn’t driving me crazy with his antics, he was the thing that calmed me best. He was very much my best friend – always there to listen, and awesome at it because he couldn’t talk back (yes, I spoke to my dog regularly). He tried my patience daily, was always excited to see me, and absolutely ALWAYS had a kiss ready to thank me for feeding him his dinner. Even my toddler isn’t that grateful, and I literally made him from scratch.
As Halloween rolls around, the first Halloween we’ll be spending without my pup barking every single time kids ring the doorbell, I find I miss him, and the wound of losing him is so incredibly fresh – ripped open and raw all over again. Sure, I’ll be dressing my toddler up in a ridiculous costume for Halloween, and sure he’ll be just as annoying every time someone rings the doorbell, but nothing will ever be as cute as my tiny little wiener dog, dressed as a bat, running at the door, barking in defense, and then handing out slobbery kisses to all the little giggling kids.
We lost him last year, on my birthday of all days. He was only 5.
Seriy was a sick pup from the get go. He had severe allergies and a painful skin condition that cost us thousands of dollars to treat. Before him I didn’t even know that a doggy dermatologist was a thing – my bank account reminds me that it in fact is. Thank god for pet insurance. But the real trouble didn’t start until after I became a full-fledged human mommy.
Here I was, on maternity leave, playing with my 8-month-old when I heard a piercing scream coming from my living room. I ran in to find my dog’s back legs at a ninety-degree angle, facing in the wrong direction. He was scooting across the floor, yelping in pain. I was fortunate enough that my sister was over at the time, I thrust my confused baby at her, grabbed my dog and bolted to get him to the vet. My vet sent him over to the emergency veterinary hospital, a 45-minute drive from my house. It was the most stressful drive of my life.
We were informed that Seriy’s spine had snapped, most likely when he had tried to jump up onto the couch. A shard of vertebrae had gone directly through his spinal cord, paralyzing his tail and hind legs. We had a make a decision, operate and undergo countless months of rehab, or put him down.
The unselfish option would have been to let him go peacefully, I see that now, but I just couldn’t imagine a life where my 5-year-old pup wasn’t part of our family. I couldn’t imagine that my 8-month-old baby, waiting for us to return home, wouldn’t see his big brother again. Seriy was so good with my son, he would sit patiently while he pulled his tail and ears, would fiercely protect him from anyone who tried to approach at the park, and the sight of them cuddling together warmed my heart every time I was blessed with the view. So, I did what any hormonal, overly emotional mother would do, I talked my husband into getting the surgery done.
The next three months were spent helping my fur baby recover. He spent a long time in the hospital, and I visited him daily. He was always happiest when my son came along – he wagged his tail again for the first time when he saw his little brother. Eventually we brought him home, and I basically had another 8-month-old on my hands.
Seriy couldn’t walk, which meant he couldn’t go outside to do his business. So, I had to clean up for 2 babies. He couldn’t leave his play pen, so I put my son’s playpen next to his and watched them through their respective bars. He couldn’t move to get to his food, so I was hand feeding two babies.
The hardest part came when his surgical incision healed and it was time for rehab. I had to take him three times a week, 45 minutes away, for physio therapy and hydro therapy. A hard feat when you have an 8-month-old who is on a strict feeding and sleeping schedule, wants mommy’s undivided attention at all times, and can’t understand why he’s no longer allowed to play rough with his big brother. I was fortunate enough that my mother was able to help with my son while I took the pup to his sessions – without her I don’t think I would have survived the 3 months of back and forth.
Eventually we got a little wheel chair for Seriy, and he did start walking, however unsteadily, but preferred to scoot around on his bottom. But none of that happened until after he started to lose his eyesight. By the time we completed his physio, he was blind in one eye. A month later he was blind in both. I was told it was in no way related to his spinal injury.
By December of that same year, my now 17-month-old baby, and handicap dog were relatively inseparable. I was back at work, my son was in daycare full time, and Seriy had mastered scooting around without the use of his eyesight, he was even going to the bathroom regularly outside. We had reached a new normal and had settled in for the winter break coming up. That’s when Seriy got really sick.
He was vomiting blood, so back to the emergency hospital we went. Turns out he had swallowed a toy that has calcified in his stomach, completely blocking his intestines. It was time to decide, once again, whether we wanted to put our already severely handicapped dog through surgery, or let him go. It was the hardest decision to make, but we decided it was time to put him out of his considerable misery. So that day, on my birthday, we said our goodbyes and watched him slip away. He didn’t even make it to a year post-spinal surgery. I had put him through all that pain, that struggle, and he didn’t even make it a year. I miss him.
This post was inspired by MessyMama’s recent post about her own pets.