*This is a long post, and probably not very relevant to many of you who read this blog. However, I wanted to write this all down and have sort of a record of our dog Okee’s life because she shared the early years of my marriage and was with us through the births of our children, our college years, our big move away from our families in Georgia into our first house,etc. I also wanted to share with my family, because they all knew Okee as well. Putting Okee to sleep led Jonny and me to look back over the past ten years, and it was nice to pull out all the pictures of Okee from those years. I think my family will enjoy seeing the pictures. So if you don’t feel like reading, you can scroll down to see lots of pictures!
Jonny and I adopted Okee on April 5, 1999 about a week after returning from a trip to the Okefenokee swamp (hence her name). Okay, shoot, I am already crying.
We had not even been married for six months yet. We actually went to animal control to look for a kitten. We were told that the county shelter actually didn’t handle cats so we decided to go look at the dogs for the heck of it. I am not sure what we were thinking because we already had two dogs, the two I had brought with me from home when I went off to college.
I noticed Okee because she acted so terrified and pitiful. She was probably about 6-8 months old and stood right up against the chain link door to her kennel just shaking with fear. Jonny and I decided to adopt her that same day (you don’t have much time to make a decision in these cases, because an animal you see at animal control one day may be euthanized by the time you come back the next).
My two dogs Bear and Simon were both older and honestly both sort of pains in the rear. Bear was in diapers for incontinence in her old age and on meds. She also had a very demanding and entitled personality, and she was constantly getting into things. My mom had wanted to euthanize her b/c of her health problems, but I volunteered to take her to college with me and deal with them myself. Simon on the other hand was very high strung and a major flight risk, and he eventually went back home and became my mom’s dog.
So back to Okee. She immediately became our baby. She slept in the bed with us from day one and it didn’t take her long to feel very entitled herself. I still remember trying to scoot her over one night (Jonny and I just had a full sized bed at the time) and her growling at me. I wondered where that scared puppy we adopted from the pound had gone! Anyway, we spent lots of time going to dog parks and doing other fun stuff with Okee that we couldn’t do with our other two socially challenged dogs. That year for Jonny’s birthday I even had a photo of Okee blown up to 11×14 and then framed and double matted at a frame shop, complete with a brass plate with her name engraved on it. Yes, I know this sounds like we are nuts-but you have to understand that we were college kids-21 years old-and we didn’t yet have human children.
Okee continued to sleep with us until the following year when I was pregnant with Seth. Toward the end of the pregnancy I had to give her the boot because there just wasn’t room! After Seth was born, he was the one who slept with us. Okee never complained though. She was always such a good dog, except for the first few months with us when she ate one of my college textbooks.
Okee took the birth of Seth, our move 18 months later, and the births of our subsequent children in stride. She never threatened any of them despite the fact that she really wasn’t a kids’ dog. The only trouble we had with her after we moved to our first house (the one we still live in) was her running off with the neighbor’s dog and our other dog Gus (by the time we moved, Bear was dead, and Simon was living with my mom-we adopted Gus a rottie mix, from the same shelter as Okee, about six months before we moved here. Gus actually recently went to live with my mom too. He was really stressed by all the kids). Okee would come home from these forays into the forest and countryside totally filthy and requiring a bath before we could bring her in. This wasn’t always convenient, but she was good about getting her bath. The worst thing that came of her running off was a seriously injured rear leg that required major ($$$) surgery and a six week recuperation. Oh yeah, then there was the time when she got hit by a car. That was horrible. We live on a dead end country road, but people drive way faster than they should sometimes. Okee was running home from across the street when we heard the impact and her subsequent howling. My legs immediately turned to jello and I started screaming at Jonny to go get her. I think my words were something along the wacko lines of “She’s our baby! She’s our baby! Go get her!” Jonny was sort of in shock and I think dreading what he was going to find. However, Okee came away from that without any major damage at all. We took her to the vet and discovered that her jaw was a little crooked, but she was acting fine and they didn’t have to treat her at all.
So fast forward to last November. A few days before we were to leave for a road trip to visit family for Thanksgiving Okee fell to the ground on two occasions and seemed to have some sort of seizure. There wasn’t time to get her in with her regular vet, so we took her to a walk in clinic. They did some blood work which came back normal and basically told us that there were a lot of different things that could cause seizures. She also mentioned that Okee had a slight heart murmur (this was new). So we headed to Georgia with Okee, Gus, Maggie (Maggie=new dog who showed up as a stray-I know this is getting confusing) and kids in tow. During this trip Okee started having a hard time breathing. She also continued to have these strange spells where she would fall down after running. We were pretty freaked out. When we got back home we took her straight to her regular vet whom I had already scheduled an appt. with. She asked me some questions and listened to Okee’s heart. Okee’s slight heart murmur had become a severe murmur and the vet basically told me that Okee wasn’t having seizures but was passing out because of some sort of heart problem (mitral valve insufficiency with pulmonary edema) which boiled down to degenerative heart failure. X-rays confirmed that her heart was enlarged and her chest was full of fluid. Okee was started on meds once a day. The breathing problems got better as the lasix helped her get rid of the fluid she was retaining in her chest. However, she kept passing out so we had to be really careful not to let her run. This wasn’t easy because Okee didn’t understand it when we tried to explain to her that she had a bad heart and couldn’t run. Go figure, I guess she didn’t understand english or something. It wasn’t long before we had to increase her meds to twice a day. Her appetite wasn’t that great either so we had to start cooking chicken thighs with butter for her to add to her dog food. That helped, but she started losing weight anyway. In January of this year she still looked decent, but by May she had started retaining fluid in her abdomen. This gave her that starving look. Her body was starting to look very bony, but her stomach was really bloated with fluid. We upped meds to three times a day, but this really didn’t help with the fluid, although she did stop passing out so often. We began taking her to the vet to have the fluid drained periodically to give her some relief, but in the past month or so things got to the point where she would seem to fill right back up less than a week after being drained. We had the “we can’t afford this conversation” multiple times over the past couple of months, but every time we would say it was time to euthanize her, we would wimp out and just go swipe the ole credit card again. Luckily her meds were very inexpensive (thirty dollars or so a month) but when we started adding in the draining sessions the expenses were really adding up and becoming hard to justify considering the fact that we were fighting a losing battle to keep Okee with us, not to mention our other expenses right now. The thought of not having her was just too hard to come to terms with though. How could we possibly not have Okee? She still seemed like our sweet baby girl and was still happy to see us, still wanted us to sit and pet her, still got around well enough, and still seemed to be happy to be alive.
Well this past weekend, Saturday night, Okee started doing pretty bad. Her stomach was really bloated and we realized that we really should have had her drained the previous Friday. The fact that we were in the middle of the weekend was really bad b/c the emergency vet was our only option, and not a real option b/c it is so expensive. We put the kids to bed Saturday night and then realized that Okee wouldn’t lie down. She was just sitting on her quilt with a weird glazed look in her eyes (exhaustion we realized) and having a bit of trouble breathing. I tried to get her to lie down but every time she would do it, she would immediately get back up again. She finally growled at me to tell me to stop trying to make her. At this point I started getting really upset and called Jonny in. Her stomach was just so bloated that she couldn’t comfortably lie down. She kept falling asleep sitting up and then starting to fall over, which would wake her into a sitting position again. It was so sad, and all I could do was sit and watch her and cry. We gave her a big dose of lasix and decided to wait and see if she improved in the next hour or so. This was around 11:30 p.m. Jonny called both emergency hospitals to find out what their euthanasia fees were for just in case she didn’t get better. Sometime after midnight we were finally able to get her to sleep by surrounding her with a bunch of cushions which she was able to use to lie down comfortably enough to get some sleep. The next morning she seemed to be feeling better. However, later in the day we realized that she had blood in her urine and in her poop. The drugs were taking their toll. We realized we had gotten to a place where we were keeping her alive for ourselves, not for her anymore. So we made the decision to euthanize her on Monday.
Monday I spent the day not thinking about what was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. We took Okee outside that afternoon for a final photo session with the kids in front of a willow tree that we had pictures of her in front of from six years ago. We wanted to have pictures that showed how our family had grown and changes (along with the tree) during Okee’s life with us. Once we were finished we had about 20 minutes until Jonny had to take Okee to the vet. I spent that time sobbing. Once I gained control, I sat and pet Okee for a little while. Then it was time for Jonny to load up and go. We covered the passenger seat with blankets and towels (Okee leaked urine because of the lasix) and helped her get in. She was happy to be going somewhere in the car. I gave her a hug, and was reminded of the fact that she was just skin and bones and a big bunch of retained fluid.
When Jonny got back about an hour later I asked him how things went. He said that the whole process was pretty peaceful and that she died relatively quickly after being injected. He did say that she looked a little worried when they picked her up and put her on the table. He stayed right with her the whole time though and just pet her on the head like she liked. I asked her if anyone said anything, or if he talked to the vet. He said that he really didn’t say a word because he was afraid he would start crying in front of the staff.
I didn’t look at Okee after Jonny brought her home. I just didn’t want to see her dead or being buried. Jonny had wrapped her up in a blanket and immediately took her to the backyard to bury her after talking with me. We spent the next couple of days sort of moping and talking about how weird it was that Okee was gone, but knowing that we had to do what we did. Then we sat up going through old pictures to find all of our favorites of her. That just added to the feeling weird because so much has changed since we adopted her over nine years ago. We have reached that point where we have to accept that we aren’t kids anymore, nor do we look like the kids we were back when we got married.
So Okee’s gone, and we are a one dog family for the first time ever. It’s too bad that Maggie, who is a border collie mix, sheds enough for three dogs. She is sweet; though she’s no Okee. We have only had her for about a year and a half and she came to us a middle aged dog, so it’s sort of different. I don’t think there will be another dog in our near future unless one lands on our front porch. Jonny and I both are going through the we never want another dog again thing right now because of the pain of losing Okee. That will pass, but now is definitely not the time for another dog! I am glad we got the kitten though 🙂 He’s super cool and sweet as well.
Okee with Naven, the kitten we adopted shortly after adopting her.
Jonny passed out studying with Alley Cat and Okee.
Okee and Alley Cat. Alley was the last cat we adopted before moving to Virginia. The neighborhood kids found her under a dumpster along with a pile of kitten supplies. Someone had literally thrown her away. Of course I was brought all stray animals and even injured wildlife, so the kids gave her to me.
Jonny and Okee sleeping. Remember back before having kids when you could just lie down and take a nap whenever you pleased?
I think this was some holiday that we were at my in-laws house to celebrate.
Look at that underbite! Her bottom lip always stuck out, and because of the underbite most of her front teeth ended up falling out over the course of her life.
This was just a few months before I found out I was pregnant with Seth I think. We were such kids. I like the combination of textbooks and stuffed animals. That’s Simon in my lap along with Okee.
Seth is born! No we didn’t actually leave him unattended sleeping on Okee. That was just for a picture.
This was our first ever official family Christmas picture. That is Seth when he was about 14 months old. You can’t see Okee very well, but she is sitting right in front of Seth.
Jonny is holding Keats in this picture, so it is about 18 months after we moved from Georgia. We had traveled back to Georgia to visit family and friends. That’s our friend Thomas holding Okee. He and his wife Summer are two of our best college friends.
This is on our front porch about four years ago. My friend Lori actually took this picture. That’s Keats sitting on Okee (I doubt he was allowed to sit there for longer than it took to get the picture. We don’t let our kids hurt the dogs, although Okee doesn’t appear to care!) The other kids in the picture are Lori’s (back when she only had two-now she has four!)
Seth and Keats sitting with Okee. It is early in the morning I guess since they are still in pajamas and it looks sort of dark.
Okee sitting on the back porch with Willy. Willy was my first cat whom I actually got just before going off to college. He and Okee were friends, and while Willy has some bad habits that have made him an outdoor cat, he was always quick to go visit with Okee when she was outside.
This was taken in January of this year, not long after we had to start putting Okee in diapers. The meds she was on for the fluid retention made her need to go to the bathroom all the time,and she got a bit leaky. She looks really good in this picture though. She was skinny but not horribly so, and she wasn’t bloated looking yet.
This is Okee after a bath not too long ago. She had gotten so thin that after a bath she would get so cold her teeth would chatter so I would wrap her in fleece blankets. She actually stayed wrapped up like that for hours.
Here she is just looking sort of pitiful.
This was actually taken the day we had her euthanized. You can see her bones and her swollen stomach.
Seth, Keats, and Okee.
And back to the shot of Seth and Okee in front of the corkscrew willow. This was 2002, and Seth was our only child at that point, although I was pregnant with Keats.