On July 6, 2021, we had to say goodbye to our most beloved family member. She officially turned 17 on June 24.
I honestly don’t think it matters whether the downward progression is slow or sudden – losing a beloved pet is devastating. For Choco, it was sudden.
About 3 or 4 weeks before that Tuesday, we had a vet appointment after her first round of antibiotics for a cough that we thought was due to a small infection. We discovered that her heart was a little enlarged – which was concerning since that hadn’t been there at an appointment a month prior – and that she had a slightly collapsed trachea, which caused her coughing but wasn’t as concerning. But she remained active and happy, and still moseyed around the house and kept wanting to go on adventures with me to my apartment.
A few days after her birthday on the 24th, we could tell she slowed down more than usual. She could walk herself places, but it was slower going. Both my mom and I knew we might need to make this decision soon. Part of it was for us to be as prepared as we could be (though you can never be prepared, in my opinion), but it was also to ensure we were constantly looking so we didn’t miss a sign if something was wrong. But when I had her with me Saturday night, she had her first episode. We still aren’t sure what it was, but it was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. She lost her balance, so I went to pick her up, and all her muscles just went limp. It was only for a few seconds, and she was only a bit disoriented, but it felt interminable. After I’d called my mom and discussed what we should do, within 20 minutes Choco was walking, interested in eating, and eager to sniff around outside. Her breathing was a little elevated, but otherwise she was back to her old self. Even still, I knew it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to take her with me anymore after that weekend. So I kept her Sunday and into Monday morning, and I am very glad I did. I nearly didn’t – I was worried if it would cause her stress, but something in me just couldn’t. I think somewhere deep down, I knew I’d only have a little more time left.
Monday evening we all actually ended up discussing what we may need to do (me, my mom, and my sister) and made a tentative appointment for the end of the month. But Tuesday morning she wouldn’t eat, was breathing much harder, and had another, similar episode later that morning. My mom and I knew that was it. She wasn’t stressed, but she didn’t really want to move and definitely wasn’t herself, either. She still gave us kisses, like she was trying to comfort us because she didn’t know why we were so sad. Unfortunately, our vet wasn’t doing in-home visits anymore, but Choco loved car rides, so we weren’t too worried. Our vet – who has been Choco’s vet for 17 years – was so amazing and stayed late so he could see us, and we got to be there with her and take her home with us. We decided on a good spot for her with her nose pointed towards the prevalent west winds that she always loved to sniff.
I still find it amazing that for a relatively still active, 17-yr-old dachshund, she had so few issues. She got her joint meds for general arthritis – glucosamine and previcox – along with eye medicine to help prevent ulcers in her eyes. But other than that she had no back problems, no spine issues, no heart meds, nothing. Even until the day we had to let her go, she was walking herself and could still hold her bladder. She never messed inside the house unless we weren’t as vigilant taking her out when she’d try to tell us, which was still extraordinarily rare.
She was without a doubt the kindest, sweetest, most gentle little soul I’ve ever known. It gives me such relief in knowing we did the right thing, that looking back on all the images I have of her and all the times with her I remember, we didn’t miss any signs before this that it may be time. She was playful, happy, and active for her age. She always knew when it was Thursday or Friday, and would get herself out of bed after I’d completed chores ready to head out for a car ride/adventure where she and I would snuggle for the whole weekend. She’d even get upset if we couldn’t snuggle as much as she wanted. Even though she never quite understood the concept of stairs or a ramp to get to the bed (despite running up stairs in her younger years, silly girl), she was always down for learning new things. She learned how to be an off-leash dog at 15, and she and I both found new ways to work with her waning eyesight and general loss of hearing. She learned different ways for us to pick her up so we could support her back, and knew that if she leapt off of my (very tall) bed I’d be there to catch her to lower her to the floor (and god knows how many heart attacks she gave me when I wasn’t always prepared but somehow managed to catch her anyway).
Choco has been such a huge part of my life – and my family’s life – for such a long time. She’s been with me since I was 13 years old, and while I didn’t always have her when I was in college or my first job, she’s always been there. She has been the light of my life since she was 4 weeks old and we got to puppysit her for her breeders. She loved to bite at the sprinklers, chase the airplanes when they flew overhead, and hunt birds and desert squirrels. She always had a wag and little squeaks when she missed me. Her favorite place to snooze was on a blanket in my lap from high school to now, and no matter how hard the homework was, it was always easier to do when she was with me sleeping peacefully. She’s been there through all of my hardships, a constant part of my life whose presence was soothing and healing. When I was so worried Amber wouldn’t recover from her laminitis, Choco was there, putting a paw on my foot or crawling over me to smother me in her own way of showing love. She always knew when I needed her, and we absolutely spoiled her rotten. She was just so sweet and had such a love of (sleepy) life that it was impossible not to. She had such a strong spirit, and I know she loved us all fiercely in her own quiet, unwavering way. Unfortunately, no matter how strong her spirit was – still trying to comfort us when she was the one not feeling well – her body just couldn’t keep up.
Grief is never an easy thing to articulate because everyone processes it differently, but I know that we all know just how devastating it is to lose our precious dogs. Most of the time I just feel listless, lost, like I’m missing a limb. What do I do now that she’s gone? So much of my free time on weekends and an extra hour after a long day at work was wrapped up in spending time with her, that I don’t know what to do. She has left such a huge hole in all our hearts. I miss her all the time, and these weeks since have been so very long. But, like with anything, I know I just have to take it day by day. Some days are better and some are worse, but that’s how it goes. Amber has been a big help, and Kahlua has surprisingly been too. I’m not as close with her as my mom is, but she’s an amazingly emotionally intelligent little burro, and will just stand there, lean her shoulder against my hip, and hug my head with her ear when I’ve got my forehead resting on her neck. It’s honestly the absolute sweetest thing.
Unfortunately, I am not in a position to get another dog. My apartment complex has breed restrictions, and I also work 10 hr days most of the week and am doing school. I need to plan moving to another place in a few months, and rent is ridiculously inflated here. I would need to lean heavily on my mom for help during long days, and to be honest, despite how horrible and empty and lonely the house/apt is, neither one of us is ready for another dog. For us it’s just too soon. But my sister and her fiancé live very close by with their dogs – dachshund Oscar and mini schnauzer Zeus – so they are getting plenty of attention from us when we really need a dog fix. Plus, I really want another dachshund if I’m going to get another dog. Choco really made us fall in love with dachshunds, and Oscar, while very different from Choco, has solidified that.
This goodbye has been the worst I’ve ever had to say. I could barely even post her tribute on Instagram, and this tribute in itself has taken so long to write and even publish because I can barely get through it. So I’ve had to wait and revisit, because as hard as it is, in it’s own way it’s healing to write about all the good things about her, and remember all the wonderful years we’ve had with her through copious amounts of pictures. We actually took “molds” of her front paws in play-dough years and years ago to use as Christmas ornaments, so I am going to use one of those to draw her paw as the center of a tattoo for my own tribute to her. She was already tattooed onto my heart, so why not reflect it on my skin, too? We miss her terribly, but I know she knew how much we loved her.
So, farewell my best friend. Thank you for choosing us to be your family – we were so fortunate to love you and take care of you all these years, and to have you love us back. I will sit on our bench beside you, and remember you always.