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8 Apr 2010
Today I got hit by another 'wave.' It came about as a result of a neighbor I hadn't seen in awhile asking "Where's your other dog?" when I was out walking Belle (my Sheltie) this afternoon, and the realization that tomorrow it will be four weeks since Charlie died. It feels like sooo much longer and yet it's only been four weeks. How is that even possible?

I still don't know why Charlie died. I've gone round and round with various theories, but I can't help coming back to the idea that something I did or didn't do may have been responsible. I loved that little dog so much! I would have done anything to save him, but I couldn't and he was still so young. Only 9 years old. Not quite 9, really, as he was a week and a day shy of his 9th birthday. I'm all of a sudden second-guessing my decision to get another Westie. How could any other dog ever be what Charlie was to me? He was the best little dog in the world and it still seems so wretchedly unfair that he was taken so soon!

Part of the problem, I know, is that I've recently started some new medication for my heart condition. The same heart condition, in fact, that Charlie helped diagnose 7 years ago. I probably wouldn't even be here right now if not for that little guy! The side-effects of the new meds include terrible headaches which, combined with the aforementioned, have left me in a very blue mood.

I don't even know why I'm telling you all this. There's probably nothing anyone can say or do to make me feel better. I just needed to write it all down and get it out of my system. Anyway, thanks for letting me vent.

20 Mar 2010
Happy Birthday, Charlie. Today you would have been 9 years old.

I can't help remembering when you were still a puppy and we ran into a lady who told us her Westie had lived to be 20 . I turned to you then and said, “Well, Charlie, that’s what we’ll aim for. I’m going to take such good care of you that you’ll break records for Westie longevity.” What a bittersweet memory that is now! Bitter, because I did take good care of you and yet you died so young. But also sweet because every memory of you is sweet and I can’t regret a minute of it.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw you: just three days old, tumbling over your littermates in an effort to nestle closer to your mother. She was a sweet thing, your mama, and didn’t seem to mind in the least when we leaned over to examine her puppies, though she did look a bit anxious when her owner reached down to scoop you all up. Your little ears were like pink commas, you made soft peeping sounds, just like baby chicks, and when you wrapped your tiny paws around my finger and clung for dear life, I was lost. I think that day was the first time I really smiled since the loss of Kris, our 16-year-old poodle-mix three months earlier. You were the cure for my sorrow, Charlie, and I couldn’t wait for the next eight weeks to pass so I could bring you home.

When the time arrived, you seemed terrified and howled in the car until I took you out of your crate and held you next to my heart. And you seemed to get over your fear rather quickly as one of your first acts upon arriving at your new home was to leap onto the coffee table, snatch my best African violet out of the pot, shake it like a rat, and bound through the living room, scattering potting soil in your wake. You were my little “White Tornado,” and that summer you chewed two rosebushes down to raw crowns (you’d think those thorns would’ve hurt!); climbed onto my desk and scattered the manuscript I was editing all over the floor; left paw prints across my computer keyboard; and wet on three checks I had yet to cash. You also terrorized a timid little Golden Retriever in Puppy Kindergarten; stole a rawhide bone from a Mastiff, then had the audacity to growl when he attempted to retrieve it; and slipped your leash at the pet store where you led me and five salespeople on a merry chase up and down the aisles before darting under a display case where we finally cornered you.

But what you did most of all, Charlie, was charm everyone you met. Mischievous though you undoubtedly were, there was never any malice in you. I don’t think it would have occurred to you to bite anyone or behave aggressively, and you always assumed that everyone was as delighted to meet you as you were to meet them. You never got over your belief that the real purpose of a walk was to visit the neighbors, and I met so many people because of you whom I might never have spoken to otherwise. I don’t think you ever met a stranger and everyone from neighborhood children to pizza delivery boys to the mailman with whom you were always trying to hitch a ride (I was convinced you’d turn up in Canada someday with a date stamp on your tail!) were all members of your fan club. Your life may have been, and in fact was, far too short, but you nevertheless crammed more living into your eight years, eleven months and twenty-four days than most humans do in 80.

I wanted so much for you to live to see this birthday, Charlie. When I first learned you were ill, I was determined to have you well in time for an extra special birthday celebration with all your dog and human friends in attendance. As you grew thinner and frailer, I prayed only that we’d have this day together, with at least a full nine full years to look back on, but to my eternal sorrow it was not to be. You left this world a week and a day ago, and believe me, it’s a much poorer place without you. In the past week I have seen you everywhere: on the sofa where you liked to nap with a pillow tucked between your paws and your little white snout resting on top; at the window where you sat for hours keeping track of the neighbors and barking at passing cats; in the squirrel who runs along the back fence where you chased so many in pretended outrage. Most of all I see you in Belle, your fur-sister and lifelong companion: in her sadness as she seeks the places where your scent lingers; in her sighs as she stares off into the distance; in the sudden, leaping light in her eyes when she hears, sees or smells something that reminds her of you; and in the sorrow that settles over her when she realizes it isn’t.

Charlie, I hope you know how much joy you gave both Belle and me in the all-too-brief time we had together. I hope you know that everything I did toward the end, from leaving you at the hospital to subjecting you to endless diagnostic tests. from poking you with needles to forcing pills and fluids down your throat, was done from love and a desperate desire to save you. Most of all, I hope you know how very much you were loved and what a gaping hole you’ve left, not only in my life but in the lives of everyone your cold wet nose touched. I may have another dog someday, maybe even another Westie, but there will never be another Charlie. You were one of a kind. You were the best. You were and are irreplaceable, and I will miss you every day until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.

Happy Birthday, sweet boy. Wherever you are.

Love always,

Mama (Barbara)

18 Mar 2010
After a relatively good day yesterday, I woke this morning feeling angry and frustrated. To explain, my Charlie supposedly died from complications of kidney failure at a relatively young age, just a week and a day shy of his 9th birthday. This occurred last Friday (March 12), but when I first took him to the vet on Feb. 9 he really didn't seem that ill. He was a little off his food and seemed a bit lethargic, but it really didn't appear all that serious. Anyway, the vet took some blood and called back the next day to inform me that Charlie's BUN/creatinine was elevated and I should hospitalize him for a couple of days to rehydrate him and attempt to 'restart' his kidneys. After two days he was released and seemed so much better, he was eating, had loads of energy, etc. Then, within days, he started getting weak again, so I rushed him back to the vet's and they hospitalized him for another 3 days. When I picked him up that time, however, he was in very poor shape, refusing to eat, losing weight, extremely weak, et al. Over the next couple of weeks I must have run him back to the vet half a dozen times and finally got so frustrated that I made an appointment to see a specialist the morning of March 12. The specialist did a lot of tests and basically concluded that Charlie's kidneys were badly atrophied, had probably been failing for some time, and he likely had no more than weeks to live. Still reelinig from the shock of such news, I took Charlie home and within a couple of hours he had a seizure, which the specialist later said was probably a massive stroke, and died.

What still doesn't make sense, however, is why a relatively young dog became so ill so quickly and died of an illness which usually takes months to years to reach end stage. His BUN from Feb. 9 was over 100 (normal is around 25), but his creatinine was barely over 2 (normal is 2 or less). After that first rehydration/hospitalizaztion, his BUN was down to 48 and his creatinine, though still not normal, had also dropped a bit And yet, in spite of daily subcutaneous fluid administration at home, in spite of constant care and dozens of phone calls and visits with vets, in spite of $4,000 in veterinary bills, the poor little guy is gone. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

I want to find out what happened. Even though it can't bring my darling boy back (Oh, if only it could!) I never, never, NEVER want to go through anythinig like this again and after forking out that much cash, I think I'm entitled to a few answers. I phoned both the specialist and my regular vet this morning and though neither is in today, I left messages for both to call me back.

So here's my question: am I tilting at windmills? Am I merely prolonging the agony with all this probing? I'm quite sure I'll never get either my own vet or the specialist to admit to any errors (doctors, you know - human or veterinary, they're alike when it comes to accepting blame) but I nevertheless feel compelled to pursue it. I understand all the stages of grief. I've been through the denial (I couldn't accept that Charlie might die until the very day he did) and am probably in the midst of anger and/or bargaining, but I still feel like I really need to know how and why my baby died. Have any of you been through anything like this, and if so, how did you deal with it?

14 Mar 2010
It's been more than 2 days now since my beloved Westie died and tonight is the 3rd night. Today wasn't as bad as yesterday and hopefully tomorrow won't be as bad as today, but for some reason the nights are equally horrible. During the day I can talk to friends and family and remember all the funny, silly things Charlie used to do. But at night I see the corner of the sofa where Charlie used to take his naps, see the pillow he used to tuck between his paws with his little white snout resting on top, and when I go to bed I still expect to see him lying on top of the blankets, waiting for the liver treats I always gave him and my Sheltie, Belle, before they went to sleep. Charlie always slept on my bed. Belle prefers a bed of her own, placed near mine, but she never liked to sleep up high and would rather curl up in a dog bed on the floor. For the past couple of nights, just as I'm falling asleep, I've automatically reached out to stroke the little ball of fur that for almost 9 years was always next to me and it's a fresh wrench each time I don't find it there.

I feel so wretched at night that there are times I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up again until the worst of the bad feelings were gone. Either that or I think about taking the pills I'm supposed to take anyway for my heart condition but rarely do because they make me feel so groggy and I don't believe they do a darned thing to help my heart. For the past three nights, however, I've taken them because they make me feel as if nothing really matters. Even so, I wonder if I'm making a mistake by pushing those feelings aside. My sister says I should let myself feel and that I'll get over it faster if I do. My brother says take the pills, in fact, take whatever I have to take to make it bearable. I don't know which of them is right. All I know is that I've never felt as terrible as I do right now, and that's quite a statement, considering some of the things I've been through. Nevertheless, I've never grieved as deeply as I am for my little lost Westie, not even when my grandfather, whom I adored, passed away, or I lost my cousin in a tragic car accident, or when one of my oldest, dearest friends died of a congenital heart ailment at an impossibly young age. I want my Charlie back. I want him here beside me as he always was whenever I felt bad, seeming to know instinctively whenever he was needed most and appearing as if by magic at the critical moment. It is a puzzle and a conundrum that the one and only thing that always made me feel better is the one and only thing I can no longer have.

However, as Scarlett O'Hara once observed, tomorrow is another day. When I wake up in the morning the sun will be - hopefully - shining and my night terrors will have gone. But then there is another night to get through and another after that. When does it get better, I wonder. How long will it take before I no longer dread the night?
14 Mar 2010
Hi, everyone. I'm new to the forum and my own loss is very recent. My sweet Charlie, a West Highland White Terrier who would have been 9 next Saturday, was discovered just a little over a month ago to be suffering from kidney disease, apparently due to some sort of genetic abnormality. On Friday afternon, I had just returned from yet another visit to the vet and was sitting beside Charlie on the sofa, stroking his fur, when he suddenly went into a seizure that lasted only a minute (it felt much longer) then he let out a little breath and was gone. He had lost so much weight and had grown so weak that I guess his poor little body just couldn’t take any more. Fortunately, my parents had just dropped by to offer support so I wasn’t alone when it happened. I really think I might have lost my mind if I had been.

I have three problems, really. The first, of course, is that I am heartbroken. Charlie was the best dog I ever knew, feisty and funny, sweet-natured and so very sensitive. He understood me better than anyone ever did, human or otherwise. In the past I’ve been forced to make the wrenching decision to have pets put down, but Charlie, unselfish to the end, spared me that. I do take some comfort in the thought that that, in death as in life, he did it his way. But I am bitter and angry that we had so little time together. Westies usually live to be about 15. Charlie was only 8 and therein lies my second problem. It seems so unfair, especially when I’ve always taken such good care of my dogs. I brushed Charlie’s teeth every night from puppyhood, fed him the best quality food, made sure he got plenty of exercise, took him to the vet every single time he seemed out of sorts, protected him from every possible toxic substance, and still this thing happened. We should have had years more together and I don't know how I'm going to live the rest of my life without him.

The third and most pressing problem is my other dog, an 8-year-old Sheltie named Belle who has never known a single day of her life without Charlie. I’m terribly concerned about her because she's been avoiding me ever since Charlie died. She was there when it happened and while I have no idea how much she understood, every time I call to her now she runs in the opposite direction. I don't think she blames me for what happened but surely senses my sadness and I think that's what she's avoiding. Of course she's also very sad herself. Charlie was always her champion, fighting her battles like the gallant little soul that he was, once even taking on a Rottweiller in her defense (and, believe it or not, got the better of the Rottie!). Now he's gone and she seems so lost without him that I don't know what to do with her. This morning I took her with me to the animal hospital to return some of Charlie's unused pills and we saw a Westie there. Belle's face just lit up and she ran toward the Westie with such joy and excitement, it just about broke my heart. It really hurts too, that she's avoiding me, because she was always my faithful little shadow. If anyone has ideas about what I might do for this poor grieving dog, I would appreciate hearing them. I absolutely could not bear to lose her too.

Sorry for the length of this post. I just have so many feelings rolling around inside that I have to get them out. Thanks for indulging me!


Charlie & Belle's Mom
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