My dog, Loki, died yesterday. She was a beautiful Chocolate Lab, German Shepherd mix and only seven years old. Her disposition was also beautiful. She was sweet, happy, and loving to us, her family, to her people friends, her dog friends in the neighborhood, and the cat she adored.
She especially loved children and was gentle with them. She loved my nephew the way only a dog could. When he was a baby, she watched over him as if his very life depended on it. After he left to go home with his parents, she would go to sleep, exhausted from her vigilance. As a toddler, when he began to crawl and then walk, she herded our two cats away from him, protecting him at all times. I was quick to get to him when he got near the cats but so was she. Together we kept him safe as she often put her body between him and either cat that got close to him. I taught him not to touch the cats, but he was always curious and a bit stubborn, so Loki was always there.
I taught the two of them to play fetch together. It took L. a little while as a young toddler to get the concept but once he did, they had fun playing the game over and over in the long hallway inside our house until Loki actually became tired. L. learned to tell her, “Drop it.” She did it for me, not always for me or my husband. We were adults after all. For L. she was gentle and cooperative. They played that game together for years and L. always giggled and laughed and Loki ran and loved it.
When L.’s Grandmother babysat with me and she and L. ran up and down the hallway, Loki ran too.
We took Loki on walks together. As he got older, he would ride his bike on training wheels while I walked her. Just two weeks ago, we thought we would have to have Loki euthanized and we were scheduled to pick L. up from preschool, so we took her to the vet. We found out she was not retaining fluid as we suspected and was not in distress, so we could take her home. Happy and relieved, we took her with us to pick up L. from preschool. I waited in the car with her.
Loki was so happy to see L. when he came outside with his Uncle. He was happy to see her. She greeted him happily, kissing his face. He asked why she was there after saying hi to her. I told him she needed a check up at the vet so we brought her to get him afterwards. HE asked if she was good at the vet’s. We said yes, she was. Then we drove home. She was well behaved, happily sitting on her side of the back seat and looking out the window. When we got home, she happily sat on the floor near L. She always wanted to be near him and she watched over him.
Last year for a four months we had a foster daughter who was four years old. Understandably, she was hesitant to love anyone in our home, including the dog. She tried to ignore the dog. However, the dog loved her without hesitation. She sat near her and watched over her. She was gentle. I saw that tiny little girl set limits with the sixty pound dog without hesitation. She told her to sit and or stay and Loki did it without hesitation. I saw that beautiful little girl’s strength. Loki gave each of us what we needed. Now that little girl lives with her family but comes to visit us and she loved Loki. She called her, their dog, hers and L.’s. I will have to explain the loss of Loki to this precious little girl and boy. This adds to my sadness.
Although, I am glad that Loki had two very special children to love. I always felt that she needed children of her own and I am glad she had them. I know that the love and lessons she gave to these children were important and valuable. Despite the pain I feel today and for however long it lasts, I would not give up my time with Loki or any pet I have had and loved. I would not have missed the experience of unconditional love and joy despite the pain.
Loki had heart disease that suddenly and inexplicably appeared. We spent the last two months working with her veterinarian and a specialist trying to keep her alive and healthy. She was comfortable and even energetic for most of those two months. The last few days, you could see that she was getting more and more physically uncomfortable, although her spirits were still high and her love of food never waned. Even the night before she died, she put her head on my leg and looked up at me with those brown eyes and begged for the snack I was eating. I told her that I would not give it to her because it was chocolate and she could not have it. What? I often explained things to my dog. She was intelligent. She was also stubborn. She didn’t give up. She was pretty adorable. I have to admit.
In the end, the surgery that we thought would save her life and extend it for five years or more, didn’t. There were complications that would not allow the surgery to be completed successfully and the vet also found cancer. I had to make the necessary but painful decision to have her euthanized.
I had hoped I would pick her up after surgery yesterday. I was afraid she would be in pain, but they said she would be on medications. I was prepared to care for her for the next ten weeks of recovery.
Instead she died at the veterinarian’s office. I knew it was a possibility that she would not survive the surgery so I hugged her several times yesterday morning at home and again before she left the exam room to go back with the vet tech. I tried to remain calm so she would. I fell apart as I walked out the door to my car, crying. Then I sobbed once in the car while driving home. I was scared. I was so afraid of losing her and I did.
At eleven am the vet called and I knew it was bad news. It was too early for good news. I didn’t want to call my husband at work and upset him, so I waited. He called me during his lunch hour. He didn’t cry, but I did.
I spent the day crying off and on. I am not unfamiliar with grief at the loss of a beloved pet or person. I don’t know that the grief is different. It hurts. Every once in a while I thought that I didn’t want it to be true. I wanted to take it back. I wanted Loki back to hug and to love. I knew I couldn’t have her, and I felt an ache in my chest, missing her so badly. I would never hug her big furry body again. I would never see how happy she got when I asked if she wanted to go for a walk or just the look of happiness in her eyes as we walked outside together. I would never again see how excited she was when I came home from the store and gave her a stuffed squeaky toy to tear apart. I would not play fetch with her again with a squeaky tennis ball. I would not hear her sigh when I told her not to do something she wanted to do or hear her vocalize when one of her fifty toys went under the sofa and she HAD to have that one.
Seven years had not been enough. No length of time would ever be enough, I knew that. I am so grateful for the time we had with her, and even for the extended two months that we didn’t think we would get when her belly was swollen with fluid. Then the specialist was able to remove it, not knowing how long that would last. She was her old self afterwards, the next day, energetic and ready to play.
She is the only dog we have adopted as a puppy and it was one of the best things we have ever done. She was love, energy, mischief, and joy. When we found her at the shelter,she was a two month old puppy, chocolate brown with huge ears. She taught me so much about myself and about life. She helped me to be strong because she needed me to be strong for her. As a puppy, she tried to make friends with my cat who absolutely HATED her, but she never gave up. That cat, Goji, eventually loved her. My cat, Boo, who we also rescued and had never been around a dog before, also grew to love Loki.
After Goji died a year ago in my arms, Boo and Loki became closer. They came to my bed every day to greet me when I woke up. Today it was just Boo. When Loki went for a walk, Boo would often follow us, usually close to the buildings, but she followed along. Sometimes she joined us on the sidewalk right next to the dog. Loki watched out the window for Boo when she was outside and let me know when she was ready to come back in.
Tuesday morning, the day of Loki’s surgery, I woke up at four am with a headache. I went downstairs to get some Tylenol. I asked Loki if she wanted to go out. She did so I let her out front to pee. I had just let the cat in the back door from being outside. Despite that, Boo ran right out the door and rubbed up against Loki repeatedly. Boo was often affectionate like that with Loki and Loki stood there patiently, although I could tell she did not feel well.
Boo is in mourning. This afternoon she walked over to Loki’s chair in the living room and smelled it. It has a chair cover on it and is the only thing in the house that still smells like Loki as we washed her dog bed, blanket, and put away her toys, unable to look at them for now. Boo jumped into the chair and slept there for hours. We will leave the chair cover unwashed so that Boo can mourn as needed.
We know that we will get another dog. We say soon, but we don’t know exactly what that means. My husband wants to get a puppy and of course I can agree to that. I love adult dogs and I love puppies. I know getting a puppy will heal some of our pain although I will always miss Loki the same way I miss our first dog Rosie, a German Shepherd that we lost about seventeen years ago.
Both dogs were intelligent and loving. They were special in their own ways. We loved them and cared for them. They both gave us what we needed at the time in our lives that we had them. They taught us the things we needed to learn. I know that our next puppy will do the same.