The other day I received some really bad news. News that maybe subconsciously I've
known for a long time and didn't really want to hear spoken out loud. My son is dying.
At almost 16 years of age his liver and kidney's are failing him. While 16 may sound
young to you, I must tell you that technically he's almost 112. His name is Dakota, he
I can still remember like it was yesterday the day he entered my life. For months I had been begging my boyfriend, Jim to get me a dog. Surely, it would mend my broken heart. It was something I wanted so badly. Finally Jim succumbed to my wishes and on Valentines day in the kitchen of our Euclid home presented me with the cutest little ball of fluff. He pulled him out from the inside of his jacket and I instantly fell in love. Taking college courses at the time he would lay on the table and crawl inside the sleeve of my jacket with just his face peering out at me as he slept and I studied.
Naming him was tough. It had to be just the right name. It took me almost two weeks to come up with it. I was driving one day and I said, "Dakota". Maybe I saw a Dodge truck or something. I don't remember exactly how it came to me but Dakota it was and for a middle name it was Arson. He was "our son",so Arson was the perfect fit. Dakota Arson Giallombardo. Now that was a name with substance.
As he grew he was a tough little dog. For years he was my morning running partner. We would get up at the crack of dawn and run two miles through the neighborhood together. He loved it and had a great little body from it, and so did I. He was always ready and willing to go. It was our time together.
You know how they say a cat has nine lives? I think Dakota did. He was attacked by my neighbor's Akita twice and lived to tell about it. Hit by a car, had a broken knee cap and had some skin cancer removed. He took a licking and kept on ticking. He was a manly man and never whined or complained. He took it all in stride and always maintained his joy and sense of humor and recovered from it all. This time he can't. The odds are against him. I know it and so does he.
Time is running out and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. Ever since he turned 12 I've expected him to die every year from old age. I always thought 12 or 13 was it for a dog. But I'm a fanatic about herbs and have home cooked for my dogs for years and also feed them Flax Seed, Probiotics on their food, and he's been taking the supplement Sam-E for about 4 years now for his liver. Perhaps it was all the good nutrition that kept him ticking along all this time. I would like to think my good care had something to do with his longevity. Maybe he just didn't want to leave us.
Anyone who owns a dog knows that one day they will die and break your heart. I guess in my mind I always thought it was tomorrow or next week, or next year. Now I'm staring death in the face every day and I'm afraid. Afraid for my dog, afraid for what I may have to do to my dog soon, and afraid of what my life will be like after he's gone. Fear is my constant companion. I've never had to put a dog down in my life and unless he dies in his sleep it looks as if I'll be faced with this ugly event soon. How can I kill my friend? How do I end the life of someone who's always been there for me through thick and thin, good times and bad and been more loyal then any person has ever been to me? Just how do I do that? How do I kill a treasured family member? I'm not sure I can.
Watching him slowly deteriorate over this past year has not been easy. Where once stood an active healthy dog, now lays a weakened shell of his former self. His eyes are glazed over and sickly. His body covered in lumpy masses, his back legs shake so badly he can barely walk. He easily loses his balance and falls over. His weakened body sleeps most of the day, only waking for food, water and occasional potty break. Is this quality of life? I don't know. All I know is he still has one.
Every morning he wakes up, I give him his meds and we start all over again. Totally reliant on me for everything even carrying him outside to do his "business", as he can no longer maneuver the stairs. My little man has become an elderly sick doggy and I can't stand it. Father time can be so cruel. He strips away our youth, looks, and eventually even takes those that we love. There's no escaping time.
Somehow even with all the sadness I'm trying to enjoy each day with him. I've been sleeping on the floor outside of his cage, just to make sure he's still breathing, or just to let him know I care and I'm close by. Not knowing what or when will happen or when he'll be taken away from me forever. Just the thought of it kills me. I don't know if I'm strong enough to face what's coming. Then I look into his eyes and see how hard he's fighting what's raging inside his ravaged body and I think, if he can do it, so can I. He's so brave and strong, not once complaining or crying out in pain. He has given me unconditional love his entire life, so how can I give him anything less in his time of need.
Thank you Dakota for being the best son a mother could have. You've been the best dog anyone could ask for. You taught me to love again and for that I can never repay you. But I promise I'll never forget you and one day we will be together again. And on that day you will leap into my arms and it will be like we were never apart. That is my promise to you. I love you, and I will miss you every day for the rest of my life. But I will never forget.