Our hearts are absolutely shattered to write that we had to put down our two older dachshunds, Roxie and Banana on December 18th after Banana fell ill last week. They were both less than a month short of their 18th and 17th birthdays. I may never be able to read this sad story again, but I’m hoping that writing it out now will perhaps help with this devastating grieving process.
We were headed out of town for my Telluride birthday trip on Wednesday, December 14th and all was fine that morning, but during our lunch stop on the road, Banana didn’t want to eat. She has had digestive issues for the past few years that we had mostly figured out with a special food, but occasionally she would still get mysteriously sick and not want to eat, but it would always pass.
During the latter part of the drive, she vomited a couple of times and then kept vomiting throughout the night. She seemed sick in a completely different way than usual this time, but we just waited and hoped she would feel better by the next day, since she was still drinking water at least. We figured if we took her to the vet, they would run a bunch of tests only to say that we just had to wait it out.
We were able to briefly enjoy a short hike the next morning on Thursday with the two puppies and hoped that the time away would give Banana some much-needed rest.
Unfortunately, about an hour after we came back to the condo, Banana had a seizure that lasted about a minute and our hearts sunk. We knew this was a really bad sign. We rushed to the only vet in town 10 minutes away and they kept her for a few hours while running tests and giving her fluids and meds. She even ate a tiny bit at the vet that afternoon for the first time since Wednesday morning.
They didn’t know exactly what was causing her illness but felt that the gastrointestinal issue and the seizure issue were likely two completely unrelated things. We refused to believe that and thought surely the seizure had been brought on by the loss of fluids and prolonged period of not eating, so we still kept hoping for the best once she started eating and drinking normally again.
The vet in Telluride was not a 24-hour vet and the closest one was 2.5 hours away, so we had to take her back to the condo in Telluride that night and monitor her ourselves. The vet sent us home with all sorts of meds to continue to help her with her GI issues and seizures, and also left an IV line in her leg so we could administer injectable seizure medications that would stop a seizure immediately if another one happened. They told us that every time she had a seizure, it would be really hard on her neurological system and would likely impact a lot of her functions, like vision, hearing, and walking, for days, even weeks or months.
That night, Banana had her appetite back and was more than happy to eat, which gave us tons of hope. We really didn’t think she would have another seizure after all the meds and fluids from the vet that day and the fact that she was happily eating again, so it was very surreal and heartbreaking when she had another one that night at 10pm. The injectable medication worked instantaneously to stop the seizure and relax her, but it was a rough night worrying whether she would have another one.
The next morning, we dropped her off at the vet again for a few hours and we tried to distract ourselves with another short hike in the meantime. The vet office only does half-days on Fridays, so they discharged Banana after lunchtime and said that it was an “uneventful morning” for her, which was such good news.
We drove back to the condo hopeful that the worst was behind us, but she was still VERY lethargic and had yet to stand or sit up on her own since the very first seizure the day before. We had just hoped it was the meds that were making her sedated, and she would eventually bounce back after the meds wore off, but that night she kept having abnormal tremors every time she woke up. The one thing that continued to give us hope was that she still eating and eating very ravenously at that!
The vet office was closed on weekends, but the vet had been kind enough to give his cell phone number, so we texted him the next morning (Saturday) to give him an update and ask about the tremors and whether we should consider those seizures and give her the injectable meds. He replied that we should consider them “partial seizures” and we should administer the injectable meds, which felt like bad news that she wasn’t recovering like she probably should have been.
At this point, it felt like we had been on an emotional roller coaster for three days straight going between being hopeful and then facing a harsh reality. We were supposed to leave Telluride on Sunday, but at that point, the birthday trip simply didn’t matter anymore to us, so we left early on Saturday to get back home to Denver where we would all be more comfortable. Back at home that evening, hubby dug out our camping mattress so we could all sleep together in the living room. There wasn’t much sleeping for Banana and me.
We debated whether to take Banana to a 24-hour emergency vet once we got back to Denver, but she was so lethargic and limp that it felt like it might be pointless to rack up more emergency bills if there wasn’t much more they could do for her.
We had also already scheduled an appointment with Banana’s regular vet, whom we love and trust, for first thing on Monday morning. When we had initially made this appointment on Friday, we thought this would just be a check-up visit to remove her IV line and monitor her progress, but by Saturday night, we were losing all hope that we would even make it to Monday since we only had two injectable seizure meds left from the Telluride vet that we ended up using on Saturday and she still kept having the tremors.
Sunday morning we made the really tough decision to not only put Banana down, but Roxie too. Roxie wasn’t physically ill or anything, but she had been mentally out of it the past few months and just seemed like she wasn’t enjoying life anymore. With Roxie not really having any kind of defined illness, it had previously been hard for us to decide when to call it for her. We were thinking we would let her make it to her 18th birthday and make the big decision after that, but with Banana suddenly falling ill, it made sense for them to run over the Rainbow Bridge together.
We had someone come to our house Sunday morning for Roxie and Banana and although that was a heartbreaking experience to actually let them go in front of my eyes, nothing could have prepared me for the even worse heartbreak afterwards. I thought after days and days of crying prior to this, I was maybe going to feel a little bit of relief that it was over and perhaps some residual sadness, but it’s been indescribable pain and heartache that seems to get worse each day. Everything in the house reminds me of them, especially with the holidays, and no matter how much I try to not think about it, the pain is constantly there. It feels like it’s never going to go away. I don’t know how people get over losing (human) loved ones if losing a pet feels this devastating.
Hubby hasn’t been nearly as sad as me, and I envy that ability to somehow compartmentalize emotions and just focus on the good life they had and the adventures we spent with them. Indeed, we had Roxie and Banana much longer in our lives than we expected and enjoyed much more overlap with the new teeny weens than we were expecting, too. But I am glad that hubby isn’t nearly as sad and heartbroken as me because it has allowed him to be strong by my side comforting me, and I surely wouldn’t wish this kind of pain on even my worst enemy.
I think what maybe makes this so hard is being feeling solely responsible for making this big decision for my pups. Even if I was maybe relieving their pain or misery, it still feels like such a burden to carry for me to make that decision for them. In the first couple of days after their passing, I had immense regret for not just waiting until Monday morning to let Banana’s regular vet assess her, so I would know for sure I was making the right decision. But somewhere between all the emotions and events from Saturday to Sunday and watching Banana look so helpless, I had thought I was making the right decision. As for Roxie, I feel like I robbed her of her 18th birthday that she was so close to. She probably woke up that Sunday not knowing that her life would be taken from her. But I do think we made the right decision letting them go together. It was an impossible decision no matter what.
Some people have pointed out that “at least we still have the puppies [for a good distraction],” and actually, this was precisely why we had the foresight to get the puppies earlier this year. However, while initially I was really glad that the house wouldn’t be empty after we said goodbye to Roxie and Banana, in the days afterward, I have felt like they have been a really overwhelming distraction. Even though we let the puppies say goodbye to Roxie and Banana, of course they really didn’t seem to have any clue that their pawrents are in mourning and continue to run and play around the house per usual while demanding the max amount of attention. I do think that eventually I will be glad that they are here to make me smile and distract me.
So many people who have lost pets have told me the pain doesn’t ever go away and it just becomes “different”, which is a daunting thought because I don’t know how much longer I can withstand this heartbreak. So for now, it’s tears and bad memories of the final days until I can replace them with smiles of our happy memories.