My Friend LeeLoo

mood: devastated | drinking: who cares?

the_leeloo

I woke up this morning to a world that’s just not right.

There was no LeeLoo snoring at the foot of my bed, and she wasn’t curled up like a peanut on the couch, either. There are empty patches on the floor in the bedroom and the living room, where her dog beds are supposed to be. The dining room is strangely bare of bits of kibble. The house is so quiet. The clock ticks so loud. And LeeLoo is just… gone.

It’s been nearly 8 years since Boy and I saw her picture on petfinder.com. A side profile of a small fawn boxer, sitting quietly with her lower jaw jutting about 2 inches out below her top lip. “That one,” I said. “We definitely have to go see that one.”

I remember walking up to the foster home in San Jose where she was staying and seeing her through the fence. She trotted right up to us, smaller than I had imagined. “I know who you are,” I said. Two hours later, she was riding home with us.

LeeLoo has been a part of our family through some of the best years of our lives, and some of the most difficult times, too. She’s been such a faithful friend to me. Boy travels a lot for his work, but I was never alone when he was out of town. I had LeeLoo. Our routine would just change slightly while he was gone. Instead of hopping onto the foot of the bed in the middle of the night, the Loo would pop right up onto the bed and curl up on Bruce’s pillow, within arm’s reach, every single time.

Boy is out of town for work again, but there was no LeeLoo on his pillow last night.

She was elderly for a boxer lady. We adopted her when she was 5, and she would have celebrated her 13th birthday this December. Pretty impressive, since boxers usually fall prey to cancer at a much younger age.

But LeeLoo has been healthy and happy for a long time, and at her senior checkup just a couple of months ago, the vet passed her with flying colors and said he thought she’d be around for quite awhile.

So I was making plans, having visions of LeeLoo and the Bean. She loved kids and babies, with those small deliciously lickable faces. I had imagined LeeLoo when we brought Bean home from the hospital, all excited at this new fun adventure we all were embarking on. It’s fairly heartbreaking to realize that Bean will never get to know her.

Everything took a turn for the worst 2 weeks ago when LeeLoo suffered a seizure on a Tuesday night. It took her about an hour to recover from it, and Boy was on the phone with the emergency vet while I sat by her bed and stroked her. She seemed to perk up off and on over the last two weeks, but now that I look back on it, she never really returned to “normal”.

After a battery of tests that revealed nothing, no tumors, no anomalies in her bloodwork, nothing but a mild heart arrhythmia, the vet was stymied and said that only further (invasive) testing would help us determine the cause for sure. But Boy and I didn’t want to put LeeLoo through all of that. She seemed comfortable, she hadn’t had any more seizures. She was just more tired than normal, so we were all taking it easy.

At 34 weeks of pregnancy, my walking pace is so slow that a grandpa on a walker with arthritis could pass me by, so LeeLoo and I were well suited for taking short, slow walks together.

That’s what we did on Sunday, with Boy, in Golden Gate Park. I took these pictures of her, I guess out of some sort of unconscious intuition that they might be her last. loo3

We had a fun walk. She was slow, and tired, but so was I. So we took plenty of time to smell odd-looking blades of grass and meander slowly through the park paths.

Sunday night I helped her climb up on our bed and she slept there, snoring quietly between us, until 6 a.m. I had to help her down the stairs to the back yard, since she was pretty wobbly. But I never thought, yesterday morning, that it would be our last morning with her.

Boy left for his out-of-town job, I headed to work and dropped LeeLoo off at our friends’, Trini & Kim’s house. They also have a senior lady dog, Reilly, and she and LeeLoo have been good friends for years now.

At 12:30 Kim called to tell me that LeeLoo had vomited blood and passed out. They were on their way to the vet. I left work and met them there.

All I had to say to the receptionist was, “LeeLoo?” And they rushed me to a back room marked “Staff Only”.

And there was my little furry lady, my best friend, my LeeLoo, weak and limp on a shiny silver table, wheezing for every breath with an oxygen mask over her muzzle and an IV of fluids in her right front leg. She rolled her eyes and looked up at me and I just kept telling her it would be okay.

But it wasn’t ok. As far as the vet could tell, she had suffered another seizure that had damaged the area in her brain that controls respiration and blood pressure. Her legs were no longer working, her breath was not coming easy, and her blood pressure was nearly zero. They think perhaps she’s had a small tumor, slowly growing on her brain for months, and all the x-rays never detected it.

“If I were you and she were my dog,” the vet said, “I would let her go.”

I had to call Boy and tell him. I know it was very difficult for him not to be there. I got to spend several minutes with her, saying goodbye and telling her that she was the best dog in the whole word. Not a hyperbole. To me, she was.

And then Kim and Trini came in and we all sat around her and petted her and loved her until her breath went away.

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was leave her lying there, so still, wrapped in her red blanket. I kept saying goodbye and then sitting back down and then trying to leave again.

I know she wasn’t there anymore, but it was the last time I’d ever see her, all the little bits of her that are so familiar to me. The scar on her hip where the Doberman bit her 6 years ago, the little lumps and bumps she’s grown as she got older. The soft flaps of her ears and the way she would sigh whenever I rubbed them. Her little chiclet teeth and her one-of-a-kind underbite. The way her long pink tongue would stick out and get all crispy when she slept. Her little footpads that smelled of corn chips. That little butterfinger tail nub that would wag so hard, her body would turn in a U-shape when you walked through the door.

I can’t believe she’s gone.

The house is so quiet, the clock ticks so loud.

I can’t stop crying.

Someday, I know, the ache will dull. Bean will be here, and Bruce and I will take her to meet a new dog, a dog who will ride home with us and become a part of our family and teach us new memories.

But that doesn’t change the fact that now there is no LeeLoo in the world. And we’re all worse off because of it.
loo

I told LeeLoo, when I was alone with her yesterday, before the vet came with the needle, that she didn’t have to fight for breath anymore. That her pain would go away and she’d go meet her old friend Yoda, and they would both be young and healthy and happy, and they could go to the beach and chase birds for hours.

I don’t know what happens to our fur friends when they leave us, but I hope that someday, we will meet them again.

LeeLoo, I miss you. So much, my little friend. You changed my life. I love you.
-Lo

loo_yodes
(LeeLoo & her old pal Yoda)

loo_henry
(LeeLoo and her “internet boyfriend” from Portland, Henry D. Monster, who is hopefully feeding her bacon cupcakes right about now.)

Two Weeks

Mood: Teary-eyed
Drinking: A toast to the Yodes

When the phone rang yesterday at 4 p.m., and the display said my sister was calling, I knew even before I answered that something was wrong. Call it sixth sense, sister sense, women’s intuition, whatever. I just knew.

My sister’s teary voice confirmed it. She was sitting in her car in the parking lot of a vet clinic, calling with the worst news any dog lover can get. Her dog was dying.

My sister’s dog is not just any dog. And I know all dog owners are prejudiced in favor of their furry beasts. But seriously. You haven’t known adorable-gentleman-giant-pig-dog until you know Yoda.

My sister met the Yodes in October of 2004. She was a newlywed, and her husband had been shipped off to Iraq just weeks after the wedding. She was living in a new town, alone, far from family, with few friends. I told her she needed a dog.

As my dog LeeLoo’s favorite auntie, my sister was well acquainted with the Boxer breed, so she began scouring pet rescue websites for some sort of Boxer-ish pooch. In one of her searches, she discovered a picture of a big ham-headed white Boxer/American Bulldog mix named Yoda.

Even though he weighed in at a good 110 pounds, the Yodes was living with a slew of thimble-sized Chihuahuas at a Chihuahua Rescue in Burbank, CA. He had been there for two years, since nobody in LA-land comes to a Chihuahua rescue looking for a husky galoot of a Yoda dog.

Yodes’ story was a sad one…his previous owner had died suddenly, and Yoda, being the delicate flower that he is, was so upset, he lost all his hair. The relatives of the deceased owner didn’t know what to do with a bald, chubby sad sack, so they dumped him at the pound. Enter Chihuahua Rescue Lady, searching for unwanted pocket-sized dogs. She felt so sorry for the big grieving Yodes, she packed him in with the tiny dogs and away he went.

Two years in purse dog rescueland were not kind to Yoda. In addition to his depressed state, loss of hair, and all around tubby condition, he also had a thyroid problem that went untreated for a long time.

So when my sister showed up at the kennel to meet him, Yodes wasn’t looking his best. He was bald in patches, had icky sores between his toes and big goobers in his eyes. But in spite of all that, he had the love. And my sister saw it. She called to tell me about the gentle giant she had discovered, and on a roadtrip south a couple of weeks later for sister weekend, I saw him for myself.

We took LeeLoo along to the kennel to see how Yoda would react. LeeLoo took one look at him, walked over, sat next to him and leaned up against him. They both sighed. My sister and I looked at each other, wide-eyed, and I said, “You have to get this dog!”

It was easier said than done. Turns out that Rescue Lady was also a wee bit crazy and liked collecting dogs more than she liked letting them go. So even though my sister filled out all the paperwork, had proof of good dog ownership qualities and everything else, she didn’t get to take Yoda home for three more months.

Finally, in January of 2005, Yoda became part of the family. He got a bath, a trip to the vet, medication for his various skin conditions and thyroid issues, and some nutritious, yet delicious kibble. Over the next year, the Yodes only got healthier and happier, taking walks to the beach and trips to San Francisco to hang out with his cousin LeeLoo. My sister’s husband returned from Iraq in early 2006, and Yoda was there to greet him at the door.

Over the past two years, the Yodes has provided endless entertainment, usually beginning with a phone call from my sister, “So, guess what Yodes did today?”

The list of things he tried to eat just kept growing, ranging from tea bags to styrofoam to a Duraflame log. In person, he was like a walking cartoon, a giant marshmallow of a pooch who wanted nothing more than to lean his head against your leg, slobber all over your knee, and get in some sloppy tongue kisses.

The Yodes had many talents. He could blow a drool bubble like it was bubble gum, poop in a perfect circle, and snore in an exact imitation of a giant pig.

He’s the sweetest beast to ever walk the earth, having nothing but love for everyone he meets. He has friends all over my sister’s town, from the elderly residents at the nursing home, to the toddler down the street, to the homeless guy on the corner. Everybody loves Yoda. And he loves them back, no strings attached.

Which is why it’s incredibly unfair that he has only two weeks left on this earth.

The phone call yesterday came immediately after the vet told my sister and her husband that Yoda has an aggressive form of untreatable cancer. There’s nothing they can do to treat it, they can only make him comfortable and give him the best two weeks any dog ever had on this earth.

As any dog person knows, the dog who shares your life quickly becomes more than a pet. They are your friend, confidant, your baby, your pride and joy. So the news that Yodes is not long for this world is unbearably heartbreaking.

As my friend S put it,
“He’s such a big, goofy canned ham of a dog, and it’s just not fair. I do know that Yoda’s last weeks are going to be the happiest, steakiest, up-on-the-furniturest, most spoiled-rotten weeks any dog ever had. I’m going to miss his bald patches; his hard breathing and huge grin; the way he used to follow Leeloo around like an enormous, lovestruck linebacker. Yodes, we hardly knew you.”

So here’s to you, Yoda… We love you. We will miss you terribly. There will never be another pig-dog like you. We’ll always remember your smile, your stinky breath, your gigantic pink belly, and the way you brought unabashed joy into our lives every single day. May your last weeks be heavenly. And may dog heaven be even better.

And when (god forbid) the LeeLoo’s turn comes, please wait there for her at the Rainbow Bridge. I know you’ll take good care of her.

-Lo, who thinks that a world without Yoda is a very sad world, indeed.

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