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Originally published: 7/17/2017, Monday, with updates from today, which is one year later.
Taking care of the elderly, like my elderly pets and my Nani (my grandmother), have been some of the hardest, yet rewarding times in my life and I wish to teach others what I've learned through my experiences.
We lost our dog Joey on, 7/17/2017 and I wrote a story to commemorate his life right after our trip to the vet with him.
Here is his story.
Old Dogs Need Love Too
Carolyn J. Braden
Today was supposed to be a lucky day. It started out with me being a winner for “Pet of the Week” for the Petflow company. They featured a photo I took of our Maine Coon, Monica, on their social media sites. The week was starting out quite nicely.
On this day, my husband and I were working at home, and while in the midst of our day’s tasks, we realized we had to let go of our dog, Joey. This was a decision that hit me like a brick, but I knew it had to be done.
About 16 years ago, we met Joey, a beautiful fluffy Border Collie/American Eskimo mix, white with a patch of brown and black fur over one eye and across his bottom. He was the only dog at the Humane Society that wasn’t barking. He was small, about 26 pounds, with sweet brown eyes that caused me to fall in love the instant I saw him. He was named Patches, though I decided to call him Joey instead. We already had a cat named Phoebe from the Humane Society, and because the show “Friends” was one of our favorite shows, Joey was very fitting.
Interestingly enough, we took home quiet little Joey and he instantly started barking and going crazy. Or, we at least thought he was going crazy, as well as our friends and family too. Everyone starting questioning our decision to get him. I never questioned my decision.
It dawned on us that he was still young, he was still a puppy in fact, that had never been trained. If he was at the Humane Society, there was no telling what his very early life had been like. We decided to take him to training at Feeders Supply, a local pet supply store. There, we met Fran, the most awesome dog trainer in the world. She was so patient and worked with us and Joey, among a class of other “misfit” dogs, to teach him the basics. We learned so much from her. Through that experience, we learned Joey was actually not going crazy. He was very intelligent but just needed training. We worked with him for months and months and he learned everything we taught him. The most fascinating trick was “Leave It.” We could put a dog biscuit by his foot and say “leave it” and he would not eat it until we said “take it”. That was helpful for any time we dropped something we didn’t want him to eat. We could just say “leave it” and he did.
Joey loved posing for pictures. He would let me style him and would be so patient with me as I took numerous photos of him. His patience was truly tested when we brought home a new puppy, Vegas, an American Eskimo. Joey was very unsure of him at first, but he grew to love him and teach him the most wonderful love capable between two dogs. Joey cleaned Vegas’ ears, watched over him and was a great big brother.
Back to today and our decision to let go of Joey. Joey lived a great long life. We estimated him to be about 17 years old, since we didn’t know exactly how old he was when we got him. About 2 years ago, Joey started to not have control over his bowels. We believed he had a spinal condition that didn’t tell him when he needed to go. He also started having urinary accidents in the home. For a while, we just cleaned it up, but knew we needed a better fix. We started purchasing children’s diapers and cut a hole for his tail. He was completely fine with wearing them as he had also developed arthritis and wasn’t able to reach around to his back end.
Standing for long periods of time was also beginning to be tough for Joey, which made eating and drinking difficult. We purchased a water bowl that was elevated and very steady. Tommy, my husband, also hand fed him. It was almost as if Joey had become our human baby. We worried about him, but knew he was still managing quite well with all the efforts we made to ensure he had a good quality of life. He was still smiling at us and trying to jump up when he saw us. He still loved eating his treats and getting lots of attention.
Today, however, we had to say goodbye. For the last few days, Joey was not able to stand for more than a few minutes at a time. He was struggling to get up on his feet by himself. We contemplated a dog wheelchair, but knew he needed to use his legs to keep them from getting too stiff and painful from the arthritis. We could see pain start to creep in his eyes. It wasn’t the kind of pain a pain pill could cure anymore. The last few days, I didn’t see him smile. That was my cue. I talked to him numerous times about him being able to “let go”. I didn’t want to have to make the decision for him, but I had to. It was time.
We took him to the vet and prayed over him. My husband and I were with him the entire time, holding him. I cried. Tommy cried. We let go. Joey let go.
Joey is now in the spirit world. He is with me now. Whatever you believe, I am here to say, Joey’s spirit will never die. He taught us more than any human could ever teach us. He was strong. He was stubborn. He never gave up until he had to. To quote the Trolls movie, Joey got knocked down so many times, but always got back up again. Well, sometimes we had to help him, but that’s what life is all about. Helping each other. Humans helping humans. Animals helping animals. Humans helping animals.
Animals helping humans. Joey helped us be better humans. He taught us love, patience and kindness and we will always be grateful to him for that. As for today being a lucky day, it actually was. I am lucky to have had Joey in my life and to know now he will always be by my side in spirit.
The End, or The Beginning?
That’s my story. Now let me tell you what we did here, a year later to commemorate him. My husband and I took trip to the Humane Society this past Sunday with clean and gently used towels, something that was on their list of needs. We donated them and made a monetary donation in Joey’s name. Consider donating to a local animal shelter or charity organization. Whether it’s physical items, money or your time, the animals of our world are worth anything you can give. Need help getting started? Check out the Humane Society’s website at www.humanesociety.org