Shaggy turned sixteen in May, no small feat for a dachshund. He had slowed down considerably in the last year, and we knew that the odds were against him making it to his 17th birthday, but the end came much sooner than we expected.
Heart vs. Kidneys
His breathing had become more labored recently. When it became especially difficult on a Friday night, we went to the emergency clinic, where the vet confirmed what I suspected — congestive heart failure. Shaggy spent two nights at the clinic where they had him on oxygen and a diuretic to remove excess fluids. He came home on Sunday with his breathing back to normal and some new prescriptions.
Unfortunately, he also came home without an appetite. He hadn’t eaten while at the vet, and he would only nibble at lunch meat at home. I went shopping and bought one of every dog food I could find that would surely tempt even the most finicky eater. Nothing worked, and eventually even the nibbles stopped. So, one week later, we were back at the emergency clinic.
They checked Shaggy’s kidney functions and confirmed that his results weren’t good. His BUN and creatinine values were five times higher than they should be. To treat his kidneys, they needed to give him fluids. That’s the last thing his heart needed though. We had controlled his heart issue with the diuretic but wound up putting a strain on his kidneys. Threading the needle between those two conditions was going to be difficult, especially for a 16-year-old dog.
We had always said that we weren’t going to put Shaggy through any treatment if it meant an inferior quality of life. According to the vet, we were going to have to be aggressive for him to have a chance. So, we made the decision that no dog parent wants to make, but one we all make eventually.
Crossing the Bridge
They made Shaggy comfortable while I went home to get Kristin. Because of the restrictions around COVID-19, they had us go around to the back of the clinic where they have a fenced-in yard. We sat down at a picnic table, and they brought Shaggy out, swaddled in a blanket like a baby. We visited and said our goodbyes. He was in our arms when he crossed the rainbow bridge.
Shaggy was with us for twelve of his sixteen years, and he was a great dog. One of the best dogs actually (although I may be biased). He was funny, quirky, stubborn, and all dachshund. He loved to sit in the front yard and bark at everyone walking by, especially if they were running or jogging and had a dog with them. We called it his “doggy TV.”
He slept in the bed with us, and for many years, he would walk up to the headboard, then turn around and crawl under the covers and lie next to me. It was great during the winter to have that little furnace of a dog next to me, but not so comfortable during the summer. I miss that every night.
He loved his after-dinner treats: a mini bone and a dental bone. How he would whine if we were even five minutes late with those treats. Or any other treat for that matter. Anytime we were in the vicinity of his treat jar, he expected to get one. Or two. He was supposed to shake for his treats (his only trick), and eventually he would start raise his paw to shake without prompting to tell us we were supposed to give him a treat.
We had a lot of tough times too. He had a terrible allergic reaction to something once that took weeks to resolve. A Great Dane attacked him, resulting in injuries that require surgery. He had recurring back and neck injuries, once so bad that we had to rush home during Christmas in the Quad Cities, and he had to be confined to a crate for 6 weeks of rest. I lived in the kitchen for those six weeks, spending days working from home at a desk I moved downstairs. I spent the nights in a sleeping bag on the floor right next to his cage.
I can’t count the number of nights I slept on that floor over the years, whether for that issue or for so many others. Sometimes in the kitchen. Other times in a guest room on a futon on the floor. Or sometimes on a couch. Whatever it took, and it was all worth it once he was better.
But we don’t have to do those things anymore. Nor for now anyway.
It’s been a week since he left us, and the house feels empty. We started to put some things away — the ramps and gates that kept him safe. The bowls that kept him fed. But his toys and his beds are still out. We’ll get to those in time. Some things we will donate to the Humane Society. Much of it we will keep. We will bring other dogs into our lives again at some point, and those ramps and beds and whatnot will be used again. But for now, they wait.
When Collen passed, we interred his ashes at the Memorial Park at the Humane Society. Shaggy will rest right next to his big brother. We miss them both terribly, but we like to think that Shaggy’s found Collen, and he’s driving him nuts trying to follow him everywhere and curl up behind him on whatever doggy bed they’re sharing.
Rest well Shaggy, you’ve earned it. We’ll be thinking of you. Always.