Losing Fido: How Our Family Overcame the Loss of a Pet

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Losing a family pet for any reason can have a devastating impact. Tiyi’s family shares her story on how they overcame the loss of a pet that they loved dearly. Deciding how to cope as a family is never easy, but her family discovered one way that has helped them overcome their loss.

My family and I had the best of intentions that July. We were on the hunt for the very rare lemon beagle. After several days of internet searching, we found the perfect puppy. His name was Thor. How appropriate.

The only issue was that he lived in Edlinbugh, Pennsylvania, which is about 5 hours away. So, in total, that meant we had to take a 10-hour drive roundtrip to bring the puppy home. Needless to say, we are those parents. If the kids want it, we will try our best to get it for them, especially when it’s deserved. I reached out to breeders, and it turned out that they were very nice people. They informed us that Thor was part of a small litter and that their family had become very smitten with Thor and another puppy named Charlotte.

I asked for additional pictures of Thor because the initial photos were taken two or three weeks prior. We waited patiently—and ping! He sent the photos quickly. To my surprise, I received several pictures. Two of them included Charlotte. I instantly went from wanting one puppy to wanting two puppies. We inquired about her and discussed it with the kids. They were so excited. We have 3 boys and 3 girls, and they were happy that this would mean one puppy for the boys and one puppy for the girls.

Falling in Love with Two Fidos

We drove up to pick up the pups on a Friday. It actually was a nice trip there and back. The puppies handled the trip very well. We were exhausted. But once we opened the front door and yelled for the kids to see the puppies, all of my sleepiness went away.

The smiles and the excitement made the exhaustion well worth it. All 6 kids played and laughed with the puppies. We were now complete with 8. We had a perfect number of children.

In August we started to notice the puppies were shedding like crazy. But shedding is normal because of the time of year. The summer continued on. They were growing fast and starting to go on longer walks. As the kids started to prepare to go back to school, we started to prepare for the change of arms. Our kids I have to say did great as first-time pet owners. It was now our turn to step in and take over. My daughter printed up a household schedule for the puppies. Her schedule included everything I needed to know about caring for the puppies during the day. Her plan worked out really great!

When We Noticed a Problem

Going into September we start to notice that something was different with Charlotte. (We actually had renamed Charlotte to be “El,” which is short for Eleven from Stranger Things.) She began to fall down when she ran with her brother. Or sometimes she really didn’t play with him. She would give up easily with he wanted to roll around with her. We also noticed that she started favoring her right leg. We assumed this was caused by the horseplay.

To avoid horseplay, we began to walk them separately. Within days she began to walk a little and then lose her footing or just couldn’t hold herself up. We called the vet and made an appointment. They had nothing available until the next Monday. At this point, only her back legs were behaving strangely but she was still able to stand. By Sunday, her front legs began to experience the same issues. I freaked out, and we took her to a 24-hour veterinary clinic. The vet ran a series of blood work tests which eliminated several possibilities of what could be causing an issue. They told me that this looked to a neurological disease that was irreversible. They recommended that we keep our Monday appointment with our vet and also to see a neurologist.

Unknown Territory

Neurology for a pet?! I had no idea that this was a thing, but I felt that we should give it a try. They should be able to fix this, right? Our sweet El—I have to fight for her. So that Monday we saw our vet. She called and got us an appointment at the pet neurologist for the next day. Our vet recorded the dog and explained that she had never seen anything like this. A 5-month-old dog that had become paralyzed.

She explained that the symptoms aligned with a neurological disease called Neosporosis. This was passed to her while she was still in utero. There was no way of knowing. The feelings that rushed over me and family to this day it’s hard to even speak about. I’d felt like I had been watching this baby just die. As a woman that’s experienced the loss of a baby, this felt like those wounds were reopened. I just held her and cried. I was helpless again and I couldn’t change the outcome.

At this point, they said we could take her home but to bring her back again tomorrow. We sat in the room waiting for the doctors to come back and say this prognosis was a mistake and our sweet baby would be okay. She did eventually come into the waiting room to pet El and the vet started to cry. “She’s so young,” she said. I had to excuse myself because I wasn’t able to control my tears.

A Devasting Decision

I returned to the room after a few moments and my husband said that we had to make a decision. I looked at him and he was holding El and crying. He and I had been in a moment like this before in January of 2016. I knew we needed to make a decision. But the kids were at school. Should we pull them out and include them in this pain? Do we take El home and run the risk of the kids finding her unresponsive in the morning?

So I told my husband it was best to just handle it on our own. Just like last time.

At this point, El wasn’t able to really move her head anymore. She just laid there. We hugged her and rubbed her and said good-bye. It was one of the hardest moments of my life. I would have to say that also of sitting the kids down and telling them she was gone. Still and probably forever the thought will bring me to tears. El was the sweetest puppy. She loved the kids and was gentle with our little ones.

She always will be our El.

Coping as a Family

Coping with the loss of a pet or fur-member is especially difficult. I will say what’s worked for us has been that we still have Thor. He’s been the family’s way to move forward. My advice to families going through the loss of a pet is to never forget but remember that love and apply it elsewhere. I saw a change in my children. They saw how delicate life is. Be it a puppy or person, living is living regardless of what type of animal you are.

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