If Love Could Have Saved You -- Losing a Beloved Pet

My heart has been heavy these past few days. My family has had to say goodbye to our oldest fur baby. I feel like I have lost a part of my family and I feel compelled to tell his story.

In January of 2007, my (now ex) husband and I were separated, but trying to work things out. He told me that he was going to meet a Pit Bull that he saw an ad for in the newspaper and possibly bring home. The Pit Bull’s name was LT. His owner was in the military and was being stationed somewhere where he couldn’t take him. LT = Lieutenant. His owner was very upset about having to re-home him, but when LT met my ex-husband, he jumped on top of him, as if he was picking who he went with. His owner knew that he found the right person for LT, and made my husband sign a paper promising not to re-home him to anyone else before contacting him, not fight him, or leave him outside. He was a big beautiful black American Staffordshire Pit Bull.

I had never been around many Pit Bulls and I admit that I was a little leery about it at first because I heard so much bad about the breed, but being an animal lover, I did my research and realized it was the owners, not the breed.

When LT was first brought home, he just laid at the top of the stairs growling, and would only come down to eat or poop for the first few days. Our kids were 2 and 3 when they met LT. LT just was so excited to meet them, he ran circles around them, and our 2-year-old twins pointed at him calling him a horse.

Eventually, the kids and I moved back in and LT quickly became part of our family.  He loved the kids and watched over them when they were playing outside and was always very careful around them. He was very protective of his territory and family, while also being extremely intelligent. 

Not long after we got him, our landlord came to the house and flipped out when she saw that we had a Pit Bull. She knew we had a big black dog, but never asked the breed. She told us that we must love that dog more than we love our kids and that one day we would wake up and our kids would be dead, and and not to call her crying when the dog killed our kids. I was so upset and I tried to educate her on the breed, to which she finally agreed to let us keep him.

LT grew up with our kids and he was a part of just about everything we did. He loved riding in the car and we took him just about everywhere with us. He knew sign language and was scared to death of our cats. People were scared of him because of his size and his breed, but he was just a big baby who would only lick you to death.

About six years later, my ex-husband and I split up and went through an ugly divorce. He threatened to take LT with him when he moved out which broke my heart. Luckily, he left him with me. LT was with me throughout everything. Whenever I was upset or crying, he would be right there cuddled up on my lap as if he was attempting to comfort me. It helped.

LT was around 75 lbs. He was a big boy and was always very strong. He could pull me around when he was on a leash and always had a lot of energy. Whenever I asked him if he wanted to go for a car ride, he would jump straight up in the air as high as I was tall, or he would tear around the house when he got the ‘zoomies’ and crash into the walls. He always made us laugh.

A couple of years after my divorce, I noticed LT had blood in his poop. Our Vet tested him for parasites and a few other things, tried a few different medications, but couldn’t figure out what was going on and why it wasn’t going away. Finally, after doing a rectal exam, he found a tumor in LT’s rectum. Because of the placement of the tumor, it was too dangerous to attempt to remove it. He was put on Prednisone to keep the tumor small enough that it wouldn’t block his bowel movements. Of course, there are all kinds of side effects with long term steroid use.

A few months after taking the Prednisone, he began urinating blood one evening and the next day he was lying on the floor refusing to get up, even for food. I was at work when my kids texted me telling me what was going on. When I walked in the house, he wouldn’t even get up to greet me, so I knew something was wrong. We rushed him to an emergency hospital where we found out he had a very bad kidney infection, and when they did x-rays they found tumors throughout his stomach. They wanted thousands of dollars to remove these tumors which would have only added a couple of months on to his life. After discussing everything with our regular Vet., we decided not to put him through that surgery, and we were told that he probably only had 6 months left, give or take.

That was in June of 2016. We continued on the Prednisone knowing what the risks were of keeping him on that as well as not doing the surgery. My biggest fear was that the tumor would rupture something and he would suffer, but I knew that when the time came and he has had enough, he would let me know.

We got another year and a half with him. He lost some hair due to the Prednisone. A few months ago, he began having problems jumping up on my bed -- he always slept in bed with me, so I started lifting his big butt up onto my bed at night when his back legs couldn’t make it. We also realized that his hearing was gone.

Then we noticed his back legs start slipping on our hardwood floors when he tried to get up from laying down. He had problems getting up into his favorite chair or on to the couch, and we would lift up his back legs for him so that he could be comfortable.

Over the last few weeks, he continued getting worse. Anytime he was laying on the floor, he had a problem getting up. He stopped even trying to jump on my bed. He always got so excited to go outside to go potty, but it got to the point where we had to bring the leash to him and sometimes literally lift him up just to get him on his feet to go outside. Once he was up, he was ok, just slower.

He got worse just over the last week. His tail didn’t wag anymore. The only time he got up was to go potty or to eat/drink. I would catch him staring at me from across the room with his big brown eyes, and I knew it was time, he had enough.

I finally mustered up the courage to make the call to his doctor and told him it was time. We had to wait 3 days until they had an opening to do it, so I had planned on loving on him and spoiling him as much as possible for those last few days. After making that difficult call, I decided to take him for a car ride, which he hadn’t been on in a while, and take him to get a sandwich for lunch. I had to literally lift him in the car. He wouldn’t even attempt it. He just sat there peacefully looking out the window watching the world go by. Once in a while he would sniff the air. He kept looking back at me for some reason, and I would reach over and scratch his head. Then out of nowhere, he laid down and put his head on my lap while driving which he had never done in the 11 years we had him. Of course, I just burst into tears at that point. He would sit up watching out the window for a little bit, then he would curl up on the seat as if it hurt him to sit up for too long.

Normally, whenever we went to a fast food drive up window, he would get very excited and try to get his head through the driver side window to say hello to the worker as well as smell the yummy food. This time, he just laid there. He didn’t even notice anything until he smelled the food as we drove away. He laid down for the rest of the drive home.

That night, I went out to the living room to check on him at 3 a.m., and he was in his favorite chair breathing very heavily. I sat next to him for about an hour, talking to him, and telling him that it was ok for him to go, and how much we loved him. I woke the kids up to come love on him just in case this was the end. He kept moving every few minutes as if he couldn’t get comfortable. Once he got out of the chair and laid down on the floor, his breathing went back to normal so I thought maybe the way that he was curled up in the chair was pushing the tumor into his chest causing him to breathe harder.

He was ok later that morning. My daughter stayed home with him while we went grocery shopping. She texted me early afternoon saying that he vomited a bunch, and was just laying in it. The food that he vomited was what he had eaten the day before, as if it hadn’t even been digested. She said he wouldn’t get up. I phoned our vet. and left a voicemail. We rushed home while waiting for the doctor to call back. We lifted LT up and cleaned him off, but he refused to even try to get up. He just laid on the kitchen floor, watching me with his eyes. Every time I looked at him, he was looking at me.

The doctor didn’t call back and I didn’t want to make him suffer longer so I began calling around to find someone open on a Saturday afternoon that could help us out. Almost all of the veterinary offices that advertised as being 24-hour emergency clinics stated that they only help previously established patients. Even after telling them our situation and how much LT was suffering, none of them would make an exception. We finally found one who would help.

My boys had to carry him to the car for his final ride. I cried most of the way there. The doctor was extremely caring and empathetic. She sedated him so that he went to sleep before giving him the medicine to stop his heart. I held his head in my hands and kissed his head as he peacefully slipped away. He crossed the rainbow bridge on January 20, 2018. Exactly eleven years after bringing him home.

 His last car ride.

His last car ride.

Two days later, our hearts are still broken. We sometimes forget that he’s not there and we begin to call his name to give him a piece of food or we expect him to come running to the door when we walk in. Our home feels so empty without him. I’ve had dogs in my home for my entire life, even growing up, and he was absolutely the best dog I have ever had. He lived his life to make us happy and he knew how much we loved him until his last breath.