We had been tossing the idea around about getting another dog for a while when we came across a photo of Vega. I remember she had sweet eyes and similar markings to our dog Rufus, a Mastiff/Lab mix.
Every night my husband Dave would look through his emails at the latest messages about various mastiff mix breeds available for adoption while Rufus lay at his feet seemingly irritated at the very idea we would want another dog, lol.
When I called to inquire about Vega we were told she was a large dog but couldn't tell me much more. I gave my credit card information for the $100 adoption fee (my how times have changed) and we scheduled to go get her three days later.
My husband took the day off from work and made the five-hour trip to pick her up. Half an hour before he was to arrive I received a call from the shelter saying they had checked her out and decided to euthanize her. They felt she was too sick and wouldn't recover, "but don't worry" they said, "we'll be sure to refund you your $100."
"I don't give a flying flip about the $100. Have you euthanized her yet?"
"No, not yet but they're getting ready to take her in"
"Please don't put her down” I begged. “My husband is almost there and I promise we'll take her no matter what her condition is and we won't return her if that's your concern. If indeed she is too sick, we'll make that call but please allow us the chance to try."
They reluctantly agreed and Dave arrived soon thereafter to get her.
As he walked through this shelter to what he describes as the "filthiest place I'd ever seen" she was in the last cage laying down.
Still and silent.
While all the other dogs barked and jumped up and down to get his attention, Vega did not move.
When they opened the door of her cage, her tail went up and then down, one time, that was it.
She gave him all the energy and excitement she had.
She was so weak he had to pick her up and carry her to the SUV where he had made a pink pallet of bedding for her which she puked on numerous times during the five-hour trip back home.
We took her to the vet within 24 hours of her coming home and found out that she had kennel cough, canine pneumonia, an ear infection, dehydration, mastitis and was emaciated. They told us she was a mastiff/boxer mix but weighed a mere 55 pounds.
My heart broke to look at her. How can someone starve and neglect an animal to this degree?
As sick as she was, she just wanted you to love on her. Even from the very beginning, after everything she had been through, she just wanted you to love her.
The first couple of weeks were touch and go. She couldn't stop coughing or puking. We kept her and Rufus separated to allow her space to heal. She had to be taken in every other day for IV's for her dehydration. It was a mess.
After 14 days or so and once she started feeling better we decided it was time to introduce her to Rufus.
In the beginning it was war. Apparently, she wasn't dog friendly plus Rufus didn't help things by being jealous and not remembering his manners.
She didn't like anything that walked on four legs but loved everyone that walked around on two. After a couple of weeks, they were inseparable. Thick as thieves.
Their only contention was that she was a natural born snuggler and he definitely was not. She would snuggle up to him at night and he would 'talk' to her, but he never made her move.
It was their nightly ritual for 8 years until Rufus passed away three years ago at the age of 12, Vega was 10.
I tell people that part of her story because I’ve seen so many dogs get returned because they don’t get along with the original dog.
It takes time.
Sometimes more time than what is convenient but if we had given up on Rufus and Vega getting along in the first week, we would have missed out on a great pairing that lasted over 8 years.
They loved one another greatly, but it definitely required more patience and time to allow these headstrong dogs to settle in.
Anyway, as she got older, we could never be sure if she had dementia or just didn't give a shit. When she turned 11, we relaxed on the dog rules of the house. Such as, we don't allow dogs on the furniture, in the kitchen or in our bedroom.
BUT when a dog becomes old, we give them ODP - Old Dog Privileges and Vega was LOADED with ODP.
First, we allowed her on the furniture, and she would hesitantly climb up on the couch as she still couldn't believe she wasn't going to be in trouble. Then we put one of her dog beds at the foot of our bed and let her sleep in our room at night.
We never relaxed on the rule of being in the kitchen. But Dave and I would cook for her almost every meal and it was always interesting, sometimes frustratingly so to see what will Vega agree to eat today?
Don't like your dog food? How about some chicken and eggs? Would you like some cooked potatoes with that? lol Whatever, I didn't care. She was an old dog with great manners and a sweet disposition, she had earned the right to be spoiled.
Vega always seemed to be understanding when the other dogs took up more time because of the severity of their behavioral or physical issues.
She never seemed to mind, so in turn she got snuggles, lots of food options and I brought her to the shop every chance I could (primarily in the winter when people aren't walking around with their dogs as she never became dog friendly to strange dogs).
Several months ago, we noticed that she would fall or trip from time to time. These episodes were starting to increase in frequency, but we chalked it up to being old, losing her sight, her hearing and all the other things that come with aging.
A couple of weeks ago her entire back end went wonky. It was like she couldn't get her back end to match her front end.
Then yesterday morning we woke up at 5 am and Vega was clearly in distress. She couldn't control her back legs at all. She was absolutely frantic.
We laid her down and sat with her for almost an hour before she was able to stand up and wobble outside to go potty
As we watched her wobble around, we realized that she was probably never going to get any better than she was in that very moment.
She was 13 years old and had outlived all our other dogs (except for Titan) not to mention she had outlived her breed by 4-5 years.
After Rufus died, I became her snuggle buddy. When she started losing her sight, we became her seeing eye person and would go down the stairs with her. Whatever she needed, we tried to provide.
Now we felt she needed someone to make a decision about when to let her go.
Do we do it now when she still had some life left in her or do we wait until the absolute very end?
I think this is one of the most difficult questions we face as humans. When is it time to let them go?
After seeing her go into such a panic of anxiety during the last episode we knew we loved her too much to allow that to happen again.
If the shoe were on the other foot, she would love us enough to put our quality of life over quantity of life. We felt we owed her the same love and respect.
In that moment, the decision was made.
We hand fed her grilled cheese sandwiches and snuggled with her as we always had in front of the fireplace one last time.
I put her in the car and rode with the windows down letting the wind blow on her as she lay in the streams of sunlight that found their way into the car, just for her.
When we got to the vet they had a room already prepared with blankets spread out on the floor.
I lay down with her again just as if we were in front of the fireplace and stroked her and told her how pretty she is and how much I loved her.
She leaned into me before the first medicine was injected. Next to me was her favorite spot. We were doing her favorite thing.
The first injection went in, the anesthesia part of the process. The lady said she'd be back in a few minutes.
I could feel the anesthesia take effect as her body relaxed even more into mine. She was still there and acknowledge me when I talked to her.
The lady came back with the final injection and for a brief moment I panicked and thought "It's not too late, you can say NO, the anesthesia will wear off and you can take her home" but my gut knew it was time.
My heart just didn’t want to let her go.
We wanted her to die with dignity and not in some immobilized stressed out state.
Today we had that choice. Tomorrow we might not.
I nodded that I was ready and watched as the drug went in. The lady was so damn nice. She cried as she pushed the syringe into the vein all the while telling Vega what a good dog she was and how loved she was.
And just like that, that sweet girl that I had spent eleven years of my life with exhaled one last time and was gone.
I asked for a few extra minutes to be with her and was told I could have all the time I needed.
I lay there holding her and cried. Her fur always so soft, her eyes always so kind. My sweet girl. She had such a rough start in this life, and we did the best we could. I lay there and held my lifeless sweet Vega girl dog and regretted nothing.
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