Lessons our Dogs Teach us and a Book Giveaway

Molly, giving Dale one of her famous kissies

The tell tale signs were all there: The coughing, heaving, wheezing.

I tried to ignore them. After having pets all of my life, I knew deep down that it wasn’t allergies or a cold.

Last week, our (approximately) 8-year-old red Dachshund, Molly, was diagnosed with an enlarged heart.

It was hard not getting upset at this piece of news, knowing there is no cure for pet heart patients.

Three weeks ago, Molly was running around the deck with her kibble ball (a ball that dispenses bits of food when it is pushed just right) and last week, she could barely make it to The Belle Writer’s Studio with me without going into a coughing fit and wheezing for 5 minutes.

Our vet said it’s not an uncommon problem and one that does happen very suddenly. The best we can do is make her comfortable with medications until the quality of her life reaches the point that allows us to give her a way out.

It’s been 15 years now, but our Maltese, Angel, the dog Dale got for me for a high school graduation present, died of congestive heart failure, the result of an enlarged heart. We took care of her for two years before she left us on her own one night.

I remember little of those years, but I do remember the good times. Angel started going everywhere with us and we savored each day with her. She was the only dog I have ever known that seemed to respond to music and she loved to be picked up and dance with me.

It was Angel that really taught me as an adult to appreciate the days we have with our loved ones, be they human or animal, and not wait until we know they are dying to create memories.

So while we were sad over the news we got about Molly last week, we know too, that she has also had a wonderful life since coming to live with us. We’ve taken every opportunity we can for those walks and playtime (I learned from LL community member, Roxanne Hawn’s blog, Champion of my Heart, last year that those strange noises Molly makes while playing is actually doggy laughter).

We’ve been extra patient with her never-ending kissies (she was of course, a rescue and handed to me by her former owner, who scrunched up her nose and said, “We don’t like dogs that lick!”) and the Sunday mornings she’s barked at us and bitten our hair, demanding we get out of bed and feed her.

There are no regrets about how we spent our time with her until now and of course, we will continue to dote on her as long as we can.

I wonder how many people can say that about the people in their lives, much less their pets?

Have you cared for ill pets? What did the experience teach you?


Now, for another book giveaway, and yes, it is a book that includes a dog! The book is “A Pug’s Tale,” by Alison Pace, a novel about how a pet pug helps solve an art theft mystery. I haven’t read the book as of yet, but the publisher sent me two copies, one of which I will give to a Living Large community member next week. This giveaway is open to all Living Large readers, no matter your location.

Here’s how to enter:

1). Comment on this blog post between now and Monday, July 18 at 3 p.m. CST. Also, tell me if you did the other things for additional entry chances.

Please, please, leave your email address in your comment or a viable link where I can message you to notify you if you win. Or, make sure to check back on the blog on Tuesday, July 19 to see if you’ve won.

For three additional chances to win:

2). Click on this link, which will take you to the Pettie Award voting site. My other blog, K9 Chronicles Rescue Me, has made the finals for an award in the Best Cause Related Blog category. I’m begging for your votes, not for me, but for the $1,000 that will be donated to my favorite rescue should we win. I will donate the money to Half-Way Home Rescue in Collins, Mo., where we adopted Chloe and Abbi.

If you would really like to help out, you can vote up to 2-3 times per day through July 29.

Also, while there, please put in an extra click for Champion of my Heart under the Best Dog Blog category.

3). Tweet this exact tweet on Twitter: RT @fivecoat Comment before July 18 and enter to win in a dog mystery book giveaway! http://su.pr/2yEDIg

4). Go to our Facebook page and hit “like,” or if you already “like” Living Large, invite your friends and family to join Living Large by telling us about them in a status update. Example post: There’s something for everyone at Living Large, gardening, sustainability, living simpler and happier life. Check it out and “like” them! (remember to link to the page by typing @livinglarge when you’re typing the status, so your friends can click on the link and go right to our Living Large page!)

You have up to 4 chances to win, good luck!

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45 Responses

  1. Brandy says:

    Im so sorry to hear of the bad news about Molly. Shes a cutie.

    Ive lost 3 pups since 2006 (2 in 2006 at age 19 and 1 2009). I also lost 2 cats last year. And as hard as it was I have the great memories of our times together. We now have 4 dogs (3 since the last pup passed, they were strays). And we still have the other cats. The cats are getting up there in age so I expect more pain but its worth it.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you, Brandy. I’m sure all pet lovers go through that, “I can’t do this anymore” phase when we lose another one. I know I have. But you’re right, it is so worth it. They have so much to give.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about your Molly. We had a friend who recently lost her dog–it was unexpected. It’s amazing how these little dogs become such a big part of our lives. Hoping good things for you and Molly.

  3. Olivia says:

    I’m so sorry, Kerri. I have also lost many dearly beloved pets – our last was a 15 1/2 year old beagle, “Oliver”, who was the dearest, smartest and “baddest” dog. We all adored him. Like Rhonda, his cremated remains sit in a little blue urn on a bookshelf near my bed and the vet made us two plaster casts of his pawprints with his name on them. We got many sympathy emails and even sympathy cards from two of his vets. Everyone adored him.

    We were going to bury him under his “favourite” tree but I don’t think he really had a favourite – he loved all trees 🙂 So, for now, he stays with me.

    Blessings on you and Molly.

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, Olivia, Oliver sounds like such a special pup! I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for the note. Good “hearing” from you!

  4. Mary Brown says:

    I’m sorry to hear that your doggie isn’t well.

    My yorkie has been sick for a while, she’s 7 years old now. When she was 4 she started having seizures and now for the last year she has been having other problems. She has had many tests, xrays ect which shows she has an enlarge heart, her liver enzymes are elevated, one of her kidney tests was elevated and a muscle enzymes as well. She also has 2 bad knees now which from time to time make it impossible for her to go up or down stairs. She moans often and has pain killers that help her. She has also been running a fever for 3 months. I take her to a group of 8 specialist and they can’t seem to figure out what her problem is or why all of this started. She has taken several antibotics and other meds, some symptoms come and go and she does have a good day here and there. It’s very hard to not knowing what she has or to be able to fix it.

    While all of this is going on the cat had a seizure and then a stoke. We found out he has a brain tumor and thyriod issue. We put him on meds for the thyriod as that’s all we can do. He is 10 years old and a Maine Coon.

    We just love them while we have them

    Thanks for listening
    Mary

    • Kerri says:

      I am so sorry to hear of your pet’s problems as well, Mary. Angel, the first dog we had that had an enlarged heart also had seizures. The vet told us it was from the lack of oxygen when she got too excited, the heart just wasn’t producing it. I found if I carried one of those miniature fans around and put it on her during a seizure, they didn’t last as long. Don’t know if this would help or if your dog’s seizures are caused by the same thing, but it wouldn’t hurt to try?

  5. Kerri, I link your column to my facebook and I am voting, voting and voting. Fingers crossed! Mary Nida

  6. Vida says:

    Hi Kerri,

    I am so sorry to hear about your little Molly.

    I’ve never had to care for a long or major illness for any of our pets. But if it ever happens I and my husband will do so without a moment’s thought as they are all part of our immediate family.

    Our little fox terrier Wengue is getting on in age (she’s 12) and I am just delighted that she now lives where she has always wanted to, right beside her beloved sea, a LONG way from an apartment in Madrid.

    I wish Molly, Dale and you all the best, may she continue to delight you with her kisses for a long time!

  7. Sandy says:

    It is a sad day indeed when one our pets face an incurable illness. We lost our dog Misty to cardiomyopathy in Jan 2006. She was 11. She died on our youngest son’s birthday. For 6 months he was not interested in getting another dog, but out of the blue that following Aug he said he was ready. Talk about fate..the very next week, I happened to be at farmers supply store and saw a poster up about a free female lab mix dog needing a home. My husband went to check her out and home she came to live with us! She is the smartest and sweetest dog I have ever owned. She is all black, loves water and is a total joy! I know you love your Molly and will be there time comes. I, also will be thinking of you in the days ahead.

  8. Sweet little girl, and she does not even know. Every moment with her will be so precious.

    My mother and father had to leave their dog, Tango with me when they moved to Colorado, so Tango and I really did not know each other. She was a beautiful mut, red hair and freckles on her nose. She smiled and wagged her hind when she saw us. But she and I really bonded when I came home one day, and found her sick from a pit bull attack. I slept on the floor with her until we could go to the vet the next day, and kept my hand on her paw. After that she was my faithful sidekick. She went everywhere I did. I was supposed to have a ‘pet free’ sewing studio, but somehow she would sneak in and lie at my feet, trying to act invisible. She was so sweet. The pit bull got her again, this time I could not save her. It breaks my heart to think about how alone she might have felt. She looked to me for protection, and I was not there. I have so many regrets, I only had her a year, but she was the sweetest doggie.

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, I’m so sorry, Debra. How horrible that must have been.

      • After I wrote this I felt terrible about telling everyone. But I sometimes feel like I was the only person that cared about Tango. I did not realize that you have no recourse in this situation. The police could not do anything, I even saw my Lawyer (guess what? he could not represent me as he represented THEM, the pit bull’s owners – small town – in another similar case. I still mourn her, and it has been two years. She was a doll

        • Kerri says:

          Debra, There should be ordinances in that town that protects people and other animals! It is horrible. I’m sorry for your loss.

  9. Jane Boursaw says:

    Animals give us so much joy, and it’s tough when they start declining. Wishing you much joy with Molly. She’s lucky to have you (and vice versa).

  10. Jenni Meyer says:

    Kerri,
    I’m sorry to hear about Molly’s heart condition. Walker was diagnosed with a very enlarged heart when I got him at 11, (my sheltie), he’s now 15 and still kicking it! He takes asthma meds daily plus Azodyl for his renal failure but he eats with gusto, and enjoys everyday. I’m hoping you get much more quality time with her. My Molly who came to me through YOU has a heart condition and is doing wonderfully on her meds. She lays on the floor every morning after breakfast and rolls in pure joy. Your blog brought her to me and I will be forever grateful…wishing you and Molly all the blessings life can offer, prayers are with your family..

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you so much, Jenni! Reading these stories of survival in pet heart patients has really made my day. And I’m so glad Rescue Me was able to link you and your Molly together. I’m sure that pure joy you’re seeing is very much real!

  11. Thanks so much, Kerri, for the mention and request for votes. Lilly (the canine heroine of my blog Champion of My Heart) and I really appreciate the helps and any votes people send our way … each day through July 29.

    I’ll go tweet your tweet right now.

    I’m so very sorry to hear the news about Molly’s heart. Hang in there.

  12. Rhonda Mock says:

    Well, Kerri
    You know I don’t do dogs, I do cats. My beautiful Prudent lost a long battle with thyroid cancer on June 5, 2010.

    Because of my financial situation, I couldn’t find a vet in the Memphis area that would work with me. My friend, Tony, told me that in Mena,the Town and Country Veterinary Hospital would, and they did….and they do. They have my undying loyality. They were one of the reasons I moved here.

    Pru came into my life when I needed him most…I always considered him a gift from God. It was immediate, unconditional, love at first sight, on both of our parts, and it was amazing. I joke that if I could find a man who loved me that much, I might give it another shot! He was the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on.
    Tabitha, my other cat, and I were with him when he died. I laid down on the kitchen floor with him, petted & kissed him, told him how much I loved him…how thankful I was for him, and gave him permission to give up the fight. It’s been a little over a year and his loss is felt daily.

    Three more rescued fur kids have joined Tabitha and me since then. They are wonderful and amusing; there’s a lot of love in this house; still, they cannot take Pru’s place.

    I couldn’t bear the thought of burying him in the back yard. I’m too transient right now. I couldn’t stand the thought of ever leaving him behind. I had him cremated. He’s in my china cabinet. I don’t care who thinks it’s weird.

    I hope he knew what he meant to me…….

    • Kerri says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Rhonda. This post would have been better titled “Lessons are Pets Teach us,” as my cats also have taught me many life lessons as well.
      Your Pru knew it and he feels the love still.

  13. V Schoenwald says:

    I just lost my 21 yr old kitty, “Runt” from liver/kidney failure, liver cancer a day after the 4th of July holiday. I knew she was heading home.
    I have handled many illnesses and sudden deaths. It is hard either way.
    I am sorry for Molly’s medical issues, just be glad you had caught it and have time to deal with it and make her as comfortable as possible. I had a cat who was fine one morning and then a few hours later, fell off the cabinet and died from congestive heart failure. I was heartbroken and shocked.
    Take care

    • Kerri says:

      I am so sorry for your loss of Runt. We lost our 19 year old cat, Tabitha, after we moved here 4 years ago. While we know they had long and good lives, those losses aren’t any easier to take. I am glad too, that we caught this and can treat it. After losing Emma so suddenly last summer, I would rather it not happen that way.

  14. Sheryl says:

    Our dog, Chloe, will be 14 soon and has had an enlarged heart for the past 4 or so years. (And isn’t it fitting that a dog would have a big heart? 🙂
    But I must say that the medical management of this condition can be tough at times. She’s on three different meds, and has her good days and her bad days. When it’s a bad day, I say my goodbyes…and then the next day is a good day, and I am relieved I get to spend more time with her. It’s so hard, but I savor every day.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you for sharing, Sheryl. I know how hard it can be. Four years is a blessing and gives me hope. Molly is on 3 different meds right now that we have to give her 5 times a day.

  15. What a wonderful message conveyed in this blog, Kerri. Life is so precious and fleeting and the people and animals we love, fragile. Most of us take for granted the miracle of love and affection showered on us daily by beloved pets, friends and family members. Sometimes throughout the day, I think of someone I haven’t spoken with in awhile or seen for a long time and think, “I really need to call her,” but often it isn’t until my head hits the pillow at night that I remember I neglected to pick up the phone and do it.

    I am so sorry about Molly’s condition and hope that you still have days, weeks and months ahead to enjoy her sweet presence. How wonderful that she’s had such a good life being loved, cared for and cherished. My thoughts and good wishes will be with you and Molly in the days ahead. 🙂

  16. So sad to hear about Molly’s diagnosis, but so true that pets really open OUR hearts to a daily appreciation of life’s good moments. She’s a sweetheart and I’m glad you’re making the most of your time with her.

  17. Kerri, I am sorry to hear of Molly’s illiness. She looks like our Baby Girl who went on a trip three years ago. I wish her well.

  18. Katharine M says:

    Kerri,

    I am so glad I found your blog via a link from K9 Cuisine on FB … this was a touching post and I am so sorry to hear about Molly’s diagnosis.

    I just lost my 15-year old Italian Greyhound, Chance, to a brain tumor about a month ago. The last couple of months were very difficult as he had major issues with balance and walking (in addition to being almost blind) … when he first started falling due to the tumor impacting his sensory nerve function in his front leg, he would fight to get up again, risking further injury. He and I learned to work together – I taught him to just lie still and wait – I would come running and help him back up. He was walking on his own until his last day, feeling confident that “mom” would be there if he fell or needed help.

    I am lucky enough to have my own business and my office is at home so his last 2 months, we spent almost every day together (except for a brief trip for a client). He spent his days on the back of the couch, lying in the sun and I would sit next to him working (or petting him when I needed a break). I just tried to show him how much he was loved, and make his life as comfortable as possible.

    Caring for him during this time meant I didn’t sleep much (as I was on constant alert to his needs) and tried not to leave the house for long periods, but I would have continued to do it forever if I could have kept him with me. But as pet owners, we also need to know when it is time to let go and help our precious babies to the Rainbow Bridge … it was the subtlest change in Chance, but I knew when it was time. His last couple of days were filled with love and sunshine and tasty food (including Angus steak and bacon) and his last moments had me telling him how much I loved him and would miss him …

    I wish you lots of joyful moments with Molly – they will treasured memories (as you know).

    Katharine

    PS – Also voted, tweeted, and posted … I will be at #BlogPaws and hope to see you there winning at Pettie!

    • Kerri says:

      Katharine, Your post brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for your loss. I’m so glad that Chance was one of the lucky ones, though, that had someone there for him until the very end.
      Thanks for discovering Living Large. I hope to see you back here often (and hopefully, winning money for charity at the Petties!) 😉

  19. Susan says:

    So sorry to hear of Molly heart condition. I know that is very hard on you.
    I have an 8 year old Fox Terrier Pee Wee that I have been treating since March for Mega esophagus http://www.petplace.com/dogs/megaesophagus-in-dogs/page1.aspx . He also has the secondary condition of a mass in his chest. He is actually doing very well now. Has not thrown up in over 2 months now. (knock on wood) At one point I almost put him to sleep he was doing so bad. The only med he is on now is predisone which has helped keep the growth of the mass down. It had double in size between x-rays in a 2 week period. At first the vet thought the mass was pneumonia from him getting food in his lungs.
    I also now have my son’s dog Rox who is a 12 yr old German Shepard. (Son was transfered to Germany) He is still doing well except for getting up.
    Plus I have one other large breed dog named Roxy (don’t think that isn’t fun calling Rox and Roxy)
    who will 7 soon. Plus a 12 yr old cat named Edgar.

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, you have your hands full, there, Susan! So glad to hear Pee Wee is doing much better. Let’s hope that lasts for awhile. Yes, having them get older and sick is the worst part of having pets, but I wouldn’t trade their unconditional love for anything! German Shepherds are notorious for stiff and aching joints as they get older. There are many supplements to help. We gave one to Emma and it helped her a lot.

    • Susan says:

      I have to feed PeeWee in an upright postion and keep him that way for about 5 minutes…use to do 30 minutes. I prop him up in a Home Depot 5 gal paint bucket.

      • Kerri says:

        Oh, my, Susan! I’m glad it isn’t 30 minutes anymore! I won’t complain about the 5 rounds of medicine I have to give Molly each day now.

        • Susan says:

          I use to have to give him 2 meds 1/2 hour before each 30 minute feeding. So it has gotten a lot easier. 🙂

  20. Kerri says:

    Aren’t they just so special!? Our first rescue was a Doxie and we’ve had two since. Thanks for your well wishes. Your dogs do know that. They feel your love. 🙂

  21. Hi Kerri,

    It’s wonderful to meet another rescue doxie owner – and what a beauty your sweet Molly is! I am very sad to hear about Molly’s heart trouble… I have only owned dachshunds for about 3 years now, and fortunately/unfortunately haven’t had to deal with any major illness or worse… but we have two seniors, and I worry every day about the level of care I am able to provide for them now and when times get tough.

    I’d do anything for my 3 girls… I can only hope they know that. 🙂