Friday, June 29, 2012

The family dog

Pepe jumping on my belly when I was pregnant with Jake
Pepe was the first dog I ever had. I took a shine to the laid back, affectionate, clever, amiable toy poodle breed when I lived with my best friend and her dog, Emmitt, during college. So when the time was right for our family to get a dog, I knew just what kind I wanted.

Little did I know that little three-pounds-of-canine Pepe would steal my heart the way he did. Never having a dog before, it was hard to know these things.

He was neurotic but happy; co-dependent but sure of himself as a vicious protector (much to our amusement). He was our baby, our family mascot of sorts. Puppies have a way of sucking up all the attention in the room and he did that often.  

When Pepe was a little over a year old and I was about seven months pregnant, he started exhibiting signs of a liver shunt -- a blood vessel that carries blood around the liver instead of through it. This is sometimes a birth defect in small dogs. We were devastated by the thought that this might take him down, but thankfully his symptoms all but disappeared once we put him on a low protein diet.

As my pregnancy progressed, Pepe loved sitting or putting his paws up on my gigantic belly. Jake would kick at him emphatically, and I would smile at the thought of them playing together once he was outside the womb. They would grow up together.

When Jake was born, our world was turned upside down. Babies have a way of sucking up all the attention in the room and he did that often. Pepe took it in stride. He was my constant companion while I was on maternity leave, following me around as I pumped or washed bottles, pacing the room with me as I shushed and calmed Jake. When I’d sit in the nursery and rock Jake to sleep in the glider, he’d sit statuesquely at the doorway to guard us from all harm.

Pepe and 1-month-old Jake
When Jake turned about six months old, it suddenly occurred to him that we had a family dog. He’d stick his hand out to touch his fur and reach for kisses, which Pepe would dole out cooperatively. He’d come sit by Jake on the floor and keep him company. He’d share his toys so that our living room floor became a sea of primary-colored baby and doggie playthings.

Then last week the unimaginable happened. We returned from a six day vacation to visit family and to drop my stepson off with his Mom to find out Pepe’s health took a sudden bad turn. He was acting like he had before -- lethargic and uninterested in food -- only much worse. His blood work showed bad news. He could barely lift his head or get up. The vet said at this point there was nothing that could be done. We made the excruciating decision to put him down.

It all happened far too quickly for us to process. And with my stepson gone to his Mom’s not able to say goodbye? How could we have known when we left that this would happen? We felt awful.

But over the weekend, as my husband and I cried Pepe’s weight in tears, I realized it was probably a good thing my stepson was away and Jake was too young to witness us fall apart the way we did. Maybe the circumstances were for the best.

The pain is still fresh, but I know we’ll make it through like any other family that lost their faithful friend. Our lives are much richer for knowing him.

When I sit in the nursery and rock Jake to sleep, I still half expect to see him sitting at the doorway watching us, protecting us. Who knows? Maybe he is. 

Megan Brooks is a Sr. Public Relations Specialist for Texas Health Resources, Stepmom, Mom, and dog lover.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry, Megan! Those dogs have a way of working into your heart...I've had Cheif for 10 yrs and Riker for 6 and I'm dreading the day something happens. I know I'll fall apart! I'm sure he is stil with you!