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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2010, 01:18 AM Thread Starter
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Diesel the Magic Dog

Diesel, The Magic Dog


It is with a broken heart and eyes full of tears that I write to tell you that our beloved Diesel was sent to Heaven at about 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 5, 2010. Needless to say that my wife, my children and I are sad beyond belief. I know for some of you who have never truly had the privilege of having a dog like Diesel who is a member of your family, this email may seem a bit strange. But I hope that like my family and I, you will begin to see just how much the love, the life and the loss of our beloved Diesel has affected us. Diesel had been suffering through his Degenerative Myelopathy for over 5 years. In that time his back legs haven’t worked very well. That is the cruel progression of the disease. Suffice to say in these last couple months, Diesel’s ability to get up, walk around, and go outside has been significantly limited. Ultimately it came to the point where his quality of life was not what it should be for a dog of his stature, his breed and his pride. He deserved to be remembered as a big, strong, proud, protective, noble German Shepherd. And so he will be.

I knew that writing about this would never be easy…I’ve known it since that fateful January day when we first picked Diesel, or rather he picked us. Diesel was born December 18, 1996…before many of my family’s children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Little did we know how great a Christmas miracle this boy would be to us in the years to come. In January of 1997, my wife, my daughter and I moved into a small rental house with a big back yard. My wife and I had been dating for not quite a year at that point, but we were already a family – albeit an incomplete one. We were in the middle of our second year of law school and my daughter had just turned 9. We were all babies. And in the midst of the post-Christmas/New Year doldrums, my wife came to me with a birthday wish. “I want a dog” she told me. “But not just any dog. I want a German Shepherd boy.” And so the search for Diesel began. We bought and read books on how to choose the right dog and The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete. We visited a couple of different breeders, never quite finding a puppy that fit the bill. And then on a cold, bright day in late January, we visited a breeder in Ramona – Paul and Debbie Pluss. Paul and Debbie were relatively new to dog breeding, but had all the right signs for us. First, they had both mom (Zoie) and dad (Kairo) there and the pups were in a custom built whelping shed, complete with hay, heat lamps and safety from the elements. Kairo was in the midst of Schutzhund training for protection, tracking and obedience and needed to be kept apart from the litter. In fact, Diesel’s entire lineage has a long tradition of Schutzhund dogs, up to Level III – the highest level – all the way back to Germany.

We spent the afternoon with Paul and Debbie, asking questions, meeting Zoey and Kairo and seeing a display of some of Kairo’s skills. He was awesome. Then we got to meet the puppies. They were all inside the whelping shed at the time. We were allowed to gather around the little gated area outside of the shed, cordoned off to allow the pups a safe place to run around and play outside of the shed. And out they came – 7 or 8 of them. Some had pink ribbons around their necks and others had blue ones, signifying boys and girls. They were all cute, and some had already been spoken for, so we knew our options were limited. We watched them play a bit and asked about the available males. There were only 2 males available – one of them clearly exhibiting the traits of the alpha male for this litter. As my wife leaned over the short fence, she saw one pup off in the corner, alone and aloof. Now keep in mind we had read about Shepherds and knew and liked their temperament and tendency to be aloof with strangers. But we also had learned one sure-fire way to figure out if a pup will be dominant, submissive or somewhere in between – the key test. The key test consisted of my wife leaning over the fenced area and shaking her car keys loudly at the pups, which she did. The test causes one of three reactions in pups – nothing, fear, or curiosity. It was the curiosity that we were looking for. And as my wife shook her keys, all the puppies scattered, startled by the noise…all but one.

And as she shook those keys, a chubby, light tan puppy with a black spot on his tail came trotting right to her and the source of the noise, sniffing and looking around to discover where this noise was coming from as if to ask “What is this noise that is scaring my brothers and sisters? I’ll check it out.” And it was love at first site. Little did we know at that time just how much that moment would define the next 13+ years of our lives. My wife played with the pup, who had a blue ribbon around his neck and the telltale signs of being the alpha. “He’s the one” she said to me, her eyes already full of love for this little as of yet unnamed pup. We played with him for a few minutes until they had to go back inside. Then we started asking questions. “Is he available?” “How soon can we take him home?” “Does he come with papers?” And the most important question – “what’s his name?” My wife and I had been going back and forth over names for a few weeks. I of course wanted to name him Killer or Mauler or Bruiser or Destructor – something tough and manly. My wife on the other hand, wanted to give him a regal name, like King, Truman, Roosevelt, or Kennedy. We couldn’t agree. And it was in our final question to Debbie Pluss that we found agreement. “Well this is our fourth litter that we’ve bred – so it’s our “D” litter” Debbie told us. “So all the dogs have official names starting with D. His name is Diesel.” We both knew right away that was the perfect name for what we would learn was a truly perfect dog. Diesel Vom Oberstein was his full name as registered with the AKC. Just writing his name gives me chills down my back and tears in my eyes. He would later earn himself several more names, including D, Big D, Big Boy, DD, DD Bop, Boppy, Larry, Magic, Noodle and multiple combinations of these nick names. He would have songs written about him and poems recited about him. He would also become the glue that would hold our little family together.

Unfortunately we would have to wait a few more weeks before Diesel would be fully weaned and able to come home with us. At this point he was about 5 ½ weeks old. So we left and went immediately to a pet supply store where we purchased a crate and leash and collar and food and toys and all the things that a new puppy owner would get. We were a little nuts in our frenzy to create the perfect home environment for this soon-to-be new member of our family. And on a cold, sunny day in mid-February 1997 we once again made the long trip east to the mountain town of Ramona to bring our new boy home. We picked him up, paid the fee and were soon on our way home. Little did we know what joy and tears this little guy would bring to our lives. And the tears started immediately. Upon getting him home, he was very sick – not eating, not keeping anything down and totally without energy. We took him to the vet, who suggested the most awful thing a new puppy owner could hear – Parvo. For those of you who don’t know, Parvo is a virus that attacks the lining of the digestive system. It causes dogs and puppies to not be able to absorb nutrients or liquids. Puppies are especially prone to it because they have an immature immune system. In very young puppies it can infect the heart muscle and lead to sudden death. We knew this and so did the vet – playing on our emotions. My wife and I were crushed, scared to death that this new bundle of joy and love was going to die. But my wife took it particularly hard, as a mother would. Needless to say, he did not have Parvo, but was merely sick from the transition of mother’s milk and well-water to puppy food and tap water. But we did not learn this until after we spent hundreds of dollars on worthless tests at the vet’s urging. It would color our view of vets for years to come. Diesel eventually came through with much tender loving care by my wife and a steady diet of chicken and rice.

Within a few months of bringing Diesel home, I started work out of town. So during the week I stayed with my mom and dad while my wife was home with my daughter and her new boy to protect them both. On the weekends I would go home, only to find my spot in the bed had been hijacked. Diesel had immediately assumed the role of “man of the house” and took the corresponding spot in the bed. I knew that our power struggle would eventually come to a head. For while there was never a question in his mind that my wife was his love, he would have to learn that I was his master. In the summer of 1997, we enrolled Diesel in a puppy socialization class – essentially puppy pre-school. He was nearly kicked out for dominating the other puppies and asserting his will on them. And we could do little to hold him back. He was the alpha through and through. Eventually he passed earning his diploma. There was an occasion when Diesel was about 4 months old and we had him out for a walk. 2 doors from us lived a white grown male Shepherd named Mischief. He was big and strong and loud. As we walked past Mischief’s house, his owner had him out on a leash too. We stopped to say hi and let the dogs sniff each other. Without warning our little puppy lunged at Mischief and tried to dominate him. It was the ultimate display of how big and powerful Diesel thought himself to be – not even scared by this way bigger man-dog. It made me love him even more.

As the summer of 2007 wound down, Diesel grew into a strong, playful and very dominant pup. He loved to fetch, play soccer, wrestle and chew. And he did these things with verve. We started him in some basic training through John’s Natural Dog Training. He excelled in this class when I was his handler, but not so much with my wife handling him. It was clear from this point on that I would need to be in charge of the discipline and training. Diesel was a very smart, and a quick learner, eventually learning several commands in English and German. He learned multiple words, including how to spell some of his favorite things. He knew “G-O” and “B-A-L-L” and “K-E-N-N-E-L” to name a few. He was so smart and eager to please and to learn. He was not motivated by food, despite our efforts. He was motivated solely by desire to please and a need to “work.” He saw training as his job, just like fetch and wrestling and going for a walk. And he loved pleasing us and getting rewarded with love and attention while maintaining his trademark aloofness with others outside his pack family. We took him everywhere and he loved the beach the most.

In late August 1997, Diesel was about 9 months old. We had done a good amount of training and he was growing steadily. And on a warm sunny day in late summer 1997, I grabbed Diesel, through him in the back of my little pick-up (he LOVED riding back there and sticking his head through the rear slider window) and picked up my wife from class. We headed to the beach – Windansea in La Jolla to be exact. We played on the beach with Diesel, even getting yelled at by a life guard for having him there. And as the three of us settled down to watch the sunset, I asked my wife to marry me. And with Diesel as my witness, she said yes. It was a huge moment for us obviously, and Diesel was right there with us. It was the first of many bog occasions to come that Diesel would be part of.

Over the next 13 years, Diesel would be with us for 13 Christmases. And he loved to help open presents. He would grab a torn corner of wrapping paper and tear it off and spit it out until the prize inside was revealed. He loved opening presents. We have pictures of him from every Christmas helping open the presents. Diesel also experienced some other very significant events in our family. He has lived in 4 homes with us, and saw us purchase our first home in 2000. He lived through our transition in 2007 and was there when we bought our current home in 2008. He watched in 1998 as my wife and I graduated from law school. He was there that same summer as we studied for and took the Bar. He was there in September 1998 when we got married and then later in November when we got our bar results. He stood by in December 2000 when my adoption of my daughter was finalized, then saw her graduate from 8th grade in June 2001. He saw some significant birthday milestones as well. He saw my daughter turn 10 and my son turn 5 in 1997.

He was on hand, opening presents in February 2000 when my wife turned 30 and later that year played an integral part in the surprise party that my wife threw for my 30th. My wife and my younger brother devised a scheme to get me out of the house by having a fake cookie making party. My brother told me to bring Diesel up to Orange County so we could take him and the kids to the park to play while my sister-in-law was in San Diego making cookies. Little did I know it was a set-up. It didn’t seem weird to me at all that my brother would want me to bring Diesel over so much! Diesel was there when my son turned 10 in 2002 and Diesel also saw my daughter turn 16 and get her first car in 2003. He saw my wife and I turn 35 in 2005 and watched as my daughter turned 18 that same year. He saw my son turn 16 in 2008 and got to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday later that same year. And in just the last few months he was there as my wife turned 40 and my son turned 18. So many significant milestones and he was with us for all of them.

These are just some of the many milestones, significant and not as significant, that Diesel was a part of. He was there for every celebration, for every present, for every good time, highlight and family moment. He watched movies with us. He shared meals with us. He celebrated holidays with us and went on trips with us. He even watched the Lakers with us, barking incessantly whenever we would cheer loudly or get angry with a bad call or missed shot. He loved watching the Lakers as much as we did, and never wanted to miss out on the cheering or booing. In short, Diesel was as much a part of our family as any of us were. Because he was also there through all the hard times – and there have been many. We have struggled through a host of problems in our family these last few years. And there have been many times where our family unit was fragile, on the ropes and ready to come apart.

And it was during these times that Diesel was the common thread that was always able to pull us back together again as a family. He was always there for us and never wavered in his love, devotion, dedication, loyalty and commitment to our pack family, even when we did falter. And Diesel was always exceedingly aware and in tune with our moods and emotions. He hated to see us cry – especially my wife. Whenever she would cry he would bark at me, then go to her, ears back, totally submissive, whimpering and whining while nuzzling his nose next to her face as if to wipe away her tears. His uncanny ability to soothe her in her most difficult times would be as reliable as the sunrise. He never liked us yelling at each other. And while voices would get raised in an argument, Diesel would come into the center of the argument and bark loudly until we stopped yelling. And only when everyone had calmed down did he also relax and stop barking. Diesel could and did diffuse any situation that we encountered in our family by his sheer desire to please and give love. This was a side that no one but us got to see in him. And it was one of the attributes that we will miss most about him. He loved his family and hated seeing us like that.

Diesel also persevered through his own trials and tribulations. It was not always an easy road for him. When he was 3 years old, we realized that our dreams of breeding him were never going to come to light, and we could no longer control his wild ways, so we decided to have him neutered. I’ll be the first to admit that it was a mistake to wait that long, a mistake for which I will take full responsibility. But we did it nevertheless. And of course it couldn’t go smoothly – not for our boy. He had to have some major complication, which he did. The vet failed to properly cauterize a blood vessel and he had massive internal bleeding that made him just miserable. He eventually recovered well but never let me forget it. And then in December 2004 we noticed that Diesel was having trouble walking. His back legs would occasionally give out from under him. This went on for about a month before we knew it was not just a sore foot or knee. So we took him to his girlfriend, Dr. Kenney.

Dr. Kenney examined him and told us that she feared it was DM – Degenerative Myelopathy. We had never heard of that, and she explained it to us. What she told us was that Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive, degenerating disease of the spinal cord in dogs with onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age – Diesel has just turned 8. They do not know what causes it, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder – much like MS or Rheumatoid Arthritis in humans. Oh what cruel irony…for just a couple years before my wife had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. DM begins with a loss of coordination in the hind limbs. The dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. This can first occur in one hind limb and then affect the other. As the disease progresses, the limbs become weak and the dog begins to buckle and has difficulty standing. The weakness gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk. The clinical course can range from 6 months to 1 year before dogs become paraplegic. Research on possible treatments for DM is ongoing, but there is currently no proven effective treatment. Ultimately, most dogs are euthanized within one year of diagnosis.

We were devastated. We had never heard of this insidious disease and were now facing the likelihood that our boy would be paralyzed within 6-12 months. Dr. Kenney told us that it may be his hips, and she did a series of x-rays to rule this out. It took Diesel 3 days to recover from the sedation they gave him for the x-rays. Dr. Kenney also told us that any anesthetic would worsen the disease, including the sedation for his x-rays. We were referred to a canine neurologist specialist who recommended an invasive test called a CT myelogram to confirm the DM in which Diesel would be sedated and have dye injected into his spinal cord to observe spinal cord damage. DM is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that the vet looks for other causes of the weakness using diagnostic tests like myelography and MRI. When those have been ruled them out, you end up with a presumptive diagnosis of DM. The only way to really confirm it is on autopsy. Anyways, this neurologist wanted to do this invasive test that would probably make him worse and maybe even paralyze him – only to confirm the diagnosis. Sounded utterly stupid to me, especially at a cost of $1500. So we said no thanks and went home to research. Yet another vet full of it.

In January 2005, we found a veterinarian/neurologist at the University of Florida that has devoted his career to research on this disease, after losing his own Shepherd. Dr. Clemmons has developed a somewhat unconventional protocol of diet, exercise, medication and supplements that has shown a slowing of the progression of the disease in certain dogs. We decided to give it a try, partly because there are no alternatives and mainly because there is nothing we wouldn't do for more time. We were hoping for the best possible result. It was an unbelievably sad time for all of us. We spent the next weekend putting area rugs over the hardwood floors, trying to make it less slippery for our once surefooted boy. I built a set of steps so Diesel can still get up on the bed for snuggling and a ramp to help getting in the back of the car. My wife took him to the office and tried to work from home as much as possible. We started him on this concoction of medicine and supplements that was nasty. And he took them like a champ. One of the supplements was this gritty, nasty mixture of vitamins and other things that was disgusting. I had to inject it down his throat with a syringe while prying his jaw open – not an easy task with Diesel, especially when he didn’t want to take it. But he was so good, and so smart and so eager to please that he gave my mom no problems whenever he stayed with them. He didn’t want to hurt her or make her mad. That was just how Diesel was.

As we prepared for the worst, a miracle happened…Diesel did not really get progressively worse right away. We had been told to expect that he would be paralyzed in the back end within 3-6 months, then lose continence within 6-12 months and either totally paralyzed or die within a year. And yet as January 2005 turned into June 2005, Diesel was still going strong, albeit a bit wobbly from time to time. Then 6 months turned into a year and Diesel was still walking, holding his bladder and getting around ok. He was on a strict program of medication, supplements and a swimming regimen every week. And the results were showing. Even as Diesel turned 9 at Christmas 2005, he was doing pretty well. And he kept it up for longer than anyone ever imagined. And while his back legs grew weaker from the slowly degenerating spinal cord, he never let on that he hurt, that he was miserable or that he couldn’t do something. Throughout 2006, 2007 and 2008, he soldiered on for us – telling us in effect that he would not falter, he would not let us down, and he would not be defeated by this disease. And he defied all the odds, all the doctors and all the predictions. And through it all he was brave, strong, loyal, loving and undaunted. And when we decided to sell our house at the end of 2007, part of our hope was to get a pool so that he could swim every day and continue strengthening his muscles while the medicine helped control the degeneration of his nerves and spinal cord. We eventually got that pool done, just too late to really help our boy.

Then, as 2008 turned into 2009, we started to notice that his right eye was not looking right. It started getting cloudy, red and irritated. And when I took him to see his girlfriend, Dr. Kenney last March, she told us that he could have cancer and referred us to another specialist. And the specialist confirmed our worst nightmare, eye cancer. We were told that Diesel had one of two different types of melanoma, either one that has zero risk of metastasis and is fully encapsulated within the eyeball, or the kind that has a risk of metastasis. Given the advanced nature and size of his tumor, the only treatment option was removal of the eye in either case, which would have to be done under general anesthetic. The eye doctor said that Diesel had likely adapted to only having one good eye. According to the vet, Diesel had been progressively compensating for the lack of vision without any obvious signs so as to “keep his place in the pack” and not appear weak. Once again, his sheer will would not let him falter, fail or let us know that he was suffering in any way. He just kept loving us, serving us, and being there for us every day. This amazing dog did not know the meaning of the word quit…not when it came to fetch and not when it came to living. As it would turn out, it would be my wife and I who had to decide that for him too.

So the eye surgery itself, while not ideal, was not the biggest concern. Diesel’s Degenerative Myelopathy had progressed to the point where he had significant weakness, instability and muscle atrophy in his back end. But the biggest concern with the DM was the potential for even minor invasive surgical procedures resulting in an increase in signs and symptoms of the DM. Unfortunately, the worsening caused by surgical stress can be irreversible. In other words, he may have woken up from surgery permanently and irreversibly paralyzed. Once again, we were crushed with news that our dog faced a Hobson ’s choice – surgery and risk permanent paralysis, or no surgery and euthanasia. Neither choice was good for us and we didn’t know what to do. Of course, as he was apt to do, Diesel told us exactly what to do – never give up on him. We had pre-op tests done that confirmed that Diesel was otherwise exceedingly healthy for a 12 ½ year old Shepherd with DM and eye cancer. He showed us that he could do it, he could handle the surgery and to trust him that he would be okay. And so we did.

We spoke with the nurse that morning when Diesel was still on the table being sutured. She said that they gave him a sedative before the anesthesia because he was very stressed. As soon as it took effect he could not walk or move his back end. She called us back about an hour later and said that he was awake and groggy, but that he couldn't walk yet. His front end seemed to be working okay, but the back end was a no go. She said she'd call in an hour again. She called back later and told my wife that he was very anxious and "ready to go home." That's code for being super whiny. She told us he still wasn't walking but that it was probably the sedative, not the anesthesia, which was not so bad. So we went to get him. We arrived at the clinic and spoke to the nurse. Then we talked with the surgeon and he discussed the surgery. He told us to give Diesel a good day, or day and a half to get the meds out of his system and get back to normal. He said the most younger dogs who don't have DM walk out of the clinic after this surgery. Apparently they didn't expect Diesel to do that.

So they said we could come back to where he was laying down - we could hear him whining. We walked through some doors and around a corner and there he was, lying on a blanket with the cone around his neck and only one eye. As soon as he saw my wife he got up and walked about 10 feet right to her!!!! Needless to say it was an overwhelming moment. I broke into tears and cried like a baby. My wife hugged and kissed him - all smiles. He was wobbly and criss-crossed his legs, but he walked. We brought a strap to put under his back end to help him out. He walked out of the clinic with some help from me, but mostly under his own power. We got home and he didn't want to get out of the car - still pretty out of it. But I managed to get him out and helped him into the house via the "wheelbarrow" - I pick up his back legs and he motors his front legs - into the house. Once inside I set his back legs down and he walked - by himself - to his bed where he lied down. He was very tired, but very happy to be home. And his friend Minnie Cat was happy to have him home too.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2010, 01:18 AM Thread Starter
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Diesel, the Magic Dog - Part 2

That was May 2009. In the weeks that followed, Diesel actually seemed to be doing much better – at least from a mental standpoint. Wile his back legs never quite worked as well again after the surgery, he still managed to walk around, climb the stairs and generally support himself. Most surprising was the change in his temperament. He seemed to have more energy and acted like someone who had been freed from a lot of pain and discomfort. What we never knew was just how much his cancerous eye was hurting him. The pressure inside his eye was three times normal and it had swelled pretty significantly. But rather than whine or scratch at it or show us some sign that he was hurting, he soldiered on. He wanted so desperately to maintain his place in the pack family and not let us down or be a burden to us. And it was clear after his surgery that he was happy to be free of that pain. It was this realization that ultimately led my wife and I to the decision to send him to Heaven this past Monday.

For the last several weeks Diesel’s life had been relegated to roughly 20 hours of sleep per day and another couple hours awake but lying down. He got 4-5 15 minute outings during a week day and on the weekend would get to spend more time outside, as long as we were outside too. He never liked being away from us – even from the very beginning. If we were outside, he had to be too. If we came in, then he wanted to come in too. I must admit to my shame that there were times that I felt like Diesel was becoming a burden for us. He started having more and more frequent accidents in the house, though that would wax and wane. He was scared to walk on the hardwood floors because he had no traction for his back end. Getting up the stairs was hard, though he would do it. But getting down was almost traumatic for him at times when his back end would slide around in front of him because he could not coordinate, control and stabilize the rear end. And you could tell that he didn’t like it. Sometimes getting him to go outside to do his stuff was a challenge. But he would do it because he wanted to please me. His hearing and eyesight had gotten worse, to the point when I took him out at night, he would often stare out into the distance at nothing, jerking his head around when he thought he heard something. I know that he probably felt defenseless, worried about something sneaking up on him. He couldn’t hear them well, he couldn’t really see them, he couldn’t run from anything and he couldn’t really stay and fight. So I tried my best to be right by his side at night, close enough to touch him, so that he could be re-assured that I had his back and that I wouldn’t let anything happen to him. But that was no kind of life for this once dominant boy.

And that fear carried over into the house as well. We noticed more and more that when we came in the house, Diesel often didn’t even hear us. In the past he would jump up at the sound of the garage door opening and come to the door, tail wagging, ears back, ready for love. But in the last several weeks, he hadn’t even heard us come in. And when he finally heard us, he would be startled from his sleep. So he began lying in front of the door to the garage so that we could not get in the house without hitting him in the butt with the door. And while at times it was annoying, I know now that it was survival instinct for him. In an effort to keep him away from the door, we took the rug away, thinking he wouldn’t want to lie on the bare wood because he had no traction. That didn’t work either. And so it was about 2 weeks ago that my wife and I decided that it was time to talk to Dr. Kenney about the hard decision. Dr. Kenney, while also being Diesel’s girlfriend and vet for the last 10 years, is also a geriatric dog specialist. She has her own 14 year old dog with neurologic problems, so she gets it. My wife talked to Dr. Kenney and said “I think it’s time.” After telling Dr. Kenney about Diesel’s current condition, Dr. Kenney agreed that it was time. She reminded us that while his DM did not likely cause him physical pain, we would never know because he wouldn’t show it. More importantly though, she told us that just because he might not be in pain doesn’t mean he wasn’t suffering. A dog like Diesel is meant to run and chase and play and protect – all of his natural dog instincts. And he could no longer do any of those things. And we finally realized that our desire to keep him with us could not outweigh his right to be at peace.

And so last Thursday we scheduled the appointment. Dr. Kenney told my wife she would not be available over the weekend, but could come Monday evening. We asked her if she would come to the house to do it, and she of course said she would be honored. And so the Diesel-palooza began in earnest last Friday. It started with In and Out Double Double and fries Friday night for dinner. My daughter, my wife and I spent every moment of the weekend with him, treating him to all the delicious food he could never have. He had ice cream sandwiches, cheeseburgers (more than once) french fries, chips, cookies, donuts, banana bread, a bacon and eggs breakfast and the coup de grace – a filet mignon dinner complete with baked potato, asparagus and bread on Sunday night. He was in Heaven already, devouring every bite in less than 5 minutes. The weekend was spent loving him, being with him, taking him for rides in the car, and just enjoying the last few days we had. He was truly happy. And we were constantly in tears.

Monday was indeed one of the hardest days we have ever faced. It started with a lazy morning of snuggling – My wife and I had slept on the floor with him the night before. We had some banana bread and sausage mcmuffins for breakfast and lied around loving him. That was always one of his favorite things. We had decided that we would take him to the beach, even though he wouldn’t be able to play. He loved the beach, and had always loved swimming. Plus the beach is full of good smells. So we packed him in the car and headed to the beach, intent on sitting in the car and letting him smell the air and hear the waves. Monday was a kind of rainy, cold day for us, so not many people were out. And as we sat in the parking lot, I decided that Diesel should get to feel the sand between his toes one last time, even if I had to carry him out there. And so we got out of the car, I carried him out and set him on the sand. And he took off faster than we have seen him move in a long time – headed straight to the water of course. And after about 20 feet, the sand proved a formidable foe and he collapsed, exhausted. Not to be denied, he righted himself and continued quickly to the water. We were so happy and at the same time so sad. We took pictures of him and let him play around in the water. He was again, already in Heaven.

But he eventually got too tired to play anymore and headed back to the car. I had to carry his back end that last 40 feet, but it was worth it. We got back to the car and climbed in, me lifting Diesel into the back. He was wet and sandy and exhausted, but he was so happy. On the way home we stopped at In and Out again for another double double, fries and this time, a vanilla milkshake. He had never had one before, but he loved ice cream so we figured, what the ****. We got home and he devoured the burger. My wife took the shake and poured it into a bowl and set it in front of him. He sniffed, licked and then went to town. In less than 30 seconds the bowl was licked clean!!! And no apparent brain freeze either. We caught it on video and laughed as he licked his chops as if to say “that was delicious!”

For the next couple hours we laid with him on the floor in the family room, his bed on the corner of the area rug that had become his favorite place to lie when we were all together. We spent our last few hours talking to him, petting him, brushing him, loving him and snuggling him. My wifeand Diesel even feel asleep curled up together for a short time, his face nuzzled right next to hers where he always loved to be. She showered his face with kisses as tears continued to fall from our eyes. And then, at about 5 p.m., Dr. Kenney called to say she was on her way over. She and a tech arrived a few minutes later and came in to find us all gathered around Diesel. She explained the process, gave Diesel an assessment, and once again reassured us that we were doing the right thing for him. His body had atrophied significantly in the last year from his inability to get up or exercise. He had lost roughly 30 pounds from his hey-day, down to a paltry 85 pounds. Diesel appeared calm, relaxed and content as he got treats and love from my daughter, my wife and I. Dr. Kenney gave him a shot in his back leg – a sedative designed to make him sleep. As the drug took affect, Diesel became disoriented, moving his head back and forth as if to say “what’s happening to me? Why is the room spinning?” Within a few minutes he was totally relaxed, snoring loudly.

Dr. Kenney waited a few minutes to ensure he was asleep and totally calm. She then shaved a spot on his hind leg to find a blood vessel. She inserted a needle into the vessel and began injecting to medication to stop his heart. The infusion took about a minute to finish. The entire time we were crying, hugging Diesel, kissing his face and talking to him. We told him we loved him, that we would miss him, and that he was the greatest dog who ever lived. We told him how lucky we were to have had all these years with him. It was one of the hardest moments for our family and for me, probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Diesel’s breathing became slower and shallower and after what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Kenney listened to his heart with the stethoscope and told us he was gone….

And it was at that moment that I realized that Diesel stayed true to form his whole life. He never gave up, he never quit, he never stopped loving and his loyalty never wavered. He beat all the odds of life expectancy for Shepherds (8-10 years). He beat all the statistics about DM. He survived eye cancer and walked again after surgery despite the odds of paralysis. He was as close to perfection as anything I have ever known. Maybe that’s why God chose the name “dog” to describe these amazing creatures – because they are his mirror image.

Dr. Kenney left for a couple minutes to give us time with Diesel by ourselves. We wept. She came back in and told us it was time for Diesel to go. She had warned us that we might not want to watch them take him out, and my wife knew that she could not watch that. So she went upstairs into our room and closed the door. Dr. Kenney and her assistant started to pick up Diesel’s bed and I stopped them. I knew that I had to carry him out. I knew that I owed it to him to carry him those final steps, as I had so many times before. It was the least I could do for him after all he had done for us. And so I scooped up his bed in my arms with him in it and carried him down the hall and out the front door. I laid him gently into the car, his body wrapped in a comfy blanket. And with that, he was gone.

The last few days have been very hard for all of us. We have cried a lot, laughed a lot and told our favorite stories and memories of Diesel. We have looked through all our pictures and reminisced abut his 13+ years with us. And we have cried some more. We haven’t been able to take his things away yet. His bed still lies in the corner by our bed. His downstairs bed is still in its traditional place, next to the kitchen table, his toy box and his water bowl. His food and water are still in the laundry room. We weren’t sure how we would react to the signs and reminders of Diesel, but we have since realized that we are not ready to have those big empty spots where our boy used to be. It’s too painful just now. For myself, I miss our routines. He was my helper and my sidekick. We had our little routine every night where we would take out the trash, turn off the lights, check the locks and go outside for the last bathroom break of the day. We’d walk up and down the street, sniffing and peeing. We’d come in the house and head upstairs for some dinner. He was my trash buddy on Wednesday nights, going with me to take the trash and recycling to the curb. I missed that last night and will continue to miss his presence by my side.

For my wife, her comment to me yesterday was that she missed her shadow. Diesel was such a permanent part of her daily routine, too. The first thing she would see when she woke up in the morning (if she woke up after me, which was typical) was Diesel’s sleepy little face staring up at her from his bed. She would get up and greet him first thing, snuggling him and saying good morning. In years past, he would follow her to the bathroom then lie in front of the shower door while she showered. Since we’ve been in the new house, he won’t go into the bathroom because of the tile floors, which are very slippery for him. So he would lay in the threshold, patiently waiting for her to finish. He would then watch her dry her hair and put on her make up, never more than a few feet away from her. And then once she was dressed and ready to leave, they would head downstairs together toward the garage door. On most mornings, I had already taken Diesel out by the time my wife was leaving. But even on those days, he would still race her to the door and try like **** to convince her to take him with her. It broke her heart every morning to say not, but she would kiss his nose, scratch behind his ears, tell him “I love you DD. Have a good day.” And off she would go to work. I know that the last couple mornings have been exceedingly difficult for her.

As for my daughter and son, I know they are really sad too. Diesel has been around for 13 of my daughter’s 22 years and 13 of my son’s 18 years – most of their lives. They grew up together. And while my daughter has been out of our house for a while, she did move back home in February and has spent every day with Diesel. I know that this week has been very hard for them, and it’s hard as a parent to see your kid be so sad, especially when you are so sad too.

I know that some of you must think I’m nuts. And that’s ok by me. I know that if you think I’m nuts, you’ve never really loved a dog and had a dog love you. And that is something that everyone should get to experience. As I told you at the beginning of this story, Diesel was not just a pet. He was not just a dog. He was a member of our family. In their book “The Art of Raising a Puppy”, the Monks of New Skete conclude with the following:

And for many of us our love for life deepens through the relationships we form with our dog. By their very nature and need, dogs draw us out of ourselves. They root us in nature and make us more conscious of the mystery of God inherent in all things. When we take the time and energy necessary to raise our puppies correctly, when we learn to truly listen to them, seeing them as they really are and guiding their development accordingly, a deeper part of ourselves is unlocked, a part more compassionate and less arrogant, more willing to share life with another life. And whenever that happens, we know the real meaning of happiness.

And it is with that thought that I will end this story. For me, Diesel did indeed unlock a part of me that was more compassionate. And it was through sharing Diesel’s life that I got to know the real meaning of happiness.

Good bye Big Boy. I love you and I will miss you terribly.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2010, 08:17 AM
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Oh I don't even know how to reply, I am crying so much. My heart breaks for you and your family. Diesel obviously was so loved and had a great life. You are very brave to share your story and I know that it sounds so lame to say in response, but in time your grief will eventually become more bearable. I am going to send up a prayer for Diesel tonight when I give my girl an extra kiss. R.I.P beautiful boy. I'm sorry for not being able to find the right words.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2010, 09:17 AM
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Thank you for sharing, Diesel was a wonderful boy and you area loving family. You were always there for him, that is more than lots of dogs can say. When you are ready you will love another dog, although it may be a different dog, it will love you and form new memories. I have loved that way as well and know the sorrow you are suffering, It is too bad their lives are so much shorter, but they live such pure unselfish lives, they force us to do so as well,
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2010, 09:24 AM
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I'm speechless.
Beautiful.
Thank you.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2010, 10:21 AM
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What a wonderful gift Diesel gave you, and how lucky he was to have people who loved and reciprocated this gift. To spend his life, and especially his last days with a pack who showed him love and acceptance even when he was feeling vulnerable, could there have been anything more important to Diesel? And think of what your children have gained, not only from Diesel but from your example. They will likely go on to be wonderful compassionate pack leaders for their own dogs as well, and in this way Diesel will continue to give, and live, thru the years.

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2010, 08:16 PM
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I'm so sorry for you and your family. The deep pain does start to diminish and eventurally you're thankful that you had the time you did. You'll know you're healing when, more often than not, a thought of him will bring a smile, not a tear. So many things will remind you of that relationship and you'll go on to love another dog, and he you. Thanks for sharing your story, it was truly from the heart.

Diesel

Have dog, will travel...
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2010, 10:33 PM
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Thank you for taking the time to tell your story. Sad, sweet and truly touching.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-13-2010, 06:54 PM
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What a touching story. Diesel sounds like a truly wonderful family companion, and i am so sorry for the loss and the sad space it left in your heart. Know that he loved you very much and was so grateful for the life that you gave him.

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-14-2010, 10:03 AM Thread Starter
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Just been going through the responses. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and read Diesel's story and special thanks to those of you who have responded. It is uniquely comforting knowing that so many others understand the special place these amazing companions have in our lives. I also appreciate all the kind words and support from people I've never even met. I'm so proud and thankful that our boy is still able to touch people's hearts and inspire your warm responses. Thanks for taking the time to share a glimpse into the life of our Magic Dog!
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