Calling all Angels

By Juls  //  Uncategorized  //  No Comments

Memories are the most precious commodity we human beings possess. No matter how hard a person tries, they can not take them from you. We are rich beyond our wildest dreams because of them, and they are carefully stored deep in the recesses of the mind. A memory can evoke an emotional response so strong it can momentarily propel you back to that moment  in time.  It is with this precious gift I lean very heavily this week.

Ante, our 9 year old Bergamasco Sheepdog suddenly passed away August 11th at 3:30am from Spontaneous Closed Pneumothorax. Very little warning, and acute symptoms led us to his Veterinarian on Saturday, August 10th, at noon. By 12:30pm we were headed to critical care and within the hour he was in surgery for his first bilateral chest tap to draw almost 5liters of air from his chest cavity, causing both lungs to collapse and to displace his heart.  He was given a 50:50 chance for his lungs to collapse again and the air to leak back into the chest cavity, and was placed in critical care.

I had come home to gather a T-Shirt out of the dirty clothes hamper that my husband had worn recently and I purposefully wore for an hour or so while I planted a few flowers in the garden. I had to wait until he was stable enough to be visited and I could surround his kennel with our familiar scent from the T-Shirt we had each worn.  My tears helped water those flowers as I angrily clawed at the earth and sat helpless and sad while they streamed uncontrollably down my face.

Ante was stable enough to be taken off the oxygen at about 7pm and was brought to me in a private room where I could lay with him on the floor of the hospital on a blanket they provided. We spent an hour and a half together, my talking to him about everything and nothing. My voice sounded so loud in that little room. My words hung in the air before they fell with my tears soaking into the flocks on his paws.  Both of his sides had been shaved in an approximate 8″ radius on each side and he had two angry wounds where they had performed the emergency chest tap. I watched his chest rise and fall as I spoke, and talked away the minutes while I held him close.

I’m not certain when I realized it, or if I had been aware of it all along, but while Ante lay with the T-Shirt under his head and near his nose, his chest seemed to rise and fall at an irregular and shallow rate. I may have refused to see it, not wanting it to be true. My heart literally hurt like it was being torn in two and I felt physically ill.

At one point, about an hour and fifteen minutes into our time together, Ante raised his sweet face and looked me directly in the eyes. I raised my head to look into his eyes. I swear I could see clear into his sweet little soul and I could not be more certain if he had suddenly spoken the words himself….it was time for me to let  him go. Our sweet, precious baby, our loyal friend and companion of 9 years, that had surely been taken for granted and had shared so many memories, was telling me it was okay to let him go.  There was strength, courage and a regal air in his expression that was astoundingly profound and gave me chills. He held my gaze and spoke to my breaking heart through his kind and patient eyes.

I am not going to lie. I wanted to be selfish. I wanted to soothe my heart that hung bitterly in my throat and choked my words. I clung to hope, I prayed for the surgeon’s wisdom, I called out for the Vet Tech to come check on him. I exclaimed with fear that I thought he was struggling for air and I thought we should perform another X-Ray to make certain his chest cavity was not filling with air again. They agreed, and wanted to place him back on oxygen. I asked if I could stay and await the results.

I replay the look in his eyes at that moment numerous times. It was during that horrible time, waiting alone in that little room, I simply knew…. I knew in my mind what my heart refused to accept. Ante would not return home. It was his time. More importantly, HE was ready to go and was patiently waiting for me to see it. This was my time to show & give back to him the unconditional love he had so willingly provided to me and our family for 9 years. We had to love him so much that we were  willing to take on the pain of losing him so that they he could be at peace.

When the Vet Tech came back in to tell me that he had increased air in his chest cavity , my heart sank. They did mention to me that there was still a small chance that the “leak” would wall off and he could potentially recover.  I took a deep and agonizingly painful breath and told the technician I wanted to sign a “no resuscitate” form, but wanted to be notified immediately if he took a turn for the worse in the middle of the night so that we could end his suffering with his family near.

I don’t remember much of the drive home, I felt numb and almost incapacitated by the weight of it all.  I felt as though I couldn’t summon the energy to talk. I wanted to come home, crawl into bed and simply cry myself to sleep.  Which I did after calling my husband at work. He agreed with my decision.

We received a phone call from the Critical Care Center letting us know that Ante had taken a turn for the worse at 3:15am.  With heavy hearts, my kids, husband and I piled in the car and drove in silence to the Center. When we arrived, we were met at the door by the attending physician. They stated that in the last 5 minutes Ante had gone downhill quickly and we needed to run to be with him as his time was very near.

We quickly followed in fear and desperation. Laying on the ground, hooked up to oxygen and IV Fluids, Ante lay struggling for every breath he took. His chest was puffed up with the air that was suffocating him. My heart lurched in my chest and I immediately took his head in my arms. My husband, and son gathered near and touched and spoke to him as well. I leaned close and spoke quietly in his ear telling him how much I loved him and how much he meant to us.

While my tears burned down my face he took one last look at us and stopped breathing on his own. I asked the doctor to administer the meds to stop his heart as well, because I did not want him to struggle while his heart continued to try and beat.

Knowing he had waited until we had gotten there to give up his fight was his last and most wonderfully selfless gift. He wanted to say goodbye and did not die without his family surrounding him.  I was almost unable to walk out of the clinic. The weight of the grief cloaked me in a despair that only the loss of a loved one can bring. I felt heavy with it for days and have my good and bad days. I await the day that he visits me in a dream, bounding up to me again with his carefree and happy gait, letting me know he is okay and running with the angels.

Enzo, our other Bergamasco adolescent  feels his absence and has been depressed. Lila, our Chihuahua is less obvious in her grief, but both have been somber. For the first two days, Enzo sat in our big picture window with his head on the window sill just watching and waiting for something that never came. My heart breaks for him.

It is his time now, but it will take some time for him to let go and embrace it. We will be with him every step of the way.

AnteCalTank photo-1

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August 2013
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