On October 8, 2017 at 1 PM Central Standard time, a very sweet, athletic, loving dog named Echo, took his last Earthly breath in the backyard of the house where we both lived. Letting go of him, as all of you who’ve ever had a pet know, was heart breaking. It released a flood of tears in me that hasn’t quite let up. Grief is a very painful emotion to feel. As you likely know, it is like a crashing ocean. Moving with the ferocity of pounding waves during a major storm. I’ve been riding the waves these past two weeks.
One Athletic Dog
I had dear Echo pup with me for the past three years. He belonged to Andrew and Lauren before he found his way to me. Andrew had gotten Echo in Denver, Colorado at the Dumb Friends League, where I had gotten my first dog Mack. Echo and Andrew had house sat my house in Denver early on when I first had Mack. I traveled for work during those days, and Mack did best with in-home dog care. It warms my heart to know that Echo and Mack met each other.
Andrew and Lauren have another dog and three years ago they had a small house in South Minneapolis, two very young children and two dogs. They realized it would be a wise idea to find another home for Echo. They found me. The minute they showed up at my house on August 31st, 2014, Echo and I fell in love. Andrew left Echo with me, and my housemate Liz that day. With ease, Liz, her cat Sunshine, and I figured out a routine.
Key to the plan was LOTS of physical activity for Echo the Athlete! We got into the routine of at least one long walk and one shorter walk every single day. Throughout the years we had together, I ran on and off, depending on my battle with plantar fasciitis and the eight months of recovering from a broken ankle. Running was Echo’s idea of the perfect activity! Lauren and Andrew, especially Lauren, had run with him and running was when Echo behaved the best.
Echo’s passion for physical activity led me to discover a wonderful path down by the Mississippi River that wound through the woods and allowed Echo to dive into the river for a bit of swimming. He swam, not me! For the first two and a half years I had Echo, I didn’t have a regular job, so many weekdays Echo and I would walk down to the river in the morning and because it was a weekday, almost no one else would be down there, and I could let Echo off the leash and he would dart like an Olympic sprinter over and under and around with pure joy. With absolute delight he would dive into the water and lap it up and swim a bit. When he got out of the water he would joyfully shake off the water and come lean on my leg in complete contentment. Every single one of these adventures made my eyes sparkle and I would laugh out loud with the exuberance of life with Echo as my pal.
What Echo Loved
Echo loved snow! He loved to roll around in it! He loved to romp and race through it. He did not love thunder, but he didn’t mind rain. Weather conditions weren’t a big consideration for him. Thunder and fire works scared him totally. He would shake and hide and he was very nervous when the loud bangs went off. Except for these loud noises, when Echo was afraid he moved forward with lots of barking. He hid his fear with barking.
Echo was an excellent warning system. I will never view FedEx/UPS or trucks and vans or school buses the same after three years with Echo! His hearing and sense of smell were very tuned into delivery trucks. His immediate barking and running around alerted Liz and me to all possible invasion attempts!
Echo was a healthy dog. Every morning he jumped off the bed, yes, he slept on the bed next to me, on top of the covers, and ran over to my side of the bed where he did a series of downward facing dog stretches and he usually shook. I imagined this was to fully wake himself up! Then he proceeded to follow me around as I turned on the lights, turned off the fan, brushed my teeth and headed upstairs. His first priority was to get food, and he knew that I insisted he pee first. So outside we both went, as if he didn’t have me outside in the yard with him, he would not pee and come right back to the door to wait to be let in for breakfast.
Since I eat lots of vegetables, Echo got good at catching every dropped veggie as I cooked. I discovered his favorites included carrots, broccoli and kale! This past summer, I had kale in the garden and after almost every walk we would stop and I would pull a leaf of kale and Echo happily chomped!
I attended a conference in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida the last week of September and the day I got home, I had picked up a salad that had salmon in it. I gave Echo a little piece of the salmon. Later that night, Echo threw up and that was the beginning of the end. The next day, a Friday, Echo ate very little and he again threw up. He was very polite about it, he asked to go outside and he threw up outside. During the night on Friday, he went upstairs (my room and home office are in the basement) and threw up on the wood floor, which was easy to clean up. Saturday morning, a vet assistant friend on Facebook, told me how to take a dog’s temperature, and I went and got a thermometer and took his temp. It was high. That motivated me to take him to the vet. That was our first of five visits to the vet at the University of Minnesota over the next seven days. Not an inexpensive week. Major gratitude to the handful of people who spontaneously donated to help me with the costs.
Who Knows Exactly Why
We never confirmed exactly what was wrong with Echo. The many blood tests we did told us that he was experiencing liver failure and kidney failure. Quickly we got him a pretty powerful antibiotic, which he did not like to take. None of my efforts to entice him worked. Not the chicken, the steak, the broth, the peanut butter, the hardboiled eggs. On Tuesday, I gave him an appetite enhancer and he did eat a good amount of rice and some specialty wet dog food. Then he had a terrible reaction to the appetite enhancer, throwing up, shaking terribly, and having diarrhea. Our suspicion is that Echo had contracted leptospirosis. Apparently dogs get this from drinking random, sitting water, which Echo loved to do. Early on our hope was Echo would beat it. Up until this event, Echo was very healthy. The only thing going against him was his age. He was 10, which is not that old for an Australian cattle dog/beagle rescue dog.
Early Saturday morning on October 7th, I carried Echo outside to see if I could encourage him to pee, as he had stopped peeing. He was very weak, so I had started carrying him. When I set him down, he hobbled around a bit and in a focused manner he walked over to the deck and walked under it. He liked being under the deck. I watched him go under it, it was raining and the under deck is low, so I had to crouch down to see what he was doing. He went to the very middle of the space under the deck and he sat down. In fact he curled up and appeared to settle in.
Pets Hide When Vulnerable
I called to him, in an effort to get him to come out. He completely ignored me. I waited and waited. I got wetter and wetter. Finally, I went inside and put on my rain pants, my rain coat, my boots, and I found some gloves and I put on my sweatshirt hood and headed back out and crawled under the deck. I crawled to where Echo was and I snuggled around him. We talked a bit. I felt how remote he was. And I ignored it. I very carefully and very gently maneuvered myself and Echo out from under the deck. And I gently carried him back into the house and got him to take the antibiotics again. I also gave him another sub-q hydration treatment. Things just kept getting worse.
That night, in the middle of the night, Echo woke up and I woke up. I instantly got it. He was done. He was ready to go. That’s why he crawled under the deck. It just took me a bit longer to get it. I snuggled around his bloated body and we talked. Well, I talked and Echo listened with his beautiful brown eyes. I reviewed his life, thanking him for all the love he had given me. I thanked him for following me everywhere, for never leaving me alone, for running up and down the stairs and for sleeping on the bed with me. I thanked him for always protecting me, and for loving running and walking and swimming. I asked him to find another dog for me. I told him I hoped he enjoyed the Rainbow Bridge and to say hello to Mack and Riley when he got there.
The next morning was P.ink Day MSP 2017 and thankfully Missy, Michelle and Emilie of Twilight Tattoo were ready to hold the day together. My leadership wasn’t needed for most of the day. My friend Molly had told me about MN Pets that does home pet euthanasia. I called them and set up an early afternoon appointment. I went to get P.ink Day MSP started at Twilight and I got home around 12:15 PM. The vet from MN Pets had just arrived. Liz my housemate was there and Molly had come over to support us all. Big thank you to all for the incredible love and support.
Time to Say Goodbye
I set up the blanket Echo always slept on in the backyard. Then I carried Echo outside and we all gathered around. I kept petting his soft fur, and humming and singing to him. I knew in my heart that it was the right choice. Echo was ready. He was done with this life. I talked some more to him, reminding him over and over again how much he was loved. How grateful I was for all he had brought to my life and for all the love he gave me.
The vet was named Susan and she was very kind and very careful and gentle. The process was gentle. And with ease, Echo left. The tears kept flowing. Gently we all lifted his body into a plastic container that had a lovely blanket in it. We carried him to the vet’s vehicle and away they went.
Just like that Echo was gone. What’s left are my memories of him and even now, two weeks later, I feel his love and his spirit with me. I believe in Guardian Angels and I believe that Echo and Riley and Mack, all my dogs, are with me always. I know they want the very best for me. They remind me to keep living and to keep believing in the goodness of humanity. They will find another dog for me. When the time is right.
Blessed Be. There is a Cycle of Life and all of us, human, animal, plant, we are all part of it. Blessed Be.
Echo, wherever you are, I love you forever.