I hate that title. I hate everything about it. Note: This is a long and sad post. So read at your own free will.
I didn’t think I would be writing a post like this for years to come and its completely breaking my heart to do so. Harley deserves a post all about him and for those of you that have followed closely with my journey moving to Germany, you know how huge of a part he really played in that whole ordeal.
Toblerone and I got Harley when he was just a couple months old in March 2010. He solidified everything for us and from that point on we were a family.
H-man went first with Tobi to Germany and I couldn’t join them fast enough. I had to finish out my duties at work and tie up loose ends in the States before I moved. Once I got there, Harley was my main focus since I didn’t have a job or anything else to do except take care of the house (and who wants to spend their time doing that! lol) I dutifully made up a dog training excel spreadsheet and got to work on that! Harley would be smirking at me knowing that lasted all of 4 days! Ha!
Truthfully, Harley was the only close friend I had in Germany as strange as that sounds. It was so difficult to make friends there. He was the one reminder from the US I had and he spoke perfect English. He got me 🙂 On days when I was especially homesick he would take me out for walks to ease my mind for a bit. He was my person.
Back in the US, my world traveling dog watched us go through a heck of a time trying to get pregnant and he sat right with me throughout my pregnancy even though I was barfy (is that even a word?) and barely could move. When the boys arrived he was ALL about them. I didn’t know for sure how he would react and was worried because he was my baby for so long, I was sure he would NOT be impressed with how much attention they would be getting.
He did take the backseat a bit and I felt awful for it. The twins took over my life and with no family around to help I powered through and did the very best I could trying to manage his schedule and their schedule. But I think he knew I loved him all the same.
Harley and Arjen barking at people passing by. They were a team!
Our blondie twin had a crazy special bond with Harley and I didn’t really see it until I was going back through pictures and there the two of them were over and over again.
I got pregnant again with our little girl this past summer and once again, Harley man had to take the backseat since the sickness took over my body. I laid in bed all day – could NOT function. I did slowly start to feel better later in the pregnancy and by Christmas time, Toberlone was awarded his green card and we booked a last minute trip to Germany. (Side note: NEVER travel during winter holidays with 3yr old twins while 7 months pregnant. NEVER. EVER.)
Fur Ball got to go on vacation at a great place he loved to go to. A doggy resort so to speak. Fireplaces, fluffy warm dog beds, access to jump on the couch or a bed and to run outside free. NO kennels. That wasn’t his style. While he was there over Christmas he was having the absolute best of times with the resort staff 🙂 (aka the wonderful family who treated him like their own.) He got loads of pets and snacks during their family Xmas party and he sent us daily pictures to brag about how awesome his days were there. Meanwhile, in Germany, I was in WWIII with the time change and toddlers who were kept indoors due to the freezing cold weather. It was interesting…
New Years Day we were driving 3 hours to a hotel in Frankfurt near the airport to make it easier for us to wake up the following day and hop on the plane with the kiddos and my large and barely in charge self. I get a phone call from his host family telling us that he was having a hard time using his back legs and at one point he couldn’t walk up the steps anymore to go inside. They asked for permission to take him to the emergency hospital and we immediately said “YES.”
Initially, the Vet at the hospital said she thinks it could be a pinched nerve in his back and they wanted to do a CT scan the following morning to take a further look. However, his glucose levels were extremely low so that was a different concern.
Fast forward, upon arriving in Detroit and waiting in line at customs, I get the phone call from the Veterinarian and her words to this day are just muddled letters. How do you take in difficult news with 40 languages going on around you while trying to wrangle two extremely tired and moody children through customs? How? Well…you don’t. You listen…you try to take it in… and you cry in front of hundreds of strangers.
Diagnosis: Insulin-producing tumor in his pancreas. His glucose levels dropped so low that in fact, even with surgery to remove the tumor, he would never regain the use of his legs and would only have a few months with us.
What. The. F*ck. Is. Happening. Right. Now. (sorry for swearing but I needed to emphasize the pain)
I couldn’t get home fast enough. In hindsight, I noticed things about him that were giving us signs. He was always thirsty…was starving and begging for more snacks and waiting by his food bowl in the mornings (this is a dog we had to beg to eat!) and he needed way more potty breaks.
As soon as we got back to the house we rushed over to the hospital to see him. I couldn’t even tell the receptionist who I was. I squeaked out a, “I’m Harley’s Mom…” and the rest Toblerone had to take over. The Vet met with us and through tears, we asked her to let us take him home but she recommended not to do that because he had a seizure the night before and they wanted to keep him alive until we arranged his euthanization. Ugh. “Keep him alive.” Double Ugh.
When we went back to see him in ICU…omg…I can’t even describe how awful it was. There were surgeries going on in the middle of the room and all around were cages full of sick dogs. When we got to Harley he lifted his head up, looked at us and laid back down. I couldn’t believe that we were seeing our boy in this situation. It was unreal and maybe the jet lag didn’t help or the pregnancy hormones for that matter.. He didn’t want to eat and there were catheters and tubes hooked up to him all over the place. At this point, I still had not come to terms with the fact that we had to let him go.
We arranged for a home euthanization the following afternoon and as Tobi brought him home in the snow, he put him in the grass one last time to feel the snow on his paws. My heart was crushed watching him carry him inside for the last time.
The Vet gave him a steroid to hopefully keep him going and seizure-free until he got home and that alone made it seem like he was his old self! Gave him a bit more pep and when he saw me he lit up and tried to stand up to come to me.
We laid on the floor together and with his paw on my heart I told him it was ok and I was sorry for not being here for him but he was home now. And all would be ok.
We tried to help the boys understand that they needed to say goodbye because he was going to heaven but that was the first time they heard the term “Heaven” so the concept was out the window. They patted his head and our nanny took them off to the library and out for donuts so we could say goodbye to Harley. Just us three musketeers again.
The actual process happened so fast that I couldn’t even catch my breath. A month shy of his 9th Birthday, he was asleep and gone within seconds and I broke. I sobbed and cried asking the doctor to bring him back. As if somehow willing him with my broken heart was enough. But there he laid, peacefully on the couch in slumber like he always did in that spot. The Vet placed him on a stretcher but she put the coziest and softest blankets on him and tucked him in like a baby. He looked so peaceful and I didn’t even know what I was looking at anymore. I kissed his soft ears and watched as he was carried out to the car. I said goodbye one last time and off he went.
A week or two later we got his ashes back in a beautiful box, a clay ornament of his paw print and the first thing I did was look at his ashes. How did our beautiful 90lb boy end up as a small bag of flour? How did that happen?
Days following his passing I walked around with his favorite bear in my shirt because I couldn’t deal with life without him. I even went outside and took a walk as I always did with him at noon, imagining him there with me.
The boys watched me break down every day and would say, “Mommy sad? Mommy miss Wau Wau?” (Wauwau is what the dog says in German but that’s what they called him.) Eventually, the crying wasn’t full sobs, it was silent tears and then it shifted. The boys started to cry and ask where he was. This was worse than anything else. I had to try to put on a brave face for two little boys who didn’t understand where their dog went. And to this day, (even this morning actually) they cry for him and miss him so much.
I ache to my bones for this dog who was my friend. He was the constant thing I had in my life and I feel guilty that since the boys came around he took the back burner. He didn’t deserve that.
I’m not a religious person but I hope more than anything that wherever he is he is happy. Or that he’s somewhere with me here. If there really is some sort of afterlife or rainbow bridge, I hope to meet him there one day. For now, I like to imagine him swimming, playing frisbee, eating a million snacks, and keeping a collection of his favorite sticks.
He was my very first baby and I knew that if I never had kids, he would be enough. I lost my first boy and the grief is all-consuming.
Miss you sweet Harley Noodle Jones ButtButt.
Until next time, Readers. xoxoxoxoxo