My Dog Passed Away. Here’s How Much My Dog Mattered to Me.
My dog has been with me through the great recession, my first year at the University of Washington, graduation, and the pandemic. Today he’s no longer with me and it’s still painful to talk about it. I want to take a chance to describe my relationship with my best friend, Aspen.
Back in 2009 our previous dog passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of thirteen. It was harder on my parents because they build a stronger emotional attachment to the previous dog and unfortunately, I didn’t. When we discussed getting another dog after a couple months of grieving, I was determined to spend as much time with this one as possible. We spent about a month going over a list of names and they asked me to pick which of the two remaining names should be for our next dog. “Aspen” I said. Because it reminds you of pure snow and a gentle soul.
In 2010 my parents arrived back to the house with a little ball of white fur in a small kennel the size of a shoe box. Aspen with his white fur and dark brown eyes with saucer size pupils was very timid with us since this was his new home. Aspen went towards the water bowl and then scurried back right into his kennel knocking over the pet food in water in the process. I made sure to be gentle and take care of him as much as possible when he was a puppy, and he made the cutest, adorable sound when I held him like an infant upset crying with their mouth closed.
I never wanted to let him go.
Years later I get a letter in the mail saying that I’ve been accepted into the University of Washington to the cheer of my friends and family and my dog comes bouncing towards me with excitement rubbing himself against my legs in a figure eight pattern. I don’t know why he did that, but it was a little quirk that I loved about him. Along with licking your ear when you’re driving in the car. (Don’t ask me why he just did lol)
He was there for me to provide emotional comfort when I attended the University of Washington Campus and was there after I was let go from my first job in tech right after college. He didn’t care that I was quirky, he didn’t care if had executive functioning disorder, and he didn’t care what clothes I wore. He snuggled up with me when I was down by trotting over with the pet bear in his mouth begging me to throw it. Aspen performed tricks for me in order to get his food and barked when he wanted some of my food with a silly grin on his face.
During his later stage in life, he began having problems going to the bathroom and we scheduled to have him fixed and after several surgeries he appeared to be all set. However even older dogs still have trouble going to the bathroom and the next thing that happened really frightened me.
Around Thanksgiving last year my dad had recently taken Aspen in to have his teeth cleaned. As he’s getting out, my dad noticed something. He was struggling to breathe. The vet said they didn’t have the expertise to save Aspen, but they helped my dad secure an oxygen tank around him and gave him the address to a different clinic. 15 miles north.
It was the day before Thanksgiving and my dad raced along the freeway at breakneck speeds hoping to save our family dog and got him into emergency care with time to spare. They diagnosed him as having a stage three or four trachea collapse and recommended a stent implant, my dad was there the whole time.
My mom and I received word from him and were shocked and then very emotional over the next several days as we waited for word on Aspen’s status. At one point I broke down and couldn’t stop weeping because as an only child he was like a playful little brother to me always there and always supportive. Fortunately, they were able to insert a stent into his esophagus forcing the airway open so he could breathe, they said it would give him another one or two years of life. When he got home, I was so grateful to my dad and the veterinarian clinic that Aspen was still with us. However, that was not the end of it.
Last year around Christmas he was having coughing fits, so my dad and I took him to the only place that was open Christmas day. We had to find out what was going on so we could help him. Turns out he needed a steroidal compound to strengthen his throat muscles after the implant, after he took those meds, he seemed somewhat back to normal.
As the months went by although we had to repeatedly clean him out when he had trouble going poop and change the dosage on his meds, he was mostly good despite the frequent coughing. He still played with his bear, rammed his head into my parent’s pillows in the morning before flipping upside down to have his stomach rubbed. And he still wanted to play fetch with his bear (ironically named Aspen) back and forth. And he still did the cute figure eight rubbing against your legs quirk to show his adoration and affection towards you.
It was around late November into early December that we noticed some changes about him. Aspen was eating less but drinking more water, but he was still peeing and had more than enough energy to play with his bear. I left that weekend to go on vacation because I needed a break from everything and needed time to decompress and relax. And it was an amazing weekend that I really enjoyed.
I arrived home Sunday afternoon in a good mood. Great in fact! I go into the house and as I’m putting away groceries, and when I finish up, I notice the glum almost painful looks on my parent’s faces. They ask me to come and I do noticing that Aspen or his kennel wasn’t downstairs. “Aspen was rushed into emergency care over the weekend, and we had to put him down” they struggled to tell me as the emotion choked in their throat.
My heart dropped and broke into a million pieces as I struggled to comprehend what they just told me. “Aspen died” my dad said to make sure I wasn’t mishearing everything which is when I felt my legs give out and collapsed into the kitchen table chair. I felt numb and sick to my stomach as I thought in a state of shock “Aspen’s gone???” and had to excuse myself to the garage where I grabbed onto the wall and openly sobbed before asking them when he died. They told me Saturday morning explaining that they didn’t want me to sour my mood over the weekend, which I now realize they were right. So, I went upstairs and dropped onto my bed feeling numb. And then I openly sobbed as I thought about the fact that my little companion of 13 years was gone, and my rock had vanished.
Although I’m slowly adjusting to that fact that my little fluffy dog is not around anymore it’s not easy. That’s part of the grieving process it takes time to heal.
As I’m sure most of you know coping with loss takes time and I’m grateful to all the emotional support I received after he passed away. My coworkers, friends, parents, and especially my girlfriend and her family.
Thank you, Aspen. You were the best dog I had and provided me with warmth and comfort even during the worst points in my life. I won’t forget you.