Today my sister is taking her dog, Oliver, in to be put to sleep. Yesterday, she dropped him off to have one last play-date with my family while she went to work. It was a very bittersweet afternoon. Oliver is a boxer-mix, not a golden, but I thought I’d share anyway (I hope that's okay, it's thereaputic for me).
My sister got Oliver just a year and a half ago. I went with her to pick out and meet her puppy a few weeks before he was able to go home with her. When we got there they were all asleep in one big pile so we had to stir them up and get them going so we could see them in action. She picked a beautiful brindle boy with one white ‘sock’. He was outgoing, playful, and a sweetie too. My sister was in love. The next few weeks were filled with many trips to the pet store and we were all so excited.
Oliver was a big bundle of energy. I watched him whenever I could for my sister while she was at work. Often times our schedules were opposite so this worked out well. True to his breed, you had to watch out for those paws, he clobbered me a good many times! He wasn’t the smartest guy (not trying to be mean, it’s just the truth), but he was loving and excited and just made you smile when he was around.
A few weeks after Oliver came home, my sister and her fiancé broke-up. He had brought two twin girls into the relationship and my sister had fallen in love with them as if they were her own. She was devastated over this breakup. More than anyone else, (myself included since she pushed us all away) Oliver got her through that rough time. She kept going and kept smiling because of him. They were inseparable; they went everywhere together, they slept together; she even got a new job at a winery where they let her bring Oliver into work.
About six months ago, Oliver got what appeared to be an inner-ear infection. He did the head-tilt and went around in circles. The medicine the vet put him on didn’t work and things got worse. My sister stayed up long nights with him working out kinks while he whined and fought her until he could finally relax his overworked muscles from going in one direction all the time. They changed medicines and that seemed to help. After that, however, Oliver slowly but steadily declined in motor skills and by the time we had him up at our lake cabin this summer, he seemed to be just a shell of the dog we had known before. He no longer played with toys; he didn’t really play at all in fact. He would only come when my sister called him, but would ignore everyone else. He would just pace (at a trot-speed or faster, never slowly) in wide circular motions constantly, never resting until he was forced. He would pace on the dock and fell in the water repeatedly, and once in the water he flailed helplessly and confused until we went in after him. He was easily confused and would become ‘stuck’ in corners. My sister’s apartment was completely arranged so that he could always keep moving without getting stuck. He slowly lost all control over the left side of his face and after awhile you could see the effects. The worst part of it all was that he never even wagged his tail anymore. We couldn’t tell if he was even happy to be alive. A couple of months ago, he started losing urinary control and would have accidents. This too just got worse and he had to be taken outside every half hour to avoid going in the house. On Friday, the vet told her that it was a brain tumor (a different vet had previously ruled this out because they said he was too young), and that he knew what he would do if it were his dog. This gave her the strength to make that tough decision to put him down. I think it helped take away some of the guilt she had. She had worried it was something she had done wrong. The vet gave Oliver a steroid shot for the pain that he believed Oliver to be in and warned my sister that it may seem like Oliver is improving, and may be a bit like his old self, but that it won’t last and that it’s just because of the shot.
Yesterday we spent most of the time in the backyard, letting Newbie and Oliver run around. Newbie usually just follows Oliver around while Oliver paces around in his wide circles and it tuckers him out. Yesterday Oliver actually chased Newbie a little bit! As long as Newbie kept his turns wide, Oliver would follow him around and it just made me tear up because I could tell that he did feel better. When Newbie would make his sharp turns Oliver would just keep on going though until Newbie came back to him for more. Oliver was looking at us more; he hadn’t made eye contact in a long time so that was also an improvement. The whole time he was there the only rest he took was a twenty minute head rest on my boyfriend. While he did this (he just stands and sets his head on your lap and drools and rests), when we would say his name and pet his head…his tail would wag quickly, then stop, then wag again. I can’t pretend I didn’t cry.
I know it’s for the best, but it’s so hard to say goodbye. My sister gave all of his stuff to me last night so she doesn’t have to come home to it after he’s gone. I wish I could help her more and take away some of her pain, but I can’t. I’m just so glad that Oliver was there for my sister through her rough times and helped get her back to a stable happy healthy person before he had to go. We all owe Oliver a lot. And we will miss him terribly.