It was 2002 and Tristian was in High School preparing for Homecoming. It was a Sunday morning and she was anxious to get to the mall and find the perfect dress. We arrived at the mall before the stores opened that morning and while wasting time walking around we somehow ended up in front of the pet store looking at the puppies in the window. We had done this countless times before but somehow Tristian and I were drawn to one little dachshund puppy in particular. The puppy was such a cute little thing there in the cage and before I knew it Tristian had convinced me to go into the pet store once they opened just to have a closer look and see the all the cute puppies. There she was, with her big brown eyes. I had no idea she had already decided we were the family for her. We took our turn playing with her, watching her romp around in the play area but I finally reminded Tristian we were here at the mall for a reason…a dress! Amazingly, she quickly found a great dress which was reasonably priced and I found myself back a the pet store trying to convince Tristian why we didn’t need a dog. Heaven knows, I wasn’t looking for a dog yet; although it had been 14 years since Samantha had died, I had not really considered it was time for another dachshund. There was a family with several children playing with her and discussing if they should buy her. They were going on and on about how much she reminded them of one of their other dogs which was no longer a puppy and was now living outside with the other family dogs. I didn’t really understand the whole puppy mill issue at that time and Tristian and I were both convinced that this little girl was about to be yet another victim of this family’s cycle of succumbing to puppy cuteness, only to discard her to the back yard once she was no longer a puppy. It was at that point that I found myself walking to our car with a 3 month old precious little puppy garnishing a pink bow around her neck.
I had named her Sasha before we even got her home. There was never a question in my mind that she should have any other name and everyone seemed to approve. From that day forward, she took over our hearts and became the center of our world. It may have been the age of my children when we got Sasha that caused me to bond with her so deeply. Doug was out of school by then and Tristian was just starting the path to becoming a young adult so while they balanced school, jobs and friends, most of my free time was devoted to Sasha.
We didn’t realize it at the time but with the different schedules in our lives, Sasha was never alone. Someone was always at the house or when we went somewhere, she went with us. She always stayed close to us and never even showed interest to wander off. She never chased other dogs or cats and never had a care in the world.
From a health perspective she never had any real issues other than her weight. As is typical with dachshunds, she had a tendency to pack on the pounds and at one time was quite the little porker. My career path with my employer landed me in role which put me working out of a home office and by the time we relocated to Washington in 2006, Sasha was 4 years old. She had really good teeth and she didn’t have any back issues before her illness. Just prior to moving to Washington, she got a scratch on her eye that required a daily application of ointment. Once we moved the scratch still didn’t seem to heal so we were referred to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist. Who knew they even had such? She was diagnosed with severe dry eye and it was determined she had little to no natural tear production so the use of “natural tears” eye drops became routine.
After the relo, life rolled along uneventful until early spring of 2008 when I noticed some tiny sores on the tips of Sasha’s ears. I really didn’t think much about it at the time, assuming they were due to dry skin and irritation from the tall grass or such. About two weeks later the irritation remained and since her annual check up reminder came in the mail I made the appointment with her vet. A diagnosis was given as Ear Margin Dermatosis and steroids were prescribed. Three days into the steroid treatment I was concerned that Sasha was not sleeping or breathing right and took her in to have her checked out. I was told it was typical with steroid treatment and to take her home and watch her. The next day she was not acting like herself and her breathing was much more labored so back to the ER we went. A diagnosis of pneumonia was made and we were sent home with antibiotics. That night after her condition worsened we were back in the ER to be faced with diagnosis of fluid build up around the heart and she would have to stay the night for treatment. We left her there and didn’t sleep much that night before getting a call from the hospital in the morning that we should come up and discuss her condition.
Sasha did not have pneumonia or fluid around her heart. She had a Pulmonary Embolism which is a blood clot in her lungs. It was a shock to hear how severe things were when only a few days earlier our world was very mundane. Now faced with a tough decision, my daughter and I tried to follow along with the doctor as he laid out our alternatives. We were told that there was a slim chance of success using a drug called TPA which was a human drug that would have to be obtained from the local medical center. We were told that while TPA was an option, it was costly therefore euthanasia was typical in these cases. Our first question was of Sasha’s perspective, was there hope or was she suffering, was this inhumane for us to treat her? After hearing that she seemed to be giving a strong fight to live, there was no question. The clinic made the arrangements for us to pick up the drug and bring it back to the vet hospital. Two days after treatment Sasha started showing signs of improvement and 6 very long days after we though we had lost her, she miraculously came home from the hospital. Her doctor said that he was amazed at what we were willing to do for her and was happy to be part of the outcome he doesn’t often get to experience.
The next eleven months were spent trying to determine what was causing her health issues. Her ears continued to be a problem and she began losing bits, even chunks from the tips. There were many diagnosis’s to come, many medications and many specialists. Sasha had more doctors than you can imagine and she was a trooper through it all. She was almost started on medicine for Cushings but I was not convinced of the diagnosis soi refused to give it to her and a second opinion with an internal medicine specialist and a second round of tests after the steroids were gone from her system showed it wasn’t Cushings after all.
There were many scares and even some late night trips to the ER, not to mention that we became regulars with her new vet, Dr Kim Rice (affectionately nicknamed Dr Nice by my son). What a wonderful vet, never giving up trying to help identify what treatment might prove beneficial, working with a network of specialists. She was ultimately diagnosed with an auto-immune illness but what type remained unknown so she remained on aspirin therapy to guard against further clots. Attempts with different types of steroids were unsuccessful as Sasha seemed not to tolerate any of them with out negative side effects. Her respiratory rate remained high months after the clot and seemed to be the most problematic any time she was introduced to new drugs. Since auto-immune diseases are treated with steroids we were faced with limited options.
She was seeing a dermatologist for the ears, a cardiologist for what appeared on x-rays to be an enlarged heart but proved to be a false alarm. She was also seeing a chiropractor for her back which was beginning to be a concern and she was getting acupuncture which also seemed help. After her treatments, she would have about three weeks of being her bouncy self.
On April 9, 2009, Sasha decided her time here with us was done and she left our world. I’m still dealing with some guilt over not taking her to the ER that night but in my heart I know now that it was time for her to go. She had a rough night, as she had many before and I had spent the entire night laying with her, petting her and singing to her. Ironically we had an appointment that morning with a new dermatologist so although I debated all night taking her into the ER, I opted to wait and discuss with Dr Rice in the morning which was fast approaching. I remember in the early hours of morning, with the stillness of night lingering, hearing the birds announcing the sunny day it would prove to be. When morning came and I talked to Dr Rice, we decided I should continue to the appointment as planned. Unfortunately, by the time we were at his office, Sasha’s condition had deteriorated to the point that we left to go to a nearby animal ER. She didn’t make it there, instead she took her last breaths in my arms en route. Devastated, we turned around and headed home to Dr Rice where we left her body to be cremated.
It took me a year after losing Sasha to put these words into print. Tears of pain have now turned to bittersweet tears associated with happy memories. If ever there was a tender soul, it was Sasha and we were blessed with having her come into our lives and be part of our family! I miss her terribly and think about her constantly. She has become a permanent fixture in our lives, a marker of time if you will; before Sasha’s illness, before Sasha died, after Sasha died… A bit sad maybe to outsiders but oddly comforting to us. I find peace knowing she is in Heaven and I will see her again.
For now Sasha now remains in our hearts and I offer the following quote in her memory from William Wadsworth’s Intimations of Inmortality:
“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind”
Tristian and I are working on a scrapbook of Sasha’s life and I’m sure I’ll make some of it available here to share with the world, the memories of this sweet precious soul. You will also find mentions and pictures of her sprinkled thoughout the pages of this site as her memory is still very much a part of our everyday lives.