Emma’s Epilogue

Emma’s Epilogue

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How quickly things can change, it was just over a week earlier we had Emma at the ‘Super Seven’ reunion with her pups and I thought she was fine. I could not have been a happier person seeing Emma & her now grown & gregarious babies play and frolic throughout the day.

Charlotte & Clydine owners of Grace and Snowy had mentioned that Emma looked very thin but I thought nothing of it. 
And in retrospect I remembered now taking Emma on her rollerblade around the subdivision before the party she was especially slow, again I missed it, She was exhausted around her puppies all day something I simply chalked up to her being happily worn out from all the excitement. It is so sad that our best friends can’t talk to us with words and verbally tell us how they’re feeling, tell us they are sick, but it breaks me up to realize Emma was telling me, I just didn’t pick up on her cues.

A week or so after Emma’s party Leanne had noticed that Emma was ‘off ‘and after some preliminary tests apparently Emma was going through renal failure. I was initially very optimistic that Emma was going to make it through this incident. I had hoped that maybe she had just ate something that simply disagreed with her or maybe the vet made a mistake. Though I was not sure how but I thought we’d be able to navigate through this and make it work.

Christie and I prepared for Emma’s arrival as we cleaned out an old dog crate we had stored in the shed. And it worked very well for her time left it served as Emma’s sanctuary as she would sleep in our room with us at night when she wasn’t at the clinic for her remaining days.

At 14 it was our female Alaskan Malamute Chloe’s dominance that kept Emma safely fostered at Canadian Canine Training having weekly play days with us. Chloe has had a mass on her heart for years now, and she can only occasionally make the journey up the stairs to our bedroom. Chloe was supposed to precede Emma (Mac too for that matter who used to run circles around her taunting her) to what we in petdom so commonly refer to as The Rainbow Bridge. The animal after life bridge that our best friends cross over to where they are free to run and play in their young healthy form until we join them.

It was always such a struggle on one hand Chloe deserved to be pampered in her sunset years and Emma having been through so much also deserved to have a safe happy home. I loved them both and it bit me even more that like an unrequited love Emma and I will never be as I had imagined, living together, her our family dog and us her people for the next ten years or so after Chloe moved on. I thought that I would have plenty of time to make it up to Emma. It appeared as though my initial vision of having Emma be our family dog after Chloe leaves would never transpire.

Never in any scenario would I ever have imagined my wildest dreams that Chloe would outlive all of our dogs Mac, my 12-year-old Alaskan malamute who in a sad ironic twist also passed away from kidney failure as well in April, on my birthday. Or the survivor, Emma.

Though It would l be tricky to navigate Chloe co-habitating peacefully with Emma during Emma’s illness we decided however long Emma was going to be with us, she would spend the rest of her days in our home.

Chloe was kept downstairs and Emma would be separated sleeping upstairs, as she would do most of the day. Chloe is now deaf as a stone so I was able to tip toe past her snoring in her spot at the front door on most days. I must say however that through this entire episode Chloe, the epitome of an Alpha Alaskan Malamute female has been absolutely and uncharacteristically well behaved. Especially knowing that there was another female in the house. It is almost as if she sensed that Emma would not be with us for long.

It is hard to come to terms with the fact that with Mac gone, Emma was not doing well and Chloe 14 we could plausibly lose all three dogs in 2014.

I was in utter disbelief that this happened to Emma a 5 or a 6-year-old dog. As sick as Emma was whenever she saw me however lethargic as she was there was still the faint thump of her tail against the floor however ever so softer than usual, but she was still so glad to see me. It is with this that I still had a glimmer of hope that we could save her. Christie predicted the three different options depended on how she responded to her intravenous fluid intake (she was overnight at the emergency clinic that night) and over the next couple days. The three scenarios were as follows
1. Her levels improved and it was an acute episode (i.e. she got into something) her levels continued to improve and we could have her as we had planned, another 10 or so years together.
2.The levels improved only slightly and we would manage her for as long as we could that may be a few months, or even years
3. If the levels didn’t significantly change after three days of treatment Christie predicted we’d be lucky to get her to the weekend.

I had such a heavy heart. The last option is was what happened. Emma was initially getting treatments at the clinic, but unfortunately after three days of virtually non-stop around the clock IV Emma’s kidney levels did not significantly improve.

Being in the clinic brought back so many memories of losing Mac in that very same clinic only 5 months earlier. In one of life’s crazy ironies as we were in the vet’s examination room and I was still numb as the vet expressed the very real prospect of having to put Emma down if things didn’t drastically improve in the next couple days.

While my head was still spinning from this revelation a colleague of Christie’s called us as we sat in the examination room and his vet was on the way to put his dog down. His old greying black lab ‘Raya’ her usual happy self, had her back end give out and she was lying in her own mess unable to move and this after years of Christie adjusting her it was so sad her mind & spirit was willing but her body her back end specifically had failed her.

So here I was on the phone trying to console our friend beginning to choke up at not only having the very real prospect of putting Emma down but also remembering what it was like last time I was in that very room with Mac when he took his last breath and we had to release him. I was remembering snuggling up to Mac as he closed his eyes and drifted off into whatever awaits dogs.

I was listening to our friend as he told us he was having second thoughts of whether he had made the right decision to call the veterinarian to come to his home. We shared the universal agony that unites all animal owners having to make that heart wrenching decision. I am sad to say that I was so wrapped up in our own dilemma that I had totally forgotten about our call from our friend until later that evening.

After all day at Anne’s clinic we decided on taking Emma to a 24 -hour emergency clinic for around the clock care and a ‘Hail Mary’ hope for an alternative diagnosis. We took Emma the emergency clinic for overnight fluids and pain relief. I was with my wife in an antiseptic veterinarian examination room sitting on the floor next to Emma stroking her soft white fragile head, Emma lying next to me tubes coming out of her. We hoped beyond hope that we could get her turned around in a couple days but our vet Ann warned that it didn’t look good. The emergency vet seemed more optimistic about Emma’s prognosis. Perhaps it was that this younger vet didn’t have Anne’s experience. We trust Anne yet still felt better knowing that we were exercising all options for Emma and I liked the optimism the emergency vet offered. If nothing else it made me feel better at that moment.

After a night at Emergency there was not a huge improvement so we took Emma back to Anne’s for 12 more hours of care. By the end of that day there was still not much improvement. We decided at home we would continue on with giving Emma care and managing her quality of life with subcutaneous fluids, rest and diet along with a high dose of TLC. We felt though at the end keeping Emma in over night may have extended her life a couple of days but with little improvement I just felt better having her with me comfortable as I could it was important to keep her at home instead of in a cage in a vet clinic away from us for another night

But we would still get these little bright spots when Emma would eat a bit and her tail would still thump thump thump against the floor every time she saw me or I came into the room. I hung on the fact that the girls at Anne’s clinic had also said she seemed much brighter that last day.

I posted some things on social media and the outpouring of love and support for our little Afghan Mama dog was really heart warming and gave us a lot of relief, We received so much positive energy and so many well wishes for our little war dog. When you are feeling so desperate and helpless any sort of respite from the constant sadness was welcomed. Emma who was lying beside me as I posted, really demonstrated how much a little street dog, her story, and her puppies have touched so many people.

Christie and I would go through this entire routine in the morning of feeding Chloe and making sure she did her business and then we did the same with Emma always keeping them separated. As one of us would have a little bit of a sleep in the other Christie or I, would be up way before dawn going through this routine of getting one dog sequestered taking another dog out to pee and feeding them both. Emma would not eat most mornings and wasn’t interested in any raw food or even pieces of hand fed kibble, but we had to keep her peeing. I had been thinking nonstop about Emma and that we would do what we can for this poor little street dog from the streets of Kabul. It seems to me when animals stop eating it is not a good sign.

Christie cried in the hot tub one morning in the darkness watching Emma curl up in a little ball in the back yard not lifting her head, as obviously she was not feeling well. I was driving home after yoga later that autumn day, the leaves falling gingerly from the trees yellow and crisp. I got some ground beef to feed Emma who had not been eating. When I first went into hot yoga I was really sad and depressed about her but leaving I had lightness in my chest saying that even though I can sense her slipping away from us at least she is with Christie and I surrounded by love and we will make her as comfortable as possible for her to slip into the deepest of all sleeps. I felt very grateful to have this time that I can spend my time with Emma. As I plotted out vet visits to see how much relief we can give her.

Emma by now had taken a real turn for the worse, she wouldn’t eat, she could barely lift her head and even when I hugged and kissed her she often wouldn’t even open her eyes. It didn’t feel like we’d have much time left with her, so we did whatever we could to keep her as comfortable and happy as possible.

I spent time revisiting the little victories and so much happiness as once Emma perked right up as Christie brought in some nice warm cooked ground beef. Emma began to nibble the meat from Christie’s hands & we happily brought three bowls into her until she no longer expressed interest in the morsels. This made me so very unbelievably happy and I thought if nothing else Emma is surrounded by love, sleeping, now with a nicely full tummy. I rest assured that I know as I do with everything in my life that I did the best that I could and I tried as hard as I could until the very end even with the mistakes. I made my mistakes100% trying to do what was best for my friend. So I have no regrets in that sense

We took Emma in to see another veterinarian. Leanne’s vet, a younger second-generation veterinarian to see if he could perhaps offer something the other vets had missed. His clinic still got the same results nonetheless and despite all this care and fluids Emma’s levels we’re getting worse on all fronts. After this he admitted that it didn’t look good but suggested maybe one more night of around the clock fluids. I would go to the end of the Earth for this girl so we did just that and took Emma to another 24-hour emergency clinic.

I woke up in the darkness up at three that morning and sat thinking about Emma and I wanted to drive to the emergency clinic and get her even at that early hour but I knew she just be sleeping and it be best if she could get the fluids for as long as possible even though in my heart I felt that today was going to be the day we would have to let her go, I just sensed it. So I got up did some exercises sat in the hot tub in the darkness thinking about Emma and I kept myself busy until what was an appropriate time in the morning to go and get her. I drove to the emergency clinic like a school boy on a date I was actually getting butterflies I was so excited to see my love Emma. When I arrived there was a little disorganization with the changing of the shift and admittedly I had arrived much earlier than they had anticipated.

I weaved in and out of feeling controlled and composed thinking ‘I can do this’ to having waves of emotion wash over me and I started to choke up my eyes squinting warmth nearly over flowing with moisture. With Mac for days after he left I’d break out in fits of uncontrollable bawling, I mean snot running down my nose, inaudible sounds, slobbering out of my mouth like I was a maniac and Christie held me through it all. With Emma it was almost like being punched in the stomach or like a flu a profound sadness that left me feeling hollow and nauseous.

As I sat waiting through the morning for them to get the blood work wrapped up on Emma for periods of time I would go through waves. I would feel relieved and happy that I felt we’re going to be releasing Emma out of her misery soon but then I would almost immediately be struck with such a sense of nostalgia thinking back to the times we had together in Afghanistan and here in Canada, and also about all the times we would now never have. And that it was all too short.

It was hard to believe that this beautiful little creature I met on the streets of Kabul Afghanistan was probably going to end so soon and like this. I mean I guess it always does eventually and we know this going in, as dog owners. I just never thought it would be this soon. One of the things with pets is how they prepare you for life. We never really know how much time we have.
It breaks my heart so much that my best little white friend from Kabul who happily followed me everywhere in that war torn city will never be able to live here in our home with us and be our family dog.

I remembered back to 2010 Emma would be waiting for me in Kabul in an alcove somewhere, a doorway or under a parked car in the sandy dirt and when she saw me she would run over to me her entire body wiggling with happiness. Or the time she found her puppies and I behind a cement wall in the streets of Kabul after I had gotten her pups vaccinated.

Another veterinarian came in the sixth one that had cared for Emma during what ended up being about a week including an ultra sound that gave us her official diagnosis cystic kidney failure. This vet a younger girl was also empathetic and stated that she wouldn’t wait for more than a day and offered that final alternative. I refused and wanted some home time with Emma, allowing everyone to say their proper and final goodbyes and I wanted Anne to be the one to put Emma to rest

In a painful ironic twist Emma suffered from the exact same thing that took Mac only five months earlier. Emma’s BUN or kidney function levels were 6 or 700 at the end and Mac’s levels were 1600. I had hope for Emma although her BUN levels measuring kidney function were slightly worse than Mac’s were initially we did get another 6 months out of the little guy before his eventual decline so hopefully I thought we could get Emma some more quality life here in Canada. Mac our poor little guy didn’t eat for 6 days during one stretch and couldn’t even lift his head yet recovered for a few months at one point. Emma so strong in her demeanor has never showed the discomfort that Mac, who was an open book with his pain, did. It broke my heart but it reinforced that we did the right thing in releasing Mac even though after a day of fluids he was so happy and his tail was even shaking like a pair of maracas like it used to do when he was really happy.

It was somewhat different in the ways that Mac and Emma left. With Emma we had a great morning. I have the memory of with Mac and how perfect it was when he went under, he simply just drifted off to sleep. It was so peaceful and so perfect. Yet with Mac we were unable to spend the day with him as he was getting treatment in the clinic. When we put Mac down I had this release of this absolute uncontrollable guttural animalistic wail that originated deep with in the pit of my being that I simply couldn’t contain. I was in such a state I left through a side door so no one would see what an embarrassing mess I was

Leanne came over for a short time and said her goodbyes to Emma. Having Emma at the emergency clinic overnight allowed us to focus on a terrific morning in which Emma was lightly sedated and out of any sort of discomfort. Leanne and Canadian Canine provided Emma years of a warm safe shelter, having never to worry about going hungry. She had food in her belly every day and was always surrounded by other dogs to socialize and play with and many people to interact with. I am very grateful to Leanne for providing Emma with those things.

As Emma lay sleeping on our bed I stroked her face and kissed her. I wanted to remember every single aspect of her and all the idiosyncrasies of her being. Her stubby little ears removed by people or frozen off, who will actually know for certain except it was painful to think that she went through that and yet sweet to see her ears and surrounding white hair longer than her ears twitch, move and alter following our voices or any noises. The ever so faint discolouration on the top of her cropped tail that could wag in circles like a little helicopter when she was excited. We loved her mostly pink nose so wet around the outer edges. We laid a blanket over her to keep her warm and her petite little frame ribs now violently protruding up and down with each breath. She almost disappeared under the blanket. I will miss those dark soulful eyes and that thin black line of a scar that ran vertically over the right socket. It always hurt my heart to think of how that happened and how much it must have hurt and how scared she must have been. We rubbed the bristles on her pink belly freshly shaven from having an ultrasound earlier that week that once nursed those nine puppies in a gutter in Kabul.

Before we took Emma on her final journey that last morning she was relaxed and after lying almost comatose under the influence of pain relief for hours on our bed it was beautiful, as she lay on our bed with soft nature sounds and music gently flowing in the background. We took the entire morning to smother her with love, kisses, snuggle, pet, cuddle, console and tell Emma how much that we loved her and that we’re going to miss her, that it was okay for her ‘to go’ and hopefully we would meet again someday. Then when it was time to go for that final car ride and she hopped up and walked downstairs as I slipped her leash around her neck after we had memories of that whole wonderful morning together. Who knows what happens to beasts or man for that matter after they die but if there is an afterlife I can only hope that I can spend it with her, Mac, Keena & all of our friends human and animal alike.

As we got out of the truck to go into Anne’s clinic Emma really gave me second thoughts. With what must have been a boost of adrenaline all of the sudden she gives a full body shake her tail was held high and she was suddenly pulling on the lead like the brat she could be at times, sniffing and marking at different spots in the grass and she seemed is healthy happy and normal as I’ve ever seen her. Yet a day earlier I was considering putting her down right in the vet office as I watched her eyes roll into her head her body quivering and ever so slightly whimpering under her breath. Even with these second thoughts the fact that I knew Emma would never recover I thought at least she felt happy again on her final day

Emma never even flinched as the vet tech slipped the needle delicately into her vein for the catheter. Other vet techs and even the clinic manager came in to say their goodbyes to her. Her story really seemed so special to everybody. Then when we had said our last ‘I love you’s’ for the last time as Anne came in the room, Emma didn’t even lift her head. Anne attached the syringe to the catheter and slowly pressed a large plastic plunger filled with what appeared to be a clear gel into her relaxed body

As I lay next to Emma my arms wrapped around her little body she was very relaxed on the floor and about halfway through the plunger her head jerked and tilted upright she coughed, gasped and gagged for about a half a second before a sigh and release as her head slowly relaxed down to the ground and I realized that she was now gone forever. My Adam’s Apple hurt so badly and I felt as though it would burst through the front of my throat as tears streamed down my face. My face began to twitch spastically in a way that I couldn’t control. My facial muscles contorting up and I had that all-too-familiar big lump in my throat as I tried to choke back the warm water that was flowing from my eyes.

I just never dreamed in a million years it would end so soon with Emma. I thought this just isn’t fair this was never the way our Disney happily ever after story that seemed so real just a week ago was supposed to end.

Anne slowly finished that plunger and gave Emma another one for good measure that made me feel better. As rare as I am sure it is I remember hearing a horror story of the dog waking up after it has been supposedly euthanized and that thought has always terrified me.

After releasing Emma from her agony a thought came into my mind when will Canada become intelligent enough to do this for each other, what we do for our best friends. When there’s no hope to save the suffering like with Emma we had a good last day and I felt it my duty to see this rescue through to the ultimate end however painful. I felt it was also my duty to rescue her from her final pain and suffering of kidney failure. With her head cradled next to mine I still feel it really was the best thing to do. Memories of Christies dog Keena who passed before we could get her to the clinic exercised any doubts of hanging on to long, it was devastating watching Keena wheeze for her breath neck hanging limp as we raced to the emergency clinic expiring in the parking lot.

Imagining what Emma would’ve been like with our coming baby and how great of a family pet she would have been going for walks in the park in the autumn leaves a toddler marching along with us Emma being able to dodge between us in and out of the river. But alas none of this is ever could be.

On one hand Emma had a great life at Canadian Canine, dogs and dog-loving people every single day surrounded her. I think back to all those times that I felt so guilty about not seeing Emma for a week or two before I would be able to take her. One of my biggest regrets was that outside of this past week Emma never got to experience a lifetime with us as a healthy dog in our happy home.
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Driving home from the vet clinic I was in a haze of disbelief, and I felt sick to my stomach. I just thought of Emma’s end, and unrealized love. Christine I talked about all of the plans that we had for Emma things that would never come to pass. Going to the mountains with her, I had visions of taking her on speaking tours for the book with me, for speaking engagements or even going on stage as we won an Academy Award for a movie about her heroic journey, she would’ve been such an advocate for dog rescue everywhere. I had these visions of all of these times and it was always with Emma.

One of the hardest things about losing an animal is coming home. Besides such an empty and hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach is finding the little mementos of them; their collar, their leash, a tuff a hair, an empty water bowl, or empty food dish. The tiny bed that she was curling up in. Later that morning I was in a spare bedroom Emma found so comfortable and I lost my breath feeling sick to my stomach and had to sit down at the thought of just a few hours earlier Emma was in here laying down sleeping and now we’ll never see her again.

Paralyzed from our sadness as we got home Christie and I took Chloe for a short walk. Emma’s death really made us appreciate every single step with Chloe how she stumbled on our walk and fell flat on her belly, a few times, yet she still happy, strong willed, bright eyed and for a 14 year old unbelievably vibrant.
Both Christie and I were so happy to enjoy some levity through Chloe today. It was so refreshing to literally laugh out loud at Chloe the entire walk with every step that she took. Chloe was trying to call because she has lost her voice only a rasp barely audible whisper is emitted. Her lumbering run, or her tripping over her own feet but it’s so good to see her still so full of life and fun. And moreover with us it’s really nice to appreciate these things instead of just going on autopilot and looking at every step Chloe took and marvelling at how lucky we are to have Chloe with us. Walking with Christie just taking in every minute with Chloe thinking there will come a day when we give anything to have this moment back I think if I could rewind any moment to have with Mac again or Emma, or Keena (Christie’s dog) I’d give almost anything just to have something like a simple walk a few mere moments with them. I guess we just got a reminder with Emma’s passing today to soak in every minute and every second with those that you love because it really is over in an instant
As completely exhausted as I am I still have so many intense emotions bottled up in me over the past week whether it was just from this little girl who shared the experience of Afghanistan with me, to everything the overwhelming emotions of bringing them over to Canada, training them and getting all the dogs in the best adoptive homes or just the joy that Emma brought me when we got to visit her on a weekly basis.
Even though Emma was being fostered so she did not initially live with us Life is still so lonely here without her. And when I think about the fact that I will never see Emma again there is a palpable ache in my chest. She was always like a warm blanket I knew that she was always there a short five minute drive away and how much I used to look forward to pulling up and seeing her whole body wag through the window of Canadian Canines glass door. I would be so excited having Emma for the afternoon, we would roller blade, go for walks, she would take off on us, in the forest or she would lay on the floor and every time she saw me she’d hit her tail repeatedly on the floor. It is so hard for me to come to terms with that she’s not here anymore as it was always in the plan to have her be our dog and I was so looking forward to that. It was really the one thing that was saving me from the looming devastation of when we eventually lose Chloe.
So much of this event teaches us about life in so many ways, how we had Emma’s life all planned out, it is important to enjoy & savior each minute with your loved ones. Two weeks ago I was so happy the girls were all together in great homes.

It seemed like another world, another life. I couldn’t believe how bravely this little street dog freshly swollen from a recent litter of puppies followed me everywhere through the streets of Kabul in 2010. In a testament to the beauty of dogs I personally saw so many people be so mean to her, hit her with sticks, rocks and yet she loved man anyway.
Emma constantly amazed me, she was always the most loving, loyal, and friend and Mother anyone could ever ask for. I will never forget how unbelievably happy I was when she arrived in Canada. Emma touched me and by the amount of responses, the world in ways I will be forever grateful for. May your spirit soar free little one for now our story has ended.
I am so grateful to everyone who has given Emma so much love & attention through your hopes, thoughts, words and prayers since she has been in Canada and throughout her final days. May Emma’s spirit always remain with us