// Please understand that this post includes pictures that people may not like viewing. For us, seeing Piri lifeless is difficult but it is our Piri. And as difficult it is seeing him this way, it doesn't turn us off or make us feel grossed out. Apologies beforehand to anyone who may feel uncomfortable. For me, I think more than seeing Piri lifeless, seeing him lifeless with his eyes open was traumatizing. I confided in Yangkyu that I felt terrible that I was feeling scared seeing him that way because it was our Piri.. I am still trying to cope with this. This is a long post and I don't expect anyone to read it.. It's just a way for me to heal by writing out my thoughts... Thank you for all your love and support.
I've been writing on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter - here and there, just letting out my thoughts and feelings as they come. Writing has always been the most comforting way for me to grieve.
But it still hurts terribly.
Last night was the first night I slept in my own bed in a long time. I have been sleeping downstairs with Piri for some time now, sometimes with guest dogs, too. Sometimes it's just a small crew and other times the entire gang, including Yangkyu.
Being in my own bed after all this time felt empty.
For the past two nights I woke up automatically at 2:30 am. There was no prompt or no dog walking around to be let out. I think my body was just used to waking up at that hour because Piri had always gotten up to be let out then.
The last of our guest dogs, Tiboo, who is a 9 year old Westie with diabetes and nearly blind (just sees shadows now) is here and he slept in Piri's bed last night. I didn't realize it before but Tiboo reminds me a lot of Piri - his mannerisms, the way he positions himself in the bed, the way he looks at the camera (or not), the way he asks to be let up on the sofa. All the guest dogs who were here on the day that Piri passed and after have been huge comforts in their own ways, and Tiboo offers in a way that probably only senior dogs can.
Tiboo actually was dropped off just hours after we said bye to Piri. I was grieving and crying over our loss but I was controlling my tears because I didn't want to look like a disaster when Tiboo came and worry his mom in the process. I asked Yangkyu, "Does it look like I cried? Do you think it can pass for allergies?"
Tiboo's mom came at 10 am and I smiled and hoped that she didn't suspect anything. It all went well until she asked how Piri was doing. As soon as I heard his name I broke down. I let her know then that we had just said our final good bye to him a few hours ago. What made me keep composure was when I saw her shed tears. It's only Tiboo's second time at Piri's Place but for someone to be able to relate to this kind of pain and loss immediately and have empathy was so touching and comforting.
The first 24 hours after Piri left us, it was surreal. At 6:30 pm on October 14th, I started to relive everything that happened the day before. It was just as painful...
6:30 pm -- Piri ate a full meal including half of a boiled sweet potato. Afterwards he normally wipes his face along the sides of the sofa, but this time his ears perked up and he looked at me with those big round eyes I will never forget, a sign asking me he wants to be let up on the sofa. I did and he wiped his face there. So alive. So vibrant. So normal. I looked back at this moment and thanked Piri for eating what I made him (boiled beef patty with vegetables) and boiled sweet potato as his last meal, and that it wasn't Cesar or anything else.
7:00 pm -- Piri took the last of his herbal supplements.
7:30 pm -- I see Piri is violently shaking and his legs are stiff. We try to make him comfortable on his bed but decide that it is not the time to ride it out.
8:00 pm -- We get in the car - Piri in the front seat and me in the backseat with Nala and Leo, our guest dogs, and head over to the Hope Center. We contemplate on whether we should go to South Paws instead because we haven't been all that happy with the Hope Center, but decide that it's the safest option since they have his past records there.
8:30 pm -- Yangkyu stays in the car with Nala and Leo while I go inside with Piri. I am worried and shaking but really in my mind, I am certain that he will get over this, just like all the other times. Because... he has always been my comeback kid.
9:00 pm -- Our check in is delayed because a couple before me is being incredibly picky and difficult, which I understand but at the moment it is slightly irritating me because my own dog needs to be checked in and be seen. The receptionist apologizes for the delay and I feel for her and let her know that it's ok. Piri has stopped shaking violently but is still lethargic.
9:30 pm -- Piri is finally taken back to be seen by a doctor and I am placed inside a private room. And I wait... and wait and wait...
10:20 pm -- The doctor finally comes and asks me things I already went over with the receptionist orally and in written forms but I don't mind telling her again. I would rather relay it over myself instead of having the doctor rely on messages relayed by a third person or with something she read. I also know that when I talk I think of things that I might have forgotten the first time around. Like, coughing. I remember when she asked about coughing at first I said, he normally has a hacking cough but I paused and realized that today he was coughing a bit more than usual. Yes, he was coughing a bit more than usual... I also let her know that the shaking is reminiscent of when he had UTI but the labored breathing is different. At first I thought maybe he has UTI again, but the breathing tells me otherwise. The doctor writes all this in her notes.
I dread what she is going to say - we don't know what is wrong and would need to run tests. She said she already drew blood for testing and did an ultrasound. I ask for a urine test to be done as well. I'll have to wait another hour for the results to come back. She asks me if I would like to wait with Piri in the room. I ask her if he is resting comfortably where he is and she says yes. I tell her then I don't want to bother him and tell her to just let him be and rest. One of the many decisions I would end up regretting throughout the night and on to the next day. I go back inside the car and wait with Yangkyu and Nala and Leo.
11:20 pm -- I go back inside the hospital and the doctor comes back with blood test results shortly after. I had brought Piri's fine needle aspirate results and last blood work which was done on September 21 at the holistic vet's office with me so that the ER doctor could have a reference point.
She tells me Piri's red blood cell count has decreased yet again but says she is not alarmed because Piri has a history of being anemic. His BUN has risen but his creatinine level has decreased. His Amylase level has risen slightly again but other than that his blood work looks pretty ok. Urine test also revealed that he has some bacteria but it wasn't life threatening or anything serious. Nothing conclusive from these tests. So she suggests that they do an x-ray because he has labored breathing and that would mean that something is going on in his lungs. I agree. I let her know that I am slightly concerned about the bacteria in the urine and she suggests a urine culture. When I tilt my head at the suggestion of her urine culture she quickly reads my body language and says - one thing at a time. Let's do the x-ray first and see what it reveals. It'll take 15 minutes.
I text Yangkyu to let him know.
11:50 pm -- The doctor comes out of the double doors and says, "We know what is wrong with him." She sits down next to me and says, "He has pneumonia. That would explain his labored breathing and why you noticed that he was coughing more than usual today." I'm shocked.
She continues and lets me know that it is likely he doesn't have the bacterial kind but aspiration - something he possibly inhaled. I am even more confused. Where? New York? Key West? Where? How?
Then she said that it is best for Piri to be hospitalized. She is careful when she says this because she knows I don't want to keep him overnight at the hospital.
I ask her what the benefits of him staying overnight in the hospital will be and she lets me know that he will get round the clock care and monitoring, IV fluids and antibiotics injected in him. I am now on the fence about hospitalizing him but know Yangkyu is against it 100%.
I think about it more and said that I would like to take him home. She tells me that I need to encourage him to walk around. Coughing is good. She also says that a recheck in 7 days is mandatory. I tell her that if he doesn't get better by the morning or even in a few hours then we will be back and will hospitalize him. She says she will give him metronidazole and sub q fluids but I decline saying I don't want him on anti-diarrhea medication and that we will give him sub-q fluids as soon as we get home.
We are given 7 days worth of zeniquin, an antibiotic, and instructions on nebulization.
I wait in the waiting room, sign the discharge papers, pay and wait for Piri to come out through those double doors.
A vet tech carries him out. He looks worse than when we brought him in. His neck is stiff, his face looks like he's been through a harrowing ordeal. They put him in my arms and I am worried and slightly regretting not hospitalizing him (why didn't they tell me he looked like this? Why didn't they tell me he was doing really badly?) but think that it is perhaps the best that he is home, in the comforts of his own bed. I still think, we got this, Piri. We got this. Let's go home.
We go back to the car and Yangkyu is shocked by the state that Piri is in. He asks what happened to him in there but I just ask him to get home as quickly as possible.
1:30 am -- We get Nala and Leo inside and Piri comfortably in his bed in the living room. He still has labored breathing and is shaking slightly. I am still confident that he will pull through the night.
The first thing we do is give him his fluids.
We picked up McDonald's, Cesar wet food - junk foods for sure - but we needed to get him to eat a little something so that he can take his first antibiotic dosage. I prepare everything and have Piri take a whiff of a chicken nugget. Then Cesar. He doesn't want anything.
I wait a while and see that he is moving his mouth like he is lapping water. I ask Yangkyu to get me some water in his bowl with a dropper. I drop some water in his mouth and he takes it. I then ask Yangkyu to bring me the mortar and pestle so I can crush the antibiotic and mix it with water and give it to him that way. My goal was to just get a bit into his system so that he would start to feel better so that the next day he will be ready for his first nebulization, meal and antibiotic. I would later regret not doing the nebulization as soon as we got home.
Piri drinks the water mixed with the crushed zeniquin. But he doesn't drink the whole thing. He stops. That's ok. Some still made it inside his system.
A few moments later I see that his labored breathing is a normal one. His shaking has stopped.
3:30 am - I am confidant that we have stabilized him to just make it through the morning. I am hoping he will get some sleep and wake up feeling better. He looks peaceful and calm. I like how he looks and my heart doesn't feel heavy but hopeful. I tell Yangkyu to go upstairs and get some sleep as well and to take Nala and Leo with him. All this time they have been patiently waiting/napping in the kitchen and entryway area with the gate closed. Yangkyu gives Piri a kiss on his face, chest and stomach and smells him a while and says, "Piri get better. I will see you in the morning. Good night." Yangkyu asks me if I'll be ok and I say yes.
After they are all upstairs I clean up and get down the floor and lay next to Piri. I have a habit of not getting too close because I don't want to burden him, especially while he's sick. I want to kiss his face but I stop myself and instead I tickle his face, give him his favorite neck scratch and pat him on his shoulder. I say, "Good night, Piri," and lay down on the sofa and turn on my phone and read about aspiration pneumonia. I come across the words - "dogs with this condition should not be left on its side for more than two hours." I panic. I think back to the doctor's discharge instructions and recall that there isn't anything like this written there - only to encourage him to move around. I look at Piri, laying on his side, breathing peacefully. I read the sentence again. Look back at Piri again and decide.... to just leave him on his side. I would regret this (still do) a thousand times over.
I think the last thought I had was, "he will be ok..." and I drifted off to sleep.
When my childhood cocker spaniel died I dreamt an odd dream where the leg of his favorite recliner chair broke off and floated down the river. I told my mom we need to retrieve it because it is part of Bobby's favorite chair and I chased after it, but it was floating downstream too fast for my legs to keep up. I heard my mom call out, "It's too late." And then I heard tire screeches and I was jolted awake from my sleep. The tire screeches were the sound of the van coming to a sudden stop after he had run Bobby over. He died instantly.
I jolted awake, my heart racing, not believing that I actually fell asleep. I don't think I dreamed anything, or maybe I did and I don't remember it.
The first thing I do is look over at Piri. I checked for a sign to see if he was still breathing. Yangkyu and I have had a habit of doing this for the past few months now -- checking for his breathing whenever he would sleep so deeply. We would tense up while waiting for his chest to go up and down and wait with our breaths held and our shoulders would loosen up and we would let out our breath when we saw his chest go up and down, up and down.
It was the same at 5:30 am on October 14th. Only, I didn't see his chest moving. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, but it was only probably a few seconds. I rushed over to him. I first instinct was to yell on the top of my lungs and wake Yangkyu but I thought maybe it is a false alarm. I shouldn't be so overly dramatic.
I went to Piri's side and saw that his eyes were open, which relieved me but immediately I noticed that something was off. He looked like he was stunned. I thought he was actually in a state of shock and pain and I needed to help him regain his consciousness. I shook him a little and called his name, even though he can't hear. I lifted him a little and saw his head move. He was still alive. I set him down and listened for a heartbeat. There was none. That's when I got frantic.
"ACCCCK!!!! Yangkyu! He's dead! He's dead!!!" I yelled.
To be completely honest with you, while I was yelling the second "he's dead", I wanted to blame Yangkyu.
On our drive back home I was trying to convince him that perhaps hospitalization was better for Piri but Yangkyu didn't think so. It wasn't until we got home that Yangkyu said, "If you think that's better then we can go back." I was slightly irritated. Yangkyu always leaves the big decisions to me, and I thought he was doing this to me again. Why didn't he just agree with me? Why?
When he rushed down from upstairs though I thought maybe I woke him up for nothing. Maybe Piri isn't dead. He doesn't look dead to me.
Yangkyu examined him and lifted him up, Piri's back toward him, and I saw Piri's head go from one side to the other, like a swoop - like a dog that was lethargic and a little out of the sorts. Like he was drunk. His eyes were open... it just looked like he was trying to figure out where he was.
I said, "Oh, he's still alive. Right? Piri's still alive? His head is moving."
I think I am a pretty reasonable person and can tell from one thing from another. My mind has not felt so incoherent in my life where I couldn't tell from life and death.
"No, Jane. He's gone."
It was then that I realized that Piri's head was moving because he had no control over his neck. Because he was no longer with us.
Yangkyu set him back down on his bed and closed his eyes.
Tears wouldn't come. I was probably in shock. My heart was racing. And I yelled again.
"Piri!! Why???? Why did you go? I didn't get a chance to say bye!! Why?" And I hugged him and while my body felt like it was sobbing I wasn't crying. And I felt cruel. I was shocked that Piri had died but I was also shocked that I wasn't crying.
I had imagined what it would be like to see Piri's lifeless body countless of times. I always pictured myself to be uncontrollably crying. And I wasn't. And this all seemed so unnatural. This wasn't real.
About a month ago, I was reading about dogs passing and what an owner needs to know and do. I thought I needed to prepare for the moment. I recalled that once a dog passes fluids will start to come out. I grabbed a few of his wee wee pads and wrapped him in it. I took a picture.
I put Nala and Leo's harnesses and leashes on and brought them over to the car and Yangkyu carried Piri over.
We had actually set an emergency plan in place in case Piri passed while dogs were in our care. But it was too early in the morning to ask our friend to come over and watch guest dogs for us. We had the option of having them stay alone in the house but we decided to take them with us. And as we had just a few hours before, I sat in the back with Nala and Leo while Piri laid in the front. This time.. lifeless.
Yangkyu drove with his hand on Piri's shoulder the entire time. He cried. He sobbed.
I didn't shed a single tear this whole time. I just let out weird noises, I think. I called out Piri's name a few times. I heaved.
When we got to the Hope Center, the tears came.
It was such a familiar walk.. holding Piri and walking into the Hope Center - for his oncology visits, his ER visits. It was so familiar yet so not.
The vet tech who put him in my arms when we were discharged a few hours ago greeted us and asked us what was wrong and I barely made out, "He didn't make it." She took him to be examined. The doctor came out shortly and said, "He's no longer with us. I'm sorry."
She asked what happened and I told her everything we did. How we gave him his sub q fluids, then some water with his antibiotic because he didn't have an appetite for food. How I crushed his zeniquin and mixed it with water and he took it. He started to look better. He laid on his side and fell asleep that way.
I was telling her all this because I was waiting for her to say, "Oh, zeniquin shouldn't have been given that way to him. Or he shouldn't have been laying on his side like that. Or nebulization should've happened as soon as you got home." But she just listened, and so I asked "Should I have not given him so much water? Did he drown? Did his lungs get filled up with water and he died that way?" She shook her head and said, "No. It sounds like his breathing was ok. Dogs don't usually die so suddenly from aspiration pneumonia and so he probably had something else going on that we couldn't detect. I'm so sorry."
I wasn't sure if she was just saying that to make me feel better because telling a dog own who just lost her dog that she didn't perform proper home-care wouldn't be right. But I wished she would just tell me so I could know. So I wouldn't spend my days wondering and going through the what ifs. But I was too tired to argue and explain.
I asked her if we can see him again.
Yangkyu went to check on Nala and Leo who were waiting in the car with the windows cracked open.
We were given 30 minutes in a private room to grieve.
Piri came wrapped in an orange blanket.
I wanted to smell him one more time and put my head again his body but he smelled of alcohol. I saw that some parts of his body was wet - they had rubbed rubbing alcohol on him.
I went to kiss his face and put my face near his mouth. I should've kissed him before going to bed. When he was still alive. I kissed his face once. Twice. Three times. I hugged him, talked to him, scratched his chin, petted him. I cleaned his eyes with a tissue.
I thought how strange it was that we were saying bye to Piri this way. I always pictured (and prepared) for a long, drawn out process where he would slowly deteriorate. He ended up going so fast and so suddenly.
During the 15 minute mark, Yangkyu went to check on the dogs again.
When our 30 minutes were up we prepared to do final paper work and pay. Our last hospital bill.
We opted to have him privately cremated and have his ashes sent to us. There was a space to have engraving and I had no idea what I wanted engraved. We asked for a little piece of fur to be clipped off to take home with us. We also had his paw print to take home in white clay.
Yangkyu went back to the car to be with our guest dogs. I joined them a bit later.
As soon as I shut the car door, I wailed. I cried all the way home.
Back at home, I continued to cry but tried to control myself because I didn't want to look like a mess when Tiboo's mom came.
After Tiboo was dropped off, my shoulders completely lost their strength. My legs gave out and I cried in Yangkyu's arms for a long time.
My eyes started to look puffy, red, defeated.
Inbetween the crying, I was making sure that Tiboo had settled in, which he did quickly. Bless him. And that Nala and Leo were ok too, that they weren't too saddened or confused over what happened.
Yangkyu and I were running on so little sleep that by late afternoon we needed a nap. Yangkyu fell asleep upstairs on our bed with Leo, Nala and Tiboo. After seeing that everyone looked comfortable, I made myself over to our spare room - Yangkyu's office room. The room Piri liked to be in most when Yangkyu worked from home. I had already moved his favorite grey blanket over there along with his Lamb Chop and bear toy. I crawled in his bed, laid my head on his pillow and hugged Lamb Chop and fell asleep. I dream often. And I hoped that Piri would come greet me to let him know he was ok. I was startled awake when I went felt someone tap me on my back. I looked behind me and saw that Nala had come by and curled herself next to me and slept there.
At 4 pm, Yangkyu came in, I woke up. We both had slept about an hour. The dogs came all trotting in, with their tails wagging wanting to be petted.
Our friend's dog Hiro came that night for a short one night stay. By then, I looked like a complete mess. Eyes completely swollen, red, even the skin around my eyes were red from all the rubbing and wiping away tears.
That night Hiro came and spent part of the night curled up right next to me. I whispered, "Thank you, Hiro." When Yangkyu saw him, he sobbed.
Having dogs these past couple of days have kept my mind occupied - they need to be fed and taken care of, pictures taken and updates to be sent. When Tiboo leaves, Piri's Place is taking a break for a few days. Yangkyu and I decided to keep to ourselves and use this time to grieve. I need alone time. Quiet time.
I wrestled (and still do) with the fact that I think I killed Piri.
I have been going over it in my mind over and over and over again and have been going over my theories with Yangkyu. To Yangkyu, he thinks Piri would have died in the hospital if we opted to do a hospitalization. And he said he wouldn't have been able to live with that.
For a while, I thought if he was kept overnight it might have saved him. I still think that perhaps it might have.
I kept telling him that dogs with aspiration pneumonia need long term hospitalization although even after treatment it will be difficult for them and their lungs.
Dogs with acute aspiration pneumonia shouldn't take anything orally, which sits so uncomfortably with me because I had given him water.
I should've moved him on his stomach. Why didn't I moved him on his stomach?? Why did I let him just lay there on his side when I read that they shouldn't stay in that position for more than two hours.
What killed him? Why isn't there a definite answer to what killed him?
And it went on like this. Eating away at me.
I just could not (and still cannot) comprehend how we were able to manage his kidney disease and cancer and fight it in so many angles and with this we didn't even get a chance. What happened?
People tell me it was just his time. That he lived a long happy life. I know. But I just needed to know what took him away. I regretted not doing a necropsy but then looked up online how the procedure is done and the pictures startled me. I didn't realize how gruesome it was and I cried even more thinking what I might have put Piri through even after his passing.
How does a dog go from eating so well and being his usual self die suddenly several hours later? How does that not make anyone question it except me? Am I the crazy one? Why is everyone making me feel like I'm in denial?
Then I started to recall his other behaviors that were probably clues. Starting from a few weeks ago, I saw Piri throw up liquid after drinking water. This happened twice. I thought maybe I gave him too much and didn't think too much of it.
A few days ago, Yangkyu went out to pick up a few things and Piri made his way over to the entryway to wait for him there. I was doing spot cleaning with our Dyson and looked up to see Piri laying, leaning against the wall, his head perked up, ears perked up, eyes round as saucers -- all body language that was completely normal, but something was wrong. He looked too stiff, like he had a charlie's horse. I rushed over, scared and held him in my arms and soothed him. His body loosened up and he was back to normal.
I think back to all this and wonder why it didn't prompt me to go see a vet.
I keep wondering if Piri actually did have more years to live but I just could not pick up on his signs that were telling me, I am not feeling well, I want to live more, please get me to a vet.
It is all these moments and thoughts that continues to make me think that I killed him. And it's such a painful thought.. a thought that I could've done more and I didn't...
Yesterday, I used our handheld Dyson and it smelled like Piri. And so I kept turning it on trying to remember him.
We had to step out for a little while and without thinking I went to grab Piri's leash and harness. I caught myself when I went to grab it off from our wall hanger. And I just stood there, stunned.
Back home, Yangkyu and I were talking about logistics on how we were going to send a few boxes that needed to be sent via the post office. "So I'll go in?" "Yeah, Jane. There will be boxes there - they may tell you we have to send it using their box. I'm not sure, but you can ask."
And then I said... "Oh... but we'll be going in together.. because Piri isn't..."
I couldn't finish my sentence. But we both knew what I was going to say. Piri isn't coming along for the ride... We both cried quietly.
"There will be more moments like this Jane.."
I know. But how do you undo a routine like that. It's been so embedded into our lives. How does it come undone?
I am scared of all the firsts that will happen throughout the course of time. It is perhaps part of the healing process. But as of now, I am scared.
As I have shared pictures and wrote about my feelings on Facebook and Instagram, so many people from all over the world have cried along with us and shared in the grief. They shared their own difficult and painful memories of when they had to say good bye to their dog and many let us know how Piri made their days so much brighter and how he reminded them so much of their own dog who had already crossed over the rainbow bridge. They called Piri the world's cocker.
I was so angry the first 24 hours after Piri's passing that the world kept moving on when mine was shattered.
Reading people's words made me wonder how maybe one day I can be as kind, gracious, graceful with the loss of Piri and offer comfort to others who may go through this painful experience.
It is perhaps another life lesson that Piri is teaching me.
Piri came into our lives and taught us unconditional love. He left teaching us about loss.
I am unable to respond to everyone's messages and comments, but please know that I have read them and we are so greatly touched by your generosity and big hearts. I might have missed some posts people have shared, but please know that your thoughts and gestures help us so much during this difficult time. Thank you.
Yesterday, Yangkyu and I were able to laugh at some of the memories we have of Piri. I still cry... and I still hurt, but I think we are both healing.
I love you Piri. Be good where you are. Promise you'll come out in our dreams from time to time...