It had been one year exactly to the day that our dear 15 year old dachshund Penelope had died.
We walked into the shelter and saw dachshunds running around. Which were the twin brothers Otis and Milo who we had come to see? As soon as I sat down on the couch Otis jumped in my lap and growled at any other dog that tried to come near. My heart was his from that second on.
RH claimed tiny Milo and before long we were on our way back to Nashville, our son driving while we each held a dachshund in the back seat who had no intention of getting out of our laps.
Otis did reach up a little later after we bought burgers at a drive-through and in the blink of an eye bit off half of the hamburger I held in my hand.
But we were all thrilled to come home to Tennessee last January 6 where the big fenced pen in our new house gave them more room to play outside, and the house was small enough that it was a cinch for Otis to trail Mama from room to room all day long.
During the days after Milo's death, Otis became even more my shadow.
Which was fine with me as I could hardly bear to have him out of my sight.
None of us wanted to be away from each other and he would snuggle between me and his daddy on the sofa where we would rub his tummy and silky ears and watch HGTV with the sound off.
There were lots of walks outside to his brother's little grave in the butterfly garden. And we went out on the front porch to watch daddy work in the yard, each wanting to be close to where the others were. Because our family had shrunk.
Every day when RH would come home, if it wasn't raining, we would take Otis out in the yard for a good walk.
We would walk down near our neighbor's pond, letting Otis have time to stop and sniff as much as he wanted to. We were in no hurry.
And then 15 days after his brother left us, Otis would hardly eat his breakfast.
We took him to his doctor where they said his abdomen was uncomfortable and he was guarding it. But he also seemed to have a spot on his back that hurt so they did x-rays and found that he had one slipped disc.
We thought we had a plan. We brought him home with meds and Otis and I would rest as much as possible, not moving from room to room unless necessary. No more walks outside for a while, pee pads in the laundry room were good enough for a boy to do his business.
Three days later after trips to the vet every day and changes of medication and IV fluids and more blood work, Otis, just like Milo, had sky high kidney values and was in complete kidney failure.
That last day, last Saturday, we brought him to his doctor so hopeful because he seemed so alert after the IV the day before. His eyes just seemed to say that he would be okay. I never dreamed we wouldn't be leaving with him alive and on his way to recovery.
Over the decades we have of course had to make that hardest of decisions for beloved dogs. Making it for Milo just 19 days before was heartbreaking but saying, Yes, go ahead and sedate Otis, was almost impossible to do. I wanted to take him home and squeeze out a couple more days of just holding him but it didn't seem right to put him through more days of pain.
These days without Otis and Milo have been agonizing. We've never not had a dog except for the first couple of years of marriage.
If you've been through this before then you know how empty your house is, how lonely you are for the sound of little toenails clicking behind you, how hard a meal is without those little eyes below you hoping a crumb will fall to the floor.
You know how it hits you within seconds of waking up in the morning and there's no one to want to go potty, no breakfast to fix before you fix your own, no one to tuck in bed at night.
And no one to tell "You stay, I love you, I'll be back soon" when you have to go to the store.
I wish I could end this here and just leave a final photograph of our handsome Otis, but I have one more thing to tell you, just in case you have dogs of your own.
Four days after Otis died the doctor called with the results of final blood testing that was sent off. Otis, and most likely Milo, had died of a bacterial disease called leptospirosis grippotyphosa.
I'm telling you this so that if you have dogs and don't know about this disease that you'll be sure to inform yourself and question your veterinarian.
Our doctor who we'd seen for decades and love apologized for not having run the test earlier but he hadn't seen a case in a very long time.
Evidently the marshy areas around ponds are breeding grounds for it from infected wildlife. All it takes is for a dog to sniff or lick the urine of an infected animal, in our case it was probably a raccoon.
After questioning the doctor about risks to people--watch for fever or chills and at the first sign see your doctor--I asked him if this meant we could never again have dogs here.
He said not at all, that it just meant that at least three weeks before coming to us they would need to have the lepto vaccine and that we should have boosters given every 4 to 6 months. He told us that more and more dog groomers are requiring that their customers' dogs have this vaccine before bring theirs to them.
This is what we hope to do because we are dog people. If you've ever read a book or article that tells you to list your defining words then you know what I'm saying when I tell you that dachshunds are one of my top defining words.
Life just seems empty without a couple of dachshunds in my life. I envy my friend Josh who has three, or maybe it's four.
But most of all I envy, long for, those almost four years when we had Otis and his brother Milo in ours.
I'm turning off comments on this post. I know that each of you would as lovingly express your sorrow for us as you did in the previous post when we lost little Milo, so please know that I know that and it means the world to me. But I just don't have the heart for any more blogging this soon. Thank you for understanding and I wish a bountiful and blessed Thanksgiving Day for each of my dear friends who visit me and RH here.