the sheltiechick blog

The Last Photos of Auggie

It has been really hard to get into these photos.
Several of these are photos I took after he came home. Still more are photos my sister came and took of us.
I’ll do my best, y’all, but some of these may just have no commentary.
The photos of Auggie’s final night at the vet will be hidden behind a link… I know those can be really hard to look at, especially for those of us who have lost beloved dogs. So I give you the option of preparing your heart, and then clicking to enter into those photos.
Here we go… the last round of photos of the best dog I will ever own.

July 4th – home on his bed after that first weekend. All I wanted was to be able to bring my dog home and have him curl up on my bed with me again. So so blessed to have been able to do that.

That Obi-Wan Kenobi pillow became Auggie’s pillow over the years. He slept with his head on it so many times. When I packed up all his things, I packed that pillow up along with it.

Our 33 week family photo… he clearly didn’t feel well this day. This was when he still wasn’t up to eating again.

With his niecelette, Georgie.

One more time – the hilarious disaster that is my three.

Payton with his bro. He loved his Auggie so very much. Just like we all did. Best brothers and best friends.

This is a photo of the best dog I will ever own.

A kiss from Georgie.

This beautiful photo my sister took. He obviously was feeling much better by Sunday. Look at that big, beautiful, happy smile.

Trying to get another family photo… just one last one with all of us.

Nobody would look at the camera, so I looked the same direction they were looking – ha!

The last one of all three of my great dogs with me.

One last jump, buddy.

Joy, right up until the end. Doing what we loved to do together.

We were at Louisville last year – the year Auggie retired from agility – and my friend Gary’s wife told me one day, “I love to watch you with your dog. Because no matter what your run went like, you pick him up at the end and you give him a kiss. And then he puts his little head on your shoulder, and you give him a kiss again.”
I’m so fortunate to have this photo. It is one of the things I will always remember most about Auggie.


The Flash

How do I make this post? How do I begin? It begins with the end.

The battle has ended. My perfect Auggie is gone from this world.

At the beginning of July, I packed up the car and dropped Auggie off with my dad to take the baby dogs to Evansville for an agility weekend. I kissed Auggie before I left and told him “Don’t die while I’m gone.”
We drove to Evansville and checked into our hotel for the night. The first night, my dad called and told us he and Auggie had a nice night. It was pretty cool outside so Auggie was outside while my dad worked on my sister’s car, then they sat on the deck together and listened to people shooting off fireworks. (Well, my dad listened. Auggie is pretty deaf these days. Or was. Was?)
The second night, my mom and I had just finished eating dinner when the phone rang. My dad said “Auggie seems uncomfortable.” I tried to figure out exactly what that meant. He couldn’t lay down, said my dad. He was breathing heavy. I asked him if he could count Auggie’s respiratory rate. I never thought I would need to teach anybody else how to count Auggie’s respiratory rate. Why didn’t I do that?
I called the university and asked if they could try and get me in touch with the cardiologist to see if we could come up with a plan. I looked at my mom and said “We might need to go home. I don’t even know if I can get back into the venue and pick up our stuff.”
It was 6:30. I ran downstairs and drove to the venue. It was still open. The trial chair was still there. I told her briefly what was happening and she sent me outside to bring my car around to the side of the building and she tore down my crate space and helped me pack up my car.
I drove back to the hotel and we packed as fast as we could. At one point, I went to pick up the six pack of beer I’d brought along and the cardboard package collapsed. Bottles fell to the floor, breaking open, spilling glass and beer all over the hotel. I came with the packaging, falling to the floor sobbing. This can’t be happening. Why did I leave Auggie behind? I can’t lose my dog while I’m not there. My mom called my dad and told him to take Auggie to the U of I and we would meet him there.
The woman at the front desk came upstairs and helped clean up the mess while I finished loading the car, a complete mess. She was ready to check me out of the hotel early when I came downstairs when we were done.
I drove back from Evansville as fast as I possibly could. I cried half the way there, thinking about how much Auggie had changed my life and how much I loved my best little dog. I thought about our agility journey. I thought about everything we’d done together for ten years.

When we got back in town and straight to the university, I cracked the windows to leave the other dogs in the car and we headed towards the building. Through the glass windows I could see my dad – and Auggie’s breeder sitting next to him.
I’m not sure what all flew through my mind at that moment. I didn’t immediately think it was bad. I was relieved to see her and glad she had come to help support us. I ran into the building and hugged her and started crying.

Then the bad news started. Auggie was in the back in an oxygen tank. They hadn’t been able to get his breathing under control even after getting him an injection of Lasix. They had given him ace to basically sedate him. He was asleep in the oxygen tank.
They had come out and told my dad they wanted to euthanize him.
This is when he said you cannot do that without my daughter here, and then called Auggie’s breeder.
I later found out they had given Auggie butorphonol. They never told me or Auggie’s breeder this; I didn’t know until I got the itemized bill several days later. I gave Auggie butorphonol once and it increased his heart rate and his respiratory rate and I said never again. I knew I had told the cardiologist about this bad reaction. Why did they give that to my dog and why didn’t they tell me? I still don’t know.
They took me back to see Auggie. The vet and the tech were crying and told me they didn’t think he would survive and they thought I should let him go. I didn’t know what to do. In retrospect it was good I had his breeder with me, because I may have made the wrong choice. She told me if he were her dog, she would try to get him stable. What was there to lose? If they could stabilize him, they could stabilize him. If they couldn’t, his heart would stop, and it would be over.
At 12:30, they asked about trying to give him his oral meds, including his torsemide. I went back with them and he wouldn’t take them from me, even in peanut butter. We pilled him with the torsemide.
About 30 minutes later, the vet came up front again and said he was doing better after the torsemide, and he took the rest of his pills.

I stayed the night sitting in the lobby. Auggie’s breeder stayed until 2AM. My parents went to drop off the other dogs at their house, then came back and stayed with me overnight.

In the morning they said he was much better but not ready to go home. I talked to the vet who would be with him during the day. She told me Auggie was definitely improving and she had talked to the cardiologist again, so she had instructions on what to do, and she would do them. But she said if we got Auggie healthy again, we needed to be aware he would probably have another chronic episode, and we were probably looking at a matter of days or maybe weeks.

We went home and left Auggie to keep getting better. I came back that night to visit him and he looked much better and he was ready to come home with me, but they weren’t ready for him to come home yet. He stayed another night while I went home and unpacked my luggage, staring around my house, watching Payton and Kaner bounce around each other. Trying to steel myself that this was what our life was going to be like without Auggie.

Auggie came home the next morning. This all happened during a week when I was working from home for several days before leaving, then had days off for the July 4th holiday, then spent two more days working from home. We spent a lot of time together.

Wednesday we headed to the cardiologist – we had an appointment scheduled anyway, our normal follow up. It had been almost two months since our last appointment. Every time we went in, Auggie was doing well, so we went longer and longer between appointments. Two months was the longest we had gone without needing to go in.
The cardiologist was baffled. Auggie was doing great. The same day Auggie came home from the emergency care unit, he was already bringing tennis balls and wanting to play. He was happy and it was the fastest I’d ever seen him rebound after a stay at the emergency vet. His x-rays looked as good as they had back in May, back when he said they were the best they’d ever looked and we were going two months before another visit. His best guess was Auggie’s heart disease had just progressed a little more, and we had adjusted the meds some, and now we carry on again. We made our next appointment for two weeks, just to be sure.
I asked him the question. I know we never know, but we were talking days and maybe weeks a few days ago. Is that where we are?
Based on the picture at that moment he thought we could still have months left.

Wednesday night I went to my chiropractor, then picked up some takeout for dinner. I sat down to eat and looked over at Auggie. His respiratory rate didn’t look good. He started coughing, a wet cough, not his usual “my trachea is a little squishy” dry cough. He couldn’t find a spot to lay down.
I called the university. The cardiologist was still there.
I took my dog back in.

Now we had our answer. Now we had our best guess as to what happened the Saturday before. Auggie had developed an arrhythmia and was having a series of them, which was causing a rapid congestive event. There was medication for the arrhythmia. We started the meds, and since it takes about 12 hours to take affect, Auggie stayed the night again.

The next morning the cardiologist called me and told me Auggie was doing better. The arrhythmia wasn’t gone, but it was improved. However, this time he could see a large blood clot attached to the wall of Auggie’s left ventricle. He said to come in and let’s sit down and talk about everything.
I called my parents and told them I was ready to go get Auggie, so they drove over to meet me at the vet. I called Auggie’s breeder and told her what I knew and asked her what she thought. There was no real way to looking into the crystal ball and knowing how Auggie was going to do. I told her I’d talk to the cardiologist and let her know later if he had any more information.
Once inside, the other bit of news was that Auggie’s bottom chamber wasn’t really pumping anymore. When they took Auggie out to pee that morning, he just seemed a little tired. There was no way of knowing if Auggie would improve or not. This might be what we have, or he might get better, or he might decline.
The cardiologist reminded me he made me a promise that he would tell me when it was time to let Auggie go. He told me he wasn’t telling me that right now. He told me he knew if any dog was going to get better, it would be Auggie.
Because he knew Auggie was a fighter.

I told him one way or another I was taking my dog home, and maybe we would come back that night and let him go, or maybe the next day, or maybe we play the game where I make an appointment but if he’s feeling good we push it back. But for that particular moment, I was going to take my dog home one last time.

I took a video as I opened the door and Auggie walked into the house. Our home. The house I bought with a huge yard for agility because it was what my dog loved, and I loved it too, and I loved to play the game with him. The house with no stairs because I knew one day my dog would get old and I didn’t want him to have to try to climb stairs when he was old. The house where he waited for me to come home from work every day. Where I listened to hear him barking when I came home. Where I hung his photos all over my walls. Where I built a shadow box of his master’s titles and put it in a spot of prominence in my living room.

I called his breeder. We had meds for the arrhythmia and still no crystal ball. Auggie didn’t want food. He didn’t even want peanut butter. At one point he even stopped drinking water, but before too any hours passed he went back to drinking again. I carried Auggie in a long walk all the way around our agility field. We went to the dog walk and I placed him on the up plank, then picked him up and carried him all the way over to the down plank, where I set him down again. He sat down in the contact zone. I told him he was a good boy and that was a good “touch.” We went to the teeter. I placed him on the end of the teeter and lifted the end just a few inches, then carefully lowered it down so he could ride the tip of the teeter. I did it a few times. Auggie loved the teeter.
My sister came over that night and we sat in the living room with Auggie, crying over Auggie and of course crying over dogs we had lost before. We talked about Happy and we talked about Kota.
She agreed with me when I said if Auggie didn’t start eating the next day, I would let him go.

I didn’t want to get into bed that night. I put it off as long as I could. I knew it might be the last time I got into bed with my little dog. When I got in bed I sat up for a long time, not sleeping. Just watching my dog.
I woke up at 2AM and opened my Facebook page on my phone. The first thing I saw was the “On This Day” post. A picture of me and Auggie. Auggie with two master’s title ribbons hanging from his neck.
Four years ago on that day we had completed that chapter in our agility journey. Four years ago. I started sobbing again. How could I do this on this day? How could I possibly make a day when something so wonderful had happened the same day something so awful happened?

The cardiologist called me in the morning. I told him Auggie still wasn’t eating but he was comfortable and seemed okay, just tired. He told me he wasn’t immediately concerned about the not eating and gave me a few tips to try and get him to eat.
My parents came over and we made stepping stones with Auggie’s paw prints in them. I got prints of all four paws. His two front paws with his funny little brachydactylic toes and his back paws with all his proper toe joints.
I told them I really, really didn’t want to do it that day.

Auggie ate food.

At first he just took the peanut butter off my hand when I offered him his pills. Then he ate kibble, one at a time, from my hand. Finally, at dinner time, he ate out of his bowl… then immediately threw it back up.

He ate more food later. He said “today is not the day.”
We got into bed together again.

The weekend was good. Every day he started to feel better. Sunday my sister came over and took photos for me. It’s hard when you are always behind the camera – so rarely do I have the opportunity to have photos of me and Auggie together. He played in the yard a bit, looking around for dead worms to eat (something he recently has decided he loves to do.) I got out a jump. I set the bar at four inches and he took the jump with so much joy. It was beautiful.

Monday we went to bed and he coughed and seemed uncomfortable. I worried. Auggie being able to sleep comfortably was one of the measurements I used for his quality of life. Was he sleeping comfortably? Was he eating? Did he seem happy? Those were my three questions. When I unplugged the vaporizer I run each night, full of water and eucalyptus oil to help him breathe, I realized it was still pretty full. Sometimes it doesn’t always put out a lot of steam. Maybe that was it. I made a note to add more salt, to make sure it steamed, so he could try to breathe better that night.
I woke up super early and sat in the kitchen with my work laptop, launching a new website for our company. I spent a couple hours in the morning with my dog. I went to work, then came home early since I had been up early working from home. I had previously arranged for someone to cover my BodyPump class that night, knowing I would be tired from such an early morning, so we all sat at home and watched television together. We had been binge watching my Big Bang Theory DVDs. We were almost through season 8.
Auggie ate some cheese from my cheese stick, and I took the meat off a rotisserie chicken to put into my freezer and handed him some chicken.

When it was time for bed, Auggie couldn’t get comfortable. He was coughing more and more. I called my parents. I told them if I had to take him in, this was it.
The university called the cardiologist and he suggested giving another dose of torsemide. I gave him a full pill first (twice a day he gets a pill and a half, once a day just a pill.) After about ten minutes, Auggie lay down in the bed and he put his head on my legs. After about five minutes, he rolled over and stretched out flat on the bed.
I breathed.
Then fifteen minutes later he was up again, coughing.
An hour after his first dose of the torsemide, I gave him the half pill.
I begged him to please give us one more night. He lay down in my arms and put his head on my shoulder.
He got up and kept coughing.
He stood on the bed and looked at me. Everybody kept telling me Auggie would let me know when it was time, and in that moment I knew. He was telling me it was okay. He didn’t want to do this anymore. And he definitely didn’t want to go stay at the hospital again. It was okay. It was time.

I called the university and asked them if they could get the cardiologist to come in, because I didn’t want a stranger to do this. The guy on the phone told me normally he doesn’t come in for emergencies, but to hold on just a minute. He put me on hold.
That awful hold music.
He came back on the phone and said the cardiologist would come in for me.

I called my parents.

I got Kane out of his crate and set all three dogs on my sofa. I could hear the fluid in Auggie as he breathed as I set him on the couch. I changed lenses on my camera and took photos. Our last family photo. A photo of Payton with Auggie. A photo of Kaner and Auggie. I told Payton this was it and his brother was probably not coming home. Payton knew.

I placed Auggie in the front seat of the car. “Your last car ride!” I told him as cheerfully as possible. I turned the air conditioning all the way up and blasted it through the vents in front of him. He stood in front of the vents and breathed in the cold air and he stopped coughing.
My parents were already at the vet. I carried my little dog in. The cardiologist met us at the door. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I tried to get him to wait until morning.”
“He has his own timetable,” the cardiologist said.

We went back into a room. Chairs and couches. This was a different room than the exam rooms. This was The Room.
The cardiologist sat on the couch next to me and I told him what was going on. And I said “it’s just time.”
“I agree. It’s time.”
There was nothing else we could do. The torsemide wasn’t working, and not only was it not helping, it wasn’t even maintaining. Auggie was getting worse.
It was time. I had done everything I could.

He left us alone in the room to take photos. Auggie licked peanut butter off my hands. His gums were still pink at first and he was happy to eat his peanut butter. He licked peanut butter off my mom’s hands. I told him I loved him. I told him he was my best dog. I told him he was a good dog. So many things I wanted to make sure he heard me say just one last time.
He got up and walked around the room a bit. He walked over to stand at my dad’s feet.
I lifted his lips and his gums were starting to get pale.

The cardiologist came in and asked if we were ready. I told him Auggie’s gums were getting pale so we had to do it now.

Auggie lay in my lap. The cardiologist sat next to me. I held my dog’s head.
He gave him the sedation injection.
I asked my mom to take a photo of me holding Auggie’s head.
I put my hand down on Auggie’s side and it wasn’t moving.
I looked at the cardiologist as he was putting the euthanasia injection into the catheter.
“I think he’s already gone,” I whispered.
He nodded his head. He finished giving the second injection, then took his stethoscope from around his neck and said “I”m sure you’re right. I’m just going to listen.” He listened, then sat back “He’s gone.”

I’m not a big death person. I don’t like funerals. I hate viewing bodies. I don’t want to remember people’s dead bodies. I want to remember them full of life. People had warned me I wouldn’t want to be there in the room when it was time to let Auggie go. But I had refused to leave. This was the dog who would wait outside my bedroom door in the mornings after my mom had let him out to feed him breakfast. This was the dog who would ask to go outside if I left him at home because he wanted to look around and see if I was outside. He looked for me when I was gone. And he gave me everything I had ever asked him to give. I wasn’t going to leave my dog.

I shut Auggie’s eyelids over his eyes. The cardiologist left us to take our time finishing saying goodbye. I held his paws. I looked at his little brachydactylic toes some more. I kissed him. I repositioned him off my lap and laying flat on the floor. His most comfortable sleeping position. We pet him.
I said “oh my Auggie” to him one last time.

I texted his breeder when it was over. I texted my sister, not wanting her to see it on Facebook.
I posted it on Facebook.

I got into bed and held Payton.
It was over.

How do I finish telling Auggie’s story? How do you sum up ten years of amazing memories? Auggie never quit on me. In agility, people told me we should quit. He didn’t quit. He finished out master’s titles with me. Multiple times I thought it was the end and he rebounded. Even when people were saying they were scared he wouldn’t make it and they thought I should put him down, he got better and gave them the finger and said “You were ready to call it! Look at me now! Here, throw this ball.”
And then he told me when it was time. He was still happy to the end. That really was time. Happy, but ready to go. Nothing else we can do. His little heart and little body couldn’t hold his spirit anymore. It was time to soar, unbound by little brachydactylic feet, unbound by the arthritis in his wrists that had developed over the years, unbound by a heart that couldn’t keep up with all the heart that he possessed.

I miss him so much, but I feel as okay as I possibly can about the decision to let him go. I smile when I look at photos of him. It makes me happy to remember my dog, not angry or sad. I don’t regret a moment of the last eight months. I know I didn’t make any wrong decisions. I didn’t throw in the towel too soon but I also didn’t let him suffer. The only way it would have been more clear that it was time was if his heart had just simply stopped on it’s own in his sleep.
I would have liked to have known it was coming, to spend a Last Day together, but we had our Last Day – I just didn’t know that’s what it was.

I am grateful for the love and support of my friends. Times like this are always when you find out who cares for you most. Thank you to my friends Joe and Jenny for showing up at my house that night, bringing me flowers and a card and, most importantly, hugs and company. Thank you to Michel for coming to find me on Saturday and giving me a hug when I needed it to get through my day. Thank you to my sister and my brother-in-law both for taking photos of me and my Auggie, different kinds of photos at different times, but both photos I will treasure; thank you to my sister for coming to see Auggie as we were reaching the end and reminding me he was off to see his hero Kota and to pester Happy. Thank you to my parents for going on this wild ride with me and for loving Auggie so much. Thank you to everybody who has loved Auggie, even if you never met him in person. Thank you to all of my friends who have also lost a heart dog and have expressed in one way or another how their hearts ache too. Thank you to Misha for the beautiful drawing of my wonderful boy and your lovely letter.
Thank you everybody who managed to make it to Auggie’s 10th Birthday Party. I had no idea it would be his last. It was so special because you were there to celebrate it with us.
Thank you to the breeder of my best boy, for bringing this wonderful dog into the world and letting us spend ten years together. I will never have another dog like him as long as I live. He literally changed my life. I wouldn’t be where I am sitting today if not for my dog, in so many ways. I learned so much about dogs in general, shelties, agility, behaviour, and yes, veterinary care from you. Thank you for sharing Auggie’s life with me. Thank you for being able to stop by and see him on his final weekend, though we had no idea it was in fact his final weekend – his tail wagged so much and he was so happy to see you.
Thank you to all of the vets who cared for my dog throughout his life and especially over the last eight months. Thank you to each one who took time to help him, especially when he was chronic, to get him comfortable and stable and enable him to come home with me again. Thank you for treating me with respect, recognizing my medical knowledge and helping me further it by never talking down to me but always being honest and explaining fully, and for seeing my ability to do an awful lot for my dog, and allowing me to do everything I could.
Thank you to Dr. Fries at the University of Illinois for the excellent care and support. If I didn’t have access to a skilled, knowledgeable specialist, my dog would certainly have been gone long ago. Thank you for giving up your time on nights and weekends, even over the fourth of July holiday, to answer phone calls and e-mails to continue supporting my dog and helping his heart work as best as it possibly could. Thank you for seeing and acknowledging the fighter in my dog. Thank you for treating my dog like you loved him as much as I did. And thank you for coming at the final moments, even at 1 in the morning, to be the one to help me release my dog from his failing body.

Thank you, Auggie, for being the best dog I have ever owned. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for loving Pepper, even when she didn’t want to play with you. Thank you for loving your brother Payton, even though he was obnoxious. Thank you for loving (or at least tolerating) Kaner, even though you had heart disease when I brought him home; thank you for playing with him in your last months.
Thank you for teaching Payton how to be a good dog. It is possibly the most wonderful gift you have given me, to last after you have gone, that Payton is such a good boy.
Thank you for sharing my bed. Thank you for sleeping on my pillow. Thank you for every kiss and for every happy smile. Thank you for every possible thing I cannot possibly put into words to express how much I loved you, and how much I know you loved me, and the relationship we had that is incapable of being explained by the English language. Only felt in my heart.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Run free, my most wonderful and perfect Auggie. Run free.

Sentinel’s The Flash RN NAJ MXP MJP CGC
11-15-05 – 07-13-16