I grew up in a United States Air Force (USAF) family and have lived in all parts of the world from Japan to California. I enlisted in the USAF right out of High School. It also took me to places around the world like Germany and Guam.
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Tribute To Friend & Client Alice Austin
"Life is a beautiful piece of time. A spare tire on a curvy road. It is the best part of living.
To love like never before is the blessing I have
everyday I live. To love all that are a part of me, my pets, are my children."
The pets here I knew personally, they touched my heart. They were a part of me because I cared for them, and loved them like my own pets, we were blessed by their presence and may they be there when we arrive at the rainbow bridge.
Kate from Beyond the Rainbow told me that there are three things I’m going to remember really well. The day I got Duke, the day he got old, and the day I had to say goodbye. I choke up just typing that out to you.
Duke was on his way to being 13 years old on Feb 12, 2010. He was born in Germany along with his brother Sueii in a small town called Prum just a little ways outside the Air Force Base I was stationed at. I remember well, the day I adopted Sueii, his Brother. We took Sueii to visit some of our friends and they fell in love with him. So, they insisted we take them out to pick one for themselves. They picked out Duke. He was the last one left. We always got together to let Sueii and Duke spend time together. Duke’s family had over four cats in their house and they were the biggest cats I’d ever seen.
They towered Little Duke. I had gone on a deployment when I heard Duke's family was going to split up. I was married at the time and discussed offering to buy Duke from that couple since Sueii and Duke were Brothers. It was a deal. So, the day I got home from my deployment to Turkey, I came home to Duke….and Sueii. Duke was so hairy I couldn’t see his eyes. He was confused but Sueii was happy and so Duke was happy too. Duke was leary at first, then realized I was his new Mommy. I’d have to say it took months to grow a real connection to Duke. I think being in a house full of cats gave him a lower pecking order when it came to attention. He just didn’t seem to know what all the hocus pocus was when it came to snuggling. But, here, all I had was the two of them and I always spoiled them with hugs and kisses. I can’t quite put my finger on it. But, one day, Duke really loved me. You know that kind of love that is endless and it reaches down deep into everything that you are as a being, it was that kind of love. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight.
But, before I go into the years with my Duke, can you believe the day after I got back from my deployment, my husband at the time, did something I will never forget. I awoke from a scream……I ran down the stairs and found Duke, screaming at the door way. He had kicked Duke with his steal toe boot shattering his back leg. After surgery, long days recovering, and a DIVORCE, Duke healed. Sueii and Duke were a pair. They soon found out that when I worked they had each other. And when I wasn’t working, they were my joy. I was younger back then and had no idea how to raise a dog. I didn’t even own a leash. I would simply let them out into the cow pasture behind my small duplex. They loved it. They would romp and chase the cows and get lost in the timber. Herding didn’t really work in their favor. They would come back covered in mud and manure. Who would’ve thought that I would be in the position I am in now cause back then, my dogs were out of control playing and having as much fun as you can imagine. Not a worry in the world. Duke was the one out of them both that smiled all the time. He was happy no matter what. He would let you experiment on him to do anything. I remember I did my own creative hair cutting in those days. I didn’t know what a pet groomer was; never even heard of one. I made him look like a girl and he didn’t complain. He was just full of life. Duke was extremely care free. He had fun no matter what. He would tough it out, no problem. He was absolutely laid back. He loved all dogs, cats, birds, cows, rabbits. All animals. He loved life. He is the only dog I can remember ever witnessing playing with the birds. He would run and the birds would swoop down and play with him and he would play back chasing them.
You know, when he got to the states, he stopped walking one day. Turned out those pins the Vet used in Germany came loose and when removed were completely rusted! But, Duke was a champ. He came back again, healed and ran like the wind. He had it tough, but it didn’t show. And you know what, I think it was all ok as long as he was still able to love again.
It was a normal day like any other day, on October 22, 2009. Duke greeted me at the door like he always does along with Sueii of course. He kissed me bunches. Later that evening we played with a toy, romping and pulling and tugging. He loved fetch. He would always always bring back his favorite squicky ball. Well, that night was different. It didn’t hit me until a couple hours after we had played with him that Duke hadn’t left the couch. So, I went to him. Listened to him. A slow, sound of whisping under his breath, as if breathing was tough. A hack, a kind of cough hear and there. But, a steady, short breath. He wouldn’t come and join me where I was, which was unusual. This was the day Duke got old.
It was fast. The years.
The time I recall without holding a tear back. The relationships that I’ve been through; that my pets outlived.
That Duke outlived. The Christmases. The Birthdays. It was too fast. By January 8th, 2010, Duke and I were on our last bit of
hope. We were seeing an internal specialist regarding his heart and esophagus. He couldn’t breathe without panting hard,
without hacking or coughing. The specialist and her staff were sweet but something they said to me that day, opened a door I never thought I would have to open. I remember the look on her face when she said that even her staff, in the limited time they worked with Duke for a few xrays couldn’t believe how hard it was for him to breathe.
I know since that day in October, Duke just got a little worse. And a little worse, until the day we saw the specialist. That was his worst day. He sat on my lap on the way home. He used to love that so much. He would sit on my lap for any car ride. And if he couldn’t he would stand on the console until he could. He would rest his chin in the pit of my left elbow. He sat in my lap an entire trip once, to South Dakota….24 hours! We had our last car ride that day. Because I knew what I would have to do for my Little Dukester. I would have to be his advocate in this most precious time. This time he really needed me. I was his Mommy, the one that loves him the most and he needed me the most now. And as I am bawling my eyes out writing you this, I must add, it was the HARDEST thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I cried that entire ride home. And when I got home, I cried even more. I didn’t let Duke out of my sight.
Over the months he had found a way to breathe while I was around. He would distance himself and lay completely on his side to get air in and out without any abruption. He couldn’t romp or play anymore. He couldn’t get near me without having trouble
breathing. It killed me to see him this way. I knew I would have to make a decision for him.
As I started looking for the place to bury him or the right place to cremate him, I couldn’t keep my composer. Each phone call was a sobbing one. Each thought was overwhelming. After many calls I heard a voice, Kate with Beyond the Rainbow…her kindness on the phone at this time was so needed. And her services were exactly what any Mommy would pray for their little Baby. Duke laying near me, I told Kate about our situation. In tears I explained that Duke may need to go soon. It was a Friday afternoon and what I thought we could plan for Monday, turned into Saturday.
Duke stayed in my sight that night. He ate a distinguished meal with grilled chicken and carrots. He got every snack in the house. He used every bit of his strength to follow me around even into the bathroom. He slept at my feet all night, which he couldn’t do for months because he couldn’t get close to me. But, even though he probably didn’t sleep all night cause he couldn’t quite breathe well, he gave me one last night by my side. What I didn’t realize until later is that he was so kind to give me one last year of everything; Birthday, Christmas, Halloween. I loved him more than ever that day and his last day. I gave him all the love I had for him.
Kate and her staff of a Veterinarian and Technician arrived at my home Saturday January 9, 2010 where my family and I were
preparing for our last moments with Duke. Every last kiss I could get, Duke mustered up for me. He was holding on for me
because he loved me so much. Duke passed away at 3pm on January 9th, 2010. His little spirit left us while I held him in my arms in the comfort of his home with those that loved him the most. I spoke to him all the way through until his last breath. Oh how it was so hard. My regular Vet, explains that we are privileged to be able to make a decision for the pets we love because we can’t do that for humans. I can see that now. We must love our pets so much that we have to love them enough to make that choice for them when they can’t make it themselves. Duke loved me so much he held on to every inch of life for me and I know that and I had to be strong for him and I had to take away his pain for him. Duke is no longer suffering. And I can live with that. And I will forever love my Duke.
The next day, was horrendous still. Sueii, was devastated. He wouldn’t look at us as we cried. Fearing he slipped into
depression, I went over to him and touched him and found tears down his face, on his hair, in his eyes. Such a moment will touch your heart that he shared the sadness too as we cried.
On the third day that Duke was gone from us. My family and I went to witness the cremation. We saw Dukes remains one last
time. Sueii saw too, from the car. Three hours later, as we all lay resting from the sadness and the heaviness of this time, the
sound of Duke’s bark chimed loud in the air at 1130 exactly (exactly when the cremation would’ve been complete)…Sueii tucked under my arm, Sally, our rescue dog, under the covers, Duke let me hear him. He was free. At 6pm, Kate brought Duke home.
When she left, I shared Duke with Sueii. We sat together and opened his box. We smelled him and looked at him. And Sueii was happy. He romped and jumped. And tore for his toy basket and grabbed a toy and began to play. And I was uplifted, in a startling happiness filled with tears, I was astounded. My Duke is home. He will forever be here with me.
I wanted to share with you what I hope can help you in your journey with your pets. It definitely doesn’t hurt to think ahead. Duke couldn’t breathe because he had collapsed trachea, collapsed bronchia (in the lungs), enlarged heart, and more. All onset of heart failure. There are many things you can do now to change a lot later. Sueii has now gone as well but, I have changed many things with Sueii before he passed away. I come to the front door instead of opening the garage door to cause less excitement. I turned off the door bell and put a no soliciting sign on the door and I don't let him stare at the windows wanting to pant and get too excited over a passerby.
Visit your Vet regularly, 1 year is like 6 years in a dogs life. From the type of leash to the type of collar. From the type of food to the type of snacks. All these things can play a role on how healthy they remain. From the excitement your dogs go through to how rowdy you play and at what age. Your pets may show coughing signs way early on and that could be a key in maintaining low energy levels and start monitoring their heart. Duke and Sueii both started coughing when they were four or five human years old but only when they were excited; on walks, playing. Be your pets Vet. Monitor them, watch them. You are your pets advocate. It is so hard on us humans because dogs don’t have our life span. So, we have to do what we can to keep them around as long as we can. I hope this story reminds you of how much you love your pets and that their lives are so precious and fast. Take time for the ones you love. If you’re like me, you’re busy. I have learned with great heartache that life is so precious and I can stop my life everyday for the ones I love. I stop and love Faith and Saki everyday. I stopped being in a hurry. Give your pets a hug from me today. Because I know how precious they are.
Dedicated to my Little Dukester