Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hardest Decision of My Life...Ever!

On August 30, 1998, a red Siberian Husky was born. She was named Mocha. Mocha ended up with a family that did not treat her how she should be treated. In 2000, Mocha came to live with a family that treated her like one of their children...that was us. If you can't do math, she was two years old.

We had originally started out with 2 black and white Siberian Huskies when Jeremy and I were first married. They were brother and sister. Akala was the brother. Nanuk was the sister. I wrote a little more detail about them last year when Cyu died. You can about it here. I try not to repeat myself too much. Anyway, after we couldn't find Akala, we felt Nanuk needed another playmate. So I looked in the Classified Ads for another Siberian Husky. I found a listing for a free male. When I called, they had already given the male away, but they had a female they were wanting to get rid of too. That was Mocha. We drove to Brownwood, which is about an hour and a half away from where we lived at the time. It was worth it to us to drive that far. The previous owner said they had alot of dogs that they had used for breeding and were getting rid of some of them. She also said it was hard to find her house, so she would meet us at a gas station. I didn't think too much of it at the time. We put Mocha in our car and headed back to our house. Everything seemed fine...until we got home. We let Mocha out of the car and into our backyard. She was extremely dirty, so she was gonna get a bath after she investigated the backyard for a bit. When we called her name, she did not come. We kept calling it and I was beginning to think that wasn't her name. We finally caught her and Jeremy wrangled her into the bath. Let me tell you, it is quite the chore to bathe a 50 plus pound dog who does NOT want to be bathed. But as scared as Mocha was, she did not once show any aggression or sign that she was going to attack or bite Jeremy or I. We might have been holding there against her will so she could be clean, but she put up with us as patiently as she could. Sweet Mocha. In the next few days, we realized that the first two years of her life, she had been abused. Most likely it was from a man. She was scared of people she didn't know. She would never hurt anyone, but she was definitely afraid of people she didn't know. More specifically men. Mocha grew attached to me. She became "my dog". She often shied away from Jeremy. Through the next 11 years that she was blessed to be in our home, she grew more fond of Jeremy. And when she was pregnant, it was like she couldn't get enough of Jeremy. She LOVED him and wanted to be next to him then. It was kind of odd. Sweet, but odd, because of how she acted around Jeremy other times. Throughout her life, she never outgrew her fear of people she didn't know. She did get better about it, but whatever harm came to her before we had her, really scarred her for life. She came a long way from where she started when we first got her. Not only mentally, but physically too.

This was one of the first pictures we have of Mocha. She is kind of scrawny. Her previous owners definitely didn't take the best care of her. Notice her tail between her legs? 
Here is one of the first pictures of Jeremy with Mocha. She was comfortable with him, but give her the choice and she would have chosen me.
Sweet Mocha, with her beautiful markings and blue eyes!
We hadn't had Mocha very long before we took a trip to see Grandma and Grandpa, so they could meet their new "grandchild". Remember, Mocha was still shy and uncertain of people she did not know. She wasn't as fearful of children. Jeremy's nephew, Andrew, came over to meet Mocha. She was unsure of him at first, so he tried to bribe her with a treat.
Mocha realized Andrew was her friend and wasn't going to hurt her. She enjoyed him petting her...from a distance.
We decided to breed Mocha. She had been bred once before. The plan was to keep two puppies and raise them how our first two huskies were raised. They were brother and sister and had an inseparable bond. We liked this and thought we would try it again. Well, Jeremy blew that plan when he went to Boston for training for his job and found an all white Siberian Husky and brought her home. The plan changed to keep a male from Mocha's litter and breed him with the white one Jeremy was bringing home with him. 

Mocha gained half her body weight when she was pregnant. She went from 50 pounds to 75 pounds. Glad that didn't happen to me when I was pregnant! She was chewing on a bone, if you wonder why her head is kind of cocked to the side.
Doesn't she look miserable? I know how miserable it can feel to be pregnant with one baby, but Mocha had nine babies in her tummy.
The day came a little sooner than I expected for her to give birth. Either my calculations were off or her puppies came a few days earlier. A dog's gestation period is 60 days, or nine weeks. Mocha's puppies came on about day 56 or 58. I came home from work for lunch and went outside to check on her. I kept thinking that I heard puppies. But thought my ears were deceiving me because I thought she had a few more days to go. I found Mocha AND a couple of puppies under a Pontiac Fiero we had in the backyard. She had dug a really nice deep hole under there and had her puppies there. I was amazed that as big as she was she was able to squeeze under there to the nice hole she dug. She hadn't dug out very much to get under there, but once she was under, she had a nice lair. 
I took off the rest of the day from work to help Mocha if she needed any help. Sounds funny...yes, I took off half a day of work to be with my dog as she was in labor having her puppies. I didn't know if any complications would arise, so I wanted to be able to help her in any way that I could, if need be. The birthing process seemed to go fine. However, shortly after the last puppy was born, the sky started getting real dark as a storm rolled in. We quickly gathered the puppies up and brought them inside. Mocha followed VERY closely behind. You should have seen her eyes when Jeremy picked up the first puppy. They got huge, as if to say, "What are you doing with my baby? Where are you taking my baby?" But she trusted Jeremy, so she was ok with him picking up the newborn puppy. Her eyes showed her concern, but we reassured her that it was ok and we needed to go inside because a storm was coming. We were worried the puppies would drown if water got down into the hole that Mocha dug for them.

Our bedroom was huge, so we put a kiddie pool in our room, lined with a sheet for easy cleaning, for Mocha and her puppies to stay in. Mocha could get out, but her puppies couldn't. Mocha didn't leave them for very long. Sorry about the hideous curtains, they came with our house and we hadn't gotten rid of them yet.
This was our family picture. We took a trip to see Grandma and Grandpa. Jeremy's parents. It was about a 7 or 8 hour drive. They did good on the trip. From left to right, we have, Tymbre, Nanuk, Cyu, and Mocha. Cyu is Mocha's son that we kept from the litter. Tymbre is the white one we were going to breed with Cyu. After Mocha had Cyu's litter, we realized she had a hereditary eye disorder called Corneal Lipid Dystrophy. It never affected Cyu, but since he was a carrier of this gene, we had him fixed so we didn't pass on any bad genes. And Nanuk is the original husky that we had with her brother, Akala. 
After Mocha had puppies and had lived with us for awhile, she started to fill out. She looks totally different than when we first got her. If you don't know anything about dogs, she is shedding here. That's why her fur looks like it does on her hip. 
Mocha reminded me of a bear. She was so furry and big! There she is with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth...she was so hot natured. I have found several pictures with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth.
Another shot of Mocha with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth. So funny!
Mocha and Cyu had a special bond. They were mother and son and you could tell they had a special bond that the other dogs didn't share. Our dogs slept in our bedroom with us. When it was time to go to bed, we would say, "Go to bed." and they would all four run down the hallway to our bedroom and get on their mats. Mocha's mat was in front of my closet door. This is the same place that the kiddie pool was with her puppies. We painted and got new curtains :) She laid on this mat most of the time. Those are Cyu's legs beside her. Most of the time, he slept on the mat next to her mat.
Looking back at pictures while writing this post, it seems like where ever Mocha was, Cyu wasn't too far away...

Snoozing on the couch together...Mocha is the one in the center of the picture. Cyu is off to the left. Don't ask what my hand was doing...I have no clue. This was taken eight or nine years ago.
Waiting to come inside...Mocha is in the center of the picture, Cyu is to the right of her.  
Walking in the backyard...Mocha is walking towards the camera, Cyu is walking away.
Chillin' in the backyard...Mocha is laying in a hole, Cyu is standing beside her. If you don't know much about Siberian Huskies, they love to dig. Our backyard looked like the moon with craters on it!
Investigating Granny's backyard...Mocha is on the right, Cyu is on the left.
More investigating...Mocha is on the left, Cyu is on the right.
What did they find in the flowers? Mocha is on the right, Cyu is on the left.
I knew they had a special mother/son bond, but didn't realize how great a bond it was until I looked back at the pictures and saw so many of them right by each other's side. Depending what time of year the pictures were taken, depends how bright Mocha's coloring was. I like how Mocha's fur changed colors. In the summer, she was a bright red. The sun "bleached" her fur. In the winter, she was a darker red, almost brown. Cyu's fur color didn't vary that much.

Mocha was enjoying being pet by Jeremy's dad. She was such a sweet dog and it was a privilege if she let you into "her world". 
Another beautiful picture that captures her beauty.
Mocha loved pig ears! That sounds gross, but if you have dogs, most likely you know what I am talking about. They are actually pig ears, but they have been cooked and prepared.
Nanuk and Mocha looking out the gate. Two beautiful girls! 
Another good shot of Mocha... Yes, you are reading the sign on the gate correctly. We had to install an electric fence at the bottom of the fence so they would not dig out. We also installed one at the top so they could not jump out. Siberian Huskies are escape artists. After all, we lost Akala that way. He and Nanuk dug out of our yard (we didn't have an electric fence then), and we never found him. We did not want to go through the pain of losing one of our "children" again. It didn't hurt them. It just was a little shock so they knew not to touch it again. The same thing with a cow. No harm done. In fact, after being plugged in for awhile, we probably could have unplugged it and they probably wouldn't have known it wasn't plugged in. But that wasn't a risk we were willing to take.
It snows about once a year where we live. I always think it's neat to take pictures of our Siberian Huskies in the snow. That red ball of fur is Mocha curled up in the snow! 
This is another time that it snowed...they look so pretty in the snow!
People that don't know any better think it's cruel to have a Siberian Husky live in Texas. I can tell you it is not. Nanuk was born in Potosi, TX. Mocha was born in Brownwood, TX. Cyu was born in Abilene, TX. Tymbre was born in Missouri, but by the time she was 9 weeks old we brought her from Nashua, New Hampshire, to Abilene, TX. They were all raised in Texas and do not know any other climate than the Texas one. If you were to take them to Alaska, where you typically think of a Husky living, they would have a hard time because their bodies would not be acclimated to that kind of weather. The same goes for a Husky that was raised in Alaska and being brought to live in Texas. It would have a very hard time adjusting to the heat. You can kind of think of it as wearing long sleeves to keep you cool in the desert. Trust me, if it was cruel, we would not have had them. We love our dogs! They also know how to keep themselves cool. They will dig holes, deep holes, and lay in them. Your yard will look like the moon with craters on it! They also splash their water on themselves to keep cool. We also gave them a kiddie pool for them to play in.

Of my four children, I think Piper liked Mocha the best. Mocha really liked her too. When Piper was a baby, Mocha was really sweet to her. So were our other Huskies, but I think since Mocha was also a mom, she kind of understood a little better about babies. Piper liked to go in her doghouse with her. 
A few months ago, Mocha started to not eat as much. We wondered if her teeth were hurting her. After all, she was 13 years old. That is about 83 years old in human years, according the vet. I tried looking in her mouth to see if I could see anything going on with her teeth. She only let me look at the front teeth. I noticed a spot on the side of her face. It looked like a little scab. I wondered if it was a tick, but Mocha didn't really want me to look at it. I didn't want to push the issue, so I just let it be. We got softer dog food and Mocha stated eating better. But the scab on the side of her face had grown. It was now about 3/4 an inch. We thought maybe it was an engorged tick. When we tried messing with it to take it off, we realized it wasn't a tick. I will save you the gory details. I called the vet the next day. The vet said the growth on the side of her face was a tumor, which would require surgery to remove. He also said she had a couple of teeth (molars) that were really bad and would need to be removed. They weren't absessed yet, but would be if we didn't do anything about them. are the choices I was faced with. We could spend hundreds of dollars on surgery to remove the tumor and teeth. But, with Mocha being 13 years old, there was no guarantee she would make it through surgery. Her kidneys could have failed during surgery. The vet said he could do a health pre-screen to see if she was even healthy enough to have the surgery. Looking at Mocha, she seemed to be in good health, other than the tumor and couple of teeth. She still had some spunk in her. When I hooked the leash to her collar to take her to the vet, she got real happy and was chipper. But we didn't know how she was internally. We didn't know what condition her kidneys were in. Did she have arthritis? What about heart worms? There were alot of unknowns about her health that the pre-screen would have told us. There also was no guarantee how much longer she had to live. She could live for a few more years or a few more days. She was old, who knows how much time she had left.

The other choice I had was to put her to down, put her to sleep. Wow! I am getting teary-eyed just thinking about it again. What a hard decision! Who wants to be put in charge of life and death? How can I make that decision? How can I "kill" my sweet dog? Jeremy was at work, so I felt like I was alone in the decision. I left the vet's office that day with a very heavy heart. What was I to do? I called Jeremy in tears. We both thought and prayed about it for the rest of the day, trying to decide what was the best thing to do. We just felt so cruel putting her to sleep when she seemed to be fine other than the tumor and the couple of bad teeth. I think another thing that made it hard for me was thinking about the first two years of her life, when she lived with the "mean" people. Mocha wasn't just a dog, she was part of our family, and I just didn't feel right about ending her life.

I wish there were more options, but there wasn't any other choice. We had to do something about the tumor and her teeth, we couldn't just leave them. These things needed to be taken care of. They would not go away on their own. After weighing the two options and alot of prayer for guidance, the best thing to do was put her out of her misery. Mocha was old. She had lived her life. She sometimes had a hard time getting out of the deep holes she dug. Maybe she had arthritis. Why make her suffer any more, if she was in pain that we couldn't see? On Tuesday, April 19, 2011, I hooked Mocha's leash up to her collar...for the last time. I helped her get into our car...for the last time. The tears started to flow as I saw how happy she was when I hooked her leash onto her collar. It made me sad to see that she still had some life in her, knowing what was about to happen to her. I don't think the tears stopped for a few hours. What made it even worse was that she trusted me. She just went with me where ever I lead her with the leash. How could I do that to her? How could I "trick" her and lead her to her death? I felt so bad about this. She had no clue what was about to happen to her. I know this isn't the reality, but this is how I felt and what I still struggle with. The reality is that I am a loving pet owner who truly cares about my dog and I was doing what I felt was in her best interest. This was the most painful car ride I have ever driven. When we got to the vet's office, the pain in my heart got worse. This was it, I was really going to do this. Mocha and I walked into the vet's office. I could hardly talk as the receptionist asked the standard question of "why are you here today?" The tears continued to flow as I told her that we have decided to put Mocha down. I knew other dogs and their owners were around and I hate to let people see me cry, but there wasn't anything I could do to stop the tears. I'm sure they knew what was going on, by my sadness. I wonder if they felt sorry for me. I wonder if they looked at Mocha and thought, why is she putting her to sleep? She seems fine. 

We went into the examine room. It seemed like the vet was taking forever to get in there. At least it gave me more time with Mocha. I pet her. She laid down at my feet. I wonder if she knew how heavy my heart was. Finally the vet came in. He explained to me how the procedure would go. First, he would give her a sedative that would calm her down and slow her breathing some. It may make her a little loopy, is what he said. Mocha has always been hot natured. So, as the sedative got into her system, she stopped panting so much and her breathing did slow down alot. I kept watching her to see if she was still breathing. Her breathing got real slow, but she was still breathing. A little later (which seemed like forever), the vet came back in and he called a vet tech that was just around the corner. It was funny because he said, "Help me get this puppy up on the table." The vet tech replied, "Puppy?" I actually laughed, because I knew what he was thinking. Mocha was NOT a puppy, she was a 60 pound dog! And if a 60 pound dog isn't hard enough to pick up, imagine trying to pick up a 60 pound dog that is limp! The vet then shaved a spot on her arm so he could give her the rest of the "medicine". He said it was the same thing they give dogs when they are knocking them out for surgery. But he would just giver her too much and she wouldn't wake up. I stayed with Mocha to the end. I watched her. I pet her. I watched her stop breathing...and cue the sobs...I walked out of the room. I paid the bill and sobbed carrying her collar and leash all the way to the car.

Wow...I thought I was better. But as I sit here and type this, I am crying. This seems to have affected me worse than when Cyu, her son, died. I am not sure why. Maybe because Mocha was "my dog". She claimed me. Maybe because I am the one who did this to her, I am the one who ended her life. When I think back on Mocha's life, I feel sorry that the first two years were so horrible for her, when she lived with the previous owners. Maybe it has something to do with that. Whatever the reason, this is something no one should ever have to do. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life! I do know that Mocha is running around in heaven, carefree and pain free, with her son, Cyu. They have been reunited. I am happy for them. That may sound funny. Some people say there aren't animals in heaven. I say there are. Why would God create them and not have them in heaven when they die? What would be the point? So, if you are one of those who thinks there aren't pets in heaven, just humor me and pretend you believe.

Every night, our kids mark off that day on the calendar before climbing into their beds. This is what Piper drew on her calendar for that day, instead of marking off the day. It says, "I am sad" with a frowny face with tears streaming down.
The next day, Piper came home with this picture from school.
In class, they often make up sentences using their spelling words or sight words for that week. But Piper based those sentences around Mocha. Piper just turned seven years old in May.

I know this post was long, but I thank you for taking the time to read it. Mocha deserves a medal. Now go find your pet and give them a great big hug!

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