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Saying Good-bye to Fenway

I posted the following essay on my Facebook pages; it was written on August 29th about the death of our 16-year-old long-haired dachshund that we loved immensely. We still can't get used to our house, this life, without him.

I could have chosen a little girl puppy. With a house of testosterone filled with four males, it would have made sense to pick a dog to provide a little more estrogen to the family. When our youngest son, Jason, then 4, had begged for a puppy, we finally said yes, and it was me who made the drive to Bear Creek near Siler City to pick our pup from a new litter. I held the male and female puppy in the palm of my hand; I almost picked the girl. But I picked the male puppy, the red, long-haired dachshund with the black ring around the tip of his tail. Something told me it was him that would fit in with all my guys, to complete my house of testosterone. The litter was born on October 27, 2004, the night the Red Sox finally won the World Series after 86 years of coming close. With my husband’s family being from the Boston area and all of us being avid Red Sox fans, “Yes,” I thought, "That is our puppy." So we named him Fenway after Fenway Park where the Red Sox play. I truly believed God had meant for this puppy to be ours.

We brought him home several days before Christmas, and thus began a love affair for us all that will go on forever. There were the days he would run in the front yard, and when we tried to catch him, he would fake us out and run the other way like the a running back in the NFL. There were the licks on our faces when he could sense that we were having a bad day. There were the playful fights with Billy and David, and the nap time cuddling from Jason, the only son Fen would allow to hold him on his chest for an extended time. He had a different relationship with each of the boys, a special one as individual as Fen was. But the relationship he had with my husband, Kevin, was one of the strongest and weirdest relationships I've ever seen a dog have with a human. They were inseparable. When they did have to part, Fenway would guard Kevin's clothes, boots, or gym bag. The only other time Fen ever guarded anything else of anyone else's in the family was when my middle son was in the hospital, and Fenway somehow sensed it and guarded David's baseball uniform. You would really have to see it to believe it. I had a special relationship with Fenway too. I often told him he was my only brown-eyed little boy. I loved to hold him in a towel after his baths, listening to his steady breathing.

Early this past Tuesday morning, Kevin and I knew Fenway's breathing was not normal at all. He was struggling. His health hasn't been the best lately with a diagnosis of Cushings Disease, which is common in older dogs but does present some problems; still, with treatment, dogs with Cushings can live another few years. We were hopeful. Until Tuesday night when the breathing issue began. We took him to the NC State Vet Hospital and had to leave him there, and we couldn't see him for the next four days due to Covid restrictions. I ache that he wasn't here at home with us his last four days. I physically ache. But we were trying to get him help, and the vet offered hope with some medications if they could wean him off the oxygen. He was making progress and just yesterday, the vet said she thought Fenway would make it. We were so happy to have the chance to have him home again. Sure, we knew his health was not great, but we knew he still enjoyed life, and it seemed we'd have some more time with him -- maybe months or a year or so.

But the vet called this morning, saying Fenway had a setback this morning, and his breathing was labored again. We waited for improvement that didn't come. So together we made that tough decision to not let him suffer any longer. We wanted to bring him home and have it happen here through the Laps of Love vets that visit homes. But the vet said it would be too hard on Fenway to leave the hospital. Kevin, Billy, David, Jason, David's fiance Claire, and I went to the NC State vet hospital to say our good-byes. It had happened so quickly when he seemed to be in pretty good health just Monday morning. I took along some of his beloved sweet tea, naively thinking he would be able to drink any of it all. I'd been through the pain of pets dying before but never have had to say good-bye like this or do it in the hospital setting. I didn't know Fen would be too out of it to drink anything. We all had to wait outside the hospital - due to Covid -- and even though we had an appointment at 2, they didn't come and take us to Fenway until about 2:20 -- meaning we had to stand there and watch as others dropped off their dogs for care since they couldn't go in. It was tough to watch that. We had to go back 3 at time instead of with all of us together, which I really hated. David, Claire, and Billy went back and stayed a bit. When they came out, we all sobbed outside in each other's arms. Then Jason, Kevin, and I went back. The thing about animals is that they are so innocent, and you can't really explain things to them like you can with humans; you just hope they know. But it hurts because of that innocence. So deeply. We all were able to say how much we loved him, how much we'd miss him, how much better he'd made our lives. And then Jason and I left Kevin to be with Fen to the very end. The two of them. Side by side as usual.

I've written many essays about Fenway over the years in my columns for The Cary News and in my two books. There are so many memories that I'm glad I captured in words. I can't go into all of them now. But I do have to say that when we got Fenway, I was hoping it would bring out a nurturing side of my three sons, and boy, did it ever. Wow. Thank you, Fenway, for helping my boys become the men they have become. My oldest son actually didn't want to get a dog when we first talked about getting one back in 2004, but of course, he fell in love with Fen the minute he saw him. But this week, he said, "Mom, remember when I didn't want to get a dog back then? It was because of this -- because I knew how bad this would hurt when we lost him." As we both wiped away tears, he added, "But all those times we had with him were worth it." Yes, they were. They definitely were.

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