I took these photos with Rory last Sunday. We hadn’t gone out and done a little photoshoot in awhile, and I was planning on coming back to this blog to write about it as an outfit post — the bag in particular as it’s from BTS’s Artist-Made collection. Instead, I’m writing about how I had to say goodbye to my beloved boy.
Going through photos and videos of him throughout the years has been very painful, so I’m just sharing these last ones we took together. I know I don’t have to write this. But I’m doing it for my peace of mind, so if someone asks what happened, I can direct them here. Because I cannot handle explaining my worst nightmare come to life to anyone more than once. I can’t even believe it happened at all.
Rory started coughing and hacking about a week ago, and I had thought it was his allergies acting up. Before that, he seemed completely fine. But the thing about dogs is that they don’t show they’re in pain until it’s really bad. The fact that he was considered a geriatric dog was also unfathomable to me. Not because I was in denial (okay… maybe a little), but because he still acted the same way he did when he was just a wee baby; still super playful, charming, and lively. I took him to the vet on Wednesday and learned that the left side of his heart had enlarged, and was pushing up against his trachea. I was aware that he had a heart murmur and was always careful about it. In the past, the vet told me to be mindful of it so whenever I took him out on walks — which I admit, wasn’t too often (because it’d be too hot, too dark by the time I got home when I worked, etc) — I shortened the route.
Yesterday morning, I gave him the medicine he was prescribed to help with his coughing and his heart. He was eager to get his Greenie too, so I thought he was fine. But around noon his breathing became more erratic than usual. I tried to stay calm because dogs can feel when you’re stressed, and I didn’t want to put that on him. I hated seeing him like that, and I couldn’t help but think, “What if I have to bring him back to the vet? What if this is it? What if I’m asked if I want to let him go?” I thought it wouldn’t be fair to make Rory suffer for my sake and began crying. How could I even think that?
When he was discharged from his appointment, the vet said he’d call the next day with his blood test results so I figured I would ask about Rory seeing a cardiologist as recommended when he did so. I was already thinking I should take him to the emergency vet, but I went ahead and called the vet to ask about the cardiologist and also that he was having trouble breathing and if I should bring him in. The vet was on lunch and was told I would get a call back. I talked to my sister for a bit about what was happening and she said if it’s been more than 20 minutes, call back and if they’re not helpful take him to the emergency vet. So I called again and the vet told me his heart was in really bad shape and that I could bring him in at 3 so he could prescribe him with a long term heart medication.
At this point it’s 2:15. I called my mom even though she was at work to see if she could come with me because I didn’t want to be alone. As I turned around to pick up Rory on our way out he looked completely miserable, almost unrecognizable. The vet is literally a minute drive from our house, and once we pulled up I felt Rory’s body become lifeless in my arms. His head rolled slowly to the side and his tongue was sticking out, tinged with blue. I screamed his name as I frantically put my hand on his chest to feel for a heart beat, but there was none. I blew really hard into his nostrils and he became conscious again.
Because of COVID, we couldn’t just go in. My mom tried calling, but she fumbled the numbers. I was able to call and a vet tech came rushing out to get him. Not too long after the vet came out and led me into the back room. Rory’s heart was failing, and he would need to see a specialist in UC Davis, but in his state he wouldn’t make it. He told me if it was his dog he’d let them go. This moment was the one I feared the most starting from the day I decided to adopt Rory 10 years ago. I asked if my mom could come in to say goodbye (she tried to come with me at first, but the vet said one person only) before officially saying to go ahead and let him go.
My Auntie Nelly and dad came to the vet and we gathered in an exam room with Rory’s lifeless body so we could see him one last time. I got to have a moment alone and I kissed his nose, forehead, and paw for the last time.
It all happened so fast. I wish I had more time. I thought we had more time. He was only 10 years and 7 months old. My mom and sister told me to not blame myself, but it can’t be helped. There are many “I should have” moments that will haunt my thoughts for the rest of my life. They tell me I was a good mom, but I feel like I should have been better.
Rory was my everything and I will always love him so fiercely. I dreamt of having a dog since I was a little girl and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect one than Rory despite his imperfections. Even if I came home with a friend and he’d run right past me to greet them instead, I knew at the end of the day he loved me the most. Sometimes when my mom would come to hug me, he’d growl in the most protective way. There were also times where he’d guard my things and run over to protect them from anyone who came too close — sometimes myself included. He would do this with his toys and treats as well; I called this “Dragon Mode”… which makes sense because he looks like a luck dragon.
He was so stubborn. If I called him over or said “halika dito” (“come here” in Tagalog), he would look at me, contemplate, then walk away. Or, he would stretch and take his sweet time walking over. Rory always barked at other dogs, but absolutely loved people. His side-eye game was absolutely legendary. When we went for long drives, he’d put all his body weight on my right arm and look out the window. He walked with such a dainty gait and would stand with one paw up like a dignified gentleman — this is why I would sometimes call him a Dandy Lion.
Rory drank water in the most unique way by bobbing his head up and down. He loved chicken. Words that perked him up were chicken, treat, cookie, outside, smoke (when my dad used to), and Uncle Ernie. If you said “cat” he would jump to his red chaise lounge by the window and start barking. Rory loved laying on that chaise lounge and watch the cars and people go by, and would bark at any cat or dog within eyesight. Even if a tv show my dad or aunt was watching had a doorbell sound, Rory would run to the window and begin to bark. He loved greeting visitors with a toy in his mouth.
Sometimes when I’d go out, I would come home to find him in my room laying on a pile of my clothes. My family said he’d stay in my room for hours when I was gone. When I worked from home or was video chatting with friends, he’d poke his head into the office to see what I was doing. I always picked him up and cradled him and would say in a sing-song voice, “I’m gonna hold you like a baby because you’re my baby!” If I blew raspberries on his chest he would give my nose kisses. I loved petting the bridge of his nose with my pointer finger followed by a “boopity boop” on his nose. Sometimes I’d kiss his forehead or muzzle and leave a lipstick mark, so when anyone asked what it was I would simply say, “my love.”
I taught him to give me high fives with his left paw and hand shakes with his right. When I’d give him treats I would hold the chicken over his head and say “reach for your dreams.” Or I would play “Holy Grail” by hiding one chicken in a closed fist and ask him to choose which one it was in. If he got it right I would say “you chose… WISELY!” He got it right 95% of the time. I loved the way he sighed as if he had the weight of the world on his tiny shoulders. Rory was very much a cat trapped in a dog’s body. He would only come give cuddles if he felt like it, and when he did I felt so special. He preferred to sleep in between legs or by your butt — he didn’t care if you were uncomfortable. And despite being so small, he took up the entirety of the bed. I’m going to miss looking down the staircase to see his little face looking up at me, waiting to be taken on a walk. He liked to play hard to get once he saw the leash in my hand by running away when I told him to come over.
I would sometimes (horribly) sing the chorus of ‘Always Be My Baby’ by Mariah Carey to him because, as the song says, he will “always be a part of me/I’m part of you indefinitely/Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me/Oh darlin’ ’cause you’ll always be my baby.”
My Baby Bubbers, it was an absolute honor to be your mama. I hope you know how much I love you. I’m sorry for all my shortcomings. I wish I could’ve been better to you. Your Lola, Lolo, and Auntie Nelly love you with all their hearts too. I thought we had more years to come and adventures to go on. Wherever you are, I hope your journey across the rainbow bridge was a safe one and that you are eating all the chicken and running wild and free.