It has rained here for the past 3 days straight- it never rains in San Diego. The symbolism is not lost on me. I don’t think I have ever felt this broken hearted in my entire life.
Semper has been apart of my life for the past 12.5 years. I got him with my first paycheck from my new job as a CT technologist. I remember I wanted a girl dog so bad but when the breeder showed me his picture, I knew I had to have him. I named him after the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi, which means, always faithful. My mom received him from the airport for me while I was at work. Since I worked the night shift, I wouldn’t see him until the next morning. She said he wouldn’t leave his cage all night. When I came home in the morning, I scooped him up and snuggled all day with him on the couch. He was such a snuggler. And thus began our life together.
Semper has been through every move with us, all 8. He was even around before Logan and I got married and endured many nights of getting snuck into the barracks and hiding in Logan’s wall locker, so as to not be found. He has helped me survive 5 deployments, welcomed home both of our children, and brought me more joy than I ever thought a dog could.
I almost feel silly being this upset over a dog. I can remember countless friends and family posting about their pet passing. You read it and think, “awe, how sad” and then type, “so sorry for your loss” and then move on with your day. It’s not until that pet is yours, full of wonderful memories and emotion that the devastation really sinks in. The day we put Semper down I couldn’t stop crying. I was finally able to drift off to sleep only to be woken up several hours later by something and my mind immediately fell back to my sweet Semper. Your brain thinks about completely ridiculous things too. We buried him in the backyard and I worried about what if Logan didn’t dig the hole deep enough and Semper is getting wet? I hate that he’s so cold in there. Was there a chance the dose they gave him to put him to sleep wasn’t enough? What if he was still alive down there? Ugh, it’s absolutely horrible. I could have gone through two pillowcases with the amount of tears I cried that first night. I can’t even imagine losing a child. If the sadness and guilt is this intense for a pet, my heart goes out to anyone that has lost a loved one. It would simply be unbearable.
Semper has made a cough/gagging sound for at least the past 8 years. It wasn’t until the past several weeks that the sound became much more frequent. I googled and watched videos of dogs making similar sounds and deduced it as him having a collapsed trachea. Which, there was nothing they could do. Logan urged me to take him into the vet just to make sure but I hated the thought of taking him in only for them to tell me he needed to have a $3500 surgery that I knew given his age, we wouldn’t do. On Sunday, he vomited his food and was having difficulty breathing. I immediately knew I needed to take him to get checked out. I drove him in and the doctor agreed it was probably a collapsed trachea but that she would put him in an oxygen tank, give him a tranquilizer to calm him down, and take some x-rays to make sure. The x-rays showed that it wasn’t his trachea, but an enlarged heart with fluid around it. His heart was failing. She suggested we give him a lasix drug to remove the fluid, keep him in the oxygen tank for a few hours, and that he would need to be on heart medication the rest of his life. So I left him there and waited for the call to come pick him up.
Less than an hour later, I got a call from the Dr. telling me that the medicine had only made things worse and she was certain that a valve had ruptured in his heart. She told me he would need to be put down. Gosh, I can’t even type that without crying.
Logan and I rushed up there with the kids to be able to say goodbye. Amelia didn’t quite understand that she was saying her final goodbye but Easton was very upset. What made things worse was that Semper was barely able to breathe outside of the oxygen tank so we all had about 20 seconds to say our goodbyes. Logan took the kids to the car and I stayed with Semper till the end. As I sat there watching him in the oxygen tank, I couldn’t help but to berate myself for not taking him in sooner. Logan said I should be grateful for the last few weeks with him because the same outcome may have occurred had I taken him in earlier. I just feel like Semper deserved better than what I gave him. He was so loyal and loving. He would bolt out the door the first chance he got and never listened, but he loved with such an intensity. Anyone who ever met Semper would say the same. He never met a stranger he didn’t like.
We took him home and buried him in his favorite bed (the first bed I ever purchased him) in our backyard and Logan made a makeshift cross to put there until we can purchase a nice plaque. I hate the fact that we’re military and will probably be moving in a couple of years and will have to leave him behind. He’s been living this military life with me from the beginning so hopefully he’ll understand.
I just wish I had gotten one more day with him. One more day to snuggle him, rub his soft head, take him for a walk, give him his favorite bone, and take a photo with him. One more day to show him how much he meant to me.
While I hate that it was so unexpected, I am glad that Logan was home to help me with everything. I couldn’t imagine having to go through this without him. Coming home to a quiet house is the worst. My body still wants to get up and let him out first thing in the morning, and say goodbye to him as I’m leaving the house. I know it will take time. Easton made the comment, “now we don’t have any dogs”. While I know one day far far down the road we will get another dog, I can’t fathom ever loving it as much as I have loved Semper. No dog will ever compare.
I apologize to my friends that knew Semper because I haven’t called and told you personally that he was no longer with us. But to be honest, I can’t say it out loud without crying and I’m just trying to get through one day at a time right now. Each day has gotten a little easier but I almost feel guilty smiling or not crying because I feel like it means I’m moving on already. I wish I could tell him that he will always be in my heart and while I want to be selfish and have had a few more years with him, I am so so grateful for the love he has given me these past 12.5 years.
I pray that the rainbow bridge is true. I pray that I will get to snuggle with my sweet Semper again one day when I go to Heaven. As much as I know God is all I’ll ever need when it’s my time, Heaven just can’t possibly be complete without him. I also pray that for those of you who have a “Semper” at home, take time out of your busy schedule to let them know how loved they are. Because the phrase, “you never know when your time will come” has never rang more true.
If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you. Writing always seems to be therapeutic for me. And because photos make my heart happy, here are some of my favorite photos of Semper. Video to come soon.
I am currently typing this while Logan undergoes shoulder surgery, so I know taking care of him and my upcoming photography conference will keep me occupied. If you have a moment, (which I suspect you do if you’ve read this entire post), I would love it if you would leave a comment about your favorite memory of Semper. My heart would greatly appreciate it.