Rhu and I had taken our morning cart walk through the neighborhood. We were accompanied by a friend who had never walked with us before, and everything seemed perfectly normal. His dad and I were probably going to splurge and go out to dinner that night because it was our 25th wedding anniversary. We don’t do parties or big celebrations, but an occasional dinner is nice.
Life had another plan.
I don't remember much of my frantic drive to the emergency vet hospital, but knew I had to get there immediately. Rhu had very unexpectedly thrown up. He never threw up, and for a dog who is immobile, this is very serious business.
I carried him outside to the grass but his struggle continued and then I looked at the color of his gums. They were looking pale blue as was his tongue. He was raising his head up high stretching his neck appearing to struggle to get air. I told my husband to notify the ER and I picked him up and put him in the car like he weighed about two pounds, though he weighs more than 60. The adrenaline was pumping through my body with a vengeance. That's what fear does to you, and fear is definitely what I was feeling. Rhu was still on medication for aspiration pneumonia from a month ago, so how could this be happening again? I was screaming inside.
I drove like a mad woman pushing traffic lights, which were in the process of turning red to the very limit. Rhu is my life and I had to get my boy to the ER. I peeled into the parking lot and threw open the hatch door scooping him up without a second thought and plowed through the front entrance. They raced him into a room and I had to wait in another room for the vet to let me know how he was.
The news didn't seem hopeless at the time, as Dr. Simpson said he had pneumonia again. It didn't seem as concentrated, but it was more widespread. He said Rhu most likely would spend several days in the oxygen chamber again, but his voice did not convey alarm or doom. He planned on giving him a benign medication for nausea as we still didn't know why he threw up.
He asked me if I would bring his cart down, since that was so beneficial for him. He then asked if I'd like to see Rhu first before getting the cart and of course I said yes. Now that I reflect back on that, it was not really a suggestion but a direction. I didn't need any urging, for I would spend absolutely any moment I could with my sweet Rhu.
When I went back to the oxygen chamber he was up on his "good" side which meant he could rise up into a pretty normal dog laying down position. He was happy to see me but was not frantic like the time previously. He kissed my hand and arm as soon as I put it through the small arm-sized doors to reach him. I repeatedly told him how much I loved him until I felt I should go get his cart. He seemed perfectly content and I would not be gone long.
It was about 45 minutes or so when I returned to find the staff saying Rhu was being intubated and had arrested. They were now officially breathing for him.
What? I felt like a truck had hit me. The tears were streaming and the dam was cracking. I was still in partial denial while hoping for a miracle. Rhu's dad was finally on his way, but didn't know anything about his suddenly critical status. I wasn't going to call him while he was driving.
Then Dr. Simpson came into the room with the worst news possible. He said that Rhu would have to be hooked up to a ventilator, as he was unable to breathe on his own. Even at best, his chances for recovery were extremely slim. My heart was breaking into a million pieces. I knew this would never be what Rhu would have wanted.
Dad came in about this time and the vet explained the situation to him. We both sat there in utter shock and disbelief for what seemed like an eternity. With grief pouring from our hearts, we told Dr. Simpson that we knew we had to let him go. I could feel the walls of the dam splitting apart as our hearts were breaking with this news. Incredibly helpless and hopeless, there are simply no words to describe our feelings of despair.
They took us back where they had Rhu on a table with IVs and all kinds of monitors hooked up to him. He was sedated and sleeping very peacefully. There was no struggling. They were breathing for him still. We embraced him from all sides for more than 30 minutes, and we told Rhu how much we loved him, what a gift he had been to us and that we will never ever forget him. On our OK, Dr. Simpson administered the shot and in seconds he was truly at peace.
I got into my car with his cart and officially the dam broke into a million pieces. I screamed at the top of my lungs most of the way home. We barely slept the rest of the night.
What do we do now? He was our every waking moment and all the caregiving did not feel like a burden, but another gift — a life lesson in selfless love. That's what Rhu was all about — selfless love, giving love and simply being love.
There has to be something done in his honor and the decision came to me to open a memorial fund called "Remember Rhu." It will be through Best Friends to help other special needs animals have a better chance at finding their forever home. Best Friends is why I had Rhu in my life and I cannot think of a better way to keep his memory alive. Rhu’s ashes will also be taken to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s Angel’s Rest as his final resting place.
Today is day three since his passing and we are taking all of the flowers received, along with his favorite toys, and putting them in his cart. Today, we will be taking that final walk in “Rhu's park” as Rhu takes his walk back home.
We could never be more blessed in our lives than to have had Rhubarb with us, even if it seems like an incredibly short time. Go in peace, our sweet, gentle Rhu. You touched more lives in your five years than most do in a lifetime. This is not goodbye, but until we see you again. We will always, always love you — forever.