The hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make was the night I had to call Kelly to say that Kaylee was in chronic renal failure. The second hardest call I’ve ever had to make was just eight days earlier when I had to call Kelly to say Ralphie was in kidney failure. Going into the end of April of 2013, we had seven dogs, running around the house. By the end of May of 2013, our two oldest dogs had passed away, within twelve days of each other.
Kelly has done an amazing writeup of how it all unfolded. I warn you, that it is both long and emotional. For me, who lived it, it’s also touching and somewhat cathartic.
There is no way to adequately write in words how much Ralphie meant to me, to us. If things had not worked out with me and Ralphie, things would not have worked out with Kelly and I. I would not be married, I wouldn’t have the house I do, and I wouldn’t be surrounded by dogs and a cat, all who love us and brighten my day. Ralphie felt like a constant in our lives. We knew he was getting older. He’d lost one eye to a benign tumor, he had hypothyroidism but even close the end, he was pretty active. He lived a full life right up until his last week. He was closer to sixteen than fifteen when he passed, and I think he enjoyed his life almost every single day. Even his last few days were filled with him going on walks and eating lots of food.
If we’d never adopted Ralphie, we’d never have adopted Kaylee. Kaylee is the toughest being I’ve ever seen. She was abandoned by her previous guardians, and had the worst teeth you’ll ever see in a dog. She lived with abscesses and busted roots for years, that must have caused her pain. Her last few years, she suffered from a heart murmur, that could have turned serious at any time. In her final week, she was suffering from kidney failure, a disc problem in her back, and probably a snake bite. We found out she had spleen cancer. Finally, some sort of aneurysm was what finally led her down the path to passing away. During all this, she only showed signs of illness at the very end. We gave her the best gift I hope we could ever give a dog in her circumstances: we gave her the chance to pass away as an old dog.
We still have five other dogs to take care of. It sounds like a lot of dogs, but after having seven it seems like nothing. Ralphie and Kaylee combined weighed less than thirty-five pounds, but they sure filled up this big house of ours. I told Kelly a few weeks ago, that the rest of the dogs feel like they’ve been orphaned. It still feels like that.
Peedee, the second dog we adopted and now the new oldest, has taken on a lot of Kaylee’s affectations. He now likes to spend hours outside at night poking around the yard, just like Kaylee did. He wants to lick every dish after we’re done with them, just like Kaylee did. I think he misses Ralphie too.
O-Ren seems clingier to Kelly. She hates to be alone. Jayne, who we adopted along side Kaylee, seems a little older to me, like this experience has hardened her a little. Mags and Finnick, the newest dogs in our house, seem the most unaffected. Mags, however, now considers it her house. She tries to rule it all, all twelve pounds of her.
It’s been three months, and we’re doing okay. We’ve been able to move forward in our lives, laughing and crying at times. The house still feels a little empty, but with lots of pictures of Ralphie and Kaylee everywhere, I still feel they are part of the house. I don’t mean that in a spiritual way, but strictly from a memory point of view.
We were forever changed when Ralphie and Kaylee came into our lives, and we are forever changed now that they have left us. I know I’m a better person for having known them. To me, the pain we have felt has been worth it, knowing we gave them a good life. There will be new dogs in the future, dogs we adopt or dogs we foster, and it will be in large part due to knowing Ralphie and Kaylee. That’s how we pay tribute and thank them.
Thank you Ralphie. Thank you Kaylee.