12 years and 7 months ago, my husband asked me to get in the car, we were going somewhere.
Despite me asking over and over again where we were going, he told me we were going to see a dog, but we were just going to SEE her, to see if maybe we wanted to adopt her, so I should keep my emotions in check.
We pulled up to a house in East LA, in what I would describe as 'kinda a tough neighborhood', and as we got out I saw his co-worker from Costco, who welcomed us and showed us to the porch where I found the most adorable, tiniest thing I had ever seen.
She couldn't have been more than 3 1/2 pounds, she hardly had any hair, she looked like a hairless squirrel.... I really first thought she was one of those hairless dogs, but despite all that, she was so obviously a chihuahua. That chihuahua heart and fearlessness in her was evident right then, at barely a year old.
Her name was Princess, and she needed a home. She had been living in a home with an older woman but Princess' energy was too much for her to handle, so she needed to find a home that better fit her needs.
As soon as I saw her I screamed 'I NEED TO TAKE HER HOME', ruining any chance for my husband to negotiate. I was taking her at any cost. My husband must have known that, because he came prepared, and as we scooped her up and got her in the car, he went to the trunk and pulled out a bed and some toys. He knew before I did that she would be ours. We decided we would keep her name, but add 'Grace' and our last name so that her full name would be Princess Grace Kelly, we thought that would be funny. Some people got it, some never did.
And she fit in immediately, because just a week after being home with us, my husband and I looked at each other and vowed she would never be in any pain or suffer in any way and said, 'When this one passes away, it's going to be the toughest we have ever experienced.'
And it is.
There's a reason that dog spelled backwards is 'God'.
For those that don't already know. We lost our precious Princess very early Sunday morning suddenly and unexpectedly. She would have been 13 this October.
For her entire life, there have been a few emergencies, broken foot (actually my fault because I was walking with her when I fell and her leg got the brunt of it), torn off dew claw while doing agility, a few bouts with pancreatitis, pet insurance has reimbursed us between 80-90% of all of her medical bills, but beyond that, we have spent thousands on her over the years, in shirts, toys, food, beds, etc. Every penny of it well spent because she was just the happiest dog that could be. She could also be the most mischievous thing, barking that frantic 'HEY! Someone is here!' bark at the door until one of us got up to see what it was, only to find that as soon as we walked toward the door, she was racing back to the table to jump up onto it to feast on whatever we were eating.
She also let you know when she was angry. If you waited too long to put her on the bed when she requested by growl or bark to be let up to cuddle with you, you were sure to find a small poop on the floor as punishment for making her wait. Thankfully, those poops were no bigger than Tootsie Rolls.
She was in our wedding, the 'flower dog', she did everything with us and when she couldn't travel with us, she stayed with friends and family, who adored her as much as we did.
A few years ago, her vet noticed she had a heart murmur, and it was recommended that she see a cardiologist. We did see her cardiologist faithfully and despite having this murmur which would eventually lead to congestive heart failure, she was doing really, REALLY well and they believed she would continue to live several years. But the cardiologist did say that in a small portion of cases, things can progress suddenly and unexpectedly, and it seems that's what happened this weekend.
On Saturday, everything was normal, Princess was in her normal high spirited mood, running, jumping and playing like normal.
Early in the afternoon, I had noticed that suddenly she seemed tired, and cuddled up to my husband for most of the afternoon, sleeping in the crook of his arm.
A little while later, she refused to eat, so I chalked it up to a stomach issue, since nothing else seemed out of sorts. She occasionally had a stomach problem and it usually resolved itself in 12 hours with her being occasionally uncomfortable.
Around 9:30pm she threw up, and as I calmed her I noticed her heart was racing, but again, that wasn't unusual for her when she was feeling sick.
About a half hour later, she had a seizure, she never had one before and it was a scary thing to experience, all I could do was wrap her in a blanket, hold her in my arms and talk to her and soothe her as I screamed for my husband to come downstairs.
As we raced to the emergency vet, the seizure ended, but it was obvious it was little hard for her to catch her breath.
The vet rushed her into an oxygen kennel immediately to assess her, and after speaking to us and knowing her history, thought things might be connected to her heart issue. They stabilized her while the figured out what to do next...the goal was to get her stable enough to do an ultrasound or get her to her cardiologist team. They gave her some medication to help and we were told that it would take a few hours to show a full effect... 'No News is good news' they told us as we decided to go home for a few hours of sleep, and we were praying that they would not call.
About 1am the vet called us and said that although initially she was doing a little better, but it was clear that she was now showing some new symptoms of being in distress, some blood dripping from her nose and mouth, her tongue was blue tinged meaning she couldn't get enough oxygen into her lungs.
The vet made it clear that while she was not in any pain, all these symptoms put together likely meant there was a tear in one of her heart valves, and we could expect things to get worse quickly. This condition was not fixable without intense, invasive procedures from which she had little chance of surviving and even if she did survive, long term survival was slim. In the meantime, her condition meant that she could suffer a heart attack at any time, I told the vet if that happened before we could get there, to please let her go quickly and peacefully.
The vet had been on the phone for the last several hours with Princess' cardiologist and her team, consulting them, and they all agreed with her assessment, and so we knew everything we needed to know.
As we rushed back to the vet to see her, we both agreed again that we would not let her suffer even a moment of pain, and when we saw her in the oxygen kennel, it was clear to both of us that we needed to make the difficult decision to let her go peacefully.
I want to stress just how much I trust my own gut, her doctors and know that they did everything possible for her and we would have done anything we could, spent any amount of money if we knew she wouldn't suffer and would recover.
Just know that we were with her until the end, holding and kissing her and telling her how much we loved her. As long as you have the chance to be there with your pet as they pass on, be there, they need you and you need them. I could not do it any other way.
I fully believe that every pet that is in our lives is there for as long as they are meant to be. That doesn't make things any easier when they leave. 12 1/2 years was not nearly long enough for her to be in our lives, but we know we gave her a wonderful life and she filled ours with so much joy, laughter and love and she taught us so much about how to live life fully, and to cherish every single moment.
We are comforted to know that we made the right decision for her and that she is now running free at the Rainbow Bridge and reuniting with my dad, Tim's mom and dad, and all of our pets Jake, Madchen, Amber, Dakota, Ozzie and Buffy that left us before she did.
I want to thank all of you who have reached out in posts, tweets, and emails. I've shared Princess' life with you and I thank you for accepting that and loving her as much as my husband and I did. Hold your pets close today and think of her. For now, our pack is down to one and my husband and I and Roxy are nursing broken hearts, but smiling through remembering all the joy she brought to our lives, remembering her 'dinner dances' and her howling with my husband and I.
Please check out the gallery and videos below and enjoy some of my favorites of Princess Grace Kelly and at the very end a few reminders about how to live life and remember your pets.
Forever grateful to each and every one of you.