Let me first start off with some "thank you's".
Thank you for writing all of your comments. Yes, I did read each one...they helped when laying in bed at night.
Thank you for the emails I have received. I am slow on responding, but I will get back to you.
Thank you to all of my personal friends and family for being there for me and reaching out.
Thank you to Jefferson Animal Hospital for showing such concern/care for Nemo in his final weeks.
Thank you to Dr. Pat Kennedy at JAH for coming in on her day off when she learned that it would be Nemo's last day.
Thank you to Dr. Kennedy as well for holding me right away when I broke down when I saw her.
Thank you to Bordon Crematory for making the final stage stress-free for me.
...and thank you Nemo for crossing my path.
Now, I know you guys have witnessed my numerous posts about Nemo over the years. Yes, I was a proud dad and I wanted to share my moments. But the reason for it goes much deeper.
To explain this I have to go into detail about a part of my life I don't talk about often. I promise I will try to keep this short.
I was an asthmatic at the age of 2. Hospitalized many times. My allergies were quite severe. In fact, when I was an infant, my brother was forced to send away his dog to a family friend as no animals could be around me.
Asthma was an issued I dealt with often ...until the morning of March 17, 1989. Yes, St. Patrick's Day.
That morning I woke up with my tongue swollen on one side and hanging out of my mouth. It scared me. My mom rushed me to the ER. They blamed it right away on being around a rabbit the day before and gave me a shot. But, nothing changed. So I was transferred to another hospital in town. The doctor there feared cancer. Which angered my mother as there no tests even done at that point. So she yanked me out and too me to yet another hospital. It was there that the ER doctor took x-rays and did several tests. He came to the conclusion that I had a disorder called Angioedema. But not just any version...I had idiopathic-neurotic-angioedema. Which basically means no true known cause for it...and it involves the swelling of the tongue/throat and eyes. Rapidly. To the point that asphyxiation can take place in minutes.
So throughout my teenage years, I was severely restricted from any possible triggers. This included the outside air. In order for me to go to school, I had to wear a mask. Most at my school never knew as I would take it off as quickly as I could. My mattress was in plastic. I had only fish as pets. I became an introvert and depressed. But the silver lining in that is that I studied about the weather all the time. It was ironic that I was studying about the outside world that I could not even be out in.
I was hospitalized too many times to count. Nearly missed my high school graduation at Moore as a result. I was labeled "bubble boy" by many.
But when I entered my 20s...things changed. My angioedema attacks lessened dramatically...but my asthma returned.
I was always told I could never have cats or dogs...or anything that shed really.
SO NOW LET me fast forward to 2004. I got to see Finding Nemo in theaters in Bowling Green ( I was working for WBKO-TV at the time). I loved that movie!!
That Halloween, I decided I wanted to get a fish...and name it Nemo. So I went to the pet store in BG. I had fun shopping for gravel and tanks. I had a friend with me who was wondering around. He said "hey Brian, come here for a minute". As I turned the corner he pointed out a cage of white furballs. I was like awww...these are cute! I asked the clerk what they were. She informed me there were Bichon Frise puppies. Which I had never heard of...let alone able to pronounce what she had just said :) My friend dared me to hold one. I said "oh no no, I will react. I can't". The clerk said "well, if you have allergies, you may be surprised that you won't have a reaction.
So I took a deep breath. I said okay "fine".
There was only one puppy awake in the litter. A male.
So she handed him to me. He was so tiny! I laid him up against my neck. And he took one of those deep "sighs" and licked his lips.
My reaction to animal dander is nearly instant. But after 10 mins of holding him...nothing. I was amazed. The clerk said "well, it looks like someone just bought a dog".
She was right, I put the fish tank gravel down to the side. And my new best friend entered my life. And I decided to name him the same name I was going to give the fish.
Born on September 20, 2004
He was a feisty one! Yes, he was whinny at night. Chewed on things. But he became very loyal...and so incredibly sweet.
Nemo was only with me for a few months before I was hired at WCIV-TV in Charleston, SC. Yes, Nemo and I were heading to the beach.
And boy he thought he was hot stuff...
Nemo become my world and close to my friends as well.
Halloween 2006, he was hairsprayed (safely) as NEMO :) It was cute, but a mess that got onto every piece of furniture I had. Bad idea.
My best friend in Charleston thought it would be cute to shave Nemo down to look like a lion while I was at work.
Yeah, Nemo loved it. Me? Not so much.
Nemo was a lucky dog. He was on TV often in Bowling Green at first...then in Charleston. Although he was banned in Charleston after he yanked my mic off of me while I was doing the weather and ran off with it. :)
But he got to swim in the ocean. He even swam in a lake with gators (which I didn't know where there until later...shew!).
He traveled with me when I took the job at The Weather Channel in Atlanta. Yes, he was on TV there too...nationally!
And of course, he made the journey back with me "home" to Louisville as I arrived at WAVE.
Everyone says their dog is loving and sweet. But I am biased. Nemo was THE sweetest!
He would lay on me with ease to take naps. His favorite thing to do.
He would fall asleep in my arms often. Snoring loudly.
He loved the snow (of course). Always would run through it.
One of my favorite "weird science" moments with him.
Nemo and I attempting to sing together....
Even taking care of me when I was sick...
And his favorite thing to do on his bday was to ride in the care with the windows down. All I have to do is say "wanna go bye-bye?!?" and he would scream and run to the door. I am sure you all have seen the video of him doing that with Lady Gaga playing in the background. I will post that again for his birthday later.
He was relatively in good health for many years. His only issues were his weak back legs (birth defect).
WHEN NEMO GOT SICK....
I noticed about a year or so ago that Nemo was picking up weight. I mean, he did eat a lot, so I figured he was like me...just happens when we get older ;)
But his belly kept getting larger and he was drinking lots and lots of water. Begging for it many times during the night...leading to accidents in the house.
He was housebroken, so I was concerned.
It was when I took him in for his teeth cleaning this past February that everything changed.
They called me and said they could not put him under based on his blood work. They suspected Cushings Syndrome. Which is a tumor in the pituitary gland.
He underwent several tests...confirming just that.
The treatment is form of chemo to "burn down" the tumor to help control his balance in his blood.
The treatment is 10 days long...and he did start to drop the weight. But by day 10...he stopped eating.
I took him back in to my vet I had at the time...and they hospitalized him to try to figure out what was happening.
They then informed me he was one of 2% of dogs that go into remission from this. Which was GREAT! Yet...not all good news.
The chemo dose is hard to determine with dogs...and apparently this dose was too much for him. He went into another disease called Addisons. I was then having to add in more of the functions of the pituitary gland back into his body. At the same time, he was diagnosed with diabetes.
So I had to give him insulin shots and steroids and also maintain his electrolytes. Not an easy balance to do as one affects the other.
And there were times that he would go off-balance, and I had to hospitalize him again. In fact, he was in more in than he was out from March through May...as most of you know.
I then was referred to several specialists to get more answers.
It was in late May that I was told a balance was indeed looking likely. But...his gallbladder was damaged...and would soon rupture.
Surgery was the only solution; not only extremely expensive...but his survival rate was not great from making it through surgery. And if he was lucky to do that, the road to recovery would not be easy with many risks.
So I had to battle this all out in my head. Should I do it? He is a strong soul...maybe he can beat the odds?!?! But what if he doesn't? Would I be missing out on great times with him? And would I really want him to stay in the hospital for weeks on end ...again?
I did ask the specialist if I would get warning signs before a rupture as I absolutely could not let that happen to him. He said yes and told me about them.
Over the next several weeks...he did really good. He was weak, but still played with Dandy and had a fun attitude about him.
But then by mid July...things went downhill.
He ate less and less. Slept more and more. And could barely walk.
I tried several different things to try to gauge what was wrong and how I could help him. But nothing worked. The warning signs were starting to show up about what the specialist had said.
I was then haunted by the thoughts of what I had to do. Everyone telling me to do "what's best for him" and "think about his quality of life". Yes, I get that. But when YOU are the owner...it is not that easy. He is a part of my world. My best friend. And on top of that, I would be ending a life which I can't even kill a spider without guilt. So yes, I knew what was best...but it takes a lot of strength to get past those thoughts/voices in your head.
Last Saturday I spent the whole day with him. Talking to him. Rubbing his belly and ears like he loves.
But the moment I knew....knew that it was time....was when he would look at me. He was tired. Looked sad. Yet he fought with every piece of energy he had to get to my lap just to be close to me.
I always said I would let him decide when it was time. And he was telling me it was.
So last Sunday I took him to see Dr. Kennedy.
I sat him in my lap before I left the house for one... last...final photo with him.
I cried all the way there and did my best to dry my tears through the waiting room so people wouldn't see me a mess.
Rachael at Jefferson Animal Hospital rushed me into a room right as I walked in...which I appreciated as she knew why I was there.
As I mentioned at the start of this...I broke down as Dr. Kennedy walked in...and she hugged me right away.
She explained how things would go. She warned me of all of the feelings/emotions I will feel after...and to prepare for that.
They then added his catheter to his arm and left me alone with him.
Nemo sat in my arms (like always) and would lift his nose up to smell the scents of animals that have been in that room before. I tell ya, Nemo had a nose for anything. Dandy does not have that sense from what I have noticed so far.
I rocked Nemo...talked to him. Apologized to him over and over and thanked him for being my best friend.
Dr. Kennedy returned...and pulled up a chair next to us.
She told me to keep talking to him as this happens...
She started it...and within seconds he was...gone.
I don't think I have ever cried that hard. Sigh. I am even crying now typing this.
She left me with him as long as I wanted...which was a good while. I just couldn't let go. But knew I had to.
The ride home was the worst.....I wanted to go back and bring him back to life. That selfish side again...and guilt. What I was warned about.
But now I know he is in a better place.
I do know I gave him a great life...full of adventure and travel that most dogs never get to experience.
I have been loving on Dandy. He still looks for him in the yard to play. But he was a gift to my other half. And they are closer.
Will I get another dog again? Maybe. Obviously I am limited to the breeds with my health, but a bichon's love and loyalty is just amazing.
My heart is not there to love another dog the way I did Nemo...yet. Time will tell.
Nemo is now by my side in this urn every night on my nightstand with his adorable face watching over me.
This is what I had inscribed at the bottom:
Rest in Peace Nemo...you were an unexpected gift in my life. We were meant for each other.