Jeneé Osterheldt

April 11, 2014

Heartbreak and hope for my sweet dog

Instead of her usual, sweet chocolate-eyed stare, my boxer baby looked strange. Her left eye was red, her third eyelid closing like an angry curtain. I rushed her to the vet.

We have a morning routine, my Charli Brown and I.

I sometimes sing “Good Morning” by John Legend. Other times, I call my boxer baby’s name. She runs up the steps to greet me, her little nub wagging so hard her butt vibrates with happy feelings. Her sister, Peppermint Patty, bursts out of the crate when I open it to tackle Charli with affection. It’s like Wrestlemania with kissing.

It’s easier to walk them separately. But Charli watches over me like a hawk when I’m out front with Pep.

Three weeks ago, I looked up to wave at her. That pig snout and the impossible boxer frown always give me comfort. Instead of her usual, sweet chocolate-eyed stare, she looked strange through the screen door. Her left eye was red, her third eyelid closing like an angry curtain.

I rushed her to the vet. Initially, they thought it was a minor tear. That kind of thing can happen to dogs like boxers; their droopy eyes can dry out because they don’t close all the way during sleep. A cone and ointment were the doctor’s orders.

Ever the downtown diva, she hates a cone. It’s not cute or comfortable, and it clashes with her collar. Still, she submitted to her new gear. After a week, things seemed to be better. Until they got worse. She took to constantly winking, and not in a flirty way.

Another test at the vet revealed the tear was more serious — an eye ulcer. Her cornea formed a pocket over the pupil.

Worst case scenario: She loses her left eye and wears the most fabulous, bedazzled pirate patch I can find for my princess. But for now, we’re finishing Week 3 of a cone, two kinds of eye drops and pain meds. Her next test is Tuesday.

The vet tells me to stay hopeful, and her optimism helps ease my heartbreak. I just don’t want to put my girl through surgeries. She’s just a few weeks shy of her ninth birthday, and I couldn’t be more thankful to celebrate it. To me, a Charli Brown b-day is a gift because I know what it’s like to almost lose her.

Four years ago, Charli was diagnosed with cancer and had a bump on her ear surgically removed. A doggy oncologist told me if I didn’t put her through a second surgery and months of chemo, she would likely die. But my boxer baby was miserable at doctors offices. She seemed more lively at home. So I chose to spend my time with her doing the things that bring her joy. I prayed that God give us a few more years. I asked him for a 10th birthday, specifically.

“Just let her see 10,” I asked. “I can let her go peacefully after 10 good years.”

We’re almost there, and it shows. Her gray hairs seem grayer. She moves slower. Random skin tags have sprouted. And the bump on her ear that once led to cancer? She has one on her foot that doctors are monitoring closely. None of us live forever. I get it. But we’re not ready yet.

Even in her cone, with a bad eye, she watches over me when I’m out front. When we go on walks, she prances like a little pony. And any little sign of a plant sprouting makes her pounce like a bunny. Her playful spirit is most awake in the spring. It’s her favorite season, since she never tires of smelling the flowers.

Are you there God? It’s me, Jeneé. I’ll never be ready to say goodbye to my boxer baby. But I’d like to ask for one more year. Could we bloom together just a little longer?

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