The Incredible Surprise Gift My Tango Left Me

My TangoI know that I haven’t written in awhile, and I now realize that it’s because I’ve been so intently focused on caring for my old, sweet Tango the past six months. I have felt at a loss for what to say or how to talk about the depth of my love for her for fear of beginning to cry and not being able to stop because I have been so worried about her every second of every day. Our lives had become a ritual around her many medications. Four times each day I would kneel in front of her with a little syringe filled with her cocktail of drugs, and I would see her eyes glaze over, wanting to turn away from it but knowing she needed it. I would apologize every single time – “I’m so sorry, sweetheart -” I think she knew that I hated to give it to her almost as much as she hated needing it. But we both knew she needed it to stay alive, and we were both grateful for the precious extra six months of what I now know to be borrowed time that medicine gave us. But after nearly 14 years and battling advanced heart disease over the past two years, I finally had to make that awful decision to put my Tango to sleep last Tuesday.

My Tango 3I don’t know how many of you have ever been through something like that, but even when you know it’s coming, you are never, ever prepared. I certainly wasn’t. In hindsight, I remember having all sorts of warning signs and thoughts – “I wonder if this is the last time I am going to take Tango in to get groomed,” or more recently, wondering if I should only buy one week’s worth of dog food at a time or be more optimistic and buy an entire months’ worth (I bought the months’ worth, by the way, and now it’s still sitting in my cupboard because I haven’t quite come to terms with the fact that she won’t be needing it now.) On the day I brought my sweetheart in to see our amazing vet, Dr. Lingareddy, Tango had been coughing almost constantly for several days before. It sounded different this time, and I knew something had changed. I had sent him videos of her during what should have been periods of rest, and part of me expected him to say something along the lines of what I had heard him say every single other time I’d brought her in: “Let’s add this other medication; let’s get some x-rays; let’s treat her for this; let’s…” Part of me would be relieved every time he said that, and another part of me was always surprised. “What? We can still do more for her?” I would think, smiling and amazed by the progress of modern medicine.

My Tango 2But this time his reaction was different. This time, Dr. Lingareddy shook his head and said, “Lori, I’m so sorry, but I think it’s time. I would never say that if I thought I could save her, but we have really done all we can for her, and I’d hate to send you home and then have you both experience the worst night of your life.” I was in shock. He cried and told me heart-wrenching stories about the many times when he wanted, hoped, prayed for an extra week or an extra day with one of his pets, only to have waited one day too long, and therefore gave up the dream of a peaceful passing for his beloved companion.

I had spent the past 14 years protecting my little dog from anything scary, harmful, or dangerous. I had held her close, loved her, spoiled her, put her first in every way possible, and cared for her in every imaginable way as she aged. (Yes, she even had a stroller so we could still go for long walks – though on her last days she didn’t even want to do that). Now I knew that I had to rise to the occasion once again. I knew that I had to gather the courage to ensure that her passing would be as peaceful and loving as her life had been. I knew I had to give her the death that I would want, and I knew that I had the ability to do that. But there’s such a strange – guilt-ridden – horrible dissonance between being her constant care-giver and protector her entire life and now making the decision to end it for her. I snuggled up close to her and she put her head on my hand, resting. I told her how much I loved her, over and over again, and I told her that I would never, ever leave her. I told her how smart and how special and how loved she is and always would be, and I told her that I would always be with her. Within 3 short seconds her little heart stopped, it was so weak, and then my whole world changed.

It was a week of horrible firsts while I waited for her tiny body to be cremated and returned to me. ย The first time I came back to my empty place without her to greet me with a tail wag, to see her empty bed, her toys, her untouched food and water dishes, it hurt so much and I cried so hard that I understood for the first time how people turn to whatever they can to numb the pain. It amazed me how such a little spirit had filled my entire home, and I spent hours wondering where she was and if she was ok now that I could no longer take care of her.

IMG_3549When I received the package her ashes were in, I didn’t have the courage to look at it the entire day. But when I finally unwrapped the silk bag around the wooden box, I saw that they had included a clay imprint of one of her little paws. Such a thoughtful gesture, I thought. But then what I saw next made my heart skip a beat.

On the outside of the wooden box was a little key, and beside it, a golden bone dog tag with Tango’s name on it. I hadn’t requested this, and there was no way the person who prepared this for me could have known of the significance of including a little golden bone dog tag with Tango’s name on it.

IMG_3551I don’t know if you believe in coincidences, but I know that this was no coincidence. This won’t mean anything to you if you don’t know about my program,ย How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom, but Tango was the inspiration for this part of my life’s work. Each week during this program, the children bring back completed “BoneWork” to earn – wait for it – a “golden bone” sticker. So I’ve been thinking of how cool it would be to arrange for each child to be able to get a real “Golden Bone Dog Tag,” inscribed with their dog’s name on it, at the end of the program.

The person preparing Tango’s ashes could have chosen a pink heart, a purple bone, a silver circle to inscribe her name on – but no – they chose a golden bone.

It turns out that Tango got the very first one. She always was a bit of a diva. ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t know what happens when a dog dies. I want to believe in the Rainbow Bridge, and I want to believe that there is no more suffering and that we are all still connected energetically. Some people say that they sometimes feel like they “see” their pets out of the corner of their eyes; others “feel” their presence, and others have told me that their dogs have found ways to communicate with them. But I was having real difficulty understanding any of it. All I felt was a profound emptiness and loss – until I saw that golden bone dog tag. I still don’t know how to explain it, but I know now that my Tango is not only with me, but is loving and supporting me right back in every moment, in every breath.

Tango and I xxooI sure love you wherever you are, my sweet Tango. Thank you for this incredible gift of letting me know that you are still here.

 

 

 

 

 

I want to extend a profound thank you to Dr. Lingareddy at VCA Animal Hospital for the incredible care, compassion, and genuine love you always expressed for my Tango at every stage of her illness. I will never forget your graciousness and your professionalism. Thank you.

Thank you also to Above and Beyond Cremation Services for the dignity, respect, and special attention you gave to Tango, even after she was gone.ย 

20 thoughts on “The Incredible Surprise Gift My Tango Left Me

    • Thank you, Angela. I’m so glad you had a chance to meet her, and that she was able to visit your classroom to read with your kiddos. I’ll always love those pictures.

  1. Lori…..I can’t quit crying!! That is probably the most powerful heart-wrenching beautiful article I have ever read!! Tango started this odessey, supported and nurtured it and now has given her final stamp of approval knowing she could not help and encourage you
    any longer!! I don’t know if I would
    call it a coincidence. ….it’s just an evolving love of a young girl to her most precious bundle of complete unconditional love wrapped in a fragile furry frame! This “story” needs to be told to all the students enrolled in your program!!!
    Love you lots and lots!!!!

    • I know the feeling – I haven’t cried this hard since I had to say good-bye to my Sparky – and to Patches before that. I love you, too. xxoo

  2. Dear Lori, thank you for sharing your beautiful and eloquent story about your sweet Tango. I have tears streaming down my face and can only imagine how difficult this has been. Much love to you!

  3. Beautiful my new friend! I so understand and I have a continued story I experienced last week after I said goodbye to my beautiful Phoebe. We had to say goodbye after oral tumors took over. It will raise your vibration and have you embrace your powers of manifestation.
    You beautifully expressed the feelings I felt when I had to say goodbye. Love it!

    • Oh Rebecca, I had no idea that you too said goodbye to your sweetheart last week. Let’s have a glass of wine through our tears soon. xxoo

  4. It’s hard to see the screen through my veil of tears. Thank you for sharing your love story about Tango’s life and purpose in your life. How wonderful that you two got to spend almost 14 years together. She will always be a special part of you. Those we love unconditionally always are.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Carol. It’s amazing how these little ones touch us – family is family, no matter what. Lots of love back to you…

  5. Lori
    So sorry to hear about your loss. Sorry I didn’t send you a note earlier, Ryan and I were away. It is amazing how so much inspiration can come from such a heart wrenching loss. I also think not only the Golden Dog Bone was significant, but that it sits beside a Key. A key to greater compassion and learning. Take care. Thinking of you during this difficult time

    • It’s so nice to hear from you, Kathy. Thank you so much for your message and for your warm thoughts. Tango was such a big part of my life that it’s so difficult to adjust to her absence. It’s definitely a process. Lots of love back to you both. xxoo

  6. Oh Lori so beautifully written & Tango was the ‘luckiest ‘dog in the world to have had YOU in her life and to have had the very best life ever – only you could offer her !!! The Golden Bone to top it all off as the best remembrance for both of you [ & Tango’s name close to your heart as well ] !!! Love hugs & kisses Xoxx Auntie Donna & Uncle Bob

    • Thanks, Auntie Donna. We were lucky to have each other. I really do feel her with me again now, and I’m so grateful. Thank you so much for all of your love and support. xxoo

  7. Ah, I had no idea you lost your baby! I am so sorry. Tango was an angel and I know how much you loved her. ๐Ÿ™ Its so hard to watch them go…but its part of the journey that we must take with them.

    • Yes – man it’s been a tough adjustment and I sure miss her. But I do know she’s no longer suffering, so I take a lot of comfort in that. I don’t think I would have EVER been ready to say good-bye to her!

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