Pepe’s Journey: A Personal Story I Actually Typed

I did everything on my calendar today that I “had” to do. Worked out with my trainer, took my niece home, got my hair done (holiday priorities, right girls!?) with Kyle and Andrew, who even commented that he didn’t know Pepe was in heaven. I haven’t told anyone or really talked about it and I see and talk to Andrew ALL the time. Drove to BFE to pick up the BEST food ever that my family begs for every Christmas Eve (and see Emily whom I love), had a few zoom meetings, and it’s 6pm. And it’s time. 6 hours till it’s not Pepe’s birthday anymore.

I have put this off since late March. Not that I didn’t try. I did. But every time I would sit down to put together a blog post on “How do you know it’s the right time to put your dog down” to simply help others, which I love to do. I would uncontrollably lose it sobbing. And if you know me well, you know I would 100% just make a video.  

But ummm, I couldn’t get the first sentence out. Like at all!

Because I didn’t know. And I googled this for days and days in different ways, but didn’t find anything helpful other than “you will just know.” I will say that simple statement is true. I just knew. March 26th was the day.  

Oh, and YES, it was time blocked on my calendar since April 1st but I kept moving it and moving it, and moving it and moving it. The only way I can accomplish something is to give myself a deadline and a goal on my calendar. I time block everything. Otherwise, it just won’t happen. 

Today is the day. I set a goal. Mainly for mental closure, which is that even a thing? I’m not a writer or typer, so sorry to you grammar peeps up front. Actually dictating this was like super duper hard…sobbing. So I decided to go backwards and had to type it! UGH!

No matter how hard it is, blaring my 90s hip hop music from high school or walk as fast as I can on my treadmill desk while typing, the tears just don’t stop. I am STILL completely crushed. 

If you know me at all, you know that I say: everything happens for a reason and I always look for the good in everything. But today and since March 26th, I can’t seem to find a good reason nor can I find the good in this situation. Now, I know that all good things must come to an end. I worked at a morgue for shit sakes! I don’t yet understand why in the world Pepe would have to go to heaven in 2021. I mean could it get any worse?

I am not a crier at all and I have been through losing my dad– whom I was very close to, several years ago to cancer (everyone that knew him said I was a spittin’ image of him. Whatever the hell that means, must be a southern thang!)

Anyway, Back to Pepe. Today is his birthday. He would have been 13. So my goal was to make myself post a blog; it’s therapeutic I hear. Since he was 5 weeks old, we did everything together. 

Spa Days; yes, I have a bougie puppy who never aged. Laundry; he loved laying right on top of a stack of clean clothes. Baths; I mean, not together. But after a long wedding at 30k+ steps I would soak for hours in the tub and he would lay right at the rug waiting for me. Bake; ok who am I kidding, I don’t bake or cook. Those cookies in that picture were from Crumbl (like the BEST cookie place in the world). Shopped; yes, I’m the blond that takes my dog into every store, etc. Travel; if he wasn’t going with me, he knew. Because I have this navy neck pillow he loves and when I take it away to wash it, he knows. Videos; we made so many fun coaching videos together. And did fun Tiktoks together. And must I mention “work”, oh the late nights. He never left my side. 

Back to “how do you know it’s time?” Not to mention questioning every decision I had made with his care on the day he went to heaven. Like I can’t even say out loud “the day I put him down” or “the day I put him to sleep.” It all happened so fuckin' fast. 

It was day 16 and I finally was able to get out of bed from having COVID. Which is crazy! I got it from a friend locally while I traveled during the height of the pandemic, maybe that’s what I get. JK! I don’t have that mindset at all. 

I was in bed for 15 days straight thinking I was going to die. It was horrible. Awful. Lonely. I even made good bye videos and put them in iCloud for my family. It was that bad. I had on The Greatest Showman on repeat and think it played 9 times or something a day. I was scared to go to sleep. Scared I wouldn’t wake up. 

On day 16 I had to take Pepe and his sister Lily to get a bath and groom. They have been going to the same girl for over 10 years. Her and her mom are like family, like my dogs sleeping with them when I am traveling. The poor pups used puppy pads for almost 2 weeks because I was too weak to take them outside. I know, gross!! But you gotta do what you gotta do. My mom wanted to come get them, but I refused because what if I got her sick? No way.  

When I went to pick them up, Laura Lea said with a scary and firm tone: “Pepe has a pretty large lump Angela, you need to take him to the vet ASAP.” So the very next morning, I shifted my schedule to take him right in, which is also in BFE. Yes, I drive to my home town to see our family vet who I totally trust. He said: “Oh this isn’t good. Let’s biopsy it and asked do you want me to take it out?” Meaning surgery. Without any thought AT ALL, hesitation, questions or anything, I stood up with Pepe laying in my arms, and said: “Well HELL YES take it out.” Which now looking back, I don’t know if I made the best or right decision. My mom is the sweetest human ever but sometimes she says the wrong thing at the wrong time. And when I went to her cabin to work while he was in surgery, she said: “Well your grandmother used to say, once air hits it, that means death.”

I think it was a week for the biopsy to come back. It was the longest week of my life. Now luckily, travel had stopped and all meetings and work was from home, THANK GOD. I was able to really spend time with him and care for him after his surgery. He couldn’t be alone. I for sure didn’t realize the MAJOR surgery, shaving, and pain I put Pepe through by jumping up saying “take it out.”  I should have stopped and resourced or called one of my best friends and asked her to help me. She’s the research queen and actually loves it– I would just rather not!

One thing I love about my vet is he knows not to bullshit me. No matter how hurtful it is to hear the honest to God truth, he shoots it to me straight. He said: “He doesn’t have long.” I said: “Like WTF do you mean, like 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months? Cause I have to put this on my calendar.”

A calendar entry that has so many emotions around it, I flat out deleted it. And just told myself: “Ok, Ang, on Pepe’s birthday you gotta finish it girl.” So here I am. I hope half way through, I mean shit, I have type 3 full pages! Like who am I!!!?? 

So this is documentation for my family of neat things I noticed while putting together this video, and I need to break this mini book up with some bullet points.  It’s my ADHD. 

  • Pepe’s first day with my family, my oldest niece who was 6 at the time went with me to pick up Pepe and Lily. I was married at the time and my then husband had been deployed to Iraq. So Hannah and my parents went up to BFE to get them with me. Pepe wasn’t planned as much as Lily, more on that below. Hannah is now 19. 
  • Pepe’s last day with my family, my youngest niece who is now 2.5 years old, was with me. Our vet came to my mom's house and she had my niece. So ironic how that worked out. I find little hidden messages in times like this. 
  • In the video, notice how Pepe never left my side while I thought I was dying from COVID. Meanwhile this HUGE ball like tumor was under his chin and how the FUCK did I not notice or feel it? Oh yes, that’s right! I thought I was dying from COVID. I had over 104 temperatures for 8 days straight. It was bad. Watching the season finale of The Morning Show the other night gave me flashbacks watching Jennifer Aniston crawling on her floors. That shit was real. Awful.  
  • Customer service. I will forever be loyal to my vet. Coming to my moms meant the world to me. He gave me medicine to help Pepe but it was real. No matter how much money I would spend, it was NOT curable. It just all happened SO damn fast. It went on for a month or so, I think. 
  • I think my family thinks I don’t ever question decisions or choices, and they are right. I often don’t. Like hardly at all. If I make the wrong decision, it’s always a learning lesson to help growth personally and professionally. But with Pepe, I am at a loss. If I allow myself to think about it, I question myself over and over: did I do the right thing? How will I know if I made the right decision? Should I have Googled more or spent more money on products? I tell myself this to bear the feeling. I did know. Just like the articles on Google said: it’s like connection or real love. Until you experience it, you just can’t explain it with someone else who hasn’t had the same experience.
  • On March 26th, Pepe could hardly breathe; he was wheezing and gasping for air. He would not eat or drink anything. I even ran swiftly to Target (don’t judge, that is not the norm, it was just the closest thing opened at 7am. And Andrew, GSD house not makeup Andrew. If you ever read this, YES, that was the ass crack of dawn, but I would do anything for Pepe) and bought all this shit. Wet food, chicken, liver, salmon. And I HATE seafood only because I am allergic to it, like highly allergic. And the shit stunk. I was trying everything. He wouldn’t eat. He wouldn’t drink water or anything. He couldn’t get up to use the bathroom. It was time. I had to do it. 
  • I called my mom and then the vet– we scheduled a time that afternoon. I told one of my best friends who wanted to be there. And I laid in bed for a few hours holding him and sobbing. I got it together, and packed my car with a few things to go to my mom’s for the weekend (thank God it was Friday). Before going to my moms, I drove by my dad’s grave. We got out and put a blanket down– a cute one that looked like I was going to have a picnic with my dog that can’t breathe, but I had no food and it was not a pretty sight. I sat there and talked to my dad for a while. Pepe was about to join him in heaven. I loved the thought.
  • Got to my mom's and there was 2 hours to go. The minute I walked through her front door, she was like OMG ANGELA, HE IS IN MISERY, CALL THE VET NOW AND ASK HIM TO COME NOW! Remember from earlier where I said she says the wrong things at the wrong times? Well this was one of those moments. 

I sunk straight into her bed with Pepe and cried harder. So she called the vet herself. Then I had to remember to text my best friend coming. It was awful. I think I stayed at my mom’s the entire week and cried and cried and cried (when I wasn’t working or on zoom with clients). 

Thank God for Amanda and our team. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for this at ALL.

If you are a business owner reading this, PLEASE build a team with the right people.  

Ok, back on track…

This is the side you don’t see of me. It takes a lot for me to really get upset or show a lot of emotion. I am a very guarded person from past experiences. Life is way too short. My heart still breaks everyday when his sister Lily looks for him. Every time I take her out to the potty, she looks around the front door. She turns around looking for him everyday. He’s not coming back.

Cancer took my two guys: my dad and my dog. And I know that shit happens, but this is not a teaching moment. It’s a time for me to say to myself, there will be times when you don’t know what you don’t know and you have to trust the process. There’s a higher power in charge 🙂

For shits and giggles, below is the blog that I started on April 26th, just 1 month after all this happened. Here we are NINE months later. Gosh SO much has changed. So many things. I just read it and today's story vs. NINE months ago is similar, I guess. It’s a bit more of the stories I loved. But WOW! WOW! Different with time, but there’s sooooo many stories!

Pepe’s story (my story 1 month after he joined my dad in heaven)

One month ago today I had to make that call that I’m sure every dog mom hopes and prays never comes. 

I hear so many people say how 2020 was horrible. I know it’s been challenging but when we are comfortable we don’t learn and grow as humans. So I disagree. 2020 brought new opportunities I didn’t even know existed when I did my professional goals in 2019. On December 31st at midnight so many of us thought, okay January 1, 2021. A new year. It has to be better than last year. How can it get any worse? 

13 years ago when I decided to commit to a dog, Lily was planned. I put a deposit down before she was even born. Pepe wasn’t planned. They were born in the same litter, he was the runt. The breeder offered him to me and in my heart I couldn’t say no. Even though I didn’t plan for 2 dogs!

Just weeks later I realized I couldn’t imagine my life without both of them. They were so different. They each had their own little personalities. 

Lily was so bad (never really caught on to potty training and barked so much) and Pepe was a dream dog. He was so good and so loyal. He loved to lay in my arms on his back and just watch me work. 

I once took them to an institute trying to figure out why Lily was so bad. I think I had been through 15 sheet sets at this point. She would nip at the seams and ruin all my sheets. And I have a king bed so it started to add up. He told me such an off the wall story about Lily and gave her suggestions on how to talk to her. That dog never nipped my sheets again. He told me that Pepe was all dog. He wanted to be on the same level as me. Meaning put him in my lap or a chair next to me. But never on a dog bed on the floor. He was my shadow. Everywhere I went he had to be there. 

Every time I would travel, which used to be a lot, I would remind my mom that Lily and Pepe can’t be separated if something happened to me. It’s written into my Will. 

Here’s where the worse part comes in. In January I got COVID. And I know exactly where I got it from. And my therapist felt awful. She didn’t know that she had it yet. 

I was trying to think on the bright side that at least I was getting it so I should be in the clear for several months before a vaccine came out. For 15 solid days I laid in bed and there were some points where I closed my eyes, I didn't know if I was gonna wake up. I was deathly sick. I’m still not completely back to normal with my energy levels. 

The first day I could drive, all I wanted to do was take Lily & Pepe to the groomer so they could get a bath and groom. They have been laying in bed with me solid for 15 days using puppy pads. It took all the energy I had just to change them out every few days. 

I picked them up from the groomers and something was wrong. I could hear the concern in her voice. She said: “Pepe has a knot, please take him to the vet ASAP.” There I was the next morning at 7am waiting to see the vet. I didn’t sleep that night. How did I not feel this knot on his neck? He laid with me, by my side for 15 days straight. 

Things went downhill from there. It all happened so fast. 

Although the pandemic has been rough and tough on so many of us I’m very thankful for the pandemic. I got to be home for an entire year. Home everyday, with Pepe. 

Did I do the right thing taking the first tumor out? I don’t know. My mom says that once air hits cancer it’s an old wise tale that it spreads all over. That’s it, it’s over. I will never know if I made the right decision. 

My vet, who my whole family goes to for over 30 years, told me he would biopsy it. It was the longest week ever waiting for the results. I was at the gym when he called and told me: Angela, it’s bad. The tumors will start to spread all over. You aren’t going to win this battle. But of course I tried. I bought all kinds of stuff online. 

It was the most aggressive type of tumor. Chemo would not stop the spreading. He started steroids every other day to keep him comfortable. He seemed so good. But the meds gave me false hope. Every week it was something. I’ve spent more time at the vet in the past 8 weeks than I’d like to admit. 

March 20th he seemed happy and had life to him. He was eating, drinking and eating treats. 3 days later he would not eat. I had to hold him up to drink water or potty. He started wheezing so badly. I knew it was time. He could hardly breathe. 

It was the hardest call I’ve ever made in my life. The vet offered to come to our home which was so meaningful. 

It was horrible holding him and feeling his little heart that had been beating so hard for weeks slow down and then stop. I was crushed. 

It is a pain and emptiness I can’t explain. 

Lily was right by our side the whole time. Each day she looks for him. Every time we go outside. Every time we get in the car, I snap her into the car seat. 

6 days later…

Cancer has taken my most 2 favorite boys: my dad and my dog. I just don’t understand. What did I do wrong? Could I have avoided it? 

We went through LOTS of laughs. Cries. Long nights. Long trips. And bad haircuts. 

He was always there. Not in my shadow but right there by me. He had to be on my level. If it wasn’t on my lap it was on a chair the same height as mine. And he never gave up. So loyal. Through the highs and lows of life. Divorce. Break ups. Betrayal. The roller coaster of entrepreneurship. I can only pray he comes back in spirit through someone or something one day soon. 

For all dog moms hold your pup tight. Close. Give them the extra treat. 

BOOM. OMG. OK. it’s time to end this! It took me from March 26th to December 23, 2021 to GSD. Wow. That’s a long time, but it was important to me. And I got it done. It’s only 10:45pm. I am sharing this as it was therapeutic to just document this. My fingers and wrists hurt from typing now.  

Thanks for reading if you made it this far! Set goals and deadlines and GSD! Hug your pup! 

And thank you Emem for letting me be last minute and do exactly the opposite of what we don’t allow our clients to do!

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