On Saturday March 14 we said goodbye to our beloved French Bulldog Harley. He was 12 years old. His death came as a surprise and we are beyond devastated. Words cannot even begin to describe the loss, sadness, and emptiness we feel. He was more than a dog to us, he was our child, a member of our family, and we loved him so very much.
In early February we took him in for his annual check up and shots. The vet was a little concerned about his spine so she took an x-ray. It revealed a large mass on his spleen. He went in a day later for an ultrasound. They believed the mass was most likely benign, which was good. Because he was a short nosed breed they were recommending a consult and possibly surgery at the veterinary surgical center nearby. We got an appointment for February 27. During those weeks in between we were extremely worried the mass would rupture. He seemed to be doing fine but we really didn’t know what might happen. He definitely seemed uncomfortable but was mostly himself: sleeping, eating, and snuggling. After the consult with the surgeon, we had a few more tests to do and both vets were recommending surgery. Harley was riskier because of his age and breathing but I was assured they dealt with these dogs all the time and they had 24 hour care. They seemed confident. So we scheduled surgery for March 11. I dropped him off that morning, saying goodbye and giving him a kiss. I never thought that would be that last time I saw him alive and well.
The surgery went well. The doctor called and said he did great and was doing well in recovery. They would call again in the morning with an update and he could potentially go home the next afternoon. Thursday morning was when it all started going downhill. That morning he took a turn for the worse and was having a hard time. He had symptoms of pulmonary aspiration, possibly had fluid around his lungs and heart, and they were having trouble with his blood pressure and heart rate. They did more tests and determined the right side of his heart had pulmonary hypertension, so they gave him some meds to help. Yes there was fluid build up but they were working on getting that under control as well. That afternoon I got a good report that he was able to walk out of his cage and was doing a lot better, but would need to stay another night. We were hopeful. Friday morning we got another bad call. He wasn’t doing well. He wasn’t breathing well, his BP was hard to manage, and there was still fluid around his lungs. They took some of the fluid but he ended up needing to be in the oxygen crate. They thought it could be pneumonia or ARDS, and were treating him with antibiotics. They asked us to come visit.
We all went down there but only Matt and I were able to see him. He was in the oxygen crate (similar to an incubator), so we were only able to stick one hand in at a time. He was still out of it from a procedure that morning but did open his eyes when we petted him. I told him how much I loved him and that I needed him to fight. He was shivering and just looked so sad. I felt terrible that I couldn’t hold him. I spent the entire evening anxious and scared. I couldn’t eat and was constantly worried. That night they called and said there was no change, that he wasn’t any better, but not any worse. Then at 1am I got the call I never wanted. His heart rate started dropping and his oxygen was low and they were doing CPR. While the doctor was on the phone they said his heart had stopped. He was gone. The one thing I had wanted, if it was going to end this way, was to be there for him at the end. To be able to hold him when he passed. To be able to tell him how special he was and how much I loved him. And I wasn’t. My boy was gone. I drove down to the hospital and they brought him to me. I was able to hold him for over an hour. It was awful. I couldn’t believe that it was the last time I would ever hold him, smell him, or touch him. The last time I would feel his weight on my lap, the last time we would cuddle. I wish I had been there for him and I felt like a failure. He needed me, he hated the vet, and he was scared. It was not the goodbye I wanted for us. I knew we didn’t have a ton of time left, he was 12 years old, but this isn’t how it should have ended.
I put together a video of his life in pictures. I know it’s a little long (9 minutes) but I hope you enjoy watching it. Due to a variety of technical issues, putting it in google drive was the only way to get it to work. Click Harley's life to view the video. It made me smile to see a lot of these pictures again and to relive all these moments we had together. We love you Mr H!
He loved lying in the sun, chewing on his bone, destroying boxes, sitting between my legs while relaxing on the couch. He loved to have his hind legs scratched. He would even extend his back legs to be perfectly straight while you did it. He HAD to be touching me at night. He scooted in as close as possible for warmth and comfort. He loved warm laundry. He loved cuddling under a blanket. My two favorite times of the day were with him. Every morning we would sit together on the sofa and I would enjoy some coffee while he sat right next to me and we watched the news together. After putting the kids to bed he sat between my legs and snoozed while Matt and I watched TV. I would give him a little leg squeeze now and then to let him know I loved him. He loved to play tug of war, especially with the girls. He also liked to play tea party with them and would tolerate dress up (but he wasn’t happy about it). He loved to lick all the water when you were done with a shower. He had a strict 10pm bedtime. He would put himself to bed and if we didn’t follow he would sit at the top of the stairs and snarfle at us. He snarfled to communicate all sorts of things: wanting a cookie, wanting you to keep petting him, or wanting you to stop annoying him.
He hated walks. Hated them. He loved the dog park and dog beach but there had to be a water source or he would over heat. He liked to play with other pups when he was younger. In his old age he preferred to just chill. He hated having his feet touched, and especially despised getting his nails trimmed. He only went outside to go potty and did not want to be out there any longer than absolutely necessary. He wasn’t a huge fan of car rides for fear of going to the vet or to be boarded. In his old age he got a lot of anxiety and preferred to be with us at all times. And we accommodated his request by using our camper and taking him with us whenever possible. He was also my ESA and able to fly with us during the last year of his life. He was a bit of a nervous traveler but once settled on the plane he fell asleep and nobody even knew he was there. He was an easy dog. He was happy to just chill in his crate and could be left alone for hours and never have an accident. Everyone who met him loved him. He was incredibly smart (super easy to teach him tricks). He was our sweet boy.
The story of his life….
Harley was born on January 30, 2008 in Fresno, CA. On April 27, 2008 Harley and I met. I went to the breeder’s house, where they had two puppies for sale. It was love at first sight. He was so darn cute! I drove him back to San Diego where he stayed with me until we embarked on a cross-country road trip together, our first! He was an awesome traveler and often slept on my lap or in the crate. Once we got to DC we settled into life with Matt. Every single weekend we took him to the dog park. He made a ton of friends and even learned to swim. We had heard that French Bulldogs couldn’t swim because they were so top heavy but not our boy. He was a little swimmer.
On October 23, 2009 Harley served as the ring bearer in our wedding. He even danced with me on the dance floor. It was an unforgettable day and we are so glad he was a part of it. Shortly after our wedding we packed up and moved to California. Harley left a few weeks before us – he flew on a pet airline – and spent the time with Nana while Matt and I drove. Life in San Diego was even better than any of us could have imagined. Yes we both worked, but in San Diego Harley got to hang out outside during the day. He took long naps in the sunshine and we spent every weekend going to dog beach. Then it was bath time followed by a long nap. He lived the dream. He was our only child and our whole world.
Funny story: one day Matt was home working around the house. The doorbell rang. Matt answered and saw our neighbor who said, “ummm there is a little black dog barking on your roof”. Matt walks outside looks up and guess who he sees? Harley had walked out onto the upstairs balcony through an open door, which led on to the roof and was standing up there barking at people and dogs as they went by.
On September 8, 2012 Harley became a big brother. I am sure he was aware something was changing. My belly got bigger and took up way too much room during our cuddle time. And there was an incident where I attempted to put him in a stroller. We weren’t sure how he would take to a baby in the house, but he was wonderful. He loved Charlotte. He was also thrilled that I was home all the time! For some people, when you have a baby the dog can take a backseat. Harley never lost status in our house. He was still an important and much loved member of the family. If anything, I think my love for him grew after Charlotte’s birth. I felt such an immense love for her that it made me realize just how much I loved him too.
Every day he was by my side. He sat next to the rocking chair as I nursed. When we napped, he napped. It was a dream come true. A few months later we moved to Monterey, CA, and a new house, which we quickly settled into. A nice yard for him to roam and Mommy was home all day! We all became accustomed to our new normal. No more dog beach (sad) but walks here and there and the occasional beach trip. He loved to sit on our porch soaking up the sun. As Charlotte grew he tolerated every single thing. The hair pulling, the ear tugging, the interruption of his naps. He monitored her and even tried to play with her. He was also more than happy to pick up any snacks she dropped along the way.
In June 2014, we embarked on another cross-country road trip as a family. We drove from California to Maryland, making lots of stops along the way. Both Harley and Charlotte did great. Harley didn’t seem to care where we were going as long as we were together. We even had to live in a hotel in Maryland while our house was being finished. That was not the best experience – he ended up getting an allergic reaction from a spider bite YIKES – but we survived. He loved living in our Maryland house. A huge yard where he could chase Charlotte and that annoying popping toy! He loved to sit outside on the deck when it wasn’t hot, and he loved to snuggle up by the fireplace.
In July 2015 Harley got another little sister, Miss Norah. This time he got to be my doula for her birth. The day I went into labor he never left my side. He followed me around the house and monitored me all day. When I was in our bedroom just an hour or so before the birth, and the contractions were awful, he was by my side asking me to pet him. After the birth, he got to be the first one to meet Norah. Just like with Charlotte, he was pretty unimpressed. A quick sniff and that was good enough. Having two sisters wasn’t always easy. It meant a lot of dress up and tea parties. We spent a lot of time at home, which he loved. The girls adored him. A lot of that time was a blur. We went about our day, took trips here and there, and had the occasional visitor. By our side the entire time was Harley, hanging out and loving life.
In 2017 we moved to Philadelphia, another place to call home as a military family. The moves always stressed Harley out. Once we got our stuff and he found his crate and his toy box, he was a happy boy. He adapted very well. I never had to worry about him. It was here in Philly that I started to notice him becoming older. He didn’t have as much energy as he used to. But one thing he did love was sitting on the landing of the stairs chewing his bone and looking out the window. It was his favorite spot. He loved the view. He always took his guard dog duty very seriously.
In 2019 we moved once more, this time going all the way across the country to Washington State. This would be the 5th state Harley would call home. As soon as we got settled we took the camper out on a few family trips. Harley loved camping and he was so easy to take with us. We could leave him in the camper on the bed or sofa and return hours later and he would be in the exact same spot. We took him to the beach but sadly there weren’t any other dogs around. He loved being out there but instead of chasing dogs he just sat next to me and watched the girls play. Retirement was treating him well. He regularly found himself trapped in forts that the girls had built out of cushions and blankets. He would fall asleep and Norah would build up a fort all around him. He didn’t seem to mind and I think he secretly enjoyed the attention. He and Norah had a very special relationship.
For all of the big moments that he was a part of, he was also there every day for the little ones. He was by our side, loving us as much as we loved him. Nothing compares to the unconditional love and companionship of a dog, especially our Harley. He was a best friend, a secret keeper, and a shoulder to cry on. He was our sweet boy loved not only by us but also so many of our friends and family. He was the best dog we could have ever hoped for and we gave him the best life we possibly could. I cannot believe how fast 12 years has gone by. I also cannot believe we will never see him again. Our home and our hearts will forever be empty without him in it. I know I won’t forget him, but the memories will fade and that makes me sad. I know one day we will be together again. I will open my arms and he will come running to me like he always did.
|until we meet again my boy|
Charlotte wanted to add, “I miss Harley very much. He was my sweet boy and we all loved him very much.”