My odyssey as a first-time pet owner inspired this site. I got Summer, a female golden retriever, more than a decade ago. She was born on December 26, 2009. We are happy and thankful for all the love and happiness that she brings into our lives, but it was not an easy journey. This is how the story goes.
It All Started with Empathy
We have a neighbor with a golden retriever named Bruce who lives in a one-car garage. The owner does not take him out for walks and leaves him tied behind the gate. There is not much space to move around but worst, the limited area that Bruce has serves as space for his sleep, poop, and pee. Yes, imagine doing all that in one place! I pity Bruce’s situation and offer to buy him out from his owner, but the latter declined.
Left with no choice, we decided to report the situation to a volunteer-based animal welfare non-government organization. Someone from the organization came to take Bruce, despite his owner’s protest. Unfortunately, Bruce died after a week under their care. Maybe he is not used to being taken care of and showered with love.
Our rejected offer to buy Bruce deeply frustrated us, so we immediately decided to buy a golden retriever, Summer. The decision was so sudden that we are not aware of all the responsibilities that come with it. We did not know anything about dogs, or the nuances of their breeds. All we know is that Bruce is beautiful, so; I got Summer who is the same breed. This is our first time having a pet. I did not even think about the advantages and disadvantages of owning a dog. Affection immediately replaced our frustrations when we met Summer. We fell in love with her!
All the Good Times with Summer
Golden retrievers are not ferocious, and they are people-pleasers by nature, so there is no need to tie them. These are only a few of the facts that I am supposed to know before owning a pet. But alas! When I fell in love with a golden retriever, I dived head-on and learned the ropes of raising a dog later.
Summer’s arrival in our lives is fun and fulfilling – a special connection that I did not expect possible to form with a pet. At home, we love his playful nature. She likes to play tug of war. She likes to follow us around like a stalker when we have food. And what happens when we do not pay attention to her? Yes, you better expect a nudge from her wet snout.
Like any other dog, Summer would do zoomies where she would excitedly and repeatedly run around for no apparent reason. She loves to look out the window during car rides while occasionally barking at anything.
She loves to poke me when I stop petting her. Summer serves as our alarm clock in the morning. We would wake up with an excited Summer expecting her morning pets and belly rubs.
She loves to dig grass, eat soil, and roll her body on the ground.
Her favorite food are papaya, apple, cheese, egg, chicken, banana, ice cream, melon, watermelon, french fries, or anything potato.
During our walks, people would approach to greet us, and Summer happily obliges. I did not know that they were that friendly, even to strangers. It is in their nature to please! I may be biased, but golden retrievers are the best dogs in the world. Our list of good times together goes on. We have plenty, and to be honest, it is uncountable.
A Whole New World of Challenges for a Dog Owner
It is normal for dogs to be clumsy and naughty, so we let Summer be. We allowed her to smell things so she can explore and have fun. We were not careful. She contacted parvovirus and we need to take her to the vet. The virus almost took her life. This is our first test that served as an eye-opener for how owning a pet can affect the owner’s life not only financially but also emotionally. It also made us realize how inexperienced we are in taking proper care of a dog, and that there is a ton of information that we need to learn and research to ensure Summer’s health, safety, and happiness.
She got sick numerous times after the parvovirus infection, but most were minor. We may be new pet owners, but we are learning fast. Experience is a good teacher, albeit brutal.
We were doing well and were supposed to expect puppies from Summer after mating her with a stud from a champion line. At least that is what we expect until another tragedy strikes. The vet diagnosed Summer with pyometra and had to remove her uterus. She cannot have babies in the future, but maybe that is how things are meant to be, for Summer to remain as our one and the only baby on whom we can focus all our attention.
Our journey with Summer is full of happiness but not without trials. She eventually developed a degenerative hip joint and I wish that she could swim every day if only I had a pool.
We left her alone at home most of the time. It breaks my heart and I wish to have stayed with her at all times had I not had other responsibilities in life.
The year 2022 marks another great trial for us. We had to rush Summer to the vet because she exhibited seizure-like symptoms. According to the doctor, it is opisthotonus, probably caused by neuromuscular disease. We were in and out of the vet’s clinic for weeks. The situation had a great effect on us but most of all on Summer. She needs to take prednisone every day to avoid seizures. Vets do not recommend prednisone to be taken for life, but we have no choice or else a seizure attack will happen.
Summer’s condition is degenerative, and she lost a lot of weight in the process. She is not able to walk or stand anymore because of muscle atrophy after she had a fever. She is bedridden. She stays on her pet bed the whole day and we must carry her so she can poop and pee. We also do electrical stimulation on her limbs every day, hoping that she would eventually regain muscle strength. Despite everything that happened to Summer, she remains beautiful in our eyes and will forever be.
My bittersweet odyssey as a first-time dog owner prompted me to build this site. I want to share my struggles and information on how we can understand our dogs more. I want to share Summer’s story and how her bravery and steadfastness to fight against all odds continue to inspire us and bring happiness despite the despites.
I chose wagwagtail as the name of this site because that is my favorite reaction from her. Every time she sees me, she would forcefully wag her long tail making her whole body move as if my presence alone is more than enough to send her into a state of ecstasy. I would then say, “wag wag tail, wag wag tail”.
Like me, some of you out there may have jumped the wagon of being a pet owner without giving much thought to the responsibilities that come with it. I have experienced first-hand how challenging it is to get a dog with no knowledge of how to rear one. I hope that this site will serve as a safe venue for all dog owners alike who are looking for information, guidance, stories, and inspiration on their respective journeys with their dogs. Through this site, let us all come together and discover the joys and bitterness of having a pet.
Summer celebrated her 13th birthday on December 26, 2022. Up to this day, every day is still a learning process. We will forever be grateful for everything that she brought to our lives. She still loves to eat. She does not wag her tail anymore while laying down. Despite that, I can see in her eyes and feel that she is happy, and that she loves us just the same even if there is no more wag wag tail.
We are so grateful that Summer is still with us for her 13th birthday. Every day feels like a blessing when she greets us with her kind face as if saying ‘I may not be what I used to be, but I will always be here for you’. A dog who has health issues struggles to live every day so she could give us love. She is such an inspiration to us!
It was a Sunday, January 29, 2023, when I noticed Summer having episodes of deep breathing although she is usually like that especially when she is lying on her sides. She does not want to eat but I thought maybe she is fed up with her food. After some cajoling, Summer took a bite but that’s it. That night, she barked for no reason, and I noticed that she extends her neck. I got worried because she used to extend her neck when she had seizure attacks in the past.
The next day, the situation was almost the same except that she wouldn’t eat at all, so I decided to take her to the vet. There it was discovered that Summer has severe pneumonia and infection. The vet told me to consider euthanasia because it looks like her body cannot handle it anymore. In the meantime, there is also an option to continue antibiotic treatment for three days before re-evaluation. I was confronted by the vet that the treatment outlook is bleak, but I want to hope – hold tight to that light sliver of hope that Summer would still be alright. I told the doctor that we’ll go for the treatment.
Tuesday, January 31, 2023, I visited Summer at the clinic and there was no improvement in her condition. At this point, I am leaning towards euthanasia because I do not want Summer to continue living with that quality of life. If ever she gets well, she might be oxygen dependent which might eventually cause scarring of her lungs that would then make her condition worse.
I think this is the moment that every pet owner dreads to come: facing the inevitable and deciding to finally pull the trigger. On that day, I can’t. At least not yet. I told the doctor that we will continue the treatment for the next two days before I decide. I spoke to Summer and asked for forgiveness for any of my shortcomings. I thanked her with all my heart for everything and told her how good of a dog she is. I hugged her, petted her, and caressed her hoping that my gestures would reach out to her and make her feel that I am always there for her as she was for me. I left with a heavy heart pondering if it would be better for Summer to have euthanasia the next day to stop her suffering.
Wednesday, February 1, 2023, I got a call from the vet early morning that Summer had collapsed and they tried to revive her to no avail. Maybe it was Summer’s last gesture of kindness to me. She does not want me to go through that painful decision to pull the trigger and that our moment the day before was us saying goodbye to each other. The clinic was asking me if I want to see Summer, but I declined. I do not want to see her dead because I do not want that to be my last memory of her.
The house suddenly felt so empty in the succeeding days. There was no color, no sound nor Summer’s presence. However, in the corner of my mind, I am happy that Summer has crossed the rainbow bridge so she can run free again. She can play, roll over grass, dig soil, do zoomies, and eat whatever she wants. Finally, she can be happy again. Thank you, Summer! Show heaven why you are the best dog ever!