Rio by Shannon and Doug / Love always,

Your Momma

I just wanted to write a little note here and share Rio’s story. About 7 years ago I moved in with a boyfriend and was terrified of his dog named Rio. He was a big huge Rottweiler and he was none to friendly. He lived out back in the kennel next to the garage. At night he would come in the house and sleep on the back landing by the stairs. If I was in the kitchen or something he would growl and I would panic and leave the kitchen.. He was such a goof. I would be cooking and I knew he wanted some. I would walk up to give him a treat and as I would reach out he would growl and that was it… I pretty much threw the food at him and ran for cover hahaha. He was so big and strong and he knew it. He intimidated me constantly and I am sure to this day he laughs about the stress he put me through in those early days. Even though I was scared of him, I didn’t like the idea of him living outside in a kennel.

I asked my boyfriend why he wasn’t a house dog and he said because he was “crazy” and would destroy everything. For the record my boyfriend ( Rio’s owner ) had allergies to dogs but when he met Rio as a puppy his then owner was going to give him away. He opted to take Rio in even though he was allergic to him and he made him a huge kennel outside and took the best care of him that he knew how.

Even though I was still scared of the dog, I didn’t want to live there knowing there was an animal outside. We made a plan to get him more socialized and bring him in the house. It started with me going outside one day and unlocking his kennel… part of me expected him to tackle me but he just growled at me. I was so scared but I unlocked it and opened it a bit. I went and sat on a lawn chair and put a dog cookie on my lap and sat there. I pretended like I didn’t care, and I pretended like he wasn’t there. He walked around me, looking and looking getting closer and closer, It took everything I had to sit there for this. But, he finally realized I wasn’t intimidated anymore and he slowly made his way to me and tried to take the cookie. Before he could get it I snatched it up and told him to “sit”. He looked at me like I was crazy …then I guess he realized he had met his match and if he wanted that cookie he would have to do what I asked and he sat. He got the cookie alright and plenty more. It took awhile but after bringing him in the house more and more and me becoming his main caregiver his personality really sprouted and he became a full fledged momma’s boy.

We spent long summer days together and went for lots of walks, he had a thing for plastic he could smell it a mile away. One day walking in the park he was adamant about going in the bushes so we went over there, he emerged with some pink thing in his mouth.. I took it from him and it was a old dirty barbie doll head..hahaha. Someone had given their barbie doll a haircut and realized it looked funny now so they threw it away.. and leave it to Rio to dig it up in the bushes. Well he took it home and it was pride and joy.. His stinky little barbie head.

Rio loved his babies.. I would buy him little stuffed animals and he cherished them. For such a big boy he was so gentle and loving it was crazy. He would pick up these little stuffed animals and carry them around in his mouth and he would make little crying sounds..and then he would put it down without a mark on it, and then he would clean it until almost all the fluff came off of it. So yes we had quite the collection of little krusty babies all over the house and
they were his babies let me tell you.

No matter where we would go if there was plastic around he would find it. Once while swimming at a dog park he stood on the bank and barked and barked at the other side of the water. It was quite a distance away and I was getting annoyed with him. He kept barking and barking, so finally I went over and had to get in the water up to my armpits to get this stupid blue thing that was floating on the water.. it turned out to be blue water kong toy. How he saw it from where we were I have no idea.. but that was for sure one of his most treasured finds.

During thunderstorms Rio would race in my room and try to get under my computer desk. Here was a 130 pound big bad boy cowering under my desk. At least he thought he was under my desk. His head was, but unbeknownst to him, his whole body was sticking out. I swear he thought he was a lap dog and was perfectly hidden in there. But it gave him comfort so I never told him…hahaha.

At night he would jump in bed with me and the whole bed would sag on his side.. he would stretch out and kick me up against the wall and his little stubby tail would dig in my back.. I didn’t care if I was uncomfortable.. as long as my boy was comfy that’s all that mattered. He would sleep sideways sometimes really squishing me.. and then later I made him at least sleep like a person and he would put his head on the pillow.. he even snored. It was so wonderful. Sleeping with my big boy. cuddling my big horse. He was my sucky baby.

I could try to explain the bond I had with my boy but I know I don’t have too. Anyone who has a pet knows what I am saying, there are no words for it. You just have it. He would follow me to the end of the earth if I let him and his kisses were enough to dry any tears that I may have had.

So, Rio went on to live one of the cushiest best lives a dog could ever hope for. A momma and dadda who would do anything for him. He slept in a bed like a person and had tons of babies and treats all over the house. I would lie on the floor with him and he would roll over and almost squish me, he was such a big lovable goof. I have to say, that I don’t think my experience of so much love and affection with Rio is unique. I think as a breed the Rottweiler is a very very very emotional and loving dog. Under all that muscle and intimidation is a big softy. If you can break down that wall..the love and affection you can have with them is tenfold of anything you could of ever wished for.

2 weeks ago Rio started losing weight. We thought he had a bad tooth. He went to the vets on Thursday morning and a tooth problem was ruled out. However, unfortunately, a large hard stomach mass was found and he was extremely anemic. He stopped eating. We ordered a blood workup and the news was not good. He was extremely anemic and his red blood cell count was very low. His gums and inside eyelids were white and ghastly.. no longer pink. We weighed him at the vets and he was a mere 96 pounds. He had previously weighed 117. So, the weight loss was dramatic and his strength was gone. He lied around on his blankey barely moving.

Rio would sleep a lot but he didn’t want to eat. The vet said his anemia was due to either a slow internal blood loss or the mass which he assumed to be cancerous. We scheduled an appt to return on Monday for an ultrasound to pinpoint where the mass was. Over the weekend Rio’s condition stayed the same if not deteriorated a little more. He continued to lie on his blanket all day and we had to bring the water bowl to him to get him to drink. We knew he was miserable, he had vomited a few times even after drinking water and we knew he was nauseated and didn’t want to eat. So it was very hard getting him through these days. Monday morning came and we got him in the car and we drove out to the vets. When we got there I went inside and asked if my dog was dying, I knew the answer but I needed to hear it loud and clear. The vet said that there was no treatment because of Rio’s health he was not a candidate for surgery even if we could locate the mass and remove it. He was in too poor of health to handle the anesthetic and we would probably lose him trying to get it out. The prognosis was grim, and he was indeed in his last days.

After hearing it loud and clear we decided to cancel the ultrasound. In the past Rio had a foot fetish.. He loved his paws and no one was allowed to touch them. He would lick them all day and make them all nice and pretty, ha ha. If we would even say to him “ Oh what pretty toe toe’s you have” he would growl. So getting his nails trimmed was always a stressful ordeal. Over the years we had opted to have him sedated while they were clipped to keep his stress level down. I hated having him sedated and I was not going to sedate him for an ultrasound that would make no difference to his health. All the ultrasound could do for us at this point was show us if there was a bleed and where the mass was connected to. Both, irrelevant at this point given his rapid decline. He would still urinate and his urine was very very dark orange. The vet said it was because his body was trying to recycle his red blood cells.

So, we asked if Rio was in pain and the answer was no. However, as with anyone who is sick he obviously feels awful and was extremely weak. As soon as we got him in the door at the vets on Monday he just lied down. He did not have a care in the world and he was tired. He was panting and breathing heavy and he just did not care. After we told the vet we were not going to put him through the ultrasound we stood there and questioned his condition of life. The vet said he would linger on as long as his body would let him, but again, he was not in any pain, he just felt sick. The vet said given his current state he was in his last days and all we could do for him was keep him comfortable. We had talked about euthanasia because to us it seemed like Rio was done. The way he lied down in the office as if to say “ it is ok… I am tired now “ I truly feel that he was telling us it was time and he was ok with it. I could of done it right there and then and been ok with it but we didn’t and I am glad we didn’t for reasons I will share with you now. I asked the vet if there was any way he could make a house call when we felt it was time. He said he could do that and it was fine. We made our decision. We took Rio home and watched him all the way as he slept in the backseat, which is something he has never done in his life. You mention car ride and like all dogs you can barely contain the excitement. But now it was very somber and we knew he was sick so we took him home.

We tried to feed him on Monday night and he wouldn’t eat. And if he took a piece of a wiener or anything he wouldn’t keep it down. We tried everything to get his appetite going but nothing worked. This is a dog who would tackle me in the kitchen to grab some ground beef or would sit and bark at me until I shared with him. To see him with no interest in food was a sure sign he was ill. Tuesday, he had lots of visitors coming to see him and say their goodbyes. Everyone knew it was a matter of time. When people knocked at the door he barely moved his eyes to see who it was, he was very weak. All Tuesday night his dadda lied with him and cuddled him and patted him until his hand nearly fell off. He was up with him all night.

We made arrangements for the vet to make a house call between 9 and 9:30am on Wednesday morning. We watched Rio for any sign that he didn’t want to go.. we almost tricked ourselves into thinking he was fine when he sat up for a brief moment and looked at us. We were desperate for any sign. He was only changing positions to find a comfortable spot and then he was down on the ground again in a sleepy daze.

The vet arrived and we both started crying like little kids. It was imminent. We asked that Rio be sedated because on Thursday when he was sedated we had a heck of a time finding a vein to give him a reversal to wake him up. It took forever because he was so sick and his veins were narrow and thin. So we opted to sedate him first before giving him his final needle. As Rio fell into his sedation we hugged on him and cried on him and told him a million times how much we loved him. When he was sedated the vet started looking for a vein. I have to say this was the worst part for me. His veins were in bad shape and between trying to mourn my dog and trying to elevate a vein for the vet I was a mess. Finally we had contact and he began the slow injection. Rio gave a few winces and I almost freaked, the thought of my baby in pain was killing me. The vet said it was ok and he could just feel a sting because we had been poking on his leg so much for a vein. And then before I could breathe out, he was still. He was calm and relaxed and so peaceful. I knew he was gone. I grabbed him and hugged him and kissed his soft ears I held onto him for dear life as if to comfort his soul as it transitioned. I looked at the clock and it was 9:50am and the song “silent night” was playing on the TV.

The vet left and we had Rio on his blanket all nice and peaceful. We covered him with another blanket and this may sound morbid to some people but we took turns lying with our boy and giving him great big cuddles and whispering in his ear. This time with him after his passing was truly a gift. This is the only reason I am glad I didn’t do it at the vets office on Monday. To have my dog put to sleep in the comfort of his own home, with his own blanket and all his babies and his mommy and daddy with him was the absolute best decision we could of made for him. No stress for him.. less stress for us, and the time you have with your animal after in your own home is wonderful. I mourned with him for about an hour and I did what all mommies do and I cleaned him up. I wiped his leg down where he was shaved and injected. I kissed his boo boo better and kissed his paws he would never let me touch. It was so beautiful to have his big body beside me in such a relaxed manner. I can’t explain how much having this done at home has meant. I held onto him for dear life trying to send my love through him.

I have never had to put an animal down before and have always dreaded it. Although I know as a pet lover that is the ultimate price we must pay for loving one so dearly. Although I can so for sure this has to be easier then walking away and leaving an animal in the hands of a vet. Leaving your animal scared in an office, or even being with him in an office you cannot or will not show your true emotions because for some reason we feel silly and don’t want the vet to see. Or we cut our time short in saying good bye because we know people are waiting. Having it done at home and having the vet leave so we can grieve our animal is an option I didn’t know we had. I thank god now that I asked my vet to come to the house and I thank god that we were able to mourn our baby on our own time in our own way. I would like to strongly recommend to people about asking their vet about coming to the house. We had to pay about 30 dollars extra but I can assure you, I probably would of paid any outrageous amount just to have him at home during this time.

In my opinion it was well well well worth it, so please consider this option if you think this sounds like something you might like
to do if you have to.

When we were done, we wrapped him up in his blankey and took him to a Pet cremation place and he will have a private cremation early Friday morning. Rio’s dadda will go at 8am and inspect the machine to ensure its clean and he will witness our boys body and all his toys and blankey to ensure that they go with him. After the initial viewing of the machine and Rio and his belongings we sent with him, he will return 2 hours later and his ashes will be put in an urn for us. If we had rural property I would opt to bury him in the backyard. We don’t have that option, because if we move I don’t want to have to dig him up and move him.

Last night was very hard for me, I almost hyper ventilated when I thought about him, I couldn’t feel him and I felt like he was so far away from me I thought I was gonna die. I had a lump in my throat the size of a baseball and it hurt so much. I got through it and cried myself to sleep. I know as the days go on I will feel better and better, but I am allowing myself to mourn my animal, however long it takes I don’t care.
He is my boy and I love him.

This is quite a long entry, I am sorry, but I feel like if I share Rio’s story it might help someone else in some way. Or in some way if I write about Rio it will make me feel better knowing that I made an effort to let people know that he made a difference to my life. I think that is what we all want, we want people to know and appreciate the love we shared with our animals. I know reading other stories have made me feel a little better in knowing that I am not alone. If our sadness and heartbreak is the price we must pay for loving an animal so dearly then it is better to of love and lost then to of never of loved at all. As hard as this is on me right now. I would not trade one moment of it for anything in the world. Rio’s life was long and happy and if this is the price I pay for
his life’s worth then so be it.


I love you Rio.
You’re my handsome boy.
Shannon and Doug