Milo // The Sunshine of Our August

Oh boy… I don't even know where to start. Honestly, I've been trying to avoid this post in every way possible. I feel like I've been bombarding everyone's feeds with our depressing story and I was putting off talking about it partly for that reason. Nobody likes a sob story. But… I know a lot of you are invested in Milo's story and a lot of you have supported, donated, and prayed for us - which we are eternally grateful for - so I feel it is necessary to finally speak up about what we found out. 

Let me just begin by saying that you can feel free to stop reading at any time if my words upset you or you don't agree with them. I'll completely understand. Ronnie and I don't have children and don't plan to for a long time… so to us, our furry babies are our children and we care for them as if we nursed them from the beginning - which we had literally done with our rescued kittens Ruby & Jade, and of course our little Milo. For four weeks, we gave him medicine six times a day and woke up at all hours of the night to ensure that he was comfortable and okay. He was our baby. And because he was our baby, we feel like we lost a child.

Some of you may understand and some of you may not… and that's okay. I feel that we all have the right to feel entitled to our natural feelings.

Ronnie and I woke up on Tuesday excited. We had waited two weeks for this appointment and we were under the impression that we were finally going to figure out what was wrong with Milo… and in turn be on our way to setting up appointments for treatment of his diagnosis. What we never expected is that we would be walking out of the clinic without him. 

The 45-minute trip to the clinic was terrifying. Milo hadn't been feeling well all morning, and it was only a matter of time before he had another one of his episodes. It just so coincidentally happened when we were in the car on the way to his appointment. He was extremely restless, and when I say restless, I mean scratching chaotically at our arms and legs and literally trying his hardest to get onto the dash of the car as well as in between and underneath the front seats. I wanted to cry and finally told Ronnie that we needed to stop and that it didn't matter if we were a few minutes late. Milo needed a chance to recompose himself, get a breath of fresh air, and calm down. What we didn't know is that he physically wasn't capable of calming down at this point - we had always been pretty good about being able to calm him during his episodes but this time was different.

After twenty minutes of stopping and realizing his breathing was becoming more and more difficult, we finally made the decision to get back in the car and rush to the clinic. We called them and told them we were going to be late and that Milo was having difficulty breathing. When we arrived, Ronnie dropped me off at the front and I ran inside with Milo in my arms. Before I could say a word, the nurses were extending their arms across the front desk and immediately took him back as a triage patient. 

Instantly, I began crying because the severity of the situation was solidified in that moment. Ronnie came in and we were escorted to a private waiting room where we sat in silence for about ten minutes. One of the doctors came in and explained to us that Milo's heart had stopped beating, but they were able to bring him back and keep him stabilized with a breathing machine and IVs. At that time, they were already doing an echocardiogram on him to figure out what exactly was going on. 

Another doctor came in shortly after and gave us the answers to the questions we had been wondering all along. What is wrong with Milo? What does this all come down to?

"Milo has a very complex congenital heart defect called "tetralogy of Fallot."" The very first words we heard after she apologized for everything we had already gone through that morning. She explained what it was and drew a few pictures on a whiteboard of what a normal heart looks like next to a picture of what Milo's heart looks like. In her words, Milo's heart condition was one of the most extreme cases of tetralogy she has ever seen in a puppy and that she unfortunately didn't have high hopes for him.

What is tetralogy of Fallot?

Tetralogy of Fallot is a congenital heart defect that is present at birth. It arises from three primary, spontaneous defects and a fourth defect that results from the other three. The three main defects are pulmonic stenosis, which is a narrowing of the pulmonary artery, which travels from the right side of the heart to the lungs; an over-riding aorta, in which the aorta is too large and drains blood from both the right and left sides of the heart; and a ventricular septal defect, which is a hole between the two large chambers of the heart. The fourth defect is thickening of the right ventricle, which arises from the need to generate more energy to push blood into the aorta through the narrowed pulmonary artery.

To save you from the rest of all of that medical terminology, Milo's body creates too many unoxygenated blood cells that results in a lack of oxygen carried to the rest of his body. This would explain a lot of his neurological issues as he appeared dizzy and confused during his episodes.

What is the prognosis?
Animals with a sedentary lifestyle may tolerate this problem and live for five years or longer. However, most animals develop serious signs at 1-2 years and die suddenly between 1 and 5 years of age from blood clots, sludging of the blood, abnormal heart rhythms, or chronic lack of oxygen to the body.

We were told there weren't many options for successful treatment and that the one that would be most helpful for Milo (although she wasn't certain it would even work) would be a $20K surgery that had only been successful on 10 dogs in the country. I couldn't help but let out a little stressful laugh after that... That's beyond, beyond, beyond impossible and unreasonable. After this was explained to us, we were told the decision was of course up to us and that we could talk it over privately. She told us that she was very concerned that he would die shortly after if we took him home, and we obviously didn't want to put him or us through that situation. She left the room and we both began sobbing. We had already known what we needed to do before any of the words came out of our mouths. We took about ten minutes hugging one another and decided it was time to go see him.

Seeing him for the first time was similar to the feeling I get seeing a newborn baby hooked up to all sorts of IVs and breathing tubes.. and eventually that overwhelming sense of helplessness set in. It was over. Our job would be done after his heart stopped beating.

…and that was the last thing we wanted. We didn't want our job to be over. And most importantly, we didn't want his life to be over. 

One minute we were waiting for the doctor to come in to tell us what was wrong with him and what we could do to fix it, and the next minute we were being asked what we would like them to do with his remains. 

It is all so surreal to us and it hurts… knowing that something who depended on us completely is no longer there when we walk through the door. We would literally be gone for half an hour on a "date night" and simultaneously say "I miss Milo." We never wanted to leave him.

After seeing the cost for euthanization and cremation, we both were thrown into yet another world of confusion. The price for leaving his body with them was extremely similar to having him cremated, and we knew that his ashes deserved to be spread somewhere as beautiful as what he was to us… so the answer was simple. Because of your help, we will be able to give him the proper memorial he deserves. We signed the papers and we both held his paw as they handed us our third box of kleenex in two hours. 

The doctor told us he was capable of breathing on his own, so we removed his breathing mask so we could see his face. He opened his eyes for the first time, bright eyed and moved his head towards us - looking directly at Ronnie & I. We ran our hands over his sweet little forehead and told him "thank you" knowing it was time to allow the doctor to take over. A few seconds had passed.

"He's gone," she said.


Milo was such a blessing to us and we will remember the memories he gave us for as long we live. Our soldier would not give up until we told him it was okay to do so, and for that his loyalty will stick with us forever. 

He was a constant reminder of love, laughter, and perseverance and we are grateful for every second we had with our curly tailed, bunny hopping, Shiba. We love you, little man.

See you on the flip side. XOXO

Nicole LenderComment