A year ago today a piece of my heart died under a beautiful oak tree.

Last June was the first time I laid eyes on him. I was at the Putnam County shelter with a girlfriend pulling another dog, and we both did a double take when we saw him. You can see in his intake pictures (below) that his soulful, honey colored eyes were pleading for help. I wish I had saved him that day. Instead I went home and talked to Joe and Alyss about him. Could we afford this dog financially? Could I survive it emotionally? Knowing what I know now, I hate that I made him live an extra 24 hours on that cold, hard concrete floor. He had one less day without someone telling him what an amazing dog he was … and selfishly, it was one less day that I could have spent with my soul mutt.

We didn’t think Rhett was going to last the weekend. His belly was so swollen. His sweet, sweet heart was crawling with worms. But Rhett was a fighter, so we followed his lead and began treatment for heartworms right away. It got to the point where he was visiting the vet weekly and it seemed like he was getting better. His belly was shrinking. He was climbing on the couch for an afternoon snooze with his foster siblings. He was able to go on longer and longer walks. We all thought we were going to save him…

It was about five months in that we realized we had cured his heartworms, he’d finally tested negative. It was five months of listening to the most beautiful “arooo!” at 7 AM sharp. Five months of watching his endearing, little waddle around the yard. Five months of everyone in my life falling in love with Rhett the way I had. But, the relief of a negative HW test was short lived as his belly began to grow. He went from weighing 65 pounds to 95 pounds in such a short amount of time. His poor body had been battling heartworms for so long that it finally threw in the towel. There was so much damage to his heart and lungs that he couldn’t circulate blood correctly and it was pooling in his belly.

Last year, on November 16th, I was sitting with Rhett on his dog bed listening to his labored breathing, watching him struggle to lay down. I knew it was time. There was nothing more I could do except let him go. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life because he put on a front of happiness that I wanted to believe in so badly. Honestly, I think in those last few weeks he was holding on for me … Rhett was loyal to a fault.

A year ago today, under a beautiful oak tree, surrounded by everyone I love, I lost my soul mutt. And as I write this, tears streaming down my face, I realize I’ve been suppressing how much I miss my favorite coonhound. But what I also realize, is that Swamp Haven can honor his memory by continuing to save saving “throw away” hounds here in the south. Rhett taught me so much about hounds and he is the reason they’ve stolen my heart.

I’ve been told by more than one vet that dying of HW disease is one of the worst ways a dog can leave this world. Next time you think about skipping of month of HW preventive to save a few bucks, please take a look at our logo and think of Rhett. Your dog deserves the best this life has to offer and only you can ensure he receives it by giving him that tiny chew that costs all of $8 a month.

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