The Day We Lost Vader

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Vader The MinPin
February 2, 2012 - February 8, 2016

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Let's have that hard conversation. The one no one wants to talk about but everyone wants to know about. Let's talk about the day Vader died.

To talk about this day we really need to start with the day before. The 7th of February 2016. This was by far the best day of Vader's life. It was his epic 4th birthday party. All his local MPS friends came out to our Huntington Beach doggy bakery. Vader started the day walking to the car on his own as we had him do every time we went out. This kept his joints active and his muscles strong. At the party we enjoyed a private party room with a big window for passer byers to peek in on. There was a custom cake, an abundance of gifts, bakery made cookies, and lots of friends. Vader stuffed his face and we couldn't keep him from sneaking a cookie or 5. He had so much fun that when it came time to open gifts he was practically sleeping through it. He was beyond happy. Later that day we left him to rest at the house as we went out with some friends for an evening drive and dinner. When we got home later that night he was perfectly content and healthy in his little Star Wars bed he got earlier that day.

February 8th 2016. I woke up like I did many days with nothing feeling any different, in fact they felt better because of the previous day’s festivities. Vader was snoring up a storm so I didn't feel the need to feel his tummy for breaths like I did some mornings. In fact he was wedged between his daddy and me on the bed. Snuggled up in my armpit as he loved to do. We got up and got dressed. It was a beautiful day so we decided to dress Vader for the best. We tried on many of his new outfits and went with the "I'm sexy and I know it" shirt. I had to run to the bank so I decided to take Vader with me in his new carrying satchel he got. He was excited for the outing as he loved adventures.

Almost to the bank he started to have difficulties breathing and was scrambling to get to me. His eyes got big like he wanted help. This was something that happened from time to time with him and we called them “episodes”. I quickly pulled into the bank parking lot as we had just arrived and grabbed him. After a few chest pats to try and break up the congestion, and some comforting words of "you got this little man", he was doing better. We made it a quick bank trip and hurried home. All the while he seemed alright.

Shortly after getting home about 9:30am he started the breathing episode again. He had never had them twice in 1 day before. We could tell he needed something more. He was very uncomfortable. We quickly turned on a hot shower to create steam in the room hoping it would help. Vader's dad grabbed the humidifier, blankets, and his crate. We laid the blankets over his crate with the humidifier pointed in like a little cave. He seemed to calm down a little after that. I could start to sense something wasn't right. Vader's dad kept assuring me it was allergies from the time of year and that it would pass. Deep down inside it just didn't feel right.

After another episode and patting with comfort messages I messaged my mom. I remember simply saying "Vader isn't doing well, I think this might be it." The episodes kept coming and we kept trying anything we could think of. Opening his airways with our fingers, humidity, patting his chest, moving him, everything and anything. The episodes just felt like he couldn't cough up some phlegm in his throat.

About 2pm we decided we needed to show the world the reality of MPS. Vader's dad quickly grabbed the camera and during one of his episodes we filmed it. Vader was having a hard time and we were able to calm him down. Little did we know that would be the last video ever taken of him. This same video can be found on Vader’s Instagram.

About 3:30pm we finally decided a baby nose syringe may help him clear his throat. Vader's dad set him up next to me in a comfy bed on the couch and he grabbed his keys and closed the door to run to the store.

Maybe about 15 seconds after the door closed I looked down and saw my baby’s eyes. A mother just knows when something is about to happen. He quickly started to panic and with all his energy he leaped up into my arms. This was something he has never done before. I remember saying "ok, this is it" and I said it out loud. I held him in my arms and I started talking to him. I told him things like "you're such an amazing boy", "you've made a huge impact on the world", "you are loved so much", "you are so brave", and so many things I can't even remember. I basically told him how amazing and loved he was and encouraged him through this very scary time for both of us. I just wanted him to feel brave. As I talked to him I could feel him slip away. He stopped looking at me and then the next thing I knew he took one big breath and I felt his heart collapse in my hands. As I held my dead baby all I could do was let out this extremely loud and heart wrenching scream at the top of my lungs. I held him and cried for just a moment then had a second of panic. I reached for his heart to feel for a beat and then blew into his mouth. I felt his chest expand and instantly I told myself STOP. You have to stop. He wouldn't want this for you.

As I write this I have to stop and silently let out that same scream. To this day that moment still hurts like it just happened all over again.

After I took a moment I tried to reach Vader's dad. He was still in the parking garage (as this all happened within minutes of him leaving) and I couldn't get through to his phone. I quickly called my mom. Her coworker answered heard my tears and immediately pulled her to the phone. As soon as my mom reached the phone and heard me she knew. My mom had just been through this a year previously with my sister who had MPS III. She just told me how sorry she was and how much she loved us both. Vader's dad returned my call so I quickly hung up with my mom and called him back. He answered and I told him "Vader's dead".

We hung up and it must have been a blur as the next thing I knew he was inside the apartment. I was still holding my baby in my arms. Vader's dad took his blanket and picked him up from me. He placed him on a nearby chair. He told me it's important that the girls (Vader's two dog siblings) know he is gone. One at a time he picked them up and let them sniff him. It was their last goodbye too.

I couldn't even think at this point. I knew I needed to let the MPS community know right away. First I messaged the MPS animal moms and let them know. Next I grabbed Vader's goodbye letter I had written unusually a few weeks previously. I wrote it then because I knew one day he would pass and I wouldn’t be able to make the best letter if I couldn’t hold him while I wrote it. When I wrote it he was snuggled in my arms and I was able to make it perfect. I posted this letter immediately to Vader's Instagram and Facebook. The letter can still be found their today or down below.

After that I had to stop and think. Now what? I knew I wanted him cremated and I knew where. I never knew I would have to make those calls. No one else could do it in that moment as we were all shaken up. I pulled myself together for a moment and called the crematorium and they were closed. This upset me because I didn't want to use any other company. I knew they provided private cremations and their facilities were very nice. I only wanted the best for my little boy. After that, all I could think was to call my vet. They asked me to bring him in to them and they would take care of everything. I had to let go of the fact they may use a different company for the cremation and at this point I was so exhausted I couldn’t make any other decision.

As this was going on Vader had let go of his bowels and his eyes had opened and closed a few times. These are things you don't expect and may not even know happens. It is scary and makes you second guess if they are really gone. It felt like the entire house got black and I could see the sun starting to set. It felt like a horror movie where the walls were starting to cave in.

We gathered our things and wrapped Vader's blanket around him. Some close friends wanted to meet at the vet to say their goodbyes as well. When we got there I sat in the car holding my handsome man. Friends came by scratched his little head and gave him a goodbye kiss. All the while I watched his eyes close again. This time knowing it would be the very last time I got to see them.

We took him inside and I asked if we could try and get a copy of his paw prints. Vader's dad stayed with him while our good friend and I went next door to a children's learning center. They were kind enough to lend us paper and a stamp pad. We went in and took stamps of his paws so I could have them tattooed on me one day.

Saying goodbye was excruciating. Panicking and not having him home was even harder for the next week. All I wanted was to get him back. It felt like my heart was ripped from my chest and that I would never get it back. After the longest week of my life I got the call to come pick him up and I couldn't get in the car fast enough. I got his box and to my very happy surprise they used the cremation location I really wanted. He got a private cremation while tucked in to his blanket.  My heart finally felt a little peace.

The night Vader died was very sleepless. You have a million different thoughts. Everything hurts, and you second guess so much that you did that day. The worst part is you relive the final moments of their passing over and over and over and over and over again. It haunts you to no end. It took many days to survive that part, and I even wrote him letters for about a week (until I got his cremations back) and that helped. The one thing that got me through it all was remembering Vader's strength and love for life. He would never want me or anyone else to be down. He would want us to stand tall, continue his fight, and maybe flirt a little as it was his go to for getting pets and cuddles from cute girls.

Talking about death is never easy. Losing them is even harder. I wish I had been more prepared and hopefully this can help others through their own experiences.

If I could change anything it would have been to have all the affairs in order while I could still hold him, and to have someone on standby to make the hard calls for me when he did pass. I was beyond grateful I at least had his goodbye letter ready that day.

I would like to say the pain goes away. As you may know this hasn’t been easy for me to put down on paper. It still hurts beyond words. However, every day it gets less and less obtrusive. My baby died in my arms, but he chose that as his final place in life. I will forever be honored by that. His fight and my sister’s battle with MPS will forever be in me. I too carry the MPS gene and will continue to honor their journey by fighting for a better world. A world where MPS is a thing of the past and no one else has to experience what I went through.   


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This is the poem we dedicated to Vader that day:


God saw you getting tired
and a cure was not to be
so he put his arms around you
and whispered,
"Come to Me"
With tearful eyes we watched you
and saw you pass away
and although we love you dearly
we could not make you stay.
A Golden heart stopped beating
hard working hands at rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us
He only takes the best

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I will attach the letters I wrote him below for anyone that would like to know what life was like the days after he passed.


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Dear baby Vader:

2/9/16

It's been 20 hours exactly since the last moment we had together. 20 hours that you have been free and complete. The best 20 perfect hours I could imagine for you.

Here with mommy today is a beautiful day. You would love it. The sun is out and there is light peeking through the blinds waiting for you to bask in its warmth.

The bustle of the day continues as we celebrate your life. Even that darn dump truck made an appearance. Just as loud as ever of course.

Daddy and I are spending a lot of time remembering you. His work gave him the day off so he can hold me close. We've been reading all the amazing messages from your fans. Did you know we got over 500 more followers on Facebook and 150 on Instagram. It's amazing to see the love the world had for you.

Your new friend Jami will be over soon to see us. She said she's bringing a special gift. :) For now daddy is taking in a quick power nap. He needed it. I'm laying next to him with your sisters. We're all cuddling.

We miss you so much little boy. It's hard thinking about your last moment in my arms. It keeps replaying in my head. I'm trying to follow in your bravery and think about the happy memories but that one holds a special place in my heart. Even if it was the most difficult to get through with you.

We hope wherever you are that you are whole and happy. We hope aunt Tiffany is stepping in where we left off. She has a lot she can relate to you about. You both are so loved.

My son, my precious little man. You are so handsome and so perfect. You are the light of my world and a true gift. You always have and always will be my everything. You were made special for me. And you are such a good boy!

The days will continue and I will keep you close to my heart. Together we will have many more adventures and one day soon I will hold you in my arms and kiss you until the stars fade and the heavens take over the earth.

We will talk again soon little man. 😘


2/10/16

Good Morning baby boy. I was able to sleep a little bit better last night and a little bit longer. Woke up thinking about you though.

I think you came to me last night and told me not to stop fighting. You gave me an image that you wanted me to post. A picture of you but covered in purple. You told me I would see it all over Facebook. So this morning I made your picture and shared it. I asked everyone to set it as their profile picture for one week. Baby boy you must be amazed. So many people have set the picture on their page and the awareness has reached all over the world.

I know you don't want me to stop fighting. I know you told me this is only the beginning. So glad we have a team of amazing warriors to help us.

Little man I miss you more than you could ever imagine. My heart physically hurts. I frequently pretend you're laying with me just to ease the pain.

Now I have to figure out how to honor you further by deciding what's best to do with your body. We've decided on cremation but I still want you with me. Please show me what you think is best.

Your sisters have been different and the house very still and quiet. No one's exactly sure how they should carry on now that a piece of them is missing. I just want to sleep through the pain but I know I have to keep going. Not for me but for those that depend on me. It's what you would have done too.

Baby boy thank you so much for loving me and choosing me. I feel so honored to have been your earthly mother. So honored to spend each day with you. To carry out your plan and watch you change the world. Thank you for giving me all your love.

I have so much I want to say to you but I don't know how to form the words. I hope you knew during those last few seconds how special you were. How amazing and perfect I saw you as.

I just want to hold you and tell you I love you. That's honestly all I can think about right now. Please know your mommy will keep you forever in her heart. So very proud of you Vader. You fought so bravely!

Let's talk again tomorrow. Until then please send me little signs so I know you're watching me from above. 😘

2/11/15

Well baby, it's been 72 hours since the last time I felt your little heart beat. Each second I miss you and each second you're in my thoughts.

I'm trying to stay strong for the world like you did. But deep down inside I just want to cry and scream and demand you back.

I don't really know what to say today. It's been a slow morning. I launched your new website (vadertheminpin.com) and I love it. I hope it teaches the world about MPS. Tonight daddy and I are going to you're favorite car meet. It just makes me miss you that much more though.

Your sisters are good. Leelas been very sad and quiet. She hides a lot. Audrey is happy as can be. We tell her she got a puppy upgrade and now she gets to sleep in your new bed.

In two weeks we’re going to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Wish you were going with us. I know how much they loved you and you them. It will be different without you but we will share in the great memories of you.

I hope you're having the best time where you are. I hope there is an over abundance of love. If you get some free time I would love for you to come paw at my heart. I miss you terribly and I would love to feel you close again.

Leela and I are going to cuddle and dream of you. I really need a good nap after this week. Play hard baby boy and be sure to show all those cute ladies up there how handsome you are.

Love you little man. 😘

2/12/16

Hi sweetie. I just realized I was marking all these dates with an 8 and not a 2. Silly mommy. I'm so tired.

So I was really sad today. My friend really hurt mommy. He is acting like he doesn't even care that you (my world) was taken from me too soon. Maybe he's just grieving in his own way and I'm trying to still love him like you would but I'm really mad.

I've been so tired today. I think things are finally catching up with me and my body is just trying to sleep through it so we don't have to face it.

Daddy's sick. He has a head cold and he's been snoring like crazy. Lol makes me smile in a way. Reminds me of your snoring.

I'm really sad. I wanted your body (ashes) back today but no call from the vet. I really just want to hold you again.

Little man I miss you so very much today. One more kiss one more hug. It would be my everything. Guess I'll just have to wait until we're together again.

Love you handsome. You be brave and good, and I will too. 😘

2/13/16

Good Morning Beautiful.

Daddy woke up early to go to a car meet. That means I woke up and now can't go back to sleep. Makes me sad because these were moments I would pull you from bed and spend the rest of the morning cuddling, kissing, and admiring your beautiful face.

Finally was able to talk to my friend last night. He hadn't grieved for you and it was hurting him. We had a really nice talk and baby he misses you so much too. You were my little rock star for sure.

I'm thinking about taking the girls to the dog park soon. Won't be the same without my little flirt with us. We're also eating a little bit of your cake every day. The girls really like it. Good choice on the peanut butter.

Oh baby I want to push on and be strong, but most of the time I just want to be held and cry. I feel like the world is expecting so much from me. Bravery, strength, fight. Sometimes I'm afraid I can't live up to it or it's going to steal my grieving process from me. I feel like so many people are having a hard time with your loss and they are all expecting me to fix it. They don't understand what it was like for me holding you for that last time. So I have some anger towards them for stealing my time to cry. Trying to be strong and brave like you though

I haven't slept well in days. I know I should try to catch a few more Zzzs before daddy gets home. I'll dream of holding and dancing with you again. And kissing your cute little button nose. Say hi to Tiffers for me.

Love you both so very much. 😘

2/14/16

Happy Valentine's Day little handsome.

I heard you came to pick up MPS cousin Walter today and bring him home. I hope you boys are having the best time today. I can’t believe you both have passed though.

I know you and I looked at life very differently than most. Always with a smile and a positive attitude. Today though could you and Walter paw at Gabi's heart and let her know you are both ok and happy. She needs courage like us.

Oh man baby. I miss you so much. I think about you every second and all the wonderful memories we had together. I feel so lucky that I got so much time with you.

I wish we could sit and chat and you could tell me about heaven and I can tell you about my love for you. One last hour together would be amazing.

Your sisters are doing well. Leela seems to still have hard days that we call puppy depression. She's very attached to me now. I think she misses you very much. Daddy's doing better. He's very supportive of me and my dreams of raising awareness for MPS.

I feel so tired today. Just emotionally worn down from this disorder affecting my life so much. I can't wait until the day I get to hold you in my arms again and kiss your precious nose.

I hope you boys have the best time together and I am so proud of you for paving the way for Walter so he wouldn't feel scared or lost. You're so brave little man and I'm still so proud of you.

Can't wait to talk to you again. 😘

2/17/16

Hey baby boy. I know it's been a few days but everything's been so crazy and I'm scared of facing the reality of you being permanently gone from my life.

I think about you non stop. I keep thinking about those last moments. How I wish I kissed you more and held you more.

Why did you have to go baby? Why couldn't we have 9 years together? I miss you so much it hurts. Come back to me.

I don't even know what to say. I want to scream and fight for you to come home to me.

I'm trying to be brave and no one knows how much I miss you. I don't let them see it and I don't talk about it.

My son I loved our memories together. I had so many more planned for us. Why did you have to leave me?

I miss your tiny snoring and your little licks when you got sleepy. I miss when you would nudge your nose into my armpit to sleep. I miss holding you more than anything in this world.

I want to help other MPS dogs but I don't even know where to start. Help me baby.

6/28/16

Hi handsome,

I just really needed to talk to you tonight. I miss you so darn much and tonight it really hurts.

A few days ago we started a nonprofit to help other doggies like you that are fighting MPS. It is called MPS Army Foundation. Army because it takes an army to win a battle and you were always my brave little MPS soldier. We also want to try and end the disorder through testing.

I'm trying to make you proud but I feel like no one wants to fight this battle with me. I miss having you to hold and love and cuddle and mostly kiss. I miss your bravery and joy. Why did you have to go so soon? It's been a while since I've cried this bad. I try not to think about it much because when I do it hurts and I know you want me happy. Daddy keeps messaging me. I should probably go read them. I love you more than anything in any universe!

3/26/2019

Hey my handsome little dude,

We have some catching up to do. Many years ago I dedicated the song “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten to you. Whenever I hear it you are on my mind. I am listening to it right now. It reminds me of your fight for a better life, one without MPS. I feel like you have passed that fight on to me. We still have a lot of fight left in us baby.

You would be so proud of the impact you have had on the world. MPS Army has over 15k followers on social media. This year our followers have helped us discover over 6 MPS animals. That is over 35 animals in total, even cats! MPS Army has even tested over 100 breeder animals. You were also on a big billboard all over the US last year to help raise awareness. I think we both can agree this is more than we ever could have imagined for the battle against MPS.

For such a rare disorder we are finally making a large and loud impact! Who knew a tiny dog could leave such a large paw print on the world.

Tomorrow we get to do an interview with a doggie podcast. I can’t wait to talk about you and share the joy you brought to the world. Hopefully we can even raise more awareness through it.

I have spent years deciding if I should share your story. Your last story. Tonight I took the time to type it all out. I think we both can agree it is time for the world to hear it. For your story to help other families through their difficult times of loss. You have always paved the way for this battle.

Maybe one day MPS Army will be a huge success. Maybe we won’t be in need of new donations every month for testing because we will have an abundance of funds. Maybe we will be able to completely cover medical bills for MPS animals. Maybe one day we can even live in a world without MPS. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful sight?
 
I hope you are sharing your courage, love, and charisma with all the MPS cousins that met you at the rainbow bridge. I hope you are all running, playing, and living a beautiful MPS free life together.

No matter what I will always hold a special place for you in my life. You have changed me forever. You are the best! I am so proud of you and your legacy.

Until we meet again little one…. I love you!

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Vader's Goodbye Letter:

We feel so honored that we got to call Vader our son. From the first moment we looked at his tiny puppy face on Craigslist to the last time we felt his little heart beat he was perfect in our eyes.

Because of Vader our hearts know everlasting love and we are so proud to have watched him grow and bless others. We are so happy and honored to have been given the opportunity to be his parents.

Vader didn't miss out on any opportunity life presented him. He went for amazing car rides, ate all sorts of gummy bears, got free French fries at drive throughs, helped a dog get her wheels, had an audition for a tv show, spent many beautiful hours cuddling with many of you, had some epic birthday parties, lived in an RV for a while, kept his sisters in check, and got to be the mascot of an entire website.

Vader lived more than most of us can say we have.

MPS-VI did not kill Vader, Vader overcame the expectations of MPS and kicked it in the pants! We are so proud of our little boy! Now it is his time to continue his adventures in heaven. We are excited to know that Vader will be joining so many others that overcame the expectations of MPS. We take comfort in knowing his aunt Tiffany, cousins Pan, Scooby, Polly, and Tigger will all be there to welcome him home.  

Vader spent every day proving life was worth fighting for. Every day should be a reason to smile. Even a tiny pup with dislocated legs and a rare disorder could find that reason.

Vader was able to touch and improve so many lives and our wish is that his courage and inspiration continues to inspire others to help those in need. Sometimes even words aren't necessary. A simple smile can make someone's day.

Vader was put into this world not just for us but he was sent here for all of you. He was just as much your dog as he was ours. If everyone could take something away from Vader's life it's that time is precious and every moment is a gift worth celebrating.

We will not be holding a candlelight vigil. We are choosing to celebrate his life and not mourn his passing. We would like to simply ask everyone to celebrate Vader's life by sharing their favorite memory of him or way he touched your life on his Facebook page.

This will not be the end of Vader's legacy. In honor of him we will continue to help those that are disabled or in need and we will continue to prove that even with disabilities life is still worth enjoying.

We personally would like to thank everyone for the continued support, love, and joy you shared with Vader. He was able to help make so many lives better because of you.

We send you love and blessings and we thank you for sharing Vader with us!



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One of Vader’s Instagram posts before he passed:

Below are details specifically regarding my life as each dog and human with MPS handles situations differently.

I am happy and healthy. Yes I too have breathing issues daily and choke and cough, but nothing to be alarmed about for me. It's all part of how I live with MPS.

As my mommy took care of her sister, who had MPS-III for 30 years, we've discovered a few things that have also helped me.

1) Doctors can be helpful but they don't really know about MPS so they don't know how to medicate for it. Sometimes it's best to not medicate and ride it out. Too many med options can be more harmful in many situations.

2) Life length is unknown for all of us not just those with MPS. Best we can do is make each day as comfortable, exciting, and as happy as possible until that day comes.

3) I love mommy so much that when she worries I worry. So calm and happy also helps my health.

4) Many times I have breathing issues because things like pneumonia are common in those with MPS. Sometimes you just need to cough it out or just breathe through it. Sometimes mommy pats me gently to help me cough. Nothing to be alarmed about as I've spent 4 years practicing. It's just part of life for me.

5) Occasionally I have episodes where I stop breathing or have a seizure. Yes these are very scary for me and mommy, but mommy holds me close and helps me through it. Not much more we can do but ride it out. But if my time comes through one of those I know I was loved and spent my last moments in mommy's arms.

6) Mommy makes me do everything myself. If she babies me or does it for me I could lose my ability to do it. Example: walking. Mommy makes me walk almost everywhere unless it's really far. This keeps my legs strong. If she carried me MPS would cause my legs to lose their muscle and I would lose my ability to walk.

How come you don't share about Vader's illness much?

Death is going to happen and we understand that. It happens to all of us. But until that time comes we can focus on each illness and bad moment and not live, or we can celebrate each happy moment and have the best life possible. I'd rather go happy and in mommy's arms, then alone in an incubator in a cold room. For us hospitals and the doctors hardly work, as again they don't know much about MPS to help us anyways. And they definitely can't cure it.

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