To understand why life without you is so impossible, you first have to understand how life was with you. And other people should hear it too. Because you, my dear, were a life-changer.
You were born April 6th, 2007, the day before my 23rd birthday, and a few months before I was to graduate college. Your mother and father lived on a bulldog-breeding farm in Iowa and spent most of their days in small runs.
You have five brothers and sisters but four of them died from some mystery infection and only you and your brother survived. You were a fighter from the start.
And you needed to be. Because from the start things were rough. You couldn’t support yourself with your back legs so they taped them to help you build up your muscles. Breathing was hard from day one and your little belly had red polka dots from a grass allergy. Soon your eyelids would roll in on themselves, scratching your eyes and causing you to look perpetually exhausted. Without surgery, you would have eventually blinded yourself from the scarring.
So there you were, brand new and already saddled with more than anyone should have to bear. You were made that way by people. You see we breed doggies like you to look a certain way. What this usually means is you look the way you’re supposed to look, but you pay a price with your health.
And you, boo, looked just perfect. Just how a bulldog is supposed to look. And because of that you suffered. And that wasn’t fair to you.
I’ve joked that you were a lemon dog. You see, breeders have a year-long return policy, where you can trade in puppies with too many problems. Just like defective products. And you, my dear, had too many problems. But not for me.
The moment I saw your little face, I know you were meant to be in my life. I drove 5½ hours across the state to meet you, and held your little round body in my arms. You were so tiny then, but still weighed more than I expected. Bulldog density is always surprising.
The drive back home was long, but I had to wait until I’d graduated and had a home for you. In the meantime, I went and bought you everything you’d need. I set up your little bed and just couldn’t believe that soon you’d be curled up inside, finally home and forever safe.
The day came and I just couldn’t wait. I sped across Iowa. And you’d grown so much! All rolls. You were finally supporting yourself with your legs and you pounced on me with your razor sharp puppy teeth. Such a menace.
I brought a friend with me so you could sit on my lap the whole way home. That would be your one car ride without a seatbelt. I tried to get you used to your car harness right away. You certainly weren’t a fan a first but eventually you came to feel secure and would fall asleep as soon as it was on. Except of course when you wanted a treat. I’ll never forget the first time I heard you demand a treat.
You see even now you bring a smile to my face. Never have a once looked at you and not smiled. What a gift. Because I don’t smile easy and I don’t smile often.
We’ve been through a lot together, boo. Your first year was chaotic. Five surgeries before you even turned one, vet trips every week to two weeks max, multiple ER stays, and the constant donning of the cone of shame. You were a trooper.
For your surgeries, we drove 5½ hours again to a veterinarian who specialized in bulldogs. You see, putting bulldogs under anesthesia is a huge risk because of your limited breathing. So I wanted the best. We went out twice for two rounds of surgery. You had part of your soft palate removed to help you breath better, your eyelids were taken off so you could see and not blind yourself, your uterus was removed because it was infected and 5 times the size it was supposed to be, and you have 2 vaginoplasties to correct an inversion that was causing recurrent bladder infections. I always joked that you had a designer vagina.
All of these surgeries, save perhaps your uterus, were to correct problems we humans caused by making you look the way we wanted. And for that, I’m forever sorry.
But you rallied. As you always have. You never complained. You just carried on. Cone and all.
And everyone loved you, boo. You were so very loved. You made friends everywhere you went. And when people or other animals didn’t seem to want to be your friend, you tried even harder.
I remember long trips at the dog park. You’d wrestle for hours, camp out in a hole and jump up right when another dog passed, and venture across the park and adopt new families, following them around.
When you got older, you played less and instead walked the perimeter of the fence like the weird kid at the playground. By then you preferred trailblazing. We’d go out to nature trails and you always wanted to veer off and make your own path, through tall grass, into woods, crossing rivers and streams. And bless your heart you had no idea where you were going. And you never liked doubling back. Everything had to be new all the time.
When you were about 2½ I made a very important decision. You’d been in the cone almost all of your life. Your allergies were out of control despite my best efforts and the advice of numerous vets and specialists from all over the state. I’d tried all the diets they wanted you on, despite the heartbreak it caused knowing I was feeding you the bodies of innocent animals. And none of it had helped. In fact, the most recent prescription hypoallergenic food has caused you to lose patches of hair.
I decided it was enough and that I’d feed you in line with what I felt was right. So, my dear, you went vegan. And everything changed. Your hair grew back shiny and full. Your allergies improved along with your energy. And praise V-Dog, the cone of shame was retired, save for flare-ups.
In all of our struggles with your health, that was the best decision I ever made. And every subsequent vet, though suspicious of a vegan diet, said you were the healthiest English bulldog they’d ever seen and not to change anything.
I fear I’ve jumped around and told you much of what you already know. And yet I’ve left out so very much. Like how you came to work with me when I was a residential counselor for individuals with disabilities. How you grew up in that house since I was working 80-90 hours a week. How one of the residents, who was non-verbal save for a few words, started speaking full sentences to you. You two would fall asleep together and having a snoring contest. She adored you, boo, and she spoke to you. That’s how amazing you were.
There are so many stories and so many struggles and so many victories. You always stayed stoic, adorable, and stubborn as hell.
When I started Bite Size Vegan, you even tolerated being on camera and allowing me to pose you in ridiculous manners, though begrudgingly. And you started to make friends all over the world. That’s how loved you were.
But of course you know all of this. And I’ll never reach every story, so let me tell you something I wish I’d told you more. You were my everything. And you saved me more times than I can say. My life has not been a joyful one, but you brought me genuine moments of joy. While I’m constantly stressed beyond measure, you took what life gave you and made the best of it…or napped through it. You gave me a reason to live and a reason to fight. You were my baby, my family, my heart, my soul, my life. And I love you with every ounce of my being.
The end came too soon, boo. I’m sure you were feeling bad long before I knew. That’s how you are, though. Stoic to the end.
It all started with a tiny black spot near your tail. And soon there were lesions and an infection. This wasn’t the first time. Par for the course with bulldogs, though it had been years and years.
But it didn’t get better with treatment. And soon the back of your neck started breaking out. And no matter what we did, it got worse and worse. You had to go under again for a biopsy and I was terrified you wouldn’t make it. You weren’t 9 months old anymore, now over 8½ years old, more than half a year past a bulldog’s lifespan. But you made it through. And we found out the cause of your skin condition. The treatment was long and demanding and unpleasant. But there was such improvement after even one of our morning sessions.
But you weren’t eating. You, the dog who would consume an entire bag of food at once had I let her. The dog who, while usually ambling along would become a kitchen ninja if even the smallest morsel of food was dropped.
They’re still not sure what happened, but there are many possibilities. In essence, your body gave out. You’d been fighting so hard for so long. And what we humans did finally caught up with you. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair.
Your last day was spent rushing back and forth to the ER and I keep wishing I’d spent more time with you and never left your side. Right before they took you back the final time to put in your IV and try to warm up your cold, pale body, you dragged yourself towards me and placed your face in my lap. The lap your entire little body fit in when I first held you, so small, yet so heavy.
I told you I loved you and that I would be back. That they were going to try and help you and I wasn’t allowed to come. But I would be back. I always came back for you. I got a hotel nearby and when I checked in I got the call. I sped there, asking you to hang on, please hang on, I was coming. I rushed in and saw you there on the table, getting CPR. I screamed your name and ran to you. I held your body, cupped your face in my hands, and cried at the top of my lungs how sorry I was that I wasn’t there for you. That I was so sorry. Ooby I’m so sorry. I wasn’t there.
They gave us a room and I held you, crying and apologizing, still not understanding how you could be gone. How could a part of me be gone? After a while I laid us down on the floor, petted your sweet face, and held you close to me. I stayed there for hours. I don’t know how I ever left. I almost drove back last night to try and see you before they sent you off. I can’t believe I’ll never hold you again.
I wish this video was better. It’s funny I make all manner of videos, some rather poetic, but this one feels clunky, awkward, and unworthy. Of course I don’t think I’d ever be happy with any tribute to you. Because nothing would ever be enough.
Ooby, you are my everything. You touched my life profoundly and through Bite Size Vegan, you’ve touched the lives of people around the world. You brought joy where there was sadness, a will to live where there was none. You were the most loving, forgiving, and unique being I have ever known. I am forever changed because of you. And while I wasn’t always the mother I wanted to be, you were always the companion, friend, and family I needed.
And that, my dear, is why life without you is impossible.
Thank you for watching and for all of your support. In honor of Ooby and all the purebred dogs struggling with their human-made medical issues, as well as all the abandoned and homeless dogs out there, please adopt, don’t buy from breeders and pet stores.
For more information on the pet industry and feeding your companion a vegan diet, as well as more videos of Ooby, please see the videos linked below.
Please keep her in your memories and your hearts. She will forever be in mine.A Playlist Of Ooby Videos
Breeding Pets to Death
Feeding Pets to Death
What I Feed My Vegan Dog
Vegan Bulldog Q&A: Ooby Birthday Special
Draw My Life Videos