My dog died. For anyone who has ever loved a pet you know how unbelievably sad those simple words can leave you feeling. This isn’t the first time I have had to say goodbye to a dog, but it is the first time I felt the dog’s survival was connected to mine.
Tears still fill my eyes during quiet moments when I think about him. I knew he wouldn’t make it through the summer. He was sick because his body no longer worked as it should, and there was nothing I could do to fix him, just like I can’t fix me.
As I was recovering from treatment for stage 1 breast cancer in 2010 with the only visible clue being the shortness of my hair, I began rescuing puppies and kittens from the local animal shelter. Through an organization called Adopt-n-Angel I provided these animals with veterinary care. Once they were de-wormed and spayed or neutered, I would take them to PETCO in Wilmington where the public could meet them and when just the right person met the right dog the magic began and off they went to their new home.
It was on a trip to the shelter that I glanced down into a cage and saw an ugly mutt in need of grooming. At that moment I knew that the new arrival to the shelter would be mine. He didn’t shy away from me when I opened the cage to meet him. One of the staff members of the shelter told me the shaved area on his side was their attempt to cut the mats of hair that covered his body. The plan was to do a little at a time since this poodle mix was in such bad shape, fur wise, and wanted nothing to do with the process of shaving.
After I brought him home, it took three days to rid his body of the matted fur. Underneath I found hundreds of fleas. Poodle fur is not the best hair to have for a young dog traipsing around a muddy hog farm from which he was supposedly found. The dachshund in him—or so we thought--found tremendous enjoyment digging in mud. After the cutting and the bathing, the dog was now clean, white, and huggable.
In time, I found myself thinking—irrationally—that if I kept this dog alive then I would keep living as well. Why I thought this simply baffles me. I am not superstitious or believe in outside forces controlling my destiny, but I was so desperate in my need to stay alive that I wanted to grab onto something that allowed me to imagine having some sort of control of my continued living even if it was logically ridiculous. There is where his survival became connected to mine. It proved to be futile in time, my silliness revealed. I progressed to stage IV. Now Tucker would outlive me, or so I thought.
About a year ago, I noticed my buddy was having trouble getting up and down our front steps. He had been heavier than he should have been for a while, but I never connected it to what I was about to learn. Based on his symptoms of lethargy, overeating, and difficulty maneuvering the stairs plus the noticeable change in how much water he was drinking causing him to urinate in the house, I took him to the vet. A blood test was ordered. The result crushed me. My sweet 8 year old boy had Cushings disease. It is a disease common in poodles and dachshunds affecting cortisol production (stress hormone). The cause is either a tumor in the adrenal glands under the lungs or a tumor in the pituitary gland outside of the brain—didn’t matter where it was; treatment was the same. My research revealed his life expectancy was 1 to 3 years. Treatment with a drug could extend his life, but no way to know for how long. He was dying, just like me.
Drug treatment began. His food intake was monitored and he lost weight. Due to his disease and the added diagnosis of a thyroid condition his hair thinned, his skin darkened and flaked, and his excessive water drinking continued. Urinating on the floor became the norm—luckily our floors are not carpeted. I began laundering towels everyday because of the clean-up required.
He looked worse and worse as the months moved along. Weekly baths became necessary. Overall he didn’t appear to be in pain though I have no way to know for sure. Then one morning in July, he didn’t want to move upon awaking. A few days before, he had not finished all of his meal. On this morning he didn’t want to eat at all. I hated what I felt I should do at that moment. I knew this day would come. It hurts so much to think of it now as it did then, but I was terrified to watch him suffer as he died. The call to the vet was made.
The next afternoon, I took him. The emotional pain was building inside of me as each moment passed. The needle to relax him entered, he yelp from the pain of it. I couldn’t turn back. All I could do was hold his sweet face in my hands telling him how sorry I was and how much I loved him. It has been many weeks. My eyes still spill from the sadness of it all.
|My Sweet, Precious Tucker|
When it was over I was such a mess. So much so that the vet tech asked me not to drive home until I could do so safely. My sweet, precious friend was gone. I sat in my car and wept. Tucker lie in the back. The drive home was quiet with an occasional sniffle and an, "I love you, buddy".
I’ve missed many months of blogging and writing. For the first time in my life, writing wasn't my go to in order to deal with my emotions. I avoided it simply to avoid feeling my emotions. Sadness has been hanging over me since my scan showed possible progression then the loss of Tucker making my sadness greater. In September, my married life became . . . well, I will say "unpleasant" but that is too kind a word. From that point, I became determined to keep myself busy. That way I could limit how often I thought about it all. Having stage IV cancer and all that surrounds that is bad enough but throw in more of life’s struggles on top of that and I start to wonder how long I can continue to keep pushing through it all without crawling in my bed and just saying, “To hell with it”. I love life, however, what I don’t love is how sad the events of living can make me feel. Somehow, though, I keep going. Work keeps me busy and focused instead of drowning in self pity. My kids are the best--I now lean on them more than they lean on me.
Another post will be up soon telling of my latest scan results and continued treatment. And, I will probably touch on other significant events that have and will be happening in my life.
Before I end I must extend a huge "Thank you" to one of my followers. She sent an email to me because she was concerned about me not posting anything since June. Her words helped me return to this blog and finish this post that I began in July. Someone caring is the best gift a person can ever receive. I am so thankful she took the time to tell me her thoughts and to check on how I am. It felt good to sit down and write again because the last six months have been hard. Once again, thank you, Michele.