Tag Archives: dogs

Journey.

Grief is an interesting journey. I don’t handle change well.

After a few “good” weeks in which the pain I felt over losing Penny has been manageable with few tears – it all came crashing down Tuesday night. I started sobbing and couldn’t stop it.

I’m grieivng more profoundly for the loss of my dog than I have humans that I’ve loved. The first person that I had a relationship with that died was my great aunt Helen when I was 11. I remember feeling that sick sweaty going to pass out feeling when we went to view her body. I spent what felt like an eternity in that room with my mom staring at her body convinced she was breathing.

I lost my great grandmother, whom I was very attached to a couple of years later. The loss of my dad’s mother whom I didn’t have much a relationship followed the next year. A man I knew in college who spent about 6 months asking me out shot himself while his girlfriend was 7 months pregnant. It was a tragedy and very hard to comprehend. We ended up being good friends despite my refusals. I was dating someone at the time or I might have considered it.

There have been losses in between but the most earth shattering was the loss of my grandfather in 2007.

Growing up I was incredibly close to him. At times we lived with them or very near them so he played a huge role in my life. I respected him and loved him. At times due to his alcoholism I hated him. He was a good man. He had dealt with cancer off and on but the last time when I saw him in September I just knew. His doctors had told my family 6 months to a year. But I knew. I found out I was pregnant with Katelyn 8 days before he died. I was so happy he knew about her and told my mom several times the day before he passed that he was going to be a great grandfather again. Sam is the only guy I’ve ever dated that he really liked and that always meant a lot to me too.

I feel like I had delayed grief when he died. Around the time of his funeral my hyperemesis morning sickness kicked in and I spent most of my days (and nights!) throwing up. I lost almost 30 pounds in my first trimester and I ended up so focused on trying to have a healthy baby that the sadness I felt at his passing was put on the back burner. In retrospect it was a good thing. I wish he would have had the chance to meet Katelyn. She would have had him wrapped around her finger and would have easily earned the title of “greatest” great grand baby  He joked with the rest of them at different times that they were the “greatest” and I know she would have been the favorite – because of course I’m the favorite grandchild…

The loss of Penny is different. I suppose it is harder to let go of someone that is with you every second you are home versus a family member that you love from a distance. It’s really shown me how profound her role was in my life. She and Miles saw me through some very rough patches and at one point probably saved my life. That’s a story I’ll save for another day. I’m appreciating Miles more. Although I had him before Penny I feel like I was bonded more to her. Perhaps it was because she was more of a snuggler and more in tune with my feelings and he’s always been my rough and tumble boy dog. But lately, he needs to snuggle as much as I need to snuggle. He will be 9 on October 15th. I am dreading it. It’s his first birthday without Penny.

I’m dreading the first snow too. She loved to run around like crazy in fresh snow and would sneak out on the deck to eat it. I’m dreading Christmas and pulling out her stocking. In many ways, I feel like I’ve lost a child. I was able to take her ashes out of that horribly offensive gift bag and they are sitting on the mantle now. The box she came in is cherry wood and actually really beautiful. I had shopped for urns before she was returned and found a few I liked but for now I feel at peace with what she’s in. We hadn’t planned on showing Katelyn her ashes because I wasn’t sure she could really grasp what it meant but she begged one night. I decided it was better for us to share them with her than her sneak in and open the box herself. I have never seen cremation ashes so my heart was in my throat when we all sat down to open the box.

They were beautiful. I don’t know if it’s true of all ashes, but hers almost have a rusty tint like her fur. I was just so glad to have my girl home no matter how she came home. Some day I think I’ll take them to our favorite spot in Lubbock and let her be totally free.

Lately I’ve found myself looking more at dogs available for adoption and not feeling revolted at the thought of bringing one home. Some day I know we’ll have another dog. No dog will ever replace Penny but I know she would be happy we saved a life like we saved hers.

And Miles needs a friend.

The past two days have been better and I’m thankful. This grief journey is exhausting. And enlightening. The one thing I do know is that when Penny found us, she took a big piece of my heart. And now that she’s gone, she’s left me with a big piece of hers and I am forever grateful for that.

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Hurting.

When does it stop hurting? When will I smile when I think of her instead of sobbing?

I’ve had a few minutes today where I’ve felt relatively okay. I went to work. I survived. But the house feels so damn empty. I’ve known for weeks that her passing would be a breaking point for me but I am still finding the sadness overwhelming. It’s a deep pain in my chest that does not go away. It sounds horrible but I’ve grieved harder for Penny that I did for my Pa that I thought hung the moon.

I realized this morning through tears that I’m not sure I’m regretting putting her to sleep but that I’m so angry at myself that I couldn’t fix it for her this time. A kind word and scratch behind the ears was not going to make my girl better.

I’ve felt a quiet peace a few times today and I’ve convinced myself it’s Penny and she wants me to be happy. And then I feel crazy.

I suppose all of this is normal. She was my constant companion for 8 years.

Miles seems to be coping. He lays around with a sad look in his eyes but still gets excited to play fetch, eat and get tummy rubs. I let him smell the blanket she was in when she passed and he let out a guttural noise I’ve never heard from him before. I think then he knew. And I think true to the pure genuineness only a dog can have – he’s accepted she is gone.

The little cat whose only been here a few weeks did not know the Penny we all knew. She has been such a sweet baby, curling up on me and purring. I truly think now that God sent her to me to help me get through this. Roxy has been hiding all day and I believe grieving in her own way for her buddy before Lila came.

Katelyn is objective in that she knows she is in Heaven, isn’t in pain. She’s said several times we can still talk to her and look at her pictures. She’s requested a funeral. And then one word from me and she’s screaming and angry. I don’t know how to make it easier for her. I told her tonight that it’s okay to be mad and it’s okay to be sad. She sobbed “I just miss her.”

I miss her too. More than I ever imagined I would.

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My first babies.

I got Miles in December of 2003 after a particularly hard few months. I had dealt with an unplanned pregnancy, a horrible miscarriage, and moving away to college. I had been pregnant long enough to get into a weird mode of needing to grow up so the first few months of college I struggled to find a balance. Everyone I knew there was partying like crazy and I just wasn’t that in to it. I was in a serious relationship. I longed for the baby I wasn’t ready for.

So then there was Miles. Miles was a savior. He was the first dog I had had in a long time. He went everywhere with me. I was able to get those momma feelings out.

I moved home for the summer and got a text from the boyfriend not to be mad. For the life of me, after the year we had together, could not anticipate what would come next. A text of a water logged strange looking dog in our bathtub. So then there was Penny.

I packed up Miles and we rushed back the next day to meet her. He was still little and very impressionable. Penny growled at him for about 3 days straight. We brought her back to my parents house. They were still an interesting pair. By the time I had returned home for the fall semester, I came home from class and found them snuggling together on a chair. They have been inseparable since.

Penny had clearly been mistreated. When we got her spayed the vet said her uterus was so large that he anticipated she had multiple litters and was either used for breeding or had been left outside. He estimated that she was between 5 and 7 years old.

That relationship eventually ended but the dogs stayed with me. And he became one of my best friends.

8 years later we are still a team. And they are getting older.

We had a really bad health scare with Miles earlier this year in which I was cautioned that whatever was going on was likely fatal. Antibiotics and TLC and he is back to normal. Penny has always been the more energetic of the two despite being years older than Miles.

Until now. Something is just not right with my poor girl. She is disoriented, her balance is terrible and she’s wanting to lay. It started earlier this week when I went out to bring her inside and couldn’t find her. I found her in Miles’ favorite spot under the deck. She lifted her head and wagged her tail so I assumed she just didn’t want to give up brother’s prime real estate. That night she fell down the stairs of the deck but within minutes was fine. I observed her steps for a few days and concluded it was likely arthritis.

And then yesterday happened. I ran in from work to grab my cell phone that I had forgotten. Penny could barely move. I had already called their vet’s office to pick up shot records so I called back and said Penny was coming too. When we got there I was met at the door. Two puppies were inside that had been diagnosed with distemper and despite Penny having been vaccinated because of her age they did not want her inside. The vet came out, we went over symptoms and a quick check up – we had a diagnosis.

Vestibular disease. Not to worry, not uncommon in seniors, give her Benadryl and in a few days she will be fine.

Benadryl seemed to work like a champ last night. Her ears were perky and she was willing to go outside. She hasn’t lost the desire to eat or drink and is able to stand without assistance so I’m thankful. I’ve read a lot of posts about dogs not able to even get on their feet. Our vet described it as a “sick, drunk” feeling. I’ve been there. My poor girl. This morning when I went to get them to let them outside, she was laying in the corner – head facing the wall. Miles jumped up and ran outside. Penny never moved. I approached her slowly with a sinking feeling that the vet was wrong and she had died. She turned her head, eyes darting and thumped her tail once. I helped her to her feet and carried her to the couch. A little boiled chicken and Benadryl for breakfast it is.

I have tried to mentally prepare myself that one day Miles and Penny will die. And I’ve prayed that I will be strong enough to do the right thing and let them go peacefully without any suffering. Just the thought of it breaks my heart.

They have been with me through the good, the bad, and the terrible. They were here for my first human baby and accepted her as one of their own. They’ve accepted step-dad Sam and love him. I used to promise them when we lived in an apartment that they would some day have a house and their own yard. They’ve now had a few.

She’s still cuddled up next to me on the couch. Resting peacefully. I suspect she didn’t sleep much last night and must have focused on the wall to stop the spinning. The Benadryl must have worn off quicker than I expected.

I’ve done my research. I’m hopeful this is just a passing thing. But I’m scared it’s the beginning of the downhill slope for my girl.

And the one thing I know for sure is that I’m not ready to lose her.

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