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Our Girl is Gone

April 2, 2016

It happened a few days ago.

Maddie had been feeling great. She was happy and bouncy and in every way had been feeling like her old self. We didn’t know the end was so near.

We went to the brewery for dinner that night and when we got home I noticed she wasn’t super interested in eating and didn’t want to go for a walk. This was cause for alarm for sure but it had happened a couple times since she fell ill and she always bounced back within an hour or two. By the time I realized that she was really going downhill it was around midnight and my big, beautiful, athletic dog couldn’t walk.

We debated taking her to the emergency vet but her condition was deteriorating so quickly that I didn’t think she would last very long. If she had been able to walk under her own power we probably would have taken her in anyway – but she couldn’t. And picking her up, carrying her to the car, driving her to town, and taking her to a vet that she didn’t know in the state she was in seemed like it would be too much. So we laid on the floor with her and loved on her until she was gone.

In the grand scheme of things it was mercifully quick – and I will be forever grateful for that.

That was a couple days ago now and we’re all doing really well. I suspect that we had done a lot of the grieving over her illness before she actually died. That limbo time was hard and knowing its over and that she’s not suffering anymore feels like a bit of a relief. The day after she passed was full of tears, especially when we had to drop her body off at the vet so she could be cremated, but every day has gotten better. Our house feels oddly empty even though we still have another dog and three year old human romping around. Something feels missing. I suspect that it always will.

The afternoon after Maddie died we knew we needed to get out of the house. One can only sit on the couch and cry for so long – at some point you have to get up and do something. I had bought some cans of dog food for Maddie as a treat and she never got to eat them so we decided to drop them off at the shelter. To be honest, taking the cans in was just an excuse. We all needed some puppy therapy.

As we walked the rows of kennels we felt our spirits start to lift. What could have been a sad reminder of the family member we lost really helped us look forward. It doesn’t hurt that the shelter in our town is the happiest I have ever been to. The dogs there are well cared for and get adopted fast. Forget cycling, running, and climbing – the most competitive sport in Boulder is trying to adopt a dog from the pound. It’s a happy place and watching new families be built made us all feel so much better.

People have asked us if we are going to get another dog and the answer is a resounding yes. It might happen next week. It might happen next year (although I suspect it will be much sooner than that). We will never stop missing our girl and no dog will ever be able to replace her – but we are a two dog family and our lives are better with all that love.

Thank you so much for all of your thoughts, emails, and messages over the last couple weeks. It’s been hard, really hard, but knowing so many people “got” it helped immeasurably. There will surely be a long and rambley memorial post coming at some point but I haven’t sat down to write it yet. It will happen eventually.

Rest in peace, my sweet girl. We couldn’t have asked for a better dog.



Live, Play

A Life Update: Our Dog is Sick

March 26, 2016

Monday morning was bright and sunny. It was the first day of Spring Break and the kiddo and I spent our day wandering around the Botanic Garden and soaking up the sun. That afternoon we went to the gym and then to the brewery for dinner and drinks. I was looking forward to a great week and thinking about summer.

When we got home that night I tried to take our dog Maddie for a walk. We made it as far as the neighbor’s house when she put on the brakes and refused to move forward. We turned around. I gave her dinner. She didn’t eat. Never in her life has she turned down a meal or a walk.

I was worried.

First thing Tuesday morning I called the vet. The receptionist said they were booked all day but to bring her in so the doctor could take a look at her between appointments. An hour later the phone rang and the vet was on the other end sounding very concerned.

After a long day and a series of tests we learned that Maddie has a tumor on her spleen that had ruptured and was leaking blood into her abdomen. The vet said it was possible that it was a benign hemangioma but that it was more likely that it was hemangiosarcoma which is malignant, aggressive, and nasty. The only way to determine what was going on in there would be to open her up and remove her spleen. He said that if she made it through surgery and the tumor was benign she’d go on to live the rest of her life normally and die of something else someday. If the tumor was malignant the prognosis was much poorer. The surgery could buy her a few more weeks, maybe a few months. But that was it.

We opted out of the surgery and brought our girl home.

It was a hard decision but I think it was the right one. Maddie has always been exceptionally healthy (she had a UTI once – it was the only time she’s ever been sick) but she’s getting up there in age. Our best guess is that she’s eleven and a half but she may be twelve or more. The surgery would be hard on her and would most likely only buy her a little more time. Putting her through a major operation would only be delaying the inevitable. It’s also expensive and, while I hate that the cost is part of the decision, it is part of the decision. I’d pay any amount of money to keep her healthy forever – but I won’t put her through major surgery and pay thousands of dollars to keep her around for a few more weeks.

So we’re riding the canine cancer roller coaster and trying to hang on. We’re spoiling her rotten, giving her her favorite treats and smothering her with more love than she probably wants (being the independent girl she is). We’re taking her for walks when she feels up to it and opening all the blinds so she has access to sunny spots galore. We’re taking care of her as best we can.

The day after she was diagnosed we were hit with an unexpected blizzard. The snow fell hard all day but when night came the sky had cleared. I was putting on my boots to go shovel the snow when Maddie came running down the stairs and stood there wagging her tail at me like she does when she wants to go for a walk. I put her leash on and we slowly made our way around the block on slippery sidewalks. There was a foot and a half of fresh snow on the ground and a full moon in the sky and we were out adventuring (even if it was in the most tame way possible) and things felt good again.

She’s been feeling really good for the last couple days and is mostly back to her old self. She’s barking at the neighbors, playing with her sister, and bouncing around when it’s time for dinner. I know these moments are fleeting but I’m going to enjoy the hell out of them while I can.