Wednesday, July 4, 2018

when the other end of the leash is empty

As I approach 6 dogless months, my understanding of the dynamics of the relationship with dogs & the role they play in my life has never been more clear.
A tremendous amount of emotions & healing has occurred.
The pain of saying goodbye and the relief that his pain was gone.
Realizing how exhausted I was from 17 months of anxiety and care-taking after the cancer diagnosis.
Missing HIM. And feeling lost when navigating life activities that were ours.
Facing that emptiness and doing the things we did.
Visiting the lake and the beach and his/our friends.
It all had to be faced and relearned.
Walking the neighborhood.
I can kayak and observe the garden and drive to the bagel store.
But there is no joy.
Life is mundane, many times it flat out sucks.
There is no diversion.
No ridiculousness.
No playfulness.
I miss feeding him, feeling responsible for his care. There is a connectedness that goes along with that, that isn't the same as with another adult.
I miss training and learning what his skills and preferences were. Learning to read him and communicate with him.
For some, a dog is fun but in a sense a burden.
Not one day did I feel burdened.
6 months later, I know that life without a dog will never be enough.
A dog provides relief from the monotony of work, life tasks & worldwide strife & chaos.
You are greeting by that wagging tail, a hope & belief something great is going to happen, and plain old joy. You smile from the inside out. The day washes away. The world is less ugly.
All I had to do was say, "hey bud" and he'd stare into my eyes, like "absolutely, I'm in. What are we going to do? If its with you, I know its awesome"
Go ahead & try to keep hold of the day's frustrations with that beaming back at you.

Everytime I see an owner walking their dog, I see that bond. I see a human & dog in their routine; trusting, purposeful, connected.
I walk everyday & no longer cry missing him at my side. I am just empty & bored & unable to leave the world of strife. There is no connection to purpose, no fascinating trails to track.
Just steps.
For me, when the other end of the leash is empty, so too am I.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The amazing life ends, now what

Two weeks ago today it was 'time'.

Fourteen days later and I still feel like he's here.
But he isn't and there are times when that hits me and the sensation is indescribable.

It goes far beyond feeling sad. Or alone.
It feels as if all kinetic energy in the universe suddenly leaves your soul.
Crumbling to the ground, assuming fetal position and slipping under the duvet is the only thing that seems appropriate.

But life doesn't allow that.
And Bugsy wouldn't let me do that or want me to.
So as the song says, "time only goes one way"

Fortunately that feeling is fleeting and only occurs here or there.
Most of the time I think of him with the biggest smile on my face, one that emanates from my heart.

To have had such a powerful force of love and energy in your life for 12+ years is a blessing.
And the outpouring of love for him has been at least as powerful as the love and joy he shared with all of us.
It is overwhelming in all the right ways and my heart is so full.
As I type this, a silly grin is so permanently on my face, my cheeks are cramping.
Friends and family have contributed $860 to a local charity in Bugsy's honor.

The charity builds fences for dogs that live on chains and tethers in low income areas. We'll be building a fence for two rotties on Feb 11 with supplies purchased in Bugsy's honor.
I cannot wait to see those dogs happy to be off those chains. And they'll zoom.

So that is the positive.

The hurt is worst in the morning. Bugsy & I woke up every day for 12+ years pre-dawn and cheerfully explored the early morning and started our days with joyful energy.
From the moment I wake, I hurt deeply, DEEPLY.
I try to summon him to my soul with limited success.
I look to the sky as I walk get the paper - a friend told me I could see him in the sky in Canis Major and Canis Major is easily visible while walking down our drive.  I wish him good morning.

Nothing so far has been as difficult and as painful as going for my walk..........alone.
From the moment I walk out of the kitchen door, I feel as though my heart has been removed.
My God it hurts.
As I turn up the street I am so aware of all the things I no longer 'see'.
Bugsy didn't just walk, he worked. Over time, I learned to read him; I knew what critters had been out or were out, well before I'd see them.  I knew if a friend was out in the darkness too. Heck I could tell you which friend just by his body language.
Now I am lost. I know nothing.
It is just so fucking empty.

The first quarter mile, I cry. I sob. I see and feel so many walks - from the first one when he was such a cheeky confident pup, through the hot, humid summers, through soaking rain and stinging sleet. Every step seems to recall a different day, a different laugh, or new challenge.
I keep going.
I have to keep going.
Bugsy always kept going.
When I get to the top of the road and turn, suddenly I'm OK.
I'm walking.
The memories make me smile and remind me of what a special thing we had over the years.
The rest of the way, brief moments of loss crash through and I work to shake it off.

This morning when I turned back on the road home, a beautiful sunrise was beginning. Once again my heart sank, WE walked into so many sunrises.
I promise you Bugsy, I will not forget the lessons you provided.
#nobaddays <3 p="">

Sunday, December 31, 2017

"you'll know"

Anyone with an aging pet hears these words over and over from meaningful folks who've been there.
I have countered each time I heard it, "not sure I will."
If you had asked me in September of this year (2017) whether Bugsy could be happy without his walks, I'd have said no.
Yet for about 6-8 wks now, we rarely walk and it's only around the cul de sac. I am not sure why he doesn't want to, he isn't limping or panting, but he doesn't want to.
But he's still happy.
He no longer destroys toys, but he still loves them and squeaks them.

He is riddled with lumps (sounds better than tumors) and no doubt in pain but he eats tons, is playful each day, enjoys his yard wandering, and of course demands treats be placed in his toys.

So despite his tendency to nap most of the day, and the occasional collapse, he's been trucking along.

I could see people looking at me as if it was 'his time' as I said he doesn't go for walks any more, etc. then I'd explain how he's fine; old, tired, fighting cancer, but fine.

Until today.
He didn't want to wake up today.
And when he did, his body was hurting him terribly. His legs were unsteady. His face said, "what the hell is happening?"

Today I saw what his final days look like. I hope that he recovers from this episode and has some more 'good' days but I am not holding my breath.
He improved some during the day, but not enough really.
Not enough for him to say hello to visitors.
Not enough to not have his sling in my hand as he walked.
Not enough to say, he's happy.

So if tomorrow is the same, it's time.
I've seen the line now, you were all right, I know.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The dimming light

Here we are about 14 months post diagnosis. There have been some very worrying times during this 14 months and the conversation about euthanasia has been had more than once.
Each time the dog that chooses to live, bounced back. Incredulously so in a couple of instances.

However, time is marching on and his poor body is now weak and tired. 
His spirit remains powerful and proud.
He is riddled with tumors, his one hind leg severely atrophied, and he is in pain.
But his cheeky, playful personality remains.

A few days ago, he was out being happy and he collapsed. I've noticed that when he tries to be active (Bugsy active or Bugsy happy!) the hair on his back raises. In all his years, the hair on his back has never raised. I knew that this was indicating that he was in pain and knowing him it was significant pain.
So how bad and intense is the pain to cause him to collapse and be unable to get up?

Anyway, here we are almost 3 days later and he has continued to be in intense pain. Although tonight he is able to rest, so that is a relief.
This morning, I was once again thinking that his time was nearly here.
And it might be.
All possible pain meds are on board so if he continues to indicate that the pain is intense, it's time.

My promise has always been I will NOT allow him to suffer.

I am writing this, not to garner support for Steve & I, or even to wish for another unexpected comeback.

His light is dim.  Watching the light lose energy is both torture, yet in some ways it smooths the road to his exit.

I am writing and sharing this so that those who love him - and my God there are many - are in the loop and if anything, can wish and pray that in these final weeks he doesn't suffer.
He is the most powerful spirit I have ever known and I am unable to describe the extent by which he has changed me.
It has been an honor and I hope that I do these next few weeks (if that is what we have) right.

Monday, October 9, 2017

yin and yang of life "in the moment"

"In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (陰陽 yīnyáng, lit. "dark-bright", "negative-positive") describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another."

I have read and heard about dogs "living in the moment" more times than I could count.  It has always sounded a bit romantic, but I could see it.

However in the last 9 days, it has been an 'in-your-face' DOGS LIVE IN THE MOMENT. But then do they?

Last Saturday we had another collapse (that was #2).
Sunday, Bugsy was full on Bugsy - no memory whatsoever of scrambling on the ground unable to rise.

Monday morning he was mostly 2.5 legged. And overall the day wasn't great.
The realization for us, his human managers, was he cannot have free access to the stairs.
So we diligently start blocking the stairs; he can be upstairs or downstairs but no solo trips on the stairs for the dog who still thinks stairs are things you run down and try to leap up.

Tuesday off to the vet, it was another day that he had woken up without 4 functioning legs.  In fact at lunchtime he had another "I can't stabilize myself" incident.

After every one of these incidents, he literally seems to immediately have no memory of the 'I can't feel my legs' moment.

Each morning last week, until Friday, he woke up with bad legs and we thought this was the new reality.
He didn't want to eat, was morose but got better as the day wore on.

Friday he woke up with 4 working legs and you'd have thought he was 5 yrs old again.
We humans of course were very wary of his energy but he was as if he'd never had an issue.
It was gone, all was normal life.

Happily, each day since he's had 4 working legs- to varying degrees but 4 working legs.

And Steve & marvel at his playfulness, mischief, energy, drive and attempts at killing himself.

Life in the moment.

But wait a minute, how do we then explain this -
He knows that when we leave, we are going to gate the stairs, so now he has changed his, 'oh you are going to work' routine - he used to go to his bed and wait for a treat.
Now he watches VERY closely and if he as much thinks I am heading out, he runs up the stairs.........

Not so in the moment now are you buddy?
I guess you can't get over the trauma of being held captive on an entire floor of a large house.
Call animal control buddy tell them about this abuse.

Anyway I think its interesting and I have lots of smart friends that will school me on why it is different phenomenon but for now I'll call it the yin and yang of life in the moment.

In many ways - it is the coolest thing to see, one minute ago was so one minute ago.

But then, never forget that time when something you didn't like happened and do everything you can to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Oops he's down again...........and back up again

Well the bad days are closing in.
Bugsy had a bad night and this morning he was subdued and sleepy.
I left to help a pointer rescue get to her foster home and when I got in, I got the usual welcome from Bugsy but with a twist.
He as usual greeted me with a toy, but then I heard him scrambling, and he was at the front of my car. It seemed he was trying to reach a squirrel or other critter under my car.

He wasn't.
He had collapsed again.

I helped him up and stood there holding him up until he seemed to settle. No more than a minute or 2.

Then he shuffled off, had a pee, picked up the toy he had brought to me and went inside, as if, no biggie.

Quick vet contact and she said, "poor guy, his heart is weak"

He happily ate up a bully stick and we are now watching some TV.

The indomitable Bugsy Lee is not actually indomitable.

The end isn't far away.
My heart is both broken and full.
Thank you Bugsy for every damn day.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Another close call, but we are still moving forward

Well we have just had another bad week or so.

On Saturday 9/9/17 Bugsy on an early morning chase collapsed. It could have been cardio-vascular or perhaps orthopedic or both, we don't know and won't ever know.
But since then he wasn't himself.
Oh sure, being Bugsy he had a few bursts of insanity, but everything in between wasn't good.
In fact, it was downright scary.

My heart and mind wandered to all the questions loving owners ask themselves.
Bottom-line, what are the indicators that precipitate making the call?

Back in late March/early April, Bugsy started to have "intermittent" blockages and got really sick. We stopped feeding kibble and started feeding human food. Since then the food issue has mostly been "dang this dog eats my paycheck" rather than a "it's going in but it isn't going out" issue.

But this week I started to think about how much was going in and how little was going out.
After a rough few days, we have things going out again.
And we have a happy, mischievous, if still old and tired Bugsy.

The blockages are caused by lumps in or around his intestines. Could be tumors, could be abdominal lymph nodes (other lymph nodes are swollen), either way there isn't much to be done.

So my Beast soldiers on.
He is skin, bones and lumps.
He walks daily, eats like a teenage boy, steals important papers, trips you on your way out the door, and seems to always have a smile on his face.
He pants incessantly, labors as he walks, but still leaps up stairs (tripping at times) and chases critters.

And he sleeps deeply.
God bless you Bugsy, I don't know how you do what you do, but it's powerful to experience.

I pray that you enjoy life to moment you tell us you are done.