At a little after 1 AM this morning, I lost my loyal companion, family member, and best friend. I know that losing a beloved pet is not an uncommon phenomenon and in fact, happens day in and day out. But, it doesn’t lessen the pain or make it any easier to deal with the grief.
Exactly twenty-four days ago on July 27, 2012, I received the worst news about an immediate family member that I think I have ever had to process. “Your dog has terminal cancer.” Gulp. As my shock set in and tears filled my eyes, I couldn’t understand how this was happening. Tex, my eight year old Rottie/Shepherd mix that I rescued while I was living in NYC, was an otherwise healthy dog save for some joint and hip issues that come with his breed and age. And those minor problems certainly didn’t slow him down. His reflexes were lighting quick, he was OBSESSED (can’t stress that enough!) with swimming, and he loved to take off running after squirrels when we were on our walks, sometimes dragging me behind him! So cut to this horrible day in the vet’s office. I said, barely able to get the words out, “What kind of cancer?” The vet’s reply? ” Suspected hemangiosarcoma.” You’ve never heard of it either, huh? After he explained to me that this was one of the most aggressive and deadly forms of canine cancer, and that Tex may have a few days, and if we were lucky, maybe weeks to live, I felt like I got kicked in the gut. Tears were streaming down my face.
The next step that day? A spleenectomy to remove the diseased spleen where the tumors began, in the hopes that the tumors hadn’t metastasized, biopsies could be attained, and that this treatment would buy us some time. No such luck. As soon as they opened him up, there were visible tumors on the spleen and liver, and maybe even some that had microscopically metastasized to other vital organs. Sadly, we would never know for sure. A few minutes into the surgery, Tex “coded” or stopped breathing on the operating table. In a panic, the vet closed him up and brought him out of anesthesia to try and save his life. I knew something was drastically wrong when I saw the caller ID ring on my office phone only a short while after the operation began. As soon as I got the news, I screamed, dropped the phone, and I raced down to the hospital hoping that I would at least get to say goodbye to my boy. After being lead into the operating room to visit with my pup who was hooked up to all kind of machines and drips, I immediately said his name and his heart monitor started going faster. I grabbed his paws and began warming them up between my hands, saying his favorite phrases like, “Do you want to go on a walk?” and “Let’s go in the car.” Little by little, his heart kept getting stronger and stronger the more I spoke to him, much to the amazement of the vet staff. After all, he had been clinically dead only a little bit before. I refused to leave him and stayed with him for the next four hours until he became coherent. That night, he stayed at the hospital for observation, and was cleared to leave the next day. I was just happy to bring my baby boy home.
The next twenty-three days were full of physical ups and downs for Tex-some days were good, others weren’t so great as is the case for many cancer patients, but all were filled with love and knowing that our time together was precious and that there was a reason that he pulled through the attempted spleenectomy. He was on a holistic based program to try and fight the illness, but I made sure to give him extra kisses, his favorite foods, and tried to make him feel loved, safe, and that I was always going to be there for him, like he always was for me. Unfortunately, our time wouldn’t last.
After a fantastic day together yesterday which included him chewing his Kong toys to bits, eating homemade chicken stir fry, me giving him lots of cuddles, and one of our frequent neighborhood walks, things took a turn for the worse last night. One of his tumors ruptured, as they commonly do in this horrific disease, and he passed away in my arms as I looked in his eyes, stroked his fur, and told him how much I loved him and that it was OK if he needed to go, through buckets of tears. He looked at me and he then drew his last breath. The last thing I wanted to do was to let him go, but that decision wasn’t mine to make. It was his. I am just so grateful that his last day was full of all of the things he loved so much and that he was so happy.
The gifts he gave me in my life are too numerous to count, but the things I will miss the most about him are his beautiful big brown eyes gazing at me, his cold wet nose gently nudging me every morning, his kind smile, the fact that he was the ultimate mama’s boy and that he always had my back no matter what, and the ability to love me endlessly. I can only hope that I learned from him selflessness, genuine respect, living in the present (although that feels next to impossible right now), to enjoy the simple pleasures of life like feeling the summer sun on my face, and that pure and unconditional love is actually easy to give. Run free, sweet baby boy. You are my heart and I love you so very much…….