For the last several months, we have been taking care of Roswell, cleaning her foot every night and managing her pain. We were told in February that her cancer returned to her lungs and in April we found a sore of some sort on her toe. It had moved from her lungs to her toe which meant it was late stage. It’s called lung digit tumor syndrome. The vet told us in early April that she had about 6-12 weeks left. It’s really hard to hear those words and you kind of go into a shock. It had also been completely stressful at time with Charley being a little sick from his EPI and later finding out that Clone was peeing on furniture.
It has been nagging at us that we only have weeks left with her. It is a sobering situation and something that I can’t really quite wrap my brain around. Our pets are our family. Our pets have been with us for a long time and have been with us through thick and thin. For me and my husband, Curtis, Roswell has been a constant in our relationship. Ever since I have known him, he has always had her. He adopted her in college. I said the same thing when we had to say good bye to our dog, Cinder…ever since I have known him, he had always had her. He also got her while he was in college.
We went through something similar to this when Cinder got sick in August 2008. It was quick though, the specialist our vet sent us to told us about her tumor and her blockage on a Wednesday and we made the agonizing decision to let her go that same Friday. I have to say it was the hardest, most absolute hardest decision we have ever had to make. I remember discussing this with my boss and he said no amount of mental preparation will prepare you for what you’ll go through. He was right. The moment the vet told us she was gone, the floodgates opened and the pain and emptiness was all that we could handle. We both couldn’t eat and could barely get out of bed. We had to force ourselves to get it together and take care of Charley. Just a couple of weeks prior, Charley was diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), his pancreas don’t make the enzymes necessary to digest his food. It was a rocky road before we finally got a diagnosis and we were fearful we were going to lose him, his ribs and spine had begun to show. He was finally getting better and Cinder getting ill threw us for a loop and knocked the wind out of our sail.
Cinder was an awesome dog. She always, always listened to you. She minded you. She really cared about what you thought and wanted you wanted her to do. I remember when Charley grabbed an opossum off of the top of our fence and Cinder grabbed it, my husband yelled at her to drop it. She dropped it immediately. Charley, on the other hand, we had to chase him all over the yard to get him to drop it. Cinder had no formal obedience training and it was an eye opening experience when we adopted Charley. Cinder was the kind of dog that didn’t have to be leashed, she wouldn’t run away (we always did leash her though) where Charley is the kind of dog who would run down the street every chance he got.
It’s hard to define what the loss of a pet does to you. You really aren’t the same and at the same time I realized that the things I said to people at their time of loss of a pet or a family member were empty words that really didn’t mean much. I would say, you should take comfort in the fact that you gave him or her (your pet) a good life. Or your grandfather lived a long life, blah blah. It’s not that I didn’t feel sad for them or feel bad for them. I had now just figured out that none of those words helped. I know no one expects words of condolences to heal your wounds but I had never really known what the other person was feeling until I went through it. I don’t know if I’m making any sense. But I don’t say those words any more – about living a good, long life because it doesn’t matter. It still hurts and your words aren’t going to help them feel any better. I just say, I know what you’re going through. It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be a long time before you’re not going to cry as much. I’m here to listen, if you need it because that’s all that matters. I was lucky to have a really good friend in Debbie, she helped me so much by listening to me, I don’t know if she knows how grateful I am to her.
All of these emotions – sadness and grief returned when we were told the news about Roswell. The last thing I want for her is to be in a tremendous amount of pain and also the last thing I would want to do is to put her to sleep for our convenience. But also the last thing I want is to lose her. I’m not going to lie, trying to get her to take her medications and cleaning her foot every night is a lot of work for us and it has been stressful (she isn’t the only pet in our house who gets medication every day). The last thing you want to think about is relief (for yourself) when it comes to a death of a pet or a death of a loved one.
It’s hard, is all I can say. One of my former co-workers would talk about his dog, Buster, and tell me what a great dog he was. I wish I got to meet him. He had cancer and I think died at a young age (less than 10 years old) before I even met this co-worker. I could almost hear him choke up when he would talk about losing him. He said he could never go through that again and would never get another dog. I never understood why he felt that way. After losing Cinder, I understood but I still don’t agree with him. I can’t imagine my life without pets. It’s so gut-wrenching and people who don’t have pets just don’t understand nor do petowners who have never experienced a pet’s death. Because I didn’t understand or know the depths of grief and sadness you feel until I experienced it myself. Curtis said it just right the other night, this is what we signed up for when we adopted them. The good and the bad. The love they give us is so great and that is why the pain we feel when they are gone is so great.
I read this touching post by Shawn about his dog Tigger and a post by one of my favorite authors about losing his dog, Sula (whom I read about in his books). Both of which inspired me to write this post.
Hug your pets for me in Cinder’s memory and Roswell’s honor.