One Week After…

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It’s been a week since we said good-bye to our girl.  And there hasn’t been a moment that I don’t miss her.

I’ve been without her for longer periods of time, but never here, never in this house.  She’s always been here, a permanent fixture as much as the the walls and windows.  She was here for the building of this house, the moving in and furnishing of the rooms.  (She even christened the sub-floors in a couple of spots before she knew better.)  Her presence is everywhere…  But she’s not in all of the usual places.  She’s not lying on one of the beds that we’d strategically placed for her to lay on.  She doesn’t pop her little face around the corner of the kitchen cabinets with an expectant look on her face whenever I’m in there.  She’s not waiting for me outside the bathroom door because it’s right next to the “magic cupboard,” and since she’s here she might as well have a cookie.  She doesn’t follow me up and down the stairs 9 times in a row because she might miss out on what momma is doing.  She doesn’t curl into the bend of my knees to keep herself warm at night.

It seems the only solution to my eyes’ constant search for her is to get out of the house, leave, go anywhere but here.  And yet, in the car I still search the rearview mirror for a glimpse of her face, and my heart hurts as I pass the places that she loved: the park, the beach, the ice cream store…

But even with the current pain and grief, I know that it won’t always feel this bad.  I am searching my memories, even now, for a smile that she gave me.  She left me with so many smiles.  I just have to remember to look for them.


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The final chapter

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So many words are bouncing around in my brain right now, but not many of them are making any sense at all. But I want to write this now, while it’s all still fresh in my mind, so that I can remember it later exactly how I remember it now.

Since my last post, Rio’s condition had steadily declined.  In the evenings, she’d always just lay next to me on the couch, snoozing comfortably, but in the last few days, she’d been unable to really get comfortable.  Her breathing had gotten a little more wheezy and shallow, and she’d cough after any level of exertion.  But what really told me it was time was the fact that she rarely lit up anymore.  I loved walking into a room and seeing her, because she’d always look like “HEY, IT’S YOU!!!!”  The face that greeted me was always so happy, and in the last week I had rarely seen it.  She perked up a bit when I mentioned going for a buh-bye or when I brought out the very favorite orange and blue rubber Chuck-it balls, but there was mostly no light.

I’d been thinking we were getting close…  and I had spoken with her doctors about “the plan.”  But part of me wanted so badly for her to keep fighting.  I couldn’t really admit to myself just how much more tired and uncomfortable she was.  I was still hoping she’d rally…

Wednesday, we had quite a bit of snow, and she was excited to go and catch snowballs, but after about 3 or 4, she was tired and didn’t want to play any more.  I had to run over to her doctor’s house to pick up a box of Trilostane, and so she had a chance to take a look at Rio and see her in action.  That day, she was almost crouching on her back leg as she hopped, because she was so tired.  But the crazy girl kept going, kept running up to people and checking them for treats (there were a group of neighbor kids sledding in Dr. Rachel’s yard because she had the only good hill in the neighborhood, and Rio had to sniff them all).  I finally put her back in the truck to rest while I finished talking with her doctor.

The next morning, Rio woke us before the crack of dawn coughing and vomiting, but then with a little coaxing, she ate breakfast, and by the afternoon, she seemed pretty normal again.  She ate her lunch without any encouragement, and also her dinner.  Even “second dinner” was eaten with some enthusiasm.  But she wasn’t comfortable.  She was restless, and having trouble finding a position that she could relax in.  She moved from the couch to the floor, and then a few minutes later would ask to get back on the couch.  This went on most of the evening.  I chalked it up to a little too much exercise the day before and the fact that I hadn’t given her any of her meloxicam.  (Her doctor and I had talked about moving to Rimadyl or other NSAID because it didn’t seem like the meloxicam was doing anything for her.  But to do that, Rio needed to be off the meloxicam for 2-3 days.)

When Rio woke us Friday morning, again before daylight, coughing, gagging and vomiting, and refused her breakfast (this time no amount of coaxing could get her to touch it), I knew…  If you could have seen her face…  she just looked beaten, worn out, exhausted.  I called her doctor and told her that Rio was finished fighting, and that it was time for her to rest.  She sounded almost as heartbroken as I felt, and she said she’d come when she got off work.

I had wanted to take Rio out for one last adventure in her “Ride,” but the weather Friday was dreadful.  It was literally pouring rain, and all the beautiful white snow was turning into sloppy, slushy, ankle-deep muck. But we could go for a ride in the Expedition, and so I loaded the girls in the back and drove around Kingston.  While I was driving, I was trying to think of things that Rio loved that we could squeeze in on such a foul and stormy day.  She loves ice cream, but the place that gave her the free ice cream this summer was closed for the winter season.  The other place that we used to go was also closed until the end of January for some remodeling or something.  I didn’t feel up to facing a bunch of people at the burger place either (no drive-through window), so I just made a quick stop at the grocery store, bought some hamburger and vanilla ice cream, and then we drove home.

We had wanted to bury her in my veggie garden because she loved to hang out with me there when I worked, however the ground was so saturated that the hole kept filling up with water, and there was no way I could put my girl into that cold brown water.  I decided then to let the doctor take Rio’s body with her…

Shortly after we got home, a friend came over to say goodbye to Rio.  Tosca and Zephyr were also very excited to see her, and they kept crowding between her and Rio.  I finally gave them each a Chuck-it ball so that they would chill, and Allie could give Rio some loves.  But Rio wanted her ball, too.  She laid on the floor and tossed her ball to me and then to Allie, over and over, just as happy as could be.  When Allie left, I made a special homemade “flying dutchman” on the grill, and while they were cooking, I fed the girls some ice cream.

And then Dr. Rachel arrived…  Rio finished her burger and asked to get up on the couch, where she promptly went to sleep.  We talked for a while, remembering funny stories about the Woo, about how she got her name, about the day I brought her home, about her unwavering ability to poop where ever she went, regardless of how many times she’d already gone that day.  Dr. Rachel cried with us as she explained what she would be doing.  And then she administered the sedative.  Within just a few minutes, Rio visibly started relaxing.  And that was the point at which I knew unequivocally that I was doing the right thing for her.  Just seeing her so at peace, so restful after so much struggle and fight — that helped assuage my fears and doubts.

I kissed her sweet face and breathed in her Woo scent, trying to memorize the feel of her, the smell of her, telling her all the while how much I loved her,  how sweet she was, how there would never be another dog like her, how lucky I was to have had her in my life.  I told her now it was time to rest.  She was very tired from her long fight, and now she she didn’t need to fight any more.  She was so strong, such a warrior.  And then we kissed her goodbye.  And then we wrapped her up in a little brown blanket, and inside that bundle with her tired, battle-scarred body was my heart.

I slept badly last night, awakening frequently and spending hours staring out the window into the night.  I watched the sun come up this morning with Zephyr spooned tightly against me, softly running my fingers through her silky curls and wishing, wishing that it was Rio’s softness and warmth just one more time….

 

Rest in peace, my darling girl

 

Mystery solved, plus a Woo status check

Yesterday, we found out what was causing Zephyr’s (and to some degree, Tosca’s) incessant chewing and scratching…  Yeah, my favorite:  fleas.  So, I dropped everything and bathed three dogs, washed several loads of bedding (both doggie and people) and vacuumed the entire house.  The ironic part of the story is that I didn’t find a single flea on either Tosca or Zephyr, even though I looked and looked, both before, during and after their baths.  When they both started scratching and chewing on themselves after we got home from Oregon, that was the first thing I did — look for fleas.  Nothing.  Absolutely not a single flea, no flea dirt, no sign, no nothing.  Instead, I was sitting next to my sweet Rio on the couch and all of a sudden one crawled out of her fur at her amp incision scar and onto her naked belly, just as brazen as could be, followed by a complete mom freak-out. (About the only thing in the insect world that grosses me out more than fleas are ticks.  Ugghh!!!)  I don’t want to give Rio any unnecessary meds right now, so I will be rubbing her down daily with a few drops of eucalyptus oil in hopes that it will discourage any more nibbling by the stinking fleas.  I did, however, douse the Monkey-doofuses post-bath with flea-killing chemicals (of which I am not proud)….

Speaking of the Woo, her fan club has been clamoring for an update on how she’s doing.  Let’s just say, she’s battle-scarred and tired, but still fighting.  I would love it if she makes it to her 1-year milestone (and then some), but I am fully aware that it might not happen.  The swelling in her belly has gotten worse, and has moved down into the knee and ankle of her remaining back leg.  Her mobility hasn’t been that great lately, either.  She’s unsteady and frequently loses her balance and has to catch herself.  I’m not sure if it’s due to the swelling in the leg, or if her floppy belly-skin is making her lose her balance.  Regardless, she still has flashes of a younger, healthier Woo — especially with the snow of the last couple of days.  She’s always loved snow, and my heart is happy to see her boing-boinging around in it.  She got all silly after her bath yesterday, too, racing down the hall, tossing her head and snorting, grabbing her toys and flipping them into the air.  And when I was giving Tosca a much-needed brushing, Rio was being “the Sheriff.”  (She always polices certain activities such as brushing and toenail clipping, in case I need some protection.)

So, here’s hoping for a hoppy 1-year, but if we don’t make it that far, we’re gonna go out fighting…..

Tripawd Warrior Pink Sky

Snow Babies

 

I HATE CANCER!

I have the need for a momentary lapse of control.  And I’ll apologize in advance if I offend anyone, but I have to say this.  I FUCKING HATE CANCER!!!!  I HATE IT!  I BEYOND-WORDS HATE IT!!!  If cancer was a person, I would stab it in the eye, beat it to a bloody pulp, and then I’d do a little dance on its dead carcass.

We just got the news that my father-in-law’s prostate cancer has progressed to his skull, his spine, his shoulder blade, his ribs and both of his femurs.  My mother-in-law isn’t handling the news very well — she lost her first husband to cancer (melanoma) too — she’s been having some heart issues, and the added stress isn’t helping.

I know we usually reserve our collective Tripawd mojo for our canine friends, but we could really use some for Rio’s gramma and grampa, too.

My Special Day!

Hi everypawdy,

My momma usually writes my blog posts, but today I asked if I could say something.  Today is my ampuversary!  I’m on number ELEVEN!!!  And because I’m super special (everypawdy says so), my momma got me something super special.  She knows how much I’ve been wanting to try one of my friend Abby’s Flying Dutchmans, but it’s a really long buh-bye in the car, and so I only get to drool whenever Abby talks about them.  But today, everything changes!!!!!  Check it out!

Rio's very own "Flying Dutchman"

Isn’t that awesome???!!!!  The only thing wrong with it is that momma said it was too big for me to eat by myself, and she made me share with the dorkus twins.  Oh well.  It was still sooooo goooooood!

Yummmmmmmm! Burger and benedryl.

We wanna share!!!

Snarfing the last bite! (Note all the drool in Zeffy's cone of shame.)

And yes, Monkey Patrol, that is Zephyr wearing the cone of shame!!!  Hahahahahahaha!  Look!!!!!  Here’s another picture!  What a doof!  It makes her shiny friend when the sun shines on it, and she keeps running into everything chasing her shiny friend.

 

Itchy Joe (aka Zephyr and the Cone of Shame)

Hoppy Woo Year!

I, for one, am not sorry to see 2011 fade into the blurry past.  As a year, it got the dubious distinction of being The Absolute Worst Year Ever.  (Although, now that I think about it, our run of crappy luck started clear back in the summer of 2010.)  Digressions aside, though, I think I would rather focus on what remains now that the year is over.

First off, I honestly didn’t think I would still have Rio with me this far (4 years and 7 months) into the cancer drama.  When we were facing the amputation this past January, our oncologist told us that Rio would have probably just a few weeks to a couple of months without the surgery.  When the doctor discovered the metastasis in August, we were given a similar time frame for her survival.   We are now looking at our 11 month ampuversary — despite the mets in her spleen and her lymph nodes.  With the added “bonus” of Cushings Disease, there is an average of a two-year survival rate post-diagnosis.  With all of this, Rio continues to buck the odds, and although I can see that her health is definitely on the wane, she continues to be the happy, beautiful girl she’s always been (although a lot less energetic).

Despite the difficulties of this past year, I still feel like it has also been a gift.  I have had the time I needed to come to terms with the inevitability of life and the swiftness of it’s passing.  I have also been given the opportunity (and the urgency) to make some treasured memories with my precious girl.  Living with the clock ticking has given me the impetus to do things now rather than pretending I have all the time in the world.  I have battled my own inner demons through this experience, and although the war is not yet won, I feel as if I have made some definite inroads.  So far, I have survived this blasted rollercoaster, and despite all the times I’ve begged to be let off this ride, I’m still not quite ready for it to end.

For now, we still have today, and dammit, it’s gonna be a great day!  And if we get tomorrow, then we’ve won the lottery!  (And if we do win the lottery, color me delirious!)

HOPPY WOO YEAR!!!

Hoppy howlidaze, my Tripawds pals!