I've always grown up around animals- dogs, cats, rodents, horses, a turtle, you name it- fur, feathers, fangs (well, can't say that I'm very comfortable around snakes...)- our family has always had a four-legged companion of some sort- currently two dogs and two cats. One of the dogs, Shyner was the first "all my own" doggie. I found her in 1996- she ran out in front of my car as I was coming home from the gym. I tried to find her owner, but to no avail, so I took her home and that begins the story of Shyner, our sweet 15-year old mini- Dalmatian. She has been my faithful companion for over 14 years- all of my adult life- and I can't really remember life without her in it.... and it pains my heart to say that the story has sadly ended. My "first-born" has earned her angel wings and the loss has hit us hard. I know that some people would scoff at the loss of an animal- especially in comparison to the devestation in Haiti from last week's earthquake- but I don't care (what they think, not about the earthquake- that's also sad). It's been a week (hence me also being blog-absent) and although I'm not crying as much these days, having to get over this just plain sucks.
It was wonderful to have such a sweet little dog with us as long as we did; and I've known that she wouldn't be around forever (I sometimes fantasized about Kiera being able to grow up with Shyner by her side...) but I was hoping that the life or death decision wouldn't be left in my hands. I had always hoped that she might pass away peacefully in her sleep- I can't begin to tell you when I began checking for her breathing in the middle of the night...It was just plain shitty that I had to make the absolute hardest decision in my life; and although I know that it was a very humane one, I've spent the last few days second guessing it. Jason and I had talked about what we would do is she just wasn't the 'same' anymore, and we'd always agreed that no matter how much the thought of losing her was, we had to do what was best for our fur-baby.
Her quality of life was slowly slipping downhill: we've had to help her up and down the stairs for a few months; when we woke up with Kiera in the middle of the night, we also made sure to wake ShynShyn up and let her out to do her "business" and most recently we've had to cordon her in one of our bathrooms in case she had any mid-day 'accidents.' But, you should have seen her when you brought home a Scooby Snack from MickeyD's... her head had no idea that it was 15.... it was her heart and hips that were aging...and she certainly still had a puppy's appetite and you best count all of your fingers after you fed her a treat!! When she was diagnosed with an enlarged heart last April, we had discussed that we would do whatever she wanted as long as it was fair to her and that we weren't keeping her alive just to spare us from dealing with the pain of the loss. She put up a brave front day after day and we had the privelege of having another nine months with her, even after she ate an entire bottle of her heart medicine!!!
Last Thursday I let her out before I went to bed and stood behind her as we climbed the stairs- we always had to support her backside so that she could keep the momentum- her hips were weakening and couldn't support her entire girly figure. She huffed and puffed her way down the hall and when she got to the end of our bed, she suddenly collapsed and went limp. I thought that she had already died, but she came to about 45 seconds later... I yelled at Jason to wake up and quickly explained to him what had happened. We knew that we had to take her to the vet, but having a baby takes a bit more planning even with a semi-emergency. We were able to drop Kiera off at GrandmaK's house on the way (I didn't want to have to worry about her while we were there), and then made a detour to Carl's Jr. to treat Shynie to a late nite Scooby Snack. I was holding her on my lap and she got excited once we pulled up to the drive in window- she knew that the order was for her: one plain and dry Happy Star.
The nearly 20 minute drive to the vet seemed to take forever (although not as long as the drive home). I was in a fog the entire time, so Jason had to do most of the talking. Shyner sniffed her way around the lobby while we were waiting... I was hoping that it was a sign that she was going to be okay; I knew deep down that it wasn't the case, but hoped is the optimal word here. It was after midnite once we got there (read: extra after hours charge) and the next hour also dragged on. They put us in a room that was not at all like normal examination rooms- a very comfy couch for us, and a blanket on the floor for our old girl. The vet came in and listened to her heart and lungs and confirmed our worst fears, without costly (that wasn't the issue) and agressive treatment, she didn't have a good prognosis. Belive me, it had nothing to do with the cost, it was the fact that whatever treatment was done, if she survived it, would only extend her life for a few months. Putting my loyal friend through painful procedures wasn't going to be in her best interest.
I wrestled with whether to be in the room with Shyner at the end or not and eventually decided to stay. I thought about Marley and Me- I remember watching it in the theatre on Christmas Day, 2008 (and very, very early in my pregnancy!) and bawling my eyes out along with 100 other patrons and thinking about Shyner. I knew that would be us someday.... The vet was right, it was as painless as could be and Shyner drifted off, finally able to run and hop and play again and eat all of the cheeseburgers that she wants. After one last scratch of her velvety soft ears, I put her black and white and pink polka dotted collar in my purse and we left the hospital... alone. I knew when we left our house a few hours before that there was a 95% chance that we would not return with her, but I still held out hope. The drive home took what seemed like hours- the empty and dark freeway was a symbol for my heart. We picked up Kiera from Jason's mom's house (although Karen offered to keep her overnight, I wanted to have her by my side to keep my mind off of Shyner) and went home. My head ached nearly as much as my hear from crying... I took some medicine and crawled into bed, with the little bed next to mine now empty.
Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well and I knew that I would be worthless at work so I took a personal day. I was relieved to have a four day weekend to mend my broken heart..... unfortunately even some retail therapy didn't work.... I was just too raw. Waking up to Kiera flashing me her sweet little smile helped a little, as did holding her tight, but it has been a long week. Every day I've cried a little less... I thought that I would make it though Wednesday tear-free but there was a condolensce card in the mail from Shyner's regular vet- very sweet, but oh my gosh..... and even today, we got another card, this one from the emergency vet where we hugged our little Dalmatian one last time. It's taken me the entire week to write this blog entry- it's hard to type through tears. Shyner is the third pet that we've lost in less than a year- and although BooBoo was a hard one, this one is twice as hard. It's been hard seeing the other pets mourn her as well- Dusty has been sleeping in her bed and Cynnie, despite the fact that we thought they weren't the best of friends, has lost her appetite, and has been moping aroudn the house for days. It's hard to explain to them what happened.... we'll all heal together.
Pretty soon we'll laugh at all of the memories of her intead of cry. We aren't planning on getting another dog for awhile- when Kiera is older maybe... when ever that is, there will never be another Shyner. I hope that she is happy now, wagging her tail and doing that crazy Dalamatian smile thing. We'll miss you so much Shyner- you were the best dog ever.
The Rainbow Bridge
inspired by a Norse legend
By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.