Today would have been Samdog’s 4 month ampuversary.
We decided to travel for the holiday instead of staying home in our empty house. My brother was gracious enough to extend an invitation and we gratefully accepted. The best part is that they have a new addition to their family. Maggie is a 3ish month old pup who is pretty intuitive and doesn’t let me get sad for long. I’m grateful for her too. But… I miss my dog.
Years ago, when my family was happy and healthy, a friend of mine gave me a poem when I walked in a 60 mile Breast Cancer walk. I was walking to support a friend of a friend and I had not yet been touched by the big “C” in anyone that was close to me. That feels like a million years ago. Too many friends have fought this battle, too many friends have fought until they couldn’t. My best friend and partner didn’t know why he had to go… just that he did, because of cancer. While pulling out boxes of photographs to seek out every image we have of Samdog that has been tucked away over the years in random places, to assemble a photo album of our life together, I found this poem again, tucked in a box and written on the card that I once carried 60 miles. It has lived on my refridgerator door, where I see it every day, ever since.
What Cancer Cannot Do.
Cancer is so limited It cannot cripple love It cannot shatter hope It cannot corrode faith It cannot destroy peace It cannot kill friendship It cannot suppress memories It cannot silence courage It cannot invade the soul It cannot steal eternal life It cannot conquer the spirit.
I miss my dog every day. But I have his love, his life, my memories and all of our stories.
Cancer does not get to have those, it cannot.
When we learned that chemo wasn’t working, that was only one week ago from today. So much has happened, our heads and hearts are still whirling. But Samdog answered my prayer and did the one thing I had left to ask of him.
Please, please, Sam… if we are going this way, please, just make it obvious. I don’t want you to leave with any questions in my heart. Make it obvious so I will know when it is time.
Sam had done so well during the week of Thanksgiving, his diagnosis of mets earlier in the week was staggering for us, but we were still hopeful that he would fight through as he always had. We couldn’t understand his rapid decline only two days after chest x-rays.
Saturday, we met with the hospice doc, started him on tramadol and got the prednisone from the pharmacy. That night, he wouldn’t eat potroast or eggs. We tried cheese. He spit it out. We gave him a greenie, his favorite treat that used to inspire a little happy greenie dance every time he got one. He put it down and looked at Dad. “I’m sorry” was in his eyes. This was bad.
As the evening crawled on, Sam was gasping for breath. “Pleural effusion” was what the hospice doc said. The lung mets were causing inflammation, which was causing fluid to pool in the space around his left lung. He couldn’t use it efficiently. If we needed to, there is a procedure to drain off the fluid but we had to go to the office to have that done.
I looked in his eyes, trying to calm him down so he could draw a full breath and I saw fear. I saw it. I knew it. We had to do something.
It was too late to call the hospice doc back to the house and we needed one more day, for the pred to kick in and reduce the inflammation and the fluid. He would feel better soon, if we could just relieve the pressure on his lungs. So we did what we hadn’t been planning to do, we loaded him in the truck and we went to the Emergency vet.
“Help him breathe, we don’t care what you have to do, we need one more day for the pred to work.” They did. Two liters of fluid from just the left side. Except, it wasn’t fluid. One of his lung mets had ruptured. What was flowing into his chest and restricting his breath was blood. He was bleeding internally and they didn’t know if they could stop it. We couldn’t bring him home. It would be awful. He had to stay. They kept him comfortable and tried to stop the bleed. In the morning, he was still bleeding. They couldn’t stop it. Instead they drained the lung again, so he could come home with us.
We spent Sunday snuggling on the bed and talking to each other on the grass. It was a good day. He was happy, tired, but breathing and happy. As the afternoon wore on, we could hear him breathing harder. It was time, we knew what was coming and we didn’t want to wait for that pain to return. Hospice doc came back to the house and we said goodbye to my heart, in the shade, on the grass, at home, surrounded by love. That was the right way to go.
I looked him in the eyes the whole way and breathed in his last breaths. I wanted to feel it. I wanted to know that exact moment when he left. I wanted to breathe him into me. But I couldn’t. He went past me on his way to somewhere I couldn’t go. He didn’t look back, he went through. It was okay.
Though I am sad and still stunned at how fast he went, he answered my prayer and made the decision obvious to us. I have no questions in my heart that we did the right thing, the right way, for our Sam. I have no regret about any of the decisions we made. We threw everything we could at the “C”, but in the end it was too strong.
Most of the comfort words we use when we try to console pet parents, who have just said good bye to their hearts, are about crossing the rainbow bridge where dog friends are waiting. I love the idea and I hope there is truth in it. I figure, the first thing he did when he crossed was find his leg and head to the nearest lake. Maybe Lucy or Allie would be there with him, plunging into the water. Peaches would be on the beach, howling her hello and Sam would have zoomed past her, skid to a halt, said hello and then run after Allie, who was always just a little faster, into the water. Athena and Gracie would be on the beach, basking in the sun as they liked to do. Kelso and Emma would each have a ball and would be in the water too. Sam wouldn’t need a ball… He would just swim out to the middle of the lake and swim in circles until he was tired. Because it is dog heaven, he wouldn’t ever be tired. Maybe a tennis ball or his wooba would be floating there, needing to be rescued. Maybe he would see Zeus, Jerry, Maxi, Maggie and the pugapalooza on the beach too. I would like for him to meet the amazing spirit tripawds who helped navigate our family through unfamiliar waters on his way to this beach.
But my dog was never happiest in the company of dogs. He was a people dog, not a dog’s dog.
I figure something different is in store for him. He was an old and wise soul when found me, even as a puppy. I hope our time together added to his wisdom and understanding of how to be there when someone needed him most. He wouldn’t be happy until he was with someone who needed him. I figure, after swimming for a while and resting for a bit with his dog friends, he will be back. There are plans for him to help someone else in their time of need, in the same way he helped me when I needed him most. I don’t know if he will be a red dog when he comes back. But I will watch for him and hope to find him again. I promised him that I would.
In order for there to be an end, there has to be a beginning. In these last days, we have found solace in archiving the memory of Sam. I have started writing his story, from the beginning this time instead of the end that we hoped wouldn’t come while chronicling his adventures here. There is so much more of us to share. If you will indulge me a little, I’d like to use this blog to capture some of that so I don’t lose it. By sharing our story with you, it will be out in the greater universe and won’t be lost to time. Not today… but soon.
I do believe that having this space has saved me. I believe that your support has steadied me in the storm. It made sure I was there for Sam, and there was nothing as important as that. Thank you, from the last piece of my heart.
Honestly, I didn’t even know such care existed for our beautiful pups. I am again grateful to the tripawds website for making the suggestion and I am so glad that we decided to take advantage.
We met a new doc today. Dr. C is a hospice vet. She came to the house and we talked about where Sam is, where he is going and what we can do to make the adventure as easy as it can be for all of us.
She saw what we have been seeing, which has left us stunned at the pace of decline in Sam. She couldn’t hear breath sounds hardly at all in his left lung, plueral effusion, likely. Which means he is only really using his right lung, which thankfully sounded good, she said. However, his heart rate is elevated and as of this morning, he insists on being upright, where yesterday he was flopping over on his side as he was sleeping. Which means he is trying to compensate for the reduced lung function. In all, the decline is real and not just us hovering with worry like reality show parents. His lethargy is related to not getting enough oxygen.
But she did give us some hope that we can make it easier. First, he is back on Tramadol. Not as much for pain, but for anti-anxiety. She sensed that he was also starting to guard because he can’t catch his breath, this might help mellow that stress out a bit. We are also starting him on Prednizone – can’t spell it either. She says the steroid could improve the fluid buildup in his lung and should help him feel generally better for some time.
But it is temporary. Our best hope is for a couple of weeks if the Pred really works its magic. We will give him everything we’ve got to help him feel good for as long as we’ve got.
Which starts with cooking. As long as he keeps eating my eggs, he will get them. Tonight, dad has a pot-roast in the slow cooker. Samdog will get some of that and get to try carrots for the first time. We will cross our paws that the Pred helps him bounce.
There has been a whole bunch of emotions flying around in our house today, but I want to make sure that the thought that is lasting in this blog is gratitude. Gratitude that there are wonderful people like Dr. C who work to make it easier, that there are people like all of you taking the time to read this post – you have provided us tremendous support in our time of need… thank you. And lastly that 10 years ago, someone brought a basket of tiny fuzzy puppies to my front yard, said pick one, that the puppy biting the sprinker became our Sam, and that he was always up for any adventure as long as he was with me.