A decade and a half ago I had to make the difficult decision to have our family dog, Alex, put to sleep. She had tumors growing quickly throughout her abdomen and her legs no longer held her weight. We carried her up and down the stairs at night. Helped her outside every few hours. I would have continued to do this for her but she had no quality of life. So, I made the tough call.
Alex, also a black lab/shep mix, was part of our family before the boys were even born. In fact, she was not a happy puppy when we brought them home from the hospital! She managed to poop on anything of theirs that was on the floor. That’s talent. Eventually, she fell in love with them and they with her.
The final vet appointment with Alex was traumatic. The medicine did not do what it was supposed to do, the staff didn’t handle the situation well, and she suffered in her last moments. It was horrific. Becca was with me, unfortunately, and her heart was broken that her Alex was in pain. After she was gone, as a family, we decided it would be a while before we welcomed another dog.
Then Cecily appeared. She was a small, unwanted “mistake” in the corner of some guy’s garage. I saw her, when I went with a friend to look at a car for sale, shivering on cold cement. She was so small and her head hung down. Of course, me being me, I went over and scooped her up into my arms and held her against my chest. Except for the white chest, and the tips of her toes, she looked a lot like Alex. I reminded myself that we were not getting another dog for a while because we couldn’t replace Alex so easily.
I asked why she was alone in the garage, with no blanket or bowls, and the man replied that she was worthless. His registered black lab female had gotten pregnant by a random german shepherd and the puppies wouldn’t be salable. He’d found homes for the other ones but not this one. Continuing, he said he was going to throw her into the pond behind the garage because he didn’t want her. With this information about her future, I had no choice but to take her with me. I remember thinking, “well, I guess it’s time for another dog”.
I took the puppy. My friend didn’t take the car.
Cecily came home with me during the first year after losing Becca. I thought it might be good for the boys to have another dog to love. I didn’t realize it would be good for me, too. The first few years of Cecily’s life the boys still lived at home. But, they were growing up, spending less time playing in the backyard. Much less time hanging out on the couch, watching TV, because there were weekend activities to attend. Eventually, the time came to graduate and they both left to go to college. In retrospect, I realize that I was not easy to be around during this time, either. I imagine it was much easier for them to stay away from home and I completely understand why. That left Cecily and I alone . . . together.
Those first months, after the boys left, I plunged back into deep grief. Terror consumed me. I kept my children alive while they lived at home. Did I just allow them out into society to be killed, too? Matthew was a few hours north of me and Gabriel was south by an hour. Too far away if they needed me. Did they even love me anymore? They were so eager to get away from me. Our home. I found it impossible to keep all of the negative thoughts and difficult emotions at bay. Renewed depression clutched my life and I gave in and let it take hold. I didn’t care anymore. The best days of my life were over and I was just riding time until my life was done.
I knew I had to make her life good because I was all she had. I would like to be able to say that I snapped out of it and we were good from there on out. It didn’t happen that way. Slowly, I started to include her in more of what I did. My life started to revolve around her instead of just “making it through another dark day”.
We started to take a walk every night. Which turned into two walks day. The walks were no longer just for her to relieve herself. Instead, they were “sniff walks” where we just meandered around to where the interesting smells pulled her. This forced me to be out in the fresh air more often and for longer periods. When I got a vehicle we took trips to different parks because, I told her, there would be so much more to smell than in our neighborhood. When I started to sleep in my bed again (I slept on the couch for a very long time) she jumped up and slept with me every night. Instead of eating while standing in the kitchen, because the table we’d shared family meals at was too difficult to sit at alone, I ate at the end where her food bowl was. We ate together.
All decisions I made were based around what was best for her. It is easier, sometimes, to care for another when you can not care for yourself. And, in caring for her . . . I began to do the same for myself. She actually did want me to be better. Cecily helped me to slowly re engage in life. She loves me unconditionally and I love her in the same way. She is my big girl.
Last week, she and I, took a hit.
During her yearly dental cleaning and physical the vet found a large lesion under her tongue. I was sitting in Denny’s when the photograph popped up in my text messages. I was devastated. Instantly, I started to cry as I sent a reply to the vet’s question as to whether I wanted a biopsy or not. I declined. The cost is much more than I can afford at this time. In my head I was screaming NO! This could not be real. Not my Cecily. It’s not time. I’m not ready for her to be gone. The vet went on to explain that it could be a lesion or cancerous but we wouldn’t know unless we had the biopsy done. A small piece was taken and stored for future testing if I decide to do so.
Getting this information was four days before the date of my daughter’s death. At that moment my mind began to shut down. When I am completely overwhelmed my mind clicks off right after it tells me it’s going to go into sleep mode. I drove to my friend’s, Stacey, job and she let me sleep in an empty room at her facility. (She’s a nurse in a medical rehab center.) I slept hard for a few hours then woke and left to pick up Cecily.
I cried the entire ride home. I told her I was sorry and that I loved her. During that ride I made the decision that I would not have the sample biopsied because it does not matter. Not now.I won’t put her through invasive, painful, or lengthy treatments. My girl is twelve. She is happy and well loved. Her life, though not perfect in the beginning because of me, has been wonderful in the past years. I will make sure the remainder of her time, as long or short as it may be, is filled with the same.
Cecily is a tie to Becca. One of the few physical ones I have left. Big girl came into our life when I was in the early throes of grief. Though I know when it is time for her to go I will be there and help her . . . I am not ready.
Right now, she is laying behind me on two fluffy blankets, licking peanut butter out of her Kong. She stops long enough to look at me when I tell her she’s my favorite girl. I want this forever.
Big girl: you help heal me and I love you with all my heart.