Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Life, Ongoing.

Everyone says, "Life goes on," and it's true.  Regardless of what seemingly insurmountable problem you are facing, there is grass, dirt, land, terrafirma on the other side of that obstacle.  Maybe you can't see it from here.  Maybe it's going to be rough and rocky.  Either way, it's there.  Trust me.

We had to have our dog put to sleep Friday morning.  For those of you who haven't been through the past blogs, we found out in February that she had lymphoma.  She was only close to 6 years old.

We opted not to do the chemotherapy.  That was also a tough decision, but here's why.  We have two young children, both boys, ages 7 years old and age 15 months.  It had nothing to do with the expense or the time (chemo requires a daily shot from the vet for the first few weeks, then every other day for a few weeks, then every third day for a few weeks, for a total of roughly 6 months).  It had everything to do with the shitty remission statistics.  Since a dog's life is so short compared to ours, "successful" remission is anything over one year, with 80% of dogs succumbing to the cancer again within 2 years.  I couldn't do that to my boys.  We did one round of steroids, which my oldest son thought were pills that would cure her.  Imagine him getting his hopes up with daily shots only to find out six months later that the cancer is back.

We did not let her suffer, but noticed her quality of life slowly diminishing.  She had a few nights where she'd pant despite the air conditioner being on full-blast inside the house.  She began drinking a lot of water, and she didn't seem to want to do much of anything other than sleep.  Even that was becoming restless.

The procedure itself was very peaceful.  I went alone on Friday morning and the vet gave her first a shot to knock her out as if she was going to have surgery.  She fell asleep in my arms and when she was totally asleep, the vet gave her the final injection.

I brought her home with me to bury her here in the yard; I'd dug a deep, large hole the night before but I'd neglected to ask my vet what to do about the other two dogs.  I did a quick Google search in the driveway and found support for both sides:  should I let the other dogs see her or not?  I opted to let them see her.  If dogs are as instinctual as we believe them to be, I have to believe that they knew she was sick to begin with.  We have a four-year-old mixed breed male dog, and a six-month-old chihuahua puppy, and Lena had been both of their best buddies.

I was very glad I chose to let the dogs see her.  Sunset, the male dog, sniffed at her a little bit and then quietly walked away.  Pippa, the chi pup, was very upset.  She tried licking Lena's eyes and ears and getting her to play, but Lena didn't respond.  After a few times of this, she backed up and started barking a frustrated bark that I'd never heard her do before.  She tried a few more times to get a response from Lena, and then I think it clicked in:  Lena wasn't playing anymore.

I put the dogs inside when I buried Lena in the side yard.  I said my goodbyes and wrapped her in a blanket.  I cannot tell you how many times I went out to check on her that day, glancing around the yard to see if she'd somehow only been asleep when I'd buried her.  I knew that wasn't the case, but I started making deals with myself, that if I went in the yard and she was there, I'd let her live until she died on her own of cancer.  I imagined her digging through the dirt, finding the sunlight, rolling around in the grass with this look on her face like, "Lady?  What did you do that for?"

By nightfall, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be seeing Lena again.

My son decided to plant some beautiful red sunflower seeds on Lena's grave, and I also planted a crimson mandevilla vine at the headstone portion up against the fence.  The seeds and the vine give me a reason to go over there and water now:  a reason more healthy and real than just hoping Lena is going to be waiting for me in the yard when I go to water.  I miss her so much, being that I am a full-time student taking online classes, a stay-at-home mom and student, if you will.  Lena was always here, as was I.

The kids and dogs seem to be doing fine, and I'm doing fine too, I guess.  I never thought I'd miss all the black dog hair all over the house, but I do.  I miss her little dog smile, I miss having a nap buddy I could count on.  I miss seeing her with my kids, or sitting in the man chair with the husband.  I imagine all the shelter dogs or all the dogs that have been rehomed or put to the street by their families, and I want to shout at them that if they just loved their dog, they'd do anything to hold on to them until the very end.

So in honor of Lena, I'm trying my best to quit smoking.  Too many people (and animals, too) are taken far too soon because of cancer.  I know the pain I've felt losing a dog -- I'd never want to be on the receiving end of that, laying in a hospital bed while my husband and children cry for me just because I couldn't give up stupid cigarettes.  Maybe if there's one great thing that could come out of losing my dog, it would be that I quit smoking.

Today is officially Day One of using my electronic cigarette, and so far so good.  I feel like I can do this.  Things in my world are beginning to fall into place:  I'm almost finished painting, I had a totally new idea for my book, school is about to start again in a few days, and now I'm not smoking.  I've also become much more realistic about my writing, because great ideas for edits are coming to me all over the place.  I see now why it can take people months and years to complete a novel.  Yes, days when you bang out 5,000 words are wonderful, but you can't be afraid to change your mind on something just because you've worked so hard on one portion.  Each draft is a stepping stone.  That might mean that each day, you write over (in a sense) what you'd written the day before, but the point is that you're WRITING.  You're getting somewhere.  Your story is getting on paper.

I guess that's true about life, too.

Wishing you a wonderful day,