Thanks for the well-wishing earlier (and particularly thanks as a shout-out to for drawing for me ) and sorry for the silence these past few months.
Well, it's finally done.
My beloved Golden Retriever, who for this past nearly 15 years (would've been 15 next month) has taken me through some of the hardest times of my life, passed away today.
It wasn't an easy decision to make, but... I have no regrets for how things went down.
I guess, I should give a recap since my previous journal:
As of this year, my Golden Retriever had a lump that had started to grow on her face.
She has had many lumps on her body over the years (I joked that she had a single boob, because she had a lump in the middle front of her chest, where a boob would be), but this one was different in that it was infringing on her quality of life -- namely, her vision.
As this lump grew, it was starting to push into her eye, particularly after she got an abscess growing in her cheek from the lump pushing into her jaw and causing a tooth to become infected.
My previous journal was about how, in the uncertainty of the time before her surgery to remove the abscess, we did not yet even know if she would be able to get surgery to remove the abscess because we needed test results to conclude if she would even be able to survive the procedure.
This was a scary time of my life because I knew that if even a *SINGLE* detail went wrong, she was going to have to be put down.
This all was scary to me because, in all honesty, that dog was (and perhaps still is) my best friend for many years.
OUR LIFE TOGETHER
You may hear people speaking of their close bond with their dogs? ...As pathetic as it might sound, I never really had many IRL friends, because I lost most of them when they moved away over the course of elementary school, and a traumatic rejection in 6th grade from someone I thought was my friend kind of made me give up even attempting to make friends outside of school life at the time.
My family got this Golden Retriever in my second year of high school, when my dad was sick of the fact that our dog was really my mom's dog, so he wanted something that was "his" dog. ...She bonded with all of us, in all honesty, but at least she wasn't a dog that was squarely my mom's dog more than anyone else's. (because our current dog right now, that was my grandmother's dog? She's squarely bonded with my mom over everyone else, but she has since bonded with the rest of us. My dad acts like he only "tolerates" her, but you look at a dog cradled in his arms like a baby and have the knowledge that he takes her on car rides with him to grocery stores, and *TELL ME* he isn't bonded with that little dear : 3 )
Everyone had a role in her life, and she loved each of us for what we were.
I may not have been the fun "take me to a park" dog owner like my sister, or a "take me on hikes!" dog owner like my mom and dad, but if there was a person by her side, always there as the stable rock of a person who the dog could always depend on? That was me. (
Half-way through my third year of high school, I got the news that we were going to move from Seattle area of Washington to the San Diego area of California (basically 30min north of the Mexican border), and Seattle area was the only life I ever knew, and while it sucked, I... still didn't want to leave it, because I didn't want to leave behind the little that I had, because it was mine. ...And this Golden Retriever, no matter where I lived, no matter what was going on, she was by my side. She was my only friend in those tough times. (she would go with me and back, when I tried living with my sister for two or three weeks and had to drive home every weekend because she was *SUCH* a psychotic bitch to me that I pretty much drove home almost crying by the time the next weekends hit)
In all this time, she stayed by my side.
So yeah... As she got older, she lost little things. She developed arthritis over time, which is unfortunate for a dog. Pain meds perked her back up, but there was this one time she was walking out of our doggy door onto the deck, and her foot fell through a hole in the deck with a friction tread covering it that my dad laid loosely onto the deck and pretended that that was somehow good enough to walk on instead of patching a hole in his deck. This fall pulled the muscles in her leg pretty badly, and sprained her leg. We were told she would probably never be able to run again. ...While technically true, I got proud of her every time I saw her do a happy gallop for about 3 strides, before returning back to walking.
She always loved sleeping on furniture, so it was sad to see her stopping jumping up on beds, especially since I knew she loved sleeping on my bed while I was doing things on my computer.
Her lack of mobility was the original reason I stopped using a bed frame -- I didn't want my bed to be so high that this ritual between us went away when she couldn't get up that high any more. (tho now I just hate it when things get lost under my bed, so fuck it -- mattress and box spring on the floor~)
That was all... maybe about a year ago at this point.
Her hearing was also really important to her. She had an ear infection that wiped out her hearing for a few months, but then one day she could hear us, and she seemed so... "excited", like she was glad to be able to hear us again.
That slowly faded over time, but I was still glad to see her perking up this summer whenever I had to yell up a flight of stairs and she looked at me like she could hear me.
I had heard that her sight was starting to go as well because of cataracts creating fogginess in her eyes, but I always felt like she could see us when it mattered. (...It was the lack of hearing that was a pain in the ass >w>; )
This year had two scares as well, before what happened just this past weekend.
First there was the time where, out in the torrential downpour of our rainy season every fall (which we desperately need now, with all of the crazy fires that have been going on), she slipped in mud and slid down the slight incline of our dog run area, and when I found her to bring her to eat her dinner, she couldn't get up. She was suffering from mild hypothermia from being out in the rain for maybe half an hour, and I had to pick her up and ultimately carry her to her dog bed to get her to lay by a heater to warm up.
I couldn't get her to eat for like two days, so on the second day, when she finally ate her pain medication, the next morning I was greeted with the surreal sounds of a dog pacing the house, glad for its newly regained mobility.
...I still remember my reaction, to this day: "My, SOMEBODY's enjoying her PAIN MEDICATION >u>;"
Since then we had a battle about her health with my mom, where she insisted that our dog should be taking this herb that acted as an anti-inflammatory, but I noticed that she would lose her appetite after taking it, so we concluded that we needed to weed out anything that would make her lose her appetite, because not eating is *REALLY* bad for an aging dog's maintenance of its well-being.
CONTINUING FROM PREVIOUS JOURNAL...
So that happened.
The next incident was the lump in her cheek, which I've already mentioned. I had to watch the house for a month while my parents were doing some kind of driving road trip vacation thingy with my uncle, and when they got back, the lump on her face was significantly larger.
We took her to the vet to get it looked at, and as the vet was concerned, she just had an abscessed tooth that needed to be removed, and an abscess that needed to be drained.
The vet thought she needed surgery, so he suggested a nearby animal hospital the next city over, knowing that he risked losing our business by suggesting us take her to a competitor. (But really... If he provided good service, we wouldn't have decided to go to the other vet from then on >_>; New guy was really passionate about animals. Old guy just mumbled in pseudo-English Hindi-English that most native English speakers can't really understand. >_>; )
The new vet doctor was absolutely wonderful, and seemed to adore her.
However, as her health was worsening in the lead-up to her surgery that would be in a few days (as she pawed at the abscess lump because it was bothering her, she ended up causing it to rupture into her eye socket, so her eye was dripping ooze from her abscess after every time she pawed it >_>; ), we decided to call the new vet out of fear that she wouldn't last until her next appointment.
So this was very much the tone I had when I wrote that journal back in June -- I realized that my dog's mortality was a very real possibility, if even a single factor didn't play out in the situation around this surgery. (ESPECIALLY since my father was considering just letting her go, which my mom and I thought was insane. (and I loathed my sister for even attempting to spend Father's Day trying to convince him to let our dog die) )
Her surgery ended up going great, if anyone was curious.
She had to wear the Cone of Shame™ for a couple weeks, but she was happily her old self for the most part.
(I described her as looking like a "Happy little gunshot victim" with the hole in her face >w>; )
Things continued steadily from there on. Unfortunately, the pus of the abscess never really fully stopped draining out of her cheek, so the hole would never heal, and she'd need to live off of the pain meds that kept her face from bothering her.
The vet was convinced that this hole he saw in the back of her mouth might be connected to the abscess, so he took her in for another surgery to get that hole stitched shut in a follow-up procedure. (all of our appointments relating to the surgery were complimentary btw -- they weren't about to make us pay for the fact that they wanted to check up on how our dog was doing)
Maybe a week or so after that surgery, her cheek finally healed up.
...And promptly afterward, she started drooling snot out of her nose on the side her surgery was on.
(It was hilariously disgusting. The time she got a line of snot dangling from her nose that was as long as her head, that was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life. She just looked so happy with it hanging out though XD; )
Honestly? ...This continued for the next month or so, which was the duration of her life from then onward.
So, as my family and I see it, the success of her initial abscess surgery was the license of life that my dog needed.
It gave us another solid 3 months of love and life with her, and that is a gift I cannot be thankful enough for.
THIS PAST WEEKEND
So, as for this past Labor Day weekend?
...Basically what happened is, apparently the lump in her cheek was actually caused by a malignant tumor, and that tumor had grown into her cheek and caused the abscess by messing with her teeth, which caused her cheek to swell up with abscess fluid, and when the initial lump was removed, the tumor seemed to have spread into the hole the abscess initially occupied. ...Or something.
So her cheek was still firm after the surgery, because the lump we thought was an abscess was *ALSO* a malignant tumor, not just an abscess.
As near as I can tell, the remaining time after her surgeries, her tumor on her cheek slooooowly grew, and continued renewing the infection in her nose so what she was drooling out was essentially the waste left behind by her body's immune system's continual war against the tumor slowly growing inside of her face.
Until this past weekend.
Friday, she ate well.
Friday night, she started making ghastly noises, which were indicative of the fact that she had lost the ability to breathe through her nose.
Saturday through Monday, we were out of town at my family's cabin that my dad built before I was born, and spent the long weekend with my dad's best friend and best friend's wife.
All this time, from Saturday and onward, she refused to eat.
We figured maybe she had an infection in her nose, or maybe her losing the ability to breathe through her nose made her uninterested in eating, because it meant stopping breathing. The only thing she still did was drink water.
Come Monday, no vets are open on a national holiday here, so only the Emergency Room animal hospitals were still open.
So we took her to a place, and while they wanted to give her an X-ray, we passed on that to let her vet deal with the need for that, so all she got was a rinse of her nose (thinking maybe she was just really congested) and injections of pain meds and antibiotics, since she wouldn't eat her pills any more.
...Unfortunately.... Her breathing didn't clear up after the rinse. Still 0% airflow. So whatever was causing her to lose her breathing, it wasn't just congestion.
And it's most likely cancer / a malignant tumor.
So... Come yesterday, we heard the vet wasn't going to be in until today, so with the news that her breathing was most likely caused by a malignant growth pressing her nasal cavity shut, we knew that this breathing issue probably wasn't going to get better, and if she didn't start eating, she was going to die no matter what we did.
My dad tried one last attempt to get her to eat. She even turned down steak last night, so the chances of this experiment working would've been slim at best.
(I also woke up with the entire right side of my body filled with pulled muscles in like 3 different places, after I went to bed tense last night, knowing my dog was probably going to die today.)
As an added level of awkwardness, we are going on a week-long trip next week to go to Vancouver Island up in Canada, and we knew it would be unconscionable to leave her with relatives if she's on her way out via death by starvation and/or organs failing and/or eventual suffocation as the tumor spread, so there was a slight urgency of need to either get this resolved where her health carries her forward for a few more months, or she gets put down now. ...If all we could do was ease her suffering, it seems wrong to drag this onward any further.
Steeled with the knowledge that if she didn't start eating, her health would cause her body to give out and die, we went in to the vet a good 90% expecting this to be the end.
The vet offered to give her steroids to get her to eat again, but it's not a solution -- it's just an excuse to buy some time to get our goodbyes in. .....And honestly?
...That's what this past 3 months has been.
We cherished our time with her, because from the moment of that first surgery and onward, we knew we had her on borrowed time.
I know my previous dog always knew I loved her, but even though I carried her on my lap all the way to the vet to get her put to sleep, I still always hated myself for not giving her that "one last hug". I watched my previous dog get the lethal injection, and I had to run out of the vet clinic before I burst into tears.
Today, I wasn't going to have any regrets.
I gave her that last hug before the doctor came in with morphine and a sedative, to make her fall asleep before she gets her injection.
I petted her so that the last thing she would remember is our love, and ideally the last thing she would see is her family.
I whispered in her ear that we would always love her, and since we agreed to not stay to watch the injection this time, we stayed until she fell asleep for the last time instead.
...Since she hadn't really slept well since Friday, I have to say... She was so at peace that she began snoring, with her tongue stuck out and everything.
I couldn't bear to take a picture, but the sight will be stuck in my mind for the rest of my life -- Despite her pain, despite her suffering. Despite her desire to persevere through it all because she always wanted to be by our sides -- she was at peace. She looked *SO RELAXED*, so... content? Sleeping away, like it was the nap she has needed for weeks, if not months...
...it was the last thing she would ever feel, I'm sure of it. ...But I can't think of a better way for her to go.
WHO SHE WAS
I will always remember her as the dolphin-like dog who loved to gallop through shallow water.
I will always remember her as the dog who loved chasing a tennis ball, and who often needed an oral fixation of some sort, so she'd usually greet people with either a ball or a sock in her mouth when you got home. (When she was a puppy, she put the sock in my grandparents' barking dog's mouth the first time they met~)
I will always remember her as the dog who would roll on her back when she was bored, and try to hold up a tennis ball above her with both paws (I think her record was about a minute)
I will always remember her as the dog who would get SO EXCITED when someone got to the door that she greeted them like a long lost family member that just showed up, even if it was just a delivery guy from UPS.
While she never struck us as a "Guard Dog", I will always remember her as the dog who once jumped from side to side as if trying to evade a bicyclist coming down a trail when my dad and sister hiked up a trail also shared by mountain bikers, and when my sister bumped into that bicyclist the next day (they're friends), the bicyclist asked her how her "Guard Dog" was doing, because apparently she had her fangs bared when she was jumping side to side, and the bicyclist stopped his bike because he didn't want to get lunged at by her because she was deciding what angle to strike from.
I will always remember her as the little pup that laid down beside us, the day my sister and I went selecting a new puppy for the family, while her five remaining siblings were more content to play with each other...
I will always remember that she chose us, not the other way around...
But most of all... I will always remember her as the unsure pup that day we brought her home, one fateful Christmas that changed my life forever.....
Goodbye, my dog.
You were always my best friend.
I will always love you.