“Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you. I loved you so–’twas Heaven here with you.” Isla Paschal Richardson
(Thank you, Sybil Avery)
This has been a tough week, but beautiful at the same time.
It started right after meditation last Monday. Ms Bay (aka Miss Bay, Bailey, Bailey Jo, Happy Dog, Bacon & Eggs, & more times than not, Pretty Girl) usually joins me in my meditation room and she was there on Monday. She was curled up on my meditation cushion which she was certain was her bed from the first time she saw it so I adopted another seat and that became hers. As my meditation time wrapped up, she sat up as if to say, “What next? Wanna play squirrel?”
I headed down the hall. “Come on, Pretty Girl,” I called.
She tried to stand up and fell. She looked like a foal right after it’s born, trying to find its footing–but traumatic. She bumped into the wall. She shook, trying to recover. She fell again. I grabbed her to steady her, but I knew in my heart something was very wrong. I yelled for my husband who was upstairs working and we got her into the living room and positioned her to lie down.
We both sat there staring at her wondering what had just happened. We’d just had her at the vet the week before and tested her blood because we’d seen a rapid decline over the past few months and nobody had been able to figure out why. She turned 12 in December (84 to you and me, right?) so we knew we would be facing geriatric issues, but things were moving so quickly.
I bounced up and went straight to her food. In her whole entire life, she’s NEVER not eaten enthusiastically. I handed her a piece of food. She turned her head. I laid down next to her and wept. I knew her time here on Planet Earth was wrapping up. I hated that she was uncomfortable and that her body was failing her. She had been a manifestation of grace from the first time we saw her at 8 weeks old and she gave us a stick when we went to meet her. She could barely carry it she was so tiny. I knew being like this was hard for her.
I called the vet to check the bloodwork and told them about the incident. Our vet was in surgery, but they said to head over. My husband picked up our lug of love and put her in the car. We headed north, 30 miles north to Palo Cedro. (We drive that far because our vet, Jen Powers, is simply amazing.)
When Dr. Jen came in, we explained the incident. We decided to do another ultrasound on her abdomen as we had two months earlier. We’d noticed this area was tender and extended. Two months earlier the ultrasound showed nothing. In addition, her bloodwork was good and red blood cell count was normal. However, today there was a huge tumor the size of a grapefruit on her spleen. She had an aggressively spreading cancer called hemangiosarcoma. Though surgery was possible, it would at best gain her a month and a traumatic one at that. At worst, the cancer had spread throughout and her time would be even shorter or she might not survive the surgery. The vet, to her credit because certainly she would make more money from a surgery, recommended we say goodbye.
We were shocked. That quickly? We asked about the process. We wanted our youngest son– who had really grown up with her–to have a chance to say goodbye and to Facetime with our oldest son in Tucson. She offered to come to our house in the early evening so we could have the day with her and say our goodbyes.
This turned out to be a beautiful gift. We brought her home, made her a big bed in the middle of the living room and spent the whole day giving her all-you-can-eat cheese, bread and salami trays while listening to Spa on Pandora. My husband meticulously cut the smoky cheddar because she was having problems working her mouth. (She was so excited because she’s never been able to eat much of those things on her weight conscious food program and she was bound and determined to make that mouth work which she did!) She was too weak to go outside so, as the day progressed, my husband took a shot of the sunset, propped it up in the Ipad A-frame, and brought the sunset inside for her to look at. She adored the outside.
My mom, who’d babysat Ms. Bay on many occasions and was in sync with her on many levels, came over to our Ms. Bay celebration circle. We sat and talked about all the gifts Ms. Bay brought into our lives and all the memories we built together. I wanted her to hear those. I thought I’d share part of that list with you. The overwhelming top item is unconditional love. Here are a few others.
- Her snaggletooth
- Her daily safari walks with Mom & Dad in Nor Cal. (That’s her on the running grass.)
- Keep away with anybody who’d play
- Playing drug dog at LAX when Grandma came to visit
- Wild Dog moments
- Belly scratches, starting at Abe’s basketball games in high school and lasting until she was too in pain to role over
- Cliff walks in PV after dropping Jordie at school
- Crashing Poodle Parties at the Redondo Beach Dog Park (they have the best snacks)
- Swim lessons in Redondo
- Chronic Ingestor. (Frisbee, lightbulb, Christmas tree ball, tennis ball, variety of furniture, center island)
- Soccer at Maricopa
- Car rides. She LOVED car rides. Her longest was 1,100 miles round trip to LA and back.
- The Rub My Belly game
- Abs for Dummies with Mommy. She’d lay on her back, paws in the air, just like Mommy
- Sled Dog. She’d drag 5 year old Jordie around on a towel after his baths. We still have the towels with holes in them because we just couldn’t let them go
- Dog Beach in Santa Cruz
- Showers. She loved showers. She’d look longingly at you and got so excited when you invited her in.
- Water of any kind was cause to celebrate
- Code word: CHEESE
- Seeing snow for the first time
- Puppy parties, first as a puppy and later as the alpha
- Best friends, Abby and Sadie
- Her drippy eyes that Daddy so lovingly wiped with warm water many days
- Her smile
- Spa time with Mommy
- Crack the Whip with Gma (Cat Spotting!)
- Floor Cleaner Extraordinaire
- Tumbleweed hair balls across the kitchen floor
- Sunday walks to the Beach and Catalina Coffee in Redondo
- Lover of all people and animals (well, except cats)
- Building lakes at her water bowl
- Her intuition and grace
- Teaching us how to love better (that’s Ms. Bay, repping The Love Campaign)
- Hike up Quail Canyon in Santa Cruz
- Doggie accupuncture
- Tic Lake at Grandpa’s (she came home from Grandpa’s ranch with 30 tics!)
- Her princess feet. When we moved to the sticks, and she’d get a sticker, she’d hold her paw up and stare at us until we got it out.
- Guard Dog. She never barked unless someone came to the door.
- Her tapping on Daddy’s step to tell him it was time to wake up.
- Early morning love time with Daddy
- Post Date Night Play time with Daddy
- Her Thundershirt. She hated loud guns and thunder so became the proud owner of the Thundershirt.
- Lassie Rescue Dog. When Gma fell over, she sat right next to her and barked really loud for help–and as established, she wasn’t a barker.
- Her love of toys (that’s her donut)
- Being at the center of all things
The list, of course, goes on. If you read this and you have a memory, I’d love to hear it.
As Dr. Jen came in we all gathered around Ms. Bay giving her hugs and kisses as she transitioned. It was quick and I felt her beautiful spirit lift up and frolic with relief. We wrapped her in her special paw print blanket and Dr. Jen took her to be cremated. We will take her ashes and spread them in all her favorite places, and those we wished we could take her to, but couldn’t. If we had to see her go, we were so happy she was able to leave as gracefully as she had lived.
The pain is raw and sharp and palpable. We find ourselves still tip-toeing in the darkness of our room at night so as not to step on wherever she plastered herself across the floor near our bed. I find myself still opening the door ever-so-slowly as to not hit her where she stands on the other side, tail vigorously wagging. (As soon as I walked in, she’d rush to get a toy to play.) At her meal times, we find ourselves painfully aware that she’s not there looking at us, tilting her head, and saying, “Are you ready, because I am.” At our mealtimes, sitting close as if to say, “Are you going to eat that?”
But this is part of the cycle and we’re all subject to it. Love from friends and relatives and strangers helps immensely. It makes us feel Ms. Bay. Yesterday, a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses (for the yellow lab, I’m thinking) came that simply read, “Thinking of you with Love.” No name. I felt it came from Love itself, which is perfect, because that’s where Ms. Bay came from, too. (Further detective work showed they were from our special friends, Netters, John & Biscuit, to wipe our tears. Thank you, truly, for your kindness.) Other thoughtful friends sent special cards, Facebook private messages and posts, emails, calls, and my sweet friend Lois sent this special book. All of it makes us feel the love that Ms. Bay embodied. Thank you all so much.
Ms. Bay was a very special spirit who left her paw print on everybody, human and animal, that she met. People felt the angel inside when they met her. I still feel that angel spirit with me now. Pure unconditional love.
With heartfelt gratitude, Ms. Bay, thank you.
I love you so.