One week ago today, on May 18, 2018 at just after 11:00am UK time, I said goodbye to my sweet girl Red.
This is not easy for me to write, especially because I never discuss my feelings, but it’s spilling out of me and I can’t stop it.
What inspired me? While there have been some lovely condolences expressed by my incredible Facebook group members, one I saw this morning really hit me and the words started flowing.
Her name is Paula Busch (Paula I hope you don’t mind me mentioning you), and even though she has said goodbye to her much loved dog Ramsey she still stays in the group to help. There was something about the way she asked how I was doing that opened the floodgates…so rather than just replying “fine thank you” I realised this post needed to be written, and for people to know the impact Red had on my life and others.
How am I doing? Not well. I’m heartbroken, I hear Red coming down the hallway and pushing against the hallway door to come and see me. I find myself just about to tell my husband to not bang the door because Red is sleeping, and I’m still surprised when I don’t see her bed on the floor next to mine.
I’m having a very hard time checking in with the group at the moment, but I’m forcing myself to offer a bit of advice when I can. You’ve all done such a great job of keeping things going the past week, I’m so grateful, but I also feel responsible for things as well.
I managed to write a couple of articles, but that’s only because they were mostly written and just needed “tweaking” but I’ve lost my enthusiasm for my much loved website.
I’ve lost my muse and feel like a phony both with my website and my group. Yes the years of experience I have caring for senior dogs is with me, but I feel like “who am I” when I don’t share my life with an old dog at the moment. Jack isn’t at the “senior” category yet!
In the past when I was living in Florida and lost one of my “oldies” I would go back to the shelter where I volunteered and bring home another one. Although I’m no longer there, sadly there is no shortage of old dogs that need homes, yet I can’t offer mine just yet.
I loved Red more than words can ever express, yet I would be lying and deceiving you by saying it was all a bed of roses and nothing but a love fest. For most of the 9 years we spent together it was, but when I realised she had dementia 2 ½ years ago, that’s when the really challenging and stressful times began. When her dementia progressed and her selegeline was no longer helping like it had been (that was about a year ago), the stress was pretty much constant.
She was blind when I adopted her, obese with a heart murmur, and over the years she developed many health issues but they were all managed thanks to my wonderful vet Lubo. It was the dementia, and more recently the chronic pancreatitis that make things extremely difficult at times.
I had no problem making her the centre of my universe, and having my life revolve around her. I adopt old dogs and with that comes the responsibility, and of course the joy of caring for them…whatever that means.
The financial strain was enormous as well. She was on a lot of medication, and some of it was crazy expensive even buying online.
The worry she might have another seizure, the panic she would need emergency care in the middle of the night with no hospital near me and no car to travel, and the dread when she needed a vet and mine was not working that day absolutely took its toll.
I still feel the same worry and stress, I guess they’re residual!
I have been able to take the pee pads off the floor and now I walk into my home and I see just carpet…a high price to pay. I admit I’d rather see pee pads than a stain on my carpet, but they were always messy and made me feel disorganised.
I knew the day was coming when I would have to say goodbye, and I was sure it would end up being a quality of life decision because of dementia. The type of decision I’ve only had to make once before and haunted me for months. Did I wait too long? Should I have waited a bit longer? Every day in the last few months I would think about it. Red was never in pain and I always knew as much as she had my heart, I would never allow her to linger because I didn’t want it broken.
I prayed for a bad test result one day, because then I knew my decision would be “easier” to make. There it is, black and white, nothing else to be done and then last Thursday I got that bad test result. I was shocked, devastated and relieved knowing it was pretty much made for me. I could have said goodbye that day but I would have felt like I rushed something, and that kind of decision can tear you up inside and haunt you if you aren’t sure.
When I took her home and she didn’t eat I made the call for the next day. Did she eat later? Of course she did. Did she eat that Friday morning? Of course she did. I brought her to the vet anyway and we had a conversation.
I could have waited a few days but why? I couldn’t reverse the test result, she was still so skinny and barely eating, how would postponing my heartbreak help her?
I have devoted the last 9 years of my life to caring for and loving her. Did she stop me from taking vacations? Not when my pet sitter was around. Did we take lots of day trips together? Absolutely. Was she a very well traveled dog? You bet. She came from Florida, flew for a couple of short visits with me to Toronto, and made quite a few trips between our places in Florida and England. Did she bring me incredible joy? No question about it, and now I am paying for it with incredible sadness.
It is because of her I started my website, and because of my experiences with her and those who came before her, I created my group as a way to help others who may not have the support and access to information they need.
In the aftermath
I’m lost. I always thought when I didn’t have Red to care for, all the extra hours would be spent writing even more articles and helping even more. Sadly I now have all those extra hours, but I struggle to have the strength to fill them. I wander aimlessly, turn the tv on during the day (something I never, ever, ever do until the evening) and get through the day.
I’m hurt. I understand it’s probably a generational thing, public displays of emotion, every thought bared on social media, and condolences offered. Okay but don’t I deserve more from a family member who did nothing more than respond to my notice with a sad emoji?
My 2 “friends” who like to tell me how important I am and that we’re like the 3 musketeers have disgusted me. One of them replied to that same notice on FB with a “so sorry babe you were a great mum” but how about a private message? She knows I turn inwards in grief, but how about a text to tell me she’s thinking of me or here for me? She’s my neighbour so I see her around, and she knows I don’t want to talk about but how about some flowers?
When she had surgery or broke her nose in a fall recently, how many times did I check on her?
My other “friend” was away for 10 days, but news travels fast where I live so I assume she knows, certainly the first friend I mentioned would have told her. Let’s say she didn’t know – she’s been home 4 days and no text to say hello. If she did know it’s even more upsetting. When her mother died did I not express my condolences to her right away? When she had surgery recently was I not checking on her every day, asking her husband how she was doing? Did I not prepare a basket for her so she wouldn’t be bored during the day?
I have been called self-absorbed and I agree to a certain extent that is true. I’m not always the most thoughtful person, but I certainly have been to them.
Nothing can excuse what they’ve done, or haven’t done, and although I may be friendly when I see them, our coffee mornings and get togethers are over since I can never ever see them in the same light. As comfortable as a topic this is for all of us, there is no excuse for not even sending a simple “so sorry thinking of you” text.
I’m slowly starting to get back to my website and my writing, and I will do my best to spend more time in the group.
Today has been a really bad day, I’ve been crying most of the morning, even during my acupuncture session!! It’s expected of course, but Red’s ashes will be back with me soon enough and I will take hers and Saffy’s and put them in a memorial urn necklace I have, to carry them with me always.
I will adopt another senior dog, quite possibly from Serbia. My husband and I would like to go away January and February (if we can figure out what to do with Jack) so ideally it wouldn’t be until March. Having said that there’s no way I can wait that long to care for someone else that needs me. We’re going away in 2 weeks for a few days and perhaps I’ll foster some kittens that need to be bottle fed.
I wasn’t blessed with this level of compassion and not always have an outlet in which to express it.
I have no idea if this made sense or not but I wanted this to be straight from the heart as the words flowed.
I love you Red more than words can ever express. My heart is broken, I know in time it will mend, but I will never forget you and the joy you brought to my life, and by extension the good you did in this world.