Many things have happened since the last time I wrote. I have been at my new job for over a year now. A year ago July, we said goodbye to my mother-in-law. This was after losing David in April of the same year.
My father was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder/prostate cancer last November. He underwent major surgery April 9, and is getting used to a “new normal” without a bladder. His last PET scan showed no cancer and we are very grateful to still have him with us.
Most recently, we have bid farewell to our big, sweet Doodlebug. Wilbur and I were on our way to the Twin Cities for vacation. The morning we were supposed to leave, I noticed a large lump on his front leg at the joint below his knee. I scheduled a vet appointment thinking he had sprained it, and my friend Sarah volunteered to take him in for us. We left as planned Thursday morning, September 4. We got to Hoven, SD, where we were visiting St. Anthony of Padua Church. My phone rang as we were getting out of the car and it was the vet. Doodle was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and it had eaten through most of the bone. We turned around and came back home.
After much research and discussion, our family decided it was time to let him go. None of the options were good. Amputation at his age, followed by chemotherapy, would be hard for him to tolerate given his arthritis and colitis. Even with both, the survival rate is only increased by months. Osteosarcoma moves quickly, with metastases in the lungs by the time a tumor is noticed. At the sunset end of his lifespan this just seemed like more than we could ask of him. Without the amputation he was headed for a painful break of his leg. We couldn’t take that chance, and have to take him to the vet in pain and fear for euthanasia. So, on Monday morning, September 8, we took Doodle and Daisy to the vet. We didn’t want her to be frantically searching for him when we came home without him. They gave us plenty of time to love on him, then a port was put in his leg.
They spread out a large blanket on the floor and Doodle and Daisy laid down next to each other. The drug was administered and he drifted away from us. No pain (the narcotics took care of that) and no fear. He was surrounded by the people who loved him, with Daisy at his side. We remained for a time, then when we got up to leave, Daisy calmly walked out of the room. Earlier, when they had taken him out to put the port in his leg, she cried pitifully until he returned. This time, she knew he was gone and she was able to take her leave. I am crying as I type this. We miss our big, goofy, insistently affectionate, gentle boy.
When we got home from the vet, we decided to take a hike up Harney Peak in Doodle’s memory. We couldn’t stay home and stare at his empty dog bed. I couldn’t face cleaning up the fur in the corners or on the stairs. I still haven’t cleaned out his crate. It was a beautiful day and a hike would do us all good. Most of all, it would keep Daisy moving forward in her mind. When she is stressed out, she seems to get stuck, for lack of a better way to explain it. We told lots of “remember when” Doodle stories. We laughed and cried and hiked. It was a healing time.
Daisy has handled his absence better than I had feared. Still, she seems sad and withdrawn. Some of the things that she was doing with no problem have started to become difficult for her again. She trembles more than usual. We realized how very much she depended on him to go first. From going outside to getting in the car, she would happily follow him. Today is the first day she has made noises to come back in the house after a potty break outside. The first morning after his death, it was very cold. I let her out, then started to do a couple of things, not checking the door. I looked out and she was sitting outside the door, soaking wet from the mist and shivering pathetically. It was always Doodle’s job to let us know when they were ready to come back in.
We started a search for another retriever. We can’t replace our beloved Doodlebug, but our house seems so empty without the love and positive energy of a retriever-in-residence. Wilbur located a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chuck, being fostered in Palisade, NE. We filled out the forms for the rescue and waited for an interview. It was tough not to get our hopes up too high, since he sounds like a perfect fit for our family, and there were several other families who also wanted him. We were approved!! Chuck (probably renamed Kirby) will be coming to live with us in a few weeks!
Keep an eye on this space and I will try to keep you updated on the adventures of Daisy and Kirby. We plan a slow introduction and adjustment period. Daisy is good with male dogs so I am hopeful that the transition will be fairly smooth. Rapid City and the surrounding area is the perfect place for a water dog. I think Miss Daisy might even follow him into the water (if he goes first).