I do cry over dropped ice cubes.
The previous post was actually written on Tuesday evening, but being tired, I hit "Save Now" instead of "Publish Post" and didn't actually publish it until Thursday night when I was snuggled up on the couch with my Bug. It's with a heavy heart and a soggy face that I have to report that June Bug is no longer with us.
And, if you are of the camp that says dogs don't go to heaven, or you roll your eyes and say "it's just a dog," please leave now, and don't let the browser hit you on the way out.
Wednesday morning, we woke up to a puddle on the floor and poop on the stairs. VERY odd, and honestly, we thought the poop belonged to Nugget at first. I figured it was Bug, but didn't get too upset. Was it odd? Yes, but honestly, she's been going to bed with the kids, so I chalked it up to us neglecting to let her out before we went to bed. Thursday, she was a little slow on her feet, but I thought maybe she was just mad that Hubs was out of town or that I was working a lot the last couple of days. I told Hubs I was going to take her to the vet Sat while he was here with the kids. I wasn't too concerned, but figured even if they told me she was sad, she needed her annual check-up anyway.
But, by Thursday night, she didn't look good. We came in from work, and she didn't come to the door. Very not like her. She looked swollen and puffy in the tummy, and would wag her tail when she saw us, but didn't want to get up. I carried her up stairs, carried her outside and carried her up to bed to snuggle with me that night. I emailed a friend to see if she could watch the kids because I wanted to take her in Friday.
Friday morning, she wouldn't get out of bed. Still giving me kisses and wagging her tail, but wouldn't sit up. I carried her downstairs so she could go outside, got the kids fed, bathed and loaded in the car. I asked if she wanted to go for a ride, and she actually jumped in the front seat. I thought maybe this was a good sign. Dropped the kids off and scooted down to the vet clinic (which I should add is probably nicer and more high tech than the kids' doctor's office!). They did a urine sample, but all they were able to tell was that there was an infection and the doctor wanted to run some more tests. He told me to go on home and they would call me when they knew something. I gave my baby a hug and a kiss and cried the whole way back to my friends. She graciously kept me distracted until I got a call with bad news. She had a tumor on her spleen the size of a grapefruit and was bleeding out into the tumor.
It felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. I had half-way prepared myself for them to say, "Oh! She ate some fruit snacks and has gas! That will be $500!" but I was NOT prepared for that. I told them to do what they needed to do and to call me with updates. He said the next step was to to a chest x-ray. If there were tumors on her lungs, it was probably cancer and we'd have to talk about how to keep her comfortable for her last couple weeks. If it was clear, it would be a GOOD sign that it was NOT cancer and they would do an ultrasound to plot how to operate, then take it out right there (our awesome vet has it's own awesome vet hospital right there. Another reason I love them). I was still on pins and needles, but actually felt kind of good for the first time because he said earlier, "her lungs sound clear." Even though a lot of my medical information comes from google, I felt like if there were tumors on or in her lungs, her breath sounds would have been off. Sure enough, about an hour later, he called to tell me her lungs looked clear! Hooray! I told him to go on with the ultrasound and to call if he could before surgery.
I bundled the kids in the car and started prepping them for Junebug coming home with a big boo boo. We talked about the Curious George book where he swallows the puzzle piece and has to have his belly cut open. That thoroughly confused Nugget who later told PaPa "June bug sick. Tummy hurt. Get puzzle piece out." I was already looking in the basement for the crate, assuming she would need to be still like after she was hit by a car at a year old, and told the kids she'd probably have to wear a party hat (aka cone) to keep her from messing out her boo boo. I spent the next couple of hours responding to people about weekend plans, and planning out my week thanking God it wasn't my week to volunteer at the preschool.
Just before three, the doctor called back. I could tell from his voice, something was wrong. The tumor was continuing to bleed, and they had found more tumors on her liver. Her abdomen was also filling with blood. It was cancer. Through tears and staggered breathes, I asked what we could do. Surely we could just remove her spleen and the part of her liver, then go from there, right?! Unfortunately, dogs need more liver than we do. And I asked if she had lost so much blood would she even make it through the surgery?
He said the same thing had happened last year with his dog and being a vet, he did the surgery, but it was only so his kids could have a little more time with her. I started sobbing some more saying I had two kids, too.
So my options were:
* Bring her home and let her go -- he said she would probably feel crumby for a day or two, then feel a little better, then go down hill quickly. Didn't want her to stay in pain just for me, and I really didn't want to leave her alone to take the kids to school and have her die alone, so that one was out.
* Put her to sleep tonight -- Hubs was out of town. I didn't want the kids to be there with me. I wanted them to be able to say goodbye, but thought Nugget was too young to understand, and wasn't really sure what state I would be in after.
* Wait until Saturday- She could spend the night at the hospital, Hubs would be home and we could go in together.
I thought about her last night, spent cuddling with me on the couch and snuggling in the big bed with me and later my sleep walker Strip. And I thought about how she had been at the vet's all day, and would have to spend that night alone, in a crate away from us. It seemed wrong to put her through the pain of the surgery and recovery to only have a few more days or weeks at best. I didn't want her to suffer knowing that she wasn't going to get better. And I hated the thought of her spending her last night cold and alone in the vet clinic, just so I had a shoulder to cry on. So I told the doctor to give me 10 minutes to work some things out, and I'd call him back.
My neighbor was fine to keep the kids, so I told them I was going to go snuggle June for a little while and check on her, but she wouldn't be able to come home tonight. They gave me kisses and hugs for her and I made the drive down. Part of me was cursing traffic to get out of my way so I could get down there, but the other part wanted me to make the drive last a little longer.
I walked in, and told the receptionist my name. He whisked me back to a room and offered his condolences. June's "nurse" came in next to go over all the paper work with me. She told me they were getting her catheter in place and she would be in shortly. The two minutes I waited for her felt like two hundred. I heard her little collar jingle and knew she was coming around the corner, so I called her name. A part of me was really hoping she would look good, and I'd call the whole thing off. But, even though she perked up when she heard me, the pup that walked in was so not my Bug. I sat on the floor and she collapsed in my lap. The nurse said to take as much time as I needed and she would check back periodically. As soon as the nurse left, I picked up her head and asked if she wanted to go for a walk? Go home? Go see nugget and strip? Get a treat?! Nothing. I asked if she was hurting and just ready to go, and she put her head in my lap and sighed. I knew what the right choice was. I snapped a last little picture of her and called Hubs so she could hear his voice. Another doctor popped in to say how sorry she was and tell me what a great dog June was (I already knew this!).
After we chatted about the last 9.5 years together, I caught the nurse as she walked by and told her I was ready. Her doctor came in and walked me through the process. He told me everything would happen when and how I wanted it to and to feel free to say whatever I needed to. He told me how the first syringe was just water to make sure the tube was in place, the second was just a normal anesthesia that would make her feel groggy and fall asleep. The third was just a little extra that would help her pass quickly. He assured me that she wasn't in any pain the whole day. She was a good patient, and because she had lost so much blood in the tumor, she was anemic and just very tired. Her labored breathing was due to being lethargic. That made me feel so much better. He said not to be alarmed if she she jerked or made funny sounds, that was totally normal. I held her in my lap, gave her one more kiss and told the doctor I was ready. Everything went well. As he gave her the medicine, he held her little paw and bowed his head. I think he was praying, but didn't want to ask because I thought it would make him feel like a jerk if he wasn't :-) Her breathing slowed and he gave her the little extra. I continued to pet her head, and put my hand on her side so I could feel her breathe. She took her last breath and relaxed in my lap.
I felt like 500 lbs lifted off my shoulders. She was at peace.
The three of us sat in the floor for a little while talking. He said we could stay as long as we needed to. We chatted about what would happen next. She would be cremated and it would take about two weeks. I told him, "This might be a weird question, but when she was a year old, she was hit by a car. The only way to fix her leg was to put in a titanium rod. What happens to that?" He told me that titanium wouldn't burn or melt, so we would get the ashes and her rod back. This kind of made me smile thinking about how we use to joke about stripping her and selling her for parts, or using her leg to make Hubs' wedding band if we didn't want to pay for platinum. We snuggled for a little while longer and talked about telling the kids. I asked again if there was something I should have seen or noticed, but he reminded me that he just went through this last year and he said, "I have my dog's blood drawn.." "More than your kids?" I offered. He smiled and said yes, but that the exact same thing happened to his dog. There's just no way to predict these things. I asked what happened next, and he said whenever I was ready, we'd just leave her on her little heated bed and they would take care of her from there.
I snuggled her a little while longer and told him I was ready. I gave her one more pat and a kiss, looked at the doctor and said, "She just looks like she's asleep." He agreed and offered to walk me to my car. I gently slipped off her collar and gathered my things. He walked me to the car and told me to call if I needed anything or had any questions. He even told me to call if things didn't go well with the kids and we needed to chat. I thanked him again for taking such good care of my baby, put her collar on the passenger seat with her leash and blanket.
I sobbed my way way home. I took her in at 10:20 am, and by 4:30 she was gone. I was in disbelief. I wanted to go home first to wash my face and put on my make up again before I walked next door to get the kids. And even though I was holding her collar in my hand, I still instinctively reached down to pet her when I walked in the door. I got myself together and went next door where my neighbor graciously poured me a glass of wine. We chatted a little about June, then the kids and I went home. As we walked in, Nugget asked where she was. I fought back tears as I reminded them that she was still in the hospital. I wanted to wait until Hubs got home and had some time to grieve before we told them. I did prep them that she was really sick. I told them that she hurt a lot, and I told her if she needed to go to heaven, that was ok, and we loved her.
NOOOOOOO!! Who's going to take care of her up there?!?!
I reminded them of all the people and dogs that had gone on before us. We talked about how Nana (Hub's grandmother) had a dog, but Nana was in heaven and would LOVE to have a puppy again.
I don't want her to go to heaven.
Hubs was able to make it home on an earlier flight, so the kids got to see him. We put them to bed and Strip and I spent a good 30 minutes telling June stories, telling her about the time June shredded a 24 mega-roll pack of Charmin. When I walked in my apt, it looked like it had snowed in my room. Then we laughed about how June and Taylor were puppies and dug a HUGE hole in my parent's yard and PaPa chased them around the backyard with a broom. We agreed to tell them in the morning. Hubs and I went downstairs to watch tv. When we were ready for bed, I (again out of habit) checked the back door. Of course it was still locked. No one had been outside since that morning. And I straightened up the family room where I found a cookie Nugget dropped while watching a movie. I teared up thinking about how June would have gobbled it up already and went to bed.
I didn't sleep well, and woke up at around 4. Sometime after 6, I finally fell asleep, only to wake up at 8:15 putting me pressed for time to get to work. I told Hubs we'd tell the kids later that afternoon. When I got home, I made lunch. As I went to get a cup of ice water, I tossed 5 cubes on my cup and one on the ground without thinking. Ice was one of June's favorite treats, so I'd toss her one every time I opened the freezer. I teared up again. I went to check my email and Strip saw a picture of June and started to ask about her again. I figured it was time to tell them. I had hoped that Strip would take it well, and Nugget would just be too young to understand.
I reminded them about how sick June was and how we had told her that it was ok to go to heaven if she needed to, and that last night she said she loved us very much and was so happy to have us as a family, but needed to go to heaven. Strip lost it. She screamed and started to cry. Sobbing on my shoulder, she asked why she had to go. I told her it was ok to be sad and it was ok to cry and it was ok to talk about her even though we wouldn't be able to see her any more. We still had pictures we could look at and videos. I reminded her that we had a great Christmas with her, and she got to play in the snow one last time. And in heaven, her leg wouldn't hurt anymore and she could run around like crazy, eating ice cubes and playing.
After a few minutes, she calmed down and asked what we were going to do with her bowls and mat and toys and things. I asked what she wanted to do with it and she said she didn't know. I told her we could put it all in a box in the basement or we could take it to PaPa and Ma's so they could have it when Taylor came to visit. She liked that idea. I told her I'd call a shelter to see if they could take June's food and she seemed ok with it.
I asked if she wanted to make a card for June and she did. She drew a big heart on the front with her name, then on the inside she drew a picture of her and June on one side and wrote a note on the other:
Dear June Bug,
I miss you so much. No matter where ever you are, I love you. I love you
always even when we're far a part. I always love you.
She asked how we could get a letter to heaven. I suggested we tie it to a balloon and send it up to her. Strip's response?
Nah. Then it would probably just land in someone's garden
and they would say, "Hey! What's this letter doing in my
So we agreed to mail it to heaven in an envelope.
It's going to take some time. Strip is saying how much she misses having a dog around and I do, too. It's amazing how the absence of a 45 lb dog can make a house feel so empty.
Thanks, June Bug, for being the greatest dog on Earth. We'll miss you.