Friday, August 15, 2014

Sorry I've Been MIA...



I apologize for disappearing without a word this week.  A couple days ago, our beloved furry family member of 9 years had a massive seizure right in front of me and my husband.  We took him to our vet right away.

For the next 11 hours, he would have several violent and heart-wrenching seizures even while he was on some super strong anti-seizure medication at the animal clinic.  I had never witnessed a seizure was terrifying for us and our dog and he was in excruciating pain.

Up until that minute, Cash had always been a very healthy, energetic collie.  There was no indication at all that anything was ever wrong.  We ran as many tests as possible and the vet concluded he had a brain tumor. 

We had to make the impossible decision to put Cash to sleep.  Cash, our baby of nine years.  Our friend and companion that we had adopted when we first moved in together.  He was there for every place we lived, our engagement, our wedding, my very high-risk pregnancy where he would just lay next to me while I was on bedrest for nine months, welcoming our son to the family, the purchase of our very own home.  Cash was patient with my sister's dog while she lived with us for a year...a dog who usually didn't like other dogs.  And they became friends and would play together.  Cash welcomed our other dog, Rocky, to the family when we needed to take him in six years ago.

Cash and my son became buddies.  "Cash" was my son's first word.  Now, at nearly 2 years old, my son would climb all over Cash and try to ride him like a horse.  All day long, my son would follow Cash around the house, petting him, "giving him love."  My son tries to do the same thing with our little dog, but the little dog usually takes off running.  Not Cash.  Cash would cover my son with kisses, he would cover all of us with kisses. 

My son would "read" to Cash, blow bubbles for him, and share whatever activities I had cooked up for the day.  Just a few weeks ago, we were playing with flour and my son had the fun idea to cover Cash with the flour.  Cash just took it like a champ, loving the attention.

He was in tune with us.  He would come and lay his head on our lap when we were sad.  He would jump on us and playfully run around our home when we were happy.  Cash was my protector and made me feel safe when my husband was working nights at his last job.  He was a good guard dog, only barking when there was a real possible threat...not barking at squirrels or other dogs. 

Cash was my best friend when I felt like no one else in the world understood.  He got my through my beloved Uncle's death four years ago.  He had been the closest thing I had ever had to a dad and I took it especially hard.  My husband was working 60+ hours at that job so most days I was home just mourning all alone...with Cash at my side.  He would cover me with kisses or nudge my hand so I could pet him.  He was lay down next to me, raising up his eyebrow now and then to check if I was ok.

I've worked from home for about 8 years now, so Cash and I were together literally 24/7 nearly every day of the week.  He would lay under my desk, and I would rub his back with my feet.  In the winter, I'd keep my toes under his very warm body.

Before my pregnancy, I would take Cash on super long walks all over the neighborhood.  When he would give me his "goofy face" with his tongue rolling out the side of his mouth, I'd know it was time to return home.  I mustered up the courage to take him on his first walk with my son last week since we moved to our new home.  I had felt bad that he hadn't gone for a walk in a long time, despite having a backyard with dogs on both sides to interact.  But it was very hard imagining taking him on walks with my two year, especially since people like to let their dogs roam free in our neighborhood. 

But we went for the first time last week, and it was so much easier than I thought it would be.  He wasn't pulling me like he used to, and my son spent the entire half hour talking to Cash.  I now feel guilty I hadn't given it a try earlier in the summer.  I have a feeling that guilt will haunt me for a long time to come, but I can at least tell myself we went once. I had planned to take him the day before his seizure, but the weather was damp and rainy and I didn't want to take my son out in it.

He loved Kongs stuffed with peanut butter with little bits of dog treats broken up in it.  As he got older though, his stomach was more sensitive.  Yesterday I had a breakdown because I feel horrible for not bringing him one last Kong.  My brain knows he probably wouldn't have been interested in it...still though....I can't believe it never crossed my mind.

Our life together flashed before my eyes and time stood still when we had to decide whether or not to put him to sleep.  I felt stuck in an impossible decision.  It was very clear he was in severe pain.  He wasn't himself.  His seizures wouldn't stop, even when they had on the strongest anti-seizure medicine around.  They seizures woud last five to ten minutes with him crying, his mouth opening so wide we could hear his jaw pop, his huge 70 lb body twisting and turning in ways it shouldn't.

We tried to do everything we could, spending our entire savings and money we had earmarked for a vacation in three weeks.  There was nothing more the doctor could do.  I asked for his opinion, he said if it were his dog, he would decide to end the suffering.  He said it with tears in his eyes.  He told us his heart was breaking for us.

I asked about bringing him home.  They didn't think it was a good idea.  Cash was on an iv and when he would have a seizure, they would up the dosage to help him break out of it.  There was a good chance that if he came home, he would have a seizure that he wouldn't be able to get out of.  That night, in those eleven hours, he had had between six and ten massive seizures lasting up to ten minutes each.

I didn't want him to hurt anymore.  But at the same time, I kept thinking to myself he could get better...had to get better.  What if it was just something that would pass?

Years ago, our little daschund mix, Rocky, slipped several discs in his back.  He couldn't move or feel his tail or back legs.  A different vet had told us to put him down.  There was no chance at him ever walking again.  He was in pain.  He would not have any quality of life.  I decided to take it upon myself to do what I could to heal Rocky.  I was going to be stubborn and so no...I would not put him down.  I was going to see what I could do and if he would never be able to walk again, we would get him a doggie wheelchair.  It was a depressing, emotional time.  I found exercises online...spent every minute of free time doing those exercises with Rocky.  And one year later, he was walking.  And he runs.  And jumps.  I have to stop him from activities where he can hurt himself.  You would never know that he was paralyzed years ago and was given a horrible diagnosis. 

That gave me hope...and guilt...about Cash.  Was there a way I could fix Cash?  What if this was the same thing...a vet telling me there was no hope but I could find a way to heal him?  But then, this was a brain tumor.  Rocky had an injury.  Cash had a tumor.  Worlds of difference to most people.  And I kept asking myself, what would I be able to do for him?

And then Cash had another massive seizure.  He was crying, hurting.  My baby was in so much pain right in front of me.  And we made the heart breaking decision there was only one thing we could do for him and that was give him rest.

We said our goodbyes.  We brought my niece so our son could give Cash love one last time, but she would take him to the lobby when Cash got the actual injection.  My husband held Cash while they gave the injection and I just held his paw and pet his leg saying "We love you, Cash" over and over.  That was Wednesday morning.  Two days ago.  An eternity ago. 

I have been crying ever since.  My eyes are nearly swollen shut.  My husband is the same.  Our son just keeps saying "Cash" over and over again.  Fortunately, he's not sad...I think he's too young to understand what's going on, and maybe in some ways that's a good thing, but he calls for Cash to let him outside, or let him back in, or to give Cash his food. 

My son seems to be a little more upset this morning about Cash being gone.  He went from room to room calling Cash's name.  When we let our little dog out, my son almost ran out the house yelling for Cash.  I just tell him he's in heaven, but don't know how to explain it any further.  So I brought out some pictures of Cash.  And it seems to be helping.  Right now, they are just on the computer, and my son keeps walking over and petting the picture of Cash on the screen saying "Good" then "Bye Bye."  And he walks away and comes right back for another picture.

Our little dog has been very depressed.  We brought him with us to the clinic to say bye to Cash.  Cash got happy when he saw Rocky...and Rocky climbed all over him as usual.  They were the best of friends.  And I feel so bad for Rocky because I know he will miss his best buddy/brother.

For the last couple years, the two dogs had slept together in the same bed.  But I brought out Rocky's old crate just in case he wasn't ready for the shared bed.  And he's been sleeping in his old crate.

I have been going back and forth between having immense guilt over our having immense guilt that I didn't notice any signs leading up to the seizure.  Maybe if there was something, I could have prevented it?  I feel awful that when he had his first seizure, I got scared and stood a "safe" distance from Cash because I was afraid he would bite me.  He had NEVER shown ANY sign of aggression towards me and I should have known better.  I just didn't know what was happening at first.

And I have this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach...what if it wasn't a brain tumor?  The clinic ruled out just about everything else.  I had questioned what if it was something he ate?  They said they had ruled out all toxins with their tests.  He had lots and lots of tests so the vet was convinced it was a brain tumor given his age, the severity and rapid succession of the tumors, and the fact he didn't have a fever, no gastrointestinal upset, etc.  But the only way to truly know it was a brain tumor was to get an MRI of the brain.  Which would cost a little over $5,000.  Which we don't have.  And then that would just prove it was a brain tumor and there would be nothing more we could do.  But still, I keep second guessing myself...asking what if it WASN'T a brain tumor and he would have gotten better?

I feel guilty that I didn't bring him his peanut butter for one last time.  I doubt he had breakfast at the clinic that morning and it's eating me up even though the logical part of my brain knows he would probably not have been interested and they probably couldn't give it to him for medical reasons.

I feel horrible for giving up on him.  Not giving him a chance like I gave Rocky.  I am beating myself up over it.  Rationale has gone out the window.

I am super defensive because I know there are many people who have never had a pet or do not understand the bond.  Or the grieving that goes with the loss.

My mind is in denial.  I am still trying to cope with my beloved friend having a horrific seizure...let alone a brain tumor or being put to sleep.  My brain keeps saying "I hope he gets better...I know he'll get better."  My sister tells me it's a defense mechanism...I have to handle things chronologically.  But I'm stuck at the first step.

It all happened so fast.  We already have his urn with his ashes in the family room.  And THAT sent me into a crying mess.  I did not expect to have them the next day.  I figured it would be a week or two.  And I would have to get a picture...mentally prepare myself as best as possible...but that didn't happen.  I know I should be relieved that his ashes are back with me and I don't have to wonder about where he is and the sane part of my brain feels that way, but the rest of me is just on an emotional rollercoaster.

I am pissed beyond belief it had to end this way.  I mean, I know Cash wasn't a puppy.  We adopted him 9 years ago.  At the time, they told us they knew he was at least two years old, but could have been older.  They weren't sure.  So we never really knew his age.  But he always acted young...running around the house, jumping up on us, hopping in the snow.  And this year, I felt very aware of the fact that our time was dwindling.  We were on the other side of the slope. And the ONLY reason I was so aware of that fact was because there were a few different people who asked how old he long we had had him.  I didn't want to do the math.  But he never once acted old.  Didn't have arthritis or illnesses or ailments, etc.  I should find comfort in that.  I know that.  And I will eventually find comfort in that.  But today is not that day.

But I thought we still had at least a couple years.  Still though...for it to end this way...I cannot get the image of his seizures out of my mind.  They are so vivid and heart-breaking.  Why did it have to happen this way?  And to have to look into my best friend's eyes and decide to end his suffering...end his life...why?  I mean, seriously?!?!  I felt it was a very unfair choice from God or whatever higher power decided to make it that way.

I am sick to my stomach, an emotional mess.  I'm trying to hold it together for my son.  I know it's ok for your kids to see your cry, but not breaking down falling on the floor weeping.  I don't want to scare him.  I've had a headache for a couple days now, haven't been eating, haven't been sleeping.

We had been planning a roadtrip to Minnesota the last couple months.  We had been saving for a while before that.  I would check Groupon and the daily deal sites every single day since June for activities and restaurants.  And I've made quite a few purchases along the way.  It was going to be OUR first family vacation.  My husband and I have NEVER been on vacation before without either of our extended families.  We thought it would be good for our son too.  And we NEVER would have given it a second thought to use all that vacation money to save Cash's life.  But the cruel joke is we used to save his life...and still couldn't save it.

I did have a sense of peace and relief come over me when my husband came home with Cash's ashes.  It didn't last very long and I was back on the emotional rollercoaster before long.

Every once in a while I get a little bit of comfort knowing that Cash was never alone from the time his seizures happened until the end.  I don't know what made my husband and I stay awake till 11:30 pm when we both had to wake up at 5 the next morning, but if we hadn't, Cash would have been having seizures all night long by himself.  That thought makes me sick. 

And we were able to get him medical attention right away.  (The cyncical part of me which rarely makes an appearance wants to say, "And what good did that do?" but I'm trying to ignore all that and know it's just grief.)  And we were able to be with him in the very end and hold him and tell him we love him.  All things I should be grateful for.  But at this point, it's a hallow thankfulness.

At this point, I'm just an emotional, crying mess missing my friend and family member.  At this point, I'm feeling horrible about our decision and wondering if I gave up too fast.  At this point, I'm wondering if we made the right call.  My brain knows we did, but my heart doesn't feel it.  At this point, when I close my eyes, I see Cash having painful seizures and crying and looking so scared and lost.  Time has stood still in a lot of ways.  I'm having trouble remembering any memories.  My husband has been recounting some of them with me and each one feels like a light bulb going off in my head...bringing light to the dark shroud I'm in.  But then a few minutes go back and back to replaying the seizures and second guessing myself.

It helps to know my husband feels we made the right decision.  He saw Cash as his kid and would have never given up on him or came to his decision if it wasn't our only option.  But I still keep blaming myself.  It's all part of the grieving process I suppose.

I feel horrible that I didn't say "Thank you" to Cash for all that he was to me.  I kept telling him I loved him and going over our times together, but I never thanked him for being my best friend, my confidante, my companion, my protector.  Because I am so very grateful to him for being all those things and more for nine years.  Nearly one third of my life.  I cannot imagine life without a him and there will always be a huge hole in my heart...and in our home.




I love you, Cashy Washy.  We will miss you beyond belief.

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