Goodbye to a good friend

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It was almost 12 years ago. We had been thinking about getting a dog since we had just moved to a new house so I randomly opened pet finder to search and there she was. An adult female mostly Chow mix with the triangle head but a tan coat that was not long like a Chow. She was wearing an “Adopt Me” bandana which was a touch the shelter group added to certain dogs and it hooked me. Suddenly, I just knew this was the dog for me.
So, a couple of weeks later, we went to the pet store where this group sets up adoptions to see Chrissy and found out she was a hyper ball of energy just overstimulated by all the sights and sounds in the store. She had been looking for a home for 9 months because most people want puppies. We talked briefly and decided that yes, we wanted her and another dog (Dolly) because two seemed better than one.
At the home visit, Chrissy tore through the house – up and down stairs just taking it all in. Not sure what she was looking for but there just had to be something interesting in that next room and she just had to see. Dolly was a shy, scared, abused female who started following Chrissy around. I don’t know that Chrissy paid her much attention but Dolly was instantly bonded to her. As were we because that’s just the effect she had.
The first night, we tried to keep her in a crate but she wasn’t going to stand for that. That experiment lasted about 30 minutes and as I got out of bed to open the crate, she was standing up wagging her tail like crazy – not mad but just not wanting to be shut away. She weighed over 50 pounds but always thought she was a lap dog as she’d jump into the chairs with you even though she really didn’t fit. The day she first figured out how to navigate a path to our bed by first jumping on the chest at the foot and then climbing on was something she seemed especially proud of. She only ran out of the yard a few times early on. I remember getting in the car and finding her heading for home. I stopped the car and told her to get in but she ignored me – she could be very stubborn when she wanted to be.
She loved to play and run and walk in the park. Dolly tried but really didn’t understand the concept of play so I’d chase her around the house which was great fun for her. She was the alpha. Even when we had a stray male show up in the yard, she was the boss. Rocco was younger, bigger and stronger but she let him know that this was her house and he accepted his lower position. She was tough that way.
There was a time after Christmas, when she was just low and without energy and not herself. There had been a particularly tough play session with Rocco and we were worried she might have been hurt. Turns out that she was and fortunately, the vet pressed the right part of her stomach and found an enlarged spleen so she had her first surgery to remove it. The surgeon said we caught it just in time because when spleens rupture, the dog bleeds out before you can do anything and hers was close to that point.
Then, she started having issues on walks where she’d stop and be gasping for breath. We tried a few things but nothing seemed to help. On a particularly acute attack, we took her to the emergency vet and they diagnosed her with laryngeal paralysis and the emergency doc actually recommended putting her down because the treatment options were limited. Well, she was so full of life that was never an option. We tried just keeping her quiet but she was just too full of energy for that so there was a second surgery to tie back the part that didn’t function. She came through with flying colors and the surgeon just fell in love with her – she had that impact on people.
Things really started to go downhill one day when she jumped out of the car, landed wrong and came up lame. Turns out she had torn a tendon in her hind leg. We tried to keep her quiet. It would never heal but she could learn to adapt. But Chrissy was always in motion and she slipped once while running and actually ended up tearing a tendon in the other leg so now she couldn’t walk at all. Again, we were faced with a tough decision as she’d need surgeries on both legs and they couldn’t do both at once so it would be one first and then an 8-week recovery and then the second and another long recovery. For most of that, we’d have to carry her up and down the three stairs to get her outside. Well, that year we didn’t take a vacation so we could get the surgeries done and nurse her back to health. We were lucky that we could afford it but if you knew how she looked at me when I came home and how she was always happy to see me, you would know that I really had no choice but to do everything to help her.
She did heal up and was able to walk – just a little slower than normal. Her jumping days were over and she never went downstairs in the house after that. So I had to lift her in and out of the car for walks but she still loved her walks. And she would still get it in her every now and then to give Rocco a run for his money to show she was still top dog.
Five months ago, I awoke to see her struggling to get up and unable to do so. I got her up but she couldn’t get her head straightened out and she was unsteady on her feet. Another trip to the emergency vet and we found out she had a stroke and that triggered seizures so we had to put her on blood pressure and anti-seizure medicine. At this point, she had also gone deaf and had some real stiffness in her rear legs. They did a scan and found evidence of the stroke but also a large tumor in her nasal cavity.
We waited until she was recovered from the stroke and able to get up and move around before thinking about attacking the tumor. A couple of weeks ago, she went in for radiation which required one treatment per day for five days. She beat back the tumor and all seemed well. The doc even said she wished all her patients responded as well as Chrissy.
Last week we were on vacation and she went to the kennel where they baby her. We got back Saturday night but couldn’t pick them up until today. Yesterday, I awoke to find several voice mails from the kennel – they had taken her to the emergency vet because she was having trouble breathing. I instantly called there and found out she was on some meds and resting but an hour later they called to say her heart had stopped and she wasn’t breathing. We rushed to the vet and she was breathing but wasn’t responsive. As we walked in to see her, her heart stopped again. The vets rushed to start CPR, but we said no. It was time to let her go and so she is gone and there is a hole where she used to be.
They say that adopting a dog doesn’t change the world, but for that dog, it changes their world. And everyone tells us that we gave her a good life but she gave us so much more. You adopt a dog and they change your world. There is just something comforting about a living creature that just radiates unconditional love – that is always happy to see you no matter what kind of day you had. Some people have told me that she waited for us to get there before giving up. I don’t know if that is true but I’d like to think so. I don’t know what caused this because she had beat so many things and I’ve felt a little guilt about not being there and I’m questioning whether we could have done more but in my heart I know it was just time.
I don’t have any idea what, if anything, waits for us once we leave here. I’d like to think her spirit is somewhere free to run and play and do all the things she enjoyed doing. I hope there are people where she is because she loved everyone – although I don’t want her getting too attached because she’s still my dog.
Yesterday was rough and I cried every time I looked at a photo of her. It is still hard to think that she is gone and not coming back. I know this pain will fade and the cruel reality of owning a dog is that you are going to outlive them so I will face this same moment with the other two. I know I have a large number of happy memories to look back on and those will help but right now it is painful. I miss her terribly and I would give anything to see her looking at me with those eyes and that tail going.
Goodbye Chrissy – you were special and you made my life better. I knew you were the dog for me the first moment I saw your picture and you proved me right.

3 comments

  1. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I have a dog and I know the unconditional love they give you. I think I would not be able to stop crying….you wrote this post from your heart…I hope you know that Chrissy is in no pain and running around with no impairments, chasing balls, and sticks and butterflies…

  2. Awww, Wall. You made me cry. Got a book in mind for you. Will get the title and pass it along. Guy who wrote it is in my writing group. He’s collected stories of deceased animals who managed to let their care-takers (hate the word “owners”) let them know they were still around.

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