Born 12/2/1997, died 10/31/2014
I have lost a part of my heart.
In the middle of this past June, my beautiful girl was diagnosed with late-stage renal failure. We had also been doing some research on her mobility issues, and that same week figured out that she had been fighting degenerative myelopathy for the past 2 years or so. For the past 4 months, we have been giving her subcutaneous fluids and medications to help her with the renal disease, but nothing could stop the progression of the myelopathy.
However, we were dearly hoping she would make it to her birthday in December, because over the past decade she had taught me well that she could handle a LOT of obstacles. She tore her meniscus in 2006, and when the surgeon called me to tell me the results of the surgery, she also told me to not let her run anymore. I remember saying something along the lines of “I don’t think I can STOP her,” at which point the surgeon said “well she’s an old dog and you should start treating her like one!”
Amelia had no intention of letting me treat her like an old dog. 3 months after her surgery, she had no perceivable limp (one of the vets said “I can only say she favors that side if I want to be really uncharitable”) and was chasing the ball as usual.
She was also mostly blind since 2011, after losing one of her eyes to pigmentary uveitis in 2008 and having the lens of the other slowly occlude with pigment over the next 3 years. I thought this was the end of playing ball, but oh no…
She was still chasing the ball.
(and running down the hallway, and jumping, and spinning…)
She really only started to slow down when we moved to the Bronx. The park was not as close anymore, she had started coughing a lot, and it seemed her back legs were really bothering her. She was still happy to play and scamper, but the first issues were becoming evident… she was no longer jumping. Then she started losing weight.
Fast forward to this month. Even after losing 16 lbs due to not eating as much as she needed (she hated the renal diet), she was still able to play some on October 12th, when we took her back to her favorite park.
A week later, the 18th, she still wanted to play, but she could barely stand on her own, let alone dive after the ball. She fell over while playing in a local park and simply didn’t want to get up again. Falling over while playing was a source of frustration and depression for her.
Then, early in the morning on the 26th, she had a horrible seizure that lasted a minute too long.
We made the appointment.
I said to Jon “The only way I’ll change my mind is if she is able to play again.”
We plied her with McDonald’s french fries, which she used to only get when we traveled together, and little balls of butter so she would take her pills without needing to be force-fed. We gave her as many of her favorite Stella and Chewy’s patties as she wanted – we had had to stop giving them to her due to their high phosphorous content, but at this point, I was willing to give her anything to maybe let her gain back a few lbs to see if it helped her at all.
It didn’t. She wanted to play, but simply could not even pay attention to the ball without falling over.
This was taken on her last day. We took her to a safe patch of grass and held her ball for her. We picked her up the one time she fell and made sure she wouldn’t fall a second time. We let her stand and sniff.
And then we carried her to the vets, gave her as many treats as she wanted to eat, and we said goodbye.
~ * ~
I’ve written all of this in a semi-dry narrative fashion because I have spent so much time crying over this past week that it hurts. Laying out the map of events makes the tears lighter, makes the sobs quieter.
But I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t share the easing of grief we experienced on Saturday.
Jon and I both (separately, we didn’t discuss it) started feeling weirdly guilty, like we had somehow made the decision to say goodbye because we were tired of caring for her and tired of spending the money needed to maintain her in the most comfortable manner that we could. I don’t know what made me do it, but I went to my phone and I took a look at the earliest videos I had of her.
Like this one.
It was… transformative. I saw the dog that I suddenly realized I had been waiting to come back to me. I saw a dog that took such joy in making you laugh. I saw the goofball that she had stopped being earlier this year.
And I realized that what we did was right. It was even the right time. We tried our hardest to give her back that delight, but there was nothing we could do, and there was no way to fix it even though we could now see in hindsight she was asking us to fix it so she could play again.
So we gave her the best possible last experience she could have, and made sure she would never fall again.
~ * ~
Earlier today, I was going through Amelia’s Facebook page to get some dates correct. Facebook sometimes gives you prompts, and I saw this:
“What are some of your favorite memories?”
1. One of my favorite memories of being with Amelia is a Valentine’s Day while I was still in my 1st Park Slope apartment. I can’t remember precisely what I was doing, but I was carrying some large amount of stuff into my apartment. Amelia was, I thought, quietly playing with some rawhide. But when I locked the door and looked down at the remains? There was a perfectly-chewed little heart, made out of a paper napkin.
That was one of the most awesome coincidences I ever saw.
2. Amelia had a several-year “no pictures” phase, and made it very difficult for me to catch her in good poses. So it was quite a treat when, on my birthday one of those years, she let me take this:
3. So my girl hated baths & showers. She REALLY hated baths & showers. But post-bath? SO CRAZY.
For those of you who’ve read this far, thank you. I will never not have a hole in my heart, but sharing this amazing girl’s life helps.