Tuesday, August 29, 2017

ONE MONTH + ONE DAY SINCE DUKE

Yesterday marked one month since Duke crossed the rainbow bridge. I've been doing fine (I think) for the past couple of weeks. I still miss him, and my heart yearns to hold him at times, but I'm no longer in constant physical and mental pain like I was the first few days.


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For now, Clark and I aren't planning to get another dog--maybe we never will. It's not that I don't love dogs, or that I don't care about rescuing a deserving pup out there. We went for two years not taking any trips because Duke was not a good traveler at all. We used to leave him with our daughter, but after they got Bruno the boxer two years ago, Duke and Bruno just did not mix. Bruno and Sunny are fine, and are good buds now--in fact, Sunny annoys the mess out of Bruno, but he is still gentle with her and puts up with her puppy shenanigans.









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We are also older than we were when we brought Duke home as a little puppy ten years ago. I miss his love, his companionship, his comical ways, and his PRESENCE. No other dog will ever take his place, and honestly, I'm not inclined to start over with another dog. Since March when he had his back surgery, we spent literally thousands of dollars trying to get him well, up to and including his stay in the vet hospital for his autoimmune disease that ultimately caused his death. We would do it all again in a heartbeat, but we really don't have the financial resources to spend that kind of money on another pet. I'm not seeking sympathy or pity at all, just stating facts as they are for us.

He was one in a million. People always commented on how smart he was, and he really was that intelligent. When I talked to him, I know he understood everything I said. We even resorted to spelling words in front of him so he wouldn't know we were talking about the grandchildren coming to visit (he'd get too excited, expecting them to come in the door any second), or about what we were having for dinner (a true chow hound), or that the mailman was on our street. Yep, he was a doggie genius to us, anyway!

He was never exactly right after his back surgery. Clark and I have looked back on that time from March until July when he was in the vet hospital. He did regain the use of his back legs and could walk and run, but it was wobbly. We were thankful he could do that much. But he never really acted like he felt that good. In fact, a couple of weeks before we found out his platelet count was dangerously low, he was more tired and draggy than he had been. We still have no idea what caused his platelet count to dip so low, and science cannot determine the reasons for autoimmune disease yet. There are speculations, of course, but there are no true answers.

Image may contain: dogI am still sad at his loss. I am still sad that he had to suffer. And I am still missing him so much. People who have never felt this deeply at the loss of a pet cannot understand. I don't blame them or bear them any ill will, because I didn't understand, either, until it happened to us. You do get better over such a loss, but I know I will never be the same as I was before, when Duke was here with me on a daily basis. My family is wonderful, and I know they love me unconditionally as well. I am not putting Duke above them, but I must admit that no human can replace the special bond one has with such a beloved pet. I never felt such a strong bond with any previous pet I've had. That doesn't make my family less important, but it is on a different plane, a different experience, a different connection. If you have loved and lost a soul pet, you know what I mean. That is the best I can explain what has transpired regarding Duke and me.

I am carrying on my life as before, but without Duke in it. The fact that he was my constant companion for ten years makes it harder than if I had only seen him once a week or once a month somewhere else. He was in our home daily, he made me laugh daily, and he gave me the opportunity to experience how special the friendship of an animal truly is. And for that experience, I will always be grateful. I'm closing the chapter of his life here now, probably never to write of it again on this blog. Your prayers and kindness have meant so much and have helped so much. My faith in God has sustained me through the worst of it and will continue to do so.

But I will always wish he were still here with me.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

CUTE DACHSHUND MEMES FOR TODAY:

Happy Monday, doxie lovers! Hope you had a great weekend.  Mondays being what they are (I'm retired and STILL don't like Mondays!). here's a little pick-me-up for your day. 

Enjoy these cutie patooties!


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Dachshunds . . . you gotta love 'em, and even laugh at 'em!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

GOOD-BYE, UNCLE HERMAN

My last living uncle, Herman Lambert, passed away last night, surrounded by his family at the hospice facility where he was residing following a fall. He had been in declining health for the past year. He was 87 years old.

His family was with him in the hospice facility, and they got to tell him good-bye "until later." He was my late mother's last living sibling--there were ten of them. Clark and I will be traveling to the funeral, which will be this Saturday in North Carolina. As far as I know (some of them died many years ago), all of the brothers and sisters are now together with our Lord.
Uncle Herman was always so cheerful! Although I didn't often see my relatives much growing up because of Dad's military career, Herman loved to tell stories, entertaining young and old alike. He was always humming some tune or other, or singing as he worked in they yard, and he and my mother were close in age (he was three years younger) as well as in friendship. Until this past year, he played the guitar in a group of his cronies who got together regularly to make music and fellowship.
Please remember in prayer Aunt Betty Ruth, cousins Teresa and Gary, the grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

The pictures below are from my mother's funeral in 2013:

L to R: Uncle Herman, wife Betty, my cousin Kathy;
my brother Steve and I are on the back row

Herman regaling us with one of his stories

With our daughter Bethany

With our daughter Holly

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

DUKE'S MEMORIAL WALL

Duke's memorial wall in our home office is shaping up nicely. Below are the items in total:


  • A small picture on the right, one of my favorites of him, which we named "Sly Duke"; 
  • His paw print plaque just above the red heart flag: it's round and white, so it's hard to see in this picture below, but it includes his paw print taken just after he passed - it is also inscribed with his name and a heart;
  • The large picture on the left is a 16 x 20 print given to us by our daughter Holly - our daughter Bethany took this picture last Christmas;
  • His collar, which Duke wore for several years, encircles his paw print plaque.

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RIP 06/28/07 ~ 07/28/17


Will we add anything to this wall? Perhaps. There are a number of great pictures of him, but I can't put them all on the wall. 

How are we doing, almost a month after Duke's passing? Much, much better, although we still miss him so much. According to other pet lovers who've lost a pet, you never get completely over the loss of a beloved pet. I agree. I do fine during the day, but at night when I'm trying to go to sleep, my mind wants to remember Duke, so it's hard for me to go to sleep still. Normally, I sleep rather well, and I anticipate that this area will also get better as time goes by.

The terrible sadness and pain don't visit me very often now; I try to stay busy to keep my mind from those sad images at the end when he was so sick and suffering so much. I WANT THOSE GONE, but that, too, will take time.

Dachshunds . . . you gotta love 'em.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

EIGHTEEN DAYS AND COUNTING


You can bet that Clark was probably eating something
as he took this picture of Duke. Look who's REALLY
interested in looking at Clark (not the camera), lol

Right after Duke crossed the rainbow bridge, I thought I wanted to write a book documenting the days immediately before and after his death. Why? I wanted to share my grief with others who were going through the same thing--to let them know that they weren't nuts, and that there WERE others who had also struggled with the death of a beloved pet. When I was growing up, our family usually had dogs, often dachshunds. I felt sad when something happened to each one of them, but never to the degree of my grief over Duke. Some pets come along that become far more--I like to call them soul pets, much in the same way we have soul mates in friends or spouses. Duke was my soul pet.

Society has not totally accepted such grief over a mere pet. In my research, I am finding that this attitude is changing, and for that, I am glad. Therefore, I sat down yesterday and brought all my blog posts and other notes together to paste them into one Word document for my rudimentary manuscript. As I did so, it got harder and harder to continue, so I finally stopped, in tears. You see, it is just too soon to go back over all that pain and grief: his illness, his suffering, and most of all, his passing. It's more than I can deal with right now.

Therefore, the 8,000+ words I have for that book-to-be will have to wait, because I am simply not ready to shape it into a manuscript right now. The pain is too fresh, the tears flow too easily, and his suffering is still too real. Perhaps someday I'll be able to handle it, because I truly believe there is too little material out there for grieving pet parents. There are even pet grief meetings, similar to grief care meetings when people lose a loved one. I don't particularly want to attend those, because I know I'll be fine eventually. I'll never be the same as I was before, because the death of a loved one, be it of a human or a pet, changes you in ways you never imagined.

Duke barking at something in the
yard--probably a squirrel or a bird
I loved Duke far more than I realized before all this happened. I counted on him for his companionship when Clark subbed (substitute taught) several days a week, so it was just Duke and me all day.  He knew how to give it abundantly, as most dachshunds do. Dogs are just special in that way! As I sit here typing this post, I am reminded that Duke was always on the bed over there, as I've written in a previous post. Sometimes he would nap (he wasn't a "morning dog" after his puppy stage). Sometimes, if I kept working on a manuscript too long, he would stretch, crawl over to me with his back legs stretched out behind him (doxie lovers, you're familiar with that doxie stretch), and stare at me. If I took no notice, he'd let out a little bark or whine to get my attention: he was ready for me to play with HIM or rub HIS back--not sit there staring at the computer screen. I suppose he often wondered what I was staring at!


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Duke at age two or three
Friends and family have been very kind--both here in town as well as across the country and on social media--if some think I am nuts right now, at least they have kept that thought to themselves, and I appreciate it. Others have called, sent us beautiful sympathy cards, and I know they've prayed for us. As a Christian, I know the Lord cares for us and desires to comfort us in our grief, and that is worth far more than suffering alone! After all, He created these lovely animals and put them in our care. Dogs, in particular, have loved/been loved by us for centuries. In addition, people have had all sorts of other animals for pets, too: foxes, wolves, horses, deer, goats, sheep, cows, pigs, turtles, snakes, lions, tigers, monkeys--even spiders (shudder)--although it's debatable as to how much love some of those show to humans!

In any case, so many types of animals apparently want to show love to humans. I recently saw a video on Facebook of a diver who encountered a seal while diving, so he began scratching its belly and rubbing its head. That seal loved the attention! It rubbed its head against the face of the diver, doing all it could to show friendliness. I've always thought their faces looked like dogs, anyway. I've gone off on a tangent here, but I believe we've only scratched the surface of the amazing animal kingdom and what they know and understand about us. I do know that dogs can sense our moods and emotions, often catering to our sadness or sickness, seeking to comfort us. Duke always knew when I was upset or ill, and he stuck right by my side until I felt better. He would lick my hand or my face, his way of showing he cared and that things would be okay.

Clark is subbing for a half day today, my first at being here alone. Our grandson was staying with us last week when Clark subbed for the first time this school year. Oh, I'm a big girl and generally never mind being by myself--it's just the "Duke thing" that makes it so hard right now. EVERYTHING reminds me of my doxie:

when we:
  • leave the house, he isn't here for us to make sure he'll be fine while we're gone;
  • come home, he isn't here to bark his joyous greeting and wag his tail, so happy to see us;
  • eat, nobody's staring at us, begging for a bite (or more) of our food;
  • finish our meals, he isn't here to lick out our plates (he considered that one of his privileges) so well that we COULD put them back in the cabinet, and nobody would be the wiser (no, we wouldn't do that!!);
  • have family here, there's no Duke to do the happy dance welcoming them into our home;
Well, you get the idea, and you could probably add dozens more situations to my list.

My corner in this office dedicated to Duke is growing: I've added a smaller photo of him, and will add his footprint plaque when I decide how I want to display it. There are several more photos I want to print out and frame, so I'll add those as well.

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The grands, Duke, and moi:
they were spending the night
at our house
I've learned in these eighteen days that grief has its own timetable. You think you're gonna beat it, then some tiny little thing you see or hear will remind you of your pet, and you're back to where you were at the beginning. Each day I wake up, I feel fine until it hits me: Duke isn't here--I'm not over him yet. Those first three or four days were the worst I've ever experienced: the physical pain of grief is unbelievable to anyone who has never experienced that. Other pet lovers tell me that they have never gotten over their loss--they have just learned to live with it. That's what I'm still working on.

Monday, August 14, 2017

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, FALL 2017



How, I ask, do grandchildren grow up so fast?? At least, that's how it seems to us about our grands. They are already 13, 11, and 7. Being the doting grandma that I am, here are photos of their first day, which happens to be TODAY:










Grandchildren . . . you gotta love 'em!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

MEMENTOS OF DUKE

Duke "resting" with Clark


We've created a dedicated space to Duke on a wall in our home office, placing beloved mementos of him there.

Below is a picture showing three of them: on the left is a 16 x 20 print of Duke, my favorite of him, provided by our daughter Holly. Our daughter Bethany took that picture of him last Christmas when she and hubby Kurt were here with us. Duke was sitting on Clark's lap, perching himself on Clark's knee. Clark was at one end of the couch, Bethany was at the other. 

Can you guess what Duke was staring at so intently in that picture below? Since doxies are notorious chow hounds, you probably had no trouble guessing--yes, Kurt had gone into the kitchen, which is in the direction of Duke's gaze. He was watching and listening in the hope of snagging a morsel of whatever snack was forthcoming. Ah, Duke . . . you never missed a thing regarding food, did you, buddy? I was in my recliner, which was in the other direction, and I vividly recall Bethany taking that picture, not knowing at the time that it would be our memorial picture to Duke. Little memories such as this one cause pain at times, because it still hurts that he's not here. When I'm a bit stronger, this memory will bring a smile.


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On the right is the heart flag a dear friend in North Carolina sent us as soon as she heard of Duke's passing. A dog lover herself, she had lost her beloved doxie many years ago, and she told us she remembered the sharp pain of loss and wanted to do something for us. The lovely flag already means so much to us, because it's message is exactly how Clark and I feel. The flag is suspended by Duke's red leash.

We're planning to add other mementos to commemorate Duke's beautiful life of unconditional love: his last collar that he wore for several years, and the plaque bearing his clay paw print that the veterinary hospital obtained for us right after his passing. The plaque also has his name impressed into the clay as well as a heart. To preserve the plaque, the printed instructions said to bake it at 275
degrees for about 20 minutes. That's another special memento we will cherish always. I loved Duke's paws; when he was younger, the tan in his coat was a rich cinnamon color, a beautiful contrast to his shiny black. 

Why didn't I realize just how beautiful he was then? To answer my own question, I didn't think about being where we are today: without him. Oh, we knew that time would come "someday," but even before his back surgery was necessary in March, he was always so healthy and active. We thought we'd have him at least for a few more years. Part of our pain has come from the sudden way his autoimmune disease came on. We had him less than a week after he got sick and the blood test revealed his low platelet count, something that never improved with the medication he was given to combat that. 

I admit that I haven't yet placed his collar on the wall with his other mementos because I've wanted to keep it close to me when we finally located it after his death. Neither of us could remember where it was, and I sent a text message to our daughter Holly asking her about it, because I felt something akin to panic when we couldn't find it. I desperately wanted to keep that collar, a more personal memento than a photo or anything else of his. She told us where it was, and said she had mentioned that to Clark on the day Duke was buried. It was a sad day, and something he didn't remember until she reminded him. Clark had dug Duke's grave, made a wooden box for him and painted it, and cleared away vines around the area BEFORE we left the house at 11:00 a.m. to drive to Athens for our appointment to have Duke relieved of his suffering. Clark obviously had a lot on his mind that day, he was tired, and of course upset over all that was going on. 

We have other wonderful pictures of Duke that I will eventually add to the wall. I failed to mention in previous posts that Holly had also given us a picture album of Duke's photos, ranging from his cute little puppy stage up to his recent months before we even knew he was sick. There are dozens of his pictures in this album, something we treasure.

Kurt and Bethany are providing the engraved stone for Duke's grave, just as they provided one for Shadow's grave. We will place it on his resting place when it arrives, a very special memento given
with love. Duke was always thrilled when they came, since Kurt would get down on the floor and roughhouse with him, and Bethany would give him lots of attention. They loved Duke, too.

Why am I including all these details in this post, you ask? Because I want to preserve and remember them. I suppose a part of my heart is afraid I'll forget. I've had a few days this week that I haven't cried, but not a day has gone by since July 28 that I haven't been at least close to tears every single day. Normally, I'm not the type to cry; I seldom cry at sad movies or TV shows, and unless something really traumatic happens, I just don't cry. That's not my nature. But losing Duke has opened a floodgate of tears that I can't hold back, but I don't even try to stop them. There's something cleansing about releasing tears of pain, and heaven knows I want to rid myself of this pain in my heart since Duke died.

Today was Clark's first day back in school as a substitute teacher, and I dreaded it, because Duke was always such good company when Clark was gone all day. But our seven-year-old grandson is spending a few days with us, and we've had such fun together. 

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Our grandson today at the local inflatables
place which he loves

People have been so kind. Some friends from church invited us out to dinner recently to show they cared, even giving me a beautiful pink hibiscus plant. We've received a number of sympathy cards, something I don't find odd at all that they are because of our dog's death. Our grief is real, and it hurts.

People I don't know personally have private messaged me on Facebook to let me know they are sorry for our loss, and many of them are pet lovers who understand how we feel.

We'll always miss Duke, but he was such a strong personality, there's no way we will ever forget how much he added to our lives. And for that, we will always be thankful.

Dachshunds . . . you will always love them.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

BEACH DOXIES

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"Ahhhhhh . . . I love being pampered at the beach!"

Soakin' up some rays

Happiness is sand up your nose!

Dachshunds . . . you gotta love 'em in every habitat!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

WORKING THROUGH IT

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One Christmas several years ago: I am holding Duke,
and Clark is holding Shadow. We miss them so much

I talked to a friend from church on the phone last night for 45 minutes! Her husband had had surgery, so we hadn't talked since Duke crossed the rainbow bridge on July 28. They have two basset hounds, and as a fellow dog lover, she understood how devastating it has been for us in the loss of our doxie.

If you know someone who has lost a beloved pet, give them some time to adjust. We grieve the same as in the loss of a family member, because our pets ARE family members. Never--and I repeat--never belittle or laugh off their grief, because trust me, it is real. When we own pets, we take our responsibilities seriously, as God has entrusted their care to us: we feed them, bathe them, give them their medications when warranted, play with them, hold them when they are sick or injured, and get them the necessary medical treatment when they need it. We take them to the vet for regular checkups and shots, have their teeth cleaned and their toenails clipped, and if their coats are long, have them groomed. In short, we do just about anything for them that we've done for our own children. Therefore, in many ways, our pets become like our own children. 

What have our dogs given us in return? For one thing, lots of fun. Duke made me laugh every single day, sometimes over and over! Companionship. Devotion. Lots of other things, but as all pet lovers know, unconditional love.

Clark and I are gradually working through our grief; I am still very sad at times, but the wonderful memories are beginning to take up more time than the sadness of his passing. I have lost other pets, but Duke was such a special and loving dog that I've felt much deeper grief than I did with others. 

Cherish your time with your pets, because it will be over far sooner than you'd like.

Dachshunds . . . you gotta love 'em.

Duke when he was little. He was staring at me as I
ate a snack. Guess what he wanted!!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"CONVERSATION" WITH DUKE

Look at that doxie face! Can you tell that Duke was
NOT happy that he'd just had a bath?? LOL

I typed "conversation" in quotes in the post title, because it was mostly one sided on my part, of course. Oh, Duke was brilliant, but not even he could speak human. But . . . he could communicate with his eyes, his body language, his facial expressions, and especially his barks and sounds. You know exactly what I mean, doxie lovers.

We took Duke to the veterinarian hospital on Monday, July 24, so this "conversation" must have taken place a few days prior, between what we thought was just an upset tummy and the obvious signs that he needed to be taken to the hospital pronto. Therefore, it probably Wednesday or Thursday of the previous week.  I don't know why I feel that I must pinpoint the date, but it seems important to me.

He was sitting on my lap, as he often did, and he obviously didn't feel very good. After he had thrown up his breakfast of dog food and a little scrambled egg that morning, he just lay around, acted tired,
and we had to coax him to go out. His low blood platelet count had already begun well before that, unbeknownst to us then. That day, he had positioned himself so he could see out the front windows of our living room, because he was as nosy as any neighborhood gossip ever was! He was always on the lookout for cars on our street, especially the mailman. Also squirrels, cats, rabbits, humans, leaves--you name it. I often said he'd bark at a speck of dust dancing in the air.


But I digress. As he sat in my lap, having propped himself up on the arm of my recliner, I felt sad for him. He looked unwell, and it was more than an upset tummy. I said, "Dukie, you are such a good boy, you know. Feel better so you can go outside and chase those squirrels you see out there." He perked up and barked, but didn't want to go outside as he usually did when one of those keywords set him off. I continued: "We love you so much." Turning his head, he looked at me, wagging his tail. For some inexplicable reason, the tears began rolling down my face. He licked my hand. He always did that to reassure his humans that "everything is gonna be okay." But it didn't work--I had a feeling in my heart that he wasn't going to be all right.

When I could, I continued talking to him, repeating myself: "Dukie, I love you so much, and I don't want you to leave us yet. Please don't get sicker. Stay here with us a few more years. We have so many more good times ahead of us. You make life so much fun." He he was watching me as I spoke. I knew my voice was full of emotion and pain, and I felt silly. I didn't know, at least factually, that anything else was wrong with him, other than my gut feeling.

"Remember when we picked you out of all those other doxies when you were a little puppy?" (Of course he didn't.) "You were the only little black-and-tan male
Eight weeks old: the day we
brought him home
puppy they had, and I wanted one like Shadow." His ears perked up again, because he remembered his buddy well. "You came home with us as a scared little puppy, but it didn't take you long to run this place, did it?" I smiled. He looked at me as I stopped speaking, and he "boofed" softly. He was telling me "Yes, Mom. I remember." I rubbed his ears.

On the following Monday, he became so sick that our vet made arrangements for us to take him to the veterinary hospital, and he never came home again.


As I think about this scenario, am I reading too much into it? Perhaps, but it was preparing me to face the reality that was soon to come.

The softness of his ears, the shine of his coat, and the coldness of his doggie nose--those finite things are the memories I draw upon, both now and in the future. Duke was special (we all say that about our fur babies, don't we?), and he gave us unconditional love for those years we were blessed to share with him. That love was a priceless gift.

Duke loved looking out the front door to watch the world go by
I'll close with the words from Papa Duke, one of the main characters in I AM SARGE:

"A dawg loves you no matter what. You can be ugly, old, even dumb--but a dawg don't care. All he wants is your love and some food now and then. I think that's why God created them, to show that to us."

Friday, August 4, 2017

ONE WEEK WITHOUT DUKE, MY BELOVED DOXIE


Today marks one week since we had to send Duke over the rainbow bridge. Yesterday, I hurt for him all day. Images of how miserable he looked last Thursday kept flashing through my mind. For most of the day, I was in despair, in tears, and wondered if I were losing my mind.

I had an hour here and there that I felt "normal." In an effort to help me, Clark suggested we get out and ride somewhere, and we ended up in Stone Mountain Park, one of our favorite places and only fifteen minutes from home. It was a cooler day, and as we rode through the wooded sections of the park with the windows down, it felt good. We had always loved driving up to the Blue Ridge Parkway when we lived in Virginia, and sections of Stone Mountain Park brought back memories of the Parkway. I felt better afterwards. I was fine for several hours, but I ended up crying myself to sleep last night.

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This was the last picture Clark took of Duke.
As usual, Duke looks like he wants to
say something, like "Get that
camera outa my face!"

 So, I see that I'm still on that emotional roller coaster: up one minute, down the next. I'm told that this is completely normal, but it doesn't feel normal! I'm usually a pretty upbeat gal, but I kept telling myself that this up-and-down ride was ridiculous. But today, I am more clear headed, I feel a tad more focused, and I can see that what I'm going through is normal for grief.

One bright spot yesterday arrived in the mail. An old friend from NC had told me she was going to send us something when she found out Duke had died. She sent a nice card with a comforting note inside, and below is a photo of her gift to us. (She was actually Clark's next door neighbor when they were children. so yes, we've known her a LONG time!)

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It's a house/mailbox flag. Isn't it beautiful?  I'm not gonna hang it outside, but when the 16 x 20 print of our favorite photo of Duke arrives in the mail (the one below), I'll frame it and hang the flag beside it here in the office. Most people, I've found in my research, dedicate a shelf or a corner of a room to their beloved pet. I find comfort in just knowing I'm going to do that. Kurt and Bethany are providing the engraved stone for Duke's grave, and we will place it there, not in the house.

What I miss about him (well, I could fill pages and pages, but I'll attempt to control myself here), is having him on my lap. Oh, Duke was definitely a lap dog! He hated being in a room by himself, and since Clark loves to work outdoors, either in his shop or in the yard, Duke and I were together a LOT. Every time I sat down during the day, he wanted to be in my lap. And I didn't mind. Oh, I'd shoo him away sometimes, but mostly, I was a woman with that dog in her lap. When he was well and felt good, I'd play with him: he'd drag one of his blankies over so we could play tug-of-war. He'd bring one of my old socks I had given him so I could put it on my hand and pretend it was some kind of animal so he could try to "get" it. He adored that sock game, growling at it, trying to bite it, etc. But if I said "OUCH," he'd stop and look at me like, "Sorry, Mom," then commence to growling/biting again.

The next time I post, I'm strong enough now to write about something that happened a couple of days before Duke started throwing up blood (gross, I know, but it happened). He was sitting on my lap, Clark had gone to run errands, and I looked at Duke on my lap--really looked at him. I began talking to him . . . oops, almost slipped and told that story.

Thank you again to all who are riding along on this journey with me. For those suffering from the loss of a fur baby, my heart goes out to you, and you are not alone. For those who are coming along because they care, thank you. It means more than you'll ever know. For those who have no clue or who think we're crazy, that's okay, too. I hope you don't have to experience this grief, but if you own or love a pet, you probably will.

Honestly, I wish I didn't have to hurt over the loss of Duke, but it really means how much I loved him. And that, my friends, is the crux of the matter: I am thankful we had Duke in our lives for ten years. Yes, it hurts now, but Clark and I will always have those wonderful memories. Our lives have been greatly enriched by having that dawg in them.

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This is the photo we're getting in a 16 x 20
print--I believe it's my favorite one of him

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

DAY FOUR: LIFE AFTER DUKE

Duke inspecting Clark's truck

Day Three after our loss of Duke was yesterday, and I consider it a turning point for me: I didn't cry once. Oh, I was close to it a couple of times, but I managed to get through the day without as much numbing despair as the days right before and immediately Duke's passing.

Today, is DAY FOUR. It's amazing to me how quickly my moods ride the roller coaster of emotion. I was familiar with the stages of grief,* having heard of them in magazine articles and TV psycho-babble shows (which I could only watch briefly) that masquerade as entertainment.

For those who are unfamiliar with those stages, here they are below. They represent the loss of a beloved human, but believe me, they are present in the loss of a beloved pet, too:

Stage One: Denial  - the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.

Stage Two: Anger - a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits. It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this? Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn’t attend the funeral, maybe a person who isn’t around, maybe a person who is different now that your loved one has died. Suddenly you have a structure – – your anger toward them. The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing.We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.

Stage Three: Bargaining - Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?” We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

Stage Four: Depression - After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of. The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing. The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.

Stage Five: Acceptance - is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.
(https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/
*In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief in her book, On Death and Dying)

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I haven't followed the stages in the order above, but I'm not surprised at myself. I tend to be different from other people :).  My stages haven't been contrived; they just happened they way they did, and I have no control over them. Here are my stages, given in the order they've been happening:

Stage One: Depression
I became depressed when we had to place Duke in the veterinary hospital. He was in pain and suffering, and we wanted to do something to help him get well and alleviate his misery. We pinned our hopes on that hospital and its staff.

Stage Two: Denial
As the days wore on (he was admitted on Monday, July 24), we were told to give the blood meds time to form platelets to stop his internal bleeding, and that it usually took three days or longer for it to begin working. I prayed so hard that we would see a turnaround in his condition.

Stage Three: Anger
This stage started coming yesterday, and is full blown today. My anger is directed at the veterinary hospital in general, the vet on Duke's case in particular. WHY DIDN'T THEY TELL US THAT DUKE WASN'T GETTING BETTER? He was getting worse daily, and she urged us to give him yet another dose of the med, another blood transfusion. She didn't tell us he was so swollen that we could hardly recognize him Thursday, July 27, when we insisted on seeing him.

I say "insisted," because when Duke had his back surgery there back in March, we were dissuaded from visiting him so that he could lie still and thus heal. If we had come, they said, he would get over-excited and thus might injure his back. He needed time to heal, and when he came home, he was placed on a month's crate rest, only carrying him out/in to do his business.

All right, I got that. So, we assumed we couldn't see him this time, either. Oh, nobody said we couldn't, but nobody said "Come on down," either. After Clark's call to the veterinarian ended on Thursday morning (he had to call them several times to find out what was going on--they weren't very good at keeping us informed like they did when Duke had his back surgery. Then, they called at least twice a day, even emailing us some photos of him as he was able to take a few steps outside!). We were expecting at least the same level of communication this time. WRONG. On his call, the vet said that no, the med hadn't started working yet, but "Let's give him another dose and try again." Keep in mind that each transfusion cost $200 (he had to have an IV instead of oral meds because of internal bleeding in his GI tract). We were shocked at Duke's appearance: bloated, lying there with an IV, and hardly even conscious. We knew he was on strong pain meds, but NOBODY TOLD US HOW SWOLLEN HE WAS, OR THAT HE WAS GOING DOWNHILL SO FAST. Nobody.

We were both upset, and I sobbed nearly all the way home (an hour away), because we feared he was too far gone to make a turnaround. I was glad, at least, that I had insisted on seeing him Thursday. I told Clark before he placed the call to arrange a visit, that I was going to see my dog THAT DAY. If they said no, then I was going up there and staying until they let me see him. I had no idea of their rules for visitation, but I was so agitated that I wouldn't have cared at the time. I feared I'd never see my Duke alive if we didn't go Thursday.

As we dreaded, Duke was no better Friday morning, and his platelet count had not improved one iota from the time he was first checked. Therefore, we could not allow him to suffer anymore and  returned on Friday to have Duke put to sleep. The vet had even called us around 8:30 that morning, asking if we wanted her to go ahead and put him to sleep before we got there in case he was in respiratory failure (doesn't that imply how bad his situation was?). We told her yes, because we felt he had suffered enough. He lived, and when they brought him in to us in that depressing room, he was more alert (because they had him on oxygen, something we didn't know about or see when we saw him the day before).

While in the waiting room on Friday, I happened to see the hospital's slideshow on the TV monitor there. We were kept waiting for nearly thirty minutes after our appointment time, so I had plenty of time to see that slideshow. It said something to the effect of "while we often dissuade pet owners from visiting their ill pets while under our care, we decide on a case-by-case basis. Visits must be approved and arranged 24 hours in advance by the attending veterinarian," and so on. I hadn't asked permission to see my dog on Thursday: I demanded that we must see him. But the vet agreed to let us see him that day, and asked us to name the time. We asked for 4:30 p.m.

Stage Four: Acceptance (I'm still working on that one)
I suppose that's where I am today. Of course I've revisited Duke's last few days over and over in my mind. You ask yourself if you could have done more to assure his survival. You berate yourself for not picking up on his illness sooner. And, you blame yourself for allowing him to suffer. It's a normal thing, but why does it seem so abnormal?

I am still angry that the hospital put a veterinarian on Duke's case who had only been in our country for a week. Her accent was such that we could not understand her on the phone, and was only slightly less difficult in person. Now before I get hate mail for disliking foreigners, please remember I am grieving and distracted. I am sure, when I am in my right mind, that she was doing all she could, and her lack of communication to us was probably because she was overwhelmed, being new on the job and in the country.

My Christian worldview makes me realize that she tried her best, even though after Duke was put down, she made us wait another 40 minutes to place him in a transport box and bring him back to us so we could take him home to bury him. I will look more kindly upon her, but the focus of my anger vacillates from her, to the hospital (for putting her in charge and making our dog a teaching tool), to us (for not going to see him sooner).

Am I being logical right now? Probably not, and even I realize that, but I'll take anger over despair.  Did you notice I didn't list the stage of bargaining? At no point did I ever bargain with God about allowing Duke to live. Oh, I begged him to do so, if it was His will. But as a Christian, I don't make bargains with the Creator of the universe. I submit to His will, however difficult it is and however long it takes me to get to that point. You see, it's about Him, not me, in the scheme of things. He knows our suffering, and I cling to one of my favorite verses in the Bible:


"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Where do we go from here? We hold no one accountable for Duke's passing. It was our decision to have him put out of his suffering, no matter what the extenuating circumstances were. Yes, I am angry. Perhaps you've faced a similar situation and are angry right now, too. Even through clinched teeth, I must type these words: You and I have to turn our anger over to God, because it is not good to have it. This might take some time, but I've acknowledged to Him that I have it and that I want to help others in this same boat. That's where the "work together for good" comes in. I want to help you. I'm no miracle worker, but I know Who is. 
Again, thank you to all of you who have sent me words of comfort and kindness. God is good all the time, and you are all a part of that. Thank you so much.


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