The Loss of My Dearest Friend

On September 29th, 2017 at 2:36pm, I lost my oldest and dearest friend. I call her a friend, because that’s what she was, the closest friend who knew all my troubles and secrets and didn’t judge me at all for them. She showed unconditional love through the hardest of times. I am so glad to say that I always showed that same unconditional love in return. Gabby was more than just my pet, she was my snuggle buddy when it was cold, we snored together, played together, ate together, and raised many other animals together too. She was the best friend I could have ever asked for in life. I will attempt to tell the story of her life in the fewest words possible, but I have a tendency to ramble. I guess that is a good thing I’m doing this on my own blog then huh?

I got Gabby my first semester senior year of high school in 2003. If I remember correctly, it was close to Christmas. She was given to us for free by a family member. Their in-laws parents had two Shih Tzus that had puppies. There were only a few left, and she was the runt of the litter. She was eaten up with fleas, and had a skin condition. That is why she was picked, because she was going to have the best life possible from there on out.

We quickly got the flea problems taken care of, and the skin condition remained through her whole life, of which was filled with plenty of soothing oatmeal baths that she didn’t particularly like, but boy did she love the hair dryer that came afterwards. She would hold her head high, and turn in model like poses while you were blowing her beautiful black and white coat back to is soft fluffy texture. She loved that part. I eventually moved out of the house a few years later, and I wanted to take Gabby with me, but my mother and her were firmly attached to each other also. I visited all the time, and we even had her a backpack made up with toys, food, treats, leash, harness, and potty pads for us to share her joint custody style. She would come spend the weekend with me and just be lazy with me. She was the best lap dog there ever could be. She also had this problem with her bark since she was a puppy. I guess it was where she was the runt and her vocal chords didn’t form properly? She sounded more like a toy dog that’s bark was running low on batteries. It was soft and distinct, and didnt change in pitch much. She never whined, ever, although she did snore with the best of us. She also had this thing she would do anytime anybody was eating. She could sit on her butt, straight up like a human, and balance for however long she wanted, without falter. I saw her sit like that, while eating scraps handed to her, without dropping to her feet, for many entire Thanksgiving dinners. She really was one of a kind.

She was raised by my mother’s dogs Prissy (a boston terrier mix), and Nick (a Cocker Spaniel Dachshund mix) who were like mothers to her. They got on to her when she misbehaved, played with her relentlessly, and snuggled up with her at night. She loved those two, and was just as heart-broken as anyone else in the family when they passed on. That is where Gert came in.

My fiance, at the time, and I drove a few counties away to get Gert, a full-blooded, black and white, nub tailed, Boston Terrier puppy at 8 weeks old. She was so scared the first night we brought her to my mom for her birthday. She stayed right against Gabby, and Gabby, being raised by the two pets that she was, showed her the same affection she was shown when she was a baby. For the rest of her life, Gabby would let Gert lay right against her, every night, sick or not, aggravated or not, and even when there was hardly any room on the edge of that Great Dane sized dog bed. Gert really and truly loved her. Gabby, regardless of Gert’s teasing her with high energy and playfulness, loved her also.

Eventually Gabby started showing signs of a small cyst, or tumor on her breast. She never had puppies, but we never fixed her either in hopes we would find another Shih Tzu she would tolerate enough to love and have puppies with. That never happened, and knowing what we know now, we would’ve had her fixed as soon as we knew that it could lead to cancer. We didn’t know it was cancer at the time and for the longest because it was very small, not painful, and seemed more like a cyst. She never acted sick. This was years and years ago. Then one day, not too long ago, it started growing. It got to be the size of a baseball and then ruptured. My mother didn’t know it ruptured because, as I said, Gabby never cried out about anything. She was very strong. The vet said it had to only be a day or so before my mom noticed the hole, when she brought Gabby in to see them. They surgically removed the tumor and asked if we wanted to do a scan to see if there was any more that had spread. We did, and soon found out that her lungs were filled with it, and she was in heart failure. Being as old as she was, we knew her heart couldn’t hold out forever, but the cancer in her lungs was a shock to us all. She just never cried. I guess she didn’t want anyone to worry over her? She wanted things to remain the same as they always had.

She recovered pretty well from the surgery. It took a little while, but she healed up nicely, but was beginning to struggle to breathe here and there. That eventually turned into lower energy and after many trips to the vet for different dosages of steroid and water pills, she started losing the ability to stand on all fours for long periods of time. That turned to not wanting to eat and stay hydrated enough. We threw caution to the wind and started feeding her the favorite human foods that she loved dearly. We knew what was coming soon, and wanted her to enjoy those chicken nuggets, and fries more than any others she had ever had. She ate very well when she still had the energy before the end. My mother had been sending me videos of her progress, and then decline, in between trips down to see her. She eventually lost the ability to stand for more than a few seconds, and the ability to get up to potty. She would walk out onto my mother’s covered and screened deck to overlook the river, and it took all she had to get out there. She loved to watch everything going on out there, even though she couldn’t get to it anymore.

Yesterday, my mother texted me after running her to an unplanned trip to the vet. She had been up all night. Just sitting and staring at my mom whenever she would wake up. My mom would lay her back down in the bed, and she would be up staring at her again when she awoke to check on her. She had actually started letting out cries when mom would give her the steroid or water pills and wouldn’t eat, and barely drank anything. She knew it was bad. The text, which I can’t remember the exact wording, was along the lines of “Gabby has to be put to sleep. I told them I couldn’t do it right this minute, she needs to see you and im bringing her by your work”. I replied back that I was going back with her at 2:30 and was not going to let her die without me there by her side. She had helped me through so many hard and sad times, that I owed it all to her, and that I wouldn’t let her feel alone when she passed.

My mom brought her by my work while I was on lunch to see me. She was pitiful. She was limp, and couldn’t really hold her head up or tongue in her mouth. She was breathing rapidly and with great effort. She laid there on my lap and I rubbed her exactly how she loved to be rubbed. I had a good left over lunch of pork chops, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and corn on the cob. I wish I could say that her last meal was great, but she didn’t have the strength. I took some beans and held them to her mouth. She raised her head, ever so slightly, and sniffed, and then dropped her head back down. I rubbed the sauce on her lips and tongue, but she didn’t even lick it off her mouth. She had no interest in eating at all. My mother took her to my grandmother’s house that was close by, for me to leave and come hold her on the way to the vet. When I got there, they had her laying in the grass in front of a water bowl under a shade tree. She was actually sitting with her head up for a little while and then rested it on the water bowl after taking a few drinks. They were fanning her to keep her cool.

I eventually picked her up and laid a potty pad under her in my lap. On the way to the vet she actually changed positions a couple of times, and even stood up for a second or two. She needed to pee, and didn’t want to on me, but I told her that was the last of my worries and I would clean her and myself up. She laid there and pee’d, and I did as I said I would. When we arrived at the vet, there were no rooms available. So we would have to wait a little bit. We were sitting on the bench, and I was rubbing her the whole time. She rolled onto her stomach, from her side, out of nowhere and looked at us and wagged her tail a few times, before laying back onto her side. a few seconds after that happened she had a seizure. She wrenched her head backwards, with her feet straight out and her eyes were moving back and forth as if she was trying to find sight of us again. It was heart breaking. My mom grabbed my arm and said she thought she had passed. I told her that she may be, but she was definitely having a seizure, right there in the waiting area. She eventually came out of it and went back to breathing heavy and fast again. I quickly told my mom that I needed the tissues out of her truck that I forgot to bring in with me. I wasn’t lying entirely, I really did forget them, but I also knew it was probably about to happen again from the feel of her. As soon as my mom went through the door, and at 2:36 pm (I know because my apple watch recorded a jump in my heart rate from 80bpm to 136bpm almost immediately at that time), she took her last breath. She wrenched back again, eyes moving rapidly, and I pulled her close to me and rubbed her furiously while burying my head in her neck and whispering to her how much I loved her, how much a good girl she was, and that no one will ever be her to me. I let her lay back down in my lap, and as my mother came in she said I was just staring down at her. When she asked if she was ok I just mumbled “She just died”. Her nerves will still causing her to try to breathe but her heart had all but stopped. It would beat once, every few seconds at most. She never took another breath. The rushed us into the back to try and give her the shot to help her along, but it took some massaging and several attempts to get her vein to take it because her blood pressure was almost non existent. I stayed with her and couldn’t stop rubbing or scratching her until the vet came to take her.

We are having her cremated, because of my mom’s plans to move, and she doesn’t want to leave her behind when she does. I think it is great thing, because she will always be with us no matter where we go in life, just like she was in her own life.

I’m sorry to be so graphic in my descriptions of the events, but it helps me cope when I can explain things in detail. I hope that no one has to go through the heartache I felt yesterday, but if ou are a pet owner, chances are that you will. So hug you pups and your cats, or whatever non human friend you have with you while reading this, because they need to feel your love to be able to carry on, and one day they won’t be able to receive that love anymore and will need as much as they can carry with them when they go. I know I will never stop feeling Gabby’s love, that’s for sure. She taught my Shih Tzu, Bella, what she knows, and Gert too, just like Prissy and Nick taught her.

Thank you for reading. Please like and subscribe for more, and if you have any stories that may help me, feel free to comment.

 

 

 

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Learning to Laugh at Yourself

 

This is something with which I have always struggled. The OCD perfectionism part of my brain makes me strive to do everything as perfect as possible. Sounds like a responsible thing that isn’t too bad right? Wrong. I mean to a degree it is a good trait, but more often than not, it causes a crushing sense of dread that leads to anxiety and will even backfire with procrastination to avoid the task altogether. All this culminates from a fear of being judged, criticized, or rejected. I grew up with someone in my family with whom I could never seem to do a good enough job with anything I did. There was always a “…when you did this, if you had done it this way it would’ve turned out better”, and I think I can count on one hand how many times I was told “Good Job” by this person for my entire life. That breeds the intense subconscious need I have to think I have never done good enough and could have done better. It also means that criticism or rejection can almost break me entirely, and has made me stop doing things in the past, even though looking back now knowing the reasoning behind it, I should have stayed the course and buckled down because it was a good thing and better than I imagined. This leads to laughing at yourself. Laughing at myself is not an easy thing to do. I live in constant fear of doing something stupid in front of someone, and having that person laugh and remember it for a long time. To be brought up at a later date and re open that wound that was cut deep into my outer shell once again. So laughing at my mistakes is pretty hard. Sometimes I get irrationally upset at myself, other times I get depressed and my mind starts replaying all the things I have done in the past, even though I’m almost positive hardly anyone remembers. But I do, and the wounds still feel fresh. I have been getting better at it since my meds have been at the correct dosage. I find it easier to “feel” things again, like humor and happiness. I see that in things easier now. Which leads me to a funny story that happened to me this past Wednesday.

I have recently found out that I, as a 31-year-old male, have inherited my father, and his father’s Degenerative Disc Disease. Which is kind of normal degeneration of the discs in my spine, if I were in my 50’s. It also doesn’t really cause pain if it were to be happening in my 50’s, which in my 30’s is pretty rough. The discs get depressed and spurs form on the vertebrae of your spine that cause irritation in the discs, and even tears. That releases a protein which leads to inflammation and aggravates the major nerves that lead to the lower parts of your body. My entire lumbar region is affected, all the discs and vertabrae. So I get shots near my spine when I have flare ups, and have to go to physical therapy every Wednesday to learn new stretches and minor workouts to stretch and tone my core muscles to take some of the weight-bearing off of my lumbar region. This past Wednesday, I was having a particularly rough morning because our new Siberian Husky puppy found our Christmas tinsel and decided it was a great chew toy because it shreds into more chew toys(Her poop was fabulous by the way). I was about 10 minutes late and went straight to the cycle machine to start my 8 minute warmup. I was talking with my physical therapist about the crazy morning I was having. I told her about how I missed a step coming down the stairs and almost fell, just barely catching myself and feeling a sharp pain in the left side of my back when it happened. She winced and said I probably just used that muscle too fast and it not being strong enough yet to keep those discs aligned, but assured me that the workout would still be just the same with a little extra exercise mixed in for that part.

I did my small normal stretches and exercises for my hamstrings, stomach, and lumbar region. Then after that she threw the change up into the mix. I was to lay on my back, hips tilted and lower back flat against the table. Not to move my hips or back from the flat position, while she place  big rubber exercise ball under my knees and legs. I was to slowly rotate my legs to the right and then back, then the same to the left to count as one, and do that twenty times. The first one I did to the right, Immediately cried out in pain as I started the rotation. It hurt but coming back to center was more of a good hurt. So were the rest the further I went along. After I’m done with any PT session, she always hooks an industrial sized tens unit to my lumbar area, and has me lay on an ice pack. Then turns the electrodes up until it is painful but still tolerable and comfortable. When we get the right intensity, she leaves it on and I stay there for 15 to 20 minutes. Easily the best feeling part of the session. I laid my head back on the pillow and before I knew it I was waking up to her saying I was done and asking if I had got a good nap which stopped me cold in my movements to get up. Have I mentioned I have horrible sleep apnea and snore like a lawn mower without my CPAP? I haven’t? Well I have sleep apnea that causes me to snore so loud I have been kicked awake, and sometime out of rooms, by people I have slept near without the use of a CPAP………Now you know why I stopped cold in my movements after hearing the echoing words of the physical therapist “Did you get a good good good good nap nap nap nap?” The physical therapy building is an open floor plan with the desk in the middle with no walls except for patient rooms being seen by the bone a joint doctor……and sound travels. Also, the staff is all female except for the doctor. Instead of being mortified though, I just hopped up and said “Yup!” and she laughed and said she does the same thing with the tens unit and ice when in pain (im betting she doesn’t sound like an airplane when breathing though). I told her thanks and started to walk off, and forgot my wallet, and keys on the chair. I had to return to get them before leaving. Normally this would have been Defcon 5 level psychiatric melt down for me, but that day I was ok with it. I told them bye, left, and when outside in my vehicle I checked in on Facebook and said that the physical therapist had kicked my butt today, and that I have sleep apnea, so I could only imagine the noises the staff heard and apologized for them. It wasn’t that bad, and was actually a pretty funny story to tell my wife, and co-workers about. The world didn’t end, I’ll still show up next Wednesday for another treatment, and I’ll try to stay awak……..that or bring my CPAP.

Learning to laugh at yourself is a must learn skill if you are going to learn to love yourself for who you are inside and out. Humor is a great bridge between the other emotions that need work too. It makes the transition to learning to cope with other problems easier and puts you in a great mood. So don’t get down on yourself for mistakes or embarrassing things. Embrace them, learn from them, laugh about them. It will make life a lot more manageable.

What are some things that have happened to you that would’ve usually made you embarrassed, but you actually laughed it off and can look back on and smile?

Finding a Congenital Heart Defect at the Worst Time

A congenital heart defect, for those that don’t know, is one that has been present since birth. In these modern times, with so much screening, tests, and other procedures doctors are capable of, most are found at birth and can be dealt with in the most appropriate way. Early detection. You hear it everywhere, whether talking about cancer or with credit fraud and your personal identity. I never associated “early detection” with congenital heart defects because I never knew anyone with any, especially in my family, and these things are usually dealt with in children. When you are born in the 80’s in a small town where the nearest major hospital is roughly fifty miles away, like my sister, things are a little different. My sister is five years and two weeks older than I am, and has always had fairly good health. A little asthma and allergies (I got the rest of those not so little genes), but other than that she was a normal healthy girl growing up. She gave birth to my niece when I was fifteen years old, and she will be turning sixteen this year (and will be driving on the same roads as me……I’m getting old). My niece’s dad was never really around, and I along with the rest of the family, would help make that as easy on her as possible until, the right man came alongto fill those shoes.

Last year my sister met a man that she fell in love with, and they have been inseparable since. He even got a job with the family business. They soon got married, and decided that since my sister had always wanted another child, that they should try while everything was still relatively achievable without complications. Soon they were pregnant, and happy as could be. A little boy. One that the family desperately needed considering I have been surrounded by girls my entire life, save for my father.

On Wednesday March 22nd 2017, my sister had an appointment with a cardiologist setup by her family doctor after going into his office with complaints of malaise, fatigue, dizziness, and chest pain all while being 21 weeks pregnant. At that cardiologist appointment, the doctor heard a murmur. He did an echocardiogram and immediately admitted her to the hospital his practice was through. I found out late that evening while beginning to install a garage door opener. Specific, I know, but I’m willing to bet that when something life changing occured to you and your family, that you knew exactly what you were doing when you heard. Time kind of slows down, your mind races, you can’t find the words to articulate what you are feeling, and become lost with the most menial things as if they matter. At least, that’s how my brain handled it. My wife had come to the garage to say “Did you know your sister is in the hospital?!?”, to which I replied with a dumbfounded “What?”. I immediately looked at the social media post she saw and remembered that I was going to text to check how her visit to the cardiologist went after I was through with the opener. We both immediately started texting, making plans for my in-laws to watch our daughter so we could rush to the hospital to find out what was happening.

When we arrived, she already had a room and had multiple small tests. They had also decided that she needed to be transferred to the major hospital I mentioned earlier, which happens to be one of the top medical schools and hospitals in the south, and they happen to have one of the best cardiac units in the nation. That’s when I felt like I was the one who needed to be on a hospital bed. After some talking with the cardiologist  when the transfer was completed (and extensive research that I did because it is a OCD compulsion with perfectionism), we found out what was wrong with her heart.

Since birth, going unnoticed because murmurs from this are relatively hard to hear, she has had two heart defects. A bicuspid aortic valve and coarctation of the aorta. The reason she started showing so many symptoms was because she had developed endocarditis and had calcification on her aortic valve. A bicuspid aortic valve is a deformity in the development of the aortic valve in utero. It should have three flaps that open and close with the beating of the heart to allow proper blood flow. Her valve only had two flaps, which had calcification buildup that happens as you get older, but it tends to buildup more on defects like this. This is what caused the endocarditis, which is an infection in the lining of your heart. The coarctation of the aorta is a narrowing of the aorta after it leaves the heart and begins to turn back behind the heart. Theses two defects are commonly seen together, but usually only found in babies or in adults after they have died. She is extremely lucky to have found it, but unlucky in the fact that she was 21 weeks pregnant when it was found. The pregnancy causing more stress on her heart was probably what brought on the symptoms that allowed her to make an appointment in the first place. It was just an all around rare circumstance.

Obviously the first thing on everyone’s mind was having to lose the baby, which they had affectionately named “Bean” for his appearance when first being known about. The first cardiac team was very blunt at first in explaining things. They hadn’t yet got the head of cardiology down to talk to her and everyone wasn’t aware of the rarity of the case yet. As soon as they were though, boy did they all want something to do with it and help in every way possible. She had the top OB team, the top NICU team, and the head of cardiology’s team. She was set. They went through many different conferences together and came up with a lot of different plans. All had to do with fixing her heart first and hoping for the best for the baby during the surgery even though it was very risky. They also had to clear the infection up first. Eventually they found that she as also in congestive heart failure too. So they began to formulate the final plan that would start to come into play on April 5th 2017. They decided that was the day they would do a balloon valvuloplasty to widen her aortic valve enough to allow her to give Bean 10 more weeks of gestation which would put him just shy of 33 weeks, easily a survivable and a high chance of not having any problems with a premature baby at that age. They said she had a good chance of delivering well, and after some time to heal, then they would plan the open heart surgery to do a more permanent fix for her heart. They did the procedure and she was home within a few days.

This whole time she wasn’t able to work, and her husband was the sole provider for the family which put a strain on their finances. She has insurance, but between regular bills, having a teenage daughter in a lot of extra curricular activities, and having to hurry to get ready for a baby that was coming sooner than they thought. I took it upon myself as her brother, and knowing that she would never ask for anything herself, to set up a GoFundMe page for them. To date it has generated $2,000 in help for them, which has been a tremendous relief, but still doesn’t scratch the surface of what they need.

On June 9th 2017 at 4:22pm, she gave birth to a healthy 18 inch long, 5lb 3oz baby boy they named Kamari. He was exactly 32 weeks and 1 day. He had a little trouble with regulating his temperature, and keeping his oxygen levels normal. But it didn’t take long before he was doing great on his own and taking feedings like he should. He came home not long after having his feedings down. He has been growing great since, and is the best baby. He never cries, only grunts and is getting all kinds of love and attention from everyone.

They soon scheduled my sister’s open heart surgery for August 8th 2017. She has a couple of consultations and appointments the day before to set everything up. She will have about 12 weeks of recovery after the surgery in which she will be not doing very much at all, much less taking care of a child. My mother has moved a lot of things to her house so that she can keep Kamari while she recovers. My wife and I have volunteered to keep him every so often to give my mother a break also.

So here we are. A few days away from the scariest surgery my sister has ever had. I’m not good with vocalizing my emotions in times of stress and anxiety. I am pretty good at writing them out however. I don’t know why this is, but it is therapeutic in a way. I’m worried to death, on top of being over worked and having health problems of my own in which I have been dealing. I also have my own echocardiogram, stress test, and calcium PET scan to go to at the end of August to check for any congenital heart defects that I may have also. When a woman with Lupus (like my mother) has children, she is 3 times more likely to give birth to a child with a heart defect. That is added to the normal chances, and add to it the statistic that men are twice as likely to have the heart defects than women. That is why I mentioned the saying “Early detection” above. My sister’s ordeal has so far turned out the best it possibly could have, and we are all hoping that things continue to trend that way. It also very well could have helped me learn more about myself, and get some early detection of my own. We will find out shortly. Until then, we will be getting ready for the major things about to occur in our family very soon.

Treading Water in the Sea of Life Final

The day by day tale of Gabby’s struggle is coming to end with this post.

Gabby trying to get some rest
Gabby trying to get some rest
Post surgery Gabby
Gabby sleeping off a meal of her favorite thing, chicken nuggets, while trying to recover from a rough day of surgery.

Let me start off by saying that the surgery was successful and Gabby is recovering well. I didn’t update my blog yesterday because my wife and I went down to see her with my daughter after she was home and we stayed pretty late. I do not want to come off as something tragic has happened by the tone of this post. I’m just at a low point in my mental state. The reasoning behind that will become clear in this post.

My mother got a call from the vet yesterday saying that they had just started to remove the potato sized tumor from Gabby’s stomach, but she wanted to know if my mom still wanted to have the X-ray done. The one that would tell us if and how much her cancer had spread. My mother reluctantly said yes, but only hesitated because she too will worry herself to death over anything that would be known that was previously unseen and known.

They called back around 3:30pm yesterday to say the surgery went well. They removed the large tumor, the infection, and have got her some prescriptions for pain medicine and a new antibiotic to take. Then the ominous words of “We will go over the X-ray when you come to pick her up, which can be anytime you feel like”. I regret that I was at work and couldn’t go there with my mother to pick Gabby up, but at the same time, I know i wouldn’t be much help either being an emotional wreck myself. Still though, it is a son’s duty to be the rock his mother leans on when she is in need. When my mother returned to pick up Gabby, they were very busy and she didn’t get to talk to the head vet, but instead the assistants and nurses. Not for a lack of caring on our vet’s part, so a little information here will help you understand the situation. We use a local Vet where we live because their reputation precedes them. They treat every animal with respect, love, and kindness just as you would expect yourself to do being an animal lover. The head Vet usually does surgeries on Thursdays and Fridays, but she has a few conferences to attend this week on those days to get up to speed on the newest medical information to help in her practice. Just like your doctor would do. She was backed up all day trying to help as many as she could before leaving today.  So this was not a sore subject of not getting to speak to her directly, because we know we will talk to her when we return to have her stitches removed. Moving forward, the assistants said they had tried to wake Gabby to get her to eat, but she wasn’t having it. She was mad, groggy, and a little upset of what they did to her I guess. My mom was allowed in the back to the cage to talk to her and as soon as Gabby heard my mother’s voice saying “Gabby girl….awwwww”, she instant raised her head and started trying to come out from under her cover and get to her. She was done, and so over that place. She knew mom was there to take her back home, and unaware of the pampering and spoiling she was soon to get.

The vet’s assistant was telling her about the procedure and how well it went. They even noticed that one of Gabby’s eyes had some film on it (which we had noticed, but she has allergies and my mother had always just wiped it for her with a wet cloth), which turned out to be just chronic dry eye. They gave my mother some cheap eye drops and said to gie them to her daily to help. You could see that her sight was a little better in that eye already from the extra moistening from the drops. Which is even better for little Gabby. Then she started to go over the thing we were all dreading, the X-ray. She showed my mother that not only had her cancer spread to her lungs, but that her heart was enlarged. My mother said everything else became a blur, she couldn’t get her mouth to ask the right questions, and get the info she wanted. Her mind was racing, and she was heartbroken. I know this feeling all to well, being my mother’s son. That is why I wish i was there, because with my meds, I can handle these situations a little better now and stay somewhat calm enough to think straight. My mother kept asking what else she could do for Gabby. Which the assistant, took as anyone else would, that she was wanting to know who else could help as far as more cancer treatments for the seriousness of it. What my mother was trying to say is that she knows she just shy of 14 years old, doesn’t have much time left, and wanted to know what to look out for so that she could keep her pain-free and comfortable as possible. Also any kind of time frame for how much longer she would have.

My wife had a lhasa Apso that was old when we first started dating. She had similar problems and was brought home like Gabby. She made it a while and when she started having breathing problems, they returned to the vet to get pain meds and anything that would help her. She stayed pain-free and comfortable until she passed peacefully in her sleep one night. Those days were rough, and I know nobody wants to experience those days again, regardless of their certainty.

We gave my mother that info when we visited Gabby last night, and that was probably going to be the best possible thing we could all do for little Gabby. There is probably no certain length of time she has left, only that it is limited. We stopped and got a box of chicken nuggets for Gabby on the way, and she was so excited and perked up for them, even though she was still a little groggy. She certainly feels better without the lump there, and was most definitely worn out and tired, she slept most of the time we were there. I took two pictures of her falling asleep above, after her chicken nugget dinner that she was so happy about. I laid with her after the pictures, with my cheek pressed against hers and whispered to her like I have always done about my problems when she was there for me, only this time I was whispering reassurances to her that I loved her and was here for her now. That she has been the best dog in the world to me and the rest of my family. I stroked her hair, kissed her nose, and just laid there in the floor by her bed listening to her breathe.

When it came time to leave, we got my daughter who announced a prominent “Bye Gabby!” (she is 2), along with her goodbyes to her grandparents and Gert. We said our goodbyes and began the drive home. My daughter tried to look for the moon and little stars, but fell asleep when there was too many clouds to see them. I wondered off into my head like I always do in times of stress and anxiety. My mind racing in the same many as my mother’s. Running every possibility and its chances through my head, trying to prepare myself for how to handle each and every individual scenario. Right in the thick of the most taxing thing that happens in my brain, I felt my wife grab my hand silently in the dark and the haze of infinite possibilities vanished. I know I will be alright when the time comes with her by my side. Gabby will be fine too because she will be getting some of the best spoiling of her life from now on, and she knows we love her, as we know she loves us. Things will just be hard, and if they weren’t hard, we wouldn’t learn anything from them.

I guess what I have learned from this is that no matter how mush you selfishly want someone to stay around, there will be a time when they leave. Not because they want to, but because hey need to. The one thing I know for certain is that the memories and the love we have shared will not leave. They will remain forever, and will be looked back on with a smile, laughter, heartache, and love. That is what makes all relationships worth it in the end. The ability to reflect, learn, and remember.

I’ll be refraining from posting anymore on this series of blog posts about Gabby, unless the day comes where I need ears to listen, and people to share with. Thanks for reading. I have some more posts coming up very soon, possibly even today on some new subjects of things in my life that seem to be all happening in this small time frame (don’t they all?).

 

Treading Water in the Sea of Life Part III

Anybody still keeping up with this multipart blog post? If so, we got some good news!

Puppy Gert and Gabby 2009
Gert as a puppy lying by Gabby in 2009.
Gert lying on her Gabby
Gert lying on her Gabby in 2011.
Gert and Gabby today
This is Gert and Gabby today.

I got a text from my mother earlier that she had called the vet to check on the blood work they did for Gabby to check on how her organs were functioning. Turns out, her organs are all working perfectly fine!!! My mother also gave me the news that Gabby had been sleeping a lot today, and still acting if she were ok. When she removed her bandages to clean her after giving her some pain meds and her antibiotic, the spot had drained quite a lot and smelled horribly. Which isn’t all bad news, because this means the antibiotic is working, and the less of that mess in there before surgery tomorrow morning at 8:00am the better. The vet told her they would be putting her on another antibiotic afterwards because the infection is pretty bad, but it will be to make sure she gets it all out of her system when they are done with surgery and she is healing.

Gabby let my mom clean her wound without a fuss, and bandage her back up, and off to sleep she went again, with Gert right by her side. Gert loves her so much,and you can tell she knows something is wrong. She will not leave her side. She has always had to be right against Gabby since she was brought home to us, as can be seen in the pictures. My mother said she is glued to her now though, like she is trying to help her. Such loving and caring animals.

So I will be posting an update tomorrow with the outcome of the surgery, probably late in the evening. Hopefully all goes well. Keep your fingers crossed, and your thoughts with us. Until then, I’ll be a nervous wreck…..

 

Treading Water in the Sea of Life Part II

At 8:00 am sharp this morning, my wife called our vet to see when they could see Gabby. 9:15am……good, the sooner the better. I am fully prepared for a fastball to come hurtling down the pipe, but hoping for a curveball that I’m not expecting to catch me off guard and send me out swinging. I’m running off literally one hour of sleep in the last twent four or so hours, and working while waiting on my mother to show up with Gabby and my sister to show up to see her. My wife called and said her grandmother was sick and couldn’t watch our daughter, and she is a little too young to experience death of a dog she is close to right now, so we opt for them to stay home in case it happens.

My mother walks in with Gabby, her orthopedic bed, and favorite blanket. She sets her in the office floor. She walks over to the box of bones we keep for the neighborhood dogs who visit with us everyday and decides she wants one. I gave her two and we brought an extra. She is still happy as can be, although a little worn out from the hair cut and stress from yesterday. Everyone got to see her and talk to her and I talked my mother into coming along with me, because every time she walked out of the office for something, Gabby’s ears would raise (as much as a Shih Tzu’s ears can) and she would yap for her. I told my mother that Gabby would want her there more than me, but we would both be there for her if it came down to it.

We get her loaded up and take her to the vet, arriving 10 minutes early (thanks forever fearful of being late brain. I file that one in the “useful” category though). Gabby gets out and immediately wants to potty. She does so twice and is ready. We take her in and go to an exam room almost immediately. I had Gabby wrapped in her blanket because it was so cold in there, and her cheek pressed against mine. The little older nurse that we love comes in and I lay Gabby on her back and rub her chest while she looks. She immediately says she needs the head vet to come look at it. After a very short wait, the vet comes in and looks at it. She says that it is definitely infected and is a cancerous breast tumor that has a small tumor that has spread to the adjacent mammary gland. She goes on to give us some good info that should be headed by everyone. Including myself on our Bella and our new Siberian Husky Sasha. She said female dogs who are not spayed and live long into their older years have a much higher, even more than the high human chance, of developing some form of cancer which is usually in the mammory glands. Especially when they never have puppies. We plan on spaying our dogs ASAP because we don’t plan on breeding them anyways, plus as I mentioned before, Bella kinda has a thing for Gabby and Sasha. She goes on to say, to our surprise and elation, that she can definitely remove the infected part, and if her blood panel for liver and kidney health come back good (which everyone is hopeful it will considering she has no problems in any of those areas) she may even be able to remove the majority, if not all of the tumor! She did hear a murmur in her heart, but said that is expected in senior dogs and that anesthesia for animals has come a long way in the last few years and it shouldn’t be a problem. The only thing she is concerned of is that once she gets her back and can do a scan, that it may be in her lungs or lymph nodes, of which that can’t be removed and she will most assuredly die from later. She said she is pretty confident in the ability to remove the problem spot of the tumor and possibly more, using internal stitching, and her recovering fairly easily. Then, after she gets us a quote for the surgery, we can decide if we want to go that route and let her live out her days, weeks, months, or even years at home until she passes where she is comfortable. She even asked if my mom had another dog, and when she learned she does she was leaning even more towards wanting us to try the surgery in hopes that Gert would not lose her sister so suddenly. She did mention that we could always go ahead with euthanasia if we should so choose, but that she thinks with her being a pretty relatively normal acting dog, despite the tumor, that it was worth a shot for the surgery. Worse case scenario is she doesn’t make it off the operating table, to which she would not be in any pain anyways.

After getting a quote for the visit, meds, blood panel, and surgery it was going to be a little less than $500 max (accoding to how much can be removed and the extra sutures it would take. Which to us, is a no brainer even if it were double that, because we would much rather her be home. We only paid for todays visit, meds, and the blood panel to which we will get results for tomorrow. They were so hopeful of good results, they even scheduled her surgery for 8:00am Wednesday August 2nd, and according to how it goes, she may even be coming home that evening. She was sent home with some pain meds, antibiotics, cleaning antibacterial rags, and instructions for her surgery day. We were relieved and I would be lying if we weren’t getting our hopes up.

What is wrong with getting your hopes up with something like this? What do we have besides hope? Pessimism will only wrap itself into the creases in your brain and take hold to reemerge in another scenario down the road. I chose to be optimistic today despite what my brain was telling me. I chose hope for Gabby, my mother, Gert, and the entire family. If she doesn’t make it through the surgery, then she will go peacefully. If she does make it, she will go peacefully on her own terms in her own bed surrounded by the ones who love her. Don’t give up hope too soon, because you never know when being wrong could be the best thing to happen to you.

Thanks again for reading my ramblings, and if you didn’t,

TLDR: SSSSSSTTTTTTEEEERRIIIIIIIIKE! Curveball low and outside.

Treading Water in the Sea of Life

If you haven’t had a chance to checkout my about page, now would be good time to check it out to get a feel of what I’m doing here, and what I plan on doing.

Now. Onto my first blog post, whew. This one is a sad therapy one. I know, I know, who starts a blog with their first post being about sadness and the loss of someone beloved. HumbleParables would, did you read the about page?

I received a text from my father late this afternoon. After just getting home from a botched family outing by a fever and subsequent doctor visit with a sweaty fever breaking drive back to the doctor, that came on after being a week into a Walking Pneumonia diagnoses. I’m fine, now I just have a bad upper respiratory infection (Yay!), and the same amount of horribleness in a sinus infection (story of my life, you’ll learn). This text from my father has been one I have worried about for almost 14 years. Not the normal type of worrying either, the HumbleParables type. Unrelenting, creeping into my mind every time I think about her. My dog, the best dog I could’ve asked for, was not doing to well.

Gabby was the runt of the litter of full sized, full blooded, Shih Tzus that my family members had as a surprise in October of 2003. My senior year of high school. She was eaten up with fleas, and smaller than the others. We took her because, being me, I wanted her to have the best life possible despite her bad luck in the genetic lottery department (instant connection). She was the sweetest, and most playful ball of fur I had ever seen. Such a stubborn personality, but could love anything wrong out of you in an instant. Oh, and she is still the reigning champion of “Sitting on my butt, back straight, hands down, and barking to beg for food”. Seriously, I have seen her sit for an entire Thanksgiving dinner AND the family after talk. Oh and barking may be overstating it. The whole “bad luck genetic lottery” thing, made her bark more of a yap, or the sound of a toy that the squeaker was manufactured wrong. It can get annoying to some, bet never to me. Gabby earned the title of “Bittle” by my best childhood friend Jacob and I somehow. Neither of us know how that name came to be, but it stuck. She would sit between Jacob and I in our free time while playing Resident Evil 4 on the Gamecube, the week it was released. Jacob and I have an obsession with the RE games, and play them together even though they are 1 player. We play chapters and swap the controller to the other, while the previous player continued to rub Gabby’s stomach while she lay on her back snoring louder than I do, and I have sleep apnea. She was in heaven. She loved being the center of attention, and loved our attention that we gave. We took her with us places and she loved to ride. She could also sense when something was wrong, and would climb onto your chest from you lap and lay herself cheek to cheek with you. Ever so slightly pushing harder into your cheek to get your attention. She would lay in your lap for hours and be a fury stress and anxiety therapy dog before the term exploded. Man did I go through some rough times then. Struggling with relationships while trying to control the (then unknown) OCD that likes to manifest in many ways, including relationship OCD. She was always there to snuggle into bed with at the end of a horrible day, and more than willing to help.

Gabby and my mother became extremely attached also. My mother has been dealing with Lupus as long as I can remember. Not to mention Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, and near clockwork boughts of Pneumonia. Gabby was her therapy dog too, and she needed her more than I when I moved out. Gabby was not sad to see me go, as she knew I would be back constantly to give her food under the table with every “My son moved out of the house he is starving to death” meal my mother made me. Years passed, meals shared, snuggles had, and belly rubs a plenty.

When my wife and I got married, we got our own “Gabby” since my mom had a lock on the OG. We got Bella, a miniature Shih Tzu who like Gabby, was a perfect fit for us. All 5lbs of stubborn, lovable, furry goodness who picked up some cheek rubbing and therapy like actions from her older aunt Gabby. Bella LOVES Gabby, like REALLY loves her, like confused girl dog trying to hump another girl dog love. Gabby loved to fight her off her though, because she was bigger than someone finally and could play hard with her. It was also hilarious.

Somewhere around that time Gabby started having a lump show up on her stomach beside one of her nipples. There was no pain, redness, or care in the world from her at all. Did I mention my mom has a lot of the same broken brain symptoms as I do? No? Well, she is a worrier too. So much so that she worried about her, but saw that she was not in any pain and just knew the vet would say it was cancer and she would battle it and battle it and then ultimately have to leave us. So she made the decision to not take her in for it until she showed a life threatening sign from it, pain, or an uncomfortableness from it. Which never came. She stayed the same lovable dog that she has always been and never missed a beat, even though the tumor grew bigger albeit very very slowly.

Mom also got, as a puppy, a Boston Terrier name Gert. Gabby took to getting on to her whenever she did something bad, and mothered her as her own. Gert can be told “Be Ashamed” and will immediately flip onto her back and paw at me as if to say “Please, I know that was wrong”. Gabby taught her well. Now Gert will not sleep anywhere else except right beside Gabby no matter how much she would rather sleep alone.  She loves her dearly. That is what makes this even harder.

Back to present day, with the text I received from my father stating “I need to send you a picture of gabby and if you feel like calling me about it need to talk to you. If you do call me on house phone” Followed by an immediate picture of the tumor, now small potato sized and even spread to the adjacent nipple in a small amount. I will spare you the picture, because I instantly had every fear and anxious worry come flooding into my head that I had been blocking for almost 14 years. She had a dime sized hole in her skin on the tumor and it was so deep you could see the blackness where the light couldn’t reach. No one knows how, but in the last few days they noticed a smell coming from her, and figured she had done a “You’re not getting on to me for that, I’m gonna go roll in something nasty so you have to bathe me” tantrum. My mother cut her hair today and was going to bathe her when she found it. It must have gotten scratched and infected the smallest amount to make a head that burst from the pressure of the tumor and then it drained. That was where the smell was coming from. I instantly told my wife we needed to get down there now with tears welling and my voice crackling. We got down there with non stick medical pads and athletic self adhering cling wrap to bandage her up and take her to an emergency vet at 8:00pm. After talking everything over, and seeing how she is still in not the least bit of pain and still her normal playful stubborn self, we decided that I would take her to our local vet first thing in the morning. This was not a decision to be made lightly because I know very well there is a good chance she will not be coming back with me for cheek presses and furry snuggles. She is old, has a (presumably) cancerous tumor with a dime sized hole in it. My sister has not got to see her yet either, so this will allow her to have some time with her too. Just in case the unthinkable happens on Monday, July 31st.

I’m lucky to have friends who have stuck by me in the craziness that is my mind and habits, that work with shelters and animals, like Amy and Ben. Amy has given me a run down of what to expect if it were to happen. My mother and father are planning on moving in the future and don’t want to bury her there for having to leave her alone when moving day comes. So we have decided to try cremation so that she may be with us always wherever we all may go. This was also not an easy subject to discuss, but it is one out of necessity.

Who knows, she may see the vet in, oh 6 hrs when I’m still fully wide awake from not even being able to try and sleep and staying up to write my novel of a first blog post, and they say they can treat the infection, make sure she isn’t in pain, and offer her to come home to spend the rest of her days with family? Maybe I’ll be the one who will be there to comfort her and have cheek presses and furry cuddles with her in her time of need, like all the times she so lovingly gave to me when I needed them the most. Gah, that dog has gotten me through so much s@#$. You guys have no idea. I will be there with her until the very end if comes to that. I will be strong for her as she has been for me. I will hold her tightly as I have so many times, only this time I will be trying to hold on to what I can’t physically hold. The attitude, the stubbornness, the yaps, the snuggles, the cheek presses, and the love that she has always given me. I will be strong for her as I would for any other family member, and as soon as she gone, I will crumble. I will fall so hard and fast for so long that I will feel like I won’t be able to breathe. I will forever have a piece of myself that will always feel unfilled, and empty. I will remember the bad times more than the good and constantly try to force them out of my mind in favor of the happier ones I have mentioned here. That is the nature of my brain, it works against me, even with the right medications and therapy, it will still be hard. I will make it though this fine, I know that. It’s the one battle I was always hoping I wouldn’t have to fight myself over though, even though I logically knew it was going to happen someday. Hold your animals close, snuggle them tightly, and press your cheeks against them for me please. You never know how much that will mean to each other until you find that you might be facing the possibility of not being able to do that anymore in the very near future.

Thanks for sticking with me until the end. This was a sad therapy post that I needed and I hope someone reads it and finds solace in the words I have written or the feelings I have conveyed.

For everybody else,

TLDR: My 14 year old, come October, dog is dying and I am not dealing well, yet.

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