Making her last day her best day

“Somewhere in between the pace of life and work and where you’re going, something makes you stop and notice, and you’re finally in the moment.” -Come From Away

Man, nothing brings your world to a screeching halt like the moment you’re faced with saying goodbye to a pet.

No other way to say it, friends, today was a shit day.

It has been a hard year for our hound, Electra. We haven’t been able to ignore the signs of her aging—the wounds that have taken longer to heal, the arthritis flaring, the usual laziness slowly giving way to lethargy. Visits to our vet and a few new medications bought some time and some relief. But this week her breathing became labored and she suddenly lost interest in food.

We always said the day Electra stopped eating like Joey Chestnut trying to win the annual 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest would be the day we knew her time had run out.

I took Electra in for some tests this morning, and the doctor called me to come look at the x-rays.

“I hate to tell you but I have to be honest,” she said pointing to the shadows on the film. “Your beautiful girl has a great big heart, but this time that’s not a good thing.”

And the blood tests confirmed it—our sweet Electra’s heart is failing.

We talked about options and time, and what I kept saying over and over through my tears was that I never wanted Electra to suffer. And I knew we were standing right on the edge.

I spent the rest of the day sitting beside her, feeding her all the treats and scrambled eggs she will eat (which I hate to say is not very many compared to the legendary feasts of days past).

Mostly, I spent the day just hoping like hell that we gave her a good life, because damn this dog deserves it.

For all the fun we always poked at her for being a food whore and a rabbit killer, Electra is the finest dog that ever lived (and don’t you dare try to tell me otherwise because I will fight you right now).

She never barked obsessively at nonsense like doorbells and delivery men.

She never protested our kids grabbing onto her droopy folds of skin as they pulled themselves up and found their balance and learned to walk (in fact, we often watched her position herself strategically next to them and brace herself when she saw them reaching).

She never growled or snapped or made a menacing move toward any living creature (except a few rabbits and Foerth’s dog, Indy, but we all know Indy probably deserved it).

Electra never demanded anything but love and head scratches and food.

My Aunt Jen said something on the phone today that hit me right in the heart (of course I had to reach out and ask her for some reassurance that we’re doing the right thing; she’s the best vet I know, and I trust she’ll give it to me straight and not bullshit me). She said she’s always lived by the rule that she never wanted her pets’ last day to be their worst day, and every decision she has ever made to either try and manage the effects of aging or humanely euthanize has been made with that rule in mind.

I don’t want Electra’s last day to be her worst day. Our sweet girl deserves so much more than that. She has given us her entire life—love and laughter and memories and a million beautiful moments we will never forget.

Tonight, our hearts are hurting, knowing that tomorrow might be the last time we hold Electra and watch her sitting, regal as a queen, in the grass at the top of the hill with her hound dog nose stretched up high to catch a passing scent. But there is some small comfort knowing that we can take the time to make sure tomorrow is Electra’s best day—filled with warmth and love and as many treats as her big hound dog heart desires as we say goodbye and send her home.

365 Project – Day 237 – Stones in the Road

These past few weeks, I’ve been working on finishing up the photos from my first senior photo session with the daughter of one of my best friends.

It’s been something of a surreal experience to say the least.

See, I’ve known Katie since she was three, and I was just a high school student myself. It doesn’t seem quite possible that she will be graduating this year. I mean, I know I just celebrated a birthday, but that doesn’t mean that I actually believe that I’m 31. It’s one of those things that I tacitly acknowledged, yet it hasn’t quite sunk in just yet, you know?

See, time is a funny thing. When you’re a child, the days are endless. Hours tick by at a maddeningly slow pace. And it always seems like you’re waiting for something. Waiting to be older. Waiting to grow taller. Waiting for your next birthday. Waiting for Mom to give you permission to spend the night at your friend’s house. Waiting to be chosen for the team. Waiting to get your learner’s permit and your driver’s licence. Waiting to graduate. Waiting to leave home and go to college. Waiting for that 21st birthday to roll around so you can finally go to the bar and have your first legal drink. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

But then, something happens. Some night, while you’re sleeping, some unseen force hits the Fast Forward button on your life. Days and weeks and months begin to blur together. And, instead of waiting, you find yourself chasing time like you once had to chase the cross town bus, waving desperately and praying that the driver will see you and slow down. Birthdays and holidays sneak up and fly by faster than you can acknowledge them.

At the risk of sounding cliche, it really does seem like only yesterday that I was graduating myself. Maybe it was just all the time I spent working on Katie’s photos these past few weeks, but the past thirteen years really have flown by. It wasn’t so long ago that I was just a wide-eyed graduate, leaving everything and everyone I knew behind to hop a plane to New York to pursue my dreams. I felt like I had already come so far, and I had no idea all the things that were yet to come.

It has been a long road for me to get here to this moment, a road full of obstacles and stumbling blocks and steep uphill climbs, yet I honestly wouldn’t trade one step of it. There has been love and laughter, joy and heartache, absolute frustration and utter devastation. There have been moments that took my breath away, moments I’m not so proud of, moments I will never forget and plenty of mistakes made along the way, but in the end, the sum of it has only shaped me and made me stronger. Like a carefully crafted chunk of clay, I had to endure the fire or risk being irreparably broken.

I don’t believe in coincidence, nor do I believe that every event in our lives is carefully choreographed and set in stone. What I do believe is that we come to this Earth with some ultimate goal, and that we are presented with options and choices that can help us get there. The choices that we make in those moments ultimately shape our futures, and we must learn to choose wisely or suffer the consequences. Life tends to get confusing and chaotic when we stray too far from our paths, but one thing I have learned is that there are always signs and guideposts to help us get back to where we need to be, if only we pay attention. And I like to think that, these days, I am a whole lot better at paying attention.

Tonight’s 365 Project is dedicated to the roads we travel, and to the amazing people we encounter along the way.


365 Project – Day 200 – Ouch

There is nothing that really prepares you for the realities of adulthood–things like monthly bills and mortgages, downsizing and job hunting, budgeting for groceries and hearing the doctor tell you that you have to start eating healthier, relocating and actually having to share your life, your property, your bed and small living quarters with a person you swore to love honor and cherish in both good times and bad. And there is certainly nothing that prepares you for the day you have to come face to face with the fact that you are not as young and invincible as you fancy yourself to be.

I’m getting old. There’s really no denying it anymore. I’m not going to be one of those people who celebrates their 29th birthday every year and lies about their age. Really, what’s the point? You can deny the cold, hard truth all you want, but unless someone actually finds the legendary Fountain of Youth or comes up with some sort of elixir like in the movie Death Becomes Her, we are all just being pushed slowly through the same inevitable aging process.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m only 30, so unless something drastic happens, I should be sticking around for quite a long time still. Even so, I’m not quite as footloose and fancy free as I used to be. And I guess there have been signs that I’m not quite as young and spry as I used to be.

Case in point–today I ended up with a rather painful injury at the YMCA gym. I wish I had some crazy or exciting story to share about it. Something like, I was using one of the weight machines when suddenly the band snapped, pinning me beneath the machine while all the onlookers stood helplessly. Then, just before it managed to crush me to death, I mustered one last burst of superhuman strength, heaved it off of my chest and managed to tear a muscle in the process.

But, no such luck. There was no death-defying accident, and I didn’t save others from being maimed by throwing myself in front of them, taking the painful blow myself and sparing their lives. Nope, not even close.

Here’s what did happen…

I spent 30 minutes going at a good clip on the elliptical machine, and then spent another 30 minutes making rounds at the weight machines, working my abs, my legs, my arms and my back. I was just finishing up my final rep on the ab machine when I saw Steven in the mirror, heading my way. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was nearly 7:00, so I figured he had already finished up.

I went to turn my head to talk to him and CRACK! I heard something in my neck snap and a bolt of pain erupted in the right side of my neck and ran down my arm.

Now, I like to think that I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. I mean, in high school, I had mono so bad that my throat swelled almost completely shut before I complained about having a sore throat (resulting in a 3-day stay in the hospital). And then when I had Cadence, I was in labor for almost three days and had nurses coming in the room just so they could watch the contractions spiking off the screen while I lay in the bed explaining to them that on a scale of one to ten, I wouldn’t even classify the pain as a two.

But this, this was painful. We managed to go pick Cadence up from the Child Watch room and headed home to make dinner. By the time we got to the house, I could barely walk it hurt so badly. I popped a couple of Tylenol and relaxed on the couch for a bit while Steven finished dinner. After a hot shower and sitting with the heating pad on my neck, I’m finally starting to feel a little relief.

Hopefully tomorrow I will be right as rain, because the last thing I need is to have to go see the doctor and try to explain to him or her that I managed to hurt myself so badly just turning my head. I mean seriously, who does that? Old people, that’s who!

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to everyone out there who is starting to feel the sting of getting old. Believe me, I feel your pain.

%d bloggers like this: