Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Three Years

Minnie was a surprise.

I didn’t believe my mom at first when she told my brother and I that we were getting a dog. It was something I had hoped for, wished for, but never really believed it would happen. Secretly, my mom and my dad had been visiting the local SPCA shelter and already had the paperwork to prove that Minnie would be ours soon.

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I was in fourth grade, my brother in fifth. I remember leaving school early, driving to the animal shelter to pick her up. She was beautiful. She sat on my mom’s lap as we drove home and immediately found her spot on a blanket laying on the floor the moment she walked into the door. In that moment, she stole all of our hearts and we would never be the same.

Over the next 11 years, Minnie was one of the best friends I’ve ever had. She slept in my bed every night, taking up as much space as she could. She would greet us at the door with something in her mouth, be it a shoe, a sock, or a receipt, anything laying by the door. She liked hugs and kisses after being away from us, but was always content to lay in her bed while we watched TV.

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She was a good dog. We could walk around in a public park without a leash on her and she would stay by our side, no matter what. My dad trained her and he did an amazing job. We could let her outside in the front yard and she would never leave, only scratching at the door when she was done. She would sit by the door and stare us down when she had to go outside. Sometimes, it would get so uncomfortable that we would leave in the middle of watching TV to take her out.

She was easily frightened by loud noises and yelling. Dutch is the total opposite, looking at you disdainfully when there’s yelling. Minnie always thought the problems lie with her so she would slink down real low, tail behind her legs, offering her apologies when most times, she wasn’t the one at fault. It was the most pitiful thing.

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In April of 2008, I was giving Minnie a hug and petting her when I noticed her throat felt like there were two lumps. I had my mom feel them and we set up a doctor’s appointment right away. The vet didn’t have good news. Shaking his head and tsk-ing, he let us know that Minnie had most likely developed lymphoma. At best, she had 2 years left and that’s if we pursued surgery and chemotherapy. He gave her a shot to “help with the pain” but I know in my heart, it was the wrong decision. Within a few hours, Minnie was different. Lethargic, unhappy. She wasn’t the same.

We took her to a specialist, who confirmed our fears. She had lymphoma. Chemotherapy could help, but it wouldn’t prolong her life for more than two years and there wasn’t any guarantee of that. So we made the tough decision to let her live out the rest of her days, until her quality of life diminished too far. Those next two weeks were the hardest of my life. It was so tough to see her go from a lively, fun dog who would greet us at the door full of energy, jump on the couch to cuddle while watching TV to a shell of the dog she was. She had a spot on the floor she only moved from to go outside. Every step she took was painful and every night, she would moan in pain. I don’t know how I could go through that again. I don’t know how it didn’t absolutely kill me from the inside with her. 

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It was June 8, 2008 when we decided we had to do what was best for her. We took Minnie to an emergency pet center to put her down. It was so difficult to hold her in my arms, a 25-pound sick dog, knowing this would be the last time I held her. The last time I looked into her furry face and saw my love reflected. When we went home, she would not be there for the first time in 11 years. I couldn’t be in the room when it happened. I left a split second before it happened. I hate myself for that. I hate that I left her. I hate that I couldn’t be there in those final seconds.

Minnie was an amazing dog. I feel blessed that she was my first dog and attached herself to my heart so solidly. I knew it would be difficult to replace her, but Dutch has done his part in restoring my heart. Still, Minnie will always be that first dog, the first one who taught me what love looks like.

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8 comments:

  1. Rachael Crumbliss6/8/11, 7:32 AM

    what a powerful time to read this! my 13 year old half beagle, patches, is currently living with lymphoma. we decided not to have her officially diagnosed because of it developing in her 12th year of life. she has had two low points, the first being lethargy and the second one being diarrhea, both of them only last about 2 weeks in duration. she has made two miraculous recoveries both times. unfortunately, the vet said usually their 3rd time around is the most difficult and when they usually don't recover. when she becomes ill again and isn't herself, we will then decide when to put her down. i am currently living in sydney, australia and am hoping to visit my patches one more time in nc this christmas before her time comes. touching of you to share this personal experience. very relevant in my life and i wanted to let you know.

    clayrachael.blogspot.com

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  2. KJHartenstein6/8/11, 10:32 AM

    Tears in my eyes.

    I remember when we had to put our family dog down.  She was pretty old at 16 but till that point she still seemed okay.  She just lost it one day, running around the house the something was chasing her.  It was horrible.  The doctor said it was something to do with her heart and she was most likely trying to figure out a way to stop the pain.  We could have had surgery done but honestly that rarely seems like a good route, especially with older dogs.  It was so sad having to say goodbye to her and my only comfort is that she's in doggy heaven and I can only imagine that that has to be one of the best places ever.

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  3. girlwiththeredhair6/8/11, 11:53 AM

    Awww this made me tear up a little. Pets ARE part of the family. Don't hate yourself for leaving the room. I'm sure Minnie understood it was too painful for you. XO

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  4. That is so incredibly sad, Steph. :( My dog Luke died a couple years ago, but I didn't cry. My dad kept our dogs in pens and we didn't really let them out all that much. Sometimes I'd go in their pens to play, but they would always jump on me, and when Luke stood on his hind legs he could easily take me out. I loved them, but because I was dancing and cheering and had school, I didn't get to spend a lot of time with them, especially since they were penned up. I've longed for a connection like you describe with a pet, though. I have a cat named Mattie now, but she has to stay at my cousin's house because my apartment complex doesn't allow pets, so I still don't really get that connection with her like I want. I'm hoping wherever I move to next, I can bring her with me.

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  5. Hello tears. My childhood dog, Tucker, had lymphoma. I was in 8th grade. I still remember the day my parents told me. We all sat and cried. The poor guy was so uncomfortable; we also elected to skip the surgery and chemo cause prolonging his life so we could have more time with him didn't seem right (and cause it wasn't going to be a cure).

    It's amazing and wonderful how dogs worm their way into our hearts, our lives, our couches and beds.

    I'm so glad you had Minnie in your life, and I'm sorry for her illness. Her memory will obviously live on forever and I'm sure she's looking at you from Dog Heaven (I'm a firm believer that all dogs go to heaven).

    Love this post, and thanks for sharing, Stehpany.

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  6. This post just made me cry a bit. I know how you feel- I just put my dog down in October and it feels like only yesterday. It was the toughest thing I've ever had to do. I only had her for about 8 years but my other dog, who I've had one year longer, was so devastated to lose his best buddy. We had a vet come to our house to put her down and it was the same reason as for your dog, she had really big lumps and she was no longer living properly. I was supposed to work the day she was being put down and the minute I walked into work I burst into tears! I went right back home, it was just too much. It's crazy how attached you get to animals, but they really do teach you all about love. Really great post Steph & I'm thinking of you today!! <3

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  7. Awwww, this totally resonates with me today. I am so glad that you had a dog like Minnie in your family for 11 years. Four years ago today my family made the decision to put down our family dog. She was 17.5 years old. It was such a hard decision, but it was the right decision.

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  8. aw i'm so sorry :( she looks like she was a precious dog. reading these stories makes me so sad for when i'll have to say bye to bama one day.

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