Wednesday, March 7, 2012

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Next week marks six months since we said goodbye to the most well behaved, prim and proper German Shepherd you have ever met, and will probably ever meet. Its taken me six months to get the balls to write this post and I'm certain I won't make it through the whole thing without looking like Tammy Faye Baker by the end.

I've owned animals my entire life. My family got a cat from the neighbor when I was in Kindergarten. I won a black lab, named Annie, when I was crowned Little Miss Strawberry Festival. I loved them both dearly and they loved each other so much that once one passed the other wasn't far behind. We all told ourselves at that time, no more animals, never again.

I dated a guy in college and "we" got a Pitbull. The dog ended up becoming "his dog" and we broke up. I wanted visitation rights, but there are no formal papers for a broken heart. He was an amazing and loving dog. When my ex moved to the West Coast he actually didn't take the dog with him, the dog stayed here in Nova. However, he and I did lose touch, and with that I lost touch of the dog. I was sad, but not devastated. So much time had passed and the dog truly wasn't mine, that it was sad to me, but not crushing.

Then I met Coal Miner. I swore I would never date a guy with a dog b/c they treat dogs better than their girlfriends. They let their dogs sleep in the bed, sit on couches, eat people food, etc, etc. I made an exception for Coal Miner b/c he was so charming and loving towards me even with the cute German Shepherd, named Casey, I saw in his pictures. And then I met her. This dog, this German Shepherd named Casey was the most wonderful dog I've ever met. She loved Coal Miner more than an animal should logically love their owner. She knew the sound of his car, his whistle, even his footsteps. She knew his work schedule and would wait patiently by the door for his arrival. She was the lowest maintenance dog ever. She just wanted to be played with and walked. That was it. But there was a catch, she was kept indoors.

When Coal Miner and I decided to move in together I didn't know how I was going to handle a dog living in my townhouse. I was raised to believe that animals were outdoor creatures that should live outside and never be allowed to take residence in a home. But I said I would do it. I would give it a shot, and so I did. It took some getting used to (and the agreement of a bi-weekly maid service) but I was actually pretty okay with the whole arrangement. Actually, I ended up loving it. I ended up loving her. I ended up loving her more than I ever loved another animal. Because this dog, this German Shepherd named Casey loved me. She followed me around. She came to me instead of Coal Miner. She waited patiently for me to get home. She knew the sound of my car, my footsteps, my schedule. She loved me more than any animal should logically love their owner. I bought her more toys than necessary. Gave her one too many treats and tried to make her eat super expensive food. I yelled at her when I shouldn't have, took my frustrations out on her when it had nothing to do with her, became infuriated when she wouldn't walk fast enough when it was cold outside, let her sleep in the bed when I was scared or alone, talked to her when no one would listen, cried to her when no one was around. She became, well, one of my best friends.

Then one day Casey wouldn't go on her walk. She wouldn't go further than a few steps. She just laid there in the yard staring at Coal Miner. She lived for walks and picking up new sticks and chasing dogs that look like small squirrels. So we decided to take her to the vet immediately. We couldn't get her to move from the floor in the office, to the exam room. She wasn't even acknowledging small dogs when they entered the vet's office. She just wasn't herself. So the vet came to her. He drew some blood from her leg and asked us to head back into the exam room without Casey b/c they were going to carry her into the back.

20 or so minutes passed and the vet came back with a very solemn look. He informed us that Casey had blood in her stomach, a cancerous hole in her liver, and that was what he found just in a few short minutes. He paused and looked down at the floor before moving onto the next part. I noticed he had tears in his eyes. He then let us know that we would have to put Casey to rest that evening. This was not something that Coal Miner and I were prepared for, capable of understanding, or realistically going to follow through on. She's fine. She's in the room with us now. She's licking my hand. She's fine. But she wasn't fine. She was dying. She wasn't eating. She didn't have any strength and her body was shutting down.

The doctor gave Casey a cortisone shot and allowed us to spend one last night with her. She ate like a queen: pizza, twinkies, and bread sticks. We played the flashlight game for at least an hour. We stayed up with her until 1am until we couldn't possibly keep our puffy eyes open a moment longer.

September 15, 2011 was, to date, the hardest day of my life. I will spare you the details mostly because I don't want to recreate them in my mind. I played with her fuzzy ears, told her I loved her, and that was the last time I saw that beautiful furry face.

So my friends, if you have a furry friend that holds a special place in your heart. Play just a little longer tonight, go in for one more hug, and cherish those wonderful moments together because they can be gone in the blink of an eye.