Thursday, March 31, 2022

I'm Finally Ready to Write This: Goodbye Sweet Heidi.

Disclaimer: Don't blame me if you choose to read this without Kleenex and get snot on your shirt.

She truly touched so many people as a therapy dog with hospice for two years

In late November I challenged myself to journaling every day for 100 days. I did pretty well, only missing a few days here or there. I wrote an entry on Day 39 (12/23/2022): "These are some things that kept me up in the night: Are the pets inside and safe? What does my day look like tomorrow?" Sometimes after worrying about things at night, I would get up and journal in the morning about what kept me up. It seems so much clearer and non threatening in the light of day. But, really, we never know what is coming. Because the next day Heidi died.

Charlie Brown was a top favorite!

Hardly a day has gone by since Christmas Eve that I haven't thought about writing the story of that day. But I just couldn't. Some of you have asked me more about Heidi, so thank you. I realized that part of her story is not just all of the wonderful days we had with her (9 years!) but how she left us. If you've read this blog over the years, you knew Heidi too. I think I'm ready.

Ironically, I love Christmas Eve for all of the anticipation, build up and magic that encompasses that day. This year, I slept like crap the night before and asked Ken if he would walk Heidi for me (he did weekends, I did week days). I never do that and I regret so much that I missed her final walk. Truth is, she seemed fine that morning. She hung out in the kitchen while I cooked two huge lasagnas for that night. As I took a short rest in the living room to catch my breath, I heard a crash. Ken yelled to me that Heidi had fallen over and my heart sank because I knew. You know how you just know? I did.

Forever loved her stuffed animals that she carried around

She was conscious, but did not want to get up. I had no clue what to do with a 70 pound dog who would not get up. My heart raced, tears clouded my eyes. I felt like I wanted to throw up. I called a few emergency vets and told them what happened. The gravity of their voices and hesitancy to give me any reassurance just confirmed what I knew.

Finally, we found a emergency vet who would see her immediately. The kids, thankfully home for the holidays, helped me and Ken push her onto a sheet. The four of us carried her to the car. I had this out of body experience for a second - watching her family carrying her sick body, a joint and loving effort. I knew I would never forget that image of all of us together, hearts hurting, lifting her body into my Ford Edge, for her last ride.

At the ER we quickly learned Heidi's stomach had filled with fluid - blood. She had not been sick, had not seemed sluggish, but likely her body was riddled with cancer we did not know about. A surgery that would likely hurt her more seemed unnecessarily cruel at this point. I've always felt that pet owners need to know when to let go and to not hold on selfishly because they don't want say goodbye. We knew our answer.

We were taken to a "comfort room" (I didn't find much comfort there) and they brought Heidi in and she laid on a blanket. She was comfortable, yet sleepy, as she'd been given some pain medicine. They left us to have some final moments with her to say goodbye. For Christ sake, I'll never be ready. Then the vet came in and explained what would happen next. They put medicine to relax her into her catheter and once that was in they let us know they would be administering the medicine that would stop her heart (and break mine). They started to give that to her. We all were in the midst of having our final goodbyes, laying over her body and whispering parting words, when the catheter failed.

Such a lady - crossing her legs

So, yes, to add horror to this whole thing, as she was half way gone things halted. And, we waited while they desperately tried to find another vein. I practically had a panic attack watching them poke and prod by sweet girl in her final moments. Finally, they figured it out and she was gone.

If you have lost a pet or love a pet or both then you know the pain.

This was taken just a few days before she died when we did pet therapy 

Grief for me looks like many different things. There is the obvious crying, drinking of wine, laying on the couch and crying more. Then there is the inability to look at any pictures of her, the regret over not having saved the last huge bunch of hair from her brush (then getting on hands and knees and trying to scrape it out of the carpet), the unexpected tears when I saw her dog poop in the yard (poop doesn't usually make me cry unless it's during a race and I'm about to shit my pants).  And, a thousand other things.

It's been over three months now. Just this week I put her picture on my desk. Maybe soon I can wear the PJ pants Ken gave me for Christmas with her picture all over them. And, I can finally write this post.

I've got a beautiful paw print and a gorgeous wood box with her ashes. I keep it close by.

And, the cat. Well, Krosby was/is sad. We got Krosby as a kitten and I truly think he looked at Heidi as his mama. He slept cuddled up to her belly. He roughhoused with her. He adored her. Sometimes he sits on the couch looking out the window where she was when she fell over and I swear he is looking for her. Or, maybe that's a story I just make up. I don't know. But I do know he misses her. We all do.

I don't love spring time (in Colorado it's super temperamental, muddy and windy), but I do love that it symbolizes new beginnings and growth. It's when the baby animals are born! When the crocuses poke up their heads from the frozen soil. When the birds start chirping with the sunrise.

And fittingly enough, it's when I will get my new puppy. I wasn't looking for a puppy. I wanted a 1-2 year old female Golden Retriever rescue. They are hard to come by, but I was prepared to wait. The day I put in my application last week I got a call. There was a litter of English Cream Golden puppies. Did I want one? Oh, hell. 

Which one is ours??

We will meet her April 9 at noon. She will come home April 16. Say what you want, but this feels serendipitous. Maybe a little nudge from Heidi. A new start.