>> Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This is not a food or recipe post, it's a life post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Up until yesterday, my day job was dog sitter extraordinaire to three special doggies. Today, there are two. It's still so hard to believe because it happened so fast.

The three dogs in my care were: Cannon, the baby, an incredible Australian Shepherd whose looks, intelligence and talent allow him to compete in agility, conformation and herding trials across the country; Jessie, a pale yellow fluff-ball of a Golden Retriever who lives up to her bleach-blond looks with her happy-go-lucky, ditzy, sometimes clumsy nature and Emma, the stalwart mother figure of the gang, a dark Golden with a serious demeanor and the most amazing fetching skills I had ever seen. For over a year now I have spent 8 hours a day with these pups, fixing meals, playing ball, watching them swim and wrestle and just hanging out. I spend most of my time with the girls as Cannon has classes and training sessions throughout the week.

Over the weekend I got a call from the owner of these three, letting me know that Emma was not feeling like herself. She had been refusing food and acting a bit sluggish so she went to the vet where they didn't find anything in her blood tests to indicate a serious malady. They gave her an anti-nausea injection and sent her home. She ate her dinner that night and seemed to be feeling better but by the next evening, her symptoms were back. By yesterday morning she was much worse; she was still refusing food but was drinking water heavily, one of her feet was curled under her and she seemed not to want to walk on it and she even went outside into the bushes to lie down and didn't want to come back in. Emma's owner called to let me know she was taking her to the vet before I arrived for the day. After she dropped Emma off, she called to say that Emma was at the vet and she'd let me know when she heard anything. As we were talking the vet called on the other line. She answered and called me back immediately to tell me that Emma had hemangiosarcoma and was hemorrhaging blood into her abdomen. Emma's owner asked the vet if Emma would make it until the end of the day. The vet said they could not promise that but would try to keep Emma alive until lunchtime so she could come say goodbye. We were both in shock. Friday, Emma had been herself, wrestling with her brother, fetching tennis ball after tennis ball, racing into the kitchen for every meal. Now on Monday, we were having to prepare to say goodbye to her forever, just one week before her ninth birthday. It was unimaginable. We were both familiar with the diagnosis as friends of Emma's owner have had pets pass away from this illness recently. Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of the blood vessels that is an increasingly common cause of death in Golden Retrievers and other large breed dogs. It causes blood filled tumors to form on the spleen, liver or heart. They can rupture suddenly and cause massive hemorrhaging. It moves very quickly and is difficult to detect because there are no symptoms until the tumors begin to rupture.

I met Emma's owner at the vet along with a close friend who used to sit for the dogs before I took over. We brought Jessie with us so she could understand what was happening, Cannon was at a lesson almost 50 miles away and couldn't be there with us. The vet made it clear that this illness was a time bomb. Emma might feel a little better for a little while but the tumors were present on her spleen and liver and it was only a matter of time until they burst. She was happy to see us but was clearly weak and out of it. The awful decision had to be made, whether to take her home and wait for the end to come or let the vet end her suffering and the waiting game. Any pet owner who has had to make this decision understands the agony of it. Emma's mom chose to say goodbye at a time when Emma was surrounded by all those who loved her the most. It was peaceful but incredibly hard and sad.

It's really difficult to be at the house today without Emma. Her bowl is gone. Her lunch is not in the fridge. She was always quiet and perfectly behaved but you can hear the empty space she used to fill.

Here are some of the great things about Emma:
1. She was AMAZING at fetch; she would hurl herself in all directions to catch a tennis ball and had lightening reflexes
2. She was scared of noises, stepping over cords and anything being where it didn't belong. If a package was delivered and I placed it on the floor, she would stare at it sideways, cautiously backing away from it until it was out of her sight.
3. She moved slowly and deliberately most of the time but acted like a pup when she played, jumping on top of her brother or sister, racing after balls, teasing Jessie by dropping tennis balls into the pool then plucking them out just as Jessie swam over to get them.
4. She loved to roll around on her back in the grass in the sun and did this at least once a day, her tongue lolling out the side of her smiling mouth
5. Though the strongest swimmer of the three dogs, she liked swimming the least and preferred to run around the edge of the pool while the other two swam, teasing them with tennis balls and keeping herself dry
6. Even though she didn't like to swim, she loved to stand on the top step of the pool and soak her feet, even when it was cold and gray outside, she had to get those paws wet
7. She required that you pet her. If you did not comply, she gave you a hardy thwack on the thigh with her paw until you saw the error of your ways and stroked her head
8. She was incredibly loyal and pouted every morning after her owner left like a kid on the first day of pre-school. She also went to the door an hour before her owner was set to return at the end of the day and waited there and would not be budged from that spot until she had greeted her mama.
9. She loved her brother and sister and was loving and protective of them.
10. She loved her squeaky ball, a treat I reserved for rainy days when no one could play outside. She would literally sit on the floor for hours, chomping it incessantly while her brother tried unsuccessfully to sneak it away from her.

She will be greatly missed


Amie March 3, 2010 at 11:32:00 AM PST  

I am so, so sorry. Losing a pet is one of the worst things...even just pets close to you.

Calamity Annie,  March 4, 2010 at 5:48:00 PM PST  

We lost a Cocker Spaniel to the disease many years ago and my best friend recently lost her Blue Heeler to it as well. You will miss Emma so much, but you will also know how good it was to have her and how good you were to her. God bless.

Anonymous,  March 14, 2010 at 8:06:00 PM PDT  

Your love of Emma and her brother and sister are evident in your words.

You've lost a member of your family and while family lives on yours if forever changed. Emma while not physically with you remains, and in time you'll have that little sad smile when Emma stories are told.

My Chaahrma is almost 14 has arthritis and tumors, but he still loves rolling in the snow and he suffers thru acupuncture. As all dogs go to heaven I hope your Emma is there greet him upon his arrival.

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