Heartbreak Times Two

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It’s never easy to say goodbye to a beloved family member. For many of us, the loss of a dear four-legged “kid” is as heart-wrenching as any human loss. You may wonder why I haven’t been authoring my blog for so long. Here is a large part of that reason.

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Our Darling Dolly

Dolly

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It’s incredibly hard for me to even think about this, let alone write about it; but I’ll give it a try.

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Dolly

You’ve read about our Dolly girl in several previous posts. Without reprising all of that, I’ll give you a synopsis of how Dolly came to be with us.

We really weren’t looking to adopt. We had Bear and Sydney who had established a relationship over almost three years of living together. Bear had driven poor Sydney (who was a senior when we adopted her) a little crazy with his youthful shenanigans, but they had reached a comfortable status quo. Bear was a couple of weeks shy of his first birthday when we adopted him and Syd was a senior, but it worked. Sadly, though, Syd was slowing down quite a bit and Bear really needed someone to play with. Syd wasn’t a viable candidate for that anymore.

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Dolly – The Face I Couldn’t Resist

One evening I was reading posts on Facebook, when up popped the photo of the most adorable, fluffy, white, German Shepherd Dog I’d ever seen. Jim had always said he would like to have a white GSD female sometime. Here was the cutest face on the planet and she was coming to Michigan. I knew in my heart that she absolutely must come live with us. She would be the white female Jim had wanted and the playmate Bear needed.

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Dolly’s Intake Photo

I put the wheels in motion. I started writing to Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue (the organization that she was coming to all the way from California). I went to their website and filled out all the paperwork. “Dolly” (as she had been named by the rescuers in California) had been pulled from a high-kill shelter by an organization called Miracle GSD Network.

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Dolly Pappas – Day One!

After the Miracle Network checked over our application and followed-up with our references, we were approved to adopt Dolly. Sydney, Bear, Jim, and I piled into the car and drove to meet Dolly. Everyone got along beautifully, and Dolly became part of the family. Honestly, though, she was already firmly in my heart.

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Cinder

 

Cinder

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Cinder at Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue

As you probably recall from previous posts, we adopted Cinder from Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue in 2014. (See previous post “Cinder(ella?)” She had come to the rescue in exceedingly poor shape. She was nothing but skin and bone and her toenails hadn’t been trimmed in ages. Basically, she was a mess. Kristin at SWMGSR immediately went to work to get “Sinder” healthy. She called us as she knew we had experience with adopting seniors and had recently lost our most senior girl. Would we consider taking on another senior?

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Cinder’s Poor Feet on Intake at SWMGSR

After the requisite spaying (and – in this case – nail trim), we rode out to meet “Sinder” with our Dolly (who had been adopted in April of 2014) and Bear (adopted July of 2011). Everyone seemed to get along well, so we signed the paperwork and Cinder (immediately changed her name to match her coloration) came home with us.

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Bringing Cinder Home

Changes and Challenges

Cinder & Dolly

Happy Days – Cinder & Dolly at Miracle/SWMGSR Reunion – Summer 2015

Sometime in the fall of 2015, we noticed that Dolly seemed to be “dragging” her front feet a little. She still would run, but she seemed to knuckle under frequently. Our vet thought it was possible that she had banged her shoulder into the dog door and was experiencing some weakness due to some minor nerve damage. He also cautioned, though, that we might be dealing with Wobblers’ Syndrome if she didn’t improve over a little time.

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Dolly in Doggles for Cold Laser Treatments

My earlier blog posts went into great detail about Dolly’s challenges with Wobblers’ and her brave struggles.

Life has a way of throwing hard, curve balls at you. How you respond to adversity sometimes tells you more about yourself than when things go well.

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Earlier this year, Cinder started a swift decline. Her mobility became very compromised. She had difficulty getting in and out of the house. Walking for her was exceedingly difficult. She was obviously in quite a bit of pain. She didn’t even want to eat. We tried everything the vets recommended, but Cinder was telling us she was done. With a great deal of sorrow, we allowed our big girl to end her pain and suffering and go to the Rainbow Bridge in peace.

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Only a month later, our Dolly dog started to experience very similar problems. Her Wobblers got to the point where she was unable to control any portion of her mobility or her internal organs. We tried helping her with a sling – which worked for a while. Within that short time, though, our Dolly gave up. She couldn’t be coaxed to eat anything. (Dolly had always been such a “chow hound.” Undoubtedly, this was due to her tough life on the streets of California before she was rescued.) She wouldn’t even try to rise. I still get a huge lump in my throat and my eyes tear uncontrollably when I remember the sad, pained look of surrender in her eyes. Once again, we had to make the decision to let her go.

It’s never easy to lose a family member. To lose two in the space of a few short weeks is almost too much to withstand. Our poor boy, Bear, was very sad and confused; but we know that he had an even better sense of the degree of the girls’ conditions and illness than we did. Letting them go was the hardest thing to do, but it was also the ONLY thing to do. Allowing them to suffer was never an option. Cinder and Dolly will always have very special places in our hearts. We will miss them until the day comes that we join them again across the Rainbow Bridge.

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Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Hail to the Chief

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

I’ve been trying to write this post for months. Every time I’ve begun, the waterworks have started and I’ve abandoned ship. Not this time. This is for Chief.

 

Chief (or Chiefy as we called him most of the time) came into our lives at a very low point. Our goofy, adorable, white German Shepherd Dog, Blizzard, had contracted hemangiosarcoma and we’d been forced to euthanize him. For those of you lucky enough to not know what this disease is, it’s a form of blood cancer. We were bereft.

 

I told our friend Janet of the loss as she’d been the one who got us involved with Atlanta German Shepherd Rescue Resource. She had loved our Blizzydog almost as much as we did. She was still strongly involved with the rescue resource, while we had moved to Michigan. Janet told me that it just so happened that a young, male, white, German Shepherd Dog was in the process of going into the resource program. His former people had to give him up due to a relocation across country. Janet said she would take him as a foster to see if we might want to adopt him. Oh, by the way, his name was Chief.

 

After a few weeks, Janet told me that Chief was a wonderful dog. She was crazy about him, and not to worry – if we decided not to adopt, she’d keep him. Well, we decided that we had room (both in our home and in our hearts) for another fella. All three of our girls (Cheyenne, Guinevere, and Liesel) missed their brother, too. So, off to Kentucky we drove – on Fathers’ Day. Janet drove up from Georgia and met us at a rest stop on I-75 in the middle of Kentucky. We made the transfer, and Chief (who was ADORABLE) laid right down and didn’t give us a moment’s trouble all the way home.

 

The girls accepted him into their pack immediately. Here was another extraordinarily happy, white, boy. It was the smoothest transition you can imagine. What Chiefy must have thought – long ride, new people, new house and a pack of new dogs! Never turned a hair, though.

 

As time went by, Chiefy stole more and more of our hearts. His sisters adored him and he mended Jim’s and my hearts over the loss of Blizzard. He wasn’t Blizzard – no dog could ever be – but he had his own, inimitable, loving style that captivated everyone who ever met him. He was so much his own dog – a style all his own.  He was a sweet, funny, loving dog.

 

As time passed, so did our girls. I won’t recount all of that here again. Each has their own story in earlier posts. Chief mourned each, but seemed to realize how much his “dad” and I needed him. It was especially true when we lost Liesel (Jim’s best girl) in August of 2010 and Guinevere (who was my heart and my shadow) exactly (to the day) three months later. The toll their losses took on Chiefy must have been more than we could see.

 

Shortly after Liesel passed away, we brought Sydney into our lives. Sydney needed a home right away. Her people were divorcing and neither could keep her. She was an older dog (7 years) and they had felt that if they didn’t find a home quickly, they’d have to euthanize her. We didn’t hesitate. Surprisingly, she slid into the crossword puzzle that was our lives like a piece that had been planned all along. She had never been around other dogs, but she integrated like she’d been part of the pack forever. She let little Guinevere (as sick as she was) maintain the alpha female status and buddied up with Chiefy. Both she and Chief seemed to understand how desperately ill Guinevere was but never gave her a moment’s trouble. When Guinevere left us, they grieved – almost as much as I.

 

Not long thereafter, I noticed Chief had lost some of his get-up-and-go. I assumed that the years were starting to take their toll and that arthritis was starting to bother our boy. His annual exam and blood tests had come back “normal.” We decided to take him to a veterinarian friend who had started a rehabilitation clinic and did canine acupuncture. We hoped it would make him more comfortable and help him get his energy back.

 

We went through the winter, and it seemed to give him some relief, but not enough to warrant continuation. As spring came, it looked as though Chiefy was feeling better. We hoped that the sorrows of losing our precious kids were behind us and that we were starting to make our way again.

Spring turned into summer. It was as if, all of the sudden, Chief started slowing down again. Most of the time, he appeared to be his happy-go-lucky self; but the heat got to him more. We chalked it up to age, although he was only around 9 years old.

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Some days (like in the photo above), Chief acted completely normal. Unfortunately, things went downhill very fast. By late June, we were really starting to worry. Jim took him to the vets’ office. We didn’t see one of our regular vets – who knew Chief well – but the new vet assured us that Chief’s problem was arthritis. She didn’t think x-rays were necessary. She was wrong. The next couple of days brought a swift deterioration in Chief’s condition. We had to pull out the belly sling that we’d had for Cheyenne when she was losing her battle to cancer. In my heart, I knew.

Finally, on July 3, I made a call to our friend Mary – the veterinarian who had helped him with the acupuncture. She came over and saw that Chief could no longer walk. He was panting and in distress. The option was take him to the emergency vet to see if there was anything that could be done or put him down, then and there. If we’d taken that option, Mary warned us that we would always wonder if there had been another answer. I am so grateful that we took him to the emergency vet. They wheeled him from the car on a gurney and immediately x-rayed him. Cancer! He was full of it. We knew that there was only one option. It took the wondering out of the equation.

Chiefy was brought in and laid on the floor of the room that was specifically set up for goodbyes. It was large enough for people to be on the floor with their loved one, dimly – but, adequately – lit, and quiet. I laid down next to my great, white, sweet boy one last time. He was still sedated from the x-ray, but he knew we were there. He had given me a look when they wheeled him in that said – as clearly as if it had been out-loud and in English – “Please, Mom, make it stop.” He was so tired of fighting. He was in pain. It was time to let him go. My heart was, once again, in a million pieces. It was the only “right” thing to do. Jim and I kissed our boy as he went to the “Rainbow Bridge.” I told him he would see his sisters again and they could play. I told him he would finally get to meet his brother.

I begged him to come to meet me there when my turn comes. I’ll be looking for him.

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