Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Saying Farewell to Heidi

Sad news to report. Our beloved dog, Heidi, has entered into eternity. She lived a long life - 15 years, 4 months - which was over 2 years more than she was expected to live.

Back in March of 2006, our sweet, fluffy white American Eskimo was diagnosed with urinary cancer. We were given several options at the time, but our vet mentioned that using a cancer fighting drug called Peroxicam might help in the struggle with this illness. At the time, we weren't even told that many dogs only last for 3 months using such a drug.

After Heidi's tooth extraction at an emergency vet clinic several months ago, we visited our vet for a checkup (she wasn't eating much) and found out that she had kidney disease. It was December 31, 2007. We were told to prepare for the worst. Our vet gave us the prognosis as being "days to possibly two weeks" left for her to live. The tears flowed as we realized that we might only have days left with our first family dog.

The vet gave us another medication called "famotidine" for the kidney problem. Apparently, the peroxicam was harsh on the kidneys while it relieved the urinary cancer problem. The famotidine was to treat the kidney disease. Heidi was off of the peroxicam for three days. When she couldn't urinate anymore, I knew it was time to re-start that medication.

Surprisingly, she rebounded back from the brink of death. Within two weeks, she was running around in the yard with our puggle Sasha - prancing about like a puppy again. It was so cute! She runs around and then gets tired and lays back down on the green grass.

She was always a "barker." When any of us would kick a small soccer ball for Sasha, she would come over just to bark. She wasn't a very smart dog and didn't "get" how to play soccer with us, but she certainly wanted the attention! A few times she would chase and pounce on the ball. It was as if her younger sister taught her the ropes!

Two weeks ago, Heidi did not consistently eat her food anymore. I found that she would only eat once every three days. Then, she started not eating at all. I could hardly get a tablespoon of food with her medication into her. One evening, I was so concerned that I followed her around the yard spoon-feeding her. She ate three tablespoons full that day. From that point on, it was all downhill. She was weakening and losing the ability to walk and squat without her hind legs collapsing under her. She lost bowel function and needed to be bathed several times a day. She was bed-ridden for two days and two nights.

I knew that the moment I called the vet and shared what was happening, they would have told me, "its time."

However, all this time during her difficulties, she didn't cry. It didn't look like she was in pain. Then, this last Friday, August 8th, she cried constantly. I went in to comfort her every 15 minutes.

Let me back-track a bit here. Several days before, I had gone to a doggie deli store to get food for Sasha. While talking with the young lady behind the counter about Heidi, I asked her, "when will I know it's time?" She said, "Your dog will give you 'the look'." I said, "What kind of look?" It will be a look that tells you she's ready to go."

She was right. When Heidi was crying and I went in to pet and comfort her - she had a different look in her eyes. I thought, maybe that is "the look" the pet store lady meant?

My husband was able to leave work early. My son got home from his job at 2:00 p.m. We called the vet and they said they were really booked up later in the day but we could bring her in right now.

I couldn't help feeling VERY conflicted. I wanted her to hold on and stay with us a bit longer. Yet, I knew that she was telling us it's time.

The drive over there was excruciating. It wasn't long before I teared up. I wasn't even driving very well. At a train crossing, I found myself needing to back up as the barriers came down. To make it worse, there was a cop car behind me!

My son was in the back seat comforting Heidi in her bed. My husband was in the front passenger seat. It was a tough 15 minute ride to the vet office.

Our daughter was unable to be there in person, so she talked to Heidi by cell speakerphone and listened to everything that was being said and done. Sasha was with us, too.

It went better than expected. First, I have to say that for the very first time in her life, Heidi didn't shake entering the vet office! During her regular exam visits, she would shake so violently! And she wouldn't stop until we were out the door! She was always a nervous dog. But this time, she was calm. It was as if she knew that this would make the pain go away.

I cried so much.

It was painless and peaceful. When Heidi was gone, my son lowered her bed to the floor so that Sasha would know.

There is a radio show called "Doctor Dog." He has a website and there is a very good bereavement page.

Since listening to that show on the radio, I have learned a lot about dog behavior. Back in Dec. 2007, I did not know that it was important for other dogs in the family to sniff the dog that has departed this life in order for them not to continue to look for them. That was quite helpful to know.

Sasha is going through grief just like the rest of us. She misses her companion of almost three years.

Out of habit, I threw down two dog biscuits. She and Heidi used to "fight" to get their treat. This time, she brought both biscuits up on the couch and laid them in front of her. She sat there for a few moments. My daughter, who was sitting on the couch, typing on her laptop computer saw this and immediately teared up. I came back into the room and she told me to look at what Sasha was doing. At that point, I was worried that maybe we didn't "do it right" at the vet office and that Sasha didn't realize that Heidi wasn't coming back.

The next morning, she wouldn't walk out the back door by herself. The routine was that she would wait for Heidi to lumber along and they would walk out together.

I has been really tough for me. I keep looking out the kitchen window, expecting to see my fluffy white dog sleeping in the green grass like she often did throughout the years.

Another tip I learned from the Dr. Dog radio show was not to prolong the grieving period with your second dog. Apparently, a lady called in and confessed that she grieved with her second dog every day for months! Dr. Dog politely told her not to do that because she was teaching the dog a new habit that might be hard to break.

We have tried to carry on as normal as possible at our home. Sometimes each of us have to grieve in private. That's O.K. It takes time.

We are getting Heidi's ashes back. I liked the idea shared at the Dr. Dog website:

How I Deal With A Departed Dog

Like many of you, I know how devastating the loss of a beloved dog can be. I still mourn the loss of Mugger, whose cancer mandated euthanasia last year, and I rarely think of his loss without a sob. He was so very, very special.

I've come up with what for me is the best way to deal with a beloved dog's death. I have the dog cremated and get the cremains back. Then I go to my favorite plant nursery and buy a new large bush or tree. After I dig the hole in just the right place in my yard, I mix the dog's ashes in with the fertilizer and amendments for the plant. Then I plant the new bush or tree.

This gives me two major benefits. First, with his or her very last act on Earth, the dog I so loved contributed to LIFE. Second, in a way they're still with me. As I walk around my yard, at the jacaranda I say: "Hi, Bimbo!" At an orange tree it's: "Hey, Shadia!" Baron gets greeted when I see the Liquid Amber. So they're all still with me because they helped bring life to the plants in my - their - yard.

This is especially beneficial if the plant bears fruit. No orange ever tasted as sweet as an orange from the tree Shadia helped to grow. Wherever you live, there are trees that will do well that bear some sort or fruit, nut or flower. How good if that beloved departed dog can be thanked with every lime, avocado, or grapefruit that you enjoy from now on!

Do it this way, and you'll get to love them forever - just as I do.

We plan to plant a "Heidi" tree or bush in our yard. That way, we will have a landmark in remembrance of her.

This book sounds good, too:

"Do Dogs Go To Heaven?"
Eternal Answers for Animal Lovers
M. Jean Holmes

Ms. Holmes, a practicing attorney, spent several years researching and writing this book to answer the question her mother asked her and many clergymen. Based upon intense study of Scripture and Christian, Hebrew and Greek documents, her conclusion is well documented and seems virtually bullet proof!

We love you Heidi! We know that you are now at peace. See you in heaven!!


Carlotta said...

So sorry to hear about your dog Heidi Christine.

I'm thinking about our two cats that we've had now for 12 years. Snowball and Brownie can't last forever and to think of the day where we'll no longer have them is no fun at all.

I'm a dog lover first, as these two cats were born in my mother and father's garage by a stray cat. We fell in love with them but I would always tell my kids "I hate cats!" I've said that every year but those darn cats 12 years later are still with us!

Our pets are like family and losing them we are losing a part of us.

My condolences to you and your family as I know Heidi will be missed!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about Heidi. My condolences to you and your family.

I believe that God doesn't create something for nothing so I'm open to the idea of pets being in heaven.

Christinewjc said...

Thank you Carlotta and Sosthenes. I appreciate each of your sentiments.

Carlotta, I have had dogs and cats over the years, but I am definitely more of a "dog lover."

Since the Bible tells us that one day, the "lion shall lie down with the lamb," perhaps that means that our beloved pets who have left this earth will be reunited with us in eternity. I surely hope so! I need to get that book, "Do Dogs Go To Heaven?"

Stephen said...

Sorry to hear about your loss Christine. I know how pets really become part of a family. I'm sure she brought you all so much love -- as I'm sure you gave her the most wonderful home while she was here.

Lord bless you and yours durng this sad time.

Love to you and praise God for your evangelizing and contending for the faith that you so faithfully do! Irene and I so greatly appreciate you and your labor for the Lord and standing for righteousness!

Love, Steve & Irene

Christinewjc said...

Thank you Steve. I really appreciate your kind comments.

You are so right when you included the need for Christians to contend for the faith as well as evangelize. I hope that you will read my new post Their Own Consciences Testify. I have also included some additional commentaries and links in the comment section.

Staying silent while the homosexual activists rampage against Christians is not the answer. More Christians need to see this for what it is - a battle between good and evil.

Proposition 8 (CA marriage issue) will be one of the most important ballot measures in our nation's history. It is THAT IMPORTANT. Please keep this in your prayers.

The opposition is spending millions of dollars on T.V. commercials designed to appeal emotionally towards what is being perceived and presented as "taking away the right for gays to marry." I have set up a new blog called Protect Biblical Marriage. I hope that you will consider visiting there (and spreading the word about it) so that we can educate people about what is really at stake in this important issue.

Thanks and God bless!

Kevin said...

Hi Christine,
So sorry to hear about your dog. It is never, ever easy. I grew up with dogs and each time one would pass away, we would declare that we would never get another one. But we always did.

Christinewjc said...

Thank you for your very kind sentiments, Kevin. I really appreciate that you took the time to read this post and comment.

For us, having our second dog has REALLY helped us through the grieving process. When I see the areas in our home where Heidi's bed used to be, and her dog dishes were, a pang of sorrow, grief and emptiness comes upon me. However, IMO, coming home to a completely pet-empty house would have been far worse.

We want to get another dog in the future. Just not sure when yet.

Hope you had a nice vacation!


Kevin said...

Hey Christine,
I had a very nice vacation. I am off to Michigan this afternoon to see my family, so I am really looking forward to it.
We have a cat who is 12 years old and in good health. But we've been thinking about getting another cat just to keep him company and hopefully give him more exercise during the day when we aren't home.
Take care,