Grief, such an interesting emotion, Sadness, anger, memories of joy, all rolled into another emotion. This week, I am experiencing an abundance of overwhelming, heart breaking, gut wrenching grief. I was forced to say goodbye to my Zoe, therapy dog angel, on Thursday. Reliving the same experience I just had with Charlie a few short months ago.
Zoe was Charlie’s sister, his biological littermate. She came to live with me at 3 weeks of age as she was one of the 4 pups I had fostered out of the litter of 8 that were dumped on the doorsteps of the SPCA.
Friends of mine were looking to adopt a new puppy so I had them come and look at my little crew. They fell in love with Zoe and decided to make her theirs. I had always told them, if you didn’t adopt her, I would have. At 8 weeks of age, off she went to live with this family. She came over quite a bit for play date weekends. Her dad and I would talk on the phone and if no one knew any better, you would have thought we were talking about our human kids. “Is her back pack packed? Does she have her favorite toy? What about her blankie? What time are you bringing her? What time and day do you want to pick her up?”
She and Charlie were such a bonded pair. They did everything together. I still swear, to this day, they were twins. They slept back to back, they jumped off the stoop in synchronized motions, their tails were crooked in the same identical spot, in the same identical direction. Whenever it was time for Zoe to go home, she would mope and mourn for several days afterwards. It was gut wrenching to watch. Then one day, her new family and I decided that because of some changes in their lives and Zoe and Charlie’s bond, she would come back to live with me.
From that day on, we never looked back. Zoe was three then. She and I immediately took our Delta Society therapy evaluation and passed with flying colors. Zoe LOVED people. Kids, adults, it didn’t matter. Anyone that would pet her and talk to her, she adored. I could not have trained her to do what came to her so naturally. She always worked hard and always looked back to me to check in and make sure what she was doing was appropriate. And to check in for treats of course! Zoe loved treats as much as she did people.
In the seven years Zoe and I did therapy work together, she helped kids learn to read, she taught kids to say please and thank you, and she showed them that if you ask politely, she would play games with them. Dress up, hide and seek, hunt , Frisbee whatever. Over the years Zoe and I worked at Gilda’s Place (which is now renamed The Cancer Center), Genesis Women’s shelter, The Family Place (for domestic violence victims), Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center (also for child abuse), Medical City Children’s Hospital, Temple Slalom’s Caregivers Day Out and she took over Charlie’s spot in the Antepartum unit of the hospital. During the summers, we did a reading program at one of the Dallas Libraries so kids could come read to a dog to keep their reading skills up while on summer break. We also worked with special needs kids and kids that were special.
Over the years, I worked to make sure Zoe had special dispensation for her hips. She was born with hip problems, dysplasia, arthritis, call it what you will. So as she got older, her hips didn’t work as well. But she and I together, made sure she was always comfortable and never pushed beyond her limits.
Then one day last week, she seemed to really be in some discomfort from her hips. I ran her to the vet on Saturday and everything looked good. Pulse was good, temperature was good, bladder and such felt good. I worked really hard last week to find an acupuncturist to get her into quickly, so we could offer some relief to the pain she appeared to be experiencing.
Wednesday evening, as I sat on the computer, I looked over at her and she was sitting, just sitting, in such an odd manner. And as I watched her she started listing to the side and did nothing to correct it. For some unknown reason, I got up and looked at her gums. They were white. Not good. Gums are supposed to be pink, not white. 11 pm Wednesday evening, we sat in the emergency vet clinic waiting for a vet to see us. And I am terrified. Visions of Charlie were dancing in my head. This was too quick, it had to be fixable.
I am so thankful for the friend I called that night, at 11 pm who threw on clothes and ran out of her house to come and sit with Zoe and I. Charlie and Reilly, I handled on my own. This time, I needed a friend. Someone to hold my hand, someone to listen to what the vet said. Someone who could cry with me and tell me it would all be ok.
But it wasn’t ok. Zoe’s red blood cell count was so low, it had been hard to get blood into the syringe. The first thing I hear was “blood transfusion”. Zoe was losing blood at an alarming rate.
The diagnosis: either her immune system was turning on itself and causing her system to shut down, she had cancer, or a tick borne disease. Throw the tick disease out the window, not an option in this area. I wanted a second opinion. Home from the emergency room at 4 am, off to my vet clinic at 7:30 am. Zoe never slept. She sat the whole evening, sitting up and her eyes open. It was too painful for her to lay down. X-rays were done at our regular clinic and it was hard to see what was going on. There appeared to be gas, where no gas should be. It was most likely all the blood she was losing settling under her belly. There was a mass, but exactly where it was and what it was, was still a mystery.
The choices: send the x-rays out to be read by a specialist and they could tell us, yes, they see a mass. Do an ultra sound to find out exactly where the mass was but not what it was. Do surgery and hope that when they opened her up, she was not filled with cancer, and that the mass could be removed. And then hope for a good recovery. Which with her age and her hip issues, I did not feel would be fair to her. With surgery, could I get another couple of months with her? Possibly… not yes, not absolutely…but possibly. Would they be quality months? Probably not. Would she have to be euthanized on the table if she was riddled with cancer?
I decided the right thing to do was to help ease her discomfort and thank her for all the years of love and never ending happiness she brought to so many lives. Especially mine. I always promised her I would make sure she was safe no matter what, and I wanted to look into her eyes and let her know I was going to keep her safe and not in pain.
My furry kids routine is out of whack. How many heads in my head count? How many bowls of food am I preparing? Who gets what food and who has what allergy? It is all a jumble right now.
Zoe was my angel. I know she is soaring on angels wings and running with Charlie, her bestest friend and brother.
For now, I wallow in my grief, at another life that has passed on. I know Zoe’s legacy will live on in so many memories, for all the joy she brought to every soul she touched.
Fly free my friend. We will meet again someday.