The past two weeks have been very emotional. On August 22nd, my brother and his family had to say goodbye to Maya.
My brother and his family had fought extremely hard to keep her happy and healthy despite a diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis and megaesophogus. Up until the very end, they were successful. In her last few days her body stopped responding to her medicine, making it difficult for her to walk, eat, etc. I was able to see and say my goodbyes to her via Skype. Maya was a huge part of my life. I lived with my brother and sister-in-law when they adopted Maya. She grew up with Sugar. She was loved so much by our whole family & when they moved across the country -- Maya still came with them when they came to visit us. I will always remember "B" and love her.
A few days later, on August 31st, I was shocked and touched to see that Millie's former owner had responded to a Facebook message I had sent several months prior. When I adopted Millie all of her previous vet records had her owner's name blacked out....except the very last page (I suspect they just missed it). I have always remembered the owner's name. Shortly after Millie was diagnosed, I sent a message to all of the people on Facebook with the name of her former owner. I wasn't sure I'd get a response back, but I had to try. I knew our interaction would likely be awkward, but I figured it was worth it for both of us. After all, if I had been in their situation, and had to give my dog up, I would always wonder what happened to her. I had almost given up hope that I would get a response back. She wrote me, and was so excited to catch up on Millie's life. We talked over the phone for maybe 30 or 40 minutes. I got to hear all about young Millie. She peed in her mom's purse on the way home from the breeder at 12 weeks old, she chewed everything in sight, she loved to sit with her booty on the couch and have her front feet on the ground (some things never change), and she was missed so much. They loved Millie. I can tell they really, really did. I filled them in on the last couple of years & we became Facebook friends so that they could see updated Millie pictures. Later that night, I got perhaps the best gift I could have hoped for - a Millie puppy picture!
I mean...I can hardly stand how cute she is. She's 12 weeks old and 25 pounds. Look at that naughty, mischievous face! Those little puppy teeth are planted firmly on a thumb, and those feet! I burst into tears upon seeing it. I had wondered what her life had been like for so long, and now I knew. She was loved so much by her first family, and they were heartbroken to have to give her up. They had still kept all their pictures of her and frequently talked about her. They also sent a few more pictures...
Here she is at 9 months old. Check out the slob on her nose.
So tolerant & letting their daughter investigate those big, drooly lips.
Snuggling with her Boxer brother and sister.
I will forever be grateful to them for choosing to relinquish her, and also to be willing to fill me in on Millie's first two years.
After talking to her first family I started to notice Mil was slowing down a little. She seemed...tired. She was happy, bouncing around, eating like a champ, chewing bones...but something seemed off. She was a little slow to get up and it took a second before her butt was all the way up and she was ready to roll. She could still jump on the couch and bed with ease...but something was telling me that she wasn't quite right. Late that night of the 31st I noticed a massive amount of vaginal discharge. Ahh, I thought maybe it was just the vaginitis taking the pep out of her. The next morning I made a trip to her vet and picked up antibiotics. Over the weekend, she still seemed a little tired, but still the same happy Mil. She was scheduled for a cancer recheck on September the 10th, but after talking to Evan we decided that I would move up the recheck to Tuesday, September 4th. One week wasn't really going to make a difference in her cancer recheck, but if something was going on we'd know about it.
U of I on Tuesday is like a cancer ward. Almost all of the animals in the waiting room are in for some sort of cancer treatment. I saw a familiar face - a woman and her friend, both easily in their mid 80's - were in with one of their Boxers. He has had 17 rounds of chemo, so we've gotten to know each other over Tuesday mornings in the waiting room. Millie had bloodwork, chest x-rays and an orthopedic consult. The bloodwork came back stellar and her orthopedic consult was normal (no pain found at all in her rear or back). Her chest x-rays showed that the mets in her lungs were about 50% larger than they were in early July (it was also at this time that I found out she had actually had 3 or 4 mets in her lungs -- even back in July -- when I was told she only had 2). They concluded that her chest mets weren't large enough to really be causing her any distress or weakness. They suspected she was overusing her rear leg and advised I give her some pain meds and rest her for a week. We talked about treatment alternatives since the metronomic + Palladia had "failed" (they use that term if there is any growth whatsoever, even if the drugs are slowing the growth). They talked about doing a trial, trying the metronomic (even though they thought it was a waste), or keeping her comfortable while she lived out her last days. The trial involved an experimental combination of chemotherapy and an oral drug that they hope "breaks down the barrier and allows the chemo to penetrate the cancer." She would have had to go in 1-2 times per week for the next six weeks, have draining meds, multiple blood draws, etc. I knew in my heart I couldn't do that to her. In regular chemo, she had three off weeks between injections to allow her body to get back to "normal" before having another dose. This trail would mean chemo every other week. Her body was tired, and I knew it. I wasn't going to force her last days into frequent, no-fun visits to the university. I had decided that I would give her a week without drugs to see if she could bounce back before deciding if I would continue to treat with metronomic & Palladia, or just "keep her comfortable."
In the meantime, my fantastic friends, Josephine & Lorenzo (Millie's godparents), found out that their yellow Lab had cancer. Vegas was diagnosed with a rare type of carcinoma in his lungs. This type of cancer is often mistaken for bronchitis or pneumonia due to its symptoms and how it looks on x-ray. He wasn't improving after a million types of antibiotics, so they took him to a specialist for a lung biopsy. The diagnosis was not only that it was cancer, but that it was an untreatable type of cancer. He was given a very poor prognosis, but his mom and dad fought with every ounce to keep him comfortable & give him a chance to get back on his feet.
Handsome Baby Vegas.
Thurday, September 6th started out like any other day at my house. Millie happily ate her food, had a normal potty walk, we had a good cuddle in bed, she tried to eat Sugar's food, hopped into the crate & ate the treat I gave her. When I arrived back home on my lunch break I knew something was wrong. Normally I am greeted by Sugar at the door & by the clanging noise of Millie hitting the crate with her tail. Sugar was there, but the house was quiet. I found Mil in her crate, laying on her bed like she was asleep. I called her name, and when she didn't respond, I thought she was dead. I picked up her head & put it in my lap...and she was snoring. My perfect Stink looked just like she did when she slept next to me. A coworker of mine, an amazing veterinarian, immediately answered my call and came right over to my house. She suspected that the cancer had gone to Millie's brain (unpenetrable and untreatable by chemo). My parents arrived shortly after and we all got the chance to cuddle her, kiss her, and tell her what a perfect girl she was. Poor Evan was out of state for business, but was thankfully reachable by phone. She looked so content and comfortable. Her breathing was steady. I am so grateful that I had the chance to be with her and say goodbye. Her body was tired, and I was able to make the decision to give her a peaceful end.
Later that evening Josephine and Lorenzo made the tough decision to euthanize Vegas. He was slowly declining and they did not want him to suffer.
In two weeks I have lost three of the most amazing dogs in my life. They were the best of friends and played together, cuddled together, had barking contests... My heart hurts with the loss of these three wonderful dogs, but I take comfort in knowing that they are all together again. Maya is squeaking her basketball in that way that drives you crazy, but that you miss when you don't hear it....Millie is eating piles after piles of fitted sheets & never having to have a drooly mouth wiped again....and Vegas is humping all the pillows in sight and eating crusts off of freshly made apple pies.
Last night as I was turning off the lights, I noticed a dried drool singer on my wall. It made me smile and remember my baby girl for who she was. I have no plans in cleaning that part of the wall.
Hug the ones you love a little tighter today.
As Josephine says...."here is the first image from heaven's nanny cam"
Rest in peace Maya, Vegas & Millie.