Friday, April 26, 2013

Crying until I laugh. Lauging until I cry.

That sums up my week. I think about Kaleb - and I cry until I laugh. I play with Fitz, and I laugh until I cry. Gyp and I mope together when nobody is looking. I'm dealing with a transition I wasn't expecting.

I'm trying.
I'm trying to drag my butt out of bed to workout at 6am, and not just stay curled up in ball. I had one breakdown this morning at the Gym, took a 5 minute break in the bathroom, came back hammered out the last 30 minutes of my workout thinking of how proud I was of Kaleb. I smiled, I persevered. It sounds cheezy, but Kaleb NEVER gave up his will to keep going, never pouted, always wanted more. I'm trying to live up to that. I cried again on the way home. It comes in waves when I least expect it. Then I thought about him grabbing at the giant snooker balls while taking jumps, and going over the teeter, that were on stakes at his first Agility trial, and I laughed again.

I'm trying to change.
When Jane passed, I was truly depressed, I went to bad place. I didn't get out of bed, I curled up in ball, I comforted myself with food and too much wine, it was bad, I even had to see my doctor and a councillor. She was the first "being" I ever lost - I have bad coping skills apparently. We were literally attached at the hip. Caring for her with her illness for 18 months consumed us. 3x day for meds, once a week to the vet for her stomach draining, cooking meals, keeping her happy and spoiled. She outlived every expectation and it was exhausting. And when she was gone, I was lost. And she left the world on her own terms, when she was ready. She kept the light in her eyes, love and will to live until her last breath at home with us.

Kaleb was just diagnosed 3 weeks ago yesterday, and now he is gone. Really gone. Really? I barely had time to digest the fact that he had cancer. But I've been mourning since that day the Vet called. I knew what it meant. I cried everyday, hugged him tight and spoiled the shit out of him for 3 weeks. He was surrounded by his family and friends in the last month of his life. He didn't know he was sick, I didn't tell him. He hadn't even retired, I was planning on running him at Regionals. I couldn't cry in front of him as it would make him so worried - traumatized from the days of me crying over Jane, just a year ago. So I stayed strong for him. He taught me to stay strong, be strong. Be confident. Be my best, so he could be his best. That is my life lesson from him, that's what made us a great team. I fucking miss him. He went from OK - carrying toys, eating, being happy, to not walking, not eating, his neck and face started swelling, his breathing got harder, and not controlling his bladder in one day. His spark in his eyes was fading, he looked at me in a way I'd never seen, he knew it was time, he told us that. He went peacefully - his sweet head resting on my leg. That gives me comfort, we had no choice. He was the toughest fucking god damn dog I've ever met, and to see him weak just was not fair and not how he'd want to be remembered. He was our Iron Dog.

Poor Gyp, she has had to endure me losing my shit twice in a year, but I'm trying to change. She is depressed, but today and a bit yesterday, she is getting better - not sleeping so much and playing with Fitz and me. She looked for K the first 2 nights, slept on his dog bed in our room. It broke my heart. She was VERY jumpy and neurotic about the silliest things, it's getting better. I've been spending time just with her, and telling her how much I love her - she is my therapy dog, my zen dog.

I'm trying to change. I'm trying to laugh.
I'm pretty sure that in 2 weeks Kaleb and Fitz knew eachother, cuddled together - they talked. Fitz is a comedian - well he is JRT, what do you expect. He has a lot to learn, but he was a good apprentice, but thank doG we have this little shit. We had no idea this would happen: 2 days before we get our pup, K is diagnosed. 2 weeks after he joins our family K is gone. The universe did it again. Took something away, and gave me something back I was not expecting. We fought against the idea of a JRT for so long, until the stars aligned and it was meant to be, this pup was absolutely meant to be here, now. We got him as we missed the "terrier-tude", something in our home was missing. We didn't know he was put with us to help us even more than that - dare I say he was heaven sent, if there is such a place.  I don't know what I would do if we didn't have this pup. He is amazing. Gyp certainly wouldn't be dragging my butt out of bed and demanding enormous amounts of attention, making me try, making me make an effort. Making me laugh until I cry (because of puncture marks on my ankles and hands).  She'd be happy to mope around with me, and I'd happily let her. We save those moments for when nobody is looking :)

I have to thank everyone for the messages, emails, cards, flowers, all kind words with fond memories of him making them laugh ... that's who he was.

I keep singing this song to myself ... I'm pretty sure Kaleb sang this to himself everyday. I'm surprised he didn't have a t-shirt. Thanks for teaching me to smile and laugh buddy.
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. I'm going to try to live by this.

Monday, April 22, 2013

You are free, Bird.

It still doesn't seem real that he's gone. We hoped we'd have more time, but Lymphoma has a mind of it's own. We miss him so much it hurts and our house is so damn quiet. We love you K-man, you were our Iron-dog. 
March 12, 2002 - April 22, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Brown eyes of wisdom

A friend sent me this today ... Words I wish I knew how to say so well ...

By Brian McGrory, Boston Globe Columnist
August 31, 2004

They should come with a warning label, these creatures. They should come with a label that says you're going to fall hopelessly in love, only to have your heart shattered before you could ever possibly prepare. And then you face one of life's truly wrenching decisions.

Which is where I am now. Specifically, as I type these words I am on the back deck of a rented house in Maine surrounded by fields and forest, watching a sleeping golden retriever named Harry drift another day closer to death.

He is gorgeous, this dog, with a gray face that shows the wisdom gained from his 10 years on Earth and brown eyes that are the most thoughtful I've ever seen. He is sprawled out on the wood, his blond fur damp from his morning swim and his breathing labored from his disease. And I ponder the question that has dominated my thoughts for weeks: How will I know when the time is right?

He arrived in my life early a decade ago on one of those storybook Christmas season nights that is too good to ever forget. He was a gift to my wife, and when she opened the box the tears that spilled down her face were those of joy. Women, of course, come and go, but dogs are forever, so when the marriage ended, Harry stayed with me. Since then, we've moved from Boston to Washington D.C., and back again, fetched maybe a quarter of a million throws, walked, I would wager, over 10,000 miles together. He carried a tennis ball in his mouth for most of them, convinced that anyone who saw him would be duly impressed. And judging by their reactions, he's right.

Throughout, he has shown me sunrises and sunsets that I wouldn't otherwise have seen. He has taught me that snow is a gift, that the ocean is there for swimming, that the coldest winter mornings and the hottest summer days are never as bad as people say.

He has introduced me to people, kind people, whom I otherwise wouldn't have met. He has forced me to take time every morning to contemplate the day ahead. With his tail-swishing swagger, he has taught me to slow down, to pause in an Esplanade field or on a Public Garden bench, the journey being as good as the destination. The big ruse, which I think he figured out years ago, was that all these walks were meant for him.

He has been an anchor in bad times, a ballast amid occasional uncertainty, a dose of humility when things might be going a little too well. He has been a sanctuary, a confidant, and an occasional excuse. He regards it as his personal mission to make me laugh, whether by a ritualistic dance over a pig's ear or a gushing lick to my face. He's never once said the wrong thing, and it's impossible to be in a bad mood around him.

All along, he lives by one simple mantra: Count me in. Anything I'm doing, he wants to do as well, no leash or nagging required. At home, he prefers to lie on the stoop of our condominium building, presiding over the world around him.

His time, though, is fleeting, a fact that he's starting to understand. In April, his lifelong veterinarian, Pam Bendock, blinked back tears as she informed me that his stomach pains were caused by lymphoma. Several rounds of chemotherapy failed to do what was hoped. Two weeks ago I stopped his treatments.

These days he has lost 10 pounds or more and can't keep food inside. He often wakes in the dark before dawn moaning softly in pain. But by daybreak he is urging me toward the beach or guiding me on another walk, ball in mouth, ready to fetch, albeit slowly.

Maybe I should be embarrassed to admit that a dog can change a man, but I'm not. So as the clock winds out on a life well lived, I look back at the lessons learned from this calm and dignified creature, lessons of temperance, patience, and compassion that will guide us to the end. And I look into those handsome brown eyes for the sign that the time has come. He'll give it to me, when he's ready. And hard as it will be, we'll both know the journey was better than we could have ever possibly hoped.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Where there is Kaleb, there is Fitz ... More blogging coming soon ... Just need to recharge

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I have no catchy title for this post. But please read it.

I can finally talk about this now that things in our house have settled a bit. Last week Kaleb was diagnosed with Lymphoma. It doesn't seem real to even write it. He's still bright and happy, but has starting showing some symptoms. We suspected something was not right with him slowly over the past month (little changes that accumulated) and it was more than just getting old, and feared it would come back as this - and it did. He went in early last week for bloodwork, chest and abdomen X-rays as well as 2 biopsies of his lymphnodes, it entire case was sent to a specialist in Calgary immediately and we got the news last Thursday. Currently all 5 lymph sites are inflamed and I've been monitoring this for the past month, and with each week's massage I could feel the changes. It's a very confusing set of emotions in our lives right now - being so incredibly sad, and happy (with our new pup) at the same time. It's hard on our hearts. Mr. Fitz has a some very big paws to fill and Kaleb is a great big brother - he's so patient. We will cherish every moment with the K-man - more than we already do. We love our big goofy boy so much. We are still figuring out treatment options - and we've received so many wonderful emails from people sharing their experiences and giving some ideas as far as diet changes and homeopathic help.

So as of now he is being treated with Prednisone, which has taken down his neck swelling by 80% I would say, he's still playing, tugging, and his energy is good - though he tires fast (which was one of the symptoms we noticed). We are also adjusting his diet to one with a low glycemic index so as not to feed the cancer cells - Raw and Cooked mostly, no grains or other carbs (ones starchy or sugary) I struggled this year wondering when he will retire, when will I know? He's still running great! I guess the decision has been made. Hard to believe her was running Agility 2 weeks ago and still going on 5km runs. He is slower moving on his runs, but still trucks along and is happy - which is the main thing, he doesn't cover ground like he used too, but boy, he is happy. He's always been my true "performance dog" a good portion of our memories are "doing stuff", he has nearly 60 titles in 9 venues - looking back, he's truly amazing. And he's happiest when working, and that's what we truly enjoy doing together. He's never taken a lame step in his life, he's always ready to go, never been pouty, never not wanted to work. We've had so many great adventures together he's swam in each coasts' ocean, travelled more KMs than most people - he's the dog that always surprises me, surprises other people, and really has made people know what a Flat-coat is. He is my buddy. He is Pete's buddy.

He survived torsion at 8, a few benign tumor scares since then, I thought he would live forever. I can tell you this, we appreciate him more than we ever have. And if you think our new pup is being spoiled ... that's nothing! Hug your dogs and tell them you love them, 'cause you just never know.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

He Fitz right in

We picked up Fitz yesterday, and he's awesome. I'm not however, who forgets their camera? It's been a helluva week and we have a lot on our minds, and more on that tomorrow. Here are some photos of his first 12 hours. He slept through the night in his crate and didn't fuss at all, he is feisty and tugs and plays like a crazy man, cuddles like a lovebug, has only peed outside and is so respectful with Gyp and his big Bro Kaleb.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Slow down

And remember to take time to enjoy life's simple pleasures.