Friday, May 22, 2009

In Mourning

Things have been silent from me this week due to unbelievable sadness that I never imagined.  On Tuesday I found out that the dog we have had for 13 years had cancer in his eye.  Due to his age and other health issues, we decided that euthanasia was the only choice. 

My husband and I adopted Max from the local Humane Society in May of 1996.  When we closed on our first home June 1st of that year, Max moved in with us.  He was a crazy looking puppy with legs way to long for his torso and a wiener dog head that was unfairly put on a black lab body.  He was a mutt that always  looked like some cruel twist of fate had shrunken his head, he reminded me of Beetlejuice.  His ears were floppy and his tail was far too long for the rest of him.  It was all of these mismatched features that made me fall in love with him when I saw him in that kennel 13 years ago shaking like a leaf. He was the ONLY dog I considered on that day.

For the first 2 years of Max's life he was my baby.  I had become one of those weird dog people who we all make fun of.  I even sunk so low as to take him to a pet store one Christmas to have his picture taken with Santa, I required him to wear reindeer antlers.  That incident alone traumatized him.  Every time I took him on a car ride after that day, he would drool uncontrollably.  My obsession with him was not limited to crazy outings.   I would leave work at lunch everyday to walk him, I bought him expensive dog food, I napped with him. Max was my life for 2 years, I even had his picture as my focal point when I was in labor with my first baby.  I cried when I left for the hospital, truly saddened that I would have to leave Max for a few days to give birth.  It was with the birth of my baby that the unthinkable happened, Max went from being a baby to being a dog.  An inconvenience he never forgave me for.  As the years went by and children continued to join the family, Max continued to lose his status in the family,  a normal process I believe as families grow.  

Even though Max had become a "dog" in my eyes, my love for him never wavered.  I continued with the daily walks, appreciated his unrelenting loyalty, and never forgot the fact that he filled a special place in my heart reserved for the love of a dog.  He was a wonderful dog, through thick and thin.

Max did have a tendency to get himself into medical trouble.  When my first child was 2 months old, Max ate an entire bottle of Iron enriched vitamins.  We nearly lost him to that accident. My husband and I were near broke when that happened and had to charge $2000.00 to our Visa card to cover all the expenses.  That did not include the first page of expenses on the bill that the hospital forgot to charge us for.  When our son was 9 months old (7 months after the Poly Vi Sol incident) Max got into a fight with a skunk!  The skunk won.  We had to rush him to the local Animal Emergency Hospital for an eye washing, that cost us a couple hundred dollars.  When Max was 4 years old he decided that eating an entire pan of grill grease followed by an unmentionable would make a good meal.  That little fiasco cost us $1500.00. About 6 months after that incident, Max got into another fight with a skunk.  That time, we used a hose to clean out his eyes.   Sadly, those stories are just the tip of the iceberg, Max was the dog that was given more than 9 lives and he used every one of them.  This last year, I took him to the vet more times than I can count.  In the last year he has had liver failure, a UTI, chronic arthritis, dementia and finally eye cancer.  With every visit, I vowed to myself and my husband that I would let go, but I couldn't, until today.

The eye cancer was just too cruel a disease to impose on him so that I could have a few more months with my beloved pet.   The vet told me that with his advanced age, his dementia and the fact that he was starting to nip at us, surgery was not a viable option.  It was with great anguish and sadness that I finally did relent and agree to euthanizing him today.  A decision that has been traumatic for me all week.  I feel as though I have been in a tear induced haze since Tuesday.  Wishing that somehow I would wake up to find his tumor had shrunk, instead it grew noticeably in the three days between diagnosis and death.  As I sit here and write this blog about my dog I wonder why we as humans do this to ourselves.  Why do we love a creature that can only give us about 10-12 good years?  I feel like I can never do this to myself again.  The pain and sorrow I have felt all week, in addition to the truly excruciating pain I felt today is so easy to avoid.  Just skip the pet.  But, I realize that while he was not a good companion this last year (through no fault of his own), I would not give up the 12 years before that for anything.  I loved that dog and he loved me absolutely unconditionally.  That is a love humans do not get from other humans, ever.  My only hope at the end of this very sad day is that his loyalty to me remained as he was taken to a room without me to be euthanized.  While I know that my final act for him was given from love, I will never be able to feel guilt free for taking his life when he loved me completely, unselfishly and with unrelenting loyalty.  

Rest in peace Max.  I love you and will never forget you.


Monday, May 18, 2009

The Drama of Girls

Recently, I have been writing a lot about my son.   The rapid departure of his childhood to adolescence has had me a bit preoccupied these days.  I have not taken notice to the changes that are also occurring in his younger sister's world.  She is only 14 months younger, but has always seemed much younger, emotionally that is, than him.  While she has been taller since she was a toddler (she inherited paternal grandfathers height), she has always been a bit more immature than her peers.  Her brother, who has proven to be the opposite of her in every way from height (he inherited my father's height) to maturity has until recently, commanded far less attention than his younger sibling.  Fifth grade has been a bit more difficult than any of us ever expected. Conflict with friends, a tug of war for independence and the reality that it does take work to get straight A's has thrown him for a loop.  I did not notice that my dear Hannah was going through her own growing pains as well.

Friday was a first for Hannah and myself.  While Hannah used to be immature when compared to her peers, she never fought with her friends.  Really, I had a 10 year old fourth grader who had never come home to confide in us about a fight with a friend.  That is not saying that she hasn't had her feelings hurt or an argument, that of course has happened.  But never with tears or the emotion that walked into this house on Friday.  Friday brought a new chapter of childhood into this family.  It was so emotional, so traumatic that my husband cringed at the thought of reliving his own childhood memories of the fights his own sisters used to divulge to him.  Out of respect to my daughter, I will not reveal the details of her first real girl fight, but let me say it was explosive!  Tears were shed, promises of never speaking to the guilty party  made (as of yesterday, the girls are friends again) and worst of all the ever important BFF list was revised.  I believe she even told me of her plans for revenge,  a mean postcard sent while on vacation was going to be all the vindication she needed.  Like a good mother I listened to her story.  I even relived some of my own girlhood trauma by thinking about similar fights.  I than did the rational thing and told her I was sorry she was hurt and that she had every right to feel sad.  I also told her she was blowing things WAY out of proportion, which she was and told her to think about it more.  I also reminded her that while she believed the world was coming to an end (which she promised me through tears and screaming that it really was coming to an end) things would be better by the end of the weekend.  Which they were.  When I left her to wallow in her grief, and closed her door behind me, I couldn't help but feel a wave of sadness.  The sadness was not brought on by her fight, but by the fact that in one afternoon, my daughter who had never experienced such anger  had been completely overcome by preteen emotions.  It made me realize that I am not just losing one child to adolescence, I am losing 2 at the same time.    

I have often heard that girls mature faster than boys.  Until now, I did not think that would be the case with my children.  Alec has always been so serious, mature for his age and meticulous about his school work and surroundings.  Hannah has been my free spirit.  Caring very little about her appearance, immature, and silly.  Recently though, I have noticed a shift, a bit of a role reversal.  Alec does not care about his room anymore, would rather be with his friends instead of doing school work, will even run through the grocery store like a 5 year old.  Hannah has been pointing these things out to me.  Noticing that he is no longer the mature one, she is. The speech problem that she had for so long has been "cured" after years of therapy, making her sound older than I ever expected.  She takes extra time in the morning to get herself ready for school, always being the one to remind her siblings to brush their teeth and comb their hair. She spends extra time at her desk every night doing her homework, making sure that it is done with extra effort.   I even heard her ask her brother if his friends know that he acts like a child, his response was "I am a child!"  In my wildest dreams,  I never would have expected to hear that conversation between them.

I have to remind myself that while I have 2 children who are no longer in need of so much of my time, I also have a 6 year old daughter who is still very much a little girl.  I plan on cherishing every moment that I still have of her young childhood.   Knowing that with everyday that passes, she is going to reach the preteen milestones that we are experiencing right now with not 1, but 2 children.  I wouldn't change a single thing though.  While I am experiencing some sadness these days, there is so much more joy than I could ever have of imagined having these 3 wonderful people in my life.  I consider it to be the greatest gift I have been given, the opportunity to watch them develop into the accomplished adults that I know they will someday become.