Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Worst Day Since Yesterday

It's been a bitch of a week here at the Nest. Sorry for the language, but I really can't put it any other way.

In spite of the promise of fun and excitement for my very first appearance on TV on Sac and Co., real life intruded with a gut punch, which started last week. This week, the hits just kept coming and have left me beat up all over.

One of our older German Shepherds, Josey, started to refuse her food last week. Since she's been a picky eater all her life, this wasn't unusual. But then a day turned into two, then three, and she started even to refuse turkey lunch meat and bacon.

When a dog refuses bacon, you know something is seriously wrong.
Josey with my idiot but loving lab, Gromit

If you're a dog owner, you probably see where this is going.

We took her to the vet who did bloodwork and took x-rays. We took her home. We got a call to bring her back the next day for an ultrasound. Ultrasound inconclusive, vet says take her to someone better at ultrasound than she was. We took her to the small animal emergency clinic at U.C. Davis, which is also a teaching veterinary clinic with many machines that go, ping!
Actually at this point, it was I who took her to Davis, as Mr. ShellHawk had no choice but to go out of town for the weekend to teach a class in L.A. He couldn't cancel, and there was no one else to teach it. He said his goodbyes to her when he left, since we both had a bad feeling that she wasn't going to make it through whatever was going wrong.
Sam, playing with his favorite dog, Josey, when he was a little guy.
The doctor recommended I leave her overnight so more tests could be done, the first being an ultrasound. I didn't want to leave her, but I knew that with her listlessness and continuing refusal to eat, it would be best. 
Josey, keeping an eye on the interloper in the first week or so we had Sam.
 
I got a call later that afternoon. It turns out that Josey had advanced stomach cancer.

To say that it was a shock is to make a huge understatement. If you had seen her in the days before she stopped eating, you would have seen her tearing around the back yard with Sam and Gromit, looking as carefree as a dog can look.

Stomach cancer? Advanced stomach cancer? WTF? She had given us no indication that she had any kind of problems other than becoming a little old lady with some arthritis issues.

I've read several times that this is the problem with GSDs. The breed, as a whole, is a stoic one, and generally won't tell you they're hurting.
The head-tilt for which German Shepherds are famous, in stereo, no less!
Mr. ShellHawk and I had to have a serious, come-to-Jesus conversation about what was to be done. Given that she was almost twelve years old, and that there was no doubt that the cancer was terminal, and that trying to extend her life for a month with a poor quality of life would be just flat out cruel, we opted to let her go.
So yesterday, I headed into work for a while to get a few things done, and left from there to go to the TV station. After that, it was time to head over to Davis and deal with the heartbreak of euthanizing my best girl. I insisted on being there with her, and had some private last moments with her before the doctor came in. When they brought her in and she saw me, she wagged her tail as best she could and then flung herself down on the fleece mat the hospital had provided for her. If ever an animal could tell you that they were done and ready to go, she was telling me loud and clear.

The doctor, himself, was the best man for it. He had given her a combination of painkillers and an opiate to make her comfortable. He was gentle and kind, and she was gone very quickly.
 
Mr. ShellHawk wrote this about her on his Facebook page yesterday:

Ten years ago, almost to the day, we were asked by German Shepherd Rescue if we would like to rescue an adult female German Shepherd who had been chained to a post in the back yard of a house and had been left there by the owners who packed up and moved. After literally stopping the euthanasia, we got Josey 2 weeks later; she was about 1.5 years old and weighed a total of 43 lbs, she had weighed 35 lbs. when they took her from the back yard. I would like to thank those bastards that left her there because she spent the next 10 years helping bring normality to our crazy life, healing past wounds, and bringing Shelley and I great joy. We lost our girl today to cancer. The attached photo is one that was sent to me many times over the years by Shell, it’s the “Tragic Shepherd” text, asking when dad was coming home. I will miss those texts.

Thanks to everyone that has been so supportive through this. She went quickly and peacefully thanks to Shell and some great doctors at UC Davis.

Yesterday was an even worse day for Mr. ShellHawk, as it was the anniversary of his beloved mother's death. To say it's been a bitch of a week is to tell the absolute truth.

Josey was such a huge part of our lives. She was awesome with kids and could be trusted with the smallest infant. I remember that when my nephew was a baby and would cry, she would rush over to lick his face to try and soothe him, all the while looking over at us as if to say, "Something's going on, here! Come and help this little fur-less puppy!"

As I sit here writing this in my usual spot on the couch, there is an empty space next to me where she used to park herself while I puttered on my laptop. I saw her empty dish this morning and burst into tears.
I will miss her in more ways than I can count.

It is truly the worst day since yesterday.

15 comments:

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. I wish there were some magic words to say to help ease your pain. She was ready, and that should give you some peace.
    I wrote a very similar and painful post about my old girl almost two years ago. This brought it all back like it was yesterday. Must go drown in my own tears and snot now...
    Hugs,Glo

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    1. Offering you virtual tissues for your tears and snot... ;)

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  2. Omg... I'm so sorry to hear this. Couldn't even read the entire post. Sending healing vibes to your aching heart. Glad that you have great memories of her. Hang in there.

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  3. So sorry for the loss of your furry baby! {{HUGS}}

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  4. Very sad losing a pet. Sorry for your loss.

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  5. I am sorry to hear about your loss. Dogs are truly the best friends of humanity. They give us so much joy, and comfort us when we are down.
    They understand more than we will ever know.
    You two came to her rescue and gave her a home and the love she needed, and she knew that.

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  6. So very sorry for your loss. Remember all the good times.

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  7. I'm so sorry for your your loss. She was a beautiful gal and will remain deep in your bloody heart.

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  8. I am sorry for you and your family's loss. She was an amazing dog and blessed to have been rescued by you.

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  9. I am so very sorry for your loss. As a pet owner I truly feel for you. May you forget your pain soon.

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  10. hey, shell--I'm so sorry. I know exactly how you feel as it was last year at this same time that I lost one of my beloved horses. Like you, I very nearly cancelled my Halloween. In the end, I carried on with it and it actually helped me with the grieving process as I kinda felt she was there watching over the fence as she had always done in previous years. Heartfelt condolences to you and your husband.

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  11. I am so sorry for your loss. There isn't much to say or do to ease the heartache only time can do that. Love the photos and celebrating of her life. Cried like a baby reading this and wish I could give you a big hug.

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  12. Thanks, all of you, for your kindness and support. I know I was devastated when Hawk (the other half of ShellHawk) died, and this is at least as bad as that. I want to just step out of the world for a little while, but I have commitments that I can't put off right now. After Halloween, I'm going to hole up for a while.

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  13. Shell, my deepest condolences to you and your hubby. I've lost more than a few pets over the years, and it is always incredibly painful. Unless you're an animal lover, you just cannot grasp how deeply these creatures enrich our lives. They are family, plain and simple. I once read that the reason the word "dog" is is "God" backwards is that no other animal reflects the concept of complete, unconditional love so well.

    Whenever I've suffered a loss of this nature, be it human or four-legged, I've always turned to this line from the Duran Duran song, "Do You Believe in Shame":

    And it may seem selfish now
    But I'll hold on to the memory
    Until all this fear is washed away
    Do you believe in love?
    Do you believe in life?
    'Cos I believe a little part of you inside of me
    Will never die...

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