Ethan and I took Chance to Ledges State Park yesterday morning in a small window before the rain hit. Chance was able to do some good sniffing while I snapped picture after picture. Between last week and yesterday I have three rolls of film to develop. It is like I am hoping that the extra pictures will help me find more memories in my mind.
We spent the afternoon putting streamers up in the dining room and preparing Chance's cake. When Marc came home from he made dinner & I iced the cake. To honor Chance we made things we thought he would like: pigs in a blanket & peas. We sat around & told stories and then played with Ethan until he was so tired he wanted to go to bed early.
Marc and I told more stories and then while Chance rested on his soft old dog bed I euthanized him. The E word...it sounds so horrible. In all actuality it was a gentle & quiet way for my best dog friend to pass to his next adventures. Afterwards I held his paw for quite some time while Marc and I told even more stories about the dog who had his last 'chance' with us.
I love you Chancie & I will miss you a ton. Thank you for protecting me when I was younger and enjoying the family that we became. No one will replace you, my friend. You were a once in a lifetime pet. Stay close and check back in every once in awhile while you make new friends and SHARE your frisbee this time.
Well...this is really it. In a very short amount of time I will be letting my once-in-a-lifetime dog go. It is so surreal. A little over fourteen years ago I got him out of a kennel at the pound to take a tick off his chest. He laid on his back right next to me begging me to spring him from the joint. He has been with me through fourteen years of my life, and much of it has been together. A friend of mine recently lost two of her dogs, and she precisely stated "they are like a time line in your life."
Chance, Ethan, and I went to the park the other day. While Ethan and I were at the swings Chance enjoyed some long sniffs around the garbage cans. We really couldn't go on much of a walk, but we did enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.
I have a trip planned for this weekend. I am going back for my 10 year vet school class reunion. Chance will spend time at my parent's house in the country while I am away for a day. I was thinking back about the time in vet school with Chance, and I remember:
-Chance running around with a bunch of dogs while we studied in the Anatomy lab after hours
-Learning that my dog would gag if he smelled blood, a scab, or a bugger (GROSS!)
-Chance getting in a tussle over his frisbee while he was in the park. We scavenged around in the large animal clinic for sedatives and suture to fix him up.
-Being in shape because I attached a leash around my waist to a harness Chance would wear so he could PULL me around the block
-Waking up early freshman year to make it to the park for a good squirrel chase
-Living at the 4-H house as the youngest 'house mom' on campus with Chance....he once helped me get a group of TP'ing fraternity boys to cool it & leave
-Snuggling up each night with Chance under the covers... I used to think it was weird that people let animals sleep in their bed before I got Chance.
Marc and I are planning a party for Monday night for Chance. So far we have decided he will want pigs in a blanket and a cake. We are going to have a celebration of his life, and I am going to try REALLY hard not to cry. It really upsets Chance to see me cry, and I am going to try to hold it together for my child. Until then I will continue to prepare. I need to pick up another bag of those gross snausages because they were his favorite before I knew better. For now he has his own jar of human beef jerky sticks, and I have been giving him some of our food as a topper to his meal each day. He gets lots of good treats to hide his medications and supplements. He gets as many kisses on his head as he can stand, and I have been trying to give him a nice massage when ever possible. I have noticed that being touched has its limits. He will allow one to two minutes of it before he walks away to go lay on his bed.
It is time. It has been time. I am not ready. I find myself thinking not as a veterinarian but as an owner. His coat is too shiny. He can still walk (not well...especially not well after he falls down the two steps that he has to make it up to get into our house. We carry him up and down). He can still eat. But...he can't lay down. He has to have his squishy dog bed. The luster is gone from his eyes. He sleeps all the time. Neighbors ask me "what is wrong with your dog?" as they see him try to get around outside. His body is worn to the point that I am uncomfortable asking him to keep on living for me. When it comes down to it he has really been there for me, and it is time that I am there for him in the most important way possible. I hope I can keep it together...
I think part of the reason I am up so early is that I am worrying about my once-in-a-lifetime dog, Chance. My husband and I have wondered for years whether he was going to make it much longer. In standard Chance fashion he has powered on despite severe hip dysplasia. I have treated him with supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, traditional medications, and massage. He used to be the most magnificent frisbee dog, and he could jump up onto a ledge 6ft off the ground without hardly trying. In vet school he was my running partner. Now we shuffle around part of a block and it takes us 30 minutes. When clients are trying to decide if they should let a pet go I tell them to write down five things that used to be important to the pet. As things continue to be checked off the list it might be getting closer to the time. I keep evaluating my list, but it seems that the sparkle is fading from his eyes. There are some people who feel strongly that pets should be allowed to die naturally without any human intervention. I respect everyone's opinion. My husband made a good point that he hoped we would let Chance go when he had a little wag left. For now I will continue spoiling him while I try one last medication to see if I can alleviate his pain. He has had a great life. His name is Chance because I was his last Chance. He was about to be euthanized at the pound when we met. He came with me to veterinary school, and he caused many laughs to help break up the stress. Chasing squirrels, fending off pranksters, performing numerous tricks, and sneaking pumpkin bars were a few of his adventures. He has seen oceans on the east coast and west coast. He helped keep me warm at night during the winter of my internship when I could hardly afford to heat my house. He made friends with a rooster as a farm dog in Illinois. He joined in on naughty dog activities like running away in the woods for hours with Chimbo and Martin when we lived in Maine. He knew he wasn't invited to sleep in bed anymore when I was about seven months pregnant with Ethan. He moved to the couch without even being asked. He has been friends with Ray our partially blind cat ever since we slipped Ray into our 'no cats allowed!' rental in Illinois. Marc once said something like "I should have known what I was getting into when I married a veterinarian". I think this was when I was tending to a kitten with diarrhea in our bathroom. Besides a crazy wife Marc also inherited an amazing dog. We sit and stare at him and each wonder...when is it 'time'?
Dr. Strobbe lives with her Son, Ethan, in Ames Iowa.