Of beginnings and endings

Cookie

 

It was to be a typical Friday morning last week – I was wrapping up the last Q+A session of the Work/Art/Play class (and what a wonderful class it was this year).

It was bittersweet.

Bittersweet not only because it marked the successful end of the class’ second run. But because after I put my earphones down and started to convert the day’s recording for the rest of my students who could not join us that morning; I had to leave for my mother’s house to say goodbye to my dog Cookie, who was scheduled to be put to sleep after a courageous fight with cancer.

We diagnosed her six weeks ago – right after I began this year’s session of Work/Art/Play. I burst into tears when the vet told us that she had maybe just a few months to live. We thought she had an upset tummy and it was why she was losing weight. Not cancer. Not cancer, I thought. How does one deal with the idea of their first pet dying? I cried buckets. That day had came for me. For us. It was no longer a looming shadow at the back of my mind as I thought about how far we’ve come. It’s here.

An X-ray confirmed that the cancer had already spread to her lungs, although she didn’t show any signs at all, save for an upset tummy which went away. It was probably for the best, the vet said. There was nothing to be done, even if we had caught it early – it was aggressive, and surgery was never an option because of the risks involved. Even a biopsy was too risky.

For the last 6 weeks, everyday I told myself – one day at a time. One step at a time. Perhaps it was just me talking myself through as I walked my class through the modules. It was a phrase that I had mentioned often, and not to myself, but to the rest of my class as they went through the paces of taking down walls and rebuilding a new, firm foundation for their art and business.

One step at a time. You’ll get there.

My mother and I took turns to look after Cookie, and in that past 6 weeks we saw her deteriorate before our eyes. I bought Chinese herbs as an alternative measure in the hope that it would help her with pain, or to slow the process down. We formulated a new diet for her, to make sure that we were feeding her and not the cancer. She slowed down, and lost more weight. Everyday I would worry about her. Did she get enough to eat? Is she cold? Is she in pain? Her new favourite spot was under the car, where she would spend hours lying on her side; instead of coming out to wreck havoc on the garden or to gallop about happily when it came time for her walks.

I thought about life, and death. Of how it was a circle. And that there could not be life without death. But it didn’t work. I was a ball of mess, snot and tears every week. I thought about how unfair it all was. Our family always thought that our older dog, Bessie would be the first to go, because Cookie didn’t seem to have aged at all in the 10 years she’s been with us – she was sprightly, hardy, and strong. We weren’t prepared. It felt like someone punched me in the stomach. It was hard.

One step at a time. You’ll get there.

Early in the week I had made arrangements with the vet to come over, as well as the caretaker. I had to stifle my sobs when I called them, digging my nails into my skin to compose myself. I allowed myself to cry when I felt the need to let it out when I was alone. My sadness came in waves and heaves. I cried out of regret, of sorrow. I cried at not having more time to spend with her. But of all the range of emotions I felt, I never felt guilty, because our family gave her our best. Food, shelter, walks, love. She had it all. She was a lucky dog. We were a lucky family to have her.

Everyday I would whisper goodbye – because I never knew if it was ever our last day together; if she did pass at night.

But when the time came to truly said goodbye, we did. We said goodbye to Cookie. Goodbye to a future with her. Goodbye to her goofy, lovable spirit. Goodbye to her cancer, and to the pain. Goodbye to sorrow. We said goodbye.

I made it. We made it through.

Together.

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I penned down my thoughts in a letter, which I wrote after she passed. It helped me greatly to put down into words what I remembered fondly about her. It’s a little personal, but if you’d like to read it, you can do so by clicking here. If you’re a pet lover, do share your stories with me this week – I’d love to hear yours.

  personal


17 thoughts on “Of beginnings and endings

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Amy. I’ve had two dogs pass away. I had my regrets and to me, it’s a natural part of the grieving process. It took me a long time to get back to a good place but like you said, you have to take it one day at a time. Also, I think it was a great idea to write a letter to her. You have great memories of her to remember her by, and they’re what’ll get you through those bad days.

    • Thank you Jade for the comforting advice! With cancer there’s always that “what if’s” – could I have found out sooner, could I have taken another approach, etc. And yes, the regrets are melting away, replaced by reminders and memories of how we’ve taken care of her the best we could, and given her lots of love when she was alive. xoxo

  2. I’m sorry Amy. My partner and I had to put our first cat to sleep this september. He got diagnosed last year for a heart disease, and got pretty sick with something different soon after ( his pancreas). He pulled through, and we had a great time with him this spring and summer. It almost made me forget about his heart. When we took him to the vet in september, we didn’t know at the time that we were going to leave him behind. It was so hard to come home and not having him there…an absolute shock.
    It sounds like she had a great time with you and your family.

    • Thank you so much Annemarie – and I’m so sorry about your loss. Leaving him behind must be the toughest thing ever, but I’m happy to hear that you had a great spring and summer together. xo

  3. I was so saddened to read this, Amy! I lost one of my young cats earlier this year who unexpectedly got very sick; she went to the vet and never came back. To say it broke my heart was an understatement.

    Take solace in the fact you gave her a happy home and wonderful life while she was with you. She was lucky to have you!

    • Sara, thank you so much – and I’m so sorry for your loss too. Furry friends take up a special space in one’s heart that can never be filled by anything else I think. xoxo

    • Thank you Nathalie – the dogs barking in my Q+A sessions were my 2 jack russell terriers. 🙂 Cookie was my mom’s dog but I grew up with her and tended to her when she was sick as I lived nearby.

  4. oh Amy. thanks for sharing your pain. I feel your pain as mine. I had a cat, he was my owner to be precise. my first pet, my first friend, my love. we grew up together, and he passed away when he was 17… ten years ago. I miss him everyday, I’ll miss him forever.
    he filled my way with the unique, precious grace that only our pets could give us. I know you know what I mean, and believe me: I know what you are living now.
    I’ve read your beautiful, beautiful letter to Cookie… my english is too bad to explain what I felt, and I think there’s no words anyway, to stop your sorrow (and mine!). I’d just like to hug you. be strong, Amy.
    and, I love you Cookie.

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  6. I’m so very sorry for your loss. We lost our sweet dog in June 2014 to kidney failure and it was devastating. The tears don’t come every day anymore but they are still very near the surface. Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate hearing from others who love their animal companions as much as me. I also appreciate your willingness to feel your feelings when they come. I vowed when we found out her time was short that I would grieve as mindfully as possible, that she deserved at least that much from me. It’s been hard but best in the long run.

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  8. Dear Amy.
    I am so so sorry to hear of your broken heart! It’s been a long time since I’ve had a jaunt through Pikaland. Sweet Cookie – she knows you love her. It is an amazing gift to be loved by an animal. The best friend you’ll ever have! When I lost my first dog I was devastated ! I had 3 children already and felt I had lost my eldest. I know how you feel.
    There is a sweet book called DOG HEAVEN. A primitive illustrated little book about it all. Find it. It will make you smile. Probably cry but then smile

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