Loss is never an easy topic. There are so many emotions tied up in it and it’s not the same for everyone. Not everyone feels the same level of sadness or has the same reaction to it. And everyone deals with it differently.
This past November, our dog, Trooper, turned 14. We adopted Trooper from the SPCA in January of 2004. He was with us for so many years. Really his whole life, minus those first 8 weeks. He became part of our family. He was picked up as a stray, but not after he “was on the run” from the SPCA for over a week while they tried to catch him. Ahhhhh, our Trooper.
About 2 years ago, Trooper was playing in the yard and hurt his right back leg. While he initially limped after injuring it, he adapted well and really began using just 3 of his four legs. We took him for acupuncture during this time and he had good results, but he really had adapted to just using 3 legs. After a while, he didn’t seem to be getting as much of a benefit from the acupuncture, so we stopped treatments. He rarely used that back leg and the muscle atrophied pretty significantly. Still, Trooper kept going.
Last week, my husband and I made the decision that our Trooper’s physical health wasn’t improving. And we made the emotional and heart wrenching choice to put down our best buddy. He was our only remaining living dog, having watched and experienced his 3 brothers passing away in the years prior. So Trooper knew the feeling of loss and the sadness that can come with it. I think him being sensitive to this, he pushed on when a lot of others may have needed to choose rest instead.
Trooper was very much like his name describes; our trooper. He was a trooper, working through a lifelong problem of hip dysplasia, his fear of thunderstorms, living and getting along with other doggy siblings, not to mention his leg injury and subsequent muscle atrophy. And other random ailments and issues along the way. But he always pushed on because he was a trooper.
Deciding it’s “the end” is never an easy decision to make when you consider your pet a part of your family. I was struggling because I was looking for a sign that it was time, like refusing to eat or no longer going potty – physical signs that we typically look for of reassurance that we are making the “right” choice.
But I wasn’t getting that sign. Because I have a trooper. But his left back leg, which he was using as his sole back leg, was weakening more every day. Falling was more frequent (all the time, it started to feel like) and Trooper would get himself into these random, and sometimes potentially dangerous, situations and areas that either me or my husband would come home to. I would pick him up and clean him up, if necessary, and I would fight down the thoughts that his physical health was declining. I wanted to have hope that tomorrow would be a better day.
I’m missing my Trooper every second and coming home to an empty house is difficult. I still expect him to greet me at the door and bark when we pull up to the house. It’s quiet and feels strange and sad.
Thinking of my Trooper and loss in general, I have two take-aways: The first, that I’m grateful and appreciative for Trooper’s love and perseverance and unyielding affection for me and my friends and family. He was truly a fabulous dog. And an integral part of our family. I know he is running the show in heaven and the leader of his pack once again.
Second, (and this is really regarding loss in general) when someone loses someone or something they love, they aren’t looking for you (or anyone) to fix anything. It seems that people are compelled to say too much, tell you a story, explain their experiences, or try to correct what they see as a problem. It’s not necessary. Really, it’s not. Filling the silence doesn’t make the pain go away no matter how consoling or compassionate your words may be.
Just say “I’m sorry for your loss.” It’s okay to tell someone that you don’t know what else to say except for the words, “I’m sorry.” The show of sympathy is enough. Just, “I’m sorry”. It doesn’t need to be an explanation of how great of a life they lived or how it was probably their time to go or anything else. Just simply, “I’m sorry”. Those words mean enough.
I wish we all wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable being with someone who is grieving. We all have that personal experience during our lives. It’s part of living. It might not look the same for everyone, but it’s there, nonetheless.
Trooper was appropriately named, he surely was a trooper in every sense of the word. Beautiful memories will keep me smiling, and I know he is with me all the time. As are my other boys who have crossed the rainbow bridge. Rest well, my Trooper, although my guess is you’re running free. I’m looking for the dragonflies, my dear boy.
I love you always, my Trooper.
I’m telling ya, my health would be far better off as a dog than a human. Of course, I need to clarify that by saying that statement applies to those of us that respect the lives of our pets and treat them in high regard (as they should be).
I have four dogs. They are part of my family and are my kids (in addition to my human kid :). A significant part of my time goes towards ensuring their health and wellbeing is maintained. I willingly do this because I signed up for it when I adopted them and pinky swore to provide them with a good quality of life. So, it’s fair to say I’m pretty hyper when it comes to their health.
A year ago, we began fostering our dog, Drake. As you can clearly tell by that last sentence, “our dog”, Drake, is now “our dog”; he very much decided he was not going to be leaving our home. It took us a few months to figure out Drake’s plan, but that’s okay. He’s here to stay.
Drake is probably about 6 or 7 years old, Rottweiler mix. He was abandoned by his original family in Georgia, dumped, picked up as a stray, and found himself on the euthanize list. The awesome rescue I work with (reachoutrescue.org) picked him up from there.
Drake came with lots of issues. He’s a high maintenance boy. Hyper, hyper, hyper. Plus, he has no real idea how big and strong he really is. He runs very fast, slides, crashes, and will take you out before you even see him coming. He has a constant ear infection, is a picky eater, hard to keep weight on him, very over protective, hates baths, barks loudly, can play a bit too rough, and – the best one – has some type of incontinence. But, he’s truly the biggest baby of them all. Always wants to be held, hugged, snuggled, and covered in kisses and affection. He turns on the charm with those big brown eyes.
Despite having his own plush dog bed, it’s not unusual that he slinks his way up between my husband and I on a regular nightly basis. We’ve been woken up on more than one occasion wondering why we are laying in a puddle of warm… DRAKE! Yep, peed the bed. Poor guy was in such a deep sleep, he didn’t even know it happened, but super embarrassed once he quickly realizes it. Sigh.
I did some research, I had started Drake on homeopathic bladder and kidney support supplements. It really seems to help. At our annual vet visit, I expressed my concern over some of Drake’s issues. Could all these things, in fact, be related?? That sure didn’t seem very likely…
Our vet ran some tests. Turns out my sweet boy is in Kidney Failure. Given his age, this truly never occurred to me. It’s usually a senior dog condition. I have since learned that dogs that are poisoned and exposed to chemicals can have premature kidney failure. Seems that this likely happened to my boy.
Now what?? Well, there is no cure. No magic medicine that makes it all better. He has over 75% dysfunction. Yikes. It seems to be slow moving, but who knows what that really means. Well, actually we do know what it means – enjoy every moment while we have it.
The recommendations from the vet are: 1. Supplements (we’re doing that), 2. Diet. He needs a special kidney support diet. I can buy this with a prescription from the Vet for $90 a month.
Whoa. $90 a month?? I mentioned I have 4 dogs, right? That’s a steep price tag, but one I will pay if needed.
But, I start to do my homework. I google, read, YouTube. I begin to understand more of what the kidneys do, what Drake’s kidneys don’t do, and how foods support/help/harm this whole process. At the same time, I’m noticing nearly daily dog food recall notices. The food we spend all this money on is killing people’s beloved pets. This all seems ridiculous to me.
I decide I’m going to just make Drake’s food. There is plenty of research and literature out there suggesting how helpful this has been to other people in the same boat as us. (Side note, this is not our first dog food making rodeo. Our dog that passed a few years ago, Phantom, had a thyroid condition and an amputated leg due to cancer. We also ditched processed dog food then, and made his food. I’m convinced we got 7 more years of snuggles from this one change.)
So, here I am making dog food yet again. I made a batch one morning on my day off. I told Drake all about what we were doing. He sat next to me, excited, the whole time. Watched the entire process, tail wagging. Good boy.
That was his first day on homemade dog food. Tell you what – he will never eat processed food again. Here’s what happened: Drake ate his first homemade dinner, and my dog transformed in literally minutes.
Meal time use to be a process for Drake – eat some, walk away, come back, eat more, growl at everyone else that wanted to eat his food (even though he wasn’t eating it)… every single day was like this. Not anymore. He loves to eat now!
So, not only is meal time more pleasant, but what happened after was shocking. After dinner was usually hyper hyper time. Crazy, running, play growling, tearing toys apart, on the furniture, off the furniture, yelling, turning the house upside down – until the day I fed Drake his new kidney approved homemade dog food.
My dog was calm. Completely calm. Laid on the couch. Played a little at a “normal” pace. And he’s been like that every day since. Not one potty accident. Ear infection is clearing up. Ummm.
So, my question is – WHAT is in the dog food that transformed my now calm dog into a maniac?? Crap. It’s that simple. Crap, fake, artificial, processed crap.
How much crap do you eat? Probably a ton. If someone took that crap out of your diet and fed you real homemade food, how do you think you’d feel? Every wonder if what you eat affects your mood? I mean, we know that if we feed kids a ton of sugar, they bounce off the walls, right? But, as adults, that doesn’t happen….sooooo…. it’s okay to eat it because no one is looking over us telling us to not….
C’mon! Be real! Food totally affects your mood. It affects your productivity, your energy level, and that’s what we see on the outside. Imagine if we could actually see what happens on the inside, on a molecular level!
Imagine how many dog’s lives could have/be saved because we label their personality as aggressive or unmanageable and have them put down when the solution could possibility be (for some), that their processed dog food is making them crazy.
Food is medicine. Think about what you eat. Think about how you feel. Think about how you could act, be, and feel different just with one little change. Think about how you could cure your own body. Know what’s in your food.
By the way, I have purchased my last bag of dog food. All my dogs will be eating home cooked food going forward. Now, who’s cooking for me :)!