On Loss, Health & Moving On…

**This will be somewhat long, and kind of maudlin, but as of next week, I’ll be using a different format for these posts that will be more interesting/varied and hopefully provide something useful in the form of links and quotes and such. Stay tuned…**

Rest in Peace, Lucy.

                   Rest in Peace, Lucy.

As you may have guessed, things did not keep going well after Lucy’s surgery. Last week, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Mast Cell Cancer, and given around 3 months to live. Rather than getting better, she kept getting worse, and we made the decision to euthanize her this past Saturday because we simply couldn’t keep her comfortable any longer (the diabetes made giving her pain medication complicated). She’s the fifth dog I’ve made that decision for, and it really never does get any easier. And then there’s that huge hole in your life they leave behind when they’re gone…

In Lucy’s case, she left behind a bit more of a tangible footprint than most dogs, simply due to the special needs her chronic conditions required. For the past six years, my kitchen has been organized largely to accommodate making her meals ahead of time (and her raw food for many of those). For the past seven months, I’ve had her glucose meter and strips, plus insulin syringes and a record book in one of my utensil drawers (near where I prepped her meals). I have extra dishes and pill boxes and utensils just for her, along with an entire shelf in the fridge and a section of fridge door specifically for storing her food, supplements & extra insulin. Every time I use the kitchen, her things are right there, right where they should be. Waiting.

My morning, evening and late-night routines all revolve(d) around her care. I got up early to feed and medicate her, and that’s the first thing I did when I got home from work. I set up the routine to clean the kitchen at 10pm specifically to go with mixing and incubating her food for the next day (and a third meal for both dogs up until just last summer). Due to her insulin and mealtime needs, there was little flexibility in our routines, which makes her absence that much more evident.

I will eventually adjust, and so will my routines, but it’s going to take some time.

The thing about the death of a pet is, I’m inevitably left wondering if there was anything I could have done differently to prevent whatever escalated and prolong their life. Heck, when Lucy was diagnosed with EPI years ago, I wondered if it was something I did, and when she went blind from diabetes last summer I felt insanely guilty for not having read the signs earlier and gotten her help before things got so bad. I think that sort of thing is inevitable when you take on the responsibility for another living being. Everything that goes wrong is a guilt-inducing event, whether it should be or not.

The fact is, there’s no real point in beating myself up about whatever I didn’t do (and there’s a genetic element that might very well have trumped everything anyways), but there is some value, I think, in trying to do better going forward.

In light of that, and that many of her issues had a basis in the immune system, and also the fact that one of the best and easiest things to do in order to keep the immune system functioning well is to *move*, I took Mica-dog for a walk yesterday.

We have a large backyard, and a neighborhood wherein the few times I’ve walked my dogs, it seems like we always run into at least one dog that’s escaped or allowed to just roam loose. This is a problem, as it’s likely one of the dogs will get hurt (last time, Lucy pinned a little French bulldog who ran up wanting to start a fight – luckily she didn’t hurt him, but she could have, easily). So to avoid both stress and liability/potential vet bills, I’ve eschewed walking the dogs, and opted to just let them get their exercise in our yard & playing in the house. As you might imagine, that apparently works about as well for dogs as it does for humans (maybe better for small dogs, I suppose).

So one of the things I want to work into our new routines is a daily walk. We’ll have to work up to it, since we’re relatively out of shape, but it’ll be good for us both, and hopefully strengthen our immune systems by getting the lymph flowing once a day or so. I’ll also have to find a time when we’re least-likely to run into loose dogs.

Yes, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to loss, but in this case, it can’t hurt, and may help. Right now I’m in the perfect mindset to make it a habit before time passes and I inevitably fall back into a more complacent, comfortable place, so I’m going to take advantage of that.

Now I just need to focus on finding a new “normal”…