Welcome back friends. I come to you today to share with you the loss of our family member Roxy, our dog. It’s been quite an adventure these past few months with her health but oh her spirit was strong. I shared a quick post about her on Facebook to inform my family and close friends whom knew her but today I want to share what it’s like to know and experience the love of a dog.
I got Roxy when I was in college. I was 20 years old and living at home. I had always grown up with family dogs as a child but I really wanted a dog of my own. One who would come with me when I moved out and be my full responsibility. At the time, I really wanted a Pomeranian. I was a college student who was rather broke so I wasn’t going to pay $400 dollars for one and I could not find one at a shelter. My mom saw a flyer at the vet’s office about a lady giving away some puppies. Pekingese/Yorkie mix. They were free and needed homes. The woman giving them away was a breeder for Great Danes. Her house dogs got together so to speak and had pups. Mutts aren’t worth anything in the breeding world so they were free for the taking. Anyway, my mom and I hauled it out to Angleton to pick a puppy. I picked one. The one that looked different than the rest. I named her Roxy. She was a spunky little thing. Gosh I wish I had a handy pic of her as a baby. Camera phones weren’t a thing back then so I don’t have one handy but she was the cutest little fur ball. She looked just like a teddy bear!
Roxy was my first baby and I very much treated her like one. Chad and I were not married at the time but were about 4 years deep in our relationship. She was OUR baby. I remember our first trip with her. It was not a fun one. We evacuated when hurricane Rita came rolling through. She rode the entire trip around my neck as I drove. I was wearing her like a scarf!
She was hyper one! I remember people would always say, “She will calm down as she ages.” That was a lie. Til the day she died she was still just as crazy as day one. I think she was half kangaroo because this dog could jump! If she wanted something, fruit in particular, she would literally jump on the container to get it. I remember many times hearing her land on my dresser in the middle of the night. She loved to run and play. I always thought she was a golden retriever stuck in a little dog’s body. If I was a hunter, I’d be convinced she would have been able to hunt with me. She fit the man’s best friend role to a T except that we were gals!
If I remember correctly, she got her first mast cell tumor at about two years old. It was on her right lower leg and literally popped up in a couple of days. It was huge and pretty scary to look at. Thankfully, they were able to cut it off and we went on about our way. They were never really sure they could get it all as the location was around a lot of tendons but they did their best.
I was volunteering at an animal shelter the next year I believe and long story short, came home with another dog. I thought it would be great for Roxy as I was gone a lot for school and work so along came Muffy. They were really such great friends for the first few months. I would get home and they would come running to jump on me and end up forgetting about me and would go back to playing with each other. Things were great until Roxy got sick out of nowhere and had to do an overnight stay at the emergency room. I still wonder to this day what happened but when Roxy came back their relationship hit the fan. Roxy and Muffy were enemies. Roxy would sniff Muffy and Muffy was not having it so she would growl at her. That would set Roxy off and she would go in for the fight. Literally when they would fight it would be for blood. Roxy was a very strong dog so Muffy never had a chance at any fight.
This of course tore me up. I had two dogs now that could not stand to be with each other. Roxy had always been a free roaming dog and Muffy was as well when we got her. The thought of having them in kennels really broke my heart. But, that was the life we had to live from then on. Do know we tried many things to get them to accept each other again but nothing worked. I wasn’t about to send Muffy back to the shelter so life just had to change for everyone. They would take turns being loose in the house while the other would be in their kennel or gated in another room. It sucked. It REALLY sucked. I hated it and can’t believe we did it for so many years.
So you might be thinking, “This Roxy girl sounds crazy!” This situation was definitely bizarre but do know Roxy never once tried anything crazy or showed any aggression toward her humans or any humans for that matter. Our kids could pull on her and play rough with her and she never did anything negative towards them. I’m guessing it was just an, “I hate my teenage sister” type situation with Muffy.
Not that long after we got Muffy, maybe 6 months or so, Roxy got another tumor. Again, we had it removed and went about our way.
Later came having our first human baby. Anyone who has pets and no children, your pets are your babies. Roxy was my first baby. She helped me learn the responsibility of keeping another being alive. She depended on me/us to provide for her. All of my time that I was not working or in school was dedicated to her, and Muffy up until this point but after having a baby things changed and they changed drastically. Obviously a human baby is on another level when it comes to responsibility. My time and focus had shifted. I felt terrible about it. To go from the front of the line to the back burner constantly made me feel bad for my dogs. And both of my babies were high needs infants so I rarely had any spare time. Kids in general keep you busy all day every day. Could I have done more? Could I have made more time? Probably… And of course now that she is gone I wish I would have. Just two weeks ago I sat down next to her and told her I was sorry. Sorry her life changed so drastically as far as attention and sickness and I told her I would work to do better for her. Despite all of this, she loved me anyway.
So let me back up again for a bit to talk about her constant tumor growth. A couple of years ago her tumor came back almost overnight. I took her to the vet and they said they could do surgery again but due to the size she would be left with an open wound and I would have to nurse it pretty intensely to help promote the growth of new skin. Of course we said yes and went for it. It was tough. It was really tough actually. She had an open wound I was constantly cleaning, doing hydro therapy on it at home with her, and having to keep her kenneled a lot so we could get it to heal. The smells from having to keep it wrapped were disgusting. It was over all a rough process but we made it through. There was a lot of snapping involved, from me not her, when I would wrap her leg or have her in the tub for therapy. Snapping because my fuse was short and well, she was just being a dog and probably didn’t want me to touch it. She loved me anyway.
I hoped we were in the clear but we were not. When I was pregnant with Lex it came back yet again. This time the vet said it was time to amputate but recommended to get a second opinion. So we did and she started seeing a specialist. He didn’t want to cut it off just yet so he put her on chemotherapy. Looking back I wish I would have gone with my gut feeling and did the amputation. Thankfully, she took the chemo very well. She was not sick at all and it didn’t affect her. The tumor went away in about a month or two and we were so excited. Perhaps this was what she needed. We stayed on chemo for six month and were off for three months. This brought us to right around the time Lex was born. A new baby at home and you guessed it, the cancer was back.
We put her back on chemo but this time it wasn’t working as well. It wasn’t growing but it wasn’t shrinking and now it had moved up to her lymph node in her neck. The vet was now ready to amputate. I was angry and upset that we waited for it to spread before considering the amputation again. And now we were completely tapped out. We had already spent thousands of dollars to get her this far and the amputation was a couple thousand more with no guarantees since it had now spread. We got another opinion after that just to make sure this was the final resort and it was. The second place was going to cost about 8k. The advice was given to keep her comfy and happy until it was her time to go. The vet said some people would have already put her to sleep at this point but there was no way I could do that. Her personality was alive and well and aside from the lump, she was normal. She didn’t limp; she ran around like a crazy nut, I’m talking 100%.
At this point we stopped the chemo and steroids and had pain meds on hand to keep her comfy as the time approached. This time was a messy time. Since her leg was so small and the tumor so big the skin around her leg would often break and she would bleed. I would get it to heal; she would lick on it and break the skin again. I had to constantly keep her wrapped. I hated that for her but that was the only solution. Her paw didn’t have to be wrapped so she was still able to walk on it.
The day before my son’s birthday, this was a few months ago, we woke up to let her out and she was not the same. Her neck had blown up; she could barely stand and didn’t want to move. Her time was approaching quickly. I cried and cried. This was it for her. The day before I had told myself, “You know, you need to take some photos of Roxy before it’s too late.” The next day she looked miserable. I called the vet and told them what was going on. I made arrangements for the vet to come to our house to put her to sleep but I couldn’t do it on my son’s birthday. I told the doctor the situation of needing her to be comfortable just to make it one more day. Was it selfish of me? I don’t think so. I did not want to devastate my son. He has a crazy good memory and I didn’t want him to always think of this on his birthday. The vet suggested we give her the pain meds and prednisone to get her through the next day and oh the power of steroids. The next day, his birthday, she was about 80% herself. Wagging her tail but just moving a little slow. The next day, the day the vet was scheduled to come put her to sleep, she was 100%. Running around, barking, jumping, and searching like a mad woman looking for scraps and her tumor on her neck had disappeared. I called the vet and canceled. There was no way I could put her to sleep when her personality was back to normal.
For the last three months we kept her on prednisone and Benadryl to calm the histamine releases. She never lost her appetite, her personality was the same and she was just the same old crazy and spunky dog we have always known. This brings us to about two weekends ago. We noticed that her neck was starting to swell again. Slowly but it was consistent. Same with her leg. Her main tumor was starting to grow and she was also getting another one further up on the same leg. We figured at this rate, with the consistent growing, she would start crashing any day now. She never did. The growing continued but everything still stayed the same as far as how she was mentally, food and water intake and going to the restroom. We got through the weekend and started talking about what we needed to do. The growing was continuing but she still was not showing signs of discomfort or a change in personality. I prayed that God would take her in her sleep at home. I did not want her to die alone in her kennel but I didn’t want to have to make the decision to put her to sleep so I was stalling. No decision seemed right and we were leaving town at the end of the week. I know if anything would have happened while we were gone I would have been devastated. And that would not have been fair for my sister to have to deal with either as she was watching her for us. It felt selfish for me to keep her alive while not being around to care for her myself. But it also felt selfish to have to put her to sleep before just so I made sure she didn’t pass away alone. Tuesday while I was changing her leg dressings I noticed she was stepping just slightly different. She was still putting weight on it but it was different. Chad and I talked about it for a good while and decided that it was time. I cried and cried after making the phone call to the vet and getting everything setup for the next day. I looked at her and she was wagging her tail waiting for me to drop food. It just crushed my heart.
The next day as anyone would assume I was a complete mess. My house was a wreck and I had to get it looking decent before the vet was coming in the late afternoon. Making the decision had consumed me and I had not done a thing all week. I was running around crazy trying to care for the baby, get the house presentable and spending time with Roxy. I cried as I washed the dishes riddled in guilt. I wasted so much time over the years and I was trying to make it all up in one day. All I could think of were all of the missed opportunities I had to just hang out with her and I had literally saved quality time to be with her hours before she was going to go. I still feel horrible about this to be honest but, as I have said before, she loved me anyway.
After my oldest son got out of school I took the kiddos to my mom’s so they wouldn’t be home. I bought Roxy a happy meal and let her go to town! She went to town and left the town in about two minutes. She literally inhaled it. I bought her some bones that morning and she stayed guarding one for the whole day. I’d go to take it from her and she would growl, a playful growl, and would tug on it. I noticed that day she was walking around a lot. I mean A LOT. I wonder if she knew the situation to some degree. She just seemed a little antsy. I think because of this I could not get her foot to stop bleeding. I changed dressings about once an hour this day as the blood kept coming and she was leaving wet spots everywhere. Thankfully, using the last bit of supplies I had, I got it wrapped well enough and the bleeding didn’t stop but slowed down.
It was about an hour before the vet would be showing up; I gave her some medicine that was supposed to help calm her. It did help some but not as much as I would have hoped. I wanted to sit with her on the couch and just snuggle, and she did for a while, but she just wanted to lie in her bed. I think she just knew how to get comfy on her bed and sitting on me with all of the tumor growth was not comfy. So I let her lay on her bed, watched TV with her and cried. Chad got home shortly after and I made sure to give him his time with her as well. A lot of tears fell as we waited.
Though she was relaxed, when she heard the knock on the door she jumped up as usual and ran barking to the door. She barked and sniffed the vet’s feet but welcomed him pretty quickly. He noticed she was still pretty active and not as calm as we had hoped so thankfully he brought some more meds to help with that. After his dose via IV, she finally was truly in a relaxed state. The vet was such a nice guy. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to do something like this. He says it’s something you never get used to. He made sure we felt comfortable and asked us if we were ready and we said yes. We were by the fireplace, Chad laying eye level with Roxy and I was sitting on the fireplace step with my hand on her back.
This was one of the most awful experiences I have ever witnessed. Roxy was a fighter and she reminding us of it til the very end. This was our first time having to ever put a dog to sleep. If you have ever had to put a pet to sleep you know how hard it is to feel like you are doing the right thing for them. I imagined that when it was her time and we were finally in the moment of it all that she would just lie there, relaxed and sort of just fade away. And if she looked at me it would be in a way that would say, “Its ok mom, I am ready.” This might sound fairytale like to someone who doesn’t have a pet but I can assure you I know my dog’s emotions by how she looks at me. Anyway, this didn’t happen. When the medicine started to flow she almost seemed to be panicked. She lifted her head and kept trying to turn around to look for me. (I was sort of behind her) She looked worried and confused. I got down on the floor, held and kissed her on the head and told her it was ok. It took two vials of medicine. The vet said it may have been because of the prednisone. As she slowly calmed down and put her head down her breathing was finally starting to slow. I don’t think she was suffering in any way I just think she was really focused and aware. Before the second vile went in she did put her head down and was just breathing slow and long. She didn’t seem to be labored by it. Just slow. Think of it like how we breathe slower when we sleep. Finally, once the second vial went in completely she took her last breath and was still. A part of me was relieved for her but a big part of me felt like I made the wrong choice. Her end was near, we knew it and I think she knew it also but I felt like I robbed her of maybe a day, maybe a few hours, who knows. I don’t think she was ready and that has made me so incredible sad.
Everyone has said we did the right thing. It doesn’t feel like we did but I am sure I will come around with time. After the vet left I started preparing her to be buried. I unwrapped her leg dressing as it has been wrapped for so many months and I didn’t want to bury her like that. I was able to get a look at her leg from a different angle for the first time. My poor baby. Her leg looked so awful. It was just so big compared to the other. I don’t know how she was walking around like normal. I can just imagine what it was like to lug around that extra weight/pressure. Seeing her leg in that manner helped me cope with knowing it was her time. Do know she was not suffering. I’m telling you she was exactly the same! I don’t know how but she did not let that leg change anything. That and we were well equipped with medicines to keep her comfy in the event that she came crashing down quickly.
Then came the time of reflecting on her life. We had so many good times but it’s hard not to think of the things I could have done better. I could have walked her more. I could have not forgotten and skipped a day between dressings. I could have not been lazy and let her out first thing in the morning instead of doing other things before. I could have not confused her with wanting her to bark and alert me when someone was at my house and then changing the game and saying, “Quick barking, you are going to wake up the baby.” I could have played more instead of watching TV. I could have let her jump on the couch more. The list could go on and on. And through it all, this dog was crazy about me and crazy about Chad and the boys as well. That young playful spirit was constant and she was full of love.
So what do I take from this experience? I take a lot. The love of a dog is SO unconditional. No matter what, this dog was always so happy to see me and spend time with me. People don’t love like this. We should but we don’t. I could get on to her or yell at her for something and she would still want to be next to me. The love of a dog, I have only had dogs so I can’t compare, is like nothing else.
I am trying my best to utilize all of my heartache and focus it on all the positive she has taught me/us. I need to love my kids and my family and people in general like a dog does their human. Unconditionally, and forgiving constantly. A dog’s life is so short. I hope my children live very long lives but their time as a child is also so short and I need to continue to embrace it. For the last couple of years I have been trying to be intentional about soaking up their youth and this just helps keep me in perspective. There will be a day that they don’t want my help, or don’t want me to love on them or kiss them in public. We are human so I know there will be bad days but I hope I can continue to stop and think before I react in those moments. I just don’t want to take any time for granted and it happens so easily for all of us. We get in the groove of everyday life and often forget to go that extra mile for each other. It makes a difference. Roxy, and dogs in general, constantly go that extra mile to make you/us feel loved.
So of course, we will miss her. Our house doesn’t feel like home without her. She was our spunk, our spirit and a bit of crazy in the house. She was our protector. I don’t know how but this little 12 pound dog literally made me feel safe when she was around. You may think, “Well you still have Muffy.” True, but Muffy is scared of her own farts so she is far from a protector! I shared that info to lighten the mood but it’s definitely true. That being said, we love Muffy very much. She has a completely different personality than Roxy and we love her for those differences. We will definitely get another dog but not for quite some time, and not until our next move. We want to spend this time loving on Muffy. She has been a patient little dog as we have spent most of our time tending to Roxy. And guess what, she still loves us anyway.
In conclusion, let’s do our best to love like our dogs do! If you have never had a dog, I highly recommend you get one so you can experience the greatness that is a dog’s love. This is of course if you have the time for one. Please don’t get one you don’t plan to make time for. Though we all make mistakes from time to time and come to realize we could have done better, there is no need to get a dog, or pet, you don’t plan to truly love back. They are a lot of work but I promise they are worth it. That and there are SO many dogs out there with so much love just sitting and waiting in shelters. I encourage you to adopt and not shop. There are perfectly good dogs just waiting to share their love with you. There are purebred and mixed breeds so don’t let that be an excuse. They will change your life for the better.
Dog spelled backwards is God so that must mean they are heaven sent! We can’t wait to see you again Roxy! Enjoy your time with all of our loved ones who have passed and gone to heaven. Cadel says Baw, Chad’s grandfather who we lost last year, is going to keep putting on Roxy’s cast in Heaven so he feels she is in good hands. 🙂
Til next time……PEACE In, Grace OUT!