A Melancholy Moment

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Finally on our local golf course last week!

Normally, 99.999% of the time, this is me. Not the wine glass- that’s maybe 25% of the time and as much as I wish golf was 100% that isn’t the case, either. But I’m normally smiling, laughing, joking around and happy.

(As I type that I’m trying desperately to do the math to make sure I don’t sound like a flaming alcoholic… should that be 20%? 15% Will my friends laugh and think I underestimated?)

Driving home along muddy gravel roads with 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom potholes in the rain to a husband-less house on Friday, however, I had a moment of melancholy.

I had a few tears.

It wasn’t a pity party by any stretch. It actually had to do with some sadness.

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a couple of weeks ago before the golf course opened

I had done a house call that morning where I helped friends say goodbye to their special canine companion. It was necessary, it was an act of kindness and it was done for all the right reasons. It was also beautiful and peaceful if such an event can be.

It was Time.

But after having done this recently with a few other special canines I realized I have been the veterinarian in this community long enough that I have known these animals their entire lives. And now I’m saying sad goodbyes to some of them.

I was the Easy Cheese lady back when we did 3 sets of the distemper combo and handed out puppy kits.

I spayed and neutered them.

They were participants in my puppy parties.

And they came to the Dog Days of Summer every year.

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UB and Loki at one of the Dog days of Summer

While not all of the recent patients of the Angel of Darkness were puppies when I met them, they were still my patients for several years. It just felt kind of heavy and it all hit me at one specific moment yesterday.

The rainy, dark skies and the cooler temperatures after being teased with sunshine and golf games recently probably didn’t help.

I did allow myself time to think about and process each of the friends I had to help over the Rainbow Bridge and I think veterinarians just simply need to do this from time to time. Sure, I have all sorts of fabulous coping mechanisms- I keep a journal; I share my feelings here and with clients; I play golf; I laugh a LOT; I joke around a LOT; I have ferrets who I talk to in a variety of accents; I don’t take myself seriously; I have a tremendously understanding husband; I write; I have the Aloha hot tub with tiki torches; I drink wine; yadda, yadda….

But veterinarians have enough to worry about in this career that we need to be able to let ourselves emote, from time to time, about stuff that’s just plain sad.

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Fabulous Babulous

It probably also doesn’t help that I found what I believe to be an oral tumor in sweet Bebe’s mouth the other day. She’s fine, though, eating & drinking & bitching at us for her morning Greenies and everything is normal but Dr.Mummy knows its not right.

And she’s lost some weight.

And her hair coat is a bit poor.

But Mummy-me isn’t going to change a thing until Babs gives us a reason to.

Like my clients’ pets did.

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Getting ready for the Furry Scurry a few years ago

The noble Bernese Mountain Dog began limping enough that her parents knew the recently diagnosed bone cancer in her forelimb was taking over.

She walked less and less and started to eat a bit less.

I had done her puppy vaccines and spayed her and fixed her umbilical hernia. She was a puppy party participant and kind of just watched the goofy Labradors and goldens flying around the clinic (although she eventually gave in and played a bit, too.)

She attended Dog Days of Summers and did the Furry Scurry and she hiked in the mountains of Montana and played with her sister and swam in clear rivers and creeks and eventually accepted the newest little sister and she ate like a queen and she lounged outside her house and she loved the heck out of her dad and her new  mom and she was on the greatest adventure ever until it was Time.

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Another Furry Scurry getting ready to go!

Then there was the adorable, 16 year old Yorkie who made it pretty clear to his parents that it was Time. I knew him since I moved here and he and his canine siblings lived a lovely life with their parents. I got to see pictures of him in the basket of the 4-wheeler looking like he was the happiest big dog in a little dog’s body ever. His entire small community knew him and he even got to help out at the bar his folks owned a lot of the time.

I know a lot of hearts were broken when I helped him across the bridge with his mom and dad right there, holding him, rubbing him. Like his mom said, “It isn’t about us anymore, its about him.” It was Time.

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My Nan and the Princess, Cleopatra at a Dog Days of Summer many moons ago

My friends and I had known Sprocket’s time was coming because he was ancient. Most working sled dogs live a great, active life but they rarely make it to 15 years of age but this noble old athlete did and he did it was grace and style. Maybe not with the greatest hair coat in the world but he aged beautifully until he didn’t.

Sprocket was one of their competitive dogs who loved what he did. A Siberian Husky who I respected as both an athlete and a good dog, he started having trouble with his back legs recently. He would rally and we would stop checking to see if I was going to be in town and a few more weeks would pass.

Until the morning when the dog who had run his heart out and played with his yard mates and really liked his injectable anesthesia when he needed it and was one of the alligator bacteria patients years ago let his folks know they needed to come up to the farm for one final visit with Dr.Fyfe.

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Good times with good friends at a Dog Days of Summer

And Friday morning we laid the final dog of a litter of pups I was particularly close to to rest.

The beautiful litter of Great Dane puppies was in trouble from the start when their mom died within days of their birth. We knew it was a challenge to get enough groceries into such a rapid-growing breed but several members of the community were up to the task. It was daunting at best because without much immunity from not having their mom’s milk they couldn’t be exposed to many people so it was a small group who fed, cleaned, rested, and fed the puppies again. Most of the folks who were part of the feeding team became owners of these huge puppies and all but one stayed within our community.

My rep with Royal Canin happily consulted her team of nutritionists and those pups thrived on canned Recovery and wow, what a gorgeous group of dogs they turned into.

On April 22nd, 2009, my surgeon friend from Great Falls came by and he helped me spay and gastropexy the three females, which I had never done before. The three giants laid in a blanketed assembly line as they recovered and it was a pretty special day.

Until the curse of being a Great Dane took over and we lost the father and all of the other siblings over the years.

Generally they aren’t a long-lived breed but Bella made it to 10 years. Until Friday morning, when it was Time.

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Dog Show winners in the “Working Dog” class at one of our later Dog Days

Each and every family I cried with are friends. I’ve had coffees, lunch and supper dates and I’ve supported their buisnesses and I think most of them have read my books.

I counselled them about when to spay, what brand of foods to eat and I dispensed dewormers and did house calls and I sutured them up or took sutures out and I watched relationships grow and flourish even if there was some testing along the way and I shared the beginning, middle and now end of some beautiful lives with special people and their beloved companions and I know how very hard it was to make the decisions they made and I respect all of them for it while knowing how hard their hearts hurt.

Sometimes the making of the decision and acknowledging that it is Time is the hardest part of all. Or maybe its when I ask if my friends are ready… because they will truly never, ever be ready.

I am privileged to get to share the amazing human-animal bond that makes us choose to get another puppy and raise them and love them and care for and guide them through their magical lives as they become perfect middle-aged best friends until they gradually become beloved senior citizens.

My own heart gets wrung out every time we have had to make the decision to send our furry friends on their final adventure.

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Pretty little Bebe Fyfe

I hope I get to have more time to spend with Babs before its Time. Heck, Cleopatra, our Springer is at least 15 and is having her own set of issues. I’m trying not to think about it but I may have to face what Sitka, Danny, Sprocket and Bella’s parents all had to face just recently sooner rather than later.

And I’ll be okay.

Just like all of my friends will.

And every single other pet parent out there who has to face facts when you start making a list of all of the last things you’ll be doing with your buddy.

There are those coping mechanisms.

There is that magnificent hubby and many great friends.

And there is the knowledge that when the sadness is so great it means the love was that great as well.

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Local Coping Mechanism just opened the back 9 last week.

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One of the Furry Scurry’s along the highway in town!

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3 new Coping Mechanisms screwing around in Papa’s clean jeans.

 

Bye, Bye Boomer

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One week ago little Boomer took her last nap next to me before I helped her across the good old Rainbow Bridge.

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Mummy & Boom, just a couple of years ago

She was the subject of one of my very first blogs two years ago when I was having difficulty managing her hyperthyroidism and kidney failure but we found the right mix of meds and she had a good run for most of that time.

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Little Boomer a couple of months ago.

She had lost some weight and was becoming dehydrated (typical with older feline kidneys) so we started adding ice cubes to the water dish to encourage drinking. Most veterinarians will suggest the ice cube thing for older kitties. Cats are curious to the core and if they play with the cubes in the water to watch them  move or to hear them tinkle they usually end up drinking more, if not at least licking off their wet paws. Looking back, we had just lost her brother, Oscar and perhaps depression played a role in her health as well.

The ice cubes became an addiction for Boomer. When we would first get to the kitchen in the mornings we were meowed at for the ice cubes.

When it was close to supper time-ish, more meows.

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Ice cube junkie

The meows got louder and more demanding the more time passed but it was just one of those quirks we put up with because she was Boomer. And she was old and possibly starting to lose her marbles the past couple of months but still, the ice cubes weren’t a big deal.

We made little accommodations for our aging buddy because she had been a great cat for many years and it was easy to do.

Lots of expensive canned food to crush the pills in. More beds to lay around the house in. Watching wherever Loki went in hopes we could prevent her bonking into Boomer and possibly getting her eyes scratched (again). Combing her hair matts out when she reduced her personal grooming (and being watchful of those claws!)

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More ice cubes for Boomer

We did these things and more and Boomer just kept ticking along, prancing into the hallway bathroom where the guinea pigs used to be and leaping up onto our bed for bacon in the mornings.

Until a few things changed…

She started to develop a weakness in her legs. If we would reach down for a good head rub it would almost knock her over. More vocalization, and louder. Incessant sometimes with an almost frustrated-sound to it. Even less grooming and even more sleeping and, a few weeks ago, dragging her back feet at night.

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Our old ladies, Boomer & Cooper last spring

We shared glances at each other when she would just about topple over and we fed her treats on demand and her pills twice a day and she lost a bit more weight and became a lot more scruffy-looking and less tolerant and I had a long, teary chat with Boom-Boom and sometimes I had to check if she was still breathing and we had inner discussions and eventually out-loud conversations.

Which was when we decided it was Time.

Making the decision to end a long, good life is heavy. We agreed to do it last Saturday but we both avoided the topic, instead giving her little bits of chicken I cooked that night and suddenly it was Sunday. And we are health care providers who truly knew it was Time even though she didn’t have a terminal disease. Its not as if she was dying.

But she wasn’t really living, either.

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Boomer never missed a chance to get into an open cupboard!

I wonder how heavy that decision is for bad people.

For people who make plans to end a person’s life. To separate the body from the soul for all of eternity, leaving a lifeless vessel behind. To stop the incredible machine that is the cardiovascular system from working its tremendous pump that keeps a body’s life force flowing.

I wonder if they struggle with the choice. Do they rationalize their way out of it for a week or two? Or do they plan to do it Saturday and then before long its already Sunday?

I appreciate that bad people who do horrible things like that have their wiring mixed up or they are under some sort of influence that they can’t control.

Or they are immune to the weight because of the volume of times they have made that choice.

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Cooper, Boomer & Oscar a couple of years ago.

In our case, for all the right reasons, we sedated our 20 year old room-mate together and she quickly snuggled in next to me, resting her head on my leg as her last conscious act. Through tears and remarkably leathery skin I found the forearm vein that Alistair helped me hold off and just like that I stopped her heart and she looked at peace.

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Oh, Boomer!

Saying goodbye to Boomer wasn’t necessarily easier than poor Mouse, who was young and healthy until he was suddenly gravely ill. It wasn’t easier than having to rush to Harry’s side by myself when his splenic tumor terminally ruptured. None of these has been easy. It will never be easy.

 

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Boom and Coopie last spring. Not even bothering to pretend like they shouldn’t have been on the kitchen table. At least Boom’s reading material is acceptable.

But I can accept Boomer’s death more readily because she’s been on The List for 2 years and also because Alistair was with me and we made this decision together. For Boom.

And just like that we have 2 indoor cats and 2 barn kitties.

And there will be more changes in the weeks ahead because Calypso was diagnosed with his own cancer in November and each day truly is a gift.

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Bonjour!

He continues to romp and play and eat like a fiend and steal Loki’s kibbles and Alistair’s boot insoles so his story is for another time.

I miss seeing Boomer in any of the beds scattered throughout the house and in a funny way I miss her caterwauling at me to add ice cubes to the water dish. I sometimes reach for her pills, forgetting there is nobody to give them to and I smile.

Her spirit is likely curled up somewhere with Cooper and Oscar and she isn’t dragging her little white feet and her eyes are bright and her haircoat is glorious once again. She’s grooming, prancing and enjoying a good sunbeam and although my heart is sad its kind of happy, too.

RIP, Boom-Boom. A good life deserved a good death.

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Oscar & Boom….together from the womb for 18 years now reunited.

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Just another day for Cooper, Boomer and Oscy

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Love the look on Boomer’s face…”Seriously, you guys?”

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A young Gareth and young Boomer… these 2 were pretty tight.

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The 1-year old kitties with Alistair when we lived in Creston, BC. They had just transitioned to “inside” cats.

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xoxo, Boomer & Oscar Fyfe