If I was going to put a more specific title on this post, it would be The Art of Saying Good-bye, but I want to minimize the drama. Even though It's a tough topic, I am NOT writing this for sympathy, just sharing the mix of emotions I'm dealing with, which is what Sunday Morning Reflections are always about.
Everyone thinks they have the best dog and none of them are wrong.
Molly, the Wonder Dog, has been with me for 13 1/2 years and has pretty much never left my side. Over the years we even made a few road trips together. In 2009, on the drive from California to Ohio over three long days of driving, she listened without comment as I talked about my future with Sheila. LOL
Recently she seemed off a beat - waking us up in the middle of the night to go out, and now and then having difficulty with her back legs when getting up. So, off to the vet, we went.
After a barrage of tests, he didn't like her liver numbers. He put her on a nutritional supplement used to improve liver function. Within a couple of days she was acting better.
He also referred us to a pet oncologist. The doc did an ultrasound, as we held Molly on her back, pretty much panic-stricken, while her stomach and lower abdomen were scanned. And there it was - a big ugly tumor on her liver. The prognosis, without doing a biopsy, was whether malignant or benign it will eventually end her life. I cried the whole drive home, acting like I was saying good-bye that night.
All of this happened December 18, and since then, Molly's had plenty of energy. She's back to sleeping through the night. Her back leg problem comes and goes. Every day at 4:00 we're out chasing tennis balls, and she's the same goofball she's always been. She rarely leaves my side during the day...her appetite is terrific...and we reenact a series of obnoxious "Timmy and Lassie" scenes every day.
So, here's the bottom line...I wish I didn't know what was going on and hadn't done the ultra-sound. I know she's in no pain and if I didn't know about the tumor, she's never seemed healthier, just older and now and then a little slower.
The vet had suggested we do a biopsy and I turned it down. Molly's almost 14, and I will not prolong her life with any level of pain. Like so many of you, when that day comes I'll let her go, and I'll be miserable, but I am so grateful to have her in my life. I wish I could have squashed my need to dig deeper into her ailments and just let things take their course.
I look back on friends who have had to let go of their pets, and so often the heart-breaking posts they've shared on Facebook. I've empathized with their loss, hugged Molly and have been grateful it's not something I had to deal with at the time...well, it's different when the problem is on your doorstep.
And there you have it - the art of saying good-bye to your pup in a situation like this, is just not to say good-bye. I'm packing in daily memories, plenty of ball-chasing and every minute appreciating how lucky I am to have Molly the Wonder Dog in my life. Now and then I slip with a tear, but overall, I'm keeping my big boy pants on!
Photography through all of this is playing an enormous role. Every print and digital file I have has become more valuable to me.
Molly's one of the most photographed pups in the industry having been captured on film and digital over the years by Bambi Cantrell, Judy Host, Carey Schumacher, Nicole Begley and her entire pet photography class here in Sarasota (which is where I met Janet DelTuva), Helen Yancy, Suzette Allen, and most recently Robert Vanelli. Those photographs have become a collection of memories that will always be priceless to me. They're a constant reminder of the power of imaging and the importance of what we do for a living!
So, I wish all of you an outrageously great Sunday. Cherish the time with family, friends and the pets in your life. Go for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs, including ones with your pup. And while a lot of people think we're nuts talking to our dogs as if they understand, don't believe for a second they don't! Most important of all, don't waste a minute not making memories - life is too short.
Happy Sunday and thanks for listening!
Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.