I spoke too soon…

Just as fast as I posted my last thoughts today, Hugo agreed to getting a second puppy!!  We will now be getting the first pick male (boy pick of the litter, if you will) from the next batch of puppies slated to be whelped in late December with our breeder.  Our girl will now have a best friend for life, permanent wrestling opponent and partner in crime as it relates to chewing on our newly renovated kitchen cabinets.  I can’t wait to see what fun and joy the next chapter brings ♥

Adjust as needed

In my line of work, there is a phrase used as a catch-all on a routine basis.  Adjust as needed is commonly slapped on the tail-end of our project plans, in order to cover the contingency aspect if things happen to change.  Supervisors alike will say, “Just adjust as needed, depending on circumstances,” making the act of changing plans on the fly sound like a simple task.

Over these past two months, life as Hugo and I know it has changed drastically.  Things, most of which were out of our control, have changed and we are desperately trying to adjust as best we can.  Our house is quiet and lacking energy after the passing of sweet Kaiser and Nala.  We miss them so incredibly much and the feelings make me sick.  Every time I look at my cell phone, Nala’s precious black and white photo adorns the lock screen.  She is staring back at me as if to say, “I’m right here.”  It’s just that she’s not right here with me and I wish she was.  I might have needed her more than she needed me in life and I feel a little lost without my two little love bugs.  Thank God and the Perseids that I have Hugo as my best friend and partner in crime.  I can’t imagine the sickening state I would be in if he ever left my life.

Two nights ago I emailed five different breeders, as well as the Rottweiler Rescue of Los Angeles.  Simple inquiries about puppy availability and the age of some rescues, that’s all.  I feel guilty for even having considered new puppies to join our family.  Nala and Kaiser won’t be replaced though.  In due time, however, we will find someone, or someones, to bring into our family again.  We have a lot of love to give and it would be a shame to waste that.  Even when we have had dogs, we still have more love to give.  One day we plan to build a barn and fill it with a couple of horses, chickens and whoever else strikes our fancy.  Hugo has suggested an emu or rescue pig so who knows.  Whomever joins our ever-expanding family will most surely be met with open arms and a warm heart.

As we lose those we love, I realize just how much we have learned from and grown with the animals that spent all of their years in our lives.  Hugo and I got Kaiser as soon as we returned from our wedding party in Costa Rica.  Prior to getting married in Los Angeles and flying to Costa Rica to celebrate with our family, there was Marley Bear.  Marley was our first Rottweiler, who drove cross-country with us during our big move and occupied our first 800 sq. ft. apartment.  We were three peas in a pod until she passed away from kidney failure while we were out of the country.  Marley was only five years old when she passed away – her death didn’t hit me in exactly the same way because we never saw her suffer badly, she died suddenly, without warning, and we weren’t present for any of it since she was staying with our neighbor in our absence.  Marley was a tough girl who lived in frigid northern Vermont, wearing gortex booties on the frozen asphalt for walks, and lived in three different states as I bounced around during my college years.  She taught me to be flexible and to let some things go.  Most importantly, Marley showed us how to live in the moment because you never know when all of this bright and sparkly reality will disappear.

Nala and Kaiser gave us nine beautiful years as a family of four.  Hugo and I realized the other day that they grew with us so beautifully as we all evolved into adults together.  We almost made it one decade, during that time Hugo and I accomplished a lot, matured into adults and forged an even stronger bond and clearer path with one another.  We bought and sold houses, advanced tremendously with our careers, and grew to love one another on a surreal level.  And when it was all said and done, we couldn’t have done it without Nala and Kaiser’s love.

How quickly things change

Not even twenty-four hours ago, I was sitting here writing about Nala’s resilience.  Well, today, just after noon, her time finally came to an end.  As I stood in the kitchen cleaning the grounds out of our coffee grinder, I heard a shrill cry come from Nala as she speedily ascended our brick stairs.  I ran over to her as she was standing, weakly balancing on three legs, in the living room.  Her body was shaking and she looked miserable.  I yelled for Hugo, who ran over to us, and we both knew that it was time.  Nala’s cancerous shoulder had finally snapped and she was suffering.  We loaded her into the Jeep and off we went to the vet to put our second puppy down in less than two months.

What a miserable experience this has been.  She was in such pain at the vet’s office, I asked them if there was anything they could give her to relax her and ease her discomfort.  The vet returned with a shot that ended up almost knocking her out, because when they wheeled her back into the room after inserting her catheter for euthanasia, her eyes were in a hard, fixed position, as her tongue flopped two inches out of her mouth without care.  We hated to see her like this but at least she was out of pain.

As the vet administered the two-shot series, Hugo and I hugged her and cried as she parted with us.  I pet the single white hair that sat just to the left of her eye.  That white hair sprouted up months ago and refused to fall out.  It was just as resilient as her spirit, that literally fought to the bitter end.

 

Pound cake for Tootie

I picked up the remains of Kaiser today and brought him home.  His ashes, tucked safely away in a little wooden box, sat quietly on my front seat – one last car ride together as I sobbed uncontrollably.  When Hugo came home from an early morning fishing trip, we hugged and sobbed once more together.  Prior to his arrival, I set the bag from the vet, containing Kaiser and his clay paw print, down on the rug in our living room right where he used to lay.  This spot was loved by Kaiser, where he routinely lied down and flipped over onto his back, by gripping the side of the couch with his strong paw and leveraging his body weight to flop over into his most favorite, comfortable position.  Anyways, call me a little crazy, but it felt right to set him down there for a few minutes.  Nala came over and smelled the bag intently – she knew it was her old pal.  He had come home.

For some reason, I wanted to do a little baking this afternoon, almost as a final gift for Kaiser to celebrate how much we loved him.  I am not sure if that makes sense and quite frankly, I don’t really care.  We had leftover buttermilk that didn’t have a use to us, after Hugo bought it for cast-iron pan cornbread last week (absolutely delicious).  A quick Google search produced this gem of a recipe – Buttermilk Pound Cake.  I sliced some strawberries and dusted our slices with powdered sugar.  Hugo and I ate two fat pieces each and didn’t have one guilty feeling between us.  We cheers’ed with our fork and spoon, as a nod to our beloved Tootie (Kaiser’s silly nickname), and I gave Nala a tiny morsel so she could partake in the happy moment.  We decided that the pound cake satisfied our dinner void and called it a night.

No one said that life was going to be easy

Wow, where to begin.

I have been off the radar and radio silent for a handful of days now.  Needed some time to find my bearings after a stressful August.  August, 2018, will go down in my record book as the shittiest month of my life thus far.  After our awful ordeal with sweet Kaiser, we found out that our female Rottweiler, Nala, has bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in her front right shoulder.  What first presented itself as a minor limp and corresponding lump over the joint, turned into a cancer diagnosis after a series of x-rays at the vet.

For those who are not familiar with osteosarcoma, it is no joke.  An aggressive form of bone cancer, osteosarcoma is prevalent in large breed dogs, with Rottweilers said to have an occurrence rate of approximately one in 8.  That is a very high number, shocking to read quite frankly.  Our poor girl is the 1 in that equation.  After being presented with three equally bad options from the vet, which included doing nothing, amputating her limb, and/or doing chemotherapy and radiation, we chose to let her spend the remainder of her short life (based on her illness) feeling as good as possible and just being a dog.  We put considerable thought into the other options though – at one point Hugo and I had the three-hour amputation surgery scheduled but we later cancelled it.  We did our own independent research and discovered that dogs with this type of bone cancer normally do not live very long after being diagnosed, due to the aggressive nature of the disease.  Even when amputations are performed and additional, very expensive and physically draining therapies are administered, there still isn’t a very good likelihood of the dog surviving past a year, at best.  Sometimes, dogs only live a couple of months after amputation surgery.  And I am sure the recovering from losing a limb is not easy for those poor pups.

With all of that said, the biggest concern that the vet, and therefore we, have is this impending issue – due to the presence of bone cancer in her shoulder joint, the joint breaking is inevitable and just a matter of time.  That is why amputation, to remove the afflicted limb, is normally a viable option.  Hugo and I are terrified of her shoulder breaking because not only does that mean she has to immediately be put down but also because we don’t want her to experience that extreme level of pain.  After not wanting to leave the house at all, in fear that she would be all alone when her shoulder finally succumbs, I found myself staying home with her as much as possible.  I would hug and kiss her every time I walked past her, most times breaking into tears as I grasped onto her head.  I would hold it, remembering how her entire body used to be the size of what her head is today.  A little pile of puppy.  Nala of course was unaware of why I was so emotional, it was just another day to her.  And that’s when Hugo had an amazing idea – let’s buy a baby cam to set up to monitor her when we are away from home!  Within minutes, we had Amazon’ed a $30 Wansview camera that features two-way audio.  Technology is incredible and the feeling of security as we monitor her from afar is worth well above the purchase price of this valuable resource.

With everything considered, we opted to keep Nala out of pain with medication and rest, as well as anything her heart desires in the food category.  This has recently included chips and a little guacamole, scraps of barbecued chicken from our Labor Day picnic, and cheese nibbles from our goat cheese afternoon snack plate.  Although she is limping around and we are restricting her running, she has a big smile on her face and the energy to chase passing birds every day.

So for now, we are just enjoying every day with our girl, our last dog left.  I fear for the day that she isn’t here as our house will be empty and sad and just not right.  It has been tough experiencing such sadness and heartache with both of our puppies within such a short time frame.  It hit me so hard that I have been physically sick throughout this entire process.  To describe a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach would be a severe understatement.  I only hope that in time my body will calm down.

Not really sure how to transition from Nala to our friend Andrew but here goes nothing.  Andrew relapsed also immediately after celebrating one year of sobriety.  He is a sad idiot, he is a bad friend, and he is an asshole son.  He is a raging alcoholic who fell back into his dark hole.  This time, the dark hole manifested itself in the form of a dimly lit motel room in central California, as Andrew partially completed his road trip to Eureka, his intended destination.  He works for a large communications company and was lucky enough to be transferred up north, an opportunity to have a fresh start in a new part of the country.

The main things missing in Andrew’s life are a companion, whether that be a girlfriend, best friend or wife, and a family.  Andrew is alone, depressed and prone to relapse when faced with stressful, lonely situations.  I told Hugo, just before Andrew left for this trip, that I had a feeling this would happen.  And boy, was I right.  Wish I wasn’t.

He didn’t make it more than 36 hours before he started drinking.  And he didn’t just have a casual cocktail or frosty mug of beer.  This man goes from zero to 60 by drinking straight, cheap vodka right from the plastic bottle it comes in.  He doesn’t eat, hydrate with an occasional glass of water, or sleep normally.  He drinks until he throws up, passes out, and then wakes up at 2am only to chug some more vodka.  It is gross and sad.

The real victims in the equation are his poor parents.  They are such lovely, good-hearted people who love their son tremendously.  And the worst past is that there isn’t anything they can do.  They have done it all before and it doesn’t work because Andrew has to do it for himself.  No one can make an addict change, they have to truly desire to make the change within themselves.  Despite bringing him to therapy, the hospital, rehab, or any combination thereof, it will not be successful if Andrew doesn’t want it for himself.  As of now, we are on day 10 of this ordeal.  He has been holed up in his motel room slowly killing himself.  Only time will tell if he can pry himself out of his own nightmare of if his body will give in to the abuse he inflicts upon himself.

Life is cruel and has sharp edges that cut and sting.  The past few weeks have been negative at face value but I have been trying to find the learning lessons, peace and beauty that surrounds me.  I am thankful for the love that exists in my life, mainly Hugo and my parents.  Hugo has exhibited such incredible support and real love towards Nala and I during these tough times.  I am beyond thankful for him in my life.

So tonight, I will think happy, positive and loving thoughts for those in my life that are struggling.  Nala’s struggle is sad but unavoidable at this point.  Andrew’s is sad but can be changed with actions in the right directions.  I just hope he can find his way before it is too late.  And now I will go give Nala a goodnight kiss on the top of her nose.

Love and loss

It finally happened.  The sweet, old man who Hugo and I loved so dearly passed away just before midnight last night.  It was about 11:50pm on August 22nd to be exact.  I couldn’t help but check the time when we walked back into the lobby of the emergency vet hospital, both of us sobbing and holding each other.  We loved him like family, as most pet owners do.

We brought Kaiser into our life just after getting married in the Spring of 2009.  Our first baby together, if you will.  He was our second Rottweiler that we shared, our first, Marley, having passed away while we were out of the country for our wedding celebration.  Kaiser’s recalcitrant attitude and strong-will tested me many times throughout the years.  Rottweilers are dominant, outspoken dogs that require equally assertive and alpha owners.  He proved ever portion of the latter sentence to be true.  He would bark shout in outrage if he was told to leave the room and angrily huff if he was forced to go outside to urinate, after sleeping all night and clearly needing to go pee.  He had a bold, lovable personality that everyone who met him adored.  During vet trips or road trips, Kaiser could often be found sitting between someone’s legs, whether it was Hugo, myself, the vet or a complete stranger, with a big smile on his face, his legs flopped open and his wiener touching the ground due to his relaxed, happy state.  As funny and crude as that may sound, we could always tell he was at ease and enjoying life in that position.  Hugo and I would have a little laugh every time we saw him like that.

Whenever we’d play fight in front of Kaiser, we would always joke that he was like our referee or a police officer because we would jump into action by jamming his body in between ours in an attempt to separate both parties.  He always knew it was in good fun but he equally got a kick out of joining in on the play fight.  I will be looking over my shoulder for a charging Rottweiler next time I tickle or pinch my husband, hoping he will bound across the room to stop it all.

From his grumpiest to silliest times, Kaiser taught me a lot about life.  I began to realize this a couple of months ago when he first got sick.  You become so accustomed to certain things in your life.  Waking up to the same person in bed every morning and kissing them goodnight sixteen hours later.  The sound of the coffee maker percolating to conclusion and enough money in the bank to buy the quality grounds.  Dogs greeting you at the door, almost causing you to trip as you walk in from a long day or vacation away from home.  It’s these things that we sometimes take for granted but when any of them come to a screeching halt, even momentarily, it makes us surrender to the truth that nothing is forever and none of this is guaranteed.

The house feels so empty without him here.  At his final weight, after being sick for months and slowly withering away to just bones, he clocked in at sixty-nine pounds.  He was a ghost compared to the svelte, masculine 109 pound canine that prowled our backyard for nuisance crows or a rogue rabbit.  It was madness to hear that weight number fall out of the vet tech’s mouth last night, just minutes before his catheter was inserted.  About an hour before that, Hugo had come home early from work because we knew it was time.  We both genuinely knew in our hearts that he was suffering and it was time to give him some peace.  But even with that said, we stood in the threshold of our laundry room, hovering over our sick dog, debating if it was the right thing to do.  We love each other and him so much that we had to just stand there, cry together and talk it out.  And we did.

As we spoke and came to the inevitable conclusion that he was in pain and it wasn’t humane to make him slowly continue dying through the night, Kaiser looked up at both of us repeatedly with his sunken eyes and nearly hollowed skull.  He had lost so much weight that the outline of his body was like a sketch artist had drawn a skeleton of a dog and pasted some hair on it.  It pained both of us to see him like that and the look in his eyes gave us the answers we needed.  Hugo took out his collar and leash, to which he wagged his tail to one last time.  Nala, our other dog, said her final goodbye at the trunk of my Jeep and we descended the driveway one last time with our little puppy in tow.

Grief is a strange thing.  I am not sure what stage I am in or when I will come out the other side.  One thing I do know is that I have never seen my husband cry, out of the fourteen years we have been inseparable.  But I saw him cry on and off several times since the events of last night unfolded.  Kaiser touched his and my heart in such a way that only the unbiased, non-judgemental, unconditional love of a gentle giant can.

So for now I will continue cleaning up the house and gathering his toys for our local animal shelter.  I will continue randomly crying as I remember the good times we had as a family of four.  I will comfort Nala and Hugo, as they both need me in similar yet different ways.  And I will keep a little place in my heart reserved for the beast that was Tootie, his nickname for all those years.

As a final note, Kaiser actually brought Hugo and I a tad bit closer these past couple of days.  We have been bickering a little and mildly getting under each other’s skin, most likely due to the fact that I am like a loaded gun that has been grounded at the house in excess of six weeks due to my knee surgery.  We have bonded and united as a team as we cared for our sick family member and ultimately laid him to rest.  Life has a funny way of coming full circle in that sense.  Maybe some times it takes a little bit of sadness to make you cling just a bit harder to the ones you love.