Thoughts on Grief

Indi on Thanksgiving, 2010. See the line in her fur from her surgery?

Brad and I spent the weekend house sitting for a friend the day after Indi died. It was great to get out of the house, take a jacuzzi bath, watch movies in bed… When we came home Sunday night we pulled our bikes up to our apartment door. I stood waited as Brad got his keys out and tears welled up in my eyes, rocks in my throat: Indi was not behind that door. Brad paused, too, thinking what I was thinking. He looked me in the eyes and I started to cry. After Indi died, the hardest part was coming home at the end of the day to an empty house.

One month later, coming home is not sad anymore. I don’t cry everyday, but I cry weekly. I feel I have left the first phase of my grief, which was mourning the loss of my first love, and entered the second phase: I have lost my job.

We know that caring for a tripawd with cancer is a big job. And when our dogs leave we don’t have our jobs anymore. I feel like I’ve been laid off! I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with. I work part time, and when Indi was a tripawd and needed more care that was perfect, but now I’m bored. I’m lost.

Two times last week I woke up in the morning and lay in bed thinking, there is NO reason for me to get out of bed today. When Indi was here I had to get out of bed to let her out to pee, feed her breakfast, and take her for a walk. After work I had to come home and let her out, feed her dinner, keep her company… I lost that. I don’t have anyone to take care of anymore. I am solely responsible for myself now and I don’t like it. There is a big space in my life that my dog used to fill. Now it is empty.

Here is the positive side to all of this: I’m free. We are free now, all of us. James, Indi, Fortis, Mackenzie, Maggie, JD, Commet…. and us pawrents. We can stay out late. Spend the night at a friend’s house! Leave town for the weekend. Watch movies all night. We have so much space to spread out in. It is both freeing, and sad.

The work is to find the balance to be at peace with the empty space.  Don’t try to fill it up, hard as it might be. Because it is what it is.

It is what it is, says love.

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For those of us who know.

Indi's Shrine

The dogs who’ve shared our lives.
In subtle ways they let us know
their spirit still survives.
Old habits still make us think
we hear a barking at the door.
Or step back when we drop
a tasty morsel on the floor.
Our feet still go around the place
the food dish used to be,
And sometimes, coming home at night,
we miss them terribly.
And although time may bring new friends
and a new food dish to fill,
That one place in our hearts
belongs to them, and always will.

–Linda Barnes

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Indi over the Rainbow

Our first photo, June 2002.

Dear friends,

On December 17, just before noon, Indi left us for the other side. My heart is broken. Indi was my first dog, my first love.

In her final days Indi made it clear to me that she was ready to leave. When I got out of my head, out of the fear of failure and making the wrong decision, and into my heart, I knew it was time. She couldn’t walk or go to the bathroom on her own. Her bark was weak. During her last night she was up crying all night long because her digestive system was shutting down. The steak and potatoes and ice cream she so eagerly gobbled up the night before was causing her pain. She went blind in her right eye.

I am thankful that I had five days to say goodbye to Indi and to plan her parting. It was perfect. I got the week off work so I could be by her side 24 hours a day. We called Indi’s friends and said it is time to come say goodbye, and they all came. We called Dr. Chang who makes home visits, so Indi go to go in the comfort of our home. Her head was resting on my lap, my pink scarf wrapped around my neck and hers. Berkeley sat on our left and Brad was on our right. I was petting her and talking to her the whole time. I told her she was a really good dog and she did a great job of taking care of me. I told her it was okay, she could go now, I was going to be okay, and we loved her so much. She went calmly and peacefully.

With Indi’s head still in my lap I closed my eyes and I saw her, right in front of me. She was smiling and panting as if she had just been chasing squirrels at Fernwood Park. She seemed to say, phew! I’m outa that heavy, broken body! She was ready to go but she was checking in with me one more time. I said, you can go now, Indi, I’ll be okay.

Later that day I told Brad I was doing better than I thought I would. He said, of course you are, you are strong. And at that moment that I had a big AHA: I am not strong, I am supported. And I am supported because I know how to ask for help. My partner, my friends, my doctor, my colleague, and my spiritual guides all had a hand in supporting me through that terrible week.

Indi came into my life when I needed her. She walked me through my twenties and I was never alone. Now I’m thirty and entering the next phase of adulthood. I guess you could say her work here is done. I know she is chasing squirrels and drinking from mud puddles over the Rainbow Bridge. I know I’ll heal with time. And I know I will never have another dog as beautiful and important as my Indi.

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Family Photos








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What we know: Shit just happens.

After a long day of vets and lifting Indi in and out of cars, we know what is going on. There is good news and bad news.

First the good news: It is not cancer. Four months post-diagnosis Indi has NO lung mets and no osteosarcoma legions/ masts on her spine or in her belly. She is still virtually cancer free.

The bad news is it is not ACL tears, it is neurological. She has lost the use of her back legs because a piece of cartilage has lodged its self in her spinal column and is pressing on the nerves between  her L2 and L4 vertebrae. Fibro Cartilagenous Embolis, the technical name for a piece of runaway ruptured cartilage in the spinal cord, is not directly related to cancer. It is most likely the result of a shift in her posture/ spine since her amputation. We don’t know what exactly caused it other than general tripawd pressure on a big dog.

It is curable. She can heal from this with physical therapy and time– an estimated 6 to 8 weeks. In the mean time she has lost her bowel control and her ability to urinate. We now have to expel her bladder for her 2 to 4 times a day so it doesn’t rupture. And even in 6 to 8 weeks when the cartilage dissolves, the nerve damage could be permanent. We just don’t know.

She can’t stand up. She can’t wag her tail. She can’t go to the bathroom on her own. Maggie’s mom Tracy, and Fortis’ dad Brett put it best: sometimes SHIT just happens.

Thank you for all the love and kindness in your comments. It means the world to me to know I am not alone. I don’t know what is going to happen in the coming weeks. My plan is to take it one day at a time.

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What if this is it?

Something happened to Indi this weekend. She can’t walk on her back leg. We saw Dr Simpson on Friday and learned Indi has a small tear in her ACL on her rear left leg. All my stress about Indi, her mopeyness, her lethargy, not wanting to go to the bathroom, washed away. I was relieved the problem was manageable, if not curable, and it was so nice to see Dr Simpson and have her to talk to.

Indi started anti-inflamatories and was better Saturday morning. Sunday morning as I was walking her back upstairs after taking her outside to potty (which she didn’t do) she was wobbling all over the place. I had to help her upstairs. She has never struggled with the stairs like that before. And while the small ACL tear is on her left leg, it is her right leg that she suddenly can’t use.

So she can’t walk. And I’m sitting here, eyes swollen from crying all night, thinking about all the things I could/ should have done.

I should have posted more.December 1st was Indi’s 3 month ampuversary and I never wrote about that. I still haven’t written about Indi’s new homeopathic regime with Dr. Loops. I didn’t update her diet on the nutrition blog. I don’t go on the forums enough….

I should have taken more pictures of Indi in her cart. I have this great one of me and Indi on the first day she rode in her stroller, but I took it with my phone and I can’t put photos on my computer from my phone without Brad’s help and I didn’t want to bother him. And after her first ride the stroller wheel broke and this week they sent us a ramp instead of a new wheel!

I shouldn’t have moved in to the gallery. What if the stairs did her in? I can’t believe Indi has survived cancer and now she might be taken down by torn ACLs. It is so unfair. I thought I was fighting cancer, here. I didn’t even think about her hurting herself because she was doing so well.

I wanted her to be one of the success stories, one of the heroes who lives for a year with osteosarcoma, instead of the bleak 3 to 6 months.

All my sadness boils down to one thing: I am not enough. I didn’t do a good enough job of taking care of my dog. I know my friends and family and the wonderful Tripawd community will tell me this is not true. But I also know you have all wondered the same thing. Am I good enough? Am I good enough for my dog?

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The Xena 2000

Indi"s First Bike Ride

Last week Indi’s new trailer– The Xena 2000– arrived in the mail. It was given to us by Spirit Xena’s pawrents who live all the way in New York. It is such a special, huge, amazing gift for us and I am thankful to Xena’s Pawrents for passing it along, Tripawds for bringing us together, and The Universe for answering my call.

So. For the most part, trailer training has gone really well. Today Indi and I went on our fourth bike ride and she didn’t whine or bark at all. It helps that our trips have been to a great dog park in The Pearl called The Field. Yesterday Brad took her to his work meeting and she got pets and belly rubs by his colleagues all afternoon.

We went for a stoll the first day and she loved that. She took some coaxing to hop in and out of the trailer, but treats eased the transition. A lot. Unfortunately on the way home from our very first outing the stroller wheel broke! Totally lame. But the good people at Solvit are sending me a new one next week. In the mean time, it’s all about the bike.

The photos are from our first bike ride earlier this week.

Going in after some treats, albeit cautiously.

Here we go!

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Indi, Lincoln, and Wyatt

Two weeks ago was the Portland Tripawd Pawty, which I call the Tripawd Date, because it was small and intimate with three Tripawd families. Lincoln and his mom and aunt came down from Washington, and Wyatt and his pawrents were in Portland as part of their west coast tour.

The weather was beautiful, and all three dogs with their brown and red coats matched the fall colors perfectly. Lincoln’s mom took advantage of the colors and the light and got some great photos.

Lincoln was a little drugged up from his latest health fiasco, but he was in great spirits. He would drag his bottom through the leaves to position himself strategically under an idle hand.

Wyatt was alert as ever, taking note of what everyone in the park was doing, which squirrels were where, who was sniffing whose bottom… Jim was the ever diligent handler that day, correcting barks and lunges and rewarding attentive eye contact.

Indi mostly lounged, as is her way. She did have a good squirrel stalking session and she and I played stick tug– our favorite game.

After a while we left Fernhill Park and headed to lunch at The Lucky Lab Brewery. It is a testament to our love for our dogs that we sat outside in the November air, scarves blowing in the wind, hands snug in pockets, so our dogs could lie at our feet. (Wyatt did great at the restaurant, by the way!) It was so nice to meet other Tripawd families face to face. This community is so important to me. I can’t wait to meet even more Tripawds.

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Camp Cally

The Field.

It has been too long since I’ve written! As Charon and Gayle would say, Geesh! So much has happened. In late October Brad and I took off for the East Coast for a week and Indi got to stay at Camp Cally. Cally’s mom, Megan, tells the tale in this week’s post.

Indi came to stay with us in Hood River the week before last. Though sometimes known to be a little mopey in the absence of her beloved mom Raina, Indi quickly became part of the family. I think her BFF Cally’s devoted attentions had something to do with Indi’s acclimation. So did daily visits to “the field.” The field is an as-yet undeveloped scrap of land at the end of my street: a perfect place with lots of tall grass and critters for dogs to frolic in and chase. It’s also conveniently located for the three-legged among us.

Speaking of which, one afternoon I took the kids down to the field, carrying along my iPod loaded up with my favorite podcast, Fresh Air. I can think of nothing better: a lovely day in the field, with dogs romping, and the sweet sounds of Terry Gross… Anyway, that day she happened to be interviewing Oliver Sacks, the famed Harvard-based neurologist (whom Robin Williams brilliantly portrayed in the film Awakenings). Recently Sacks had a cancerous ocular tumor removed, and as a result lost all vision in the eye. He told Terry Gross at length about how he grieved for his partial loss of sight, and I felt sorry for him. But then I thought, how like a human. Here was Indi, chasing squirrels as fast as her three legs could take her. Never once has she bemoaned the loss of a leg, or expressed any bitterness about her handicap. How wonderfully like a dog! The moment was a fierce confirmation of my being a dog person: sometimes, these creatures have more to teach us than Harvard professors.



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Indi’s friend Burley

Meet Berkeley and Burley, our dear friends who are both named after cities. Berkeley (that’s the lady in the cowgirl hat) found Burley (the little black dog) at a gas station in Burley, Idaho. 

Berkeley and her husband Jamie were driving back to Portland after a cross country honeymoon when they stopped for gas in the middle of nowhere (aka Burley, Idaho). Berkeley was waiting in the car when this cute little black dog trotted up and asked politely if she could hop in and come with them, please. Berkeley and Jamie looked around for the owner of this dog but no one there had seen her before. They even took her to a local shelter for 48 hours thinking that the owner might pick her up. Nothing. No one.

So Berkeley and Jamie surrendered to fate and welcomed Burley into their lives and hearts. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that they made the right decision. Burley is a lover to the highest degree. All she wants to do is be pet, wag her tail, give kisses, and sit on laps (which is not allowed, but boy does she try).

Dogs and books are a good thing.

Berkeley is an oncology nurse. While there are many differences in canine cancer and human cancer, I’m glad I have Berkeley to talk to about Indi’s osteosarcoma. She knows what a biz-nitch cancer is and she understands me when I feel lost and out of control and scared. She also knows how much I love Indi. Berkeley and I became friends when Indi was just one year old.

Last week we had a big sleep over party at Berkeley and Jamie’s new house near Mount Tabor. My best friends and our dogs and men were there: Me and mine (Indi and Brad), Megan and hers (Callie and Adam), and of course Berkeley and hers (Burley and Jamie). We played games and drank wine into the night, and the dogs ate treats and took turns sleeping on Indi’s bed, which was the largest and the cushiest of them all. I am so lucky to have good friends with big hearts and dog friendly homes we are welcome in.

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