First of all my apologies for radio silence for the past few weeks. It has been busy and emotional. I flew home to throw my sister Tamara a bridal shower (which there will soon be a post about because it was freaking amazing), and have had visitors from the time I flew back to Seattle until a few days ago.
But in the middle of all of that fun was pain and sadness. I've put off writing about any of the other wonderful things that have happened in the past few weeks because this is too important. And I've put off writing about this because it was too painful and my heart still feels bruised and achy. But now I've procrastinated writing this post for long enough... and I know that writing about it will help me heal.
On Monday May 27th, during a day of exhaustion coming off of the high of a wonderful day before spent with loved ones and celebrating my sister's engagement, our Molly-doggie passed away.
Molly was our family's first dog. When I moved "away" (aka down the street) for university 13 years ago, Molly moved in. The girls all got into a car and drove to a farm to pick her out, and unanimously voted for the tiny, apricot-coloured, shy puppy hiding behind the breeder's legs to become newest member of our family. Even my dad who was skeptical about getting a dog was immediately won over when he held that adorable puff-ball in his arms the moment we got home.
Molly quickly developed her own personality. 'Shy' is not a word I would use to describe her at any other point in her life. She was strong-willed and fiercely loyal. She was also incredibly intelligent and had the ribbons from Rally and Agility to prove it. Even though she was a pretty anxious little lady, she also really knew how to relax and enjoy herself up at the boat on her beloved Georgian Bay.
She was deeply loved by her family and human-friends.
She was an integral part of our family unit.
Last year when I went home after my surgery, our little Mitzi even had a chance to spend several weeks with Molly and they formed their own aunt/niece-doggie bond.
Over the past few years, her health had been declining and her quality of life was compromised. She was mostly deaf and no longer heard a knock at the door or the sound of the garage door opening. She had been diagnosed with Cushing's Disease some time ago and since getting that health issue under control, this past March when we returned from our family trip to Cozumel we discovered that all of the coughing she was doing was a sign that she was in fact in heart failure. She still had months to go before she would be in distress, but Navin and I were advised to say our goodbyes before heading back to Seattle.
Just a couple of weeks ago, she had reached a point where a decision needed to be made. My mother couldn't bear to watch her deteriorate any further. Her coughing was bad enough, but she had begun to have syncopal episodes where she would collapse after chasing a squirrel, or lose power in her legs and lose her footing. She had trouble climbing the stairs or jumping up onto a bed on her own. During this time, I was home for the shower, and witnessed her decline first-hand. Her coughing actually woke me up at night.
But we weren't all seeing the same thing. We weren't all on the same page. Her vet advised us that while Molly wasn't suffering yet, it was a chore for her to get through the day. My mom didn't want to see Molly get to the point of suffering, while my sisters still felt she had some good days or weeks left in her. She was still Molly, after all. The vet's guidance was to remember Molly as she was 7 years ago, and make a list of the things that she really loved to do. If she was no longer doing at least half of that list, her quality of life had been impacted and it might be time to consider letting her go. None of us had ever gone through anything like this. It was a completely foreign thing to be deciding whether her life was worth living anymore.
Sitting in that vet room debating about the right course of action was extremely painful. It would have been hard enough to deal with making a decision if we were all in agreement, but we weren't, so we still had to discuss and decide... all the while Molly was barking to get out and her tail was wagging. She still loved to play with her red ball, but she could no longer chase after a squirrel or run in the open field. She still loved walks, but she couldn't make it further than a block away without having to be carried home. She still loved food and treats (particularly lamb), but she no longer tried to eat her poo (gross, I know). She still loved to cuddle with the members of her "pack", but she was wheezing and coughing and panting throughout the day and night.
As my mom pled her case, I realized that even if Molly wasn't suffering yet, my mom truly was. She couldn't bear to see the fear in Molly's eyes when her legs gave out or she gasped for breath after a coughing fit. My mom was living in fear of Molly having a stroke or heart attack and not being there to comfort her. She already knew what was best for Molly and was asking for our permission and support to let her go.
After several hours, some guidance from the vet and some wisdom from my dad, a decision had been made and it was time for us to say goodbye to our beloved Molly.
We moved into a more comfortable room and the vet took her out of the room to give her some sedation. As soon as she left the room, the four girls burst into tears. My mom faced the wall and sobbed. And my dad, silent and standing like a rock in the corner of the room giving us all the space we needed to let our emotions take over, walked over to my mom, put his arm around her and asked, "have you not always done what's best for her?"
When Molly was brought back into the room, her little eyes were so sleepy. Her family was all right in front of her, petting her and comforting her, and she looked so incredibly peaceful as she fell asleep forever.
We brought her home with us and chose the perfect spot in our forested backyard. We decorated her box with flowers and had a memorial service, where I sang a song that my singing teacher had written and taught me. And we've started creating a beautiful mosaic in her memory.
(still not yet grouted, but the design is complete...)
I am so grateful that I was home to say goodbye and watch her fall peacefully asleep. I am so grateful that we were all together to comfort her in her last moments and comfort each other in the moments that followed.
When I called Navin to tell him the news, I was only thinking about myself. I was telling him so that he would comfort me, but as I told him what had happened, I realized that he had his own relationship with Molly. He had known her for the past 8 years and played with her, cuddled with her, and doggie-sat her himself. He reminded me of the time that he went swimming off the back of the boat and, clearly sensing that he was not a strong swimmer, Molly jumped in the water to save him (he didn't need to be saved, but she was rightfully concerned). He had his own grieving to do.
And so to any of you that knew and loved Molly in your own ways, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry for your loss just like I'm devastated for mine.
I know that it was the right thing to let her go. But walking into that house and not being greeted, or seeing an empty window as I pull up my parents' driveway is not something that I will get used to easily.
I will always have memories of her as a little cuddly puppy puff-ball... of her windswept ears as she sailed into the wind... of her wagging tail sticking up from the tall grass on the rocky shore... of the sound of her determined steps when she was on a walk or her rhythmic breath as she went for a swim...of her little head popping up in the window as soon as she heard or saw one of our cars coming up the driveway...
I miss her so much already. She gave us all so many wonderful memories and will always have a dedicated piece of my heart.