Sunday, August 28, 2011
Jason and I came to Bend, Oregon in the summer of 2006. Jason had just graduated and had a job offer with a very promising company working in renewable energy. I had one year of grad school remaining and had managed to land an internship with an architecture firm for the summer. Other than the handful of interviews that Jason had come over for, neither or us had much knowledge of Bend, but from what I had read, it seemed like a wonderful, up-and-coming place. We ended up renting a house in what we would come to learn was the armpit of town. The location was sketchy at best and was only about a block and a half away from where the train tracks crossed a very busy road. Nothing like being awoken at 2am to the sound of the crossing arms coming down across the road, "Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!" followed by the sound of the train's whistle blasting "WHOOOOOOO-WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" and finally the screeching metal and clanging of the train barreling down the tracks. And yet, even in this less than ideal living situation, we fell in love with Bend, Oregon. We were there for less than 2 months when we realized this is where we wanted to be and we started searching for a home of our own (away from the tracks).
The vet was at a loss as to why she was having these Grand Mal seizures and said that more testing would need to be done until they could find a the cause, at which point, surgery would probably be needed. Being at the age and health that she was, we knew we could not put Cameo through surgery, and since she seemed to be fine and happy and only having the seizures once every 4-8 weeks, we turned down the additional testing.
Every so often, Cameo would go through some hard times where she would have multiple seizures in a day, and I would think, "How on earth is this dog surviving this?" But she would bounce back every time and be fine again for weeks, falling right back into her regular routine of eating, sleeping, licking her paws (and the carpet) and following Jason around like his shadow.
Watching her health degrade so much over such a short period of time was devastating. When Jason first got her, we thought we would have a good ten years with her, but we knew in this last year that our time was running out. We were aware that she wasn't going to be around much longer, and every time she had a seizure I would think "This is it. Her little heart is just going to give out," but it never did. She was a fighter and it was clear that she wasn't ready to be done with life. No sooner would I think that she was close to the end, would her health improve and I'd be left thinking that she was just gonna plod along this way for years to come.
Last Friday night was one of those tough nights in that she had one of her seizures as we were getting ready for bed. She had been doing so well for so long, that the seizure kind of took me by surprise. Again she fought through it, and quickly nodded off to sleep for the night. The next morning, we were cleaning the house in anticipation of the BBQ we were hosting that evening when Jason told me that Cameo had another seizure. When I came over, she was out of her thrashing stage, but was in the twitching stage, where she wasn't quite conscious yet. She usually would thrash for about a minute, then lay there breathing heavily and twitching for another minute before she would snap out of it and regain consciousness. This time she stayed in the twitching stage for what seemed forever before she ended up going backwards back into the violent thrashing. This was devastating to watch, and Jason and I sat for a long time watching her go back and forth between thrashing and twitching, hoping that she would snap out of it soon. After some time, it became clear that she was not coming out of this on her own, so Jason carried her out to the car and took her to the emergency animal clinic in hopes that they could give her something to help. After being there for around 30 or 40 minutes, I got the call that I needed to come down.
I somehow knew what was coming, from the moment I saw her go from twitching back to thrashing at the house, I had this voice in the back of my head saying 'This is it,' but I never fully gave up hope. She had proven me wrong so many times before and she was such a fighter. When I came, she was on a blanket in the back pumped full of drugs to stop the seizures, but she was still not conscious or aware of her surroundings. Jason's face was puffy, red and covered in streams of tears when he explained to me that they thought she had a brain tumor, and that the only thing we could do would be to take her to Portland for an MRI, and if they confirmed the tumor, they would need to operate. We both knew that brain surgery was not an option for this poor old dog, and we knew what had to be done. Knowing what needed to be done didn't make it any easier when the doctor came and asked what we wanted to do. We didn't WANT to put her down, even though we knew we had to. Saying the words was next to impossible. Our dog was a fighter, and I always thought that one day her little heart would just give out and that would be it. Being the one to actually END her fight seemed wrong and unfair, but it was clear that she was not coming out of this seizure, and it was cruel to let her suffer anymore.
They put us in a private room with her so we could spend some time with her and say our goodbyes. The doctor came in and gave us some paperwork to fill out in order for them to perform the euthanization. We filled everything out, handed it back and sat with Cameo, petting her while she remained awake but unconscious. After some time, her medication started wearing off and she started to thrash again. It was heartbreaking to see, but was a good reaffirmation that she was not going to pull through this one on her own. In the middle of her seizing, the doctor came to perform the euthanization. When she saw Cameo seizing again, she hurried over to get started.
It was strange. Part of me thought that she would wait for her to stop seizing to do it. I'm not sure why I thought this, but I also hoped for it as well. Even though she was not truly conscious in-between the seizures, I felt she was there more than she was when she was actually seizing, and part of me wanted her to know that we were there with her, holding her paw so to speak at her last moments. Watching them inject the pink fluid into her I.V. all I could think was "No, no, no, I'm not ready yet!" At the same time, I knew we needed to take her out of the suffering she was going through with the seizure. Performing the euthanization during her seizure also made it painfully clear when her time ended, as she suddenly just stopped moving. I knew I wanted to be there for her, but it was a horrid thing to watch, and it took only a moment to know that the deed was done. I wanted to scream out. How could our little fighter of a dog be gone? No matter how prepared I thought I was for that moment, my mind, heart and soul shattered watching her go still.
We sat with her for a good long time working through our emotions and realizations that she was not coming home with us. We prepared to leave on a couple different occasions, but would inevitably break into more sobs at the idea of walking out the door without her. For some reason, that was the hardest part. We knew she was already gone, hopefully to a better place, yet the idea of walking away from her body was gut-wrenching.
In the days to follow, I went through some hard times. Jason was gone on a bike ride most of Sunday, and I was home alone for a good part of the day. My mind had a hard time accepting that Cameo was gone. I would see movement out of the corner of my eye and would look over, fully expecting to see Cameo, but it was one of the cats, or a shadow or something. It broke my heart over and over, each time I realized that it would never be Cameo that I would look over and see again.
Watching my husband mourn was devastating. As much as I loved that dog, she was his first pet all of his own, of whom he was responsible for, and he loved her immensely. Holding him while he sobbed in my arms was possibly the most helpless feeling in the world. What could I say or do to make this better? There is no 'making this better.' I could only assure him that he was good to her and was a very loving father, but it was hard when his guilt took over for being annoyed or aggravated with her from time to time. I assured him that it was normal to be frustrated once in a while, and that it didn't make him a bad person, and it didn't make her love him any less.
Then came my own feelings of guilt. I knew for some time that she was approaching the end of her life and when Jason would make a comment about how much it was going to cost, or how hard it would be on Cameo to have to board her for ten days while we go on vacation in October, a part of me would think that it was very possible that she just may not live that long. Then there were the dark thoughts that would somehow crawl their way into my head that had me thinking, 'maybe it would be easier if she did just pass on before we went on that trip so we wouldn't have to worry about her.' I cannot say how ashamed I felt to think those thoughts, or how much that thought makes my stomach turn now that she is gone. What a heartless thing to think, as I would trade all the trouble and worry to have her around now that she is gone.
There is a hole in my heart, one I wasn't truly expecting to have. She was always Jason's dog, though I loved her and I'm sure she cared very much for me, but it was always him she was excited to see. I didn't expect to feel such a void with her gone. I finally got my own dog back in May, and it was so nice for a while that we each had a dog. We would walk them together at night, whereas before, I rarely accompanied Jason on his walks with Cameo. Now we are back to having one dog, and it pains me every time we go to take our nightly walk, as I know Jason is missing his regular walking buddy. Jason had fallen into such a routine with her, that it is a hard pill to swallow knowing that everything has changed. It's a strange sensation, as we knew her time was coming to an end, and yet at the same time, it feels like someone pulled a rug out from under us. We knew she wouldn't be around forever, but we never really imagined how much it would change our lives once she was gone.