The beginning of a new chapter…

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March 1st will mark 5 months since we said goodbye to Chance…and our little Penny will have been a member of our family for one week on that same date.  Even as I was filling out the adoption application, I was not sure I was ‘ready’ – ready to accept that Chance was gone and ready to begin a new chapter with a new dog.  However, though we have only had her for four days at this point, she has certainly filled a void.  It is strange to be at opposite ends of the spectrum – from a calm, well trained senior male dog to a needy, feisty female puppy – but her ‘puppyness’ is precious and I am looking forward to the many adventures we will share in the years ahead.  Even in this new chapter, the Tripawds site has been a great resource and I am thankful for the many members who have shared so much knowledge on nutrition, being ‘ready’ for a new family member, and other helpful topics!

So, without further ado, meet our 9-week-old Shepherd/lab mix – Penny Isabella (my son chose her first name and my daughter chose her middle name).

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Six weeks later and yet I still…

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I still look for that long black snout to push open the curtains in the front window when my car pulls in the driveway.

I still expect to hear the jingle of his collar behind me when I head up the stairs.

I still plan my outings from home based on when Chance would need to be let out to relieve himself.

I still miss those wet kisses and that happy go lucky smile.

Most days, we can reminisce without tears, but sometimes the tears come at the most unexpected moments…like when waiting for the bus with my daughter and telling my husband about how Chance routinely waited with us.

Or when I pet someone else’s dog at the park (seriously didn’t expect that one to make me misty-eyed!).

Or when we walked into our home after picking up my husband after his deployment, and Chance’s exuberant welcome was glaringly absent.

But Chance’s photo is now in every room of our house, and that helps. Both kiddos have stuffed black and tan pups to sleep with, and that helps. Comet dog’s mom created a beautiful memorial video for Chance, and that helps. Chance’s food was donated to a local rescue organization, his heartworm pills were picked up on the tripawd angel exchange, and knowing those items are being used by other special pups helps.  I still check up on tripawd pups through the site, though sometimes it is too hard to find the words to share in a comment, but knowing the community is there…helps.

We still plan to create our Chance memory book, and when it is complete, I will post a link. In the meantime, here are a few more photos –

My daughter with her stuffed pup

The very last photo taken of Chance – my mom took this with her camera phone while she was in town just one week before we let Chance go

And our long awaited reunion with my husband after his deployment

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Snapshots of my life…Spirit Chance’s Perspective…

Mom wanted to share some of the photos she found of me during my ‘early years’, but sometimes talking about me is still a little ruff, so I thought I’d help her out by sharing these!

This is me as a pup with my foster family – they were a great first family. In fact, they named me.  The rescue had originally called me ‘Bubba’ because I was the largest out of my eight siblings.  My foster folks immediately saw my ‘softer side’ and thought that if they could hear my voice, I’d sound like the dog Chance in “Homeward Bound.” I liked the name Chance because I hoped someone would give me a chance to be their forever pup…and before long, someone did!

Here I am with mom and dad not long after they took me home.

Mom gave me LOTS of hugs (probably because I often forgot how big I was would try to crawl in her lap)

My favorite things were my bones!

I gave mom and dad this look a lot – you two legged types do some funny things…

We did lots of exploring in Utah!  I went everywhere with mom and dad.

(mom and dad really wanted me to look at the camera, but the deer were so much more interesting!)

Can you see me peeking out from the tent?  Mom was probably sleeping while Dad was awake and taking early morning photos!

Dad always said that if I hadn’t known my name so well when they adopted me, he would have called me Shadow because I was always right behind mom….

When I was five we moved to South Carolina, and while we explored some of their national parks, we spent most of our outside time in the backyard or hanging out at parks with playgrounds.

We moved to Iowa when I was 7.  I was sooo excited to get to play in the snow again!  The first photo below is a snow photo from Utah – I loved to chase mom and dad when they would sled down the hills!

And this is me supervising the construction of a snowman in Iowa…

I was always looking out for my family….those squirrels and birds knew better than to hang out in our yard when I was on duty!

One of my favorite things this summer was camping out in Grandma’s living room with my kids and their cousins!

Even superheros needs someone to watch over them…

I know my family misses me, but I also know mom has found comfort in sharing stories about me with the Tripawds community (my new friends have great pawrents).  JD’s mom shared her Dog Heaven book with my family.  My favorite part says, “sometimes an angel will walk a dog back to Earth for a little visit and quietly, invisibly, the dog will sniff about his old backyard, will investigate the cat next door, will follow the child to school, will sit on the front porch and wait for the mail (I wait for the bus).  When he is satisfied that all is well, the dog will return to Heaven with the angel.  It is where dogs belong, near God who made them.”

No matter where I am physically, my memory is always with my mom, in her heart…I am never far.

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Daily reminders to look for the ‘pawsitive’…

It’s been five days. Something still gets me every day, and I know that is how it will be for a while, but I am also finding the daily reminders to remain positive and that I am not alone (thank you Tripawds community).

I have Chance’s ‘smiling’ photo (the blog avatar) now set as the background on my laptop so that I still see his face smiling at me while I work. And that photo can make me smile through the tears.

Chance was cremated, and yesterday was difficult because I went to the vet’s office to pick him up…they also gave me a card which had the Rainbow Bridge story on the front, and the inside was stamped with Chance’s paw print and contained a little bag with some of his fur… but when I got home, a flower arrangement was on my front porch. The flowers were in a smiley face coffee mug and had two smiley face balloons with the message, “thinking of you.” It was from a friend of mine who just learned that Chance was gone. The smiley face balloons immediately made me think of Chance’s photo and again reminded me to stay focused on the positive.

This week is my daughter’s book fair at school. She made her ‘wish list’ and I went up there today to purchase some of the ones she had selected. I was not prepared for the poignancy of one of her choices. It is titled “Houdini was…” and was written by second graders about their class hamster. I flipped through the book, admiring their cute drawings of Houdini, and then about half way through, came across this line, “Houdini died today, but here’s the deal…we are choosing to be ‘HAPPY’ and this is why…”

Each additional page lists something Houdini was to them along with an adorable illustration. The book ends with this:

“As you can see, that little creature was more than a classroom pet…she was family. As a wise person once said, ‘Don’t cry that it’s over, be happy that it happened.’  Thank you, Houdini, for happening.”

Another reminder just when I needed it…and I think we may  just write a book of our own…

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Life has to go on…

For three days I have done the bare minimum, spending my spare moments perusing the tripawds site, reading blogs, journaling about Chance on this blog, looking through old photos, and mourning for Chance. In a house with one adult and two kids, that means the sink is full of dishes, we are running out of clean clothes, and the clutter monster has taken over the island in the kitchen. The kids return to school today which means it’s time to think about packing lunches and checking backpacks and making sure everyone is dressed on time. I am very blessed to have an amazing boss who has allowed me to move around the country with my Army husband and work from home for the Utah-based company, but I did not do a bit of work on Friday, and we have a few major projects coming up, so today, I have to get back to work, but I may have to do that from a coffee shop…I don’t think I can stand working from this empty house yet. I know these things HAVE to happen, but moving on without my Chance just doesn’t seem right…

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My High Maintenance Hide and Seek Champ…

Looking through old photos today, I realized I had forgotten what a high maintenance pup Chance was in his early years…he had a long list of food allergies. ALL dog foods made him ill – he was on a strict diet of liver, rice, and cottage cheese when he first came home with us. He came with a one page list of instructions from his amazing foster family who took the time to write down their experiences with his food issues. (We were later able to find a specialty lamb and rice dog food that he could tolerate) He was also taking Soloxine and Prednisone and we went in for monthly blood tests to make sure his levels were where they needed to be. At about 18 months, he began having mild seizures and phenobarbital was added to his pill regime. The vet he saw during his early years told us not to expect Chance to have the same longevity as other large dogs because of his health issues…yet the reason I forgot most of this is because as Chance aged, he actually grew OUT of many of his health issues and until the arthritis and cancer earlier this year, he was only on thyroid medication! He truly seemed to hit his peak level of health and energy around age 8. And despite the original vet’s expectation of a shortened life, my happy go lucky, never give up pup celebrated his 10th birthday about a week and a half before he crossed ‘the bridge’…

When Chance was about a year and a half old, we contemplated joining a volunteer search and rescue group in Utah. We ended up not pursuing it because of Chance’s health, but when researching it, I learned that playing hide and seek with your dog was a way to determine if search and rescue was something he or she might enjoy. While hiding in a closet or under a blanket to see if your dog can find you might not be considered a ‘normal’ activity for a person in their mid-twenties, it was fun!  Chance loved the game, and it was one we continued playing once the kids were old enough to participate…of course their giggling usually gave them away pretty quickly.  Chance was still playing hide-and-seek in July…

Still haven’t scanned the older photos, so this one is from May of 2009 – love that smile!

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Surviving Day 1…therapeutic blogging

This is a roller coaster. This exact moment while I type this is somewhat serene…for now it would seem the tear reserve is empty. The kids and I had a living room camp out last night – I could not face my bedroom with out my husband home and now with Chance’s dog bed empty. For an adult, the understanding of death is immediate and the grief is engulfing. My children have not lost a close family member at an age they can remember – we talk a lot about their grandfather who passed away when my seven year old was a baby but she does not remember it. My four year old has no comprehension of what it means. When I explained it to him yesterday, he looked at me for a moment, then asked if we would go get Chance tomorrow. He finds Chance’s items around the house (because I cannot bear to put them away yet) and brings them to me and tells me he wants Chance to have it. My seven year old is more contemplative…she talks about missing him, about the things he will no longer be able to do with us. I have begun going through our albums, pulling out the photos I have of Chance before the digital revolution so that I can scan them and put together a scrapbook. The rush of memories and moments hit at completely unexpected times and while some bring smiles or laughter, it is immediately followed by gut wrenching pain.

Example 1…before Chance was officially ‘mine’, he was at an adoption day at Petsmart. This was in late November/early December before he got sick with Parvo, so he was around 10-12 weeks old, and for some completely unknown reason (other than the fact that he was ALWAYS supposed to be mine) he was the only one of his 8 siblings without a home. A friend came with me to volunteer that day and she was ‘in charge’ of Chance for the afternoon. We were sitting in the front lobby of the store with the dogs and Chance (who was on a leash) laid down in front of her with a santa chew toy – with the tag still on it – in his mouth. Confused as to where it had come from, she took it away from him and set it beside her. He wandered around some and comes back with a reindeer chew toy. (you could almost see him grinning as she took this one away from him and laid it beside the other one) This continued with several Christmas themed items until my friend finally turned around and realized directly behind us (out of her line of vision) and right at the end of Chance’s mobility due to his leash was a display of holiday dog toys…which Chance had systematically unshelved, one toy at a time! This memory hit when I was cleaning the toy room this evening and found Chance’s well chewed, well loved snowman from a few Christmas’ ago. Remembering his impish puppy ways made me laugh, but holding that snowman in my hands brought back the piercing reality that he is gone…

I spent some time reading through the grieving forums this evening and I also found this site:

Both helped me to remember that as awful as it feels, this is normal, and even if I wanted it, there is no ‘quick fix’.  In another article on that site, the author relates her experience with losing her cat and states, “As Lessa was dying, I wondered if I would ever be able to love a cat as much as I loved her — if I would ever be able to experience this wonderful, magical relationship again. Lessa had been with us for 15 years — and from almost the beginning of my husband’s and my relationship. There is something very special about a pet who has gone through so many “formative” experiences in a couple’s life — wherever we went, and whatever we went through, Lessa was there. Losing Lessa was like losing a connection to our “early years.”

I met Chance when I was 23 and a newly wed. In a sense, we ‘grew up’ together. We purchased our first house three months before we adopted Chance. We took him EVERY WHERE with us – to parks, on hikes, to visit the in-laws! If we had to go out of town without him, Chance was boarded at daycare facilities, so we felt like he was maybe having fun with new friends even if we were apart. Chance welcoming our two legged children when they came home from the hospital, and he accepted them immediately as part of ‘our pack’. He was WONDERFUL with kids..if he heard them cry, he would lay his head over the bassinet and whine until my hubby or I comforted the baby. Before our kids came along, Chance was the dog parents in the neighborhood would introduce their children to in hopes of getting them over a fear of dogs. He would lay down on his side and stay down so that a child could walk up and pet him. He’s made three state to state moves with us. He’s been my constant companion when my husband has had to be away for Army training and deployments, and I did not realize how much I depending on Chance for comfort and companionship (or how much I talked to him!) until he was no longer here….

Hmmm…turns out that tear reserve has refilled…

Here’s a few of the photos of Chancey with the kids that I came across today…

my daughter with Chance in 2007, pretending to be a dog (and yes, Chance is wearing a beaded necklace)

Chance with my daughter and a friend from the neighborhood in 2008

Chance and my son in 2007

and in 2008

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How can so much change in a day?

I cannot believe it has not even been 24 hours since I summarized my Chancey’s story on this blog yesterday, and now he is gone…last night, his leg with the tumor began swelling.  We slept downstairs in the living room because I knew if I went upstairs, that crazy dog would try to follow, and it wasn’t worth the risk of him falling.  I called the vet this morning and since it was not painful to the touch, she thought it sounded like the tumor had blocked the blood flow to his leg (versus fracturing), and that it would be a matter of days.  It did not make sense to drag it out, when the swelling would only continue to cause him more and more discomfort.  The two hours between the phone call to the vet and the time we were asked to come in were surreal.  I just sat with him and talked to him and pet him and tried not to think about the fact that this was really it, that each minute that passed brought me closer to the end.  I was able to talk to my husband on the phone before we left for the vet so while he was not with me physically, his thoughts were with us.  It is a beautiful day here – the kind of day I would imagine Chance is still enjoying, sunny and 65.  I hope he is finally running again.  I tried taking him outside to enjoy the sun before we left for the vet, but his heart wasn’t in it, and I knew we were making the right decision.  I can’t believe this is real.  I can’t believe he’s not with me.  He went very peacefully and I know he is no longer in pain, but this ache…there’s just not any words.

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Chance’s story – from diagnosis to present

Chance is not a tripawd, though I wish he was. An odd desire, and one I certainly would have never imagined when the vet first suspected osteosarcoma in late March/early April. I’m sharing his story, months later, to chronicle our experience with canine cancer…

Late March, Chance, our 9 year old Rottie/Shepherd began limping slightly, so we visited our vet and she x-rayed his leg. It was determined that the limp was the result of inflamed arthritis in his wrist, but she also saw a spot on his left front shoulder that concerned her, so she had the x-ray read by a radiologist. We started Chance on an anti-inflammatory and after 24 hours, the limp disappeared and he was back to running and playing at full speed. Two days later, the vet called back to say the radiologist felt the spot was cancer, most likely osteosarcoma. The vet told us that amputation was really the only option for removing the tumor. Like most who receive that advice, we were shocked. It seemed like such a drastic measure, to take our dog’s perfectly good leg, especially after he had begun running again without a limp. Chance was 9 1/2 at the time, and we were also uncertain how he would recover from what seemed like such a major surgery at his age.  The vet prescribed pain pills (tramadol) for us to use as needed and said we could continue to monitor the tumor’s growth and to let her know if we noticed any other concerns. We saw her in June for a check-up before heading out of town and at that point, while we had begun administering the tramadol on occasion, his limp was not a daily occurrence and seemed to only happen when we had really wet weather (again probably due more to the arthritis than the tumor). He enjoyed the road trip to Texas with us, but during our trip, his limp became more common, so upon arriving home the 2nd week of July, we scheduled another x-ray with the vet and learned the tumor had grown, but that amputation was still an option.  After doing a great deal of research on, we decided to move forward with the surgery. Chance was back in the vet office the next week for blood workup and a chest x-ray, all in preparation for his surgery which would occur 3 days later…unfortunately, the chest x-ray was not clear. He had several mets present, and due to his age and the decreased lung capacity from the mets, the vet no longer felt Chance was a good candidate for amputation. It was not the news I wanted to hear. We opted not to do chemo, but instead began a meds regiment designed to control his pain and relieve any swelling.

Over the last two months, Chance has stopped using his left front leg entirely – it hangs limply by his side and he ‘hops’ on his other three legs.  Any concerns I’d had when contemplating amputation and wondering how he would have handled being a three legged dog were for naught. I purchased the Ruff wear harness anyway to help him get in and out of my SUV, and for quite a while, he still enjoyed riding in the car.

He has begun panting quite a bit lately, and yesterday we had another check-up.  He is still eating regularly and his weight has remained consistent.  More mets are now present and we have upped the dosage of his pain meds again.  We take it a day at a time now, and I’m always watching for signs that he doesn’t want to keep fighting – I’m not giving up until he does, and for now, the light is still in his eyes, and that tail still wags.  He still follows me up and down our stairs, though slower, he still meets me at the door about 70% of the time, and he waits with me to meet my daughter’s bus about 50% of the time.

I know the time is coming when I will have to let him go – I have read so many of the tripawd forums to hear how others made that choice, and I am hoping I will know when its time to say goodbye, when he no longer wants to fight.

Chance just celebrated his 10th birthday.  He has been my baby for just over 9 years, though I’ve known him since he was 8 weeks old. I fell in love the moment I saw that feisty black and tan ball of energy in November of 2000. He was one of 8 pups up for adoption with the rescue organization I volunteered with at the time.  My husband and I had gotten married just eight months earlier and he was as enamored with the pups as I was, but we lived in an apartment and could not have a large dog. While most of Chance’s siblings were adopted quickly, Chance contracted Parvo. He overcame it, but was not available for adoption again until he was about 6 months old. He had an amazing foster family during his recovery, and about 2 months after he was up for adoption, we had a house and were able to make him ours!! Chance has been my constant support throughout my husband’s army career – he has made three moves with us and been with me for all of my husband’s trainings and deployments.  Unfortunately, Chance’s diagnosis has come during a deployment…my husband will be home in less than a month.   We are both hoping and praying that Chance will continue to fight until we can all be together again.

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