In the weeks that have passed since I’ve learned that Colorado, my beloved Queen of Spazmania has cancer I’ve shed a lot of tears.
I took her to the vet after my housemate found some swelling around her neck that came on quite quickly.
Colorado is 9 years old. She’s a senior lady. The vet and I both agreed that it would be cruel to subject her to tests and treatment.
When she is no longer comfortable, and happy I will let her go. Oh I wish I was truly as dispassionate as that looks on my screen
Most days she’s fine. She doesn’t appear to know that she has cancer.
A few days ago she started becoming lethargic. She wasn’t eating much, but drinking lots of water, and having accidents in the house.
She’s better now. I didn’t get a chance to get to Costco to get the dogs their usual food, and it seems that Colorado didn’t care for the Pedigree. She chowed down on canned food, meat, and even some ice cream.
I’ve been giving her a Cranberry additive to help with the UTI, so she’s actually been great the last couple of days.
I am hesitant to talk about this, as I know that it might hurt some feelings. There’s no animosity, but I really need people to stop pointing out things that remind me that Colorado’s life clock is ticking down.
There are no hard feelings, there’s no animosity as I know everyone was doing their best to be helpful in a difficult time.
I wasn’t even going to mention it, but several times innocent conversations turned into hours of tears for me.
So understand that I need to do this.
Only those who know me well, and see me often know that I am under an enormous amount of stress. I have things going on that I won’t talk about here….but these things are cumulative.
I’ve been unable to detach emotionally, to throw up the barriers, and slip on the “I’m OK” mask that I’ve relied on this past…(yay therapy)
If I do talk about Colorado, please keep the following in mind:
I know the lumps change, and I know how bad/good they are
They are completely beyond my control
and yes, I know they are likely tumours
I know she will have good days and bad
Please for the love of all that is holy let me enjoy the good days..okay? Please?
stop reminding me that there will be bad days…I KNOW THAT!!!
Yes, I know when the end comes it will be a difficult decision
I don’t have to “brace myself”, I’m already doing that
No, I won’t let her suffer a single moment longer just because I don’t want to let her go.
Remember I did that for Shelby, even though it was sudden and I wasn’t ready to let him go
Yes, I know she might go to sleep and never wake up
I feel guilty because I hope that’s how she goes
How well do you think I’ll sleep with that on my mind?
Yes, I remember that she saved my life
How do you think I feel knowing that I cannot save hers?
Yes, I know she doesn’t care about these things..
Yes, its annoying when she has an accident in the house
But so fucking what?!!
If I start to cry when talking about her, don’t make a big deal of it.
I wish I could say how people could help. The truth is, I don’t know.
I talked to my dad on the phone yesterday. We talked about the stuff that’s going on, and Colorado. They were things I didn’t want to talk about, but after that brief conversation with dad I felt a lot better.
Dad always seems to know the right way to say things.
I think I’d ask that if I don’t want to talk about it, please don’t push. If I do, follow my lead…I might need to vent, or just tell someone how I’m feeling.
I’ve noticed that Colorado’s vision has been getting worse.
A while back I noticed that when I would throw her ball for her, she’d often go right by it several times as she excitedly searched for it. I knew she had cataracts, but honestly, I wasn’t sure if she was just too excited to see it.
Then, a few months ago she started bumping into furniture in dark rooms.
A couple of weeks ago, I gave her a treat and even though I was holding it right in front of her, she didn’t see it until I moved it slightly to the her right.
I imagine that many human beings in this situation would despair at the loss of their vision.
Colorado is not bothered by it.
Several times I’ve witnessed her come barrelling through the livingroom, only to run into something.
Each time, she picks herself up, and continues on whatever quest she is on.
She does not stop and think, “WTF?!”
Thoughts of a life without vision don’t seem to intrude.
This became evident when I was throwing her tennis ball for her. Normally I throw it from living room to dining room. It is not a rare for her to lose track of it and end up weaving around the dining room table in search of it. She likes that game, she is always very excited and happy and when we play.
This time she couldn’t find the ball. It was in the middle of the floor. I pointed at it and she still couldn’t see it…..until I put my finger on it.
Her reaction…..”OMG! I FOUND THE BALL!!! YAY FOR ME!!!! AGAIN!AGAIN!AGAIN!!!”
The fact that she needed help didn’t diminish her joy one bit.
She didn’t become consumed with what would happen when the time came that she couldn’t see at all.
She rejoiced in the moment. Nothing else mattered.
…and that is the purest example I can think of for “Living in the Now”
It is something I’ve struggled to achieve since the concept was introduced to me years ago by my then therapist Roberta.
Essentially, Living in the Now means not worrying about what could happen in the next moment, or obsessing over what happened in the last.
In the example Roberta gave, imagine the van you are driving is stuck in the mud.
Worrying about what will happen if you don’t reach your destination in time, or obsessing over the circumstances that got you stuck will not get you unstuck.
I will point out that this doesn’t mean shirking responsibilities or not learning from mistakes.
In the past year there have been many changes in my life. Happily I’ve made great strides toward this whole living in the moment thing.
I am better at taking each day as it comes. But there are things that I still need to work on.
I think fear is one of the strongest forces in nature. Especially when the fear is one of the biggest an individual faces.
That is why this lesson on Living in the Now is a hard one for me.
Both my dogs are getting older.
Even though it is an unavoidable aspect of nature, the thought of losing them terrifies me.
It is not that the fact that they will someday die that worries me.
The darkness that looms large and often makes me feel small and helpless is that when they are gone that I will be alone.
And that my friends, is my biggest fear.
It might surprise a great deal of you because I often seek solitude, and am well known for not being able to stay in large gatherings for very long.
But, that solitude has always included my girls.
When these musings are coupled with depression, the thought of not being able to reach over and run my fingers through canine fur reduces me tears….even when I’m actually doing just that.
It was a week before I could return to work, and nearly 6 months before a day passed without me crying over his absence.
That was during a difficult time in my life. I wasn’t ready to let him go, but he was ready, and I made him a promise. And I keep my promises no matter how badly they cut.
In the immediate time after. People kept their distance. Close friends and family told others that I would want my space, and to grieve in private.
I appreciated it, because that’s what I thought I needed.
It was only years later that I realized how very wrong that was. My isolation exacerbated the pervasive emptiness in my life.
Now, even though both my girls are healthy and happy, that fear is back.
While most of the time I enjoy the time with my girls without any thought of what happens, there are times when the future intrudes and cannot be pushed away.
My life is much better now. I have more friends, and am better at being social.
I know in my heart that my friends and family will be there whatever the day brings.
But one of the things about mental illness is that your head sometimes injects false and terrifying realities that are not easily banished.
Post-script: I’ve been working on this for awhile.
A bought of depression sprang up sometime after I first came up with the idea for this post. I don’t know if working on it is what caused my current bought of depression. It was very difficult to finish….
We, your loving canine companions, and security force are writing this note to alert you to a grave threat to the safety of the Den.
You are likely aware that we both enjoy looking out the window at the things that wizz past the den day and night. We especially like the ones with the bright flashing lights and the funny howling.
However, there is one of these things that stops frequently, and we are both extremely worried that you seem oblivious to the threat it brings to the Den!
We believe the human term for this thing is “BLOODY HELL, CALM DOWN! IT’S ONLY A BUS!”, as this is what you bark every time we alert you to its presence.
As you know, when we hear the squeak the BLOODY HELL, CALM DOWN! IT’S ONLY A BUS! makes when it stops, we will stop whatever we are doing and run to the windows to bark as loudly as we can in order to let the murders it brings to the neighbourhood that the pickings are easier at other dens.
You’re a pretty relaxed human, but its reached the point where we wonder if you are taking the threat seriously!
We are worried that you won’t recognize the danger as the murders who climb off the BLOODY HELL, CALM DOWN! IT’S ONLY A BUS! all look different! Some of them are small humans. Maybe not a big threat when alone, but they often travel in packs!
You do realize that these murderous bastards arrive very close the Den, right?
We also want to point out that this has been going on for a very, very long time!
The implication should be obvious!
There are likely very few people in the area left to murder, so it won’t be long before our loud and viscous barking won’t keep them away!
We’re worried that you keep answering The Door when someone knocks, despite our warnings and constantly getting in your way when you try to open it.
And seriously….do you think holding us back is a good idea?! You could get murdered while holding on to our collars and we’d be helpless to defend you!
If you get murdered who would bring us food and throw our balls? The cat???
In short, we hope you smarten up, and start taking the security of the Den seriously.
Shelby was my “little buddy”, Colorado is my sweetie-pie…but I sometimes refer to her as the Queen of Spazmania. As I’ve said, she isn’t a replacement for Shelby but rather a new companion.
I love her to pieces and she’s become a very big part of my world. I look forward to coming home to her enthusiastic greetings, most of the time seeing her peering out the kitchen window as I walk to the door.
I think we’re good for each other. She’s much calmer than when I got her, but, if I spend too long on the computer, or watching television she lets me know in no uncertain terms that she will no longer tolerate not being the center of my attention.
She has a clear way of communicating this by dropping a tennis ball or her rope at my feet and pawing me. If I don’t immediately stop what I’m doing she starts her “bounce and bark”. So yes, she’s bossy but I love the look on her face when she’s waiting for me to throw whatever toy she’s chosen to play with.
She’s great on walks, I can take her by people and dogs with nary a flinch (most of the time).
I just took this pic of her (sorry for the “green eye” lol)…that’s the flash on my camera…
You’ll recall when I first got her I mentioned that Colorado saw nothing wrong with getting me out of bed between 5 and 6am to go play fetch…
This is her in the morning now 🙂
I still miss my little buddy, and always will. But there hasn’t been a single second that I’ve regretted taking this enthusiastic and loyal lady home with me.
Well, its been over 3 months now since I adopted Colorado 🙂
Colorado is a wonderful dog and even though she still has the occasional neurotic spas moments, I haven’t regretted for a single second my decision to bring her into my life.
My friends tell me that its obvious that we love each other. She’s settling in nicely. I noticed that she preferred to stay in the kitchen regardless of what room I was in. She’d come in every once in awhile to check on things or to get some attention, but when she was satisfied it was back to the kitchen. Lately though she now spends part of her time in the door to the livingroom, or the livingroom itself.
With the help of Maxine at Damax Kennels I’ve managed to help Colorado settle down. The last “problem” behaviour, her screaming at other dogs while out for walks I finally got her out of last week! A sharp “NO!” whenever she starts “talking” or when she starts stressing. No more push, pulling as she bounces around trying to get to other dogs, screaming her head off as she does. Now she twitches a bit, but is mostly quiet. Progress indeed.
Even more progress in that this morning when I woke up, she was sleeping with her head on my belly instead of bouncing around trying to get me out of bed so we could play fetch. Of course once my alarm went off all that changed!
She has her favorite games, both in the house and out. Outside of course its fetch (so long as its not too hot). Otherwise its “sniff the air”. This confused me at first until one morning I saw a rabbit hop out of a bush. Inside there is this big knotted rope that she loves to chase. Maxine advised that I don’t rough house with her or play tug of war as she’s a stubborn dog and the latter will create control issues and the former…well, I’m a big guy who can handle her, but if she sees rough housing as a game she might decide to play with someone smaller who can’t.
I’m thinking I should start socializing her with other dogs. She gets along great with people although she’s not to wild about letting people into the house (except my mom).
Anyway, a brief note. I’ll try and upload some more pictures and video later!
2 weeks ago today Colorado joined my little family.
An important milestone as I believe when she was last adopted out it only lasted 12 days.
I was thinking about that last night. She really is a great dog. Maybe its chemistry? She’s a completely different dog than she was.
She’s mostly pretty laid back, except when she wants to play, then she’s a joyful bundle of fur. Honestly I don’t even have to play with her. I take her out into the backyard and she seems content to dash back and forth alternating between throwing her ball and her frisbee around. Eventually though one of these gets dropped at my feet so I get to play too 🙂
You’ll recall me mentioning that she becomes a stress case when out for walks and she sees other dogs. I could only take her out for walks when there was little chance of encountering other dogs and I really wanted to be able to walk her when the sun was out.
I stopped by the Feed-All on Saturday morning to pick up some treats for her and cats. I took a look at their leads and decided to buy a choke chain. Now, for those of you who think they’re cruel when properly used they’re not. If you’d think I’d choke my dog (or any dog) to get her to listen to me then you’re sadly misinformed. The key to proper use is to drape the chain over your dog’s neck so it forms a ‘P’. When you need to correct behaviour you give the lead a quick snap. You don’t pull, you don’t tug.
World’s of difference on the new lead. She’s been trained before and although she still has her moments she much better behaved. I’ve been teaching her some new rules. Every half block or so I stop, I tell her to sit (which she usually does immediately). I pause. I then point to a tree or or other vertical structure and say, “Go sniff!”. Colorado enthusiastically jumps to the indicated spot and does her dog thing. I noticed last night and this morning that the little jump/twirl thing she does when she’s finished lands her approximately on my right hand side where I like her to walk.
Other dogs still get her wound up but she’s easier to bring under control. So now our walks are longer and more enjoyable for both of us!
Other big changes:
She no longer cries when she wants attention. She will either sit at my knees and stare at me, or jump on the couch and nudge my hand. When she does “talk” it means that she has to go out “NOW”.
She’s turning out to be a fussy eater. Regular followers of my blog will recall how stressed I was with my cocker Shelby as he became very finicky in the later stages of his life. Not so worried about Colorado. I’m learning her. (Coincidentally I pulled out the last bag of dog food I bought for Shelby…the picture of the dog on it looks a lot like Colorado!)
I no longer get bounced on 30 seconds after my alarm goes off. In fact this morning I had to get up to go to the washroom. Colorado was lying in bed with her head on my chest. I glanced at my clock and was a bit shocked to see that it was in “Snooze”. I still don’t recall slapping the snooze alarm.
I have noticed that Colorado likes music. I attribute the calm morning dog to Florence and the Machine. Last week I noticed that when “What the Water Gave Me” came on Colorado stopped bouncing around trying to get me to hurry up and cocked her head towards my alarm clock (where I had my iPhone docked).
I’ve noticed that when she hears another dog that may be in distress that she acts…its hard to describe but she becomes very alert. On the weekend when we were walking some people were leaving their house. Their dog was objecting strenuously. Colorado’s ears perked and she started pacing back and forth trying to find the dog. She went so far as to jump up and look into parked cars.
Yesterday when we were playing in the backyard. Our upstairs neighbour dog, Bella was scratching at the door (as she does when she knows I’m outside). Colorado immediately gave up our game and ran around trying to find her.
In neither instance was she excited, or distressed. It was more like that she was moving with purpose. Very interesting.
So yeah. It might be chemistry but there is no question that Colorado is my dog, and I her human.