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It’s hard to believe that just two weeks, three days and four hours ago, I said goodbye to a dog I had barely begun to get to know. It seems like only yesterday an old, crotchety pit bull mix known at the shelter as Pugsley weaseled his hobbling mannerisms and dislike of any dog he couldn’t domineer and push around stole our hearts.
In the ten short months that Gus called our home his, we learned many valuable lessons – like the patience and unconditional love and trust of a dog who hadn’t always had the good life which showed through on the many scars and healed old wounds on his old body. He allowed us to fall truly, madly and deeply in love with his aged soul with utter abandon and his passing three weeks after being diagnosed with lymphosarcoma knocked the wind out of our sails as if we had been blessed to hold him in our hearts for the thirteen odd years he had walked this earth.
Gus was a truly special dog. He was dignified, stubborn, tenacious and all bulldog even when his body began to fail him. He pressed on even on those days where he hurt so badly that even a heavy dose of pain medication couldn’t touch. He always wanted to be the good dog in our house. He strived to always be with us – as close as physically possible – at all times. He was a good dog – even when he was being horridly naughty.
Gus was the heart and soul of what a ‘pit bull’ should be. He loved children and adults of all walks of life. He had never known a stranger and was as polite as a gentleman when he was asked to be – even if he encountered a rude, ill-mannered creature in our daily walks of life. He will always be remembered for what he was and not what the cancer stole from us in those last three, short weeks as a member of our crew. That hole will always be there where he took a piece of our hearts and the hearts of those who knew and loved him with him across the Rainbow Bridge to wait for us and teach those lessons to those who waited along with him until we are able to join him.
There is never ‘goodbye’ in Gus’s world only ‘see you later’ because tomorrow was a new adventure and a new journey on a path that will lead to something amazing.
What turned out as a routine senior exam because Gus wasn’t feeling good has turned our life upside down for the last couple of weeks. Gus has lymphosarcoma. It isn’t slow moving and it is attacking his GI tract pretty nastily. Our vet didn’t have a whole lot of positive to say because of his age and susceptibility to succumbing if we opted to treat our beloved Elderbull with chemo. He said that the kindest option would be management and then helping him cross the bridge when the time came – which could be sooner or later.
How did we find out and confirm our worst fears? Blood work. We had taken him in because his belly was a bit bloated and he didn’t want to eat his meals and was having trouble controlling his bladder. The latter is a common problem in the older dogs but I didn’t want him ending up with issues because he had an accident while we were at work and soiled his blanket in his crate.
The results from his blood work weren’t promising. He has hyper calcemia. He is anemic. His thyroid levels were incredibly low. All of that combined with the added insult, he also had a Urinary Tract Infection – the one thing we worked to prevent with his accidents. The final blow was the lymphosarcoma attacking his GI tract and causing the bloating and unwillingness to eat.
Cancer. It should be a curse word. This vile, vile disease is something that takes far too many loved ones from this Earth and runs rampant through our hearts as they deal and cope with this internal Hell until it is time for them to leave us. We’ve been dealing with it. We’re making our buddy comfortable. We are letting him eat whatever makes him eat and keep strength up. He has been getting to sleep in bed or we’ve been sleeping in the dog beds with him. We have to keep him cool since he gets uncomfortably hot even though he loves to bake in the sun. Whatever it takes for however long he has left with us.
We started a bucket list of things to do with him before he crosses the bridge – a “like” campaign on his Facebook page, Gus the Elderbull, in an effort to create a functioning memory that helps other dogs in shelters and a place for owners of their own elderbulls to come and share their memories, going swimming for the first time with us, eating an Oreo cookie even though they aren’t good for him, spending all night cuddling with us.
It hasn’t been easy. I’ve cried more nights than I care to admit to. My husband has remained stoic but even he can’t hide the pain. We’re having to make a decision that no person wants to make. When is the right time? Are we being selfish by waiting? Is Gus happy? We’re told time and again we’ll know but in my heart, I don’t know. It’s scary. I never expected to lose this beautiful soul in such a short time after we adopted him from the shelter – which is currently at almost two months shy of his September 23rd Gotcha Day. It sucks and it’s something that I could wish on my worst enemy but we will work through it and we’ll make the best of whatever time we have left until Gus lets us know it’s time.
It’s been rather quiet here over at Work-A-Bull for a few weeks now. I’ve unfortunately had some personal thinking, rationalizing and soul searching to do involving my beautiful senior cat, Mindi. Those thoughts lead me to the realization that being selfish and not helping her cross the bridge was for selfish reasons when it was apparent that she was ready to join her brother, Teddy, who left us last year. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life to let my childhood best friend, confidant and companion go. I know it won’t get any easier when I have to let any of my beloved companions go but at least I was able to enjoy her company until she took her last breath in my arms.
Mindi (and her “brother”, Teddy) joined our family in June 1997. This darling little ball of tortishell-colored fur who would growl and snarl at the sight of our Shih Tzu and grow seemingly into this furious cat beast was one of the most loving and sweetest cats I have been blessed with knowing in all of my years. She and I were best friends throughout my high school years. She got me through a lot of high school break ups, late night cram sessions for midterms and finals and my awkward struggling as an adolescent odd ball (and don’t get me wrong, I’m still odd but not quite so awkward!). I truly don’t know what I would have done without her then or up until her passing. I’m honestly still lost deep in the threshold of my mind. I’m functioning outwardly but inwardly I’m still losing it.
The day after her passing, I went to a dog show. I put on my bravest face and I kept myself surrounded by one of my passions – three of my beautiful dogs. I lost it a few times and had to compose myself but I made it through the day. A few people who knew what had happened probably thought I was nuts for going (even I questioned myself!) but I knew that if I didn’t get out and do something, I would be useless and lost in my grief. Many people shared their condolences, passed on hugs of sympathy and let me know they knew how I felt. It was good to be surrounded by so many caring individuals – especially the one who coaxed me to get out and make something of the day in honor of Mindi’s memory. It was one of the most mentally painful things I’ve done in a long time but it was the right decision and has allowed me to realize that my best friend wouldn’t have wanted me moping around the house crying over her loss. That isn’t how she lived and I doubt it’s how she’d want to be remembered.
Mindi will live forever in my mind and always hold a piece of my heart. Her spirit may be gone and her physical body left behind but she is with me. Her ever patient, soul-searching gaze and the gentle rumbling of her purr are something I see deep within my subconscious every night before I finally fall asleep. One day we will be reunited but until then, I know I have a little feline guardian angel watching over me and mine.
I miss you, sweet girl, in more ways than you could ever imagine.
Play hard at the Rainbow Bridge. I’ll see you again one day.
April 1, 1997 – March 9, 2013