I will begin with the end.
Pain, heartbreak and emptiness are all that I feel at this moment. The grief is deep, piercing and overwhelming. It comes in waves, then calms for a bit, only to be sparked again by a memory, an expectation, a or a routine that has been forever altered. It has been just over 24 hours since my universe shifted. I am missing a piece of my very existence.
That piece is my beloved companion, chief comforter and soul searcher, and best friend, my dog Daisy. Actually DaisyMae Doodle.
All this emotion for a dog? Absolutely!
It appears that Daisy had a hard start to her too short life. I have often looked into her eyes and wished she could tell me about her first months to year. But it will remain a mystery.
She showed up to our home as a stray. She came to greet my husky/chow mix and my son’s two huskies that were staying with us. A chain link fence separated them, but they ran back and forth. At the time, I wondered who she belonged to. It was near the 4th of July, so I assumed a neighbor had visitors and she was just checking out the neighborhood.
After my son’s huskies went home, she continued coming back to visit my dog, Sweeney. Sweeney, who was normally very territorial, seemed to like this newfound companion – even if they were only able to hang out with a fence between. My husband said not to feed her, but I would put a treat or two outside the fence. She was shy and very wary. She would not take the treats from me, but would come when I was a safe distance away.
We put out seed in our driveway for the wild birds. We noticed that she would come after we put it out and eat it. Now we were concerned. The “do not feed” rule went out the window and we began putting food outside the gate. She would eat it but would run away if anyone approached. She would not come to us. On a few occasions I watched as she napped in a shady, sheltered spot in our yard or near our daisy patch.
One day, after putting food out, which disappeared, my husband was walking down the driveway and felt a nudge at his hand. He looked down to see this shaggy dog there. She let him touch and pet her. It was obvious she had decided to trust and would not be going away soon.
The effort began in earnest to coax her into our world. It actually did not take long from that moment. She had a collar, but no tags. Once we coaxed her into the yard, we could see that she was skin and bones, covered with a very dirty, matted fur coat. I gently set about giving her a warm bath, so we could bring her inside. She allowed me to wash her and dry her off with towels. She voraciously accepted any food we would offer.
The first trip inside our home was apparently a new experience. I am not sure she had ever been inside a house. She startled and then stared at the television and seemed a little befuddled over furniture. She quickly settled in. We tried to figure out an appropriate name, but the picture of her by the daisies kept coming to mind, so we decided the name DaisyMae was a perfect fit.
Because I was unsure of how she would react to being left alone, I took her to work with me. Although I tried to cut some of the mats from her fur, she was still matted and somewhat disheveled looking. People still oohed and aahed over her, but when they would raise their hand to pet her, she would flinch and cower. I had to ask people to not raise their hands at all. This, to me, was a sign that she had been hit or beaten. One co-worker offered me $1,500 dollars for her on the spot. I declined. I felt there was a connection and a reason she chose us.
Off to our veterinarian for an exam she went. We have a wonderful husband and wife veterinarian team and Dr. Lori took a look at her and exclaimed that she could be their dog’s twin. She said she was sure she was a Golden Doodle – a mix between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle. She said that she must be microchipped, so she spent thirty minutes or so carefully scanning for a chip. There was none to be found. She surmised that she must have been about a year old. She may have either come into heat or just had a litter of puppies. Then she said that she had evidence that she had had fleas, which is something that dogs in our area normally do not have. She surmised that she must have come from a warmer climate.
So what was she doing in our yard and increasingly into our hearts?
I thought I should probably advertise, in case someone was missing her, so I placed an ad in our local newspaper as well as on a couple of on-line, nationwide lost pet websites. I did so sincerely hoping that no one would claim her. Amazingly enough, no one did and DaisyMae became part of our family. At that time, our family included our other dog Sweeney, two cats, two parrots and four cockatiels. She adapted well to her new family and seemed grateful that she no longer had to fight for her very existence.
One morning, a couple of months later, our other dog, Sweeney, who was the love of my life looked at me as I crawled out of bed. He attempted to get up, but it was evident he was weak and very, very sick. I rushed him to the vet’s office, where they immediately intubated him and tried to figure out what was happening. He died about 30 minutes later, as I waited. I was devastated. We later found out he had internal bleeding due to hemangiosarcoma.
Daisy seemed to understand my pain with the loss of my beloved Sweeney. She would come and place her head in my lap and her soulful eyes would seem to gaze into my soul.
As many dogs do, Daisy enjoyed car rides and the highlight of her week was running errands on Saturday and going out to get a Glenwood Post Independent with my husband. When I changed jobs over a year ago, she loved to be able to accompany me occasionally. I loved her companionship and the walks we took around town during the day. Even the noise of the trucks on Grand Avenue did not bother her, which made me wonder again, about her beginnings.
She hated thunder and would find a dark place to hide during thunderstorms. How did she survive outside, in July, with raging thunderstorms? It must have been terrifying for her. But now she had us to sooth and assure her.
While she loved rides, she did not relish traveling in our RV. It was much too noisy, with all the dishes and things rattling. She actually did not seem to like going camping at all. She seemed to look at us with eyes that said, “Why are we up here, in the dirt and bugs, when we could be home, with our grassy back yard and cozy house?” But still, she would rather be with us in the dirt than at home without us.
She could entertain herself for hours with a tennis ball or squeaky toy – until she shredded it to get to the squeaker. Often I would bring work home with me and sit outside on warm summer evenings to finish things up. She was always by my side. When Chester, our son and daughter-in-law’s Cairn Terrier mix, who we had adopted, died quite suddenly, Daisy seemed to understand and tried to comfort me and my granddaughters who were visiting with us at the time.
And so was our life with Daisy, all nine years and eight months.
Two months ago, routine lab work discovered that her platelet count was low. This is serious. Without the proper platelet count she could bleed to death from a slight accident. Had I missed something? Should I have seen that she was slowing down? Should the fact that she was having a harder time climbing into the car for her rides have raised red flags? Tests were ordered, an ultrasound, and further lab work. All came back negative. A diagnosis of Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP) was made. She was started on a course of prednisone and antibiotics. The prednisone caused urinary urgency and she was sometimes not able to hold it if we weren’t immediately available to let her outside. I could sense her embarrassment at her accidents. We never scolded. We just assured her that she was still a “very good girl.”
Weekly lab work now. All the numbers were still declining. She is starting to refuse her car rides. Now I am really concerned. Another medication was added. Still more lab work. Still not working. Last week a stronger, chemotherapy drug was tried to bring things under control. That was Tuesday. She seemed to tolerate it well. But then on Thursday, I noticed a difference. She was more lethargic and was vomiting. I called the vet and our usual vets were not in the office. The other vet gave her subcutaneous fluids and an anti-emetic injection.
That evening, for the first time ever, she only ate a few bites of food and started refusing water. I knew we were starting into the end. As the evening and night progressed, her breathing became more labored. I knew she could not survive this.
When the vet’s office opened in the morning, I called to let them know what she was experiencing and to say I thought it was time. I asked if one of the vets could come to us. I received a call back a few minutes later saying they were on their way.
We were able to move her back onto her bed and took her outside, to the back porch. She loved being in the back yard and the cool air seemed to help her breathing. Dr. Bob and a young vet tech drove up within a few minutes and while we all gently talked to her and stroked her, as the medication was given, she took her last breath. Very peaceful. No more pain.
Dr. Lori called about an hour later to say how sorry she was and to let us know that we had absolutely done the right thing. She did a needle aspiration into her abdominal cavity and she said it confirmed that she was bleeding internally. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Bob Thorson and Dr. Lori Pohm and all the staff at All Dogs and Cats Veterinary Hospital, in Glenwood for the very thorough, compassionate, loving care they have provided to all our fur family over the last 25 years.
So now I find myself anticipating Daisy’s presence, whether it is stepping over her to climb into bed or hearing her come running when I open the refrigerator door. There is no one there to save the last couple of French fries for, or to share a piece of cheese with. It is all the little things I miss; bending down to rub her belly, or hearing her bark as I drive into the driveway and greet me at the door. It is feeling this pain and not having her come to me, to lay her head in my lap as if to say, “I understand.”
But while the pain seems bottomless at this time, I will gladly feel this sorrow in exchange for all the wonderful, unconditional love and companionship she brought to me over the years. While I wish we could have had a few more years, she will always be part of the fabric of who I am. There is a saying, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” Godspeed DaisyMae until we meet again. In the meantime, I will be trying to be the person you thought I was.