Saturday, December 22, 2012

Foster Jenny, our Jenny

About 10 days ago, I was at the shelter.  There were some workers in the back and the dogs were making lots of noise.  I kept hearing this strange bark. I can recognize just about all our dogs' barks - each one is different and unique, but this one I had not heard before.

I went back to check things out and there was Mercedes.  A filthy, pathetic doggie, barking like a seal, laying in her kennel on top of some fresh poop.  Her back leg didn't work, she looked old and tired.  On her kennel was the paperwork from animal control  The dog's name was Mercedes and she had been taken from her owner due to neglect.

I cleaned up her kennel and spent a little time with her.  As I was leaving the shelter, I sent a text to our executive director and my friend, Tamara.  I said "there is an animal control dog here that will break you heart".  She replied "I know".

The next day, both Tamara and I were at the shelter and we were talking about Mercedes.  Tamara was upset because she knew that this dog was in bad shape and that our shelter did not have the money to do what would need to be done to get her healthy.  Plus, she was 13 years old.

I am new to the animal rescue game and still very naive.  So I wasn't ready to give up hope.  Tamara was being realistic and I knew that, but I just wasn't prepared to believe this was as good as it could get for Mercedes.  I took a video of her out in the yard and I sent it to a couple people I know.  One owns a local special needs rescue and she suggested that we start working on Mercedes' bucket list.  I also sent it to Dr Hope Valentine at Balanced Pets NW in Portland.  She is a chinese medicine doctor and has helped us quite a bit with Asha. 

Mercedes was covered in dirt.  She had been in  yard full of mud and dog feces.  She had no food or fresh water. She would cry at night and was trying to dig her way out of the yard.  I took her into the bathroom at the shelter and gave her a bath.  She was such a sweet soul.  Her deep brown eyes looked at me with gratitude.  I washed her for about 15 minutes and she was still very dirty.  It was tough for her to stand so long, so we called it quits for the day.

Dr Valentine emailed me that night, said that she would see Mercedes at no charge and to bring her down on Friday.  So Friday morning, Trevor and I went to the shelter and picked up Mercedes. I knew she wouldn't go back there - she would stay with us until it was time for her to go to the next phase of her life, whatever that may be.

We had a great visit with Dr Valentine.  Mercedes responded well to the treatment and enjoyed the attention.  Dr Valentine was hopeful that we could see progress and that Mercedes should have some more time ahead of her.  She even offered 4 free treatments to anyone who adopted Mercedes.  This was such great news.  It gave all of us hope that better days were ahead for this sweet girl.  We listed her for adoption and started searching for her forever home.

Mercedes came home with us that night and was in heaven.  She slept on some warm blankets and ate good food, had clean water.  She would jump off and on the deck on her own.  She was happy and constantly smiling.  She did fine with our other animals and seemed content to be inside.  I couldn't help but wonder when was the last time she was in a house instead of a muddy yard.

Saturday morning, Mercedes went with me to the shelter.  She layed in the office and greeted everyone who came into the shelter.  Everyone wanted to pet her.  She got lots of love and she really liked it.

After our shift, we went to see our traditional vet, Dr Kepner.  He did an exam and wanted to get some xrays.  He found a tumor in Mercedes ear and said that she was deaf in that ear for sure.  Both ears were infected and we agreed she was in pretty bad shape, but we would wait and see what the xrays said before we decided anything.

I made an appointment for Wednesday.  Trevor and I agreed that we would make these days the best days of her life.  That meant lots of love, treats, help on and off the deck, snuggles on her blanket, resting in front of the fire place, calmness and peace.

After a day, we realized that Mercedes was not the right name for her, she was much more a Jenny.  Jenny, like in Forest Gump.  She was born a healthy, good girl and life dealt her a crappy hand.  She did the best she could and at the end of her days, she was shown compassion by Forest Gump.  He loved her no matter what.  That's what we were going to do for our Jenny.

She LOVED living in our home, she was always smiling, always wanted to be pet. If I sat down on the floor next to her, she would move over to lay her head in my lap or put her paw on my leg.  She looked at us with such love and thankfulness. 

Wednesday morning came and we dropped Jenny off at the vet. They were going to sedate her and get some xrays. She had been making a lot of noise the last two days - howling, making the seal bark - I couldn't figure out what she wanted, so I would just go lay with her. That helped some, but she was still very restless all the time.  I had her sleep in a kennel two nights because I wanted to see how she would do, that way I could tell a potential adopter that she was kennel trained. She didn't mind much at all.

Later in the day, I got a call from the vet.  They sounded very serious.  A large tumor was crushing Jenny's spine. They had intended to xray her entire body and once they saw that tumor, they stopped  because nothing else mattered.  The vet was surprised she could even move considering how big the tumor was.  It was the reason her leg wasn't working.  She was most likely full of tumors, her hips were very deteriorated and she was surely in a tremendous amount of pain.  She was sedated and he was recommending that we go ahead and euthanize her instead of bringing her out of it.

We couldn't reach my executive director and so I needed to decide what to do.  I didn't want this to be it for her, alone on a table, no goodbyes.  I didn't know what the right decision was, I wasn't ready, but I didn't want to be selfish. I called my friend Dr Hope Valentine, told her what was going on and said "would it be cruel for us to allow her to come out of sedation, bring her home and then in a couple days let her go?"  Dr Valentine told me that no, that would not be cruel and that letting her go in that way would be kind, giving her a couple more days of love would be kind.  I wanted her to feel love for just a little longer.  When she closed her eyes for the last time, I wanted her to be looking at the faces of people who loved her. 

So I called the Dr back and asked them to give us a couple more days.  They put a catheter in so that when it was time, she wouldn't have to go through that.  They also said we shouldn't wait much longer than a day.  If the tumor were to burst, she would be in horrible pain.  None of us wanted that.

I got a hold of my executive director, Tamara and I told her what was going on.  She said, "so that's it?  they can't do anything else"  and then she started to cry.  She said she would call me back in a minute.  I knew she was doing exactly what I had done when I got the call.  She was sobbing, head in her hands, sobbing.  Crying at the loss of hope and dreading what comes next.  She called me back and we agreed that giving her a couple more days was the right thing to do.  She then went right to the vet's office to see Jenny.  Trevor was headed there too and would bring Jenny home. 

We were going to say our goodbyes on Friday morning, so we had two nights and one day to be with our girl.  We had a lot of living to pack into those short hours.  My heart hurt so badly thinking about saying goodbye.  I was so angry at her previous owners who had let her get this bad and who had let her live outside in the cold and mud, who showed her no compassion or care.  But I couldn't focus on that, I had to give all my energy to loving her.

The next two nights I slept on the floor with Jenny.  I would have put her on the bed or couch, but she wasn't able to be comfortable and there was more room on the floor. I piled the blankets high and put pillows all around her.  She spent most of those nights with her head in my lap or on my chest.

We gave her lots of treats - ice cream for breakfast and dinner.  She loved that. 

Her last night, we built a great fire and we stayed up extra late.  All of us, just sitting quietly in front of the fire.  The dogs were all sleeping.  Jenny would get up every now and then and resettle herself.  She would wake up and look up at us, as if to be sure it wasn't all a dream.  She smiled a lot these last few days.  She never seemed unhappy or bitter.  It was clear that she was in pain and when she looked at me with those big brown eyes, she was telling me that she was ready to go.  She had all she ever needed and now she could leave this world for the next. 

I wanted time to stand still.  I didn't want morning to come, I certainly didn't want the end to be near.  I wanted to just stay there on the floor in front of the fire, her head in my lap.  I could have stayed that way forever and it wouldn't have been long enough for me to give her the amount of love that she deserved.  

 Friday morning came, we slept in, fed the dogs, gave Jenny some ice cream and then got in the car for our last trip together.  I've done this before with our animals and its impossible.  Knowing that there are only hours, minutes left of life is a strange feeling.  Jenny was calm the entire time, she enjoyed the car ride, looked out the window and finished up her ice cream.

We met Tamara at the vet's office.  She was crying, we were crying and Jenny knew it was time.  She walked right into the room and layed down on the bed that was made just for her.  Jenny showed tremendous grace in life and she showed nothing less in death.  She layed her head down and slowly, quietly slipped away as we all petted her and told her we loved her.  And just as quickly as she showed up in my life, she exited and I will never be the same.

She would have made some nice family an amazing dog.  She should have grown up with some kids who would have played with her, thrown a ball for her, walked her and let her sleep in their beds.  She should have played dress up and had costumes at halloween. She should have had a special collar and an engraved tag with her name on it  She should have licked too many faces and eaten food off the counter.  She should have layed in the sun and swam in a lake.  She should have been in every family photo and on every holiday card sent.  She should have grown old gracefully, gotten gray and gone a little deaf.   She should have been able to quietly lay her head down and go to sleep for the last time with memories of all those good years in her head.   But that's not the life she lived.  

 I know that Jenny loved her time with us, I could tell by how she looked at me, how she would rest her head against my leg while I was at the sink doing the dishes, by how she followed Trevor around and asked him for help getting on and off the deck.  I can't help but wonder if she was thinking "what took you so long to find me".  People say dogs don't think like that, they live in the moment. I so hope that is true, I hope that in this last week, everything that came before was erased and all she remembers if love, kindness, compassion, patience and hope. 

She was technically our foster, but she was a part of our family and will be forever.  I miss her.  Its crazy to me that I knew her for 10 days and I am heartbroken over her.  Her previous owners had her for 13 years and provided her with nothing.  Sure,there are many greater injustices in this world.  There is pain and suffering everywhere.  All over the world people die, animals die, life is cruel.  Jenny serves as a reminder to me that we all need to do just a little more for the world we live in.  We all need to give a little more to each other, to the other creatures that surround us.  That we all need to believe in something, we all need to stand for something.  Whatever that is, find it and do it.  We can't change the whole world, we can't save them all.  There are thousands of Jennys out there whose lives I can't affect.  But I affected Jenny's life and for that I will be forever proud and honored.  She loved me and she loved Trevor.  We loved her back....and THAT is something.


alaina said...

i love you both... and I miss Jenny, too. :) beautiful and emotional read.

alaina said...

i love you both... and jenny. Beautiful and emotional read. i