Friday, July 13, 2012

saying goodbye to Sarah

I have been working on-and-off at writing this blog since Easter --the day after Sarah passed. It has been a struggle to write, as I still miss her terribly each and every day. Completing this blog has been good (though difficult) therapy in helping me walk through the stages of grief and mourning. Sarah was my precious girl, and I will miss her in the same way I continue to miss all the dear animal-family-members we have had, until we are all, finally (at last!!!) together, once again.

My Sweet Sarah
For thirteen years I have had a constant companion, a sweet and gentle American Bulldog, named Sarah. We got her when we lived in Perry, Florida. She was four months old, and Jonah, our son, was four years old. She was our first family dog, and she was a perfect fit for us.

The day we went to get her, she and her brother were the last puppies left from her litter. She rode in my lap on the drive home, and crawled up into my lap once we got home. Jeremy asked me, "Do you like her?" and I replied, "I love her," holding her to me, and kissing her soft, white head.

She was a calm puppy. Never had a problem nipping or biting or chewing up things she shouldn't. She adored Jonah, and was protective of us and our home from the start. When she was about eight months old, we got our sweet and goofy Bully puppy, who was six weeks old, and she mothered him, played with him like a best friend, but made it clear, for the following ten years of his life, that she was the Alpha dog, and Bully, being a sweetheart, never challenged her on that, though, on occasion, they would get into a "scrap" when playing tug-of-war with a rope or ball, but it was all noise and no teeth --never any cuts or blood. You can see how good of friends they were and the love they had for each other in the photo album at the end of this blog, and in this video below you can see how well they behaved together --especially with boney-bones being offered!

Sarah had funny quirks. She lifted her leg when she peed on a tree or bush. She didn't like to walk on the black tile in Jonah's room --she would shake and whine at the edge of his open door, like she was going to fall into a black hole. To get on and off of the bed in our master bedroom, she would use the treadmill next to the bed like a ramp, and whenever she got excited, like when we'd leave her at home (even for just a little while), she'd do a happy, wiggly walk around us, sneezing over and over again when we returned and walked through the front door.

One of my favorite "Sarah quirks" was when she ate her food. She'd begin by taking a single bit of kibble into her mouth, walk across the room, and spit it out. Then she'd return to her food bowl and eat all her food. As she got older, she'd just take the first piece our and spit it beside her bowl. She also LOVED to have left-over tuna fish water or oil put in with her food, and she especially loved spaghetti sauce mixed in. For at least the last five years of her life, she started a new habit: she wouldn't eat her food until the person feeding her kissed her head first, then said in a sweet tone, "Eat your food." Just a few days before she died, I took a photo of her eating her food (below) and you can see the piece of kibble by her bowl.

For most of her life, Sarah didn't like when male friends of ours would visit us. She was suspicious of all men, but she took to females who entered our door much easier. As she got older, she mellowed out and loved everyone. She gave her paw to our visitors, even if they didn't want it. She'd place her paw, claws out and pressing on our company's knee, demanding to be loved.

Sarah gained many nicknames over the years: Grumpy (because her face rarely showed her emotions, even when she was happy, her face didn't change much, and she always looked, well, grumpy!) Sometimes it was just Grump, or Grumpy-girl. Then there was Sarah-pooh, Pooh-girl, Girly-girl, Pookie, and just plain Pooh, and she responded to all of them!

Whenever any of us would approach her when she was lying down (which she did a lot of in her final years) she would stretch out her body and arms, asking for love. You can see her do this in the video link below, as well as make her grumpy, disciplining face to young Chopper.

Sarah slept beside me almost every night of her life, her head beside mine, on her very own human pillow, usually with her back against my chest, and my arm around her. I have not slept in my bed since she passed, just ten days ago (at this writing).

Sarah always came to my side whenever I was crying. If I was in another room and she heard me crying, she find me and try to console me. Even a few days before she died, I was crying on the couch sitting next to Jeremy, and she tried to push her way past Jeremy's leg, her eyes wide with concern and her paw reaching over Jeremy's knee to reach me. She was such a comfort, such a big, sweet-hearted girl.

When Bully passed, he was only ten, and I was not prepared. He was still young and full of pep, then one day his belly got big, and the vet told Jeremy it was cancer, and when Jeremy called to tell me, I was not prepared to hear we had to put him down. He brought Bully home to spend one last night with us, and we gave him pain killers, but he still panted in pain all night. It was unbearable to see him like that. The next morning we took him to the vet, and stupidly, they did not give him an IV or a sedative, and Bully, being a big baby whenever it came to needles, cried out as they injected him, and the cry kept coming until his life left him. He cried out, a cry that not only sounded like he was crying because of the needle, but like he crying out against his death. Bully was a dog full of life and joy, and loved his life with us, and he cried out because he did not want to leave, and we did not want him to go so soon either.

Bully's cry, along with the sound of the shotgun that took my father's life, are sounds that haunt me, that return to me when I lay down to sleep, and continue to weep over.
My sweet Sarah became arthritic a few years ago, and we gave her supplements our vet prescribed, which helped her, but whenever she got up to walk, her joints were slow to warm up, so she walked stiffly, like an old woman, until she got going. Her body changed as she aged, and she looked like an old dog, still, I hoped to have her around longer.

Almost a year ago, at this writing, we went on a family vacation to Folly Beach, SC, where dogs are allowed on the beach in the morning and evening. Being on the beach with Sarah is one of my favorite memories, especially because she was so happy! Here is a video of Jeremy walking Sarah and Chopper back to me on the beach, and Chopper escapes from his leash and immediately tries to get Sarah to play with him. It's adorable!

The day after Bully died, Jeremy told me he talked to Sarah, and asked her to stay with us for at least a few more years, to not leave us so soon after Bully's death. She kept her promise, and it happened so quickly, it is still hard to believe.

Sarah showed no signs of being sick, except for about a month before her death, and inconsistently, she'd cough for a less than a minute, followed by gagging a few times. I thought it was just acid reflux, as a friend of mine had a dog with it, and had the same symptoms. Often when she'd cough and gag, I'd give her a bite of bread, and she'd stop.

Friday night (April 6th) Sarah and I hung out together, she in her chair beside the couch where I sat, and we shared a bag of peanut-butter pretzels and I stroked her head and belly. As most of you know, I keep the sleeping schedule of a vampire, and Sarah always waits for me to finish cleaning the kitchen, and then around 6am, we both head upstairs together to go to bed. Well, this night, around 6am, Sarah started coughing. I gave her a bite of bread, but the coughing did not stop. Soon the cough was worsening and blood was coming up.

I knew then that something was terribly wrong. I rushed her over to the Animal Emergency hospital.

They ran x-rays on her, which revealed that her left lung was almost completely filled with a giant tumor. Then they ran more tests on her, and discovered it was not an infection, which only pointed to one thing: cancer.

By 12 noon, Jeremy met me at the Animal Hospital where they lead Sarah in to be with us, one last time. When she came through the door, she collapsed in exhaustion and pain at our feet. We wept and cried over her, telling her how much we loved her, thanking her for all the joy she had brought into our lives...and then she was gone.

As I got into my car to drive back home, I was suddenly aware of Sarah's spirit, hovering just to the right of me. She was not sad, but concerned, like she always was whenever I cried. I said out loud, through tears "I'm okay, Sarah. Mommy will be okay. You go on, you go on to Father and enter into the joy you deserve. I love you, baby. I'll miss you, but I will be okay." Then I felt, somehow, that she understood, and her presence drifted away.

This was the day before Easter. Easter is when our Savior rose from the grave, having redeemed ALL of HIS creation, including my sweet, Sarah-pooh. I am thankful she was in my life. I am thankful that she only suffered for 6 hours before she died. I am thankful that God created her, lent her to me and my family, and that He has her in His wonderful kingdom, where we will certainly meet again.

Below is a Smilebox scrapbook I put together of Sarah (click on the photos to enlarge them), however, there is also an extensive photo album at Photobucket, that I made with love and many tears:

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
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FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE NOTE: any attempt to post comments/responses in way of unsolicited advice, criticism, analysis, words-of-wisdom or correction, or worse-case-scenario: berating and condemning me for my expressed opinions, thoughts or emotions on this blog, on Facebook, or via e-mail are not welcome! THE ABOVE LIST OF RESPONSES ARE TERMED "INVALIDATION". LOOK IT UP. IT'S A FORM OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE AND I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT. only positive comments or messages with uplifting, encouraging content, such as, "thank you for sharing" or "i will be praying" are welcome, as well as the ever-so-confirming "like" button on FB. thank you for being gracious. much love ~Heather