Wednesday, August 27, 2014

8/27... The story of Sel..

It's been less than 24 hours since I lost my Anselmo. I've now calmed down enough to write about it. I know everyone says- it takes time... But I'm not sure that I'll ever grow accustomed to him not being here. I may be at peace with my decision- Sel was so very ill, and he would have gotten rapidly worse. But I will never be at peace with the idea that he is gone.

I still scoff at the irony of it all... We knew that Hercules was degenerating rapidly from the Wobblers syndrome (and his other orthopedic issues). We were trying to emotionally (and financially) plan for his looming euthanasia... if one can ever truly "prepare" for that.. But to have both boys fail at nearly the same time?? How ironic, and unfair, and horrible.

...We welcomed Sel into our home in February of 2011, when my friend and fellow breeder decided to retire him from her breeding program. Sel is Herc's father, and was the mate to my Liberty (RIP), and so the decision to have him come live with us was an easy one. Sel quickly transitioned into our family as if he had been living with us his entire life.

He was a WONDERFUL boy. So well mannered, even tempered, and well behaved; he put all other dogs to shame. He was goofy and loving, yet he had a stoic, quiet side as well; one that I could relate to. He was old and wise and mature, yet still encompassed the breed standard of being loving and happy and jubilant. While Hercules was always our friendly goofball (he would probably welcome an intruder with kisses and tail wags), Sel was our protector and guardian.
And he had the patience of a saint. Tolerant of all the kids and visitors that would come in and out of our home, the cats, various puppies, rescue dogs.. and even with Hercules, who would growl and push him out of the water bowl, every.. single.. time.
He was full European, which was something that took some getting used to. Sel had the GIANT jowls of his mastiff ancestors. Now, we were used to some slobber on the floors, walls, and windows, but MAN, this dog could fling it, with force, onto our 10 foot ceilings! I swear, he had at least a ten yard radius! I can't count the number of times we'd have to say- "Sel.. NO!", as he was approaching our lap, with foot-long cords of slimy, thick, gelatinous drool hanging from his mouth. But his droopy jowls, and eyes, and face, all added to his overall charm. He was a picky eater from the get-go. He was very specific about what treats he would and wouldn't eat. Every time we went to Petco, I'd have to take Sel, to make sure we got treats that he'd actually like. He was finicky like that. He hated taking pills or supplements, that was always a challenge. Most times I'd have to reach my hand down into the depths of his giant, slobbery maw, and force them down... Stubborn old man.

And he was my 12 year old son's favorite. He said so, and it was evident. I don't really know why, but he was. ~I'll mention here, that while in the exam room in those final moments, I kept urging Dawson to come sit with all of us next to Anselmo... He wouldn't, he just stood up against the wall on the other side of the room. And then, Sel, all doped up from the initial "relaxing" dose, got up, and went to him. Put his head between Dawson's legs, as he always did. It was a simple gesture, and yet, in that moment, was so very profound.

We always marveled at how healthy Anselmo seemed for his age, remarking how he would long outlive his son. He had so much energy still. He loved to run around in the yard, go walking around the neighborhood, trips to the dog park, and car rides to Dunkin Donuts, or the bank, or anywhere..

And then, approximately two weeks ago, he started vomiting, completely out of nowhere. With the vomiting came lethargy, diarrhea, and a lack of appetite. Our first vet visit was just to check his blood panel and vitals. That's when Dr. Richie noticed the elevated heart rate. Otherwise, everything seemed normal, including his blood panel. We took Sel home with a prescription for the diarrhea, one for the vomiting, and a beta blocker to regulate his heart.

It was over the next few days that Sel started the rapid downward spiral. He became obviously more miserable, refused to eat (he hadn't had a meal in four days), continued having diarrhea.. His coat started shedding profusely, and looked dull and dingy. He had a constant flow of mucous from his eyes. He had lost a total of 13 pounds. I knew in my heart and in my gut that it wasn't something treatable, although I still clung to the hope that it was...

Upon seeing him yesterday, Dr. Richie concurred; this was end of life behavior. But I still wanted the x-rays. I HAD to know for sure that there wasn't something more we could do. I needed definitive. And we got definitive.
The x-ray showed a large mass growing on and around the top of his heart and pinching off his esophagus. This would explain the inability to eat, and the electrical disruption of the heart (causing the highly elevated heart rate). It had obviously not grown overnight. It could have been there for weeks, months, even years, just growing. We never knew. Sel had never been sick, and so there was never any reason over the years for x-rays or diagnostic testing. The tumor had simply finally reached that critical size.
And there was nothing more that could be done, other than to humanely allow him to go peacefully.

And here I sit on my porch, with his son Hercules, and his grandson Phineus at my feet. His and Liberty's legacy.
I miss him so very much.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Has it really been nearly two months since I've written? How odd.
(I just now realized that my last blog started out with that exact same line)
There seems to be a pattern forming. Long ago, I would write daily. Then it became twice a week or so, then once a month, and now, well, a whole lot less.
Funny, that's the typical pattern for me with most things I am passionate about. I read books, no- I devour books. Then I'll go a year without picking one up. I make soap or candles or various other crafts, spend hours a day toiling away at the hobbies. Then, I just quit. College, jobs, relationships, hobbies, bands... I could list countless examples, and the stories would all be the same. Start something- and not finish it.
Well, except dogs, I never lose interest in dogs.


I guess today I'll just vent. I've actually needed to for some time. And since I'm no longer seeing my therapist, it seems there's no other outlet than this blog.
So, on with it.
This will probably be a lengthy one; get comfy.

I miss my dad. It's been just over a year he's been gone, and it feels like an eternity since I've seen him, hugged him, talked with him. I think of him every day, still. Sometimes with fondness. Sometimes in anger. Him leaving us could have been prevented. He had the power to be well, to live. And yet, he chose not to. He chose to continue slowly killing himself. Addiction is a disease, yes. But I believe that we have the power to fight it. Dad certainly did; he was the strongest man I ever knew. And he had the support system, well, for the most part. He had us. But he chose.
People wonder why I have such strong opinions about alcohol, or substance abuse/addiction in general.
I watched it kill my father. That's why.
How ironic that I work as a bartender.

Speaking of work..
I work hard. I am honest. I don't f&%k around. I'm getting paid to work, and that's what I do. I don't wear next-to-nothing. I don't drink (or do anything else) with my customers. I'm not wild and crazy. I'm not the "funnest" bartender ever, and certainly not the most popular. I just do my best to do what I'm getting paid to do, and be "fun and friendly" without going overboard. I don't care if the workplace is a bank or a bar; there has to be some level of professionalism and dignity at work.
And yes, sometimes I hate what I do. (Probably because of aforementioned issues). But sometimes, you see things in a bar that aren't sad and pathetic and disgusting. Times like yesterday, when I watched the Exiles gather in massive numbers to honor one of their brothers who had passed. Now, I don't know anything about biker clubs, or the way they operate, but I sure as hell know about losing a family member. And yesterday was so moving, even to me, an outsider. Yesterday, just being their bartender was an honor.


Yesterday was stressful too, though. Not because of work, but because my oldest fur-baby was at the vet. Sel has been sick for about a week now, vomiting, and acting lazier than usual. Logan took him, and kept me updated while I was working. His blood and stool samples came back normal, but he did have a very high heart rate. Oddly, the last time he had a "spell" where he was lethargic and not eating, his heart rate was also elevated (I check the dog's vitals whenever they are acting funny.. yes, I am over-concerned). Tachycardia is treated with a beta blocker, and he will probably remain on it for the rest of his life, however long that may be. He is a senior citizen at 8 1/2 (life expectancy of a Dane is 7-10 years). I suspect his heart will fail him eventually. But hopefully not soon. I couldn't bear losing both my older boys...
...Because then there's Hercules, who is progressively getting worse, almost daily. The Wobblers, Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and growth plate abnormalities in his front legs are all finally starting to do him in. He hobbles around when he is up, and lays on his bed most of the day, rising only to eat or go outside to go potty. He is only 5, and the absolute love of my life. I cannot stand thinking about the decision we will have to make soon. But I know that once the snow comes, Herc won't be able to get around outside.
Damn dogs. They break my heart.
But the pup is doing well, good old Phineus. He's such a pain in the ass. But he is Herc's nephew, and the grandchild to my Sel and Liberty. The one last link to my legacy, and the memories of my beloveds. I fear he will be the only one in the house, all too soon.

And all these unexpected vet bills... dentist/orthodontic bills, vehicle repairs, unexpected expenses, higher-than-normal utilities, etc, etc, etc... has made living financially this summer extremely stressful. This house, as much as I love it, is the most expensive home we've ever had. And winter is coming (as they say in Game of Thrones)... I often wonder how we will afford to heat it. We couldn't afford any trips with the kids this summer. Or many fun things at all, really. That makes me sad. Yes, they have a nice home, they have our love, bla bla bla... But you and I both know that kids don't see things the same way as we adults do. They don't recognize and appreciate those things, as we do. I feel awful that Dawson will go back to school, and when asked- "what did you do for fun this summer?", he will have nothing much to report. I wish I could do more for them.
Groceries, necessities, house payment, medical bills, vet bills, utilities... and just barely covering those, scrounging to be sure they are all taken care of. Nothing extra, nothing that isn't absolutely needed. I've spent most of this summer stressing about money. Every day, lately. Living paycheck to paycheck, barely, as many other folks do. It has not been terribly enjoyable.

Speaking of this house... Even as expensive as it is, I am in love with it. Now, if I could pick it up and put it in the middle of a field, it would be even better.  :)  I am still trying to adapt to neighborhood living. All those years out in the country, and now I have neighbors. Yuck! No mowing the lawn in my pajamas anymore. And next week begins my commuting every day back and forth to Glenburn to get Dawson to and from school. That should be fun.

Speaking of Dawson... Earlier this summer when I was writing, he was choosing to stay primarily at his dad's house. That phase has passed, thank GAWD. He's been staying here with us all week, as usual. Sometimes even choosing to stay through the weekends, and spend more time with us. Although, I worry that once school starts, he will want to be at dad's more again, to hang out with his Glenburn friends. I don't know. I guess we'll wait and see. But I have been loving the time he's here. And even though I've been "sharing" him for several years, I still hate to see him go every weekend. I don't know if I'll ever get used to that, I guess.

Logan technically moved back home with us this spring, after living with her father's side of the family last year. Although, I rarely see her. She spends most nights at her friends' houses, or god knows where. She doesn't talk to me much. She is in the throws of that age where everything is all about her. She's living her life, making her own choices. She can do that now, she's an "adult". It's all quite frustrating. Half the time I'm angry with her, and the other half I'm consumed with worry. Damn kids.

There's talk of a potential musical endeavor. But that's all it is right now; talk. I do miss performing. I don't know if I could do it again or not, realistically, for several reasons. But it's fun to think about.

Well, I guess I've wasted enough of the morning, and had enough coffee to become one of the living. Gotta go buy dog food, and poop scoop the yard before work.
Living the dream.