Not Just a Dog

I didn’t know I would be back in this place so soon. Honestly, I hadn’t really left the grief state yet for Crosby, but yesterday we said goodbye suddenly to our Gracie girl.

I am devastated. She wasn’t just a dog to me. She was my constant, my rock, my comforter. She has been my saving Grace for almost 10 years.

We got Grace just a few months after we got married in 2011. She was our first baby. Tom and I had never had a dog that wasn’t really our parents’ pet. She would have been 11 in December, and our 10 year adoption anniversary would have been in October. She joined us as a newly married couple, and she has been with us for every change since.

Through Army basic training and a deployment.

Through 4 homes, 3 moves, and 3 states.

Through many career changes.

Through our transition to parenthood three times over.

Through road trips, to backyard BBQs, to holidays, to just ordinary days.

Through all the little moments that made up our life over the last decade.

I remember the excitement of bringing her home after we rescued her from the shelter. When I close my eyes, I can still relive the feelings and the nervous chatter we had with her in the car ride home for the first time. We lived in a residence hall at Iowa State at the time. And she really was the best campus dog we could have asked for. She loved the students and they loved her back. She became a mascot of sorts and gave me an access point to build even deeper connections with my students. Some of my fondest memories of our girl were in that little one bedroom apartment on campus.

She was my companion while Tom went to basic training and went through his deployment. She was such a great distraction in those lonely times. She gave me something to smile about and something to be responsible for when I came home without Tom there. She was my everything. There were many days I am not sure I would have made it through without her.

She was such a diva too. She did what she wanted, and we all just lived in her world. She was always lounging, and couldn’t be bothered by most things. She was like a person at times with how she sat, and I swear she gave you hugs.

She did not like to go outside unless it was snowing. She would angry pee on the rug by the front door when it was any type of weather outside. Like how dare I ask her to go outside when it is raining! However, this girl was obsessed with snow. It was like candy coming down from the sky for her.

I will always remember how she greeted people. She would turn her body into a “U” shape and prance around like that.

She thought she was a lap dog, and she would wriggle her way to nestle into you. She loved to snuggle with us in our bed and bury herself in the blankets.

There are just countless memories that I am looking back on. She was my person in dog form. She was our home. I am just sitting here in shock trying to come up with words to give an adequate tribute to everything that she was to our family. I am lost and truly gutted.

With Crosby, we had time to prepare for the lasts with his cancer diagnosis. This time with Grace it was sudden. We knew her time was coming obviously as she was nearly 11 years old which is a substantial life for a boxer. But we didn’t get to ready ourselves enough for the lasts. I am so grateful that I was working from home and Tom was off yesterday because otherwise I would not have been able to hold her as she took her last breath. It was so fast. I just happened to be upstairs with Wally’s afternoon feeding to watch her have a seizure. As we sped to the vet’s, she died in the back of the truck. Unfortunately she had a tumor in her belly that was unseen that had ruptured. There was literally nothing we could do.

After Crosby died, I remember telling Tom that Crosby went first to prepare us for Grace leaving. I knew this tragedy would be a hard hit to us. I was naive to think how excruciating it would actually be. I think Grace knew her time was coming too, and like the Queen that she was, she wanted to go out on her own terms. I think she also wanted to have us to herself for a little while like it was in the beginning. But even going through the emotional toil with Crosby just a couple months ago could not have prepared me this roller coaster of emotions.

We should have known with going through this recently with Crosby, but what you don’t realize hurts more than not knowing they are the lasts, is experiencing the firsts without them. It’s very surreal right now, and there have already been moments in the last 24 hours that I have caught myself calling out her name, looking for her sprawled out on the couch as I walk by, or hearing phantom doggy steps. Having to wake up today without hearing her stretch and yawn in her chair was gut-wrenching.

There is sadness and an emptiness in my bones that is indescribable, but I also am feeling this immense amount of guilt. Guilt that she had been hurting for a while, and we just didn’t know. Guilt that we didn’t ask for more tests on her after Crosby died. Guilt that our kids didn’t get more time. Guilt that there was possibly more that we could do. Guilt over being helpless. Guilt that we didn’t live it up with her these last few days and let her have more table scraps.

Grace was just the best. She just always knew what you needed. She even knew that she was ours before we did.

I know deep down that she had the best life, and that while we had her for the last decade she made our lives exponentially better. And for that I can only say thank you to the best dog I have ever had.

But this hurts. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

Tiny Tragedy

Tiny Tragedy

When you have a dog you are inviting a tiny tragedy into your life.

What I am feeling right now is not what I would define as tiny, but it is definitely a tragedy.

Today we had to say goodbye to our Crosby.

I have experienced grief before.

Grief with the loss of family.

Grief with the loss of friends.

I have even grieved the loss of pets before.

But grief over losing our first dog as adults is un-explainable.

I feel immense guilt pulling me in both directions. One that we didn’t see his suffering sooner, but then feeling remorse that we couldn’t do something to help him live longer or that we made the call to soon.

I mean how do I reconcile that we made an appointment for our dog’s death? This is a different kind of pain when you are the one making the decision. And then having to sit there watching him take his last breaths.

When we found out in January that he had cancer, I think I was in complete denial about the diagnosis and the caution from the vet that he only has 8-12 weeks left. Tom and I both made references how great we would make his last summer. Well here we are exactly 2 months later, now without him.

We got Crosby at a time when our marriage was still fresh, and it was the first time we were living together after Tom’s deployment. 2013 seems like a life time ago. So he has been with us as we have taken many steps as a family with different moves, careers, and expanding our family.

He really was the best dog who has been a constant for us in the great times and worst times.

I am fairly certain he knew before I did when I was pregnant with each kid. He was so cuddly and over protective during all of my pregnancies. I will probably remember this the most behind how patient he was once the kids were out and wreaking havoc in his life.

Crosby loved to chase all the things: cats, squirrels, turtles, chickens, tractors, neighborhood runners, leaves….you name it Crosby was not having it near our yard. He would just run with complete abandon.

He would even bark at things just because Grace was barking without even seeing what they were trying to ward off.

He loved to dig holes EVERY.WHERE. Then he would lay in his creation like he just made himself a king-sized bed.

He loved running into pools of water.

I will remember the first year we had him, he used to basically drag me around on our walks around Ft. Campbell.

I will remember that he did poop tornadoes.

I remember how he use to sprawl out wherever he slept. He hardly ever would cuddle with us, but he would cuddle with Grace.

I will remember that when both George and Daphne transitioned to big kid beds, we would often find Crosby at the end of the bed watching over them in those first few months out of the crib.

I am utterly heartbroken that we will not get to watch the kids grow up more with him. I am grief stricken that Walter and most likely Daphne will not have any memories of him.

This is hard y’all. He truly was the perfect dog for our family. We couldn’t have lucked out anymore with getting this chunk of love. He was such a happy chill dog who loved and protected us fiercely at the same time.

You always know that this day will come, but having to make the call this week to actually send him over the rainbow bridge is one of the hardest things I have had to do.

But watching him struggle to do basic functions, I know that he was just holding on until we were ready. Honestly, as weird as it sounds, when I watched him try for 10 minutes to do one of his poop tornadoes, it hit me so hard that this was the right call.

Although I would argue that you never are truly ready, it was time none the less.

Tom and I are a mess as this is a first for us both. It is a level of sadness and emptiness I cannot describe. Walking back into our home without him is truly awful.

The kids are truly the sweetest little beings. They threw him a party last night. They decorated the house and made him presents and a bone cake to send him off to heaven in style. George also wants a “cardboard” statue of him to keep forever. Daphne did cry when we left with him this morning, which was utterly devastating.

Grace keeps wondering around like she is searching for him. And she has been barking double in his absence today. Only time will tell if her separation anxiety will return.

I know that this week will haunt me for a long time, if not for the rest of my life. Watching him decline so quickly made me feel helpless. And then to lay next to him as he took his last breaths was very harrowing.

However, this is how I want to remember him. So I just need to play this on repeat, and I pray that we were able to recreate heaven on Earth for him.

Crobby Dobby, Crobbers, Crozie…

Crosby, there was so much love for you, but you gave us so much more.

See you on the other side buddy.