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last five entries

endings are the new beginnings - 2015-06-22
who cares valerian - 2014-11-10
she said / they said - 2013-12-10
hindsight is perfect - 2013-11-12
Stella - 2013-11-04

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2013-11-04 -

It was like the start of any other day. Work, do a bunch of random stuff I don't remember now, more work. I was feeling kind of bad that we had this new puppy at home and as a result, I had not been as attentive to our other two dogs like I normally was. I always treat them like literal babies, which no book or expert ever advises, but I didn't ask for their advice and the dogs always seemed thrilled with my decision, so who cares? Since bringing the puppy home recently, they had both been getting really skinny, which I think started as a sort of reactionary stress thing that simply turned into a half assed hunger strike by default. Consequently, I decided to start making homemade dog food for everyone, because the daily dog treats and chicken bribes to try and fatten the other two back up were getting labor intensive and kind of insane. At least by making it all myself I could neurotically monitor the quality of the ingredients and cut down on some time.

The homemade food thing was a definite hit with all three of them. I usually mix some organ meat or ground lamb with a bunch of vegetables, and stir in a few poached eggs and a bunch of other things that are good for dogs, according to people that have dogs. Then I slow cook it all over the stove like a fat Italian grandmother and smile broadly when I see that they like it.

The bulldog has yet to refuse anything I put in or near her mouth, so she never complains at all. She also has adorable little lips, which is very funny to me. I think she was specifically designed to appreciate whatever potential food item approaches her fat little cartoon face.

The two adults started to put on some weight after about a week of the new diet. Although one morning I looked at our 91 lb yellow Retriever / Collie mix Stella, and saw that her fur was puffing out on the sides. I had told her a few nights before that I would do my best to fatten her up again, right before we went to sleep, partly feeling guilty that she got so skinny, and partly because I'm ridiculous and think I can transmit messages that dogs can understand. But I still couldn't get how she got that bulky so fast. She was definitely ignoring me when I first brought the puppy home, like she would literally turn her head away from me for weeks whenever I went to kiss or pet her. We were finally past that stage, but now this.

I forgot all about it, until my husband mentioned how bloated she looked the following day. Now I felt like an ignorant dog caretaker. Of course it wasn't normal! I looked at her again and saw that that she looked even more bloated from both sides at this point, which I have never seen on any dog . I should've realized this could've been something serious. Since he was on his way to work, I offered to take her to the vet while he was gone. He said he really wanted to be there with her too, so we should just wait till the morning.

I started to feel really unsettled about waiting. We both finally agreed this didn't look ok enough to wait, although she didn't seem to be in any pain. I knelt down by her and touched her sides (lightly, I'm not an asshole). She didn't flinch, although she didn't seem to be totally her normal self, either. She just looked at me like she usually does, infinitely calm and grounded. I've been saying for the past couple of years since The Walking Dead tv show started, that she has the same way of looking through you that Hershel, the wise old doctor with the white beard looks at people.

Just to make sure she wasn't in any kind of immediate agony, I gave her a piece of chicken. She ate it. So I gave her a few more. She ate them too. Then I got fancy and threw her a couple more but high up in the air, and like always, she caught them in her mouth. Well it wasn't her stomach. My husband said she hadn't been keeping up on the hikes the past couple of days either, so maybe it started a few days ago. We debated it some more, and decided he would take her to the vet before work in the next half hour. At the least, if they needed to keep her a while, I could pick her up later while he was working. Then the two of them hopped in the truck and he said he'd text me as soon as they knew what was wrong with her.

An hour later, he called me, really upset. It turned out the vet took some X-rays and a sample of her fluid in a test tube vial, and announced that they couldn't help her, and that he should to take her to the ER near downtown LA - right now, they said. I didn't know they had an animal ER. Turns out they do.

He swung by to pick me up, and when I got in, there she was, just hanging out, lying in the back of the truck like always, looking kind of curious about where she was going. She could've been going on a mountain hike for all she knew, except for that she wasn't. She didn't look like she was uncomfortable, she looked like she normally looked, wise and playful and hungry. I kept turning around to look at her anyway, and we figured that it couldn't be too comfortable having fluid filling up your insides no matter what you were looking like to us. I did start feeling kind of anxious, and my husband was already a wreck.

We got to the hospital, which was directly across the street from the LA River, which has always been our dogs' favorite spot to walk, before we moved the last time. I jumped out of the truck to get a head start and told him I'd meet them inside. I ran into the place with the pink vial of fluid and the CD of her X-rays and her paperwork, and realized how eerily reminiscent of an actual ER this place was. I walked up to the nursing station front desk, handed over her stack of veterinary items and started crying. They asked us if we needed assistance bringing her in, and I turned around to see him carrying her out of the back of the truck. Her hips weren't as good lately, so she couldn't really jump out of the truck on her own the past few months. Maybe it was hip fluid making her so bloated! That could be fine, we'd just replace her hips. (I did see a dog with bionic legs once, and one dog with skates on her amputated feet rolling down a sidewalk not too long ago on the west side. We'd work it out). Anyway, she was only nine years old, and very resilient. He had her since she was a puppy.

There were at least 15 people working behind the nursing station. They all looked like any other doctors, drinking coffee, filling out charts and running around in their scrubs. One of them led Stella away for some tests while we sat in the waiting room crying and wringing tissues, looking like a Hallmark movie rerun.

When the doctor came out and motioned for us to come into her room, she was more or less poker faced, so who knew what she actually knew? She told us they were going to do more tests. We sat another hour in the waiting room and I thought about how only people with dogs could understand how much like our children they truly are. Stella was our oldest daughter, and house sage, who was a sensitive creature that just wanted a walk and a few treats on a pretty regular basis. Low maintenance. She was probably wondering what in the hell was going on to elicit this kind of production.

The doctor came back out and we followed her back into her office. She told us Stella had two huge masses inside her heart, and that was why the fluid was leaking into her body. She said that she would actually need to have her chest cracked open and have open heart surgery in order to get them out. She said it also required two separate surgeries, which she didn't recommend doing. She called it "not moving forward."

We told her to go ahead and do it anyway.

She told us it wasn't about being expensive, or difficult to do, it just wasn't recommended due to what state it might leave her in after, and that Stella would likely have heart arrhythmia as one potential result, if she even survived it. She showed us the x-rays and said they had never seen anything like what she had, and that that it would be a highly risky and invasive surgery that would compromise her health tremendously. She said she also had a mass under her chin, which neither of us had any idea about. I repeatedly nodded my head while she spoke to us, until I had to turn away from her to just - I don't know - collapse, into my husband. I told her I was sorry, but to please hold on for a second. I really couldn't compose myself in any way. She seemed to be used to it, and kept her professional gaze on me without changing her expression. I thought wow, she's really very good at this.

We asked her a few more times about Stella's chances of survival and she nicely told us they would agree to do the surgeries if we said to, but it would hurt her more than help her in the end. She also said that if we did decide to put her to sleep, that they would only ask us if they could study her body afterwards to perform an autopsy, because it was such an unusual case, and they'd like to study and document her results for the benefit of science. They would send us the autopsy results after it was all over and done with. I really didn't care that I couldn't lift my face off of her desk while she talked. I just couldn't believe that this is what she was telling us.

She left the room to let us make our decision, asking us to let her know when we had decided what we were going to do. Surprisingly, after a couple of WTF moments, we were able to make the same decision fairly quickly. It seemed cruel to operate on her, we both felt that. But we let the doctor know that we wanted to at least be there with her when she went.

Two techs brought in an American Indian wool blanket and put it down on the floor. They then brought Stella in on a disposable looking leash so we could say goodbye to her. She usually despised going to the vets and generally howled when we came to pick her up from the groomer, but she seemed really calm, which I didn't understand, but was relieved about.

We saw there were little circles of electrode tape on her legs, and one of her sides was shaved in a huge rectangle. I felt the lump under her chin, but it seemed like a minor infraction compared to the giant masses on her heart. She ran towards us and came up and kissed me gently on the face. When we hugged her she smelled like fresh band aids. I was happy she was ok at the moment, and wished I had brought some treats. All I had was a mini twizzler in a little wrapper in my bag. She loved candy.
We laid her down and I gave it to her. She ate it like it was a holiday.

All in 10 minutes, we broke down over her, talked to her, and dripped tears all over her big furry neck, then hugged her again and lay down next to her so we could hold her. I didn't feel like I wanted to stop kissing her, so I just cut it short, so as to not drag the process on for her sake. She still seemed so normal and unassuming, and I didn't want it to change. We thanked her for everything she gave us over the years. I told her to please come and haunt us.

Then we let the doctor back in. She sat down on the floor with us and showed us two huge syringes. She looked a little more human to me on the floor. She explained that the first injection was just to make her calm, and put her to sleep, like a relaxing tranquilizer. The second one would end her life. I don't think she phrased it exactly like that. Then she calmly took out the first syringe, and injected her with it. It made her drop her head to the floor and fall asleep within seconds, like she had been suddenly hypnotized . At least she didn't have to go through a trauma like a car accident, where we couldn't be there to help her transition. I touched her, but it she was in a deep sleep. That was good, for what it was worth.

Then the doctor took out the second syringe and held it up so we could see it. She really was a pretty good doctor.


We nodded, and she gave us consoling looks as she filled her with syringe liquid. I thought about why I hadn't told her to go towards the light earlier, instead of telling her to come and haunt us. God. What's wrong with me!

She twitched just a little and then she was perfectly still. I didn't see any burst of energy or sparks, but I tried to imagine her soul flying up into the air and out of the building into the sky, to make myself feel better.

"Okay, so her heart has just stopped´┐Ż"

"She's completely dead, now?"



She said something else, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was.

"I'll give you some time with her, ok?"


"Just let me know when you're ready."


There she was, lifeless on an American Indian wool blanket. She was gone.

When we opened the door to leave, no one at the nursing station seemed to have had any kind of notable transformation in the past hour aside from us. And of course Stella. Someone was filling the coffee pot. Business as usual. Life was still happening, surprisingly.

We stumbled out into the night and a magnificent full and looming moon hovered over us and illumined the LA River behind us. It comforted me, because it was as otherworldly as this entire day had been.

The ride home was

"So that's it?"

"Now what?"

"That was the only thing we could do."

"What do we do now?"

"What the hell just happened?"

"I get it. Heart masses. It's my fault. The puppy. She died of a broken heart!"

"I feel so sick."

"Why did we just do that?"

"What if we would've taken her home for a night?"

Five minutes into the drive home, a huge truck pulled directly in front of us on the freeway. On the back of it in huge letters it said


We laughed and I knew it was a sign.

When we got home we felt sick about how empty the house was, and about her lonely collar and sad leash that had no more life in them. Life was already so different without her. We cried for days. We had no way to convey it to the other two. There was nothing to do left but lie there, cry there and be there.

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