The Struggle of Life and Death

I’m no stranger to death. I’ve lost people and pets alike throughout my life, taking both incredibly hard and grieving with pain in my soul.

I knew that I adopted a pet, that I would most likely outlive it. I know the lifespan of dogs, especially bigger dogs, and especially especially older dogs. I knew this going in. It still doesn’t change the incredible pain in my heart as I struggle to process the news that my little Ginger Lou has a tumor living inside her chest, between her heart and lungs.

She was sick the other night, out of the blue, throwing up bile and continuing to throw up every hour all through the night. Sure, she’s thrown up before, especially from eating too much grass. But never like this. The next morning as I prompted her to eat a little baked sweet potato, she shook so much with fatigue that she fell into a laying position because she just didn’t have the strength to stand up anymore. It broke my heart.

We saw the vest that afternoon and she couldn’t really say what was wrong. They asked if they could run some blood work and X-ray’s and I said yes. Since this is the first time in the 8 years that I’ve had her where I had to see the vet outside of her annual exam, I figured the money was well worth it.

Her blood work came back pretty normal, but her chest X-ray showed a shadow that gave the doctors concern. They sent the X-ray off to a radiologist for reading, I fell asleep in my tears Thursday night on the couch because I didn’t want to be too far from my girl.

Friday, she woke up with more energy, eating her chicken and sweet potato with gusto. I was relieved. She was back on track to normal. Everything would be fine.

The vet called me at 1:30pm and that’s when my world fell apart. The diagnosis was a tumor. A tumor that could be any one of three different forms of cancer, one being Lymphoma. I stood in the supply closet of my company and broke down with the vet on the phone. I tried to listen to every word, and she was full of compassion and lots of options. She said as long as Ginger was feeling better, that I could take some time to think about what I believe the best course of action should be. I hung up the phone, went to the bathroom to try and pull myself together and realized that I had to leave. Thank god for understanding bosses because I received a text back 1 minute after I sent mine saying that he understood. Home I went, sobbing the whole way, trying to rationalize with myself that I knew this day would come. It didn’t matter, my heart was still grieving.

I spent the afternoon falling apart every few minutes. I held her, I sat with her, I called friends and tried to get a grip on my emotions. My saving grace was the conversation with my caretaker in Seattle. Not only is she a mom-figure for me, she held my hand through chemo and literally walked me through to recovery. On top of that, she’s had to go through four pets passing away. She listened, gave me solid advice, reminded me that only I know Ginger the best and only I am the one capable of making this decision for her. She understood why this was such a triggering event, and overall just spoke words of affirmation over me.  After that call, I calmed down some. I’ve still had bouts of crying over the past 12 hours, but it’s been better.

Ginger and I went to bed early since she had actually jumped into my bed around 7pm. I crawled in with her and watched Netflix with my arm curled around her until we fell asleep. We woke up this morning in a little spoon, and are now spending the morning outside. It’s sunny and warm and a very real welcome to the past few days.

I’m still processing through everything, but I’m fairly certain I already know my decision for Ginger. I’ve known it all along. I’ve never wanted to subject my pet to chemo or radiation. I know what those treatments are like, and I imagine they’re even worse when you can’t understand them. Ginger has lived a gloriously healthy life with me. I’m sure I can’t take all the credit because I think she’s just a magical girl, but I know I’ve given her a really good life. I know that even though she’s stubborn as hell, and isn’t much of a cuddler, that she knows she’s mine and that she can count of me to keep her safe.

She’s truly been my ride or die. I adopted her 3 months after finishing treatment and she has been with me through thick and thin. She was my rock after a horrible breakup that sent me into a pretty bad depression. She kept me moving. She let me cry on her when I was scared before every follow-up oncology appointment for the next five years. She taught me unconditional love and always welcomed me home with a happy personality and a wagging tail. She endured a four day long car ride across the country to start a new life. She was my only friend here for awhile and she easily explored areas with me. She was with me to celebrate the purchase of our first home and to romp around in the yard in joy.

She’s been a constant companion. A personality like none other. She’s taught me patience and loyalty. She’s taught me endurance and strength. Hell, she single-handedly started this blog. She sparked my creativity. I could never have picked a better fit for me than her.

And for however long I have left with her, I’m going to make sure she knows how much she’s loved and adored. I’ll spoil her endlessly because she deserves it. She has changed my life and brought me through so much. I know I wouldn’t be who I am without her. I want her to leave this world in as much comfort as possible. I want her to be here at home, with me. At the end of the day, this decision has to be about her, not about getting what I want or need.

She’s lived 14 glorious years and I hope she lives another few, but I won’t have her living them for my sake. This will be her third act and it’s my honor and privilege to walk with her through it.

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