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September 13, 2008

Goodbye To My Beloved Daisy

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Daisypix Four weeks ago today I put my beloved Daisy to sleep. 

Many of you know about Daisy from my Doggie Frolics, but for those of you who don't, Daisy was my wonderful cocker spaniel that I had for eleven years.

She was my girl, my baby, and my puppy.  She was the best little dog anyone could want, sweet, smart, and quite the independent canine. 

She was also very healthy.  In fact it wasn't until the last two years that she began to have senior issues like high blood pressure and kidney problems, but still, with meds, dietary changes and frequent testing to monitor her, Daisy lived very nicely.

That is until my birthday two months ago when she couldn't get up.  Luckily after an overnight visit to the vet and an infusion of meds, I was able to bring her home.

Then about a month ago, once again, Daisy couldn't get up.  It was a Saturday, and since she seemed her normal elderly self otherwise, I decided to increase the dosage of her meds and see how she would do.  By Sunday, she still couldn't get on her feet and though she was eating the boiled eggs and bread I gave her, she wouldn't eat anything else.

Rena, Daisy's personal assistant as I liked to call her, was on vacation, so Rena's daughter was filling in, walking Daisy while I was at work.  On Monday, I went to work, but because Daisy had stopped eating altogether, I asked Rena's daughter to take her to the vet.

When I spoke to Daisy's vet later that afternoon, my heart sank. They would try Daisy on the meds they had given her a few weeks before, but she was now anemic and it was less likely the meds would be effective.  The only possible thing I could do for her anemia was to take her to a specialist and try a blood transfusion.  The vet wasn't recommending it right then, but she wanted me to know it was an option.

I left work and went to the vet's office to visit Daisy and though she was perky and awake, she wouldn't eat for me.  After about an hour, I left her at the office and was told to check in with the head of the practice the next day.  Her regular vet wouldn't be back in the office until Wednesday.

Throughout all this, I consulted with my friend Kay who supported me and gave me the best advice she could, since she not only was a die-hard animal lover, but she loved Daisy as her own. 

When I spoke to the head of the practice the next day, he told me the meds they were giving Daisy weren't working and her anemia was worse.  In addition, all of her other symptoms suggested that her system was shutting down.  He mentioned the option of a blood transfusion, but at the same time told me that it would probably only give her a week or two at most. And then there was still the issue of her not being able to get up. 

He added with some surprise that dogs with Daisy's health issues were usually comatose by now, and it was unusual that she was still conscious.  He then pointed out that unlike on my birthday when she was in better shape, it was now possible that she go die at any time.

I got off the phone and thought about what to do.  I didn't want to put me or Daisy through a trip to a specialist for a blood transfusion, and if she died when I wasn't with her, it would be unbearable.  I sat down and cried because I knew the time had come to let her go.

Her regular vet wouldn't be back until Wednesday, so I decided that was when I would have her put to sleep. 

I talked to Kay that afternoon and she suggested I bring Daisy home for one last night.  Part of me had wanted to do that, but my normal "go by the rules" attitude had said, she was better off at the vet, they could take better care of her.  But when Kay said I could do whatever I wanted, "just bring her home," I  was so relieved, I knew it was the right thing to do.

"If she dies when she's at home with you, so what?" Kay said.  "At least she'll be at home with you.  We always think we have to do what the doctors say, but we don't."

To this day I'm glad she said that because I might not have had the courage to bring her home otherwise, and that last night with Daisy was so very special to me.

Kay picked me up and we went to get Daisy.  Once at the vet's office, I made an appointment for the next morning, Wednesday at 10 AM, with Daisy's regular vet.  The office staff was very kind, and one of the technicians suggested I fill out the forms right then so I wouldn't have to deal with them the next morning.

When they handed me the paperwork, I nearly turned to stone.

I had the pen in my hand, and read what it said, and the weight of what it meant hit me as I scribbled my name.  Next to me Kay was barely able to contain the tears.

After a technician brought Daisy out to the car and put her on my lap, we drove off and then stopped at the supermarket to get a roast chicken and some ice cream to see if we could entice Daisy to eat.  I was already fully stocked with doggie diapers and wee wee pads, so I had a palette of blankets and pads on the living room floor waiting for her when we got home.

The feeling of satisfaction having her in the house was so overwhelming, I knew I had done the right thing to bring her back home.  Kay and I gave her water and fed her what little chicken she would nibble and laughed as she lapped at the ice cream. 

Kay sat with Daisy in the living room, while I did my first BlogHer podcast interview, which had been previously scheduled for that night and which helped take my mind off everything.

Afterward, we ordered Chinese food and took turns sitting on the floor.

When Kay left, it was just me and Daisy.  I sat with her on my lap watching TV, I laid with her on the floor, I cleaned up the vomit of ice cream and chicken, and I took her outside and held her up as she peed.  She had diarrhea and after she was done, I would bring her back in, clean her up, and then hose off the patio.

Even at the end she resisted going in the house and would try to get up to go outside.

I did that several times through the night and now you understand why those doggie diapers were so great.  Expensive, but great. 

The rest of the night I made sure she was comfortable.  I slept in my bed for a few hours, but most of the night I slept on the floor next to Daisy, stroking her soft fur and telling her how much I loved her.

Bringing her home not only gave her and I another night together, but reinforced for me that putting her to sleep was the right decision.  Seeing her useless limbs unable to support her as I held her up to pee reminded me of the vibrant little dog she used to be, and never would be again.

The next morning, while I waited for Kay and her husband to pick me up, I sat with Daisy on the porch, the sun shining on her face, and told her how great she was.  She responded by pooping in her diaper and I decided to take that as a positive response.  Once last time I cleaned her up and wrapped her in blankets.

I was doing okay until we got to the vet's office.  Facing that front door, part of me wanted to back up and say, "No, not today." 

But instead, I walked through the door.  The technician showed us into an examining room and I didn't totally lose it until I saw Daisy's vet's sad face. 

The first thing I said to her was, "I didn't want anyone else to do it except you." 

The vet was very nice, and very sensitive, giving me as much time as I needed, explaining that she would give Daisy a tranquilizer first.  They'd left the IV needle in Daisy's leg, so they didn't need to go through the procedure of finding a vein.  When I was finally ready, the vet gave her the tranquilizer, and finally, the drugs to put her to sleep.  The technician had warned me that her eyes wouldn't close so I was prepared when the vet checked for a heartbeat and then quietly told me she was gone. 

The vet came over and touched my shoulder and all I could think was how quiet it all was.  Daisy just slipped away and the part of me that could feel anything but grief was satisfied by that.  Kay and her husband were with me and I could feel somebody's hand on my back and hear Kay crying.

The vet left us alone and I hugged Daisy's still warm body for a while and cried into her fur before taking the last doggie diaper off.  Kay gave me a pair of scissors so we could clip some of her black and white curls to save. 

A few minutes later, Kay and her husband left me alone for a private goodbye.

Then, when I was finally ready, I called for the technician and she took my Daisy away. 

I hugged her pink and blue blanket to my chest and went outside knowing I had given Daisy a good life and in the end done the right thing by her.

Once in the car, Kay, Alex and I pulled ourselves together and went to the beach with some Starbuck's.  We toasted to Daisy and released some of her hair to the wind.  It was bright, sunny and beautiful.  We sat, chatted and tried to feel better.

Now a month later, I've buried most of Daisy's ashes in the garden so the nasty squirrels will still know she's around.  I have a clay paw print with her name on it that the crematorium sent with her ashes and which I treasure.  I went to the groomers who always took such good care of her and let them know what had happened.  I didn't want her to just disappear. 

I underestimated how hard that was going to be.  To go there and not be picking up Daisy was almost more than I could bear.

But I have many lovely pictures of her and video as well.  I'll put all that together sometime soon into a nice tribute.  Sometime when I can emotionally handle it.

Getting through this post was hard enough.  I've pretty much used up the tissue box. 

My house feels like it has a huge hole in it.  Who knew a little twenty-five pound dog could hold such a great presence?  Sometimes I think I hear her tags tinkling, and it's weird to get up every morning and not have to open the back door to let her out.  I go to get ice from the freezer and I no longer have to get extra to put in her water bowl. 

But as Kay says, ultimately, all this pain is worth it.  It's worth the wonderful years I had with her, it's worth the wonderful way she made me feel, it's worth the smiles and the laughter and the companionship.  It's worth it to have had her for those eleven years.

Daisy made me a better person because she allowed the side of me, the soft, vulnerable, and unprotected side, to open up and exist.  Before Daisy, I rarely allowed that side of myself out of its tightly lidded box, but once out, I loved it.  Daisy did that for me and for that and so many other countless things, I will always be grateful to her.

She was my girl...my baby...and my puppy.  She was my beloved Daisy. 

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