I Miss My Doggie

I hate it when people begin a blog post by apologizing to readers for not posting in a long time. I think it is annoying so I will spare you. I know I haven’t written anything for about a month and to be honest, the two posts that were published, I actually wrote before Brody died and I had scheduled them to post on their own.

I just passed a month without my best friend and it doesn’t seem to get much easier. As Adam wrote, when I am going through a hard time it can always be fixed with a cuddle date with Brody. Now I am sadder than I can remember and my magic elixir is missing.

I know many people think they are just dogs but they are so much more than that. Brody has been my best friend since I was 20. He was my protector, the ultimate listener and my version of Prozac. There was not a single day that went by that he didn’t make me laugh.

Brody was larger than life and we lived his life to the fullest. It was not easy keeping that dog alive, even before the cancer. Brody had some special needs and an internal compass that was permanently askew. I could tell you Brody stories every day and you would find it hard to believe they were all about the same dog. His judgement wasn’t always the best like the time he jumped down a waterfall, ate a bottle of rug cleaner or approached a large skunk the way you would another dog (he went to go sniff the skunks rear – it ended badly).

Losing this part of your life is more than losing a pet. Your life, your schedule, your buying habits, exercising habits and how you just live your day to day life are around around this animal. You need to relearn how you do everything. With a special needs pup like Brody, my life very much revolved around him.

What I have

I do not have Brody but I know I do have a lot. I have a wonderful husband who has let me grieve in the way I need to. I have wonderful friends and family who have come to see me and let me know that they are thinking about me. I have an understanding boss and coworkers who have given me the space and time that I need to figure this out.

What I also have is the confidence that I did everything I could for my hairy friend. I never knew if when it was time, I would be able to make the decisions I needed to make. I know, I knew and I can sleep knowing I did everything that I could. The day I had to put Brody down, he had been in a lot of pain and a CT scan showed that he had dozens of lesions in his spine and in his ribs. The cancer was back, it was big and there was nothing I could do to fix it.

I have comfort in all the decisions I made along the way. The day Brody shattered his leg in April and we found out about the bone cancer, I made some decisions about what we would do. I took all my clues from Brody on what he wanted and what he was up for. With the amputation and the chemo, we got an extra 10 months and every day it was like he knew it was a gift. There was an actual smile on that dog’s face that didn’t go away until right near the end.

I loved that dog, let’s be honest, I was obsessed with that dog and taking the best care I could of him. He deserved it. Now I have to figure out how to carry on. I will. It will take time. I don’t know how much but I bet it is a lot. I think there will always be places and things I won’t be able to do without thinking of him and those will be little gifts.

Thanks everyone for your patience, your love and your kind words. They are truly appreciated. I will get back into blogging regularly about all the other pieces of life I come across. This is a part of my life and I appreciate that I had you and this blog to share it with.

Thank You Brody

Brody was a lifestyle

This is a guest post from my husband

“I have a dog!” I didn’t appreciate that I had rolled my eyes upon hearing this answer, as I immediately pictured the vast array of purses she must possess as carriage for her ‘mini-dog’, because she followed right up with: “no really, a real dog… he’s BIG, his name’s Brody”… and so the conversation with the beautiful blonde at the concert continued.

As Amanda and I continued dating, this fact was not lost on me and I can still vividly recall the first time I laid eyes on that magnificent mass of muscle. Not to sound cliché, but anyone who met Brody would agree he was seemingly chiseled out of a stone block without a piece of flab to be found or an inch of his frame misused.

As I stood there pondering the various ethical and moral implications of someone mating a Doberman with a Rottweiler, he wasted no time reminding me of whose house I was in, and whose girl I was there with and that she was not meant for sharing. I had decided to make quick work of our introduction and become best friends on the spot, but Brody had other plans and it became quite apparent his trust and respect was to be earned. Luckily there was footage of the encounter:

Brody and I eventually bonded over rough-housing and chasing each other around the house (not allowed), playing in parks off-lease (not allowed) eating food originally intended for humans (not allowed) and playing tug of war (also not allowed).

Brody and AdamWe excelled at getting caught and he would unknowingly toss me under the proverbial ‘bus’ as I often as I tattled on him. As many times as I shared tales of an XL size paw print on the counter, or an empty tissue box that I knew to be full the day before, he would just as swiftly snitch on me as he unwittingly exposed our secrets of food we would share against Amanda’s well-intended wishes. Whether already tucked in for the night or on the opposite end of the house he would bolt up and all 95 pounds would bound through the house en-route (often missing the turn while sliding sideways on hardwood floors) to the kitchen at the slightest hint of cheese slices being opened, a hardboiled egg being cracked or an ice cube tray coming out of the freezer, plowing over anything in his path. Our biggest bust may have been his over-exuberance when the whip cream can came out of the fridge… that would be our last day attempting that feat.

While I may have witnessed it for many years, even I cannot fully appreciate the bond those two had together, and what they each truly meant to each other. From the first day after adoption to their last days here at home Brody remained a source of joy, security, pride and a tremendous source of strength to Amanda, and for this he will never be forgotten. I cannot thank him enough for loyally standing watch over Amanda as she transitioned from a 20 year-old college kid (…with a puppy), to the intelligent and beautiful woman and loving wife we know and love today. Chili and I truly have some big paws to fill.

Brody keeps secretsBrody was everything to Amanda: most loyal companion, good listener, protector, dance partner (4-legged version), co-pilot, singing buddy (little known fun-fact: the word “Brody” is actually incorporated into the lyrics of every song written… ever), cuddle-buddy, trail-guide, shoulder to cry on, a soft pillow after a long day and a daily welcome-home party.

Often the longest part of Brody’s day was the time (what seemed like hours) it took Amanda to reach the top of the stairs after her car came to a rest in the garage signaling her arrival home. I was almost always third in line to get my welcome-home kiss, which was fine as I was usually crowded out of the dog’s waiting spot at the top of the stairs… their tails/nubs wagging wildly.

Having been a dog owner for close to 20 years, I naively thought I could appropriately anticipate life with Brody; after all he is just a dog. Wrong. Brody was anything but your typical dog and the easiest way I can explain living with Brody, was that ‘Brody’ was a lifestyle. His hulk and bulk were hard to ignore but it was the little things we loved about the guy. He would often grunt and growl and play games with himself that we still aren’t sure if he knew he was playing alone? He would spin wildly in place and plop his front paws down like the puppy he was, always with a smile and a wiggle of the nub. Brody’s character permeated everything he did, and it was this goofball character that made his transition to a tripawd so easy for both himself and his mother.

In the coming weeks we will be tasked with deciding Brody’s final resting place. One would assume we would choose his favorite spot, but he has so many to choose from as he truly loved everything and everywhere. Running in the waves along the sands of Ferry Beach (favorite), chasing turkeys and squirrels at my parents’ house (favorite), swimming for tennis balls while swimming upright like a seahorse at Little Sebago (favorite), or bounding over bridges and tree roots while giving chase to Chili through the Fore River Sanctuary (also favorite).

Brody on the boatIf we asked him, I think Brody may have settled on the same answer his mother would: Peaks Island. With as big of a smile a dog could muster, the pair would always enjoy a crossing on the bow of the ferry, with that massive head poking out through the gate, doing his best to consume all of the salt air and scenery he could. I already miss these trips. He truly loved each lap of that island (especially with Stan in Trees – the truck), each trip to Centennial beach and each stay with his loving grandparents who I know are sharing this aching with us.

Amanda is in pain right now; there is a hole in her heart I cannot fill right now and a hurt I can only hope will soften with time… as the only one who could make it all better is now gone.

Thank you Brody for a lifetime of memories.

Brody Burrito

Please Meet Me at the Door

Sleepy BrodyPlease meet me at the door.
Please, I’ll do anything.

This is my new mantra every time I drive towards my house. I repeat it. I beg. I cry. I park the car holding my breath and I walk in the door full of wishes and promises to do anything to have Brody meet me at the top of the stairs.

I have heard that knowing your dog is sick matters less about their food consumption, less about their energy level and more on that one moment when you come home – are they greeting you at the front door? It has been about two weeks and only once or twice (yesterday was one of them) have my prayers been answered and there has been a wiggly nub waiting for me as I walk through the doorway.

Brody is hurt and we can’t find the pain. We have had x-rays, we have had blood work, we have had an ultrasound, we have tested for lyme and he passes every medical test. It isn’t the cancer, it isn’t the solo hind leg, it isn’t an infection and it isn’t lyme. I am out of money – let’s face it… I am beyond the point of out of money. We have him on 3 pain killers and have him on the oral chemo. He eats, drinks and goes to the bathroom just fine but he hurts and I hurt too.

I haven’t slept in my bed with my wonderful husband in about two weeks. I sleep on the schedule of a new mother – I sleep when my baby sleeps and that is a sporadic schedule. We have more appointments that I cannot afford next week. Until then I keep him comfortable, we snuggle, I operate day to day on autopilot and I hope, pray, and make deals with higher powers for some sign of recovery.

I have invested most of my wishes on that wiggly nub at the top of the stairs, greeting me at the door when I come home – that will be my sign.

Anticipatory Grief

At least one of us is all smiles

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you did too. I will admit, I spent too much of my day fighting back tears welling in my eyes though.

I took to the internet to diagnose my issues and found a name for what I think I am struggling with – anticipatory grief.

Brody is sick. Brody has been sick since the end of April. Since then I have gone through waves of sadness. Now with those damn holidays creeping up on me, the emotional levels, as usual, seem to heighten exponentially.

Instead of enjoying my Thanksgiving with my puppy, I spent most of the day agonizing on if this is our last Thanksgiving together.

I really know how to kill a nice day.

Something about having a name for how I am feeling is empowering and makes me feel a little less insane. It is a thing and now that I have a thing – I can go to battle with it.

The day Brody broke his leg, I was sent home with no hope and nothing to even pray for. I was told they would make him comfortable but we would be putting him down the next day. Amputation wasn’t even on the table until the following day. But Brody passed every test, blew every vet and vet assistant out of the water and was a great candidate for the surgery. He wasn’t done yet.

Each extra day with my main man is a blessing and here I am trying to ruin it all by being sad all the time. No more. Time to buck up and be psyched for each day we have got! I need to take advantage of each day and stop agonizing over what will happen in the future.

We DO have a big appointment Thursday though so I will still be accepting good thoughts and prayers!

Waiting for the boat on Thanksgiving Day

No One is Afraid of a Three Legged Rottweiler

Three legged BrodyAs you know, my dog Brody has three legs – he actually just had his 6 month ampuversary. I got Brody when he was too young (5 weeks) and when I was too young (20) but over the past 12 years, we have figured out some things and become quite the team.

Brody is half Rottweiler and half Doberman.
Strangers typically don’t like us.

We gave up on dog parks early on because if there was ever a scuffle, the Rottweiler is always to blame (even though you all know it was that Pomeranian who started it). In crowded public places we tend to stick to quiet corners so mothers don’t haul their babies away from the ‘attack dog’. When we first moved into our adorable neighborhood on a cul-de-sac, my new neighbor even referred to Brody as ‘the evil dog’ and told her children to stay away from him.

Brody, I think, grew to be nervous around people because people were nervous around him.

Now Brody has three legs. He is the same dog he was before but missing a limb. Since the accident and recovery, I have noticed a huge change in Brody’s public personality. Wherever he goes, he acts like he is the mayor. He walks up to strangers, he leans in to guys on the boat for an ear scratch, he smiles and wiggles his nub and he greets every dog he sees.

At first I attributed it to the fact that he was no longer in pain, or that he was just so happy to be alive but last weekend I think I figured out why the public personality switch – people SMILE at him.

Brody at home is sweet, funny and cuddly. Home is where he feels safe and liked. Last weekend when we were taking the boat to Peaks he was doing his new routine of greeting everyone while they waited, poking his head in ladies grocery bags to see what they had and making friends. I picked my head up and noticed something I never saw before – everyone waiting for the boat was looking at Brody and smiling. People came up to him and said he was a good boy and asked questions about his amputation.

Three-legged Brody isn’t scary. He is a survivor. He is an old dog who makes people route for him. He is down a limb but he is happy and active. Brody likes people now, because people like him. Women aren’t snatching up their babies when he walks by, they are pointing him out (‘see the old doggy sweetie’) and they are asking if their child can pat him.

Since this realization I have been thinking a lot about human assumptions of not just animals but of other people. How much of how we treat a person affects their personality or just their day? Are we projecting more on other people than they are expressing to us?

Just something to think about and while I do, Brody and I are going to walk around and make sure we are smiling back at all of our potential new friends.

Donating What You Want, When You Want

Donation boxAs most of you know, Brody (my dog) has bone cancer. During each of his chemo treatments, I was a complete mess. Mind you this was merely weeks after his horrible accident and amputating his hind leg so I shouldn’t have been allowed out in the real world.

At his second chemo appointment, I decided to run an errand instead of waiting. The treatment itself was going to be about 45 minutes. Instead of waiting there and panicking, I decided to run to PetCo to pick up some of his new food.

I gathered my items and went to check out.
After my items were scanned the teller woman asked me:
“Would you like to donate to the Pet Cancer Awareness Fund?”
“No thank you, I am already quite aware”, was my curt response.
She looked at me with a disappointed grimace. I grabbed my things and left.

As I left the store, I was surprised at how angry I was. I am using most of the energy I have to hold myself together, I just wanted to run a simple errand and I was again bothered to donate to another cause. She obviously had no idea where I was coming from, or what was going on in my life but it felt like some type of invasion.

How many other people have been made to feel this way as they check out of the super market, at a movie theatre, while at an event? Why are we pushing issues and causes at people while they shop?

I bet these campaigns are really successful. Catch people in public, where they will be judged by their peers if they say ‘no’. Catch people when they are spending money and they might be willing to lose their change or one dollar more to help a cause. Yes, I bet they work – but they are uncomfortable too.

I am not rich, not even close, but I actually donate a good amount of time and money to causes that are important to me but I do them on my own time. I also love to donate to friends who are running a race, completing a triathlon or a bike race for a cause. Not just for the cause to but in support of my friend’s effort.

Shameless plug: Feel free, if you are in the mood right now to donate to my ‘bail’. I am being ‘arrested’ this Wednesday and need to make my bail to get out. Proceeds go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association to send two kids to Pine Tree Camp. Not a bad cause.

Should we be able to donate what we want, when we want?

In a better world, yes. As I said before, I bet these at-the-checkout campaigns are effective but what do you know about these organizations and where is your money going? Like the Pet Cancer Awareness Fund I was hit up for at Petco… what the heck is that? Is it to educate owners on getting xrays more regularly? Where would my money go? To making pamphlets about cancer or to making more boxes to put at more checkouts?

Should you donate? Of Course! If you have something, you have more than someone else. I am a firm believer in donating to an organization in need. If you don’t have money, you at least have your time and talent to give and everyone has blood… you can always at least donate your blood 🙂 But what I like to do is select my cause, my amount, and how and when I donate it. What I have decided I don’t like is being asked at the checkout to donate to mysterious causes.

Donor’s Choose

If you are new to donating or if you are wary because you want to know where your hard earned money is going, you should check out Donor’s Choose. With this special organization donor’s choose what public school projects and supplies they want to give to and how much. They also get updates from the student on what their contribution did for these children. Pretty cool ‘eh?

My friend Marc Pitman told me about donorschoose.org. I thought this was a great idea. No more wondering where your money is going when you write that check – now you can choose exactly what you want your money to be used for. There is a short video below with some more information.

Should I have been so abrupt with the poor girl at PetCo? Probably not but for the first time the cause that was being shoved in my face at a checkout was something I was way too close to and it made me think about how many times this has happened to other people. Should you donate to causes and funds and nonprofits and charities etc., of course you should and maybe if they all meet their quotas they will stop bugging us when we are buying our toilet paper.

If you do want to make a donation, I would still recommend going straight to your cause and researching them and what they do with donor dollars. Something tells me when you cut out the middle man at the check-out line, the organization gets the funds more directly.

Obviously this is my opinion spurred by an uncomfortable situation but I would love to hear from more of you on your thoughts on the matters I brought up… my mind can always be changed.

Photo credit: Mindful One

Can Three Legged Dogs Swim?

throw the ballPopular question when people hear about our journey with Brody is if he can still swim. Good news is, yes he can and we have video proof for your entertainment!

Now Brody wasn’t a very GOOD swimmer to start. He lifts his front paws up out of the water, we think it is because he is trying to keep his head dry. Of course, since he lifts his legs out of the water, they make a huge splash as they enter the water and he ends up getting more wet.

So don’t judge on form because that has always been a little off.

http://www.facebook.com/v/10150241394968983

I cannot thank enough the wonderful people at Portland Veterinary Specialists and Portland Animal Emergency Clinic for making all of this chapter possible. Brody is happier than I have ever seen him and having an awesome summer. Leaps and bounds from where we were just 2 months ago.