It has been a devastating four weeks in our house.
About five and a half weeks ago, Guinness and Kaylee went in for their annual checkups. Clean bills of health, and Kaylee had a small cyst removed which meant returning the next week for staple removal. Easy. Routine. Same old, same old.
A few days later, Guinness developed a small cough. So small, it was barely noticeable. We thought – oh – a little kennel cough, I guess. He’s fine.
And until the following Wednesday, Guinness was fine. His cough improved. He and Kaylee played throughout the day, he mooched for treats as usual, he ate a hearty dinner with his usual appetite. The dogs enjoyed pig’s ears in the evening. I read a book upstairs with Kaylee, and Guinness cuddled with Jason, sharing a few potato chips while watching a movie.
By bedtime, there was a slight wheeze in his breathing. We knew we had a vet appointment for Kaylee the next day, so we thought “we’ll ask them to squeeze him in and just take a quick look. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
The next morning “it’s nothing” had turned into “can you fit us in ASAP please?” – the wheezing had gotten significantly worse. We drove straight to the vet, assuming that that mild case of kennel cough had flared up – at worst, poor Guinness had picked up a case of pneumonia.
We were so wrong.
Guinness’s chest and abdomen were riddled with tumours. On the x-ray, his whole chest cavity looked like a snowstorm. His liver, spleen and lungs were all involved. The cancer was aggressive, and it was everywhere.
The vet said he probably had a few good days. He didn’t.
That afternoon, we took Guinness home to let him recover from the anesthetic. We wanted to see our boy again, and all doped up he was anxious, uncomfortable and very much not-himself.
We sat up all night with him, in turns, just being there by his side while he struggled to breathe. Around two in the morning the anesthetic finally wore off and you could see he was back – the soul-searching eyes, the loving kisses, the head in your lap. But he couldn’t get comfortable. He couldn’t get enough air. He wheezed, and his chest heaved with the effort of every breath.
By morning, we knew we could never ask him to go through another night like that.
We took Guinness and Kaylee on a long car ride that Friday morning. We drove down all the back roads and took the longest way home we could manage, with the wind ruffling the fur on his ears as he stuck his head out the window. We walked him up and down our street… slowly, slowly… knowing he could breathe better when he stood up, and knowing he loved to be outdoors with us. His grandparents and Jason’s brother joined us, petting him and telling him how much he was loved. How much he would be missed.
Our vet arrived at 1:00, on her day off, to help us say goodbye.
Today would have been Guinness’s ninth birthday, but instead we’re marking a month without him.
I can’t describe what it feels like to lose an animal that you love so much. I won’t try. There aren’t words. But I do know that in the moment when his heart stopped and he slipped away, the person that I was slipped away too, and someone new took her place. This new person isn’t quite sure who she is. She hurts, though, in a place in her heart that she didn’t know existed. She loves her husband and her family and her dog Kaylee, but she doesn’t quite know how to live, yet. But she – I – am grateful to have the people I love with me, so that we can figure it out together.
I haven’t decided yet what to do with this blog. I may continue, but right now my heart hurts a little too much. I hope you’ll enjoy the memories we created here as much as we will – in time.
Hug your furbabies tight. You never know what tomorrow will bring.