Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chester's Journey - Round 2

I figure, it's bad enough having to go through all of this. Not exactly everyone's Christmas wish. But when you have people making it more difficult, people who are supposed to be the ones who are professional and care, that just makes it seem like you're being a bit picked on.
Chester's second chemo was yesterday. He was finally starting to be himself. He'd gained back his weight and was pretty normal, if tiring quickly. I'd been back and forth emailing his doctor trying to get to the bottom of what the hell happened when he was so sick after the last treatment. I basically got a lot of bullshite and excuses and 'I dunnos'. What else? I was told that the clinic is world class and they love all the animals as though they were their own and it boiled down to trying to make me feel like I was mistaken and maybe over reacting just a little. It finally came down to me just having enough and saying "you know, I didn't expect anyone to apologize or say that this should never have happened but it won't happen again. I'm not a naive idiot. However, Chester's Journey in this is being documented publicly step by step for his many friends around the world and I'd really like to say that the people caring for him showed absolute compassion and made this experience as kind, loving and gentle as possible." Then the reply was suddenly a little nicer and I was assured that Chester would be lovingly carried out if it ever came to that again rather than being dragged across the floor at the end of a rope tied around his neck.
I just thought, 'yeah, right'.
Anyway, he had originally been booked to go ion on the 21st. It was pretty much universally decided that he was too weak and needed extra time to recover and gain his weight back. So the doc suggested the 27th or 28th. I decided on the 28th. I'd already called to book that day but they suggested I talk to Dr. Stelfox, which I did with all the emails. Then I called the clinic to book the 28th again. They said, oh, it's already been changed to the 28th. Come in a half hour early.
So, the 28th being yesterday, with a fair amount of dread, we packed up Chester in his blankie since he is becoming quite bald on his chest, legs and underside. We got there almost exactly at 1:30, walked in and said to one of the frowning receptionists "Chester is here for his appointment". She glanced at her book and looked up going " He's not booked for today." I. Was. Immediately. Unhappy. I said "Uh...yes. He is." She made a huge show of flipping pages back and forth looking at the other receptionists in a perplexed manner. "No, he's not booked."
I explained, "I called twice. The appointment was booked. I talked to Dr. Stelfox. She knew the appointment was booked." At this point, she goes "You talked to Dr. Stelfox?" I said yeah, I have the emails. I can bring them in if proof needs to be provided (because I am lying, of course)." At this point they started muttering about how she didn't write it down again and it just turned into a ridiculous fluster. Then someone went to the back to ask what to do. They said that Dr. Stelfox's husband would be able to do Chester's chemo. I said, well I want to talk to Dr. Stelfox. I had the feeling that something strange was going on here. So it was decided that we would come back at 3:00. We went away after they did bloodwork on Chester and then came back at 3. They took us into the room where we were told that Dr. Stelfox would only be able to see us on the fly for a few minutes. I thought, you know I'm getting a little tired of this. So she comes in, says they decided to give him 30% less of the treatment in the hopes that he would have a much better reaction. It was all very nervous-friendly. She told us that they were on call until 3pm on the 31st and to call before then if he had any GI problems. So I attempted to ask her, well, what about after hours (meaning after 3 on the 31st) to which she snarled "I just explained that." I think my mouth dropped open. She then recovered and seemed to understand what I wanted to know and said "well, just tell the vets in Stony Plain (who are the ones on call after 3pm on the 31st) to track one of us down because of the situation".
I'm starting to be just a little weirded out by this time. Then she completely acted as though she had no knowledge of this appointment yesterday and she didn't know why I'd made this mistake. I clarified that I did not make the mistake. She ignored that and left quickly. So the tech (who was very nice) gives him his pre meds while I held him. They gave the sedation a few minutes to work and this Dr. Reid (sp) comes in and takes him.
We waited about 40 minutes and Reid comes back out carrying Chester, hands him over, says "I have to do paperwork" in a very quiet voice and walks away. So there I stood holding my out-of-it guy, waiting. Reid comes out again after a bit of time and puts the paperwork and prescriptions on the counter and starts to walk away, barely glancing up at me. I go "well, how did it go? How was he?" You know...the doctor is generally supposed to say something to you. Isn't he? I mean, it is a cancer treatment that didn't go very well last time. He looks back and quickly says "Good. He almost went to sleep". He then scurried away and that was that.
Then we were ignored for ten minutes as we stood there at the desk waiting. That has happened almost every time. Finally we took the stuff to one of the receptionists who has always been a sweetheart. She did all the paperwork, explained the meds and off we went. Honestly, it is becoming a little surreal. Especially since, as she was booking the next appointments, she goes, "well, I don't know what happened or how you mistook today as being his appointment. I clarified that it was, as a matter of fact, not me who made the mistake. This is starting to just infuriate me.
Chester was pretty dopey all evening. He didn't seem as wasted as he was last time since they said they gave him only a single dose of sedative. He slept a little last night but I've been up with him since about 4am. I wasn't really sleeping before that. We have to be pretty vigilant because of the extreme toxicity of his waste and he'd already wet his bed once. Now he's just sort of sitting here beside me acting like he's tripping in a terrible way. Which of course, is very distressing. I carry him out to go potty every half hour or so but he gets so cold that all he does is shiver.
I'm just tired, you know. I am having to make some really rough and crappy decisions here for a lot of reasons, this just being one (though granted a pretty big one). Now to have this whatever it is going on with this clinic is just not okay. No one likes a mistake pointed out but this is supposed to be a group of medical veterinary professionals, for godsakes! And now its like they are either playing some creepy game or they are so concerned with looking out for their own asses that at some point here a mistake is really going to be made and it will cost lives. They are so incredibly busy that they don't recognize you from one minute to the next. One of them will look you in the eye, give your dog three needles as you hold him. She will engage you in conversation and not an hour later will look you in the eye while you hold the same dog while standing beside your same daughter and blankly ask if I've been helped. Then walk away in a seeming daze when I go, in a perplexed voice "Yes, I've been helped". Bizarre.
So I've got the alarm set continually to go off for medicine time and potty time. This means the alarm goes off roughly every 15 minutes to half hour. I'm actually thinking Chester is still pretty stoned, the way he's sitting here with glazed eyes and his tongue sticking out. Shouldn't the stuff have worn off by now? Did they give him too much again? It's been sixteen hours now.

Anyway, a couple more updates. Bugsy and Henry have found a great new home, for which I am very happy. It was a gift that they got to go together with someone I trust who is very experienced with birds. We had a pretty quiet Christmas. Went to see Tron and Little Fockers, but I was pretty unwell with a miserable cold. It's better now, though I'm still coughing a bit. Poor Twyla got through that horrible stomach flu and now she's got my cold. My poor Chickie.
Christmas at my brother's house on Monday was even more loud and chaotic than usual. I dunno. Everything actually seems a little surreal and I'm sure it's not just the lack of sleep.
On Sunday it will be exactly five years that we have been here. I can't say that there has been a whole lot of enjoyment...that certainly hasn't been the overwhelming feeling of life here. Don't get me wrong. It is beautiful out here (or was until the great day of demolition) and we have met some dear people that will be friends forever. There is just something missing. Actually a lot of somethings and the odd someone that I miss desperately, almost to the point of feeling sick with it sometimes. Maybe it is how much of myself and my life I seem to have misplaced. (This was demonstrated by the woman who adopted the cockatoos. She goes "maybe you could sell some of your art on the Internet. You probably could not get more than a hundred dollars for those ones one the wall" she said, pointing to the originals. I thought to myself it just figures. There was not really any point to saying anything to that. And the fact is that they are on my wall, rather than someone else's. So...
Maybe it is all of the horror and misery and sorrow we've had to deal with. Maybe it is the fact that the damn house is slowly crumbling, bit by bit. I think the guy we bought it from was pretty unscrupulous and did a whole bunch of home-handyman cosmetic renovation stuff just to sell it that we just didn't notice or know enough to notice. In all fairness, the house inspector didn't notice either. Listen to me grumbling here. Call it no sleep.
Time to get to work I guess. Would you light a little candle for Chester if you have a minute? Maybe if enough little lights burn out there he will see his way past all this and come out of it with a bit more life and energy. Hmmm. Maybe I need a few candles too;-)
Hope you all had a great Christmas, Yule and may your New Year be full of wondrous things and magickal miracles.
Thanks for following along with us on this journey. I hope that 2011 has more happy stories than not. For all of us. Joy to you!
Auntie Autumn

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chester's Journey...An Update

It's been a week since we went to the vet to bring Chester home. He crashed in a most terrifying manner two days after the chemo. He was such a sick baby. We'd had to rush him to the vet on the Thursday night after he began vomiting and diarrhea continuously. The vets in Gunn were wonderful. However, the vet in Spruce Grove where he gets his chemo wanted him there so we transferred him, sick all the way, and he was put on iv for the entire weekend. I can't go into a lot of detail right now because it may turn into a legal matter, but the Chester we picked up last Monday was a shell of himself. They brought him out soaked in feces and urine, dragged across the icy floor with a yellow rope tied around his neck. He still was not eating or drinking and he was so utterly terrified that it was indescribable. Ive only seen such behavior in the worst abuse cases. I've been in contact with his doctor who was away at the time to express my outrage and disgust. That's all I can say about it right now. It was a long week of force feeding a pureed mixture of water, rice and boiled hamburger and forcing water mixed with Gatorade down Chester's throat with a syringe along with a multitude of medications. He was unable to maintain body temperature so needed a heater on him at all times. He was completely incontinent so lots and lots of bedding changes and towelling dry. He weighed next to nothing like a little trembling bag of feathers and sticks. He couldn't walk or even get up. I was up literally for days with him, catching a little sleep when I could. I am happy to report that on Thursday he started to make a turn around. He finally tottered out of the kennel, insisting on sleeping in the bedroom again. He began taking a little food...actually he stole some of Rosie's special food. He had a drink on his own and wanted to have the puck tossed onto his bed so he could pretend to chase it. Saturday he ate more and was tottering around. Yesterday he was putting on weight, eating everything in sight (including the cat food) guzzling water and blaming Kippy for everything. He was trying to break out of the kitchen (he actually succeeded several times) and was strong enough to be carryied outside to pee. He's still having a hard time holding it long enough to get to the paper. But we're getting there. His next chemo is scheduled for the 20th but I am going to delay that until at least the 28th. I want him to regain his weight and his strength. We will also be talking about the adjustments to the dose. I will not put him through this again. He goes for a blood test today to check his cbc. He ended up anaemic after being at the vet for those three horrific days. He still sleeps a lot but he's a lot better. More than I can say for people for whom hell will be raised very shortly. I'm a little vexed. A lot tired. And I'm in no mood for the crap I saw last week when Chester was brought out to me by people who were supposed to care.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chester's Journey - Suffering

When I was twenty I worked as an in-home nursing aid. I mostly worked with geriatrics but I saw a lot of suffering in younger people and children as well. I saw enough suffering (and suffered enough insufferable ingratitude) that I didn't persue that line as a career. I now see suffering on a daily scale that might stagger you. I gloss over it here and a lot of times try to avoid it. Who wants to here on a daily basis "people are idiots"? Talk about stating the obvious.
Chester is suffering right now. On Wednesday, he had to be taken in to get his white cell count done. He was lethargic and had no appetite. He was sent home and we were told to come back if it got worse. Well, it got worse. We came home from the city last night to find that the boy had diarrhea and was feeling weak. The chemo is making him feel wretched and very sick. We were warned that this might happen. I am now getting the usual contingent of advice from I don't know how many people saying "well, maybe you should let him go, maybe you should put him down, maybe you should kill him off because he's suffering." I watched Twyla nearly go through the roof after about the tenth one. Let me explain something to those who think I may not be thinking things through or doing this "for myself". Most people know I suffer from migraines. Those of you who have never experienced this condition will think "awe...poor baby gets headaches". Those people can take an immediate trip to the hot place. When I say I suffer from migraine, I'm not talking about a few headaches. I am talking about agonizing pain Half the time. It is not something that just happens because I am stressed or hung over. And it doesn't just effect the head. It causes vomiting and relentless nausea. It causes my face to go numb and my motor functions to basically disassemble. It causes my eyesight to go (one of the reasons I don't drive, kids...I would be a danger on the road. These things can hit very fast). It causes my thinking to become blurred and it feels like the pressure inside my head will cause it to burst. It causes sinus suffocation and shaking and extreme sensitivity to certain sounds (dog barking and bird screeching especially can be like a loud drill shrieking next to your ears) and light. Fifteen days a month this happens if not more. If I don't take the medication immediately, it doesn't work. If I don't have medication, I will endure three days of this to a week. If a dog suffered from this relentless pain, he would be put down. He's suffering. Trust me. I suffer. And some may be going "well, it's not killing you" but as a matter of fact it can have some very dire effects like the higher potential of stroke if left to go on as well as brain and nerve damage.
If someone were to ask me if I want to be put down, I'd look at them like they were a loonie. You see, life is still sweet. Even when I am so sick I am weeping in agony, life is still sweet. Why should Chester be any different? I can't explain to him saying, " Sweetpea, this medicine is going to make you feel wretched for a while, but then it will pass and you will feel better" and then let him decide. I have to be the thinker for him and put myself into his position. If there was no chance of a parcel of time for Chester to be happy and well and if I thought this would be it, what do you think I would decide? People, when they are told that they have cancer and are offered chemo, choose to go through the suffering it causes because life is sweet and dead is for a really long time, however you look at it. They decide, well, this is going to make me feel like I want to die during moments of intense illness. But I am going to dive in because the alternative is a long time. If it were a human family member going through this I would sit and suffer at watching them suffer as well. I would weep at the pain they are experiencing and hold their hand and see them through to the other side of the treatment.
On Wednesday night when we came home from the vet, we had one of the birds cross over. I let him go. DNR, you know. He had suffered enough and it was his time. Before that, he still had fun and functioned. And it was with a sense of relief that I watched his spirit leave his poor little shell and go free. Chester's spirit is still strong. And let me tell you something. I don't just let my kids go without a fight. It would be easier in some ways. I wouldn't have to clean up hazardous diarrhea at eleven at night or drive through the night to get him to a vet or suffer myself at seeing his illness. God knows it would be cheaper than spending hundreds of dollars for said overnight stay. I would do the same for anyone I cared about. I would not just take the easy path. It's funny. I am left with people's messes to make life and death choices. I get little help and less participation without an exhausting amount of bullying and begging (with some very golden and shining exceptions). If it is Chester's time, and he will tell me it is, then I will help him to cross over in whatever way he needs to. Perhaps he crossed over last night on his own, though I still feel his presence strongly. It is with a sense of dread and worry that I wait to see how he is. Cruelly, unlike with a human child, we are not permitted to stay at their side. But I will be damned if I will let him go down without a fight because he would choose to keep fighting. That's who Chester is. His condition is terminal. We, each and every one of us is suffering from that condition. Life is terminal. Should we not fight to enjoy it for as long as we can, even if there is some suffering to have to do so? Dozens of lives have crossed over in my arms. The Gods willing, that is how Chester will cross over. When he is ready and not a milisecond before. If I am entrusted with these lives, then stop second guessing me. Please. And I promise you, if I am ever put in charge of your life, I will fight just as hard for you and you can cross over when you are damn good and ready and not because somebody decided for you that you've had enough life now. You will go when you tell me it is time. Chemo is a shite thing to have to endure. Ask people who have gone through it and gone into remission if it was worth it to spend a little more time under the sky, seeing the leaves turn and the sun setting and laughing with loved ones. Or chasing a puck. Chester has too much fun to give up, so I won't just give up for him. That is up to him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chester's Journey - Chemo 1

Well, here's the before and after. On the way to the vet Chester was pretty bouncy and excited to go bye-bye. A very drugged out and sick puppy came home with us. It was certainly an educational and scary process. When we set out for the vet on Monday afternoon we didn't really know what to expect. We got there and were taken to the exam room. Chester was very friendly and comfortable. He was actually the best-behaved boy there. Surprisingly. The doc came in and gave him the once-over. Then they handed him off to a tech for his blood work to be done. Then we were given the rundown of what was going on. We were warned that the chemo drug was a very dangerous and volatile thing. We were told that they had to be very careful to make sure that the iv needle would go only into his vein since, if even a drop were to get onto or under his skin if the needle slipped then he would basically have his leg amputated immediately at a cost of $500.00 to us. We were told that there was a slight chance of his having anaphalactic shock which would result in his immediate death. We were given a rundown on safety precautions (such as bringing home a hazmat suit in case he vomited or had diarrhea). The drug really is dangerous and the extreme precautions sort of drove that home. Were were told that he was basically going to be a living bio-hazard for the next few days. We were given a group of prescriptions to give him to keep his stomach coated. We were told that the drug being used does damage the heart. It sort of went on and on. Eventually Chester came back with green bandages around each hind leg where they had drawn blood. We were told that someone would be holding him the entire time that he was receiving the chemo to keep him from moving. I thought to myself that they might need more than one. Finally they took our boy and everybody gave him kisses and off to the waiting room we went. A few minutes later, the doc came back to tell us that they had decided to sedate him for the procedure as he was being far too bouncy. She used the analogy of 'like a rabbit'. We all looked at each other with absolutely no surprise at all.
It was about an hour before we saw Chester again. They carried him out and we wrapped him in a blanket. He was barely able to keep his head up. They told us that they had ended up giving him two doses of anesthetic so he would be out of it for four or five hours. So we bundled the little boy up and back home we went. It turned out that he was 'out of it' for about twelve hours. Some dogs scream when they are coming out of sedation. There is a quite humorous episode of 'All Creatures Great and Small' in which a poor dog yowls constantly as it is coming out of sedation, causing Mrs. Hall to wonder what the vets have done to torture the poor animal and Tristan to go to great measures with ale and earstops to deal with the noise. There was no humour in the screams Chester would let out as he would drift into consciousness every hour or so. He would stagger to a sitting position and just wobble there. I'd have to drag him out into the cold to let him pee about every hour or so to make sure that he didn't have any hazardous accidents. We built him a crib beside the bed and at about 1:30am we tucked him in. There he lay crying for most of the night, so I would climb in with him and let him put his head on my lap until he went to sleep. I'd lie down for a few minutes and he would start to cry again. By the next morning he was eating a little and his eyes were clear and not drug-fuddled. They told us that over the next four or five day we would start to notice the huge swellings in his neck going down. Truth told they were pretty much gone by lunch the next day (yesterday). Chester is a little tired and not quite himself, but he is breathing better and playing a little with his puck. It is hard knowing that we have four more bouts of this to go, but then he should be in remission for a while. Hopefully a long time. I would urge you to go to the ACTSS site at and purchase their calendar, which depicts some very cute critters helped by ACTSS. They have helped us to keep our little man for a while longer when, without their help we would have been burying our boy for Christmas. Tell them Chester sent you.
PS: We are still looking for blankets! Please remember us if you are getting rid of any.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chester's Journey - Nov 27

We heard from the subsidy people yesterday and they are able to help us. It's not for the total amount but it is a start and we are so very grateful. Chester is in his usual "it's too early in the morning, Mama" position on the chair beside me. He is sometimes so restless that I think he has a hard time finding a comfortable position. That thing on his neck is huge now. I absolutely hate it. Chester seems to be taking it all in stride. He eats a big breakfast every day and he was delighted to get a bowl of chicken for supper. I'm pretty pissed that the vitamins we usually get for the dogs has been made unavailable for import (from Melaleuca in the US). The feds allow things like herbicides and pesticides to be distributed widely, poisoning us and everything around us including our food but dog vitamins are a really big threat to the public that needs to be restricted. Whatsamatter guys. Nobody offered a fat pocket lining for this? Figgers.
I actually got a call from the vet to confirm Chester's appointment Monday. They kept calling him 'Charlie' though. I was somehow really offended by this, so yeah, I called them back and with restraint and politeness asked them to correct it and stop doing that. They did and were very contrite.
On a little aside, the foundling kitten that came to us from the woods is thriving. Reuben is delighted to have a playmate who has actually finally unglued herself from Twyla's side. She's still freaked out about pretty much everything but is having a ball with her new big brother. The chickens are laying and so far surviving the cold. The alpacas are pretty shivery but they'll adapt. The birds are all good. We'd still like to find Forever Homes for Bugsy and Henry as well as the lovebirds. I guess it'll happen when/if it happens.
Thanks for all your kind thoughts. It helps.
D - You Know.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Well, we are still waiting to hear about the chemo subsidy. I did get a call from the vet at the chemo clinic. Chester's vet took his charts and application over to her the night before last. She told us that he has to be got in right away if anything is to be done, all the time making sure I understood that this is not a cure. There are two chemo options. The state of the art chemo could give him up to a year with two treatments to the tune of about $9000.00. This administers five different drugs. What she didn't say was that it also has the potential to really make him sick. The second, I guess less state of the art chemo, administers one drug and will give him maybe three to four months. Without these treatments he is less than likely to make it to Christmas. So Brad and I talked yesterday and decided that we have to give him the most time that we can manage. So I booked him in for the lesser chemo treatment on Monday. It will be costly at about $2000.00 but we just figure if we don't bother doing the whole Christmas thing and cut waaaaaay back on a lot of stuff we will manage. How can we not? How do you say to yourself "this little guy's life is not worth a few sacrifices." Each of the smiles and laughs that he has given us is worth that and more. I don't laugh or smile that easily. I am still trying to wrap my head around the reality of the whole thing. It looks like one of the cats is also sick and I'll tell ya...there are mornings that I just sit here and stare out the window as dawn creeps across the sky and wonder "what next?".
Jim, my brother, kept saying to me yesterday, just hold on to the thought that miracles happen. Hold onto hope. I suppose if I didn't I would have crumpled years ago. My sister said, "They say God only gives you what you can handle, but I think that's crap".
I would tend to agree. You can load a man up with a boulder more than his own body weight and force him to climb a mountain and if you are cruel enough or threaten someone that he loves he will do it. (I hear that was a neat Nazi trick). Does that make it right? Nope. It makes it torture. Like some sort of sick experiment just to see what happens. When you add in the factor that this type of canine illness is more often than not caused by herbicides, the rage can be pretty hard to contain.
Anyway, there is a portrait of Chester as a little angel up at the Etsy shop. Sales will go to Chester's treatment. So, if you know anyone who likes puppies and angels, maybe this would make a great gift to them and it will help to give Chester a little more time to create a little more joy as well as bringing a bit of blessing to your life.
Meanwhile, Chester is sleeping here beside me. He ate lots of his food yesterday and played lots with his puck. His breathing is a little short at night and he sleeps a lot more during the day. I think I wake up about fifty times a night to listen or check. I'm off to make his breakfast along with all the others. Here's hoping for a decent day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chester's Journey - Nov. 21

It is easy to get on with things when you're busy. You kind of just go and don't think about anything. The weekend had moments of that. Moments I wish I could have extended. Saturday was very quiet but there was still stuff to do and then Sunday had some very busy moments with groups of people coming. It was a pretty decent turn out for the fundraiser. Anyway, it was way better than last year when one person showed up over the whole weekend. It was only after dark when we started to tear it all down and pack up that reality came back. One of the lymphs under Chester's chin has probably doubled in size since last Monday when he was diagnosed. He still has spurts of great energy for chasing the puck or his ball. But he pants now after a half hour of play when he didn't just a few weeks ago. I find that I am waking up at ridiculously early hours and my routine has changed. I used to get up, let the cat out, go let Zoe out to go potty, put on coffee, turn on the computer, let Chester, BeepBeep and Kippy out of Twyla's room and let Zoe in. I'd grab my coffee and the three pups and I would sit and do computer work. I actually have two chairs rigged together so that we can all sit together without everyone trying to crowd onto my lap. Now I get up long before dawn to check Chester's breathing. The truth is I am checking to see if he is breathing. He lets me lay my pyjama top over him when he comes out and lays on the couch, which he never used to do. Then I sit and just stroke his soft fur and look at him. I whisper to him that he needs to stay with Mama and can we do without him? He just kisses my hand and looks at me. He refused to eat his peanut butter over the of his favourite things. He still has an appetite for the food I am preparing for him but he's not much interested in his kibbles. I think what I noticed the most is that he didn't go crazy with continual barking when people were coming and going over the weekend. He barked a few times but mostly slept on his chair. I let him stay out this time. There was no way I was going to kennel him even if he barked non-stop. Every morning now I wake up with this feeling of something missing. I used to (read two weeks ago) wake up and sort of have a game plan. Now I just feel like something is missing. Like there is no focus or enthusiasm for much of anything. I had a lot of people over the week sending me messages of the type that say "just hang on and it will be okay, you will get through this" or "you are strong, everything will be alright" and I know they are trying to help and I love them for it. But. No it won't. No, it won't at all. It is wished that it will be alright. I wish it. But there is something that has altered in me and moreso in Twyla. Chester has been there for a very large part of Twyla's life, every day all day. He has spent every night but one, for at least some time, sleeping on her for nearly eight years (though he chooses to sleep curled up against her legs rather than on her head as he did when they were little...probably a good thing.) He's actually stopped moving from bed to bed now and sleeps mostly with Twyla. It's too tiring to make Kippy move from whatever bed he wants.
I haven't heard anything from the subsidy people yet and the ticking of that hateful clock grows louder each passing moment. I hate leaving him now because the changes are coming so rapidly. But I have to go to the feed and seed to get what I can while I can. I have to ship stuff. I have to get things like groceries and water. I'm not even bothering with the stupid laundromat. Whatever, right. The laundry is still going to be there. My sister asked anxiously "will he at least last until Christmas?" and I said "Of course...".
Now I wonder, will he? Who grants miracles to a precious little guy like Chester so I can throw that damn puck for him for a bunch more years? Who? anybody there...?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chester's Journey...Nov. 19

Chester has some obsessive qualities. He loves his puck...this thing I bought at Paradise Pets several years ago. It is this asymetrical rubber bouncy puck thing that he absolutely is enthralled to. When you throw it it just goes all over the place and that just adds to the fun of chasing it. He is sitting beside me slobbering it at this very moment, making one side of my leg very warm. He also loves his green tennis ball and will play get-the-ball tirelessly. He gets it and then shoves it between your knees until you take it and toss it for him again. Chester has several stuffed 'guys'...his stork, his seal, his rat and there's an alligator puppet around here somewhere as well that does in a pinch, though technically speaking it is BeepBeep's guy. He likes to do this nursing thing on them that is very endearing. Most of all he likes to yell at Kippy and tell her that all the problems facing the planet right now (and probably in the past) are her doing. Her fault. She is guilty. Kippy ignores him and takes it all in stride. She thinks he's a loonie with an anger management problem. Her solution to pretty much all things is to ignore them.
Most of all Chester has a very distinctive, grouchy bark. He looooooves to bark. It can be a little excessive. My brother thinks that Chester's actual name is Shutupchester because Chester likes to bark when I'm on the phone. Now I never want his barking to stop and it will all too soon.
I hated having to leave him for so long yesterday. Grocery day is a pain in the ass and long and all I wanted to do was come home. I had to browbeat Twyla into leaving the house. She doesn't want to leave his side...not even for her music or to get mail. She was like that...not wanting to leave the hospital... a couple years ago when her Grandma Mavis was dying of the effing C word. She was crying and crying the other night and sobbed "I can't go through this over and over again...I don't want my dogs to go away". I feel exactly the same way. I've worried about this for a long time now, how I couldn't face this. I certainly didn't think it would start so soon. I told her that we all go through this as time goes by, our loved ones drift away. If we are lucky, they are very old like her Grandma Olga, who was quite ready at 100 years old to move on out of her ancient body and see her Mama agian, thank you very much. When you bring a puppy (or kitten or any small animal) into your life and really, truly make them an integral part of your family...someone you can't do without, you face the day that this will happen, whether they are elders who just run out of steam or whether they get sick and are stolen from you by a thief in the night, we face this. Some might say that sorrow defines you in character somehow. It chisels away at your soul really. Maybe that is the reason we move on. Each time that you lose someone, they take a little piece of your soul with them until there is more on the other side than there is here and you just sort of...pull together where most of you is. There is certainly a very large piece of me that I feel loosening inside. And there is not a good feeling in the dark edges and cracks. I remain strong for Twyla and because so many other little fur and feather kids need me to be present and have enough love for them. They still need to play and laugh. But you drift away a little, you know. I find myself drifting. The love and support of all of you mean so much. Your words are a comfort. Chester is still pretty happy and strong. He still wags his whole body when he sees us and still wants to play, though he's slowed down a little. He's sleeping now by my side, curled around his puck after licking off my new sugar and spice lipbalm which he thinks is an especially tasty one. His breathing is easy and his warmth melts a little the edges of the frost that has taken hold of me deep inside. Dawn has broken and somehow I feel at one with the snapping, bitter cold. In a way, though I worry about my outside animals pretty much constantly now, it seems right that the world out there is just as cold as me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chester's Journey...Nov17

We didn't even get our seven to ten days of false hope. The vet called this evening to tell me that their diagnosis of lymphatic cancer had been confirmed. You get this hope going even while a fear gnaws away deep inside, you know. I'm sure everyone who has ever waited for a horrifying test result for a loved one has gone through this. They say there are several steps that a person goes through when a tragic diagnosis is given. I think we went through pretty much all of them save one in the last 48 hours, from disbelief to rage to bargaining. Twyla swore that if someone or something would save our little man she'd "have their face, symbol and propaganda tattooed on her ass". It's the acceptance part that I'm having a hard time with. I just can't wrap my head around it and make it real, and yet at the same time it is like being in some sort of chemically induced hyper-reality that scrapes against the nerves and blinds the vision.
Dr. Caulfield said that without chemo our little man has maybe three months if he is given steroid treatments. There is utterly no hope and all we can do is make him comfortable. She gave me the name of some people that sometimes subsidize cancer treatment for pets (it seems weird calling him that...I don't really even think of him as a dog). She told me of the liquid supplement he will be put on when he starts losing weight and won't eat. She told me that he won't really be in pain , but how will we know? How do you ask a little guy who has his own language that I am still learning, "Does it hurt? Where does it hurt, little one? Are you thirsty? Are you cold?" How do I explain to him why I can't make it go away like I make the scary dark go away at night. How do I face the years ahead without his goofy smile and clicky claws across the floor. You know, I can tell who is who by their claws clicking. Chester kind of jogs along with his feathery fur floofing with every step. How do I face the day when he can't play with his ball or his puck for hours on end anymore. "Fetch, Mama, play fetch!" When I throw the ball and it lands in a box or under something he is suspicious of, he comes and says "Mum!'. I'll tell him, "show me where it is" and he will unerringly take me to exactly where the ball went, even if it was days ago. There have been a few times that I didn't believe him, thinking how on earth could the ball have gotten in there and he insisted, "it is, it is so in there" and when I've dug far enough, there it is.
When I got off the phone tonight, I sat down on the kitchen floor because it was so hard to stand. Chester immediately came and dumped his ball in my lap while Chloe bounced around like a loony. It was just as hard to see Twyla crumple onto my lap and sob when I told her and Brad what the doc had said.
My sister and niece were pretty emotional when I told them. My brother immediately offered his strong shoulders. He says I am the strongest person he knows. I don't feel strong. I feel completely helpless and stupid.
So I applied to the subsidy program and it says I am supposed to hear back within 72 hours. It has to be soon because there is not much time. It's like this horrible clock ticking down relentlessly. I know we all have a clock that begins ticking down the second life sparks within us but we still hold on and in the end it is so short a time. I told Twyla that no matter what, Chester will wait for us. He will be there with his ball, wagging his whole self when it is our turn to cross over.
When I leave the house for even a few minutes, Chester starts a crying howl deep down in his chest and it rises up until every creature in the house is carrying on in a disharmonic symphony, from the other dogs to the birds to the cats...all yowling with this terrible sense of loss and I'm not even gone. That is the sound that is in my soul today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Little Man, Chester

Have you ever been punched in the stomach really hard or fallen onto your back and had the 'wind knocked out of you'? That is how I felt yesterday, standing with Twyla and Brad and Chester in the vet's examination room. You know, they apparently don't tell you to sit down. They don't offer you any sort of cushion for the blow that they are about to deliver, not that it would matter or make a difference. It's like a semi truck hitting you as you turn a corner. Let me tell you, I am so sick and tired of the 'C' word. Fuck the 'C' word. It stalks friends and family and just destroys. It tears the walls down that are so carefully constructed so that sorrow rushes in like a tsunami. And when it washes away again, there is an awful lot missing. Things that you can't afford to lose. Chester is my little man. He has really been the only man in my life for the almost eight years of his life. He sleeps more often than not curled tightly against my belly. When I am at home he is at my side or within reach constantly. He has never lied to me, betrayed me or turned his back on me when I made a mistake. He doesn't blame me for his screw-ups or take his problems out on me. And when I cried and cried yesterday in rage, cried as I have not in many years, in shock and sorrow and disbelief as Twyla sat in a numbed daze of unreality, he slobbered all over my face licking the tears away. He is just a little guy but his spirit is so gigantic. He looks like an example of what would happen if a silky terrier and a sasquatch got together. I suppose you could call him one of our first rescues, though it was just us wanting to get Twyla a puppy. I bought him for $250.00 out of the back of a van in the Westmount parking lot. It was like some sort of shady drug deal going down. There were shady characters trying to sell me this seven week old black bundle of fuzz and feces and tar. Brad kept asking "are you sure you really want this puppy?" But there was no way I was going to leave him behind. He was coming home with us, hell or high water. I guess this is the hell part. I have faced so many deaths in the last few years across every species. Some quick, some agonizingly slow. I just go on. But this time, I just can't picture life without Chester. I can't wrap my head around him not being here to yell at the other pups when he feels they are stepping out of line or starting the howling sessions when he thinks I've gone. I can't imagine sending him off into the dark all alone because he is so afraid of the dark and of being alone. I want to find a way to bind him to me, to keep him here. I want to go back two days and change everything. I hate yesterday. I hate it hateithateithateit. I couldn't talk and I couldn't answer the phone after one call from someone who asked why I was upset. I said I'd just come back from the vet and in this grating voice the person goes "Oh, is this about the dog? So you don't want me to come over?" I felt like going " No, I don't want you to ever darken my doorstep again you ignorant moron." Because in that one sentence she dismissed what I was feeling as somehow being irrelevant. As though the fact that he is of another species makes it something to be easily dismissed. Let me give you a piece of advice. When someone loses a companion of another species, don't ever go, not in your own mind, not to someone else and certainly not to the bereaved "It's just a dog or cat or horse or bird". If you are that stupid and cold, go away. And for myself, I can sincerely say stay away. I don't want you in my life if that is the extent of your compassion. I don't want dismissive gestures and flippant remarks of 'Oh, you'll get over it." Would you say that to someone who is losing a friend or family member. No. Well think again. You just did. Because I have to watch one of the best and most precious people I know die now. The fact that this person is not human is irrelevant. He has lymphatic cancer and so he doesn't have long. I am told that with a few thousand dollars I could extend his life up to a year with chemo treatments, but I do not have a few thousand dollars. Believe me, if I had that to spare I would do it just to spend a little while longer with my little man. Just to be able to feel him sleeping next to my head on my pillow with the light on because he had a bad dream. I love him no less than I would an adopted human child. Those of you who have never connected with another species or who were raised with the bizarre and sicko notion that animals have no souls will be thinking that the loss of a four legged child is not the same as losing a human in your life. You are wrong. How do you measure sorrow? How do you compare this love to that love? I was not able to have other children for whatever reasons. So I took in others as my children. To Twyla they are little brothers and sisters as close as...perhaps closer...than a blood/species sibling. And now we have to face the loss of one in a painful and monstrous manner. I can't even do anything until we get the final tests back in seven to ten days. I keep hoping that they will come back and say "We made a's an antibiotic. Chester will be around for many more years.' But what they told us actually is there is virtually no hope. We will treat him with steroids which may give him a few more weeks and will still be expensive, but to the tune of hundreds and not thousands. And you can't imagine how much of a shit I feel like because I had to make that decision. I keep asking myself what I can do to fix this. What I might have done differently to change this. But all I feel is pain. And it is agony to know it is nothing like the pain my little man will go through all too soon. To know that if I had a million, million dollars, the result would be the same. I would still be losing my little child, Chester.
I invite you to walk with me along this path. I will keep a journal here of Chester's journey. Maybe if you feel like it, you could send a prayer out to the universe for him. Maybe it is a good thing that he can't know what is coming. That is a small mercy. But I know. I am so sorry, my little Chester.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dr. Suzuki

We spent last evening attending the Legacy lecture of Dr. David Suzuki. It was difficult to know how to feel as we left his book signing and wandered through the damp autumn night, through the UofA grounds (one of my favourite places in Edmonton). David Suzuki has been someone I have watched and admired pretty much throughout my life. His essays, books, articles, television and radio appearances have helped to shape and focus my thoughts and directed the path of my own research and studies. I've used his book, "From Naked Ape to Super Species" as a reference in my own teachings and lectures for years and told people who were interested in learning about Earth spirituality to turn not to warmed-over New Age silliness but to teachers such as Suzuki as guides to what a Guardian of the Earth should practice. Suzuki was there before Gore and Decaprio and the many voices we have now speaking out in the darkness to try to rally people before it is too late.
David Suzuki is a dynamic speaker. He never stops moving. His face is animated, his body language is graceful, like a dancer trying to get a point across. This is pretty good for a man in his mid seventies. His words were spoken as though he had mined my brain beforehand and I felt that I was not quite so alone, which I feel very much these days (Twyla being an exception). One of the things he said was that he had believed over time that reason and science and fact was enough to convince people that we are running out of time. His frustration was in earnest that fact and truth and science are not enough. People are complacent and they will grasp onto anything, even if it is utterly false, just so they won't have to get up and do anything. He left religion out of his lecture and I can certainly understand why. But I believe that religion is fundamentally at the core of what is happening. Or, putting it more succinctly, religious fundamentalism.
Dr. Suzuki spoke about his life and his fond memories of his boyhood, fishing with his father in rivers that, now, we would not dare to fish from because they are either poisoned or there simply are no fish. He spoke of his father and the fond memories they shared before his father passed away and how all of those memories were about times shared with family and friends and loved ones. He spoke of how none of those memories involved how much stuff they had accumulated over a lifetime. Dr. Suzuki spoke of how, upon reaching the age of seventy, he had realized that he was reaching the end of his life (hopefully not anytime soon because we so desperately need him now) and how he wanted to spread the message of his legacy. Though he spoke of being an elder, during his lecture, listening to his youngish sounding voice and watching his passionate gestures, you would never know it. But his hands, upon closer inspection, are bent with arthritis, making me wince at the thought of how many books he would be required to sign at the conclusion of his lecture. And his fatigue was clear during the book signing as people were ushered quite efficiently and politely through, though he had a quick smile for everyone. I'm sure that some people were annoyed at what they perceived as the abruptness of his helpers, for each wanted to share stories and exchange ideas. They don't know how exhausting it is to speak for a couple of hours and then have hours of work to do beyond that. There simply isn't time to have a meaningful chat with a few hundred individuals.
I bought Twyla, who adores Dr. Suzuki, the Legacy book (something I couldn't really afford but I wanted her to take this away with her and really remember it) and he signed it "To Twyla: For your legacy."
And that was what it was really all about. His words spoke of how we do not have the right to pilfer the future of our children and grandchildren all on our endless quest for stuff. We do not have the right to let religious maniacs, who not only expect, but desperately desire the world to end, to continue to rape the Earth and steal Her resources because they think they will be dragged up to heaven in some bizarre rapture and Earth will be destroyed anyway.
David Suzuki is not loved by governments, at least not his own or the one south of the border. He is not loved by corporation whose bottom line is growth. Dr. Suzuki waxed perhaps the most eloquent when he spoke of this non-sensical mind set, where the economy is always the bottom line. The economy is not the bottom line because without the Earth and her abundant, clean resources in tact, we will die. And what good will an economy be then?
When one man mentioned that the government is the enemy, Dr. Suzuki pointed out that the enemy are those who refuse to go out and vote. This is a sentiment I have espoused many times over, imploring people of sense and sanity to get out and vote for a government that will be at least marginally better. The claims that there is no one worth voting for is bulltwaddle. If you do not get out there and use the democratic gift of having a vote, you will lose it. Because that is where corruption starts to creep in. When people of good heart and conscience withhold their voice, then those with dark motives and hate filled hearts slither in and steal that voice of reason. People are often heard to say that here in Canada the Liberals and the Conservatives are equally corrupt, with parties that are scandal-filled. Let me remind you that you can vote green or socialist or independent. All I know is that when push came to shove, the Liberal government stood up to the American war machine and did not drag us into a war of lies that would have seen perhaps thousands of our own soldiers dead, maimed and ruined and our own treasury bankrupt ten times over. There was a spine that stood straight for Canadians and said, against much anger and retribution from our southern neighbours, that "as a matter of fact, we do require proof of your claims before we help you to invade a sovereign country without provocation and kill a few hundred thousand civilians and ruin a country". We can be proud that we had no hand in that at least. Stephen Harper would have had it different, I assure you.
We have now allowed a government that cares nothing for the environment to infest our halls of rule and law. We have never had a more morally corrupt and cynical group of fanatics in Ottawa. Stephen Harper and his hand-picked cadre of lackies are little more than petty criminals involved in wholesale theft of our children's future and their right to clean air, water and land. The government of Canada now allows so much corporate interference that those who have the courage to speak out and stand up for the safety and health of Canadian citizens are fired outright. We now live with policy that, instead of protecting our children from poisons in our food, in the air, in the water, says that a certain amount of collateral damage, in the form of Canadian lives, is okay. Not that it is unacceptable for one life to be affected when it didn't have to be, but that the bottom line is that a certain number of deaths and illnesses are expected and acceptable as long as the economy grows.
As Dr. Suzuki put it, this is madness. Sheer and utter madness. We cannot continue to "grow". There is nothing else that can be pulled from the Earth to satisfy our insatiable, gluttonous appetite for stuff. We cannot sustain the lifestyle that we in rich countries have adopted. We must draw the line and say no. We cannot keep buying, buying, buying exponentially because we are digging our own graves and what is unforgivable, what is beyond unconscionable is that we are digging the graves of those who will come after us, knowingly and without a shrug or thought.
When you buy something new, do you ever ask yourself where the components of that thing come from? Few do yet all should. It comes from resources that were taken from Earth. If you search far enough back, everything on this planet is organic or natural. Everything we have came at some point out of Earth and what She produced in her body. Stuff doesn't just magically appear out of nowhere. It is not delivered from outer-space. We take everything and replace it with poison and hate and disdain and contempt.
At the end of the lecture, as we were leaving, a woman stopped me. She had been talking to a young man and asked him what he thought we could do to save ourselves. He had shrugged and said that he thought we were doomed.
She seemed very upset by this and asked me what we could do. I said to her that I thought the young man was likely correct. That probably the best we could do is do the best you can and try to survive what is coming...what is here.
There is no happy chapter to this book. That is what James Lovelock called it in his last book. He talked about how, for years, all of these environmental warning books had a "happy chapter" at the end, where all of these dire warnings and evidence are laid out but at the end, there are solutions and a "reason for hope". There isn't much of that left right now. Religious fanatics hellbent on Armageddon and Corporate demons (sometimes one and the same) are orchestrating our destruction even as I write. And they placate us with stuff and entertain us with hedonism even as they kill us. There was an episode of 'Supernatural' ( Yes...I love Sam and Dean too) a while back that reminds me of this. It is about a Djin that captures victims and puts them into a sort of sleep...a controlled state of hypnosis where they get to experience wonderful things, living out what they think is their wish. They are happy and entertained. The problem is that in reality, their bodies are held captive by this monster, bound and unaware that he is slowly draining them of their blood, of their life. They don't even realize it is happening. And by the time they do realize that something is wrong, it is too late. They are already crossing over.
That is where most people are today. Even the people who sat in the audience with us, who were clearly moved and touched. I wonder how many of them will actually act on what is happening. Or will they quickly sink back into their dream state. Will they just go shopping and buy some nice things to decorate their fantasy and make their dream world more pleasant. Because that is the easier thing to do. To just say, things seem okay. We still have time. Will they be placated by the lies that are told to make them feel safe. Lies about Climate Change (it's a natural process), lies about the recovery of the economy (the answer is exponential growth) and lies about our health (the government is watching out for you).
The woman asked, and there was real fear in her eyes...isn't there anything we can do!?!
I said to her:

I'm just sayin'...Thanks Dr. Suzuki. For trying.

What's on the menu: Noodle soup.
Listening to:Sherlock Holmes soundtrack
Goals: Cleaning honey ruzza-frazzin stickyness everywhere ~grrrr~
Viewing: X Files