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.