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Thursday, September 12th, 2013...10:06 AM

I had to write this down…

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…I have a million things I probably be doing in these last hours, but I had to get this out.

I wanted to thank you all, again. I cannot believe how hard last night was–and this day will probably be just as bad. How do you spend these final moments? I’m not even sure. Routine? Sitting and staring? Fussing over someone who would prefer to not be fussed over? Sitting on the internet? :p It’s such a surreal series of moments. “Well, I guess I should go pick up poop in case we want to go sit in the yard later…” and “I can’t have Dr. Clinch seeing how scrungy my sink is…” and “Gee, I need to scoop the cat boxes before People come over this afternoon.” WTF?

Later, there will just be grief…and emptiness…and…that strange sense of “gone.” But right now, there’s this maelstrom of sadness, doubt, disbelief, confusion, guilt, anger, relief, guilt, uncertainty, and possibly more guilt (Wait, hey, did I mention guilt?) sitting in my stomach.

I KNOW it is the right thing. I know in my head that even if it is “two weeks too early”–which it isn’t, but even if it were…that that is far better than even one day, one minute, too late. That making that mistake would leave us with a final memory that is irrevocable, tragic, and needlessly horrible.

But even so, even though the head knows this…sometimes the heart’s a little slow to get the memo. (Note to GI JOE: Yo, Joe…knowing may be half the battle, but apparently the other half is considerably more shitty and difficult to reconcile.)

There is a difference between slowing down, between dealing with infirmities and working them into the course of our lives, than there is from that final time when the disease, or age, or whatever it is takes over a life. At some point in the last week, I realized that maybe Sam wasn’t living with cancer any more, he was dying with it.

Life should be long–not death. We have, as humans, that beautifully horrible ability to let them go when death is imminent, but hasn’t yet robbed them of the final graces of life. It is an awesomely powerful responsibility, and I don’t think I’ve ever before experienced an emotion like this–no matter how many animals I have said goodbye to.

Sam isn’t just slowing down. We have lived with and adapted to that for awhile now. And everything before he has bounced back from–and even on his “bad days” there were still moments of good; he was still Sampson.

The breathing issues have been there for awhile now, but in the last five days, they have gotten worse. It’s clear he is very uncomfortable, if not in searing pain (being slowly suffocated is not as bad as having your bones explode, but it really isn’t the best way to spend your time, either). At night, I can hear his wheezy/panty (hehehehehehe, I said “panty” :p) breathing as he tries to get comfortable. He lies on one side until it escalates, struggles up, wanders restlessly, and then slides down into a sphinx position until he gets to tired, then lies down on his other side. Wash, rinse, repeat.

He no longer has the energy to really patrol the yard, and when he does go out, he goes potty right by the door, and then spends most of his time doing the Sphinx again (we are clearly choosing to channel The Bangles in our dotage).

But again, that, we could live with, adjust to. And have done just that.

But now? While there have been moments this week where he seems like Sam and does all that stupid shit that Sam has always done (see: exhuming/consuming dead rabbits, eating cat poop, humping whatever moves–or sometimes doesn’t), a lot of the time he just isn’t there. I mean, he’s in the room, he’s cognizant and not disoriented. But the look in his eye is at best dispassionate and disengaged, and at worst, wild-eyed and stressed (we call that crazy eye, or storm eye, or… “You’ve got that crazy look in your eye again, Har.” <—bonus points for movie reference!).

Mostly, though, it’s tired. I don’t know how else to explain it. And possibly, esp. given his philodendron with fur state, no one else would even notice it. But I have. And it’s gone from intermittent to most of the time. Instead of his normal irritation at being fawned over, it’s active disengagement.

And so we did those xrays, hoping we’d see something we could treat with acupuncture or antidepressants or antacids or some other medication that probably doesn’t start with “A”…but this time, not so much. His lungs are full. He has lost much of his capacity, and from the progression in the last two weeks, it is probably rapidly diminishing.

Our vet said days, maybe a couple of weeks. There is a rare chance we’d go until October. But things would not get better–the good moments would continue to ebb away, become fewer and fewer. Those days or weeks we would have? They would be for me, and me alone. And each moment between then and now there would a very real chance that something awful could happen.

Fact of life: Dying sucks balls–at least for those left behind. Yeah, death sucks…but it doesn’t have to be horrible.

We leave Friday night for Wisconsin, as I have a mountain bike race. We will be gone over the weekend, and while I know Jacqie (our wonderful housesitter) is totally capable, and I know that our vet would come over here, day or night, while we are gone should she call…I don’t want her to have to deal with that. (Nor would I want to be gone if something DID happen.) And next week Pat will be traveling, and as lame and pathetic and selfish as this is, I couldn’t do this alone…and god forbid if something tragic happened, I wouldn’t want to do that alone, either.

And so we will say goodbye on a beautiful September day. We will say goodbye, like Karma said, when we still have those happy moments. We will make a final memory that will be incredibly sad but filled with people who know us, and who know Sam, and can laugh and snark through our tears.

Without a doubt, this is the hardest, most incomprehensible, inexplicable thing I have ever done.

Not the losing Sampson. Not the saying goodbye after spending more than a third of my life with that curmudgeonly old man. That will be hard…but I understand it. The hardest thing is the letting go. It is making the choice to use that beautifully horrible power we have been given–and the strength to follow through with that decision.

 

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17 Comments

  • You have so eloquently put into words the feelings and thoughts that everyone deals with when having to make this painful decision. Thank you for doing that, and for sharing with us.

    You’re so right, better now than before there is a crisis. It doesn’t make it easier, just maybe a little more peaceful.

    My thoughts are with you today, and my heart is hurting along with yours.

    Carol

  • Sam knows you aren’t “letting go” of him, Sam knows you are “letting go” of a body that no longer serves him, a body that is just plain tired. He showed you that in his eyes because he knew you would get it.

    Sam is hapy for the release. He knew he had to jam in a couple mor e good memories just for you…well, he enjoyed some of them too! Does “bunny” ring a bell Sam!

    Now he will feel good enough to go chase vunnies, run after bunnies, and not resort to just standing tjere digging up bunnies!

    Meghan, just be in the moment with Sam, be in your natural state with him, free your mind and stay centered and grounded in your heart.
    Surround him with your calm, loving energy that celebrates his life. Let him see you smiling as your heart speaks with gratitude to his heart.

    Sending you all the love in tne world and surrounding you with Sam’s eternal grace,

    Sally and Happy Hannah

  • There are no more words to say. You have so beautifully said them all.

    Sending much love and peace to you Megan as you say goodbye for now to Sam.

  • Oh Megan. You have described our Jerry’s last few days to the letter. I’m so sorry you are also going through this.

    All I can say is even though eventually your heart and head will realize you did the right thing, you’ll still question yourself a million times, and wonder how things might have turned out if you had waited. We did it, everyone does it. The guilt becomes a little easier to live with but it never goes away.

    What helps ease the heartache is just replacing every nasty guilty feeling with a feeling of gratitude over just having had him in your life in the first place. That gift is far more powerful, and helps us continue to love other animals spread the joy that they bring to this world.

    You are not being selfish by wanting your husband to be there, by “timing” Sampson’s passing. The power of the pack is most beneficial at a time like this. If we as humans could pick our time to go, choose how and when and who was there, wouldn’t it be a good thing? I think so.

    You are stronger than you think, and as much as this will suck, you have gained some amazing lessons that will change your life forever. Sampson will live on, it’s not just talk or a way to console the grieving. A love like his never dies, it’s the absolute truth.

    xoxo

  • You have captured so many things that I have been feeling lately. And I applaud your strength and outlook on this whole thing.

    This quote in particular struck a chord with me: “At some point in the last week, I realized that maybe Sam wasn’t living with cancer any more, he was dying with it.”

    I made this same realization with Roxy over the last few weeks and thought it sucks balls (to quote you ;)) — that’s when I knew that I needed to make “the” decision.

    Run free, Sam — say hi to my baby girl for me.

    We’re thinking of you during this difficult time, Megan, and are here for whatever you need.

    Mica, Angel Roxy and Zeus.

  •   josiethebluegreatdane
    September 12th, 2013 at 11:47 AM    Reply

    My gosh….I have nothing but a puddle of tears here!!!! I wish I could offer words of support, something that could take away even a small bit of your pain…but all I can do is cry and worry about the day that I am in your shoes…..I think of it often, wondering how I will survive. I am so thankful for this site…I guess in some way you are the eyes of my future.
    Peace to your heart Megan and run like the wind Sampson!!!
    Mia and Josie the Greatest Dane <3

  • Thank you for sharing what we all wish we could put into words.

  • Beautifully written Meghan. We are thinking of you at this time and you are in my thoughts. You are giving Sam a great gift. I know its hard to believe and hard to think that. Know this he will be 100% free of cancer and not in pain of any kind. And no matter what he is a survivor and so are you. RIP Sam, make sure to give Sassy some loves for me too

    Hugs
    Michelle & Angel Sassy

  • You have hit ir right on the ball girl…. we don’t have to put into words what you already know… and I know exactly how you feel. My Franklin was in the same positin as your Sammy boy… he would lie one way and start with that wheeze,,, cough,, wheeze, cough, spew, spit gag, try to breathe routine… constantly. yea.. he would still hop up to you for belly rubs.. and sit on his haunches and give you that one remaining paw for a pig ear.. but then the routine would start all over again.. and I could see it in his eyes.. in the way his ears were held. He was not having fun. He had the “I’m tired Mom” look
    I would have loved to have waited.. one more day.. one more snuggle sleeping on the bed at night… just one more waking up with him at my feet.. but my love for him was too grewat.. I did not want him to struggle anymore.. it’s not fun trying to breathe… and you can’t do it properly.
    So.. we loved him up.. we cooked a big steak and fed it to him.. and then we went for a car ride.. and we got ice cream.. A BIG CONE!!! and we loved him up… again.. and again..
    You won’t regret your decision when you know that he is at peace and can breathe the clear, crisp meadow air by the Bridge…
    I won’t lie to you… It hurts like f*ck…
    but we know we have let them run free at the right time. We do regret when we wait too long. I had that happen with my one girl Brandy.. she should have never gone through what she went through the night before I helped her run for the Bridge…
    you are in our thoughts… and our tears…

  • Peace out, Sampson. You deserve it. I’ve been a part of this process too many times; it never gets easier. But a friend once put it in perspective: think of the last time he slide off the couch or bed with a biiiig, loooong body stretch followed by a quick shake. Or the last time he trotted to the door to greet you, whole body wagging with joy. Dogs will try to please you and cover their pain as long as possible. When they can’t do it anymore, they are ready for your unselfish love.

  • Our hearts are all with you Meghan. You have the strength of the entire Tripawds Nation at your back. Be at peace, you are making the right decision to let Sam go before his condition deteriorates so much that he is utterly miserable. The xrays show the writing on the wall. There will be no rally, this is the endstage. By choosing to let Sam go now he will not get to a point where his body is so stressed that he becomes afraid. I was in the same situation with my heartdog Rosa. She had hemangio and after diagnosis they told me a week or two. I begged her to slip away and spare me have to make that terrible but privileged choice. But she was a trooper. Once I got clearly from my vets that when she bled out again it could be very distressing for her because she would literally be drowning and unable to breathe I realized I could not let that happen. We had a week with her after dx with a soft slow decline. On The Day she did not want to eat. I could see how tired she was. And we let her go. Five years ago and I cry as I write this. But Rosa is always in my heart and her legacy lives on in the 4 pups I had to acquire to fill the gaping hole she left in my heart.

    So peace to you and your husband.
    And run free beautiful Sampson, leave your broken body behind, be whole and happy again. And remember to visit your mama often!

    xoxoxoxo,
    Codie Rae, the Oaktown Pack, and Martha (OP Wrangler)

  • Megan,
    I hope you were able to have some precious moments with Sampson today, realizing how difficult it is when you have that damn clock ticking away the minutes. It is clear that you have completely thought this through with Samdog’s best interest at heart. When you have any moments of doubt, knock them out of that brain. Feel your heart. Although it will hurt, it knows. There isn’t a darn thing I can say that can help make you feel better in this time. You have many friends here that truly understand and are standing with you in spirit and feeling pieces of your pain in hopes we could take some of it away. When you are ready, we are here for you.
    Karma, the pack and our angel Brendol

  •   Pochy Sanchez Acosta
    September 12th, 2013 at 5:06 PM    Reply

    Is so hard that moment but at the same time release the pain, you and your baby fell 🙁 You clearly remenber that last day with my Baby Diamond, so hard bad, to much pain, im in tears ; i dont know if is for You, your beautiful Sampson or for me 🙁 i heat CANCER! I heat it !!! be happy you did what you have to do, and even with all our pain, was the best decition! RIP Sam 🙁

  •   fourminipups
    September 12th, 2013 at 8:00 PM    Reply

    Meghan-
    As everyone said, you’ve said exactly what we have all felt. And you are right-let it be with dignity and while he is still Sampson to the core. I wasn’t allowed that with Shooter due to the circumstances so I am so glad this is something you are able to do.

    I have thought about you all day and know that I am trying to be there is spirit to hold you up as best I can.

    Blessed be-
    Luanne & Spirit Shooter

  •   penny4weims
    September 12th, 2013 at 10:34 PM    Reply

    Meghan,
    You put into words what all of us whose dog or cat has died has felt like. My Maggie got lung mets pretty quickly after her amp. One day she fell down while going to eat and my husband burst into tears and said I needed to put her to sleep. She really was ok then but knowing the end was near was really hard on him and me. She continued to have a good appetite but her breathing was labored and she would cough quite often. My sister came over to visit her 2 days before she died and when I told her I had her put to sleep she knew it was time, she saw it in her eyes. There is just that fine line with wanting them to be comfortable but not wanting them to be gone forever. It’s a tough one. Love to you.
    Penny, Blink and lil Mags

  • A beautiful, dignified tribute. Your friend was well loved and loved well in return. Sending you lots of love from my pack.

  • That was a beautiful way to express so many feelings. Reading the first few paragraphs it really reminded me of the roller coaster of emotions that I felt (and I think most people feel) when deciding to amputate. Most of us eventually let go of the guilt and uncertainty and realize we did the right thing. I can’t help but think you’ll come to the same realization with this decision in your journey as well.

    It definitely does not mitigate the sting of loss that you’re feeling now, but I hope it is somewhat comforting for the days ahead.

    My thoughts are with you,
    Heather

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