Cozy could be a stubborn pain in the ass when she felt like it, and Lauren probably thought this was one of those times, though the events of the night before added a bit of confusion to everything. We had seen Cozy refuse to listen to anyone but me, but usually when this happened there was no wagging involved. Content that Cozy was just enjoying the yard, Lauren turned back to go inside. As she turned, Cozy got up and ran past her to get to the door first, wagging all the way. Lauren stood and stared, wondering if the previous day had been nothing more than a dream.
Cozy, who had been so lethargic and obviously sick the day before, was now full of piss and vinegar. Apparently everything we had read about liver and anemia was true, because the difference was astounding. Overnight Cozy seemed to have gone from laying at death’s door to romping in the yard with all the personality and mischief of a puppy.
We spent much of the day fawning over Cozy, trimming her ears, brushing her and telling her how beautiful she looked. Cozy had always loved being the center of attention, and she relished the treatment. It was a treat to see her actively enjoying the attention instead of just laying there as she had the night before.
During the day I took the kids to the mall to buy plaster kits so that I could take a mold of Cozy’s paw which was my admission to myself that my Cozy wouldn’t be with me much longer. As we walked around the mall, Meghan, who was six at the time, told me that she felt like she was going to throw up. Swell. We were near the Discovery store, so I walked in and asked politely for a plastic bag, which they gave me without question. We made it back to the mall proper where Meghan proceeded to throw up everything she had eaten in the past year into the plastic bag. Feeling smug that I was smart enough to get a bag, I brought it to the garbage and prepared to tie it up.
Being a parent means doing things that other people find disgusting. For example, before I tied up the bag, I had to look in the bag in order to see if there was anything I needed to worry about. Anyone with children would understand that, while anyone without children would wonder at my sanity. Still, I checked the bag, only to discover something truly horrifying.
Keeping calm (something that only seems to happen after you have more than one child) I called Lauren and told her what had happened.
“Is she OK?”, Lauren asked.
“She seems to be fine. By the way, did she have anything red for lunch?”
“Hmm… Yes! She had an entire bottle of strawberry milk.” Clearly Lauren being the mother, knew why I would ask such a seemingly innocent question. I am often amazed at the calm Lauren and I have shown during what could be terribly frightening events with our children.
“Ahh, that would explain the bloody red looking vomit in the bag.”
Having completed yet another normal conversation between two parents, we both agreed that Meghan was probably fine, so I hung up with Lauren and continued our search for plaster kits.
Though I had dodged the bullet once, we still had shopping to do, and though Meghan said that she felt fine now, history had taught me that vomiting children were often repeat offenders. We were now near the Disney store, so I went in and asked them for a bag, which they also gave me politely, and without question.
My planning turned out to be wise, because Meghan did indeed throw up once more. I decided that this shopping trip was a bust, and headed for the door with my girls. I decided that an extra bag would be a good idea, so we went into Sam Goody right by the exit. I again, politely, asked for a bag.
“Hi, my kid is sick and has thrown up twice. Can I get a plastic bag, please, so she doesn’t throw up on the floor?”
“We only give out bags to customers.”, the teenager behind the counter replied.
“My kid is sick and she’s already thrown up once. Would you rather she throw up on your floor or maybe a customer?”
“I’m sorry but we only give out bags to paying customers.”
I was floored. How could anyone be so callous as to not give me a a plastic bag? What did they cost, one one hundredth of a cent each? Muttering obscenities under my breath so as not to be overheard, I left the store vowing never to return. We went to the sporting goods store nearby where we were cheerfully given a bag.
I knelt down with Meghan and Colleen told her them that we would never go into Sam Goody again because they wouldn’t help a little girl who was sick. I told them that though everyone else had been helpful and kind, that this store didn’t deserve our business. They agreed. The next time we went to the mall, we were all slightly pleased to see that Sam Goody was going out of business, and though their business issues had nothing to do with handing out plastic bags to non-customers, in my kids eyes, justice had been served. I couldn’t help but agree.
Meanwhile, the adventurous life of a parent having distracted us from the pain back home, we left the mall and went back to be with Cozy. Meghan’s stomach had settled, but she still clutched the precious plastic bag the whole way home just in case. Sometimes the best insurance in life is a simple plastic bag.
Once we had returned home, Cozy brought me her Kong about 400 times. Forget about eating, Cozy playing with her Kong was proof of life. She nudged me with it, threw it at me and generally made herself a complete nuisance. We all played with her and enjoyed the fun, but that night Cozy didn’t eat her dinner which was a simple yet powerful reminder that there was still something wrong though she was obviously feeling better and we couldn’t help but feel happy about that.
On Monday I had to go back to work which was hard since I had to be away from my Cozy for the first time since we learned the bad news three days earlier. I didn’t want to leave her and I was concerned that she would die at home without me since it would take me over an hour to get home if there were an emergency.
There are people who think that when a dog dies, it doesn’t matter if they die alone. I’ve read and heard many stories about people who have a neighbor deliver the dog to the vet to be put to sleep, or worse, just drop them off themselves like so much dry cleaning.
Dogs want two things above all else; they want to be with their people, and they want to be with other dogs. Dogs live to be our companions. When someone drops a dog off to be put to sleep, they dishonor the deal that dogs made with us millions of years ago. Dogs give us unconditional love and affection and they protect us and spend almost all of their energy trying to please us. In return for this, we are supposed to welcome them into our packs, love them in turn, and protect them from harm. Cozy was my companion, and she was always by my side when I needed her. Now she needed me, and I needed to be there for her. If she were to die while I was at work I would not be able to live with myself.
Though she had not eaten her dinner the night before, she eagerly gobbled up her breakfast. We tried not to hope for too much, but it was pretty exciting watching her eat. Suddenly all the complexities of our lives didn’t matter and we were thrilled to watch Cozy eat breakfast. Priorities can change quickly in our lives. I was saddened that it took something of this magnitude for us to see that.
While I was at work, Lauren made Newfie cookies. She had this wonderful recipe for dog cookies made with oatmeal and spices. They smelled wonderful while baking, and the dogs would sit by the oven with their noses in the air, eagerly sniffing while they waited. Lauren used blackstrap molasses in the cookies this time because it had more iron in it than normal molasses. Supposedly, iron was supposed to help with Cozy’s anemia the same way that liver did.
When I finally did pull into the driveway, Cozy not only greeted me, she was positively bouncy. Her bad hips had long prevented her from jumping up on the fence, but she was bouncing up and down on her front paws like she wanted to. What a sight! My Cozy was a happy girl and I was thrilled to see her and I greeted her with as much enthusiasm as she had shown me. How easy it had become to take each greeting for granted. Now each reunion, no matter how small, was a special event.
The next day I decided to leave work early in order to spend some time with my Cozy. Once home I gathered up my camera gear and outfitted both Lauren and me with complete rigs. We went into the yard and set about taking pictures of both dogs.
I even took some movies with our camcorder, and watching them later decided that if my Cozy was going to die, then I wanted some high definition video (still a very young technology) of her. While the digital photographs were processing on the computer, I began researching HD camcorders. I spent much of the night alternating between sitting on the floor with Cozy and processing photos with her at my feet. Cozy was happy either way.
On Friday I decided after all the work and money that I had put into the home theater, that the speakers weren’t big enough. I went and blew some money on a bigger set and prepared to list the old set on Ebay. All I had to do was figure out how to get the drool stain off of the front of the subwoofer. Cozy offered to help, but I didn’t think that her offer of more drool was a viable solution. Replacing speakers was a good distraction, especially when Cozy was there to help, and this time I made sure that she was in the middle of it all.
Cozy’s abdomen would change from almost normal looking to swollen and back again over the course of a few days. From what I could gather, the tumors in her belly were bleeding, and the blood would accumulate in her belly. When this happened she would become lethargic due to blood loss. After a while the tumors would “heal” and she would stop bleeding. Her body would absorb the blood in her belly and she would feel better. It was disgusting, but at least we understood the ups and downs of her moods.
Cozy would eat only half of her dinner if she felt like eating at all, even when we laced it with wonderful treats like liver. Some nights she would go back to her bowl at midnight to finish it off. Other nights we would find her bowl in the morning, untouched.
She would ask to go out, then lie in the yard for hours. When she’d come in, she’d soon ask to go out again by ringing her bells. While I might have told her to go lie down in the past, we let her be wherever she wanted to be, now. The ringing of the bells was no longer an irritant.
She seemed to be in good spirits, and when the Kong was involved, you might even have thought she was fine, but we could tell that something wasn’t right. From the eating problems to the look in her eye, we knew she was sick. We tried to stay positive, but we knew that Cozy wouldn’t be with us for much longer.
She would have trouble pooping from time to time, and every time she would go out, we would follow her and check for bloody stools. This macabre routine was necessary since the vet had told us that bloody stool was a sign that she was near the end. So far those systems seemed to be functioning properly.
She still wagged and barked at us, and was still very much Cozy. She was just a slower sicker version of the Cozy that we had come to love. Our baby girl was dying. We did all that we could to make her feel comfortable and loved with the added benefit that doting on Cozy helped to keep both Lauren and me from brooding about her imminent death. Some days it worked, while other days I would stand in the shower for half an hour sobbing while the hot water washed over me.
We were both determined to enjoy Cozy as much as we could, and to make the end of her life happy and full of love. She had survived past the vet’s expectations of “only a few days”, and for that we were both grateful.