In case you were wondering, this is not my normal, happy self posting today, but I’ve been confronted by some of the hard truths of life. Skip on past this if you like …
The greatest love causes both the greatest joy, and the greatest pain. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the love of my dog Stella, and I’m now experiencing the pain as her health slowly fails.
Stella entered our lives in 2008, a quiet and gentle rescue from the local SPCA. Her tail was tucked under when we got her, and it took six months of love and consistency for her to begin to wag it.
On August 14, 2009, I flatlined from complications of end stage liver disease. A ten-day coma ensued, the first of three comas over the next three months, accompanied by three three-week stays in the hospital. With highly skilled and aggressive treatment at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, I stabilized and was placed on the national liver transplant waiting list. Due to the size of the waiting list in Northern California, after two years we relocated to Florida. After spending six years, waiting and hoping to have a future, we were able to begin to actually plan for one.
That six years was a confusing time in itself, as I waited for someone to pass away tragically so that I could live. Through it all, Stella was at my side. She became a certified therapy dog, and began to visit local hospitals and the VA, bringing joy to people with her gentleness and calm demeanor. She loved it and received a 100-hour volunteer award from a local hospital that she still occasionally wears, to this day.
She had me walking a mile or two daily, right up to my transplant. After my transplant on June 2, 2015, she has continued to be a major part of my recovery, as we’ve averaged 100,000 steps a week for the last two or three years. Since immediately after my transplant surgery, Stella has helped me, taking me out for walks, waiting for me to shuffle along, never pulling on me, staying carefully beside me. Besides Melisa, Stella has been my biggest supporter, and I credit her with a large part of my good health.
Now almost 14 years old, Stella is having trouble walking. We thought it was arthritis, but last Friday, the vet confirmed that it’s a degenerative nerve disease. She has been losing the use of her hind legs, and it’s begun to accelerate over the past week or so.
The good news is that she’s in no pain, and she’s still in good spirits. She’s sleeping a lot, but she’ll be waking in a few minutes, and I’ll get to take her for another walk, supporting her hind end with a sling. Yesterday, we logged 15,000 steps, but it seems like every day, she’s leaning more heavily on me.
I’m learning firsthand how difficult the role of a caregiver is. I find myself depressed and have to remind myself to eat. My mind is focused on Stella at all times, from the moment I wake until I pass out in exhaustion, usually for a short nap before I check on Stella again. I’m beginning to understand Melisa’s part of my health journey as I go. It’s really hard.
Today, I searched Google for “mobile canine euthanasia.” I contacted one service yesterday, but wasn’t impressed with their attitude and policies, which require 72-hour advanced scheduling. The search yielded some results, and the next website I visited, when I clicked Contact Us, I realized the address was next door to my brother’s house, now occupied by my nephew and his growing family.
Further, the neighbor, who for some reason I’ve never called for veterinary services, is a friend from high school. That’s super comforting at this moment, even as tears stream down my face as I type.
This may only be a few days, or Stella may continue to carry on. As long as she’s willing, I’m honored to be the one she now depends on.
Thanks for checking on me.
I love you.