Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Honor Ky Day

Today marks a year since Ky left his broken earthly vessel. I can’t say the year has flown by, but neither has it dragged too excruciatingly slowly. In the beginning it was pretty difficult. I felt lost. It’s gotten easier to function without him next to me as time has passed.  It took until February before I could even mention his name in my group classes without choking up.

I truly believe he brought Quig into our lives-probably as much for Quig as for me. It hasn’t been until the last couple months I healed enough to really focus on the gift he brought me in Quiggers. I’ve just begun to notice how similar Quig is to what Ky was when Ky first came to us. This realization has opened some new thoughts in my head and allowed me to get deeper into Quig’s.  That process is actually opening up my heart enough to let Quig in down deep and proper where dogs belong.

I’m seriously thinking Quig may be my next demo dog. While that’s been thought about before with Ledum (before he got off the plane & we saw his structure), and Tringa (before her ghastly hip report), even with Quigger’s questionable hips, he may actually be the one.

It’s true that I put whatever dog living in our house to whatever task they’re up for. Ledum has very bad structure. He works teaching first aid students about bad structure and its risks. He also gets to help out in puppy class by lying on the floor and playing with puppies. He loves this! He trots his big frame out and sends them all running with his size and then lies on the floor to become their furry trampoline.

Tringa does well as the main therapy dog. Lying quietly in school being read to and being fawned over with treats at intervals makes her very happy.

Mara is the original Ky-assistant-to-become-replacement. She helped him do lots of things. Now she does things he used to do and some of her own things. For some reason, though, people assume because of her breed (GSD) she just does these things naturally without training. That misconception makes it difficult to convince people their own dog can dog be trained to do these things also. Having a Leo for a demo dog helps show people any dog, even theirs, can be trained. Quig may help with people understand this.

Today I’ll take some quiet me time, some cry time, some happy time.

 I’ll spend some training time working on Quig’s fetch and general compliance to the high standard Ky set.

And Ky will be honored.

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A wonderful friend just sent me a link to Christine Kane’s blog post about pet loss.

It’s worth reading.

Take a look here

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Seven Days

It’s been seven days since Ky left us. Seven days of trying to find a new way without him by my side. Seven days of re-discovering exactly how deeply woven he was (and still is) into my life and livelihood.

There is a famous saying “not all who wander are lost”. Right now my personal view on this is slightly different.

“Not all who are lost wander”.

I’m not wandering. I’m getting up, going to work, going to the grocery store, going to the bank, answering e-mails, and hundreds of other normal seeming chores. But I’m still on auto-pilot.

Inside I’m lost. 

There’s a huge hole, emotionally and physically, in our household.

There are another couple quotes that come to mind:

“Perhaps strength doesn’t reside in having never been broken…but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places.”

Followed by

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow’”.

So for now I will get up again tomorrow on autopilot and do a hundred seemingly normal chores. But they’re not normal really. Being without Ky by my side isn’t normal yet. But in the not-too-distant future my new, stronger normal will be Ky only inside my heart.

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I’ve been a member of the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) for a number of years. It’s a resource I recommend to clients who may be having trouble dealing with some of the feelings they have as they face the upcoming loss or after losing their pet.


I’ve been trying to explain some of what we’re going through in our house to people who aren’t “dog people”.


I think the following quotes from an article Dr. Wallace Sife wrote for the APLB spring newsletter do a pretty good job of starting the explanation:


“It has been said that the worst bereavement anyone can go through is the loss of a child. Here, there are other complex factors involved that normally don’t come into play. But in many ways the loss of a beloved pet can be similar to the bereavement for a child. Our companion animals have a complete reliance on us –for everything. We train, nurture and raise them as we would a special person, and we love them dearly, completely protecting and nurturing them. And the pure love they give us back is like that of an adoring needy child who never grows up. Their personalities become an important part of us, and when they die the grief is unique and terrible. A very private bond and sense of special dependency and love is suddenly shattered. This is like no other kind of loss.”


“Our bonds with our beloved pets are in many ways stronger, purer, and far more intimate than with most others of our own species. We feel loved and secure in sharing our secret souls with them. How often can this be safely done – even with someone who is very close? So when a dear pet’s life ends, it really is very understandable and normal for us to grieve and suffer a profound and different kind of bereavement.”


“We all have the potential of being made into better people by our cherished passed-on dear ones. How we each end up celebrating their past lives and integrating them into our own ongoing existence makes all the difference.”

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It’s Friday, April 3. We got home from Ky’s last road trip about an hour ago. He made a quick appearance at the Leonberger Club of America’s National Specialty. People who have met Ky in person over the years got a chance to say goodbye. People who’ve “met” him on the Internet got to get a big sloppy kiss.

This trip was the last in our list of goals we’d hoped to meet since his bone cancer diagnosis in November. Our original plan was for the entire family, all 5 dogs, Mark and I to go for the entire show. Things changed. Ky’s at the stage where we’re trying to balance doing fun things and the risk of doing fun things.  It’s challenging at times. In the last few weeks I decided I was no longer comfortable squeezing all of us in the truck.  The risk of causing a pathological fracture in Ky’s leg was too great in such cozy quarters.

Our new plan: Mara, Corvus and Ledum were left at home. Mark, I, Tringa and Ky headed out at 5:30a.m.on Thursday April 2nd.

We planned to arrive at Nationals in plenty of time for him to participate in the Veteran’s Parade. We pulled into the show grounds an hour BEFORE the Veteran’s Parade was scheduled. As I drove across the parking lot to find a spot, we noticed a number of older Leos milling about. There was a pit in my stomach. We ran in to find out the Veteran’s Parade had just finished…an hour before it was scheduled to begin!

That was a HUGE disappointment, but we used extra time to visit with people.

We attended the cancer seminar in the afternoon. That’s why we chose to attend Thursday in particular. Leo people have participated in a number of research studies. All of our pack has contributed DNA and tissue samples where they could. We got an update on what’s happening and learned they’ve changed some protocol so Ky will donate more tissue.

I hauled a fluffy bed around with us so wherever we stopped to talk to people, Ky had a nice, soft place to repose. It got kind of heavy and bulky after wandering in circles looking for particular people, but Ky’s comfort was worth it.

As the night progressed and both of us tired, I was glad Ky had his pillow. At the same time I was distressed Ky had his pillow. Distressed over the reason he had the pillow, not the fact he actually had the pillow.

We got to visit with the owner of Tringa’s sire. That was great. He brought an awesome present for her we’ll treasure always. Oh, by the way, Tringa was super for her First Road Trip. She behaved well in the hotel room and in the hallways. Her first elevator ride elicited a tiny look of concern on her face that disappeared before we reached the second floor. After that it was just another thing we did.

Friday morning we got up to spend a little more time with people we’d missed on Thursday evening before heading back home.

We had planned to stay a short time, but had no exact timeline.  

It started to creep in very slowly-the overwhelming black cloud of sorrow. It started with a person bringing up his pillow which reminded me of why he had his pillow and why we were on the trip. It grew when the next person commented on his pillow and grew more when the next ten people commented.

That’s when it was time to leave. I had to get out of there before I started sobbing uncontrollably. We packed up and I stopped to say a teary farewell to a few people while Mark watched the dogs.

Then we were in the truck and headed home from The Last Road Trip.

We completed The Last Goal.

Now what?

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I think I’ve figured out why I’m having such a hard time with Ky’s diagnosis.
I have lots of experience with death. Ky is not the first dog I’ve had to euthanized. He will not be the last. He’s not the first, or even the second, I’ve lost to oesteosarcoma.
There have been losses that have shaken my core. One made me leave the board of a national rescue organization.
This is different.
The grief process with my preceding dogs has been private. I shared my experiences with family, close friends, certain clients – people of MY choosing.
With Ky it’s public.
Ky has been with me for the journey of the last nine years. He’s a big part of the reason we even embarked on the trip or arrived at this destination. He went to training school with me, both of us learning together. He went to Kinaesthetics training with me, both of us bonding our bodies together in ancient rhythm. He’s my Delta Pet Partner Therapy team partner. He’s my business partner. He’s my demo dog.

He’s MINE.

But as a training ambassador, he belongs to everyone.

The puppy owners whose puppies climb on him like a jungle gym in puppy class claim him as their own.

First Aid students who get to practice Snout-to-Tail assessments on him proclaim him theirs.
Students reading to him declare him a friend. The school staff declares him a member of the whole school community.
People see photos of him in the kayak, or sledding or canoeing or see him simply behaving in front of them and fall in love.

So now while the decision is MINE, it affects a whole lot of people. It’s no longer just about me and my comfort and feelings.
I have to consider a whole community. Do I tell the school now while he’s still asymptomatic? Do I wait until he shows a sign? two signs? Can no longer visit? Do I politely brush off frequent inquiries about him?

I want to avoid the poor pity energy that comes from people with news of terminal illness. But I want to be fair to everyone. I know his days are limited. I know each event could be the last which puts a special perspective on it for me. Should I share this with others?

Maybe keeping this information to myself is selfish. I get to enjoy the enlightened day to-day moments knowing they are precious and in a very limited supply. Others don’t.

But this is the way it should be and I should stop struggling with being selfish.

After all, HE IS MINE.

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My husband & I live very close to the crossroads of animal life & death. Because of our jobs, we’ve both participated in animals’ deaths quite often – almost daily for many years.
From 12/06 until 12/07 we lost 6 of our own pack, three of them within 72 days of each other.
Even with all that “practice”, it doesn’t get easier.

Anticipatory Grief is an interesting term.

The Webster New World Dictionary defines the word anticipate as:
1. to look forward to
2. to forestall
3. to take care of, use, etc. in advance
4. to be ahead of in doing.

Anticipatory Grief.

It’s certainly not something to look forward to in the traditional sense and I’m pretty sure I won’t be using all my grief in advance either.

How do I define this term myself?

It is heartache I’m feeling every day in some way since the diagnosis of bone cancer in my demo dog, Ky.

It is the underlying sadness in knowing this is his last Christmas with us, his last New Year’s, his last birthday-if he lives for the next couple months, his last school visit to have kids read to him, his last puppy mentoring class.

His Last.

It’s the bittersweet attempt to cherish and savor every single moment we have left; taking advantage of every photo op, every extra Leolick; every sunrise; every sunset.

It is gratitude. Gratitude for every single moment we have left; for all he has taught me; for all he continues to teach me; for the privilege of having him in my life however brief it may seem.

It is joy. The joy of savoring every single moment we have left; the joy of breathing in every ounce of his spirit deep into my soul; the joy of an incredible partnership.

It is appreciation. Appreciation of each sparkle of every star, of each snowflake, of each smile-provoking event, of life itself.

It’s uncertainty. The uncertainty of what each morning brings, of how soon and with whom to share the news, of what is the best for him, of how to share limited time with the rest of our pack.

It is faith the Universe is just as it should be; faith each of our journeys, his and mine, are just as they should be.

It is knowledge. Knowledge of what his end here will be like; knowledge we left behind will get through it once again.

It’s an all exhausting, energy draining, nauseating, soul-numbing pain in every fiber of my body 24 hours a day.

It is letting go. It is holding on.

It is a belief he will never truly leave me.

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