2011 started out emotionless. For much of January, I felt nothing but numbness about starting another calendar year without my Niko. He felt so far away.
I finally had a breakthrough in early February and a lot of emotions came back. It’s not that I want to be sad, or hurting, but I do want to feel something. Part of my relationship with Niko, is the pain of losing him. It’s not the dominant part by any means, but it’s a reminder of how much I loved him.
I do think about his whole life much more now than I was able to before. This allows me to embrace ALL memories of him, and I find the happy ones are the predominant ones. They remind me to be thankful every single day, that I had such beauty in my life.
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Keeping up with those in the fight…
I’ve been trying to keep tabs on thy LHD list. I tend to only pay attention when there are dogs nearing the end. This is the only area I feel I have something to offer. It destroys me though, when the battle ending reminds me of Niko’s. Many times, the end of the road sounds the same. There are several different scenarios, but most pups end up falling into one of them. Every time I read these posts, I think to myself “This person is about to lose their dog… they don’t even know how close they are.” I was fortunate to have someone (Dr. Davis) be very honest with me and tell me we had literally days left. I often think vets can give people false hope. I also think people don’t always comprehend how FAST things can go downhill and how close they are to losing their fur baby. How do you tell them – a total stranger – that it’s about to end? I can’t do it… and it just breaks my heart for them.
Learning to be OK with things that are not OK
I call myself a ‘recovering caregiver’. I have a post of a panicked night over one of our kitties, in which I illustrated the morose way I now view things. In February, we had another kitty with GI issues, which lead us to multiple tests, including an ultrasound at South Paws. I had not been to South Paws since Niko’s last acupuncture, which I believe was 6/27/09. I had not ‘remembered’ to panic or bulk at being there again. I was too concerned with my little Jasper.
I sat in the waiting area near oncology. I was able to pick up a magazine and browse the pages while we waited. There were dogs there being picked up from chemo. I so don’t envy those in the fight, but I do envy that they still have their babies. My role, THIS time, was much easier. Jasper had a possible abdominal obstruction, but it wasn’t critical. (Turns out it actually passed and no surgery was needed). Jasper was fixable. He may have some chronic GI issues to face in the future, but good meds and good food can help a lot. It’s not cancer… at least not right now… and I’ll take that. Not everything is always going to be OK, and I’m OK with that. I cannot worry about it right now. I’m really good at worrying, but I’ve assured myself, I don’t need the practice, it will surely come back to me anytime I need to exercise it.
Inanimate objects can be loved
I broke down and got the iphone yesterday. It is the only new smart-phone with a battery life forgiving enough to withstand my constant forgetfulness in plugging it in. My old LG Voyager was 33 months old and was starting to fail. As I stood in our dining room, holding my LG Voyager in my hand, and staring at the wallpaper pic (a pic of Niko, of course!) my husband asked me it if I was actually sad about relinquishing my old phone. Truth is…. YES! I’m not sad to upgrade the technology, but that old phone had been on countless walks with me and Niko. It took tons of terrible pictures, and a few good ones, of Niko. It was now, another inanimate object from Niko’s era, that I was moving on from. Yes… I’m sad.
I bought a new car 2 weeks after Niko died. I had promised myself I could get a new car when he passed, since I would no longer have the high vet bills every month, I’d be able to afford it. I reasoned with myself, the way a parent might with a child… promising a toy in exchange for a terrible task. The car shopping process certainly distracted me, and it was fun, until I signed the papers and realized I had to leave my old car with the dealer. I had traded it in. I had to leave it, with Niko hair coating all the fabric, and the front seat still adjusted for him to be comfortable with his seat belt on. I had given it no thought, until I realized the memories that car had. I was upset for some time over that, even though I love my new car. And while I am appreciating the horse power, ding-less exterior, and the adjustable seat warmers, a predominant thought is always “this interior color would have hidden Niko’s hair so well”.
Niko’s little tree did not bloom as nicely this year as it did last year. We had some strange weather patterns of really warm days, followed by cold, followed by warm. A lot of the trees seemed confused. I’m trying not to worry about it. It did still have some nice blooms, and the branches that didn’t bloom are covered in leaves now. Here are some pics of his little tree in early April.
Honoring Niko in 2011
I do my best to honor Niko every day by doing my part to help those who have suffered the loss of their heart dog, and those that are approaching the loss of their heart dog. People often ask what to expect in the end stages of the lymphoma journey. It’s never fun to re-hash, but I try to share my experience. I am honest, and I try to remind people to think of their companion’s comfort, over their own desire to hold on to them. I also try to remind people to keep some hope, as I’ve seen time and time again, a rally from the edge of something that seemed so grim. Enjoy every moment.
I am still thinking of a way to honor him this year, like I did last year. I could do another drive for the Magic Bullet fund, and I might. I know I will make a personal donation outside of the recurring monthly contribution I make. I’d like to think of something else though. I’m contemplating writing an essay about him and submitting it for publication. I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but have stalled due to my own inferiority complex regarding my writing abilities. I’m not eloquent and my vocabulary is somewhat limited. I have read essays and short stories that completely capture me in just a few paragraphs. Could I do this for Niko?
Update – Donations were made to the Magic Bullet fund by me, my parents, my sister, and dear friend Laura. Laura wrote “For Niko – Love Buggy Boo, Sweet Boy – Thank you, Bettina, for sharing him with so many of us.”
A candle was lit for Niko, by Sharon (After Gadget) that was also very touching. Sharon said “In honor or Niko and Bettina, who have helped me learn to grieve. A love-everlasting between dog and person that has inspired me.”
Kind words came via text from my friend Cat, and more love came via Facebook from Leisa and others. Thank you all.
A New Dog?
We have just passed the 2 year mark of life without Niko. I have been so confidently sure for so long, that I was not ready for another dog. I am beginning now to feel open to the idea, but I am nervous. I waver… one moment I can’t wait, the next I worry that it’s just not going to fit. I feel like I’m about to jump back in the ‘dating pool’ after a long lay off. Ha! I spent some time at dog adoption events this weekend with my parents, which was fun to meet some pups, though there were no love connections. There is a dog I have my eye on with HART. I will be meeting her later this month to see how it feels. She sounds perfect, but until I spend some time with her, I won’t know if it’s a match or not. I’m trying to remember that there is no pressure, and that it will happen when the time is right, and the dog is right.
THE New Dog
Hayley is our new girl. We met a few different dogs. This one, was the one. I have a post about her, how we met, and a few struggles I had, HERE. At the time I write this, she has been with the family for 2 months (adopted 8/20/11). It feels so good to have a dog again. The timing was right. I am glad we waited so long, as I just was not ready in any way until now.
Hayley has reminded me of the joys of having a young, healthy dog. Niko and I had many active years together, and those memories flood back with the new girl. She is a good reminder of how much one can love a dog. She will never be Niko, no one will, but I do love her.