A Weekend I Won’t Ever Forget

These days, it seems, it’s all about making memories, treasuring the little things, and finding joy in simple pleasures.

Beauford expo 1.jpg

Though I had always thought that it was meant-to-be for Beauford to be a therapy dog, I was truly inspired to make it happen when I heard about Smiley who does great work for St. John Ambulance.

Smiley is a 14 year old, completely blind, Golden Retriever, that has a remarkable history.   He has overcome so much, and has found the best forever family that love him beyond words.   A single glance at his pictures and you fall instantly in love.

When I heard that Smiley was going to make an appearance at the Canadian Pet Expo over Easter weekend I reached out to his owner, Joanne George, on Instagram.  I really hoped we’d be able to get these two golden guys, each with special needs, together for a photograph sitting side-by-side in all their golden glory.   A plan was made and Beauford and Smiley were going to meet.   This is a picture I knew I’d treasure, and meeting Smiley was on Beauford’s bucket list.

I have never taken Beauford to such an event before.  I was a bit nervous because he is very submissive and isn’t the bravest of souls.   I didn’t want him to feel overwhelmed or frightened of any dogs that might be there.   It’s a large event, with dogs, cats, reptiles and birds, and I worried, especially now, that it might be too much for him.   I knew I needed to go with the perfect person, someone who we both love and trust, who’d keep us calm and exudes excellent energy…and that was Beauford’s dad.

I told Beauford where were spending the night Thursday, and my goodness did he ever whine while he waited for his dad to arrive to pick us up.  His belongings were packed by the door, and as we sat and waited he groaned and moaned until I gave in and headed downstairs to wait for his chariot to arrive.  Of course, he went running to him and was pleased as punch to be in the back of his dad’s Jeep.    He was so excited to be at his downtown abode, and checked it out for new sniffs.   Of course on Friday morning he snuck into the bed (again) for a quick snuggle.  It’s not allowed, but when your dad folds like a cheap suit…

That morning we mapped out where Smiley’s booth was, and headed out to the Expo.  As we pulled into the parking lot I was still a bit uncertain…what was I doing?  There were excited dogs hopping out of cars all around us.  Their energy abound, tails wagging and it was like a tongue out Tuesday on a Friday!   I looked at Beauford in the backseat and thought, let’s do this.   We got the tickets for free — thank you to Hanna at Pet Valu for that — and drove all the way out to Mississauga, there was no turning back now!

Beauford’s enthusiasm was instant.   Though he had no clue where he was going, he led the way to the event hall where it was being held.   Once we finally got in, Beauford was a bit overwhelmed at first, but having his dad there gave him a confidence boost, one that I know for certain he wouldn’t have had if it was just me!

We headed to Smiley’s booth, and the two golden guys met.   They definitely liked each other.   Tails were certainly wagging!  Pictures were taken, and Beauford decided it was the perfect place to lay down and have a rest.  Smiley and Beauford

As Beauford laid there, relishing in all the attention he was getting, someone asked if he was Smiley.  I had to laugh, I said, nope, he’s just lazy!   Once he got a bunch of belly rubs from strangers that were there to meet Smiley, we got him up and headed to check out the rest of the event.  Beauford picked a bag of treats (beef lungs) and we took in a dog agility show.  After about  an hour, Beauford was tired and ready to hit the road.   He spent the afternoon napping, and then we headed home.

Beauford Expo 2

Saturday we enjoyed a visit to the store, his Auntie Katie stopped by to say hello and for a little walk in the sunshine, and we capped off the day with a visit from his buddy, Theo.  Theo is a dog that stole my heart the instant I met him.  I can’t say enough good things about him.  He is a special, special, soul, and I adore him as though he’s my own.  Theo is remarkable with Beauford; he lets Beau be the alpha male he’s always dreamed of being.

Beauford Theo.jpg

Beauford was SO excited to have Theo and his Auntie Kat visit.   He was play barking, and growling as they played tug.  He was doing his circle spins and smiling from ear-to-ear (dogs DO smile!).   There was some toy carnage, and the carpet was covered in fluff.  Beauford was so excited to have company, and definitely showed his Auntie Kat how much he loved having them here!  They played, and played, and played.  Then his tank ran out of gas, and the sound of Beauford conking out on the floor was pretty comical.

Though these events lasted only hours, they made memories that I will never forget. Memories that I will cherish and that I will forever be grateful for.    Thursday evening, and Friday were GREAT.  Beauford so enjoys being in his dad’s company.  He really loved spending that much time with him, doing something so fun!  I am so glad I set my fears aside, and took him to the show.   Saturday was the cap to a perfect long weekend.   Seeing Beauford play so happily, and enthusiastically, with Theo brought me so much joy.

I am so thankful to everyone that made this weekend so special…

 

A New Definition of Excellent

Beauford 1

 

Beauford’s (pricey) urinalysis results came in last week, and the oncologist used the word “excellent” to describe the outcome.   For a moment I was confused, what could be excellent about cancer?

His tumor, the beast, did not appear to be the AP kind, but rather the AC kind.  Though there was no guarantee that this test was 100% accurate, it seemed that the worry of the tumor invading the surrounding vessel had been reduced.  It does not appear that this is a blood pressure tumor.   Lessened are the risk of collapse, the risk of sudden blood pressure changes, and the risk of this tumor causing Beauford to have a sudden and painful passing as the beast invades the surrounding vessel.  All good news, excellent in fact.

The news came with a twist, Beauford needed to be tested for Cushings Disease.   This tumor could be a Cushings tumor.  Dr. Safi went on to explain that 50% of Cushings tumors are benign, and 50% are malignant.  I immediately asked whether Beauford’s tumor could in any way NOT be a cancerous mass.  Was it possible my dog didn’t have cancer after all, but rather a different disease altogether?

Though she didn’t leave me with no hope, she reminded me that on the CT scan there did appear to be some swelling of the surrounding lymph nodes, and in all likelihood this tumor is malignant.   I sat back for a second, on the phone, attempting to process the information being relayed.

It was suggested I get Beauford tested for Cushings as soon as I was able.   If this tumor was a Cushings tumor we’d need to address it quickly, and get him on the right course of medications.  Since this journey started I have done my best not to be Dr. Google (though it’s good to inform yourself, it’s dangerous to over-Google, over-think, and convince yourself something is a fact, when it’s probably fiction).   Thus, I don’t know much about Cushings other than it causes excessive thirst and excessive urination.    Cushings is not a fun disease, not for the dog and not for the family.  Dogs often have regular accidents in the home, and it’s stressful for all involved.

Beauford had been panting more, and drinking more recently, sometimes peeing more, but he also has been eating more, and with his dyspepsia that isn’t anything too unusual.  I began to ask myself though, was I under estimating the increase, not paying enough attention to the panting?  The only way to know was to book the test,stop the wonder, and get the answers as quickly as I could.

The test was a three-fold test.   I was told it was key to keep Beauford’s stress to a minimum for the duration of the eight hour day.   After consulting with my vet, and my father, we came up with a creative way to get this test done.  Beauford would arrive at the clinic on Monday at 9:00 a.m.  They would do the first blood draw, give him the steroid injection and we would take him back home.  All of the blood draws and the injection would be done in an exam room, with me there able to comfort him.

After the first blood draw we hopped back in the car and drove home with strict instructions to return in exactly four hours for his second blood draw.  Time was of the essence and it was crucial that the four hour and eight hour draws be done exactly on time or we’d screw up the whole test.   Instead of spending the duration of the day at the clinic Beauford got to spend the entire day at home, and have his own personal chauffeur (my dad) to and from the vet.   This ensured that his stress was kept to an absolute minimum, and that I was there for each and every test.

It was a coordinated effort, and a plan designed to ensure that Beauford was comfortable, and happy for the entire day.  And at the end of it all Beauford went to Pet Valu and chewed his knuckle bone.   He was in excellent spirits.  All of the back and forth was worth it, just to see that smile.

My favourite moment of the day was popping Beauford on the scale and seeing that he has gained 7 of the 13 pounds back that he’d lost.  I also quite thoroughly enjoyed the vet’s suggestion that Beauford, indeed, is going to surprise us all.   He is having much too much fun enjoying treats, extra meals, special visits, and all this love.   She said he looks amazing, his eyes are bright and he seems so happy.   Her comments confirmed what I already know in my heart, Beauford’s got his own timeline, he’s in charge, and he will light up our lives with love for as long as he’s able.

The results came in much faster than I’d thought.   Beauford does not have Cushings Disease.   This is excellent news, since having both Cushings and Cancer would have been crummy. Having cancer is crappy enough, we need not have double the disease.

I have yet to speak to oncology in Guelph about the findings, but my understanding is with the confirmation that he is Cushings free, that tiny glimmer of hope that this tumor isn’t cancerous is all but gone.

So, we soldier on.   We accept all news that isn’t wretched as indeed “Excellent” and forge ahead with our commitment to make each day special.

 

 

 

Finding My Way Back To Gratitude

 

 

Beauford Gratitude

A treasured friend of mine sent me an A.A. Milne quote recently.  And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Always remember you are Braver than you Believe, Stronger than you Seem, Smarter than you Think and Loved more than you know.”

Thank you, Katie.  Thank you for being a friend (kind of like the Golden Girls, but different), thank you for being the calm that surrounds the storm, for being an ear, for being thoughtful, and for just being you.   I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found such a great friendship.

Undoubtedly it’s been an emotional few months, a time where I’ve slept even less than I usually do (and I am a TERRIBLE sleeper), and things seem to hit me more, hurt me more, than they usually would.  I feel a bit like bruised fruit; I’m still sweet, but I feel like I’m covered in blemishes or little dents that show just how much I’ve been jostled lately.

The thing about bruised fruit is, it might not be the most beautiful, but when it’s picked and handled with care, once you slice it open you’ll find that you can cut around the bruised bits and it’s still pretty great.    But not everyone chooses the bruised fruit.   And eventually, if it’s not chosen, that fruit just rots.  It loses all its sweetness and just gets pitched.

When you’re feeling like bruised fruit, you can’t always wait for someone to choose you.   You have to choose yourself.  You have to open yourself up, expose all the bruises, and then find love for yourself and ALL your good bits.

Lately I have found myself feeling very bruised, not quite good enough, disappointed, and down.   I can appreciate that I am absolutely entitled to feel the way I do.  In fact, in times like this you have to let yourself feel, BUT then you have to allow yourself to heal.   Only I haven’t been all that good at the healing.

Beauford’s diagnosis rocked my very core.  He is what saved my life and gave me a purpose. He was always my reason to get up, and get out every single day, even the wretched ones.   He has given me laughter, and unconditional love.  The idea of waking up and him not being here has forced me to face a fear I haven’t felt in years.   Thus, the other things going on in my life have hit me harder, and definitely hurt me more.   My mind has wandered and I’ve worried.

Admittedly, I have fallen victim to feeling a bit too sorry for myself, my situation.   While sifting through veterinary journal articles, and replaying conversations with specialists in my head, I felt overwhelmed.   When compounded with all that I’ve been dealing with outside of the vet stuff, I started to wallow and be swallowed by so much emotion.  And wallowing helps no one, not me and especially not Beauford.

Someone I love deeply reminded me recently that I can do better, I can be better.  Though tough to hear, sometimes you need that boost, that reminder, of what you’re truly capable of.  I’ve been too bogged down.  I’ve been allowing myself to feel, but haven’t done enough to heal.  Somehow I forgot that I am the creator of my own happiness.

I have such a tremendous amount to be grateful for, so many people (friends and strangers alike) have been so incredibly generous, selfless, thoughtful, and kind.   I’ve been on the receiving end of so much support, from near and far, and it has given me the boost I needed to keep going.   Where I’ve gone wrong is allowing the things I don’t have, to matter more than what I do.

I am taking stock of all the little things, investing in friendships with people that are healthy, letting go of those that are not, devoting time to making each day special, and forging ahead in my plans to build a legacy for Beauford.

I am committed to giving back, creating my own happiness, and living each day grounded by gratitude.

 

 

 

Just Who Is This Golden Guy Named Beauford

Beauford puppy shot

Like his mother, people often mispronounce Beauford’s name.  The irony of this never gets old. Pronounced BO-FORD, he’s named after Carter Beauford, the drummer for the Dave Matthews Band.  Much like Carter’s, Beauford’s smile will light you right up, and make you feel love.

When someone that doesn’t know Beau asks about him, I say his personality is a fine blend of some of the most cherished characters in the childhood favourite, Winnie The Pooh. Much like Pooh, he loves to have a full belly and he’d get his head stuck in a honey pot for just one more drop.

He is a retriever that loves his snacks, treats, and meals.   When you say ‘Do you want..?’ his ears immediately perk up, and he looks at you as if to say YUP, before you’ve even finished the sentence.  Like Pooh, when he wakes up in the morning I have no doubt he’s thinking “what’s for breakfast?”  And he even used be chubby, like Pooh, and with his recent increase in treats he is getting his chubby butt back!   There has been many a day where I’ve walked behind him and watched that bum wiggle and I say look at that bum…he responds by looking back, smiling and wagging his tail even more.  I’m telling you, this dog is proud of the junk in his trunk.

Beauford can definitely channel his inner Eeryore when it’s time to leave somewhere he loves, like the store, and he’s not quite ready.  He has the ‘It’s raining on my head’ look down pat.  He will lower his eyes, shrug down, tuck his head in chest, and really milk the moment.

He has the nervousness and uncertainty of Piglet.  Beauford is definitely shy when it comes to meeting dogs he doesn’t know.  He often stops, and waits to make sure they are friend, not foe, before proceeding to say hello.   He’s incredibly submissive and if a squirrel looked threatening he would no doubt submit to it too.  He doesn’t have a mean spirited bone in his body and is very much a follower or other pooches, always willing to follow the kind alpha’s lead.

And though he doesn’t have Tigger’s all the time BOUNCE, he has these bursts of energy and happiness that come right out of nowhere.   He’s also definitely a detective.  On a recent playdate at his best buddy Dexter’s he kept (suspiciously) leaving the room.  I knew he was up to something, and after a few moments I checked on him.  He had managed to sniff out and find a bag with some old treats in the bottom of it!!   He was persistent in his efforts, and wasn’t about to give up until he got that bag open and those treats were crunching in his mouth.

Beauford is “the dog that lies down”.  Since the day he came home, first position on a ‘walk’ was lying on the pavement.  People have stopped, cars, and buses (yes, a city bus) have pulled over their drivers asking if he’s okay.  When he gets the attention he knows will come with this ‘method’, he lifts up his back leg expecting an inner thigh rub.   He won’t stop there, he will shamelessly roll over in the middle of the pavement, on his back, legs up in the air with a giant smile, daring you to pass without petting his belly.  He’s my traffic stopper, and his attention seeking behaviour is charming and often hysterical.

He’s also been known to just ‘pick people’ when we’re walking.  He walks right up to them and sits quietly or nudges them a little.  Anyone he’s ever picked has gone on to share that they’re going through a hard time (be it recently diagnosed with an illness, suffered a loss, or is just generally having a crummy day).  He gives them unconditional love, and the boost they need to keep going.  He’s been known to stop when a young baby or child is crying, always wanting to check if they’re okay.  If there’s comfort that needs providing, he’s always willing to provide it.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told how lucky I am to have such a sweet soul.

His gift for finding those that need comfort and insisting upon giving it is how he ended up at local residence for children, and young adults, doing the job that he was born to do, therapy dog. He LOVED working.  He was enthusiastic, showed an incredible level of patience and caring when spending time with these children. Watching the babies giggle, and children smile as he rolled over asking for rubs or sat next them in their wheelchairs smiling while being petted are moments that are forever etched in heart.

Not at all dominant, Beauford`s many kitty sisters have always been in charge.  He recently spent the night at a neighbour’s place, and when I asked how the evening went I was told that he whined only once.  When I asked why, I was told that Maya, the resident cat had decided to sleep on his blanket.  He wanted to sleep there, but would never just tell her to get off.  Instead he woke Matt up by whining to get him to shoo her off.

When Tinsley, the kitten, came home after my Maddie cat had passed he was in awe of this tiny creature.  But she quickly taught him his place on the totem and wouldn’t walk past her unless she gave him permission.  He is so sweet allowing his feline siblings to groom him, but will do the gross dog thing and when they`re done he will sniff, and attempt to lick their bottoms.  It`s quite possibly the grossest thing that Beauford does, but he can’t help but love some kitty bum.

Beauford is as smart as he is stubborn.  He learns tricks quickly, though when it comes to ‘circle’ he will only spin in one direction.  If he wants to go left, because we always go left, getting him to turn right can be challenging.  I have often wondered how ridiculous I look trying to reason with this dog in the middle of the street.

Given that I have to hand feed him his meals (he eats his meatballs like a seal — sitting in front of me, swallowing them whole) I taught him how to tap his paws.  He’s always tapping in anticipation for each meal, eager to fill his belly with home cooked food.   At the end of his meals he is allowed to lick his bowl out.  I can’t tell you how many times I wonder how he manages to get the glass more gleaming than it looks when it’s washed.  He gets every morsel of food, as to him it’s good to the last drop.

On days when I cook, he’s always ‘helping’ READ:  lying in my tiny kitchen so I have to step over him.  But when the time comes to clean up he is the most excellent spoon rinser ever! He also makes sure I don’t have to wash out the yogurt or cottage cheese containers.  He will lick those so they’re absolutely polished.

Beauford has a fun side.  You see it when the elevator opens and he runs down the hall to the door, smiling with his tail wagging waiting for you to let him in.  If it’s my dad that’s taken him out he will barrel through the front door and run into the living room looking for a treat.

He’s a dog that doesn’t bark, unless he wants something or his ball is under the furniture out of reach.   If someone knocks on the door and I am not in a room where I can hear it I’d have no idea.   Beauford simply picks up a toy and walks to the door waiting.  He never lets me know that anybody is even there.

From the moment he came home he has loved to sleep in the bathroom.  As he grew he continued to wedge himself between the tub and toilet.  Anytime I shower, since he was just a wee thing, he’s had a snooze in the bathroom.   There isn’t enough floor space in there for both of us in the morning, but somehow we make it work.

Toilet antics

Not a big snuggler, we have a quick night-night cuddle right before bed, but he often sleeps on the 3-seater couch that quickly became his that I had to move to the bedroom. Though when we do share the bed, I am often surprised by my own flexibility when I wake up in a cirque style pose because he’s decided to sprawl out and snooze.   My spot seems to be wedged between the mattress and the wall on those evenings!  One of his sweetest sleep sounds is when he stretches and groans, like he’s saying , oh that feels good! And mornings aren’t mornings without our morning snuggle, but once he gives you ‘The Beauford’ you know he’s done.

Beauford loves when we have company.   Somehow he seems to know, despite the fact the ring is the same, when someone has buzzed up to let me know they’re here.  He goes and waits by the door with his tail wagging to see who might be arriving.   Though he truly does have good manners, you know he loves you when he climbs up on the chair for a cuddle and kiss (he sometimes will stand up on you and give you kisses — not allowed, but it’s how you know you’re definitely one of his favourites).

He’s also quite good at making himself comfortable in other peoples’ homes.  If there is a resident dog, that’s a buddy of his, he will check out their toy bins.  And if there’s only a baby or cat he’ll check out their loot too.  He knows he’s loved, and he knows he’s cute, and he knows that so long as he turns on the charm, and has decent manners, no one will give him too hard of a time.

He adores my best friend Kitty (Katherine), and she loves him.   One of his puppy moments that I wont ever forget is him coming quite close to peeing in her very expensive pink sparkly shoes.   She was SO excited to see him, and him her, that he started to tinkle.  Oh…those puppy days.  I taught him when he was young how to behave in the local stores, and he’s grown up to love shopping.  He has his few favourites where he insists on stopping in just to check out what’s new and to say hello.

It’s not all smiles and I’d be remiss not to mention his health challenges.  Beauford has handled everything with dignity and grace.  He is patient and cooperative, and he is strong.   People are shocked to learn of his high needs, and special restrictions.   On days he has gastric seizures he hides his symptoms so well almost no one knows he’s having them.  He always puts on the bravest of brave faces when he’s out on those days, eager to distract himself from his health failings.  At home with me whenever he feels crummy, he seeks out my comfort and support.  He will cuddle a bit more, and gets what I call mummy-itis, where he doesn’t want me to go far.   We have an incredible bond because of all he’s been though, and those that know us know we’re joined at the hip.

Beauford is an old sweet soul, wise beyond his years, and will capture your heart within moments of meeting him.  Not a day goes by that I don’t consider myself lucky that I am his mom.  As we continue on this golden journey, I wanted to give you all a chance to get to know him better, see him through my eyes, and know just how incredibly special this dog is.

 

Something You Never Want To Prepare For, But Should

Beauford toys.jpg

There have been many nights since Beauford’s diagnosis that I find myself unable to sleep. After  what I can only call ‘the collapse’ on diagnosis day I have tried my very best not to cry in front of him.  I have choked back tears, cried in the shower, or quietly wept while he slept.

I’ve listened to him breathe, snore, and my most favourite – taking in the sights and sounds while he dreams.  The paws shaking, tail wagging, and little woofs he lets out as he dreams are things that are now permanently etched in my memory.

I’ve never been a great sleeper, actually I am a downright rotten one.   It seems that as I lay down to sleep my mind wanders, and takes me on journeys that sometimes I have no interest in taking.  My mind was polluted with thoughts of how can I possibly pack up all this things?  The thought of that, akin to being poisoned by grief.  I thought about all his guys, his beds, his bowls, his special ties, and bow ties, his leashes, bandannas, costumes, coats,  collars, shampoos, coat conditioners, brushes,  and all the other things I’ve acquired over his 6 years to make his life the best it possibly could be.

My home is Beauford.  You walk in my door and he’s everywhere; he has his hooks (shaped like dog bums) and his cubby (filled with all his things).  A dog lives here.  There’s no denying it.  As you enter the living room there’s toy bins that quite honest vomit stuffed animals, balls, bones and tug toys.

Thinking about packing that all away is absolutely agonizing.   The more I thought about it, the deeper I felt myself drowning in grief and he is not even gone yet.  Here’s the thing when you’re facing a loss, any loss, you don’t want to think about these things, and you do your very best not to.   But it’s difficult. You’re only human, and it’s so hard to not think about the stabbing pain that’s to come.

But in these many, many, lost hours of sleep I’ve realized there are things you HAVE TO push into the back of your mind, because if you think about them too much the grief will cripple you, leaving you unable to make new memories, and you’ll fail in making each day special.

The one thing I have allowed myself to do, and I would encourage everyone to take a moment to do this, is plan what you can for the day that you have to say your final goodbye.  I have loved and lost before, and I know that on that very last day it’s a whirlwind of emotion.  There are things that you might forget, things you wish you didn’t.

I have selected Beauford’s final things.  Without question he will be privately cremated, and his ashes will rest in an urn I have selected, with a paw print to accompany it.  The instructions, along with my credit card number, have been placed in an envelope for safe keeping.  I have picked the blanket he will be wrapped in, and I have picked a few of his favorite guys and an entire bag of his favourite treats that will forever rest with him.

All these decisions were made as I listened  to him breathe, snore, and woof in his sleep.   I chose a guy given to him by my father, by his best friend Dexter, and one that has become his security blanket from me.   All of these guys are his favourites, and it gives me great comfort to know that something from everyone he loves will be with him forever.

I wanted to be certain that on Beauford’s last day, whenever that is (hopefully not for a LONG time), that my mind wasn’t bogged down by choices, and I could truly just love him right to his very last breath without fear of forgetting.

 

 

Glad That Beauford Had A Dad

 

Beauford Bed

I always wanted Beauford to have a “Dad”.  I was soon to be 30 when Beauford came home on March 5th 2010, single, and he was officially my first canine kid.  It was just the two of us for a very long time.

Five years later I met someone incredible.  Someone that made me laugh like I’d never laughed before, someone I knew from the instant we met that Beauford would adore.  And boy did he ever!   He never developed a bond so quickly, one that was so genuine, and so filled with love.

The first night they met, Beauford knew instantly who he was and he liked him…a lot!   As we walked together around the block, I left for a moment to dispose of the obvious in the garbage, and I turned to see the pair walking away together.  Beauford not even looking back to see where I was.  He totally trusted him, and was entirely comfortable to go on his merry way, to meet and greet this super guy.

I watched them for a moment and caught my boyfriend testing Beauford’s knowledge of tricks, and his manners.  Of course my monkey passed with flying colours.  He sat, gave his paw, and laid down instantly when asked.  In that moment, it was like all was right with the world, my two guys had met, and Beauford thought he was just as amazing as I did.

The most difficult thing to find in a partner was someone who ‘got’ that Beauford isn’t just ‘a dog’.   My boyfriend not only understood, but he appreciated that Beauford required extra care and attention because he faced health challenges and had special needs.  He helped me cook for him, asked about him every day, and would always take his leash when we walked together.

Beauford became ‘The Beaufords’, and there was never a day that a message wasn’t sent that included a picture or video of Beauford.  There’s got to be an hour of film sent to him of me asking Beauford ‘Do you want the ball?  Do you want the ball? ‘ ‘Go Get That Ball’. There’s also one that will forever live in the history of my heart.  Beauford and Sadie (My Father’s Dog) were out playing in the yard.  I was attempting to play with sweet and patient Sadie who LOVES to fetch, but Beauford kept coming to steal the ball from me. After several attempts on video I’m heard saying ‘Do you want the ball?  F*ck off Beauford’.  It was dog-comedy-gold.

This man’s love of baseball, re-ignited a childhood one that I once had.  I was reminded how great of a game it is.  Of course within a few short months Beauford became a fan, and made a really exciting team look even better!

cropped-img_20160115_1616411.jpg

The first time Beauford visited the downtown condo, he was quick to make himself at home.  He hopped up on the couch to test it out, and checked out the high-rise view.  He followed this man, he loved so much, around, checking out everything there was to see and sniff.

As they cooked in the kitchen I heard ‘not for doggies’ so many times, and it just warmed my heart and made me smile.  They were totally bonded.  It filled me with delight to see Beauford’s tail flap up and down each time my boyfriend passed him laying on the floor. And there was never a time that this man I loved didn’t stop, bend down, and give him a little scratch or belly rub.

Beauford, who wasn’t supposed to be allowed in the downtown bed, snuck right in one morning for his usual morning snuggles.  In a moment of pure humour I watched as my boyfriend folded ‘like a cheap suit’ and cuddled him.   I thought, this is what love is…and this is what love does.

For our first Hanukkah together Beauford received a bacon scented/flavoured ball (ironic, I know) and a special sign to hang above the plethora of toys that occupied our home.  They were sweet and thoughtful gifts from someone who obviously loved this dog.

They had a different relationship.  It was totally a dad and dog relationship.  Beauford was spirited, energetic, and happy to run with him.  I often caught them playing a good game of tug, or just goofing around with one another.

When we went for walks together downtown Beauford instantly transformed into his downtown dog personality.  With less grass and fewer spots to go, he showed me he could make it work if we moved down there. He loved walking down by the water, and seemed interested in everything this new area had to offer.  Though it wasn’t home, I started to think it could be.  Once he’d been on the subway once to see him, he remembered the way to get there the subsequent times we went.  I’d tell him where we were going, and who we were going to see and he’d march proudly to the subway, knowing he was going to see his dad.

I knew Beauford loved him, when he got ‘the Beauford’ which is when you snuggle Beauford and give him kisses, or you kiss his head while you play, and he lets out a grunt or groan.   Beauford genuinely enjoyed his company.   When we’d have sleepovers and go out for early morning walks Beauford would do his business super fast (lightening fast for Beauford actually) and turn around to head back to his downtown home.  He’d run in the condo and find my boyfriend cooking breakfast in the kitchen, who would quickly remind him that pancakes were not for doggies.

On Beauford’s 6th birthday, which happens to be New Years Eve Day, the three of us ventured to Petsmart to get Beauford his very own bed to sleep in when we slumbering downtown.   Of course, I let Beauford choose the bed he desired, and of course instead of selecting anything on-sale (as I would, and kind of encouraged) he picked a crazy expensive orthopedic bed.  Of course I caved, and it was carried to the cash desk.  To my surprise my boyfriend paid for the bed, giving Beauford the best present, and something that made him smile.

Beauford was so spoiled by this man.  Lots of tummy rubs and tail wags were had.  Pictures were shared on Instagram and he never stopped spoiling him.   Beauford even got a special sombrero that cost much too much money as a trinket from a business trip in Mexico. Beauford had stolen his heart, as much as he had stolen mine.

IMG_20160203_092914

As I face losing this dog I love with my whole entire heart, I am so incredibly grateful that he had a dad.

Opening Yourself Up To Kindness

Saturday Beauford and I headed to the beach.   It’s a place I know he adores.  He loves walking along the boardwalk, in the sand, by the water, taking in all the new sniffs and meeting new people.  The entire time we were down there I was taking pictures of Beauford, capturing these moments, making memories on film.

 

I had taken this picture, one which is “so Beauford”, when something pretty special happened.

IMG_20160312_213526

 

 

Though we weren’t down there long, as Beauford does tire more easily than he used to, we were down there just long enough to be on the receiving end (again) of someone’s kindness.

Laura Dittmann a local  photographer and videographer stopped while walking along the boardwalk with her friends.  She offered to take our picture together.  I am not at all comfortable getting my picture taken, but I opened myself up to getting photographed by a stranger feeling emotional, exhausted, and slightly under the weather.  Yet another branch of kindness was being extended and I grabbed hold of it not knowing how amazing these pictures would turn out.

It was an impromptu shoot, and in the minute we spent with her she did a remarkable job capturing who Beauford is, and who we are together.

 

Her pictures are stellar.  She did a great job, on the fly, with a dog that was tired, and easily distracted.  I will be forever thankful for her kindness, for stopping, and giving me a lasting memory of me and my golden guy.

 

Thank you, Laura!

website:  www.lauradittmann.com

email:  contact@lauradittman.com

 

A Difficult Choice: Standing In Front Of Two Doors Not Knowing What’s Behind Either One

IMG_20160221_223729

Beauford’s CT Scan left us with many questions, and very few concise answers.   I have been forced to make an impossible choice, and one which I never want to look back on and feel regret.

Ultimately, I was given two paths.  The first surgery, remove the mass, biopsy it, and that opens the door to surgical complications, post surgical complications, and the possibility of other therapies (like chemo) being necessary to fight this beast.   The risk of Beauford not surviving the surgery, I believe I was quoted 20%.  Any way you look at it, that number is a high one.  There’s one school of thought that he’s got an 80% chance of pulling through and doing great.  If you got an A on a paper you’d be happy; right?

Only I wasn’t.  I have to be clear and concise when I say this.   I don’t doubt (AT ALL) the skill and ability of the surgical team in Guelph.  They were incredible.  And their confidence was reassuring, and they left me with a lot to think about.

The surgery, no matter how it’s done is complex because of the location of the mass, how close it is to the vessel.  It means a 3-4 day stay in the ICU,  and 2-3 weeks of recovery at home.

Unfortunately, what we don’t know and can’t know unless the mass is removed is exactly what the face of this beast is.  Nor do we have a definitive idea of how much time Beauford would have if he had the surgery, or the quality  that this time would be.

He could get the mass removed, have a crap month and be okay for 3 years.  He could get this mass removed and find out that this cancer is aggressive and the month he spent recovering might be one of the last that we have.  He could get the mass removed and be okay for one year.  He could…he could…he could…

The second option is to do nothing.  And by nothing I mean monitor the mass with regular ultra sounds, and allow him to leave out his days without significant medical intervention.  Choosing this course would allow me to spend these good days that he’s having now, doing things he loves, and making memories.   This option allows me to say he will have his best days, he will do all the things he loves while he still feels great, he will be able to go every week to play at his best friend Dexter’s place, he will be able to go to the store each day and chew his bones, he will be able to eat special snacks and enjoy trips to the beach and seeing all his buddies.  He will…he will…he will.

IMG_20160227_174659.jpg

Will it mean saying goodbye to him sooner?  Possibly? Maybe?  Probably?

I had a lot to think about, a lot of medical information to absorb, and an ultimately a massive decision I had to make.

The first thing I had to do, was set aside my feelings and put Beauford first.  I had to think about everything, the gigantic picture, all of it, and make the best decision for him.

I have chosen to monitor the mass, and at this point will not proceed with surgical intervention.

I know there are going to be different opinions on this.   Some may feel that I have been provided an option that could give me more time; so, why on earth wouldn’t I take it? Here’s why.

Beauford is my entire world.  He is my purpose.  He is my heart, and he is a part of my soul.  His health, well-being, and happiness have always been my TOP priority.   I don’t think anyone who’s met us has even remotely thought otherwise.

Even though I am facing losing the one thing on this earth that loves me unconditionally and quite honestly saved my life, I can’t be selfish now.  I can’t think about me.  I have to put him first.  I can’t think of the agony of waking up without him here, can’t think of the loneliness, the sadness and heartache.  I can’t let those feelings get in the way, and make me want to do whatever they can to save him…for me.

If Beauford was a “healthy” dog with cancer i.e. he didn’t have the neurological condition, and esophageal dyspepsia , I would more strongly consider the surgery.   The thing is, he has these episodes that are akin to (or might very well be) gastric seizures.  They can last anywhere from 6-36 hours before all symptoms subside.   In all likelihood he would have one post-op at some point.  That would be incredibly hard for him.

Though I don’t think these “episodes” are terribly painful, they are undoubtedly tough on him.  He needs a steroid injection to ease any inflammation, and he wouldn’t be able to have those before or after the surgery for quite some time.  That is a giant factor.  Him having episodes of pica, gulping, drooling, coughing, and excessive swallowing while he has bruising, stitches and discomfort on his belly is, to me, not okay.   In that case something that is uncomfortable would be painful AND we don’t know that any stress on his system would do to his recovery.

At the moment the only thing I notice about Beauford that has changed is he’s lethargic, doesn’t want to walk as much, and sleeps more.  He is still bright and smiling, still eating and drinking, still has bursts of energy, loves going to Pet Valu to chew his bones, loves playing with his friends, and he is LOVING our new adventures and making each day special.

If I do the surgery, I am taking away days where he will feel this vitality and we are doing the funnest of fun things, and replacing them with nursing care and him feeling crummy.  He will be away from me for days in an ICU, recovering again from an anesthetic that I know makes him feel awful, and won’t be able to do much for the 2-3 weeks at home.

I asked how long he would have without medical intervention, and I was advised 6  to 8 months.  With the surgery they said 1 to 3 years.  Three years being incredibly optimistic.  In Beauford’s case there is just too many unknowns.  To do the surgery to possibly get an additional 4-6 months, wherein we lose 1 to recovery seems to not be the right choice for Beauford.

IMG_20160207_094551.jpg

The one thing the surgeon did say to me is you can’t compare cancers.   My father’s dog had liver cancer and the surgeons in Guelph removed that tumor and he didn’t require chemo and we had MANY years with him after.   The short term pain in Theo’s case was absolutely worth the long term gain.  She told me to remove Theo’s story from my mind because they simply aren’t the same kind of mass, and respond differently, with completely different medical courses of intervention.

I feel as though my time with Beauford is incredibly precious, and I am treasuring every single second I have with him.  I want to spend this time with him making memories, doing the things we love, and spoiling him with love, and of course treats.

IMG_20160209_081012.jpg

Beauford has fought a lot in his short life.  We fought against a doctor that said he wouldn’t live passed the age of 1, and I know that he will continue to fight.  We will continue to fight together.  Though our decided weapon of choice (at the moment) is LOVE, not medical intervention.

I know that some may not agree with the choice I’ve made.  Some may feel I have been given an option that I am blindly choosing to ignore, that I am possibly robbing him of “years”, or think it’s worth the effort to save him; right?

Others may look at my choice and think I am absolutely doing the right thing, realizing that it has NOT been an easy one to make.

In this instance, honestly, I don’t believe there is any right or wrong choice.  There is just too much that’s not known.  It’s like standing in front of two doors, not knowing what’s behind either one.  In my gut, I feel I am making the right choice for Beauford and I am at peace with this decision.

 

A CT Scan That’s Left Us With So Much Unkown

As we arrived at the University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College, Cancer Centre, we were both exhausted.  If coffee was available via IV I would have hooked myself up and been entirely okay walking around with a leash in one hand and a coffee drip in the other.

Beauford had seemed in decent spirits on the way to the clinic, and given that this wasn’t his first time at the OVC he knew exactly where were we going, and even stopped to pick up a stick along the way.  Despite being tired he still finds happiness in the littlest of things.  A lesson which I absorb now daily, hoping to always carry it forward.

IMG_20160301_102314.jpg

We walked into the cancer centre and a flood of comfort came over me.  I looked up at the wall and saw a portrait of a treasured family friend’s Golden, Tucker.  Seeing Tucker’s face I felt instantly at ease, knowing that Beauford had someone special watching over him.

You see, because of Beauford’s condition he was at higher risk for the anesthesia.  I had fought the fears that he might not wake up, or would wake up with complications, in the days leading up to this appointment.  Once I saw Tucker it’s like I knew that Beauford was going to make it through this.  He had one of his very first buddies there, in spirit, who’d give him the strength and guidance he would need to be okay.

As we walked over to the portrait I decided to document this moment, and took a picture of a pair of two old friends.

IMG_20160301_102533

The first person we met was a student named, Sarah.  I offered apologies for being tired, and warned her I might get teary.  I explained that I hadn’t slept much since the mass was found on his ultra sound.

As we went through Beauford’s extensive medical history, and reviewed his  current diet, vitamin supplements, and medications, I realized just how much knowledge I keep stored in my brain.  It’s no wonder I get up to get something from the kitchen, and in the mere seconds it takes me to get there I have forgotten what I went in for.

Here’s one lesson I’ve learned as Beauford’s mother.  Having a dog with special needs means sacrifice, but for every sacrifice you find new strength, new talents and abilities you didn’t know you had.

Then we met “oncology” a team led by Dr. Woods who has a fantastic supportive manner with his patients both animal and human.  You see I feel like a patient too.  I am the person responsible for understanding and retaining the information I’ve been told, and making all the difficult decisions.  They advised they were mostly certain that the mass Beauford has is cancer, but there was a slight possibility that it might not be.  It was a glimmer of hope that for some might have lit up their souls, but since my gut has known for some time that my monkey (Beauford’s nickname) was sick, it did little for me.

The mass could not be biopsied.  The risk of complications far too high.  Had they tried, he would likely die.  So, the face of the beast, the name of the beast, might never be known.

I was very clear with everyone that Beauford’s best interests were what mattered to me.  I wasn’t the patient that was going to tell them to do whatever they could to save him if it meant him feeling pain.  I told them that I would rather bear the unspeakable agony of him not being with me, than him having to undergo complicated and complex surgeries, or treatments that would leave him feeling unwell and no clear idea of survival time.  I wasn’t going to keep him alive, for me.

Beauford’s CT scan was scheduled for 1:30 that afternoon, and he was going to meet with the anesthesia team to be certain that extra care and attention was taken with the tubing.

Dr. Woods and Dr. Safi were both incredible.  Knowing that he was in such capable and kind hands I signed the papers, with all the warnings,  knowing all the risks, without much hesitation and anxiety.  I gave myself five bonus points for being able to kiss Beauford and leave that clinic without crying.

That day was LONG.   I worked at the hotel, but nothing could distract my mind from knowing that my golden child was under anesthesia, and that within hours I would hear what I already knew, that Beauford has cancer.

As I walked to pick him up from the clinic that evening, the storm had started.  The roads went from being calm and clear to snow covered and dangerous.   I couldn’t have written the irony better.

I met with the team.   The mass that had been seen on the ultra sound was confirmed by the CT scan.  It was made clear to me that the mass was actually on the adrenal gland.   It was likely cancer, but there was no way without removing it to know exactly what kind. Basically the CT scan exposed a lot of unknown, and left us with more questions than answers.

I am no scientist, so I have to explain things is the lamest of terms.   The tumor he has could be an Adrenal Pheochomocytoma or an Adrenocortical carcinoma.  Without a biopsy there is no way of knowing what kind of mass this is.  And the only way to biopsy would be to surgically remove it.

There is so much unknown, a giant box of unknown.  The only certainty with cancers like these are that they  will inevitably spread.   This mass could invade the surrounding vessel, it could affect his blood pressure causing episodes of collapse, or it could stay small and just spread.

I asked the question any pet parent would ask.   How much time do I have left with him?

With surgery or without, still there is no definitive answer.  It could be months, it could be years.  They may remove the tumor and find that he needs chemotherapy or radiation, or he may not.

There were two options presented to me.  Surgery, or let him live out his remaining days, with regular ultra sounds to monitor the mass.  I was left to take him back to the hotel and think, with an appointment scheduled to see the surgical resident the following morning at 9:00 a.m.

A cab picked us up from the clinic.  And thankfully the cab driver was AMAZING.  So sweet, so kind and offered me words of encouragement, and complimented Beauford on his nature and disposition.

The snow was raging, and Beauford was unsteady on his feet, whimpering with confusion – a side effect of the anesthesia.  When we got back to the hotel my little piggo ate.  That’s the only thing he knew how to do was eat.  He struggled with laying down, and standing comfortably.  His surroundings, not home, were confusing.  Everything confused him.  His cries ripped at my heart, and I am not kidding, stabbed my soul.

It was a heartbreaking evening, filled me me calling the emerg service to make sure Beauford’s behaviour was normal.  I ended up placing a sheet on the hotel carpet, with a pillow and wrapping myself around him, hugging him, and singing to him.  It was the only thing that would settle him for a few moments.  I let him feel my heartbeat, enveloped him with as much love as possible.  I can’t adequately describe how brutal that night was.  He was scared, and he was unsure, and to top it all off he started to have the trots at midnight.  So, there I was, alone, in Guelph, outside of a hotel, in a blizzard, with a dog that couldn’t quite figure out how to poop yet.

Here’s a tip — a big one — don’t go to these appointments a lone if you don’t have to. You need another set of ears, and a comforting hug when you’re dealing with the after effects of the anesthetic.  SO much information is relayed to you, and your heart hears it, your ears don’t process and relay every message to the brain.

After a 3rd completely sleepless night for me, Beauford finally started to be “normal” at 7 that morning.  We left for the clinic to meet the surgeon.  Beauford hesitated several times as we trudged through the snow on the way (a message that didn’t escape me) and I assured him I was not leaving him there.  We were armed with Roosty (in my purse) since I was told what I already knew, that stuffed guy is his security blanket.  They knew he would feel safer if it was there with him.

We met with the surgical resident.  She was also amazingly kind, and patient and gave me LOTS of additional information to process.  What’s known is what we have a slim window to remove the tumor laparoscopically (ph) given it’s size.   The risks and recovering time are high and long, but the laparoscopic approach is better than waiting and going in later, which means a more invasive surgery.

I believe they told me that the risks were as high as 20% chance Beauford might not make it through the surgery.  That’s a high number.

Ultimately, Beauford couldn’t get the surgery right away anyway, even if that’s what I decided.  Given that it could be an AP tumor he would need 2 weeks of medications to stabilize his blood pressure and reduce the risks associated with the surgery.  So, basically I had time.  Time to process, time to think.  I left the appointment armed with journal articles and not the foggiest clue what to do.

We did do a special urine test – one that had to be sent to a lab in the States – in efforts to determine if the tumor is AP or AC.   Results will come back in 2-3 weeks.

I left Guelph with more questions than answers, through no fault of their own, and began this leg of the journey committed to my vow to put Beauford’s needs first.

 

Travels To Guelph

With our appointment with oncology booked, my father, Beauford, and I headed to Guelph on a quiet Monday evening.

It was the calm before the storm, literally.

Our bags were packed (I was told by my boyfriend that Beauford packs like a girl!) and we were as ready as were going to be to face the fierce realities we were about to hear.

That Monday morning, Beauford had barfed.  Woke up at around 5:30 and just vomited.  Now, in the old days Beauford throwing up wouldn’t have been alarming.  He used to suffer from bouts of (chronic) pancreatitis as a puppy.  No matter the fat content, or whether a food was grain free, holistic, veterinary prescription, etc.,  Beauford would get sick.  He’s a dog that’s dog food intolerant.

The thing is he just likes the finer things in life, loves to be spoiled, and deems himself worthy (which he totally is) of home cooked, fresh, real food.  FYI if your dog struggles, researching a home cooked diet is worth it.  The food might cost more, and you definitely exert more effort in having to cook, but once you’ve got your recipe, vitamin supplement and you’ve got a balanced diet, you’re golden.

As soon as Beauford went “real” the bad terrible poops ended, and so did the barfs.  Prior to that Monday Beauford had vomited only twice in 2 years.

Instantly, as I struggled to survive on what can only be described as epic lack of sleep, I panicked a little, convinced that this was possibly the cancer rearing it’s ugly head.  You see, up until that moment the only “symptoms” Beauford had of cancer was some increased lethargy and weight loss.  The sudden and consistent weight loss was what started this journey.

Beauford, who is the most sensitive of souls, looked at me immediately after he threw up.  His eyes said “sorry” since a little bit ended up on the carpet.  I gently told him everything was going to be okay as I cleaned up.   But we both knew it wasn’t.   He didn’t feel like walking, which worried me, but listening to Beauford, and allowing him to determine his exercise level is all part of this diagnosis.

Despite his pukes he was still hungry.  Still came to the kitchen door wondering why the felines were eating and he wasn’t.   I had texted my vet at 6 a.m., to see if it was okay to eat (I am so incredibly lucky to have a primary care provider that has given me her cell number in case I need advice) , but hadn’t heard back from her yet given the early hour.  I figured what the hell, why not feed him a little?  The worst case scenario is that he throws up again, best case he keeps it down, and starts to perk up.

I stood there in the kitchen, and popped the meatballs in his mouth and he already started to look brighter.  When I spoke to vet only moments later, she said he may have actually barfed because he was hungry…RELIEF!   He kept all that food down, and even asked for more…so I fed him.  You see, I know eventually Beauford is going to lose his appetite, and his appetite and food are what gives him so much joy.  He is a Retriever that I am certain would nibble on his own leg if he knew he could survive on 3.  So, at the moment, he eats, and eats some more.

That afternoon as I packed for him, his medications, supplements, treats, his travel bowl stand, his coat, boots, bones, blanket, food, and some “guys” – including the ever important ‘Roosty’ (whom I attempted to pack several times only to have it retrieved from the bag, clearly he wasn’t being packed – he was just going to be carried to the car by Beauford himself).

As I packed I thought about everyone that helped get us there.  All the kind words, the generous donations, and the remarkable friend we’ve made at the insurance company, Danielle.  She made sure that we would arrive in Guelph with a pre-approved claim.  She spent hours on the phone with me, listening, and helping make these financial arrangements, and ensured within hours that coverage was guaranteed.

The drive to Guelph was a quiet one.  Beauford had to fast after 8:00 p.m., so we had an evening snack in the car.  We all shared some banana (Beauford’s favourite snack) and he enjoyed some extra liver treats.   He was GREAT in the car, snoozed away as my dad and I rode mostly in silence.

When we got to the dog-friendly hotel and checked in Beauford couldn’t contain his excitement, – the guest service agent upgraded us to a room that would allow me to work more comfortably, yet another kindness  – eager to check out the room, he quickly bounced on both Queen beds, and seemed to select the one he’d play on, and the one he’d rest on.  I wasn’t quite sure where I was sleeping 😉

IMG_20160229_231154.jpg

He got some hugs, and a pep talk from his Zadie (my dad) while I unpacked the car, and shortly after my dad left to head back to the City.

It was just going to be the two of us, me and my guy.

Beauford Guelph Bed

That night Beauford slept for a half an hour, that’s it.  He snuggled up next to me and could only find a peaceful sleep for 30 minutes.  It’s as though he knew what tomorrow would bring.