Birth: 16 Apr 2004
Death: 23 Jan 2019
“My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it.”
Chihuahua. So not a breed of dog that I would ever have thought I would ever own. I’ve always been more into the working breeds, (ie: GSD, Dobermans, Boxers, Rotties, etc.) But way back in 2004, my ex (who wasn’t an ex at the time) and I stopped at a pet store. (Ok, please don’t yell at me about buying a pet store dog. I now know all about puppy mills and stuff. I know, I know. But back then I didn’t really know, or didn’t think about it, or whatever. If I ever get another dog it will be a rescue. Please don’t yell at me.)
Honestly we were just out enjoying the day when we decided to go in and look around. It was something to do.
I said “No dogs”, but somehow we walked out with a dog, who we ended up naming Jack. This dog went across country with us a few times; he was a great traveling companion. But I always told people he wasn’t MY dog. I mean my ex was the one that talked me into getting him. And they seemed pretty attached to each other.
Fast forward to 2013.
We had moved from Florida to Minnesota in 2010 to be closer to her family after I got laid off work. Then in March of 2013, My ex and I split. I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong, there were things wrong on both sides. I take my fair share of the blame there. But when she was preparing to move out, I was informed that I got to take the dog, she was taking the cat. (Um, what? He’s not my dog, but ok.)
I was now keeping the dog.
It’s probably a good thing I got him. You see I have PTSD, it’s probably actually CPTSD but that’s just now becoming a thing. And along with PTSD, I get a side of anxiety (with panic attacks) and depression.
Woohoo….I have a trifecta of mental crap! Yay! Go team me! /end sarcasm.
But the one living being who helped me through all of the break up and mental stuff was Jack, my little chi.
He was there when no one else was.
He laid next to me when I cried.
Back when I was in therapy, I’d come home and talk to him about it. Jack was the one I celebrated with when I got my first degree black belt. He celebrated birthdays with me, and helped me when I was down.
Because no matter how much I wanted to just hide from everyone and not get out of bed, I had to get up.
Jack needed me, to go out, or to be fed, or whatever. I could not neglect him just because I was a mess.
I had to keep going because this little sweet soul needed me. Even when I felt like no one really needed me for anything, Jack did. He depended on me for food, shelter and companionship.
As much as he needed me, I ended up needing him as well. I needed someone to get excited to see me. I’d come home from work and he was so glad I was home. Jack was the one thing in my life who wanted me there.
It was he and I against the world.
I took him to parks, we went on drives together. He heard me rant about stuff and listened to all my stories. If I was anxious he came and sat in my lap so I would pet him. We were best buds.
Late last year I was beginning to suspect that something was going on with him. There was nothing I could pinpoint and say, that’s it.
So I just kept an eye on him.
He was still the same loving dog he was just slowing down a bit; he WAS 14 years old, not a young kid anymore.
So I just kept an eye on him.
Then in January of this year, he took a turn.
I’m not going into it all but I did get him to the vet. They did blood work to start because we didn’t know what was going on. This was a place to start trying to figure it out. His blood work came back all normal. She said according to his blood work he was healthy.
The vet said the next step was getting some imagining done to see if there was tumors or something else.
But we didn’t get that far. His blood work came back on a Tuesday afternoon and Jack died in my arms the next day.
It was Wednesday the 23rd of January at about 8pm.
I don’t know what happened to him.
But I do know a part of me died that day.
He might not have been a trained emotional support dog, but that’s the job he fell into, he was there for me through some dark times. I’ve cried more over the death of this dog then I have over anyone else, human or animal.
I’m crying right now typing this.
I don’t even feel like I’m putting into the proper words what this dog meant to me.
I’m still not over his death and I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m still grieving seven months later.
I still talk to his ashes and tell him mamma loves him.
When I make popcorn I still put a piece or two by his ashes. He loved popcorn.
I have a couple of wonderful friends who had a book made for me, one of those Shutterfly ones.
One of my friends works in marketing (she’s a graphic designer) so she swiped the photos from my Facebook. My other friend, who is my TKD instructor, found the quotes.
So they made me a book of my Jack.
It’s probably the greatest gift I’ve been given. I have a shelf with a couple of photos of him and one of our other dog Abbie. The book is there too.
Jack’s ashes are there along with a clay heart with Jack’s paw prints. I call it my shrine.
I miss him…
I fell back into my depression and my anxiety has been worse. It’s been a rough year.
But I’m slowly trying to pull myself out of it. I’ve been trying to make myself get out of the apartment more. I’ve been trying to take walks in the park near here.
It’s the one Jack and I went to the most in his last 6 months before he passed. It took me several months to even drive back into that park. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to clean the inside of the windows in my van, his nose prints are still on them.
But I’m trying to do more, to get out.
But it’s hard. So very hard.
Jack’s ashes are in a small box inside of a velvet bag with embroidery. It says, “Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.”
Please, share your stories of your wonderful animals.
Sebastian was a foster fail. My fiancee and I took in he and his two kitten brothers after they were dumped in box outside our Humane Society. Sebastian and his brothers were tuxedo cats, their black fur so shiny and soft. Sadly we lost one of the brothers, George, early on from a terrible respiratory infection.
The other brother, Bellamy, stole my Love’s heart. Another foster fail.
But Sebastian…Sebastian was mine.
While we were supposed to be fostering them until they were adopted, we just couldn’t let them go. Our family of 4. So 4 became 6 – we’d become a foster-fail family, and we loved it.
Alex and I were outnumbered by cats but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We got them fixed and they settled right in.
Sebastian became affectionately known as “Bash” or “Limp Noodle”. Whenever you picked him up he went limp and let you hold him however you wanted.
Sebastian wasn’t quite two years old when we first started seeing signs of lethargy. One day, that same lethargy led to a temperature check. While it was supposed to be 99.5-102.5 Fahrenheit.
It was 106.
We raced to the emergency vet only to hear the devastating news of Feline Leukemia. We were distraught. but It was a road we had been down before and understood. We lost my fiancee’s first kitty love to feline leukemia.
The emergency vet suggested that we put him down. We just weren’t there yet.
We felt he still had more time and we wanted to look into to doing something, anything that might help Sebastian. As he was also fighting a secondary infection due to the lowered immune system caused by leukemia we started my sweet foster fail on antibiotics. His regular vet suggested an immuno-reglan booster – $26 a shot on a strict schedule. Not a problem.
We were willing to go into deep debt for this guy.
The first several shots brought on massive improvement; it was like he was a kitten again, jumping and playing around with everyone. We thought that maybe, just maybe, he could have some quality of life. Then came another secondary infection.
He spent 3 days in the hospital fighting it. Got to come home and continued his shots, but they were no longer working. He was spending his days sleeping and hiding in cabinets.
Not two weeks later, his infection came back and back he went to the hospital.
This time he stopped having any interest in food.
The Thanksgiving holiday was coming up and after three days in the hospital, the vet thought it might be getting close to time. He gave us a choice, put him down or wait through the holidays and see if his appetite returns.
We chose to wait.
I look back on that now and wonder just how selfish I was being. We just kept hoping that our pet wouldn’t die.
The following Monday there was no change. We took some final precious moments with our baby boy. He lay on us and meowed at us when we spoke to him. He was tired and he had fought all he could. He was letting us know it was okay and that he knew it was his time. He went quietly and peacefully.
I had been through the loss of fosters before, but never one that became a pet. He was my first foster fail.
I loved him so much; missed him so much, that I cried for three weeks almost every day.
It’s late August and I’m crying as I type this.
Pain can lessen, but it never fully goes away. Not when the loss is so intertwined in your heart.
Recently our Humane Society shut down. We’ve affiliated ourselves with another rescue and have continued to foster cats. We end finding a lot on our own through people who reach out via Facebook saying there’s a kitten here or a litter there. We’ve also started working with a group of people who TNR ( trap/neuter/release) feral cats.
Our city here in Arkansas has a horrible cat overpopulation problem.
One night after doing “surveillance” on an area we are hoping to trap some adult cats to TNR we noticed a tiny little kitten head poking out from behind a bush. We stopped and spoke to the kitten who became very chatty with us. He was not a feral, he was entirely too friendly. Someone had dumped this poor baby.
Alex opened a can of wet food and approached him. He was apprehensive at first but eventually she was able to pick him right up.
Alex came back to the car with him and was nearly in tears. “Look at him,” she said.
It nearly took my breath away.
This four month old baby looked exactly like Sebastian.
He’s been with us for three days now. He’s a goofy thing. And I swear walking through our apartment and running into him I think it’s Sebastian. I don’t know that we will keep Cooper but I will be forever grateful to him, for reminding me of my sweet boy and that I serve a purpose here.
Save and fight for those who have no voice. Love the forgotten and uncared for.
Having a beloved pet die can be as challenging as the loss of a person. We at The Band want to share your stories of your animals with us.
This is Riley’s Story:
I still remember the day we picked Riley out of what seemed like a million golden retriever puppies.
See, our border collie mix, Bozley had been put to sleep not long before, so my best friend’s husband worked it out so that we could get we could get a male unpapered goldie from his dad who bred them.
It was like something out of a movie. My mom and I walked into this tiny trailer with dozens of dogs. They opened the back door so we could pick our puppy and it was stampede.
You could literally feel the floor vibrating under the weight of the puppies’ paws.
Life with Riley couldn’t have been better. He did have his faults of course, he did chew a dent in the wall when he was teething, he got a hold of a loose piece of wallpaper and pulled a chunk of that off the wall. He never got crate trained. But, that dog could smile. He’d smile at everybody. A genuine puppy smile, lips lifted and everything.
He never met a baby, toddler, or child that he didn’t like or who didn’t like him.
The night my sister-in-law went in labor, Riley got really sick.
He just slumped over.
We rushed him to the emergency vet where they told us that he most likely had a tumor in his stomach. Surgery would be performed the next morning.
The next morning came and we were still waiting for Brayden Michael to be born when I got a call from the vet. Riley, sadly, didn’t make it through the night. He was only 9 years old. Telling my dad that our beloved dog Riley was dead is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Our grief over Riley’s death was tempered by the fact that not long after that devastating phone call, my nephew was born.
Sometimes, I still sit on my bed sobbing over that dog and his untimely death.
In fact, writing this at work, I have small tears rolling down my cheeks.
He was a once in a lifetime dog.
RIP Riley Marcus.
See you on the other side.
You are invited to add your child’s name in our wall of remembrance for those babies who’ve been taken from us too soon.
In remembrance of the older children that have been taken too soon, we invite you to share your child with us here.
A few days after my daughter died of an undetected congenital heart and birth defect, someone who had held her and spent some time around her told me, “I knew something wasn’t right with her. I knew something was wrong.”
The phrase has stuck with me.
My daughter was perfect.
I don’t like the word defect much. All of these children born with what we call “defects” are just perfect; they aren’t defective. She had a beautiful heart even though it had a deadly congenital defect in it that lead to her loss.They are the imperfectly stitched handbag sold at a discount. They are much more than their sickness or defect.
I used to think that birth defects only happened to babies of moms that were sick or did something, like smoke crack while pregnant, or to a family with a genetic history of congenital heart birth defects. Smoking crack was never my thing, and my family has no history of birth defects -especially congenital heart defects – so losing a baby to a heart defect wasn’t even on my radar. None of the babies in my family were in the NICU or really sick, and definitely none of these babies had ever died.
My daughter’s heart problems weren’t my fault. She might have been a sick baby, but it was something that happened at random.
Her heart didn’t work properly, but she was not defective.
Is Mommy coming back?”
He was not quite six years old when he asked me that question about our mother. I didn’t know the answer then. I was only nine. I knew he needed me. I knew he was sad and worried and really, really scared. I told him the first thing that came to mind.
“Yes. She’ll be back.”
It took a few years, and in that time, he and I grew very close. I helped him with his homework, did his laundry, and beat up his bullies. I tucked him in at night, made his grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup, and wiped away his tears.
Now, he’s thirty and I’m thirty-four. We’re both parents. Both have been divorced. Both wounded. But I will always be the big sister.
His fatigues are packed for the war zone, again: for the fourth time. Fuck.
I left him a message. And then he left me one. And then finally today, we talked.
“Am I coming home, Sis?”
“Yes. Yes, you are coming home.”
“With my tags on my toes?”
“NO. Not with your tags on your toes. You’re coming home to kiss your son.”
“Take care of my wife & son, Sis.”
“You’re the best sister and mom I’ve ever had. I love you.”
(I catch my breath.) “Watch your ass, baby boy. I love you too.”
Oh dear God, please watch over my baby brother. Keep this 6’4″ soldier safe and bring him home where he is loved most: where he has a son who needs his father; a wife who needs her husband and a sister who wants to keep a promise that he is coming home safely.
“It snowed the day you were born.”
So starts the story I tell my firstborn every April 13th. She is twenty-two years old, and her eyes still light up when she hears it. I have a similar story that I share with her younger brothers. I love my kids’ birthdays – I always celebrate them with joy and near abandon.
But my youngest child, my little Nicholas, has never heard his story.
SIDS took Nicholas from me when he was four months and five days old. SIDS is what the doctors say when what they mean is, “We don’t have a fucking clue what happened to your beautiful, healthy baby. All we know is that he’s dead. We went to medical school for four years, and all we can tell you is the same thing you knew the instant you saw him in the ER. Your baby is dead. It’s from SIDS.”
Thanks to SIDS, my Nicholas never got to hear his birth story. I never got to see his eyes light up while basking in the attention of his adoring mom. I never got to hear him vying for his own story on his brothers’ or sister’s birthdays. I never got to hear him ask for anything. He was taken before he learned to talk.
But I need to tell his story. I need to remember the good things and not just the tragedy that overwhelmed my life. I want to reclaim the joy of his birth. I learned to grieve after I lost my son.
Now I want to embrace the wonder and excitement that preceded the horror.
This is for Nicholas.
I was patiently waiting for you to be ready to be born, but my midwife was anxious. Mommy has lupus, and even though it’s just the annoying skin kind of lupus, everyone was worried about you. So even though both your sister AND your brothers were born late, the midwife and doctor insisted that I have you by your due date.
Which meant I had to be induced.
The day before you were born, Mommy and Daddy went to the hospital to get started. I know how long my labors last, and once I got into the hospital, no one would give me anything to eat until after you were born. So Grandma Carolyn and Grandpa Ed met me, Daddy, Anna, Eric and Carter at the Golden Corral for dinner. After dinner, the other kids went home with Grandma and Grandpa while Daddy and I went to the hospital.
We waited an hour or so for a room, and then another three hours for the doctor to get me started on the induction. It was a long, trying night. In the morning, I was not any closer to having you. I knew you would come when you were ready, but the folks at the hospital were stubborn. The doctor gave me an epidural, broke my water and gave me some more medicine to hurry things along. Margaret, my doula, was there. Grandma Carolyn brought Anna to the hospital so that she could be there when you were born.
After a very long day of waiting, I was so happy when it was finally time to have you. You were born at ten o’clock the night of December 14. You were such a beautiful baby: pink and healthy and perfect. The nurse cleaned you up and handed you to me for the very first time. You snuggled into my arms and nursed just a little.
Then Daddy held you. Anna and Grandma Carolyn came in and held you. Everyone cooed and smiled at you, touching your little hands as you stretched and reached into the world for the very first time. The next morning, Eric and Carter came to see you. They were so excited to meet you! And when we brought you home the next day, you were just the most loved little boy that ever was.
I wish more than anything that I could tell you your story. That I had more than just a few months of happy memories of you. SiDS is a cruel mistress. That your father and I had been able to keep our marriage from falling apart. That your brothers and sister were still innocent of death and loss and grief and despair. That you were sitting here next to me right now, bugging me to use my computer to play Minecraft, or whatever it is that would have caught your interest. That you were asking for a ride to a friend’s house, because it’s almost the end of summer vacation. That I was buying you yet another pair of tennis shoes after you had outgrown the pair I just bought. But none of that gets to happen.
What did happen?
I started over after my divorce at age thirty-nine. I set up my own household, the way I saw fit. I raised your brothers and sister with love, compassion, and intention. I remarried, a man who harbored a cruelty of which I was unaware until cancer came calling. I cared for him until his death.
I live my life fully, without fear. I look at myself with honesty. I reach out with empathy to other moms who have lost a child. I know sadness and depression. I know healing and redemption. I benefit from therapy. I see genuine love and kindness from friends and the family I have made. And I am back from the brink: better, stronger, healthier, and more complete than I was before.
I would trade it all just to tell you your story.