We met when we were twelve. My wife Kimmy was always healthy. She never smoked, only occasionally drank, she exercised and ate all the right foods. She hadn’t seen a doctor in six years, always joking, “I’m waiting for the big one!”
She went in for gall bladder surgery on 10/19/10. I assured her she’d be fine. My wife passed away fifty-five blurry days later on 12/13/2010.
When I realized how sick Kimmy really was, I told her, “Dammit Kimmy, why couldn’t you be a mean, bitchy woman? Then I could be rejoicing right now!” But she couldn’t be mean or bitchy. Not her nature. She was so sweet, so positive, right up until she died in my arms.
I miss her so much. I was a train wreck that she’d lovingly pulled out of the gutter, cleaned up, and helped exercise my demons. She made me what I am today.
And now, in my new, traumatic, bizarro world, I can no longer keep track of time or what day it is. I walk around feeling stoned. I question; I second guess myself. Did I kill Kimmy? I go back and forth, replaying this in my head.
St. Patrick’s Day last year, we lost our ten-year old Lab/Aussie pup, Zona. That dog was part of the family. Our kids adored her as much as she loved them. That dog allowed them to ride her, use her as a pillow; anything the kids wanted. We took her to the vet. She had to be put down. My children were inconsolable. Kim and I looked at each other and she said, “you go, you held Cajun while she passed on. I’ll stay with Zona.” An autopsy revealed wide-spread cancer. My stoic Zona never let on.
Now, looking back I wonder, did Zona’s cancer (in some crazy way) pass to Kimmy? What if I had stayed in that room?
I regret that I was so uptight about money and our financial situation. Kimmy would say, “I’d love to go to the beach.” I’d show her our bills, explaining that, “It’s not a good time.” Kimmy wanted a beach cruiser, and I’d nod, knowing we didn’t have the money. Kimmy wanted to replace the broken stereo in her car, and I explained that we could not afford that either.
Not right now.
When she died, the community helped with bills and groceries and medical expenses. Now we can go to the beach, only Kimmy’s not here to go with us. Dammit, I feel responsible for being so focused on money problems. I should have just taken her to the beach.
While Kimmy was so sick, I did everything I could to help: showers, dressing her, feeding her, doing the cleaning, even giving her a Lovenox injection twice a day; to combat the blood clotting issues caused by the demon cancer. She called me her knight in shining armor. She told me that I was saving her. But I wasn’t, I couldn’t; I wanted to believe I could.
I wonder, did the Lovenox help? Or was I making it worse?
I don’t know.
I do know that Kimmy was an incredible wife, mother and friend; the type of person you wanted to be around. Positive, upbeat, energetic. She was an excellent cook, such a nurturing mother – and I can’t help but think of how sad, how tragic this is for them. Cody 13, Autumn 10 and Antonio, especially Antonio, 7; all motherless.
What the hell happened?
Now, our family is closer than ever, although it’s out of necessity. Our glue, our mentor, the love of my life, the mother of my children, our motivator is gone – ripped from our lives so quickly – but we try to remember her positivity. We comfort each other because we know she believed she was going to Heaven. I tell the kids, “we need to smile and remember the wonderful times.” These little ones have responded so beautifully and remarkably, standing up for each other, and for me. They try to keep our morale up and her memory alive.
In the dark of night when I cannot sleep, I replay the whole nightmare, over and over:
What could I have done differently? I should have seen that she was sick. I should have. I could have…why didn’t I?
And, I cannot shake this feeling. I was not Kimmy’s knight…I did not ride off into the sunset. I did not save the girl.
Losing a pet can be as hard as losing a loved one. Grief can sneak up on you.
This is his pet loss story:
My pet loss story that was that hardest on me was my the loss of the family dog I had growing up. He was 14 or 15 and started to get bad health, so we decided have him put down instead of being in pain and having to endure any more suffering.
I ended up having to take him to the vet alone, because both my parents and sister were working.
It was the hardest thing I had to deal with at the time: the pain of pet loss never does go away and losing a pet is like a family member passing away.
I sat there with him in the vet room and held him crying my eyes out because I had never had to do that to an animal before.
“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.
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 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.
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.
It’s Mother’s Day and I’ve spend most of the day in tears. I ‘d been looking forward to it; even had some cool plans for spending the day with my daughters. Those plans went sideways shortly after breakfast.
I left my husband this week, a planned separation which took several months to execute thanks to our housing situation. As far as our daughters are concerned though, we’re still a team working together to make sure they’re happy and healthy. This week we’ve been ultra-focused on our daughters and the new adjustments.
With all our attention on our children, we didn’t pay much attention to the other members of our household.
When I got home from work on Thursday, I realized one of the dogs hadn’t eaten her breakfast. Not unusual, sometimes she leaves her food until late, so I wasn’t concerned. Friday night, she still hadn’t eaten. This time, I brought the black dog into the light in the kitchen, and took a good look at her. She was gaunt, ribs and spine sticking out alarmingly.
She clearly hadn’t eaten in days.
I called my ex and we agreed to flavor up her food with broth to get her to eat. We assumed it was stress from the separation. I sat, hand feeding the dog until she finally ate her food. Same deal on Saturday and again this morning. The gauntness was less pronounced, but I noticed other symptoms: a little bloating, weakness in one leg.
This morning, my ex came to get the girls for church. As he was petting her neck, he found it. A golf-ball sized lump hiding under her fur. Another closer to the other shoulder.
He took the girls to church while I took the dog to the vet. The emergency vet gave me her early findings. My 9-year old lab has Lymphatic Carcinoma. Cancer. X-rays indicate that it may have already spread to her organs, and possibly bones as well.
Some of you will read this and know the pain and horror I felt. Others, not so much.
It may just be the dog, but it’s my dog, one we raised (along with her litter-mate) as a rescue puppy. A pet who loves me unconditionally, knows when I’m sad and has comforted me upon many occasions. Knowing that I couldn’t put her through chemo brought me to tears.
If it really is cancer, the right, most humane decision is to put her down before she begins to suffer too much.
This cancer diagnosis capped the end of an incredibly horrible week.
A week which included leaving my husband and walking away from my daughters for the first time with the new custody sharing schedule. I kept telling myself it would be just a few days, just like a business trip. It wasn’t though. Being separated from them felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest.
A week where the bank finally approved our short sale, but gave us a short 30-day deadline to close escrow. A week that saw a solid, approved plan to move into a rental home go awry as the owners of the rental we’re moving into reneged on the deal at the last minute.
A week that ended with learning my daughters and I would be homeless come the 31st.
Ironically, the owners of the rental reneged because we had one too many dogs. A massive wave of guilt washed over me as I wondered if maybe this would allow the deal to go through.
I think the dog knows what’s coming. She’s been rather chipper since we got home from the vet. It’s prompting my 6-year old to try to convince me that the hard lump on her throat is smaller than before so that maybe she doesn’t have to die tomorrow. I’m in one of those horrible waiting periods where I want to convince myself that it’s just a bad infection, one which we can treat with antibiotics and TLC.
Maybe our regular vet will disagree and give us a different diagnosis. But, we have to be prepared for the worst.