Today would have been Chloe’s 12th birthday. But instead of a happy day it is a day that holds much sadness this year. Eight days ago we lost her to lung cancer. I started writing this blog the day after she passed –I felt she deserved a tribute–but I got as far as “Chloe died yesterday,” and I had to stop. It just seemed so bizarre to write that. I read it 100 times to see if it would set in and then I just closed the computer.
Chloe was the first pet my family ever had. We had small things like hermit crabs, tons of fish and birds but never a “real pet.” When I was 20 my mom was convinced to bring home an adorable little, chocolate, American Cocker Spaniel.
She was not the easiest dog to have. She was picky with who she liked, was super protective over my mother and she had moments where she would chase us out of the room, show her teeth and terrify our guests! But Chloe had many sweet moments. She always greeted you with not just a tail wag but an entire butt wag, she would rest her head on your leg and cuddle, would go for a swim with you in the pool …. and she was SO smart. I spent many hours walking with her, sleeping by her and playing with her over her 12 years of life. As with any dog, towards the end she got slow and tired, but she would still have bursts of energy and very sweet moments.
At the age of 10, the vet found a spot of skin cancer around her paw. We caught it early and with surgery and a few anti-cancer vaccine shots, she was cancer free…we thought. This cancer had a high rate of metastasis. In many dogs the cancer would travel into the lungs; however we were told if we did the vaccine shots we had a good chance of killing the infected cells before that could happen.
We were wrong. About three weeks ago Chloe started to change. She wasn’t eating well, she was losing weight and was lethargic. She had good days and bad days but we were determined to figure out what was going on. We took her to the vet and they began running every test they could think of. Her chest would be the last they check because we just had an X-ray done in the middle of June and it was perfect. None of us, including the vet, thought there would be cancer filling up her lungs.
It happened so fast. She went to the vet last Tuesday and she seemed like she was getting better, even scarfed down a ton of food while she was there. By Friday though, her breathing became extremely labored. Saturday morning the “last resort” X-ray showed what we had been dreading for the last two years…a chest full of cancer.
We were devastated. The vet, who we have gone to for years and trusted extremely, between tears, told us there was nothing we could do at this point. The worst news any pet owner can hear. I rushed up from South Jersey to spend one more night with my little pup. The last hours were brutal. We had an appointment Sunday at 10 am. I walked into the house to be greeted by her one last time at 2pm Saturday. The countdown began. Every time I looked at the clock I would calculate how many hours I had left with her.
She was so sick though. I was shocked when I saw her because I had just been up for a visit and she was acting completely normal. Now, she didn’t want to move too much, had trouble breathing and going to the bathroom and refused the treats and bone I brought her.
So instead of a normal family hang out…It was a day full of lasts. The last time Chloe would sit outside with us while we barbecued, her last steak dinner, her last swim in the pool, her last time watching TV with us, her last time sleeping next to me…it was heartbreaking. We cried a lot, but she was suffering so much more than us. Her breathing was labored and her chest would cave in and out with every breath. The last night of her life the girls in the family slept right near her, my sister on one couch, my mother on the other and me on the floor right next to her.
I slept one hour that night. She was so uncomfortable and kept changing positions –and she was breathing so heavily I knew she was having trouble getting oxygen in. I stayed awake and pet her, telling her it was okay and that we were going to get her out of pain soon. Our vet told us animals will tell you when it is their time to go –and Chloe was definitely telling us. She would stare at us strangely and would place her paw on my arm and give me this sad look through the night.
The morning came and she looked worse. It was about 9 am when I noticed her tongue and mouth had a blue tint to it. I wanted to scream. Chloe had been through a lot in her short life. Two ACL surgeries, skin cancer, an ear surgery to repair damage from an infection, an eye surgery and had gone under twice for teeth to be pulled. We did everything we could to make this dog’s life as comfortable as possible –but this time we could not do anything and that was the worst feeling. By 9:30 we could not even stand to watch her breath so heavily anymore ....we told my sister and brother to just take her. They bravely volunteered to stay by her side as she was put to sleep, something my mother and I could never have done. The walk to the car was horrific. We knew this was the last time we would ever see her. When my sister was pulling out of the driveway I wanted to yell to her..I wanted to call her and tell her forget it...this is stupid, why are we doing this! But I knew we didn’t have a choice and the feeling of helplessness was sinking. By 10:15 she was gone.
It’s so strange the death of an animal. For people, even when they are sick, the day and time of death is always an uncertainty. With pets you know the exact time –it seems so unnatural but at the same time i’m grateful we have an option of ending their suffering.
Sometimes Chloe was such a pain! Her barking, crazy behavior...and how we could not trust her around Lucia drove me bonkers sometimes...but this dog was so very loved. We humanize these pets and they become like family and when they leave us, they leave a void. She will be missed. It is unclear in the Bible whether or not our pets will be up there with us...but I would like to think so.
We will miss you Chloe! Hope you are running around up there waiting for us!
Chloe during happier times...
Hello friends! I am Lisa. Lover of Christ and family, a former television reporter, a wife and a mom who strives to live a healthy, toxic free lifestyle.