Monday, October 01, 2007

The Aftermath.

It's been 2 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes since Jack's been gone and I still feel very heavy hearted. Truth be told, my heart literally ached Friday night and I was sick to my stomach for most of the weekend. I've never cried that much in my life. The house is still very somber and the dogs are mourning Jack's absence, especially Patches. She goes out in the yard and lays down where Jack passed on and will sniff the places where he last laid in the grass that morning. Once, she even followed the scent where Jeff carried Jack's body over to the Dr's Jeep. She looked so forlorn when she lost his scent. She's not eating and just lies around the house. I know we each have to make peace with this in our own time, in our own way, but I wish for her that it could be easier.

I kept blaming myself for Jack, but after doing some research on Squamous Cell Carcinoma, I realized there really wasn't anything I could have done. In humans, it's the 2nd most common type of skin cancer. In dogs, it's highly misdiagnosed and mistreated. It's aggressive, non-metastasized and usually invades the nasal passages, mouth, and sinuses of dogs. It's appearance is described as red, cauliflower, raised and ulcerated. Radiation has had the best results, but it must be caught very early and there's still no guarantee. I also read that the body's immune system can successfully rid the body of the cancer for a period..which may explain why it came and went for more than a year.

Out of 9 cases of SCC, the one to live longest was 18 months..and that was after several rounds of chemo plus surgery. I'm grateful Jack lasted the same amount of time and was strong and brave enough to fight it off for as long as he did. We could've spent thousands and thousands trying to save him, but I haven't found one documented case where treatment saved a dog with eventually just took over in every case. I wish I'd paid more attention and had recognized what it was when we first saw it. It was smooth, red, hard and just under the inside of his lip. We just happened to notice it while he was lying on his back for a belly rub and his mouth was open. Maybe I could've given him a year or two longer. Anyway..

Friday, we let each of the dogs say their goodbyes before the vet came but we left Patches outside so she could also be by his side when he made his journey to the Rainbow Bridge. However, when the vet came, she snarled and barked, I think because she knew what they were there to do and she was trying to protect and save Jack. I had to take her inside and instead, she watched from the window. That night, Jeff and I both wanted to get out of the house. I was weepy all day and just the sight of one of his tufts of fur under a chair, or looking at the place in the yard where he left us had me bawling all over again. The only place you can go late at night is Wal-mart, so we made our way to Sanford to see the new bigger 24 hr. Wal-mart they'd just opened. It was a small reprieve from the gloominess in our house, but I wept most of the way there and some of the way home.

Saturday, we felt that it may do Patches some good to get out of the house also, so we loaded our remaining 3 dogs up in the car and took them up to New Hill to walk on the American Tobacco Trail. We walked 4 miles total and they were pretty well worn out by the time we made it home. Patches was doing better while we were out, but as soon as we returned home, she recommenced her moping. I'm sure she can still smell him in the house, but maybe her mourning will ease some after his scent fades.

There's so many things about Jack I'll miss. The wild stray pieces of fur that stood straight up on his head. The little tufts of fur on his toes that he refused to let us trim. The way he'd have to push all his food down so it was a completely flat surface before he'd eat it. His own little Snoopy dance when we came home..he'd wiggle and bounce around in a circle then run off to grab a toy or sock and then bounce in circles again. The way he'd bite his upper lip and lower his head when he was embarrassed about something..usually either b/c he farted or b/c he'd just been shaved for the summer. The way he'd sit his back end in the back seat of the car with his front end standing on the hump. The way he'd only put his front half up in your lap on the couch while still standing on the floor. Or how he'd lay just under your feet where ever you were he could still get rubbed when you rocked the chair. How you'd throw him a treat and you could hear his teeth clack together..and even if he missed it..he'd still sound like he was gobbling it up or snorting like he really was inhaling it. I'll miss how he couldn't just curl up next to you..he had to be ON you. The sound of his bark and the drool on the outside of my car windows b/c he had his head hanging out the whole trip.

I'll also miss the way he smells. Friday before the vet came, I buried my face in his fur and took a gigantic breath so I'd always remember how he smelled. Like people, each animal has their own unique scent..and I want to remember his. He came a long way in the 6 years we had him. He went from being timid, scared of his own shadow and not knowing how to play to being goofy, bouncy, and all smiles. He even had a smile on his face at the end. I'd like to imagine that he went to sleep in Jeff's arms with our voices in his ears telling him how wonderful he was, that we'd see him again one day and that we loved him...then awoke in a huge meadow under a shade tree by a babbling brook where he'll play with other dogs under the sun and wait for Jeff and I to come get him. I truly don't know how long it'll take me to get over this, but I'll always think of him when I have french fries or am making a peanut butter sandwich. I know he's better now and happy. I just wish I felt the same.

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