Athens, Georgia, Cancer, Canine Cancer Awareness, Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, Grief and Loss, Memoirs, Uncategorized

Reggie’s “Bucket List”

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Reggie looking at people at Toccoa Falls, January 27, 2019

“It’s Reggie’s bucket list!”

I loved my friend Mary’s description of our trips this week as I was showing her some of the videos and photos I’d taken of Reggie – which are now taking over the photo gallery of my smartphone (happily).

Last night, I was researching different state parks within 60 minutes of our home when I got a text my friend to tell me, “Abe suggested Toccoa Falls, it’s beautiful.”

Perfect! I thought to myself. I’d been thinking of Toccoa College’s waterfall as one possibility, and I decided we’d go for it.

Hopefully, there will be time to add some of the other parks to Reggie’s “bucket list” while there’s still time, but I don’t know. It’s really one day at a time right now…and…

Reggie had a rough night. One of his worst. To the point that I almost canceled the trip altogether – the weather was not ideal, either, gray and cloudy, but not too cold and no rain, so that wasn’t a serious consideration.

But, I didn’t get any sleep, because Reggie didn’t get any sleep, or at least, not until about 6:30 am. I wasn’t sure I’d have the energy to do a third road trip, even on a Sunday. It took a long time to get started this morning. The cleanup was insane, Reggie didn’t want to take his meds (I got him to take them), he didn’t want to eat (he finally ate a little bit), and most concerning, the way he was laying on the floor, atop the trash bags (to try to control the mess on the carpet), reminded me too much of Toby a couple days before I put him to sleep in 2011 – too still, too lethargic, too unresponsive.

Thankfully, when I finished the cleanup, Reggie did stir and sat up on his own, followed me out the door, and walked downstairs by himself. But I’m not sure if he is dehydrated or out of breath or in pain or all of the above. Given what I’ve seen come out of his rear end the last few days, and how often, I am very worried that he’s not taking in enough food and water to keep going.

All of a sudden, Tuesday afternoon seems too far away for a recheck, but I know if it is urgent, I can bring him to the vet tomorrow. I hope I don’t have to.

This roller coaster ride is taking a toll on me mentally and physically, but yesterday Dr. Clifton said I did not have to let go yet.  But, I am starting to feel like I need to let go, and as the car slowly climbs up the hill of the coaster, and as much as I am dreading, and anticipating, the accelerated, full speed drop, when it comes, I know it’s coming soon. Or, I should say, it should, if I’m going to do the right thing for Reggie’s body.

But today wasn’t about that. And when I saw Mary this morning, and told her about my idea, and showed her the photos, it motivated me to push through my own exhaustion and anxiety, and take advantage of the energy Reggie did have today to take him to Toccoa – it was a shorter trip than the others, without a hike, just a 100-yard walk on a flat gravel path from the Toccoa Falls Welcome Center along the river to see the breathtaking, tallest 187-foot waterfall in Georgia.

It was definitely worth it.

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Toccoa Falls
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Reggie looking at the view at Toccoa Falls, January 27, 2019

Reggie took a long time (for 100 yards) walking from the welcome center to the benches and rocks by the falls. The spray was thick and intense so we could not get too close.  Several people (without dogs) climbed on the rocks, and showered by the mist, took photos. (If I had not had Reggie with me, I would have done the same myself – someday).

Reggie veered off the main path several times onto the shore filled with wood chips and leaves. I made sure to stay close in case he got any ideas of walking down far enough to slip into the river. Thankfully, he had no interest in getting anywhere near the rushing water; he just wanted to do his business and sniff around. I let him take his time, and enjoyed every moment of that.

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Reggie on the shore at Toccoa Falls riverbed
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Reggie walking on the shore at Toccoa Falls River

 

For a while, we stood and watched the falls, watched the people, and took a photo (I am grateful to all the people who have been willing to take photos of us together this week).

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I didn’t break out any snacks this time. Reggie sat for a long time, he didn’t seem interested in walking around too much – a little bit, but it was so rocky, I’m not surprised. There were not crowds of people so I let go of the leash and kept an eye on  him, knowing he would not get far. He looked like a dog lost in thought as he sat and surveyed. Part of the time he watched the people, partly the falls, partly me. It was much more subdued than other trips we’d taken this week, and that’s okay, but it let me know, each day, there are changes in him.

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I picked up Reggie after a while, and held him close. We watched the falls from there in silence – except for the thunder of the waterfall hitting the river below.  With Reggie in my arms, I was able to bring him a little bit closer to the boulders bordering the falls and we enjoyed the power of the closeup view of the great falls.

When I began to feel the effects of the sleepless night, I sat down on a nearby bench. An older lady walked up to Reggie and asked about him – I told her the truth, and she began to tear up. She started to stroke Reggie’s head and kissed the top of it, and told him, “I love you. I love you, Reggie.” I knew she meant it – she was a true dog person. Her name was Ruth and she told me about her dog, a chihuahua mix – she showed me a photo. I showed her photos of Lizzie and Toby. We chatted for a while and became fast friends – as it turns out, she wanted to email me stories her friend had written, from the perspective of her dog, and I shared that I write a blog about my dogs. Soon her husband, Charles, came over and he was so kind – we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and decided we’d visit again when they come to Athens or I return to Toccoa. “If you need anything you just let us know, you’re always welcome to our house,” he said.  (I love that there are so many goodhearted people in the South).

Ruth took a photo of Reggie in my lap on the bench before they left, and then I sat Reggie down on the bench by himself for his own photo shoot.

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I’m not sure how much time passed (I didn’t check), but as Reggie began to start shaking, I decided it was time to go. I put him back in the stroller and found that the front gate had been locked. We had to flag down a gentleman who was heading our way to ask if he knew where an alternate exit was – which we found, through the gift shop – and it turned out to be a stroke of good luck since they had refrigerator magnets on sale. I bought one so I’d have a souvenir from this special trip with Reggie.

I thought about taking a detour to one of the other state parks within 30 miles, and then thought better of it. I didn’t want to push it – for Reggie’s sake and mine – it’s never a good idea to drive too much when you’re as drained as I feel today, and as much as I choose to believe it helped him to again go out in nature and the fresh air today, I could tell he was also struggling with his own energy today. He didn’t walk around as much at the falls, which makes sense, given that he was up all night – lately he’s soiled himself, his coat, the car seat, his blankets – it’s that bad – it happens that often and that fast. This damn cancer is a nightmare, and that colon tumor is showing it means business…I wish there was more I could do, but other than what I’m doing, I don’t know what else to do…other than break my heart and let him go.

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I hope that won’t happen just yet.

He still has so many beautiful places on his “bucket list” to see.

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