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

“Ask forgiveness not permission.”

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“Ask for forgiveness not permission.”

Audie taught me that many years ago – it is his philosophy, and that of many others, so I’ve heard.

It’s not something I find as easy to do – it doesn’t come to me naturally to “push the envelope” and break the rules. I’m a stickler for rules, too much so sometimes – even when I should break the rules, I have trouble doing so. It makes me uncomfortable, I fear getting in trouble. Big trouble.

No, following the rules is my comfort zone.

And then, today, with Reggie, I did not do that.

“Ask forgiveness not permission,” I said to myself (like he taught you).

And so I did, and I opened the door to Dr. Niknafs’ office and rolled Reggie right into the waiting room.

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Reggie at Dr. Niknafs office

I didn’t ask permission, I didn’t even blink. I just walked right up to the sign-in sheet and wrote down my name. There were several people in the waiting area, one lady gave me a “what is that dog doing in here?” look, but, everyone else was taken with him, and then all of a sudden, that lady smiled, too!

Hmmm, interesting.  Have to remember that.

I walked to the chair in the corner, set my books on a side table, and sat down, pulling Reggie’s stroller close to me. The lady in the chair next door flashed me a big grin and said hello to Reggie. I moved his stroller closer to her and asked her if she’d like to pet him.

Her name was Cheryl, and she was all over petting Reggie.

“You smell my dog, don’t  you…” she said as she pet him. “You smell my Sophie.”

We had to wait a while. They were busy today, more than I remember from past visits.

“Jill?” I heard my name called.

I got up, gathered my things, and walked right up to the red-haired nurse and said, “This is Reggie, he’s my emotional support animal.”  Just like that.

And, surprisingly, I needed no forgiveness, or permission. She just “oooh’ed” and “aww’d” like most people do and all was well.

Dr. Niknafs, and Tyler and the nurse’s mom (I forgot to ask their names) were just as kind. I especially appreciated that the doctor was so understanding.

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Reggie in the exam room at the doctor’s office.

When I checked out, the older nurse, the younger redhead’s mom as it turns out, had a hard time – she couldn’t look at Reggie without tearing up.

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Reggie at Dr. Niknafs

As it turned out, she too had a story to tell, about three older dogs of her own, and what was worse, she didn’t realize until recently, you could, and should, be with your dog, at the end.  I didn’t even know people couldn’t, but she had had experiences in the past where they took her dog in the back and put him to sleep, alone.

“No, you need to be the last person they see,” she said, “when they die, they need to know the person they love is right there with them.”

I agree with that, and I can’t imagine it any other way, but if your dog is in the ER or the hospital, it definitely would not happen that way.

I hope that does not happen to Reggie. I’m trying to avoid that, even if it means I lose him sooner.

We are at Jittery Joe’s now and he’s staring at me, wanting my lunch. I’m glad to see that he has an appetite. We stopped at Marti’s at Midday after Dr. Niknafs to get some tuna salad.

Again, I did not ask for permission (or forgiveness), and I wheeled Reggie into the cafe with me. I’d done that once before, so it was not as risky, but, this was only the second time, and the first time, I did ask permission.

I also had an ulterior motive for stopping at Marti’s at Midday today – the ladies that work there love him. And even though I couldn’t bring myself to say these are his last few days, it gave me happiness to see Kim, the manager, come over especially to say hello. I wish more of the people we knew had been there, especially the owner, Marti, who took to Reggie right away, but it was late in the day and long after lunchtime. Better, for us, I’m sure – it would have been more difficult to bring Reggie inside with a long line and throngs of people at the counter.

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Reggie inside Marti’s at Midday Cafe Jan.  30, 2019

Reggie is having a good day today.

A very good day.

Such a good day that I don’t want to do it.

Too good of a day to imagine it – his best day in Athens since early December.

He’s more like he was a few months ago, than he was in the last few days. He’s even gone the whole day without any accidents – that hasn’t happened in a while, where I am able to handle this by just taking him out to the bathroom every hour or so.

(Disclaimer – I wrote this earlier in the day, and he did have an accident in the stroller, all over his beautiful green sweater. Oh well. Only one today, but in the wrong place)

He’s awake and interacting with people,  barking for my food, barking at another dog, even his walk, my God, it was quick, not slow and unsteady, but like his normal gait, normal speed.

(Later in the day I took him to Barnes and Noble and walked him down the sidewalk to the post office first. He was strutting at his old speed, keeping up with me and the stroller, and then halfway there, he slowed down again, to his latest slower pace. But, then he picked up the pace again for the homestretch. On the way back to the store, I put him in the stroller again. I didn’t want to push him too much. He’d had a good walk, a short one, but a great one. That was enough for one night).

My friend, Wendy, who is a vet, visited with us in between appointments today and she told me that happens, people do it too. They rally at the end and have this amazingly good day.  (I read about it in my colleague Lisa’s book, Words at the Threshold, also)

Are there more bad days than good days is the question. Eventually there are more bad than good. With Reggie, it’s hard to say. When I’ve taken him on the road trips, they were all good days, like today.  Saturday started off as a good day and by evening was terrible, and then Sunday was better. Monday and Tuesday were rough days.

Today has been amazing – like his old self (except for the diarrhea).

Should I do the math? Divide the days into halves? Or into hours? This many hours he was great, and then that many hours he was terrible.

2 1/2 good days, 2 1/2 bad days, I told Wendy.

When I started writing this post today at 4 pm, so far it had been all “good hours.”

We left the house around 9:30 am so…that’s almost 8 good hours.

I’m grateful for Reggie having such a good day.

It’s already 6 pm, today went by too fast. Way too fast.

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Why is it the hours go by fastest when you want them most to drag out?

He’s been so happy today.  I’m so glad for that.

He deserves it.

We spent two hours at Barnes and Noble, speaking of time flying by.  I didn’t take any new photos tonight, as I usually do, but he sat in the stroller the whole time and did not cry to warn me to rush him outside. When was the last time he went 2 hours? I can’t remember. He was so peaceful as I drank my tall soy latte and walked around the store, finally settling down to look through a book more closely, and I stroked him with one hand while he rested – that’s how the time went by so fast – it was so normal, as if nothing were wrong, as if nothing were going to change in a short time from now.

At home, I watched Reggie scarf down the prescription food and then hide under the table again in his beautiful brown coat that his daddy gave him many years ago.

I am sitting here having doubt – nothing but doubt – that I’m making the wrong decision if I let him go on Friday.

Reggie had such a good day.

The best day he’s had at home in weeks.

According to the books, that means the end is near.

Reggie is standing up underneath my chair as I eat my dinner I just sat down to eat, he is looking up at me, hoping I’ll drop something for him to eat.

Just like he always did when he was not sick – like he did just a month ago, before his sickness accelerated so quickly.

What does it mean?

I wish I knew.

Why do we have to play God – “I feel like I’m killing my dog,” I told my friend today.

“You are,” she said, “it’s the worst decision we ever have to make.”

She also said it’s a gift to free them from pain, and she’s right.

But he’s not in pain right now. He hasn’t been all day.

I feel confused, and I don’t want to make a mistake. I don’t want to let him go if I don’t have to…but…I know what Dr. Stoppe said yesterday, I know what she saw. What she told me.

I’m glad I’m bringing him back tomorrow. We can talk more. So I can be sure. Sure I’m doing the right thing for Reggie.

He’s given up now, no food from me, but he’s laying by my feet, close to me, I can hear him breathing – it’s raspy, but not as bad as it’s been. More like snoring.

When I think of all the people who have loved on Reggie today: Ashley at Oconee Wellness, Cheryl and the nurses and Tyler at Dr. Niknafs, my friend, Wendy and my friend, Marcy (also a vet – we had coffee dates with 2 vet friends today), and the ladies at Marti’s…

No matter what happens tomorrow, no matter what happens on Friday…

Today, Reggie had the best day.

The best kind of day of all – the kind filled with love.

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Ashley Roberts and Reggie Roberts, Jan. 30, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

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

One More Day…

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Reggie at Barnes and Noble Book Store January 23, 2019

“He’s gained a pound!”

Dr. Clifton brought Reggie back into the exam room where I was reading the article they’d given me about how to decide when it’s time to let go.

“He is stable. I don’t think you need to worry about the weekend. I think his breathing is the same as it was on Thursday. He looks the same as he did on Thursday as far as his comfort level. He’s no worse. I think you can bring him in for another recheck, or you can choose a time, you can always call and cancel that morning if he’s not decompensating.”

I did not expect this at all. I felt a huge weight lift off of me, and my stomach settled down for the first time in 2 days – I stopped feeling that grabbing at my chest that made it hard to breathe. I hadn’t slept hardly at all the night before, dreading what she’d say this morning.

I didn’t expect this miracle at all.

She was giving me the green light to wait, if I wanted to.

We had an honest discussion – I was able to share how I felt while also being fair and logical. It was much different than Thursday when I could not keep from feeling the pain.

“He ate a whole can of salmon this morning with blueberries and last night he ate the whole can of tuna. He was wagging his tail and he’s slow, but he follows me around most of the time. He doesn’t get excited, exactly,  when I have food or take out his leash, but he wags his tail and jumps off the couch to come get his food or to go in the car. When I ask if he wants to go “bye bye car” he gets up and comes to me. He’s walking around the house, and up and down the stairs. He can still jump on and off the bed, he’s slow, but he can get himself up and down without struggling. The diarrhea is the hardest part, for both of us…But I do not want to wait until he’s suffering.”

Dr. Clifton had told me on Thursday there was nothing they could do, but then she saw him today, and she’d changed her mind. I couldn’t believe it. I asked more and more questions.

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Lizzie (after her eye surgery) and Reggie in October 2011 at La Jolla Cove

“With our dog, Ginger, that we put to sleep four or five months ago, she was 18 and filled with cancer, and when it was time, my husband and I just knew. She couldn’t eat or get up and she looked up at us and we knew, she’s done. With him, he’s not doing that, he had a good day yesterday, most of the day, and he’s eating, he’s not breathing as easily as we want him to, but I don’t think you’re going to have to bring him to an emergency hospital tomorrow. You just need to get through to Monday when we open. But, if he stays stable like this, I think you can wait and see how he does. It’s faster now that it’s in the lungs but you can decide if you want to bring him in for a recheck early next week, we can do that, and then you can decide if you want to book at time, you can always call and cancel. It’s up to you, it’s your decision. We can check him once a week…”

I was so confused. In a good way, but maybe she didn’t mean it literally – to suggest that he could have enough time to come in once a week.

“Dr. Stoppe is here on Tuesday, I’m here on Wednesday, if you want another pair of eyes.”

“Yes, I’d like Dr. Stoppe to take a look at him, too,” I answered.

I told her I didn’t trust my judgment these days, and that I felt that my brain might be telling my eyes what I want to see, not what’s real.

Sometimes the closer you watch something, the harder it is to see what’s there.

“That’s what we’re here for to help you.”

Anna, the technician, who is so kind, and so sweet with Reggie (she was the same with Lizzie, she’s a natural), was with us – I was so glad. Before the doctor came in to see Reggie I showed her photos and videos from our trips this week.

“I do not want to wait until he’s in distress, so how do I know?”

“That’s the thing, sometimes we have dogs come in like this…” She huffs and puffs really hard. “But usually it’s a slower progression where it takes more effort for him to breathe.”

“Lizzie had a bronchial dilator, do you think it would help him breathe?”

“I don’t know, probably not. We could try it. His airways aren’t closed. The lungs have a space like a balloon that fill with air, and the cancer cells are taking up that space with tissue so there’s less room in that space in the balloon for him to take in that air.” (She said it differently, more scientifically than this, but this is my summary in my own words).

“We can try Theophyllin, do you have any more of Lizzie’s, or did you donate it all?”

“I donated all of Lizzie’s medicines.”

“Let me see if we have any.”

Reggie was hanging out on the floor of the room, his back moving up and down, much more relaxed than when we came in – that’s the other thing. He does not like coming here, and the thought of him having to come in, knowing where he was, conscious of where he was, and then putting him to sleep – I could not imagine doing that to him – I realize that’s just my guilt, but I hated the idea of him coming in that door, so conscious and alert and nervous, not knowing he would not be coming home with me, and his trusting me that he would.

She came back in with some Theophyllin that she’d found, for a few days, until I come back on Tuesday.

I’m going to try this for a couple of days, while increasing his other medication for pain and stress management. She suggested that would be the best thing to do and what she would want for herself if she had cancer.

“You can take him somewhere else this weekend. It’s beautiful out.”

It was like night and day. I would not call it a miracle, per se, he is not going to get better. It’s not like it was with Lizzie at the 11th hour last March where I will have 7 more months with him, but if I could have even 7 more days…it would be worth it, for many reasons.

One more day…one more day to take him somewhere beautiful.

You know what, I take back what I said.

It is a miracle.

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

“You’re A Good Dog Mom…”

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Reggie and me at the top deck of Anna Ruby Falls, Unicoi State Park, January 25, 2019

I heard that exact phrase, word for word, twice today – it left a pang in my chest, and it was bittersweet.

The first time, a lady and her husband were walking down from the falls and saw Reggie in poop position on the paved trail.

“He’s not pooping. He’s straining. He has colon cancer.”

“Oh,” she said, “You’re a good dog mom.”

Today was the first time I told strangers the truth – just like that.

The second time, Reggie and I were in the Higher Ground Coffee Shop in Helen, GA, where I was grabbing a small latte for the drive back home. In the parking lot, I’d asked a nice lady if there was a place where I could bring Reggie to eat if he stayed in his stroller. (We ended up at an outdoor patio, where I’d been once before, many years ago – it was easier). As it turned out the lady who had suggested a couple of indoor restaurants worked in Higher Ground Coffee and she asked if we’d found a place for my baby and me to eat. She then said, “I hope people have been showing you Helen hospitality.”

“I ate outside with him. Is it okay if he’s in here with me? He’s my service animal. He isn’t well. He has cancer.”

It just came out – again.

“You’re a good dog mom,” she said.

And there it was – again. The bittersweet feeling came again, too.

“I hope people have been showing you our Helen hospitality,” she repeated.

I smiled and nodded.

“Come back and see us again, okay?” she told me.

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It was an easy drive to Anna Ruby Falls – about an hour and 40 minutes – according to the GPS.  I knew it had a steep paved trail (my friend had told me about it) and there was the option to explore the lake and trails by the Unicoi lodge instead, but I had my heart set on the falls – and – I knew it would be easier to have Reggie in the stroller – just in case he was not feeling up to walking as much as he had on Monday at Tallulah Gorge (How lucky to have been able to take him on two trips this week. Albeit it was an unusual indulgence on my part – but I will have no regrets, ever. It was worth every moment with him.

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Reggie on the top deck at Anna Ruby Falls looking out at the water

Anna Ruby Falls Visitors Center is the starting point for the 0.4 mile walk up to the top of the falls. The river is called Smith Creek. The paved trail extends all the way up, bordered on one side by mountainous terrain, and on the other side by the rushing river with the sound of the rapids and the view of the white foam tumbling over the rocks downstream.

It was breathtaking.

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Anna Ruby Falls at the top 

It was a difficult climb, with Reggie in the stroller and me pushing at a slow pace, stopping often to rest, and trying to be mindful of my back and neck – but I was determined.

There were several patches of black ice, which was the biggest challenge. I almost slipped once, but thankfully, it was just a close call. There were not many people visiting the falls today – not too many people on the trail, which made it easier to take our sweet time up the narrow path. I stopped to take photos of Reggie looking out at the river. He seemed to be drawn to the sound of the water – or maybe it was the view, but given that dogs have superhuman hearing abilities, I think it was more the sounds of the moving water. He was bundled up in blankets and I put his thicker raincoat on him this time instead of the long brown one (the raincoat was once Toby’s).

He was quiet and thoughtful, and I kept him in the stroller the entire walk uphill except for one or two flat spots – one where he walked among the leaves to go to the bathroom and the other to take in the view of the falls as we walked higher.

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Reggie looking at the river from his stroller on the way up to Anna Ruby Falls 
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Reggie watching the river on the way up to Anna Ruby Falls

When we neared the top, I left the stroller at the bottom of the steps and helped Reggie walk up the short stairway to the top viewing deck. The falls were raging with  strength and the sound filled the air with a thunderous glory. There was a spray near the farthest end of the deck, close to the bottom two waterfalls. We stayed away from that end so that Reggie would not get wet. When a large family joined us on the deck, I asked them to take a few photos of us. There were two little girls who were fascinated with Reggie and giggled, as they spun and danced around on the deck, watching, but not coming up to him, as Reggie and I shared a snack of cashew butter and apples.

 

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Reggie resting as he makes his way up the steps

 

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Reggie walking in the leaves on the way up the trail
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Reggie sitting with me on the top deck at Anna Ruby Falls

Reggie and I stayed up at the top of the deck for 2 hours today. At first we had our snack, and then I sat for a while with him in my lap. I was alone for a long time -or what seemed like a long time – before any new people came up to the deck, after the family who had taken our photos left. When I was by myself, I began to think and I lowered my head to smell Reggie’s fur. I thought to myself, I could stay like this forever just sniffing your fur.

 

And then, with no one there, and the mesmerizing waterfalls with the sound of their power before me, like a calling from God, I began to cry. I lowered my head on top of Reggie’s body and the tears came. It may have been the release of all the pent-up grief, the anger at losing so much – so many – of those I love most, or the anxiety at what is coming tomorrow, and in the next few days, and in the next month. I did not think about the significance of today, I did not let myself think about the decade that has passed, and what it means to me, what it could have been today, no, I thought only about Reggie.

But the suppression of the rest fed into the tears that came because they could, because no one was watching, and in that fortress of natural beauty that I had risen to behold – I felt close to God, close to Earth, close to everything pure and beautiful.

The tears stopped before the next couple came. Many couples came off and on after that – some older, some younger, some girlfriends, some co-ed friends, two men with dogs – that made Reggie break his silence really fast.

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As people came up to the deck, they smiled at Reggie – as people tend to do – who could resist smiling at that face with those big pointy ears. I wanted to give Reggie an experience he’d remember today – if dogs do remember these things, I’m not sure, they may not. I picked him up and held him, leaning his body forward on the fence, from the middle of the deck, where he could smell the water, hear the river falling down over the rocks, two merging into one, and see it – see everything. He did not stir, or struggle, or shake – he peacefully watched. We watched together.

And in those moments, I felt peace.

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Reggie sitting at my feet 
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Close up of Reggie and me at the deck where we watched the falls for a long time
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Reggie in the sun at Anna Ruby Falls

After a couple hours up on the deck, Reggie did start to shiver, and as hard as it was to leave Anna Ruby Falls (I gravitated toward them – I’m a water baby), I did not want to take any chances of Reggie becoming uncomfortable – or worse. His breathing was not as slow and easy as it had been on Monday (though it was better than it is inside at home – it still seems like being outside in crisp, fresh air helps him, even if it’s just a little bit).

I picked him up and carried him down the steps, just in case, but since the downhill would be easier for him to walk, I let him walk the whole way down on his own, and pushed the empty stroller (safer too with gravity).

I remembered to look out for the black ice, and there was no danger or close calls on the way down. We encountered the older couple whom I mentioned at the beginning of the post, and a few other walkers on their way up, but walking back took a very short time, compared to the walk up the hill. In fact, Reggie did not need to stop at all and he kept a steady pace, his gait quick, but not fast, the entire 0.4 miles.

I know I can’t allow myself to hope that it is a sign he is okay, but rather, I am grateful that he still can walk like that at all, and that he seemed to enjoy the freedom of navigating the trail without a care in the world.

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Reggie sitting on paved trail when we reached the bottom

(I’m waiting for more photos to upload. Barnes and Noble WiFi is slow and Reggie is with me, in the stroller, and as always, many people have come by to tell me how cute he is and how sweet he looks. I will miss bringing him here very much).

When we reached the visitors center I realized there was another short, paved and flat trail by the creek across from the parked cars.  I put Reggie back in the stroller and we walked along the path all the way to the end. We stopped and watched the water for a short while, and then made our way back to the car.

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The Unicoi Lodge and nearby lake was not far, and I was curious, so we drove over that way. I looked around the lodge for a few minutes and then headed to the lakefront, but didn’t take Reggie out – we headed to Helen instead (it was about 3) and I knew we would need to leave by 4 to get back home well before dark.

Reggie had never been to Helen before, and the one time I’d been myself, it was Labor Day weekend and very crowded so it was strange to see so few visitors there. Many stores were closed.  Reggie sat up and watched people walk by and surveyed the Bavarian style village as we walked down the sidewalks. He was slightly interested in the bratwurst and sauerkraut I ate for my late lunch, but not much.

He is being brave for me. It’s true. I can tell. And at the same time, most of the time, he seems happy, but what do I know? I love him so much, and he loves me so much, when he looks at me, maybe he’s just happy to be near me.

What a gift that is. It’s the best gift I could have asked for.

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I do think the vet was wrong about one thing yesterday: it did make him happy to be out on the trail and in the fresh air, and I could tell he was enjoying watching the river and the waterfalls and listening to the sound of that water pounding down the mountain against the rocks. I know this because I can tell the difference in his energy and his alertness and his comfort level, then and now. Even in the car, he went to sleep for the entire return trip, probably from being so tired. But it was a peaceful sleep, or at least, I think it was.

I hope it was.

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Anna Ruby Falls will always be a memory of that one last day with him. An ending on two fronts: of my life with Audie, and of my life with the family he brought me: Reggie and Lizzie.

 

I know what she is going to tell me in the morning when I bring him in, looking at him now. He is managing, but he is breathing harder than he should be, laying down in a stroller inside a bookstore that he loves, with me sitting next to him. Strange – how he was more like himself today, slower and quieter, but in his element outside, walking, listening, contemplating, sniffing.

I am grateful I can remember him like that. Not once, but twice, this week – I can remember him just like that.

Peaceful.

Content.

Loved.

and

Free.

 

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Athens, Georgia, Cancer, Canine Cancer Awareness, Christmas, Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, Gratitude, Grief and Loss, Memoirs, Writers

“The Last Christmas Tree” – Dedicated to Reggie Roberts

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Reggie underneath his last Christmas tree: December, 2018

This short memoir, “The Last Christmas Tree,” was submitted to Flagpole Magazine. I wrote it for Reggie, knowing it would be our last Christmas together in our home, but also suspecting the truth – that he was dying of cancer, which was confirmed on December 14, 2018. The story was not published ( a different story of mine, “Chasing Fireflies,” was published under the pseudonym, J.L. Mirisch), however, I am including the Christmas tree story in the blog post ahead of an update on Reggie’s Christmas week – which follows the memoir below. Thank you to all my blog readers, and to everyone out there who loves, or has ever loved, Reggie “Reggwood” Roberts.

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Our 2018 Christmas tree

 

The Last Christmas Tree

By Jill Hartmann-Roberts

 

For three months, I wrestled with whether or not to fly back to California for Christmas. My $455 Southwest Airlines voucher made the prospect of a warm west coast Christmas that much more tempting.

 

But I knew if I went to California, there would be no Christmas tree. And I couldn’t imagine Christmas without my own tree – especially this year.

 

You see, this will be my last Christmas tree – my last one in the life I have known for the past decade, at least.

 

Before 2016, I spent every Christmas in California with Mom, but since then, I’ve stayed home in Athens.

 

I really wanted a tree for my first Athens Christmas in 2016. Coincidentally, my friend, Jay, drives the Cofer’s tree delivery truck. He suggested I check out their selection of fir trees and try out their state-of-the-art delivery service.

 

They did not disappoint. I picked out a beautiful 7-foot tree, with so many branches there was space for every single ornament with room to spare.

 

In 2017, I settled for a 5-foot tree; I didn’t even sign up for delivery – just packed the tree in the back of the station wagon.

 

I was happy to have a tree at all, but it just wasn’t the same.

 

I promised myself, “Next year I’ll get a bigger tree.”

 

It feels like last Christmas was just yesterday.

 

Jay advised me to get a jump on buying my tree this year to secure an early delivery time slot, so I didn’t waste any time. On November 16th, my French bulldog/pug mix, Reggie, and I set off on our quest. As soon as we arrived, anticipation welled up inside me, and I headed straight for the Christmas trees. We were met with a sight to behold: rows and rows of lush fir trees as far as the eye could see.

 

A gentleman approached us right away and asked what kind of tree I was looking for.

 

“I want your best 8-foot tree with the full delivery package!”

 

I was still determined to go all out and buy the biggest tree I could afford.

 

The huge selection was overwhelming, but when I told the clerk I have heavy ornaments, he led me straight to a tree with thick branches capable of carrying their weight.

 

“I’ll take it!”

 

After he tagged the tree, I set up delivery for the day after Thanksgiving, the perfect day to decorate a Christmas tree – with a whole month left before Christmas Eve to enjoy it.

 

When Jay and his partner, “Boo,” arrived at my home, Santa hats and smiles in tow, they had to cut the branch at the top of the tree; it was so tall it hit the ceiling. Almost immediately the scent – that fragrant scent that nothing else in the world compares to – filled the living room.

 

I love that Athens is small enough of a city that one of my friends happens to be the person to deliver the one thing that could make it feel like a real Christmas this year.

 

It has been a hard year: my pug, Lizzie, died in October, and Reggie has been gravely ill since 2017.

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Lizzie Roberts Oct 7, 2018

 

This will probably be my last Christmas with Reggie. Last year, I knew it would be my last Christmas with Lizzie, and so I stayed home with the dogs instead of going to California.

 

I’m so glad I did that. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I’d missed Lizzie’s last Christmas.

 

Reggie watched closely as I wrapped strings of multi-colored lights around the tree. He followed behind me as I searched to find the perfect branch for each ornament. (My favorite one has a photo of me holding Toby, my first dog, at his last Christmas in 2010).

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My Christmas 2010 portrait at PetSmart with Toby – our last Christmas together. Toby passed away in August 2011

 

Now, Reggie loves to sit under the tree and the beautiful lights glow on his dark coat and in his large brown eyes.

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Christmas tree lights glowing –  lighting up Reggie

Every time I descend the stairs, the first thing I see is our glorious tree, illuminated in lights, and I immediately feel uplifted with the Christmas spirit. That’s the magic of it.

 

This may be our last Christmas tree, but it is no less beautiful, and I know it will be a joyous holiday for Reggie and me, if we let it.

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Reggie and me with our last Christmas tree

 

A special thanks to my friend, Jay, and his partner, “Boo,” who work so hard all season long to bring that Christmas spirit into all of our homes and hearts.

(End of story)

 

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Reggie in his favorite spot in the house: December 2018

Lately when I come home, or when I can’t find Reggie, he is sleeping on the red couch, in the space where his daddy always sat – it seems to be Reggie’s favorite place to be nowadays, especially when I’m not home. I’m not sure if this is recent, or if I wasn’t paying close attention before, but I have noticed how often I find Reggie there in the past two weeks. It makes me wonder if he knows the end is near, if he feels his vulnerability. I imagine that he does, to some extent. Animals are far more instinctual and intuitive than we humans give them credit for. I don’t know if Reggie knows that his body is dying, but I can tell he knows that something is wrong by how he feels – even if he does not have the words to define what is happening to him.

 

I’m learning by experience how rapidly things are changing for Reggie. Last week, he was responding to the medications: Metronidazole and Prednisone. This week, at least since Christmas Day, his symptoms have returned – meaning, I come home to a big mess, I wake up to a big mess, and I hear Reggie getting up several times in the night.

The good news is that I do not hear him wailing in pain, so I think that the other treatments, the holistic ones, are helping, so far. We are still waiting for the Chinese herbs that Dr. Stoppe ordered for him. He has been to acupuncture twice, and Anna, one of the techs, has told me that he does wonderfully – he sits quietly while the needles do their magic.

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Reggie during acupuncture: December 17, 2018

The first time (see above) Dr. Stoppe kept the needles in for about 10 minutes.

The second time, 10 days later,  (see below) she kept them in for about 20 minutes. She said since he’s doing so well, she will try increasing the time towards 30 minutes next time, give or take.

It’s hard to know for sure, but I have a feeling that the acupuncture is helping with pain, as of now, and I hope it continues to do so. I know with human cancer patients, acupuncture and massage and other holistic healing is often recommended not only for anxiety, but also for pain management. Reggie does seem less anxious these days, albeit, quiet, most of the time. He gets feisty and fussy when I take him out in his stroller. He seems to have a lot to say when we go to Jittery Joes, and boy, did he really have a lot to say at the “Read-In With Us in December” meeting I hosted at Barnes and Noble Cafe on the 27th! I suspect the problem was that I forgot to bring his food with me, my bad, and he was letting me know how he felt about having to wait for his dinner. But, around the time our meeting ended, he went to sleep, and rather than wake him up, I let him nap in the stroller while one of my writer friends and I visited. He didn’t make a sound, and I was happy to see him rest so peacefully. He seems to sleep more peacefully in the stroller at the coffee houses than he does at home. It reminds me of infants who can sleep through anything when they are out and about, but have more trouble at home (I’ve heard this happens with some, not all, babies).

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Reggie in his stroller at Jittery Joes, December 2018

Reggie and I had a lot of fun at Barnes and Noble on Christmas Eve. It was a hard day for me (Christmas Eve this year, in particular, was a very sad day for me, and I needed to get out of the house for as long as possible). He loves to sit up tall in the stroller at Barnes and Noble. I’ve brought him there with me often, now that I think of it, and roll him around the store while I look at books – which is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world – even if I do not buy any books. It has been since I was a little girl.

Books (and dogs) have always been my “best friends,” so to speak.

On this particular day, Christmas Eve, the store was packed, and I mean, packed, with people, not surprisingly. However, one adorable little African-American boy, who was probably about 3-4 years old, absolutely stole my heart. He didn’t say a word, and his mom watched from afar, not too far away, at the information desk, as he shyly approached Reggie, with a coy little smile on his face, looking up at me with big brown eyes that silently asked me, “Can I pet him?”

“You can pet him. He likes people,” I said to him, smiling and enjoying the moment.

The little boy stayed with Reggie for well over 5 minutes, maybe longer, petting him softly, and Reggie was very accommodating, happy to have the gentle child pay attention to him. Reggie sniffed his hand and gave it a few licks. He never got close enough to lick the little boy’s face, which is one of Reggie’s signature moves, but I was ready to warn the child to watch out if Reggie stuck out that tongue – I wasn’t sure how he’d like a bath on his face, nor did I think his mom would want that, either.

But, you never know, some people, like me, love that. Others hate it. Better to err on the side of caution with strangers.

I wish I’d thought to take a photo, or ask the mom if I could take a photo, I should say, but I was enjoying the two of them together so much (it made me feel much better, too) that I didn’t even think of it.

Next time…and I hope there will be a next time with a gentle child just like him. I didn’t even get his name…

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That night, my friend Lisa, and her husband, invited Reggie and me to her house for dinner. Much like two months earlier, with Lizzie, shortly before she passed away, Reggie rested calmly in his stroller, at Lisa’s house. He stayed beside me at the kitchen table, so quietly, in fact, that we almost forgot he was there with us!  Lisa had been concerned that Reggie might try to get at the stew, but he didn’t even try, he was so well behaved. It was the first time I brought him to anyone’s house, as a guest, since he was diagnosed with cancer, and he was an absolute angel. I’m glad – hopefully we can do it again, not everywhere we go, but sometimes. I know many of my friends have very active pets, including large dogs, and it wouldn’t be a good idea. But, any time Reggie can come, I am glad I can bring him since we have so little time together, and these last days, or weeks, or however long I have him, are so precious – especially now, while he still has quality of life. I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to share my life with Reggie.

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Reggie falling asleep in his stroller at Jittery Joes while I was working

Christmas morning with Reggie was bittersweet. I took 2-3 videos of him, wanting to capture his last Christmas Day on camera, and not just in still photos. (Unfortunately I do not think I can attach videos to this blog post, but, if I figure out how to do that, I will update the blog post with at least one of the videos).

He struggled to open his presents, even though they were not wrapped in paper. I put his three stuffed animal toys in a gift bag to make it easier for him to get to them. He sort of picked at the bag with his paw, and sniffed at it a few times, stuck his head partially inside, but unlike past years, he didn’t go for it full throttle. His energy level was so low, it broke my heart. I could see that he was not feeling well, and like I mentioned, he’d had some accidents in the night, and so it was clear, he’d spent some of his limited energy dealing with his cursed symptoms.

I didn’t give up, though, and pressed the center of the toys’ bellies to sound that squeaker noise Reggie loves so much. He did become more interested in the toys at that point, and he even took the raccoon in his mouth and started chewing at it for a minute, or less. He didn’t shake his head wildly back and forth, as he once did, trying to kill the prey, and when I threw it across the room (along with the pig and the otter), he didn’t chase any of them. He watched them fly to the other side of the living room and then just looked at me, as if to say, “I’m too tired to chase them. Can you bring them back, please?”  Which I did, bring them back to him, that is. He quietly sat by his toys, and rested against my feet, with his back to me, waiting to be stroked, as he does so often.

Later in the morning, he did trot into the living room (presumably feeling a little bit better), when I made another effort to get him excited about his toys and their squeaky sound. He’d been resting in the dining room, heard the sound, and answered the call. Slower than in past years, but he still came. He took the otter, or tried to, it was too thick, and played with it, paws and teeth engaged, only for a few moments, but it happened – and I thankfully captured it on video.

I had to leave Reggie home in the late afternoon when I went to my neighbor’s in-laws, and then to my friend, Jay’s, mom’s house. (I am so grateful to have had people to see on Christmas Day). I didn’t like having to leave Reggie, and I thought about canceling, but I knew that I had to take care of myself, too, and that it would sink me further into despondence about the loss of my family if I stayed home alone all day.

Thankfully, my friend, Marcy, who is a veterinarian, coincidentally, invited both Reggie and me over to visit her in the late morning/early afternoon, and that was wonderful! He rested and slept, didn’t fuss much, maybe a little, and when I took him out in her yard for a walk in the warm sunshine (lucky for us, the weather was beautiful) Reggie was like his old self, or, his old senior self, l mean, (pre-cancer) – marking the grass several times and sniffing all the bushes, rife with new scents.

This past week has flown by, which I was hoping would not be the case, but it has been quiet and peaceful in Athens, and I have had quality time, both in town, and at home, with Reggie. That pet stroller has been a Godsend (as I’ve said before).

I am grateful to Reggie and Lizzie’s daddy, Audie, for buying it for Lizzie, and I remember when he did that, Audie said that one day we would be able to use it for Reggie, too.

Little did Audie, or I, know how soon that day would come, when Reggie would need the stroller. I wish that day had been far off, very far off, and I’m sure if someone were to ask Audie, he would say the same.

But, thank goodness, Reggie has it, when he needs it, however too soon it happened.

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Reggie is happy to be out and about in his stroller

I have yet to find a grant writing expert to assist in applying for some of the canine cancer grants I found through some Internet research. I hope I find someone in time.   I have no regrets, and I never will, about spending what I need to spend to take care of Reggie’s needs and to make him as comfortable as possible, but I’m also worried about it. Worry does not mean I am giving it a second thought, though. I will not sacrifice Reggie’s well being for anything – he’s counting on me, and I love him so much. He is the only remaining member of my family, and I want him to be happy, and for his life to be as full as possible.

I have many friends who are trying to prepare me, to be able to make the decision, when I am confronted with it. I do not want this to be real – every day, I can feel the denial setting in deeper, even though I’ve had to set my alarm 15 minutes early again to clean up the morning mess, even though he’s slowed down so much. (He still has an excellent appetite, which is one good sign, for now).

But, I did get some bad news when he went in for acupuncture on 12/28: Reggie lost 1 1/2 pounds in just 10 days, in spite of eating his breakfast and dinner and taking all his medication like a trooper. (It’s unbelievable, actually, how he not only does not fight me on the liquid medications, he actually licks the droppers as if he’s drinking a treat – thank goodness for that because Lizzie and Reggie used to hate liquid medications. It was a chore to get them to cooperate in the past.  Any tiny blessing…).

In any case, the doctor expressed deep concern at this rapid weight loss – 1.5 pounds is a lot of weight in a dog his size, too, which makes it even more dangerous. She told me to feed him more, but he needs moist food, because of the tumor, so I am soaking puppy kibble (per her recommendation) and adding it to his food. It is high in calories and nutrients. I remember, I had to do this with Lizzie, too, in the last couple months of her life…

As New Year’s Eve is upon us tomorrow, I am glad that Reggie and I will be together. I had hoped with all my heart and soul that December 31st would not end the year 2018 in the way that it will, but I am grateful that Reggie made it to the new year. I was worried that he wouldn’t, and that I was being selfish in asking him, or expecting him, to, for my sake.

But from all indications, he does not seem to be ready to go, not just yet. The vet did not say anything to that effect, either, so we go on, for as long as we can, for as long as he can, with quality in his life.

I am not ready to send my third, and last, dog over the Rainbow Bridge. When I think of it, I have to stop thinking about it, in order to go forward. I never let Reggie see me fall into that state of despair that is lingering below the surface, waiting to emerge when my conscience and my love leave me with no other choice but to say goodbye to him. There are other decisions to be made in the meantime, and other people who love Reggie, and I am trying my best to think of them, too, in terms of what is best for Reggie. It’s not easy, but I have said for a long time that in the end, we have to be able to live with ourselves, to look in the mirror, and be able to look in the eye of the person staring back without shame, or guilt, or regret, if we can. Years from now, when I look back on Reggie, and Lizzie, I want to be able to look in the mirror and be 100% certain that I did the right thing – for them, and for those they love.

Hopefully, there will be many more weeks to write about Reggie, but if there are not, thank you for reading my stories and for keeping Reggie in your thoughts and in your hearts, and a few prayers wouldn’t hurt, either. Know that Reggie is receiving the best care possible – he is loved, and safe, and he is living in peace. He loves to be with people, and people love to be with him. Whatever can be done, will be done. I am glad I elected not to pursue a dangerous surgery – his life, however short it may be, will be better this way – without pain or infections or whatever else could have gone wrong, and was likely to do so, according to Dr. Barker and Dr. Clifton.

Knowing I am willing to let go, gives me a little bit of peace of mind, for now, but every day that I wake up and Reggie is still here to greet me, wagging his tail, or barking at me, or smiling, or following me, or resting on my foot, to stay close to me, I am relieved that it is not that time yet.

As I used to say with Lizzie, “Every day that Reggie is alive is a good day.”

Happy New Year from Reggie “Reggwood” Roberts to everyone!

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Reggie in his favorite winter coat

 

 

 

 

Athens, Georgia, Canine Cancer Awareness, Christmas, Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, Gratitude, Grief and Loss, Memoirs, San Diego, California

For the Love of Reggie

 

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Christmas lights glowing on Reggie under the Xmas tree, December 2018

Tomorrow, Monday, December 10, 2018, is going to be one of the most important days in Reggie’s life.

He is having a colonoscopy at Woodlands Veterinary Clinic to determine if his 18-month-long illness originating from his large intestine is a chronic autoimmune disease – or cancer.

Last week, I had to take him back to his regular vet at Hope Animal Medical Center for additional blood work and a second ultrasound  because his condition has worsened since September, in spite of additional medications and diet changes that we were hoping would ameliorate his symptoms.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, has worked.

Dr. Clifton found increased inflammation in his blood, and the ultrasound showed that the large intestine tissue looks worse – in other words, whatever is the cause of the abnormal-looking tissue has become more aggressive.

This does not surprise me given that Reggie is in more pain than he was a few months ago, and I’m scrambling to keep up my supply of carpet and floor cleaner and paper towels because he has gotten so much worse.

I’ve come up with every trick and solution I can think of: covering the bedroom carpets with heavy duty trash bags as best as I can, and putting down cardboard on some of the hardwood, but there is only so much I can do.  Often Reggie spontaneously has an accident before I can get him downstairs, and out of the house, and in the middle of the night, when I’m asleep, I don’t hear him crying to go out – in fact, he usually does not cry, he just goes – and then I can tell he feels bad about it in the morning from the look in his eyes. I can’t be upset at him, he can’t help it, but, I have had to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier every day to make time to do the daily am cleanup.

It’s a labor of love, and I have no complaints about that part – nothing is more important than saving Reggie’s life.

I just hope and pray that once the results of the biopsy are in that I will be able to save his life – or that the vets will, I should say.

I can clean and/or replace carpets and floors. I can’t replace Reggie. He is, and always has been, irreplaceable.

Reggie and I did not start off on the right foot, although I thought he was adorable, and I wanted him (and Lizzie) with me. I was skeptical because I’d heard rumors about how naughty he was back in Seattle, WA when he lived with Addie. Apparently he was not the most obedient dog and he often got into trouble – even his pet sitters claimed that he was a handful, or so I heard.

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Reggie with Lizzie in Audie and Addie’s condo in Seattle, before I met them, circa 2007-2008

Yes, this cute little Frenchie pug was a pound, or 20 pounds, of trouble. Hard to believe when you look at those ears and big brown eyes, but, it’s true. In fact, Audie used to warn me, “You have to be alpha with Reggie. You have to be dominant.”

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Reggie, age 4, shortly after he moved in with me in December 2009

This is true, and it’s taken years, literally years, to master that with Reggie, but at this point, I’m confident I’ve elevated to pack leader status.

At least, I hope so:)

However, he definitely has tested me over the years, especially when it came to my elderly rescue dog, Toby. In the beginning, I was very worried, but I consulted with Dr. Kaleka (my longtime general vet) at Governor Animal Clinic in San Diego and she gave me specific instructions on how to integrate Reggie and Lizzie into Toby’s domain without conflicts.

Toby’s internal medicine specialist, Dr. Sara Ford, assured me that it would be good for Toby to be around the younger dogs. She told me that it would add years to his life and rejuvenate him (it was true, it did put more life into Toby’s last two years).  Having a larger pack of dogs did have its pros and cons, but Dr. Ford felt certain that the benefits would outweigh the downsides.

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Toby, Lizzie and Reggie on the patio at University City Starbucks, circa 2011

As soon as Audie and I brought Lizzie and Reggie home from San Diego airport that first day, December 22, 2009, we took them on a long walk with Toby, before we even let them into the condo.

One of the best lessons I learned about adopting a dog, or introducing dogs to each other, period, is how to avoid the territorial battle: take the dogs on a long walk together in neutral territory.

It seemed to work out perfectly. After the walk, we brought Reggie and Lizzie into the house and put them in the kitchen behind the pet gate, where they had to live for a month, per Dr. Kaleka’s instructions. They needed to learn that Toby was the “main” dog in this house.

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Reggie and Lizzie behind the pet gate in December 2009

They were allowed to come out to eat with Toby, (who had to be fed first), to go on walks together as much as possible, and to mingle with the rest of the family in the main part of the condo in gradual increments. We started with 20-30 minutes and built up to full-time intermingling by the end of the first month. (Full disclosure: it was probably less than a month and moved faster than we were told, as I recall. I hated to leave Reggie and Lizzie behind the gate, though probably not as much as Audie did).

Toby didn’t mind. He’d stare at them from the living room – they’d stare back from the kitchen.

This went on for days…I think Toby built up quite a bit of chutzpah during that time – watching Reggie and Lizzie pawing at the gate and barking, wanting to get to him, and to us.

Yes, being king of the condo suited Toby very well.

Maybe that’s why Reggie let him have it fairly soon after he was allowed to roam free.

I was angry, and scared, when Reggie attacked Toby out of the blue – with no apparent provocation.

I was so distraught, that I told Audie I wanted Reggie to go back to Seattle.

I honestly feared that Reggie might attack Toby randomly at any time, and that his life would constantly be in danger, if we kept Reggie with us.

For the second time, we considered separating Lizzie and Reggie, but gladly, cooler heads convinced me otherwise and I backed down.

We kept Reggie, and I tried not to worry.

Thankfully, he didn’t make a habit of going after Toby, although, it did happen twice more, and I didn’t see it coming. First, Reggie went after him while Toby was sitting on his own dog bed (Mind you, the first week Reggie arrived, he lifted his leg and pee’d on Toby’s dog bed. Those alpha males!).

Everything was fine for more than a year and a half, and then suddenly, one day in 2011, all three dogs were doing their own thing, minding their business while eating from their own dog bowls, and Reggie lunged at Toby’s neck and knocked him down.

It was loud, it was violent, and thankfully, it was brief – neither dog was injured, though Toby was so weak, compared to Reggie, not to mention blindsided by the sudden attack, that he never had a chance to fight back.

I was shaken up, and angry at Reggie, but by this time, there was no question in my mind that Reggie was not going anywhere – I didn’t want him to – I was completely attached to Reggie.

I stopped feeding Toby and Reggie together for a while, but it was not long before I tried again. Thankfully, nothing like that surprise lunge ever happened again.

But, I never left them alone, either, at food time for the remainder of Toby’s life.

Reggie has often surprised me, in a good way.

When Toby died – I was touched – and surprised – how much Reggie grieved for him, searching for Toby in all the usual places, and looking at me with sadness in his eyes. This went on for several days.

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Reggie circa August 2011

 

Reggie returned to his normally perky self in no time, but I never have forgotten that in the end, Reggie showed me how much he really did love Toby, and that he had bonded to him, in spite of their alpha male competitiveness.

If someone were to ask me, “What is your favorite thing about Reggie?” there is no question in my mind how to answer that. Although he doesn’t do it anymore, sadly, Reggie had the innate instinct, and ability,  to get himself revved up like the Road Runner (the cartoon character) when Audie and/or I teased him by trying to chase him, or even just pretending to go head to head by leaning down, as if we were going to pounce, reaching for his legs. In response, Reggie would lean forward, as if he were getting ready to pounce too, and then all of a sudden, off he’d go!

And when I say go, I mean gooooooooo!

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Image from Warner Bros. and Courtesy of Facebook images

 

He’d jump off the couch and speed down the hallway, in a flash, disappear for about 30 seconds, and then all of sudden, he’d whiz by us, full steam ahead, back into the room. He’d get more and more excited, to the point he’d trip over himself sometimes, spinning in circles two or three times, and then he was off! Like a little bullet, he’d tear off down the hallway again, out of sight, in a black blur. He’d go back and forth, several times, until he finally wore himself out and landed somewhere close by us.

All the while, we would laugh so hard, it was as if the whole condo filled with the sound of our belly laughter.

I never laughed harder, nor did I ever hear Audie laugh harder, than I did in those times – many, many times – over the years, in all three homes we lived in together.

We couldn’t help it. There was absolutely nothing funnier than Reggie when he got himself all worked up like that. It was so funny, in fact, that Audie and I would provoke him on purpose just so we could make ourselves laugh while watching him go, go, go!

Actually, I can’t remember anything that has made me laugh harder, time after time after time, in my entire life, than Reggie’s speedy Gonzalez routine. Hands down, when I look back on my years with Reggie, it is the thing about him that brought me the most joy, over and over again.

He never does it anymore. I have tried to get him excited and worked up to it, but he is just too tired, I think, or just is not feeling well.

The other day he did show interest in one of the plush squeaky toys I bought for him two Christmases ago – a reindeer – but after a couple of rounds of toss and retrieve, he got tired. Mostly, he just wants to rest nearby – nowadays, he sleeps a lot, for most of the day.

It is hard seeing how he is slowing down more and more each day.

Still, he has not lost his loving nature, and I’m thankful for that. He wags his tail when we meet people and still barks like the territorial protector that he is when the doorbell rings. And don’t even tell me about how bent out of shape he gets when he spots one of the neighbor’s outdoor cats wandering around our driveway or in the front yard. He does not bark at the TV as much as he used to, but he did let Sully, George H.W. Bush’s service dog, have it, when I was watching the dignitaries pay their respects to Bush 41 at the Capitol on CSPAN.

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Reggie cuddled with Lizzie back in Seattle circa 2007-08

This past week, I broke down and posted a GoFundMe fundraiser to help me pay for his colonoscopy tomorrow. I really did not want to ask for help, but I need it in this case, with no money coming in for several months and so much money going out for bills that I never expected this year, on top of my usual medical expenses and necessities. My friends urged me to try it because people post GoFundMe fundraisers for just about everything, they said, even if they just need to fix their car, or want to do something much smaller than trying to save their dog’s life.

I knew it would expose my vulnerabilities to put myself out on the Internet publicly in this way, so I hemmed and hawed about it for over a month.

Finally, last week, I looked at my situation and the reality slap left a sting and a nasty red mark on my cheek.

I decided to give it a try. So many people, near and far, local and long-distance, love Reggie and always ask about him, what could it hurt to try?

I told myself, Reggie is the one thing in my life I do not feel guilty about reaching out to others for assistance with, because God knows, he’s worth it. He’s the sweetest, most loving creature, and I can’t imagine losing him anytime soon. There is no way to help him if I don’t know what’s wrong – and whatever is wrong with him, is not going to be inexpensive to fix.

I’ve prepared myself already for the worst case scenario – and what I’d want to do about it, or at least, what I think is best for Reggie.

He also has a heart murmur and he has been very stressed and anxious. I don’t want to put him through major surgery, or chemotherapy, I really don’t. Dr. Clifton said palliative care is an option for a little while, if it’s cancer, because he currently isn’t showing any signs that he cannot have more time with quality of life.

If his cheerful greetings and wagging tail when people come up to pet him is any indication, I definitely agree with Dr. Clifton. Not to mention, he still loves people food, albeit he’s had it with the hydrolyzed protein kibble – wants nothing to do with it lately. (Thankfully Dr. Clifton said to let him eat what he wants until the procedure since we don’t know what is wrong with him, let him enjoy what he’s eating.  “He has to eat to live,” she said.

And, he really wasn’t eating, sometimes for 2 days, so that was that – he got a free pass to eat white meat ground turkey and ground beef and a little bit of apple and pumpkin. (I dare not give him anything else).

A few days ago, I was reminded, again, to be grateful for all the little things and all the small acts of kindness in the world.

In this case, it was owing to the kindness of a stranger.

Reggie was sitting by my feet at Jittery Joe’s while I was editing a story for the Slackpole and he was either in pain, or cold, I’m not sure which. It has been so cold in Athens lately, it probably was the cold. I tried putting him on my lap and it helped a little, but he kept shaking, mostly by his rear end, which worries me – he does that a lot lately and I’m not sure if it’s related to his intestinal problems.

A lady who looked to be in her 60s approached me to pet Reggie and noted how cold he was, in a nice way of course, she was just concerned.

“I forgot his coat at home,” I told her. (Audie bought him a beautiful brown winter coat several years ago and he looks very handsome wearing it).

“Ohhh,” she replied sympathetically.

She left after a bit and I went on with my business.

About ten minutes passed, give or take, and the woman came back, handed me a green argyle dog sweater with a snowflake pattern, and said, “Here.”

I was floored.

“Keep it,” she said, “Merry Christmas.”

And then, just like that, she left as I thanked her profusely.

I put the sweater on Reggie right away.

It fit perfectly.

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Reggie’s new sweater

 

He doesn’t even seem to mind it, and he usually hates wearing doggie clothes, except for the coat that Audie bought for him.

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Reggie’s brown winter coat

 

It’s been a long two months waiting for this appointment tomorrow, and they said it might snow, but I think it’s going to be okay, and that we’ll be able to get to the clinic in the morning.  It felt like this day would never come, and now in 24 hours, it will be over with.

Hopefully, I’ll know Reggie’s diagnosis very soon.

In the meantime, he is resting by my feet under the dining room table, and he looks so peaceful. I hope there aren’t any complications – they said he would probably have some cramping and more gas and…more for me to clean up….if you know what I mean…but otherwise I am not sure what to expect for the aftercare. I do know that Reggie is in good hands, and Dr. Barker’s kindness and confidence has been very reassuring.

I know I’m doing the right thing, that’s what’s important.

It’s so strange when I think of Reggie and me.  I know I’ve said this before, but it comes into my head so often these days when he’s cuddling up next to me in bed, or nestling in my lap, or sitting by me near the Christmas tree, or riding with me in the car, or just about any time he comes up as close as he can get to me, looking at me with those amazing saucer-size brown eyes.

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Christmas 2018

Nine years ago, give or take two weeks, I didn’t even know Reggie, except in pictures. I almost did not keep him, twice, right before, and right after, he first came to live with me.

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Reggie and Lizzie in the dog bed behind the pet gate, circa December 2009

 

I was second-class human for years; Audie was his person, period, unless I was the only human in the house, and even then, he never climbed into my lap to get as close to me as possible like he did with Audie.

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Audie with Reggie in his lap at University City Starbucks, Thanksgiving 2011

 

I used to tease Audie that Reggie only wanted me when he was not home, and Audie used to tease me back about how Reggie liked males best, especially him. Often Reggie would not obey me at all if Audie was home, and sometimes not even when Audie wasn’t home. When he climbed up onto Audie and put his paws on Audie’s shoulders and stuck his head right up to Audie’s face, trying to kiss him, I knew, that was it, I was definitely #2. In fact, sometimes Reggie would give me this look like, “Don’t come near him, he’s mine.”

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Lizzie and Reggie climbing on Audie, circa 2012

 

I laugh about it now. Everything is always bittersweet in hindsight after it’s gone.

Reggie does remind me of Toby in some ways, especially how he likes to kiss my face for a long time. I should not let him do it, but it is really comforting and makes me happy. When I really think about it, Reggie is very much like Toby.

But, Reggie deserves his own place in my heart, and he has more than sealed that deal. He always will have as much a piece of my heart as the other two (Lizzie and Toby) did, and in some ways, being just the two of us, he has an even bigger piece of it.

And he always will.

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Our Christmas portrait, December 2018

 

Dedicated to: Reggie “Reggwood” Roberts who has completely stolen my heart.

 

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Reggie Roberts circa December 2009

 

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Reggie Roberts circa December 2018

If you happen to see this blog post, in the next few days, and want to donate to the GoFundMe for Reggie, here is the link:

https://www.gofundme.com/my-dog-reggie-needs-a-colonoscopy-on-december-10?fbclid=IwAR1VHIqjmegopAk_tbkIX_9do2pcdTV2ge2gdWQFSomps4MQK1hB3LHF8kQ