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Random Thoughts as I Navigate Grief

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I gave Jake Ryan a bath on his last day. He hadn’t had one in a few weeks and his skin was starting to flake black specks. After his bath, he curled up at my feet next to Ben and he slept. I like to think the bath prepared him for Dog Heaven – like he was clean and ready to be in God's presence.

I fear Poncho is going to die of a broken heart. He and Jake Ryan were so close for 11 years. Poncho looks at me and blames me for Jake being gone and wonders where Jake is and is Jake in trouble that’s why I made him go away and will he (Poncho) ever be sent away from me. 
When the vet told me I should consider putting Jake to sleep, I made him leave the room so I could be alone with Jake Ryan. It was after 1 a.m. and the clinic was silent. I held Jake so close and said, “What do you want me to do?” A voice came to me, “Let me go.” I let the phrase sit in the stillness of the room. I hugged him tighter and asked again, “What do you want me to do?” “Please let me go.” That was how I decid…

How I'll Remember You

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Note - I wrote this a week before he passed away.


How I’ll Remember You
Your body is deteriorating quickly. Your spine sticks out profoundly. The other night your legs were too weak to hold you up, even though you’ve lost so much weight lately. I carried you out to the grass, hoping its texture would provide the support and grip you needed. It didn’t. I lifted you back up and carried you to bed, singing your song. You snuggled beside me and began to snore as I planned the next morning: if he can walk, we’ll be okay. If not, I’ll need to cancel everything and get you to the vet where we’ll say good-bye. I promised, again as I have for the last 12 years, to be with you as your last breath leaves you. In the morning we woke. I placed you gently on the floor. To my relief you walked – walked out the bedroom and to the back door and out to the yard. A sigh left my body. Since March you managed the diagnosis of two “manageable” diseases and lost your sight. Your energy is depleted. Your spar…

Jake's Last Hours

So that I never have to tell the story of Jake Ryan’s last day, I’m writing this.
On Monday, October 29, he wasn’t really interested in eating his breakfast. He got his insulin (partial dose) and Cushing’s medication. I left for work but watched him on the webcam all day.
By 1:30 p.m., he was “stuck” between the dining room table and buffet. I decided to go home just to be close to him.
I fed him the rest of his breakfast – he ate it up. Hurrah – all better.
I gave him his dinner and insulin at 5:30 p.m. He wasn’t “right”. Mind you his health had been declining. I tested his blood sugar – it was at 78; it should be at 200; for a diabetic, it’s usually 300. I went to the gym – and when I got home, I tested and gave food and by midnight, his numbers were dropping – his sugar was at 56, even though I was pumping Karo syrup into his mouth. He was drooling. He got agitated, so I took him out back – he had lost the ability to walk. Then he started vomiting and shaking.
I went to the ER – which i…

The Problem with Expectations

Jake Ryan Gregg lays 10 feet from me; half on the dining room rug, half off. The bare wood floor is dark and pressed against his belly it cools his body. I scan him for signs of life. Slowly, his ribs expand and contract as I count his breaths to mine. One full for me, two – nearly three – for him. We are nine days from welcoming his twelfth year, three months from our 12-year anniversary. Expand and contract. My eyes can’t look away, even as they fill with tears. I walk to him and press my face against his failing body. Expand. And contract.
I won’t bore you with the story of our lives. I’m a dog mom, and not a novel one at that. Just like most dog moms, I love mine beyond words. I’ve taken him on countless walks. I’ve held him when he hurt. I’ve snuggled him when he was tired. I’ve joyfully met him at the door every time I opened it. And then one day it all changed. I am a mom. I knew.
“Diabetes,” the vet relayed on a mid-March morning. “Manageable,” she continued. By mid-April, manag…