It has been nearly a month since Pierre lost his battle with cancer, I can hardly believe it. The thing about having kids is that you don’t have time to even mourn the way you need to because life doesn’t stop, it moves forward.
Though I have cried a lot in front of the girls over the loss of Pierre, so much so Wallis has started to say, “oh here she goes again” and not in a hurtful way, but in a way that Wallis is trying to process this loss herself and also watching how I am processing it as well. Even with all the crying I have done, I haven’t had time to really pause and accept that he is gone. I am really struggling to accept it, even though I knew it was coming, even though I knew it was time – it is just so painful.
I keep seeing this quote by c.c.aurel that says, “now I have to remember you longer than I have known you” and no matter the loss you have experienced, human or animal, those words are painful because they’re so accurate to what it feels like to lose love. Pierre was love, unconditional love for 11.5 years. We would give anything to have those we love stay with us always, grow old with us…and to not be able to give them that is anguish.
I am angry that he got such a rare form of cancer for a neutered dog. I keep reading articles that say, “don’t worry, the chances are rare” and I think, “I wish I could feel that relief.” Pierre had a tough 2 years. The first year he had several surgeries, and healing that followed. We thought for sure we would lose him then, but we didn’t and I was so grateful for that.
After those surgeries that involved breaking his jaw to remove a polyp that was causing him all kinds of breathing issues and eye/head issues he was mostly back to himself. We had to hand feed him all of his meals but other than that, he was just as he had been and the relief from that was healing. But that only lasted a few months before he started acting like he had to use the bathroom nonstop and straining to go. We thought it was a UTI and were shocked to discover that he had advance prostate cancer, and the tumor was blocking his ability to use the bathroom.
We tried several different kinds of medication and luckily one combo worked, and it kept him comfortable for the next 4 months. He still had accidents, and it still took him a while to use the bathroom, but it wasn’t as it had been, and he really was so much better. He was so much like himself again, that I had to keep reminding myself that he was dying, though part of me kept thinking, “maybe they’re wrong or maybe he has healed miraculously.”
Sadly his last day came so swiftly. I had promised myself after the horrific loss of our previous dog, Addis to cancer that I would be so present, I would do this loss so much better, because I was given time. Addis died so suddenly and the pain of it, I still have nightmares about that loss, it was so devastating. But I learned that no matter the kind of loss, one that steals your goodbye or the one that lets it linger…it all fails, no matter what, you will feel as though you have failed them, and that you should have done more.
I have gone over that day again and again and again, I can’t seem to let myself remember all Pierre’s other days because the day we lost him started off so well. He was chewing his bone and playing, nothing was amiss and then suddenly he couldn’t use his leg anymore, he was dragging it, not limping. He was really struggling to use the bathroom, and had multiple accidents in the house. We called the vet to let her know what was happening, and she was adamant that we bring him in immediately. We were so afraid of him being stressed before death, that we just did exactly what our vet told us to do. We did not want Pierre to die the way Addis had, which was violent in how she was full of cords as they tried to resuscitate her.
I made him something he loved to eat and we cuddled as long as we could…but there’s never enough time and it will never be how I wanted it to be, because I simply wished it wouldn’t be at all. The weeks that have followed have felt lonely, the house has felt empty, and all of our hearts have been heavy.
Olive spent the first two weeks sleeping a lot more, seemingly lost and even keeping her distance from us. She still tried to be playful, but it was obvious she was mourning. So we gave her lots of extra attention, cuddles, and space when she needed it. She has started to come back to us more, but I think it will continue to take her some time. Pierre was her best buddy, and even though they fought over food and toys, they loved each other and were rarely not together.
The girls have handled it differently, but equally heart broken. Wallis has had an on and off stutter since she was 3, but when she found out Pierre was dying her stammer was the worst we had ever heard it. It wasn’t until he passed that her stammer vastly improved, and is pretty much gone again. Even though all feelings are welcome in our home, Wallis is more of a internalizer, so we were not surprised how she has handled it. She talks about Pierre often and how much she misses him, but she wasn’t emotional about his loss and I think that was confusing for her too, given how emotional I was. It was her first experience with loss, and she wanted all the details, so we were honest with her, she did not want us to tell her anything that was fluff, and when we tried (because I admit, I did at first) she saw right through it and demanded the truth. Her sweet medical mind evaluated it and made peace with it the best way she knew how to.
Loris was very emotional about the loss. We had the hardest time explaining to her what had happened since she’s barely two. We told her that Pierre had a bad boo boo, and that we missed him very much. So she has spent the last month telling us over and over again with pain in her voice, “Pierre bye-bye, bad boo boo, Pierre bye bye, bad boo boo” and when she would see me cry she would immediately lay her head on my shoulder and say, “poor Pierre.” Her new thing now is to say, “Bye-bye Pierre, bad boo boo” followed by, “BUT OLIVE” and she says this joyfully like BUT OLIVE IS STILL HERE. Recently we had to take Olive to the vet and Loris was very anxious about it. We explained everything, but she was not satisfied and woke up from her nap elated that Olive had indeed returned. She could not get to Olive’s bed fast enough to check for her.
Our dogs have always been part of our family, and we will carry this loss and the ones before Pierre with us forever. Not a day goes by that I don’t think, “I can’t believe Pierre is gone” and I know that I will think that way for awhile still, until I can forgive my heart for having to let him go, and until I can allow the grace of all those days before to find their way inside my heart once more.