Friday, 22 July 2011

The Life and Times of Gracie

As many of you know, we lost our dear Gracie on the morning of July 22, 2011. We made the decision of ultimate love for our girl, and released her from her pain and suffering. Here is the story of a great dog's life.

Gracie came into our lives in late July, 2002.  We had a beagle already, Pax, who was about 6 years old.  For some reason, the family decided that she needed a friend.  We searched, and up popped a picture of "Princess".  According to the shelter workers, she was found walking around the streets of nearby Nazareth, Pa and had been on her own for about 2-3 weeks.  We went by after church, took one look at her, and realized that not everyone would be willing to take her; she was not what most people would consider "cute".  Within the hour, she was sitting on a blanket, curled up next to me, in the back seat of our van.  The shelter staff knew nothing of her history, so we got to know her just as she was. She was listed as "beagle", but we guessed more beagle/basset hound or beagle/???.  Whe we took her to the vet for the first time, Dr. Gregrich pronounced her in good health, but she had very bad teeth and had, from his guess, many litters of pups. He also guessed her age to be between 7 and 10 years old. (this was in 2002).

The first few weeks were tough. It took her several days to learn that she did not have to empty the garbage can to find food.  She was also determined to be the "alpha" in the house.  She and I spend quite a bit of time with her on her back (show her belly was a sign of submission), often growling and snapping. But we finally came to an agreement, that I would be in charge.  Gracie and Pax had no issues, a quick smell of each other, and they continued on.  Where Pax was a very quiet dog, usually preferring to greet guests and then go find a nice spot to sit and watch, Gracie was quite the party animal.  She would not only greet guests, but would stay in the room, both mooching food and attention. She loved people, to "go car", get treats, and snow, but feared thunder and loud noises.

 As time passed, we lost Pax to illness, and Gracie became an "only".  Her favourite times were when I would come home from my class with chinese food.  She received the broth from my wonton soup.  She never forgot the sound of the spoon in a bowl of soup, and always received her share.
In late spring, 2006, Gracie began having urinary trouble.  Off to the vet.  She was diagnosed with bladder stone, bad teeth, 2 mammary glands with lumps, and needed to be spayed.  Her guessed at age was an issued for anethesia, but we and the vet decided that she probably had many years left, and she had surgery for all her problems.  She lost about half of her teeth, but didn't seem to have a problem.

In January 2007, Pooka the beagle came into our lives, again through petfinders.  His will be another story later.  Gracie smelled him, got slapped in the face by his very powerful and active tail.  She allowed him to stay, and even played with him. He would run around the house, and she would chase him for a while, then stop, realizing that if she stood still, he'd make the circle and come back past her.  She could stand still and bark all she wanted to.

Then came the big move to Canada in December 2007.  She spend the entire 12 hour drive (bad weather) sitting on a stack of pillows between the two front seats of the van. (Pooka was curled up between the kids in the back seat.)  She loved to "go car", but her anxiety would act up every time, resulting in non-stop panting. She was very friendly to the border guard, and was just happy to be with us.
Life in Canada was to her liking. Not too hot in the summer, and lots of snuggling places in the winter.  She explored all the snow, and got to make lots and lots of new friends.  While she was never fond of doggy coats, I found one at a craft fair that would fit her size.  One of her new friends, John A., saw her in the first time, and said she was now a superhero.  Thus began the name - "Paisley Avenger", given to her by John A.   She loved her coat.  When I would take it off to brush her or clean the coat, she'd follow me around, watching the coat, until I put it back on her.  When spring came, the coat came off.  She'd pout for a while, then go about her business.

Our Gracie started to slow down about a year ago.  She started sleeping more and more, and would wake John up several time during the night to go out and pee, or just go out and look at the stars.  They spent many night up and about together. (unfortunately, I slept too soundly to be of any help)  During this year, she still seemed happy, and loved to be with us and friends who visited.  Last August, she even attended the Iron Horse Festival, and walked the length of downtown on Talbot Street. The return trip to the van was too much, and she stopped about half way to the van. She sat on a spot of grass and refused to get up.  John brought the van closer, and Katie carried her the rest of the way.

Over the winter, I searched for a used baby stroller, and we converted it to the Paisley Mobile.  When she went with us to the Canada Day celebrations, she rode from the van to the picnic area, had some hot dog for dinner, then got a ride back to the van.  Along the way, people were amazed to see her riding, but everyone thought she was adorable in it.  It gave her the opportunity to get out and be with her, and meet and greet new people in the park.  She also enjoyed going to Louisa's farm, and tried to chase the chickens (Pooka would run from them!).  Her last outing was to Tyler B's birthday party, where there were 4 other dogs, 1 child, 2 babies, and lots of people to mooch from.  She was very glad of the chips from Kevin M!

Last weekend, she started her downhill turn.  She started drooling from the left side of her mouth, and didn't want to eat.  We had been putting water on her food to make it softer, but now we were putting it in the blender and making "doggie puree". I hesitated to get canned food, a change of food could make her have other digestive trouble.  On Wednesday, Robby, Katie and I came home after lunch and noticed blood in her drool.  When it didn't stop, I called the vet and arranged to have her seen early Thursday morning.

Dr. Raj, at Beaver Creek Animal Hospital, spent quite a bit of time with Gracie and I.  He discovered a tumour on her left lower jaw that was open and bleeding.  Surgery would have required the removal of the entire left lower jaw.  Of course, since her age was now between 16 and 20, we were forced to consider what kind of a life she would have with virtually no jaw, and being tube fed.  Without surgery, the tumour would continue to grow and eventually block her throat from food and later block her airway.

I brought her home and we all sat with her while we made one of the toughest decisions ever.  She had been a wonderful, good hearted friend who loved us all.  We had to return that love and not let her suffer. John and I took her back.  She rode wrapped in a blanket in my lap, just as we had first brought her home with us.  We were with her to the end, just as she had, and will always be, with us.

Gracie in her bed (in our bedroom)

What a face!

The Paisley Avenger - in her hero's cape

The Paisley Mobile. (she used this to get around town)
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

The founder of the Lutheran church, Martin Luther, is said to have been working on a sermon. His dog, Tolpol (loosly translated by one source as Rascal), was sitting by him.  He is said to have looked at his dog and said - "You too shall have a golden tail."   If ever a dog has earned a reward, it was Gracie.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Ready for a countdown

We're now in countdown mode. John and I met with Dr. Black last Friday and signed the papers for a "simple mastectomy". He needs to move someone else to make a spot for me, but the date range will be between the 15th and 30th of August. This does allow me some time to finish some projects, and help Katie get her stuff ready for her college semester.

We finished our week at Vacation Bible School. Katie and often John helped in the kitchen, and Robby kept the house going and did some prep work at home.

On Monday (11Jul) our SCA group helped with an author reading at the London Public Library. Afterward, one of my friends, presented me with a very special gift. Gerrard's SCA personna is a toymaker, and he made me a medieval puppet, complete with her own treasure box of hats. I've got pictures posted at the end of this. (John added the shako from our collection.)

In the meantime, I've got several sewing projects to do.

And when things get tough - I just need to remember to laugh!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The decision has been made

After much research and crying, I've decided that it seems that the best course of "treatment" is going to be the mastectomy. The upside is that there will be no further treatment needed, no chance of anything appearing in the rest of my body. We meet with Dr. Black on Friday to give him an answer and discuss dates. The procedure is called a "modified mastectomy" and does not involve the removal of any chest wall muscles or lymph glands, so recovery time will be shortened from what was done years ago, or if the cancer had spread. Next spring, we'll meet with a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstructive surgery. I recently was told that someone in our reenacting community has the same procedure, but her plastic surgeon took the tissue from her abdomen, there by giving her a tummy tuck at the same time! What a deal.
For my friends in the reenacting communities, the timing of things is going well. The surgery will be after the Siege of Fort Erie (Aug 6/7), and I'll be well into recovery by the time of the Grand Tactical at Fanshawe (Oct 1/2) {date for my non-reenacting friends} I'll be able to attend the Trinovantia Nova shire picnic, and possibly Fall Coronation.

In the meantime, I was scheduled to help with our church's Vacation Bible School. I am in charge of the food market, and we are introducing the students to first century Arab foods. My stall is called "Kosher King Foods". Katie stepped up about two weeks ago and offered to help, and she has been my strong right hand. John is there to help when needed, and Robby has been doing food prep work at home. Monday went well, but I came home very tired, and was in bed by 8.30 running a low grade fever. Tuesday I went in, but I was pretty worthless, and slept all afternoon. Wednesday (today), I stayed home. I'm physically doing better, and hopefully will make it in for Thursday and Friday with lots of help and support from Katie, John, and some of the other ladies. Robby might even show up on Thursday, as the other lady who's working with Katie and I will be out for the day.

So there it stands. I've/We've made a decision, and I've been talking to a lot of people about it, as well as online research. If you're around me, you'll find me making jokes about the surgery and other things. It's a case that if I don't laugh, I'll cry.

So.... let's all keep laughing!!!