This is my Stacie girl. Today I had to let her go. With her, I let go of a huge, immensely important piece of my world.
I didn’t think that I would feel like writing this today but grief is a very strange beast and it does what it will. I’m certain that I will continue to move through the various stages of grief, as time goes on. When it’s time to be in the moment of each of them, then I will experience them in all of their fullness.
Tears have been shed today but I have had months of preparing myself for today. I’ve been watching her slowly slide into worse and worse shape. As for this moment, right now, I am in a strange calm. I doubt seriously that it will continue to grace me with its presence but it’s certainly welcome right now. So, I’ll use it to write. Writing is a tool that I have always used to help me process difficult things.
She had gotten to the point that even the little things had become too difficult. She had trouble breathing, eating, drinking, standing on her own without losing balance and sometimes, controlling her bowels.
She lived to be sixteen and one-half years old. The average life expectancy of a pit bull is fifteen years. The oldest I’ve ever heard of a pit bull getting to is seventeen but fifteen is the average. She was just old and it was just time.
Edit: I was curious about “dog years” and I found this article. Depending on how you calculate it, Stacie definitely lived to be the human equivalent of somewhere between 87 and 116 years old. The chart in the article considers age and the size of the dog and she falls into the roughly 99 years old range.
The vet was very nice and respectful and they gave me all the time that I needed to say goodbye. The process seemed painless and it was quicker than I expected, which I was grateful for.
They gave her a sedative to calm her and let that settle in for about ten minutes. They gave us some privacy during that time. After the second injection, it was all over in less than five seconds. I didn’t sense anything at all from her that seemed like pain or discomfort.
The vet assured me that it was the right call, as Stacie was demonstrating all the classic symptoms of heart and lung failure. At her age, there’s really nothing that anyone could do. It would have been possible to prolong her days a bit but the quality of life was beyond restoration. My baby deserved to go out quickly and painlessly, with her daddy beside her, stroking her head and telling her that she is loved.
This morning, she was able to do part of her outside business on her own but after coming back inside, lost control of her bladder and looked distressed and I just knew that she didn’t have the strength to fight anymore. Her breathing had become more and more labored and as of yesterday, she stopped eating and drinking, no matter how tasty of a treat I offered her. It was time.
I had Steve come over and sit with my other dog, Little. Little is Stacie’s self-appointed, little brother. He literally followed us home from the park one day, no collar and no owner in sight. After weeks of searching for the owner, I gave up and adopted him into the family.
But when I leave the house, he has always had Stacie there with him, for company. I didn’t want him to think that he was being abandoned, so I had someone come sit with him. He’s still confused, of course; there’s just no way to explain.
It’s probably better that he doesn’t know she’s gone. He probably assumes that she’s just somewhere else. It does bother me though, to see him confused and depressed, not knowing if or when his pack member is returning. Dogs take these losses as hard as we do.
He sniffed at me and nudged at Stacie’s collar. I had laid it out on the couch, where he could smell his sister. I wanted him to be able to begin trying to adjust to her not being with us.
I took him for an extra long walk, which was good for both of us. Long walks have been a thing of the past for several years now, ever since degenerative arthritis started in on Stacie’s legs. Good quality food and joint chews helped, but only so much.
Stacie has been with me for all but the first six months of her life. I got her from a woman that I used to cut grass for. I didn’t change her name, because I wanted it to be as easy for her to adapt to her new home as possible. Besides, it definitely fits her sweet nature.
About nine or ten years ago, Stacie started having life-threatening, grand mal seizures. The go-to drug for that condition is Phenobarbital. Stacie had a rare, negative reaction to it and it backfired. That drug not only didn’t help her, it caused her white blood cell count to bottom out and that could have also killed her.
But we had an excellent vet who caught it and switched her to Potassium bromide. That saved her life. It takes a couple of weeks for Potassium bromide to build up in the blood stream and be effective. Meanwhile, the seizures were becoming increasingly more frequent and violent.
In the interim, while the medication started working, I firmly believe that the Angels of Tiphareth kept her alive. There’s was quite a lot of serious petitioning going on from me, on her behalf.
Later, she developed masses on her heart and lungs. This was possibly a side effect, because the Potassium bromide caused her to put on a lot of extra weight. Yet again, there was a really great vet (a different one this time, since we’d moved). Between the vet care and a little juju, Stacie bounced back from that, too.
Stacie had been off all the meds for several years, with none of those problems recurring. She had lost all that weight, too. It took a lot of convincing from the vet to get me to scale her off the drugs, because I was terrified of the seizures starting again but she assured me that it was ok at Stacie’s age. She said that Stacie wouldn’t need them anymore and she was right. After taking her off of them, she did even better, for several years. Eventually, old age just caught up to her.
Several months ago, she started looking really rough. I think that she either ate something outside that poisoned her or she had a stroke. With dogs, stroke symptoms and stomach infection have remarkably similar symptoms… can’t stand, no appetite, trouble breathing, etc.
At her age, there’s really little to nothing that a vet can do to help after a stroke. Sometimes they recover fully, sometimes partially and sometimes, not at all. But Saint Jude pitched in to help. He whispered to me something I should do for her, to make things temporarily better and it worked. She went from being 80% “bags packed and ready to check out of the hotel” to basically normal, within just a few days.
But then, it happened again, several weeks ago. Except, this time it was worse. This time, I was certain it was a stroke. I had watched her like a hawk when we were outside, so I knew she hadn’t eaten anything dangerous.
So, this time, no vet and no juju. Every living thing has a certain amount of shelf-life and when you get past that date, it’s just day by day. I took the next three pictures only because I was almost certain it was the last opportunity I’d have to take a picture of her.
So, I resigned myself to thinking “It’s time to let her go. She’s put in a long and fierce fight and she deserves to rest.” At one point, I had even taken her collar off, just so she could be as comfortable as possible.
She seemed 90% checked-out. I just wanted to make her as comfortable as possible and make sure she didn’t suffer. It was so bad that I actually called the local vet and got all the information I’d need in case I had to euthanize her.
They asked if I was coming in that day and I said I would wait and see how she does, first. I was ready to go anytime, if she seemed like she was in pain. But she didn’t seem to be hurting, she was just really weak. She couldn’t eat or drink on her own or stand up for more than about a minute, without help.
For several days, I carried her outside, multiple times a day and stabilized her, while she did her thing. Then, I would carry her back up the steps, inside and lay her back on the couch or the bed. I had plastic under the blankets because, at the worst points, she couldn’t fully control her bowels.
I made her soft, tasty, people food and hand fed it to her. I hand-spooned water into her mouth, because her jaw wouldn’t open enough for her to drink on her own. She definitely couldn’t bend over to reach her bowl or she’d fall.
I was thinking that I would have to take her in, very soon, to have her put to sleep. Still, my intuition and my Spirits just kept saying “No. Wait.”
Sure enough, with lots of gentle coaxing, I kept her nutrition and hydration up, loved on her a lot and damn if she didn’t just bounce right back again. It took about a week but she recovered probably 10-20% each day, until she was almost like it never happened. We sort of marveled at how she was once again braving her way down the stairs on her own and curiously sniffing at everything in the yard. It was a heartwarming thing to see.
Despite her being more tired and frail than she had ever been before, she still felt the need to be close to me, even at her weakest moments. If she was resting on the couch and I went and laid down on the bed, if I was in there more than ten minutes, she’d get down from the couch and wobble her way to the bed and wait for me to pick her up and lay her beside me. Likewise , if she was on the bed and I went to couch, she’d follow me, even though she was aching and moved as little as possible.
Beginnings and Endings
2005 was one of the roughest periods of my life. It was my Saturn Return and mine was particularly harsh. I got divorced, had to move into a new place, lost custody of my son for not much more reason than the judge let him decide and he missed his mom. I had to finish my last two semesters in college, teach my guitar lessons, do odd jobs and try to heal, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, all at the same time. It was a time of tremendous loss and painful changes.
One day I went to cut grass for Ms. Margarette, a woman I did yard work for, every couple of weeks. She wasn’t there but I saw Stacie tied up in the backyard. I didn’t approach her directly, as it’s not smart to come straight up to a dog you don’t know, especially when you’re in their territory and they don’t know you; more so when it’s a young, strong pit bull.
Later, when I came by to pick up my pay, she asked me “Do you want a dog?” I said “Yes.” But what I was thinking was “Dear God, yes, please. Give me something to care for. Give me some company.” I’ve said it many times, Stacie saved my life.
Her granddaughter had three jobs and it was breaking her heart not to be able to spend time with Stacie. She gave me Stacie, with all her shots up to date, a kennel, toys, food and bowls and everything you might need. It was instant dog, just add love.
I would come home, dragging, after life was done beating the shit out of me for the day. And here was this energetic, monster of a puppy, absolutely ecstatic to see me. And she needed me. She needed to be walked and played with and fed and trained.
She’s always been wicked smart, too. I taught her to sit, stay, lay down, roll over, heel, shake, high five (two front paws) and she still waits patiently at meal time until I give her the signal to eat. Somewhere, I have some videos of her doing tricks. When I feel up to it, I will dig them up and post them.
She even learned right from left, to some degree. When she approached a street sign, I could say “Right.” and she’d go around it to the right, at least about eight out of ten times, anyway.
When I had pet rats, I slowly introduced her to them and trained her “Don’t eat the little babies!” even though it’s just instinct for dogs to hunt small critters. She must have thought that they were tiny, magical dragon creatures or something. Since she knew she’d get in trouble for eating them, she just avoided them altogether.
I’ve watched Stacie stay calm and cool while other dogs went ballistic for whatever reason. I’ve seen her standing patiently and obediently, while some dog a fraction of her size barked and snarled and circled her.
Stacie has come back from Death’s doorstep, probably a dozen or more times. Yet, that can’t go on, indefinitely. For several months now, I have known that today was coming and it was getting closer, all the time. I count each and every day I had with her as borrowed time. Each extra moment of petting her and feeling her unconditional love was an extra, added blessing.
I told La Santisima Muerte that when Stacie goes, she deserves, more than any person I’ve ever known (including myself), to go easily, gently and quietly with her daddy near her. When we went to sleep last night, I didn’t know that today was the day but I also wasn’t surprised.
When I saw how labored her breathing was and when she lost bladder control again, I knew it was time.
Hekate has shown a special fondness for Stacie and I’ve called her one of Hekate’s hounds, more than a few times. Even Saint Cyprian has helped a little bit, although he seems more intrigued by my devotion to Stacie, than by Stacie, herself. But he helped me know to wait and not take her to be put to sleep yet, during the last episode with the stroke.
Stacie has indeed dodged the bullet, many times, with the help of solid professionals and friends in High places.
Yet, while Death is patient, that final appointment is never missed, no matter who you are or what friends you have in elevated places.
Up until yesterday, while she was definitely ailing, there was still a basic level of comfort. She had increasing difficulty sleeping but she wouldn’t shun a few Doritos for a treat, so there was obviously some spark still in there. But when she stopped eating and drinking, no matter if I hand fed it to her or how delicious a treat I offered, it was clear.
I’ve been slowly trying to acclimate myself for the last few months to the idea of this. I was hoping that she’d pass peacefully in her sleep or it would be one of those movie moments, when the person says a few last words and then gently closes their eyes and slips away.
But I figured it wouldn’t be that simple and it wasn’t. She needed someone to end the suffering for her. She couldn’t do it for herself and I wasn’t about to let her lay there miserably choking for air and slowly starving. I wish we’d have more of such compassion with human beings and honor the right to die with dignity.
Not since I was a little child has any man ever made me cry. As an adult, only once did I cry because of a woman. But I remember when Stacie was having up to five, grand mal seizures in a day and I was afraid that each one was going to be the one that took her. I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I wept like a little child.
It hasn’t really settled in yet that she’s gone. Sixteen years of life lived with that fur baby. She’s been there to take joy in when things were going well and there to offer comfort when they weren’t.
I imagine that I’ll probably get up one morning and grab her leash and call her to go outside and when I realize that she’s not there, I’ll be a mess. She was always a really well-behaved, quiet dog and only barked if strangers came to the door. Still, it already seems oddly quiet here without her. The hole she’s leaving behind is already obvious.
The sudden feelings of sadness are probably going to happen a whole bunch of times, for a long time. That’s because Stacie wasn’t just my dog.
Stacie was my baby girl, the light of my life. I don’t know if there was ever anyone or anything that I loved more than that dog. She was just as sweet as sweetness gets.
There’s going to be anger, loneliness and terrible sadness and it’s going to suck, horribly. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
On that note, please don’t reach out to offer your condolences, at least not with any expectations of me answering the messages.
I’m not going to be up to talking or texting with anyone, I need to process this in my own way. I already know that your thoughts and prayers are here with me and I do appreciate it.
I’m a writer and so I can easily lay it all out, like I have here. Most of that is wanting to pay tribute to such a truly special and wonderful animal, one who deserves a proper eulogy.
I’m just not the type to want to talk about this type of thing, one on one. It wouldn’t take all ten fingers for me to count the number of people that I share with, one on one. I’m not going to be answering messages about this. It’s just how I need to handle it.
Love is special, precisely because it is so terribly fragile and easily ripped away from us by whatever prevailing wind blows sourly in our direction.
Because we are, in the end, completely powerless against loss, we can recognize the simple beauty of something like a fur baby, nuzzled up next to us.
If losing a loved one didn’t hurt so horribly, it would never have felt so important and magical, to begin with. It would never have been so… wonderful… so full of wonder.
Everyday, people ruin their lives and the lives of others, because they’re too afraid to embrace that and live with it. They look at what they have to lose and so they sabotage it, thinking that if they end it right away, they can avoid the sadness that will come, one day, sooner or later.
But it doesn’t work that way. Until you have loved some person or animal, far more than you could ever love yourself, and then you lost them (or almost lost them)… until you feel that in your bones, you haven’t ever truly been alive.
People who do that haven’t dodged any bullets, they haven’t escaped any pain. They’ve only ensured that there was never anything to live for, anyway. Except that there was… and they shunned it away, out of fear.
And I understand it. The fear of losing someone you so dearly love is a terrible thing. I’ve never been so afraid as I have when I thought I was going to lose a friend, a pet, someone I loved more than I love myself. Any time that I felt afraid or worried about something that might happen to me, directly, my main concern was “How will this affect my loved ones? Who will look out for them, if something happens to me?”
I think part of the reason I feel strangely calm, right now, is shock but part of it is that I know my baby is at peace now. She’s not hurting or suffering any more. There’s nothing more that I need to do for her now. She’s gone but she’s OK.
We should all be so lucky as go under such circumstances as she did, quick, painless and with loved ones holding us. She deserved that and I feel more comfortable knowing that she got that. I’ll hold onto that calm for as long as it lasts, before it inevitably dissolves into just missing her, terribly.
I could list off unpleasant details about my life that would have you asking “How the fuck are you still alive?! Events X, Y or Z were more than enough to have killed you. And after _____, a lot of people would have checked themselves out by now.”
It’s actually a fairly common sentiment, among the very few people that I share the intimate details of my life with. It’s not unusual for people to marvel that I still exist, after they know all the shit I’ve been through.
But I can say, without any hesitation, reservation or equivocation, that my life has been most excellent. My life has been truly wonderful, full of wonder… because… I had a Stacie.
Not everybody gets to have a Stacie, it’s a very special thing.
everything is loss
from the very start of the getting
the one that rises on your joys
is the same sun that’s soon setting
a little light left the world today
the very biggest of the small
most never saw its brightness
but to me, it was all
it’s worth every bit of sorrow
every bit of the sadness
that light, while it lasts,
to bathe in its gladness