Sunday, December 16, 2012

In Memory of Toby

I realize I've been absent here - I'm not even sure who may be checking in on this any more.  But, because Toby was such an ever present fixture on this blog, this post felt necessary.  And this post may mainly be for me to sort out my thoughts and help me to cope.

On Thursday, December 13th, we lost our beloved Toby.  He was four and a half years old.

He had been acting lethargic and losing weight for a few weeks.  It seemed to get worse, and I was pretty worried so we brought him to the vet for some blood work.  That was Monday, December 10th. 

A CBC - Complete Blood Count test at the vet immediately revealed that he was extremely anemic.  His red blood cell percentage was 13%.  A healthy dog is between 40% and 60% and 9% is considered deadly without a transfusion.  He also only had 5000 platelets when a healthy dog should have half of a million.  The cause of the anemia was still to be determined, but coupled with the weight loss (down to 87 pounds from 104 in about 2 months) and his breed, cancer was suspected.  We had to leave him at the vet that night, because he was so sick.

The next day at noon, we received the diagnosis.  Cancer.  Malignant Histiocytosis.  Most likely in his spleen and bone marrow.  The vet estimated he had about two weeks left.  He did not suspect Toby was in any pain yet, but that pain would come soon because he was so progressed in the disease.

Toby would have never wanted anyone to be in pain or sad.  He lived his life to make us happy.  And to eat treats of course.  Toby knew the command for "kisses" and would lick you if you gave the command.  There was also another way Toby would give kisses.  All you had to do was whimper, almost like a sad dog.  He would look concerned and then trot over and lick your face if he heard you whimper.  He never wanted us to feel pain, and so we wanted to treat him with the same respect.  It was actually an easy decision to let him rest before any pain set in. 

I was thankful Toby was able to come home for a couple of days so we could spoil him first.  When Andy first came through the door to deliver the news, I thought he had passed at the vet on Monday night.  We were able to bring him home and I never left him once over those three days.  We were told the signs of pain to watch for, and thankfully those didn't appear.

We treated him to all of the foods he was never allowed before, and he loved it.  Pizza, ice cream, donuts, loads of cheese, bread, sandwiches, cookies, wet dog food, etc.  We gave him constant belly rubs, rump scratches and stroked the world's softest doggie ears.  We let him lay in the cold outdoors, one of his favorite things to do.  He still wanted to guard the house and us even though he was weak.  He loved to sit on your lap and sit at your feet, and those habits remained.  The minute I would sit on the ground to be with him, he would come put his rump right in my lap.

We weren't allowed to cry around him, so as not to cause him concern.  Somehow we were able to do this, only allowing our tears to flow when he was outdoors or in another room.  We believe he knew he was weak and possibly saddened that he couldn't do the things he normally would.  He loved to jump on the front porch without using the steps, but now he had to slowly walk the two steps up and sometimes needed our help to do so.  He couldn't jump on the loveseat like he used to, so we'd help lift him up there.  So while we think he knew he didn't feel well, we don't think he was in pain and don't think he knew we were in pain for him. 

I am also thankful that our vet was able to come to our home.  Our vet owns Berners as well and understands what a special breed they are and personality they have.  They are loyal to a fault.  They are persistently cheerful.  They live to please their owners and are so eager to do right.  They are goofy and playful, almost like a puppy for life.  They are gentle and loving.  We tried to pinpoint what made Toby so special, but it's difficult.  Andy had many dogs growing up and we have our Gordie who we also love, but we both agreed there was always a different connection with Toby.  While many dogs still carry an independent, wild dog spirit, Toby had none of that.  He had no desire to roam, no desire to be dominant, no hunter's instinct, no jealousy, no desire to do anything but be with the people he loved - and eat food.  He was fully connected with his humans, and we to him.

So Thursday evening, Toby lay peacefully at our home.  Our vet came and performed the procedure while I fed him cheese, cradled his head in my arms and scratched his ears while Andy lay at his face and stroked his soft eyebrows.  He quickly and quietly went to sleep forever.

It hurts.  We miss him greatly.  We struggle with the fact that his life was too short.  While the cancer is common in Berners, it is usually not seen until about 8 years of age.  We struggle with the fact that he was so good, so gentle and so loving.  It seems such an unfair fate for a dog who had done nothing but love every person and every animal he met.  But we know life isn't fair and we know this is a part of life.  And we know we will get through this and life will go on.

We are greatly saddened our baby missed meeting his or her loving big brudder by less than 3 months.  Toby was wonderful with children and we know they would have been best friends.

We are thankful we had him in our lives while we did.  He brought smiles to the faces of everyone he met - even strangers on the street.  His happiness was contagious.  I believe that besides Andy, Toby brought me the most happiness of anything over the past four and half years - mainly because I saw him almost every day.  I know for a fact that he made me smile every day - even the days Andy and I were away we would talk about him and laugh and smile thinking about his goofy quirks.  If I was having a bad day at work, Andy would e-mail me Toby photos and they would always cheer me up.  I would come home from a bad day or if I was feeling sad, and I would snuggle with my big, sweet bear and feel better.  He would push the top of his head into my chest as I knelt in front of him and hugged him, and then I would put my head in his fluffy, white chest and hug him while he proudly smiled above.  I miss these hugs.

I hope to do another post with some of our favorite memories and photos of Toby.  We are currently putting together a children's book about him to share with our little one as well.

So while he has gone, his memory and spirit will remain in our lives.  While those memories bring some pain now, I know eventually they will cheer me and we will again love sharing the stories of our silly, sweet, lovable Toby.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Engamorial Day Weekend 2012

Although a bit belated, I felt it necessary to memorialize Engamorial Day Weekend like I have in previous years.

Andy wanted to take the Midas again.

Then I reminded him about how it cost us $500 in gas, hours in additional driving and breakdown time and my mental health last year.

And thankfully this convinced him to take the Jeep.  It was a tight fit, but we use the roof cargo carrier to ensure the dogs had space to stretch out for the ride.  Of course they decided to occupy only a sliver of space by laying on top of each other, even though there was plenty of room for two.

We stopped at the bridge to meet up with the others, have a drink and a bite while taking in the view of Mighty Mac.

Once we arrived, the usual shenanigans and games ensued.

That last photo showcases the brackets for the random team cornhole tournaments that took place.  For one tournament Andy and I randomly drew each others names but our team (Barefoot Wizard Sleeves) lost in the finals.

The main event of the weekend was the engagment of Terpichelle which was celebrated with fireworks and champagne.  Thanks to Kara for the photos below.

At some point Toby wandered over bleeding from his paw.  He managed to secretly tear his paw pad doing dog stuff.  We cleaned the wound and bandaged him up using the top notch medical supplies of duct tape and one of Andy's socks.

Other than that, it was a typical weekend of indulgence and relaxation in da UP.

And we were able to drive there and back without breaking down.  It's amazing what you can do when driving a vehicle made in the past 30 years.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Perfect Weekend

The week before our anniversary, I emailed Andy and suggested we randomly go up North.

He replied in less than a minute: "YES."

We quickly found a rental that allowed pups and one week later we were off for a weekend away in Sutton's Bay.

As soon as we arrived, we headed to the Sleeping Bear Dunes to watch the sunset.

About five years ago, we were in nearly the same spot doing the same thing.  Except at that time Andy pulled a pretty piece of jewelry out of his hiking pants.

The next morning we arose and took off on a 36 mile round trip bike ride to Traverse City.

We made sure to properly refuel once we reached town.

And on the ride back to Sutton's Bay we stopped at a winery to continue to fuel our journey.

The next morning I got up with sun and then we drove along the penninsula, visiting lighthouses and towns that time forgot.

We then began the drive back home but of course made sure to again properly refuel along the way.

We managed to hit up two new breweries on the trip which brought us to 71/108 (and counting) Michigan breweries visited. 

We enjoyed our beers and said our cheers to a perfect weekend getaway.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Opposite of My Last Post

Well an hour after I hit publish on this post, these were delivered to my desk:

I'm one lucky lady.

A Sh*tty Anniversary

Don't worry,  I mean that literally, not figuratively.

Wait, that might actually sound way worse.

Let me explain.

At 1 A.M. this morning, I was sound asleep.  Suddenly, Toby appeared in my dream.  And in my dream Toby was pooping.  And then I woke up.

And I smelled why my dream had evolved in such a fashion.

Earlier in the day, Toby had gotten into the trash and ate human food.  Toby doesn't eat human food because it gives him the big D.  We were worried this was coming, but thought we were in the clear when we went to bed that night.

So one hour into our anniversary, I went downstairs, made my big, sad, eye-contact avoiding dog come out of the corner and go outside and cleaned up the mess.  Don't be too jealous of my glamorous life.  I sure hope when they cast the Real Housewives of West Michigan they find me so I can share my stunningly opulent lifestyle with the world.

When I came back upstairs, Andy looked at me and said, "Happy Anniversary baby!  Are you showering before you bike to work?"

"It's not time for work.  It's one in the morning."

"Oh, why are you up?" *nose twitches* "OH NO!!!"

Happy Anniversary indeed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Smiles for Miles

It's nearing the end of the workday on Wednesday, and I find myself dragging.

And then this photo rotates it's way to the background of my computer.

That would be the dogs at the dog park. 

Now, Toby almost always has a smile on his face, because he's oblivious to life.  "Ignorance is bliss" has never more perfectly defined something than it does Toby. 

Gordie on the other hand, is much more serious about life.  He's constantly contemplating life's biggest questions like "Where are my humans?" or "Have I peed on all the things yet?"

So to get a smile out of the more serious dog is a more special occasion.  Fortunately, we have discovered the two places where you will be guaranteed a G smile.  The first location is the inside of any vehicle.

And, yes, as seen earlier, the second location is the dog park.

If dogs could get drunk, that is what they would look like.

And now my Wednesday has been cheered, because dog smiles are contagious.

Friday, April 27, 2012

When Healthy Living Isn't So Healthy

Well, first there was the Schmohz 5K.  Although the running portion of this event is healthy, the part where you drink beer each lap and then celebrate your run by drinking more beers is slightly unhealthy.

I was going for a three-peat win, but I have not been running much these days and knew that would be a lofty goal.  All it takes is one fast lady to show up and dash my dreams.  And show up she did. 

I clocked in with my worst 5K time of the past 3 years.  Somehow this still earned me 2nd place female and a free growler of beer, so it all works out.

The next day brought broomball.  I managed to pull off some magnificent feat of clumsiness that is difficult to describe in a way that makes sense to anyone who wasn't there.  Basically I tripped for what felt like 100 miles, thought I caught myself on the bench ledge only to find the open door, fell through the door and landed on my ass.  Aside from that butt bruise, the real pain came when I stopped a shot with my right quadricep.  It hurt.  A lot.

Lucky for me I had tennis the next night.  A nice, easy non-contact sport.  Unless you get slammed with an overhead smash in the exact spot you got hit with a broomball the day before.

Then I went to Crossfit the next day couple of days.  I just started this class because there was a deal on Living Social and I have zero upper body strength.  I would guess that most kindergarteners could beat me in an arm wrestling match.  So the introduction of strength training to my arms made me almost cry during the second workout.  And then I got in the car to leave class and found myself UNABLE TO TURN MY STEERING WHEEL because I had just murdered my arm muscles.  I managed to figure out a a way to grab the wheel at the bottom without lifting my arms and somehow managed to get home without wrecking my vehicle or further wrecking my body.

So yesterday I did nothing but sit and drink beers. 

My muscles feel great and no part of my body is bruised or in pain.

Which therefore must make drinking the healthiest thing I did last week.