Friday, April 29, 2016

Scarlett... we'll miss you

Shortly after we returned from our Thanksgiving trip to Ohio, Mommy B and I noticed that Scarlett wasn't eating much. This is a 7 1/2 year old Golden-something who hasn't missed a meal since we adopted her. At first it was just one meal here and there - maybe waiting to eat her breakfast until later in the afternoon or not eating her dinner until the next morning. But as the weeks passed, we noticed that she was going days without touching her food. We thought maybe she had just grown tired of eating the same dry dog food for 7 years. So, first we tried getting it a little wet so that it had a different consistency. That worked for a couple meals, then she stopped eating again. Next we tried getting her canned dog food to see if that would do the trick. Again, it worked for a couple days but then slowly tapered off and she would only eat a couple bites every couple days. As you can imagine, since she wasn't eating she didn't want to do much else. She would follow-us around the house and go outside to use the bathroom, but that was about it.

After watching this behavior slowly get worse over a couple weeks, we decided it was time to take her to the vet to check her out. The vet felt around and told us that he felt a rather large mass in her stomach area, but wasn't quite sure what it was. They also drew a little blood so they could run some labs. They informed us that it would take a couple days to get the results, so there wasn't much we could do at that moment. So we took the weekend to see if it was just a blockage that needed to pass, and would bring her back the following week to have an X-ray done on her so we could get some answers. The vet had called early the following week to let us know that some of her levels were high, so they definitely wanted to perform the X-ray to see what was going on.

Tatsy took her in to get X-rayed while Mommy B and I went to work, and the vet called Mommy B later that day with the results. He informed her that the X-ray showed Scarlett had developed a cancerous mass in her stomach area. This mass was pushing on her stomach which was making her feel full and thus not wanting to eat. He kindly advised that he could always try to surgically remove the mass, but there was no guarantees. For a dog that age, the rehab process would be long and hard... and there was no way of knowing if she would be "normal" again afterward. He didn't mention the cost associated with surgery, but I already knew the answer. Mommy B called me full of tears while I was leaving work to deliver the news.

I cried all the way home. Why? Why did this happen? Why did it have to happen so soon? She wasn't THAT old, how does she have cancer at this age? What will the kids think? What will they understand being so young? What will the house be like... feel like... without a dog? Will the next dog love us and the kids as much as Scarlett did? What if the next one seems nice but then bites or attacks the kids? So many questions and no answers... All I knew was that I wanted to get home and hug my poor doggy. For 7 years I've walked in the door from a long day at work and she has greeted me with a smile and a tail wag. That night was no different, only I held on to her for a long time when I walked in and sat on the floor.

Mommy B started crying right away, and of course I did too. The kids asked why we were sad, so we explained to them that Scarlett was sick and that she might need to go to the doctor soon. We tried to explain that when she went to the doctor, she wouldn't be coming home and that the doctor was going to help her go to heaven. Alli, never missing a thing, said "Will she see Grandpa Great?" Yes, Alli - hopefully she'll see Grandpa Great when she gets there. That might, Mommy B and I talked things over and made one of the most difficult decisions we've ever had to make as adults. We decided that surgery would be too expensive and too risky for a slim chance that she might get a little better, and we weren't about to watch her starve herself to death. So I made the ever-so-fun phone call to the vet the next day to schedule when we would put Scarlett to sleep. They had an opening on Saturday at noon, so I decided that would give us a couple more days with her and the kids would get to hang out with her for a bit that morning. Tatsy said she would come take the kids for that afternoon and evening so that Mommy B and I could have some time to grieve without the kids around. That night, we reminded the kids that Scarlett was very sick and that in a couple days we were going to take her to the doctor and he was going to "help her go to heaven" as they said.

So we tried to spoil Scarlett as much as we could the next couple of days. We let her eat table scraps, took her for walks every night, and basically just let her do whatever she wanted. On Friday afternoon, we took the whole family to a park down the street which also happen to belong to a neighborhood church. Fitting, we thought. The kids had fun playing with the dog one last time, and she had fun sniffing all the new smells. That night we made sure the kids gave her big hugs before they went to sleep and we took pictures of them laying on her. She had always been a saint when it came to putting up with the kiddos, so it made me tear up a bit watching them play on her.

The next morning, we all had a family snuggle fest on our bed including the guest of honor. After breakfast, we went for a family walk and played with Scarlett as much as possible. Tatsy showed up a little after 11, and that's when reality hit me - it was almost time to go. We had the kids give Scarlett big hugs again and told them that it was time for Scarlett to go to the doctor. They seemed to understand and Alli was visibly sad that this was the last time they would see the only dog they've ever known. After they left, we loaded Scarlett into the car and headed to the vet's office. When we arrived, they ushered us into a room with a pad on the floor where we could get settled. After a few minutes of waiting, they took Scarlett into the back so they could put in the port where they would inject the lethal drugs. When they brought her back, she was understandably a little skiddish, but I think the combination of being sick and not eat much for a couple weeks finally caught up to her. She eventually laid down in the corner and just let me pet her for a while. Maybe it was exhaustion or maybe wishful thinking on my part... but as I looked at her, she seemed very at peace. It almost looked like she was ready to go. Ready to stop fighting a losing battle with something she didn't understand. Ready to rest... finally.

The doctor came in and he explained how the process would work - how the drugs affected the body and what the reaction typically looked like. I had been through this process before with my own childhood dog, but Mommy B had never put a dog to sleep. After saying a few kind words, we told him we were ready. He injected another fluid first to flush the port, then injected the drugs that would quickly and painlessly take away our first family dog. It happened very fast, as it usually does. As the drugs made their way through her system, she coughed a couple times, then laid her head down and closed her eyes. The doctor listened for her heartbeat for a few moments, then told us what we had hoped not to hear for at least another 4-5 years... that she was gone.

I leaned down and thanked her for being such a good dog and for teaching me so much. About how to care for another life that depended on me (she was good practice before the kids came around), how to reset my priorities, how to see life through a dog's eyes, but most importantly to not take life for granted. She only got to spend 7 1/2 years on this planet, but she had a darn good life. Mommy B's biggest point of sadness was that her life had been cut so short... and while I agreed, I also reminded her that if it hadn't been for us rescuing her, she wouldn't have even gotten that. She did more in that short time than many dogs get to do ever. While she may not have gotten to live a very long life, she got to live a pretty great one. I gave her a big hug and kiss on the head, then got to walk out all teary-eyed to our car. The doctors have a large tract of land out in the country, where they offer to spread the ashes of any animal that they euthanize. Mommy B and I agreed that Scarlett would have wanted that instead of being stuck in a jar or box on the mantle.

I managed to drive us home, where we hugged each other and cried some more. I had gotten most of my crying out the night Mommy B had called and delivered the bad news, so I didn't have many tears left. Anyone who has ever been through this process knows the empty feeling you have when you walk back into the house afterwards. There were no kids around, and for the first time in 7 1/2 years... no dog. It was awful, and I knew that nothing was going to help except time. That night, Mommy B and I sat on the couch and watched some shows, constantly looking down to Scarlett's favorite spot on the rug. I had a beer for each year she was alive, recounting my fondest memories of her with Mommy B. There was the time we went running on the beach when she was a puppy. And how I took her for a walk every. single. day. until the kids were born. And the countless times she made me swim after her in the neighborhood retention ponds, then bathe her after I had dragged her home. And the time she escaped down the street only to come running back into the garage with a deer hot on her tail. Or all the moles she caught. All the nights she was up with us the first few weeks after each kid was born. And all the licks she gave to the kids as the grew up before her very eyes.

She was our furry first-born. And she will be missed dearly. I hope she actually is up in heaven with Grandpa Great, getting all the walks they both want. Goodbye, sweet doggy... we all will miss you so much.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hello everyone!

I know it's been forever and a day since we last updated the blog. Things just got so busy between our new jobs and whatnot that we neglected to do what we created the blog for in the first place - to write things down so we wouldn't forget them. So much has happened in the last few months that I need to catch y'all up on, so here goes.

My job at Equifax has been going wonderfully. It has been such a great place to work and I absolutely love the people there. I haven't felt this "at home" somewhere in a long time - which is a very refreshing feeling. It has been a crazy few months there (which is reason #1 as to why I haven't updated the blog,) but things are finally starting to settle down. I've been putting in 50 hours a week for the last couple of months as the deadline approaches for employers to get their 1095-C forms printed and sent out to their employees. The IRS pushed the deadline from 1/31/2016 back to 3/31/2016, which made things a little easier on companies to get their stuff together but harder on me because now I have to deal with this madness for another 6-7 weeks. We'll get there eventually though... and as I mentioned the people I work with are so wonderful that they make it worth coming in and dealing with the craziness that we do right now. I technically have another 3 months on my contract, but my manager has already let me know that her boss (my hiring manager, Mark) wants to bring me on permanently once my contract is up. I told her nothing would make me happier than to stay at Equifax, but the salary would have to be there in order for me to entertain the thought. She told me that last week all the team leads had to rank their project managers, and that I ranked right up at the top with the 3 people who were already permanent project managers (who have been doing this job the longest.) It was very humbling to hear a compliment like that, but I know I've worked my butt off to gain the knowledge and experience that I have in these short 6 months. So, we shall see where this journey goes from here... but I'm optimistic that all my hard work will pay off for me.

Mommy B has been slowly but surely getting into the groove of her supervisor position. She has been putting in some long hours too and it has not gone unnoticed. As a matter of fact, there have been numerous meetings with the higher-ups at her work in which she finds them fighting over her. I told her as awkward as it may feel because you are in the same room as all of this is taking place, it was a good problem to have. She has still kept her eyes out for other teaching positions because that is what she ultimately wants to do. As such, she had an interview just last week for a nurse educator position in an area she knows fairly well. It would mean getting her back to something she is a little more comfortable with and hopefully back to a normal number of hours as well... not to mention hopefully an increase in salary. Just like with my job - we'll see how it plays out and see what happens with it all.

Alli has been loving her new school. I get her up every morning at 6:10am to get out the door by 6:30 so she can catch the bus by 6:40am. She arrives at school by 7:20 or so and stays until 2:40pm, at which time she catches the Chesterbrook bus to go hang out at her old "baby school" (as she calls it) until Mommy B or I pick her up along with her little bro. In October, she was selected as the first "Terrific Kid" of the year. She got to stand up on front of all the Terrific Kids from the other grades and accept her award from the principal of Jennie Moore Elementary School. She was a little shy at first, but she embraced it after a little bit and has been impressing us constantly ever since. Her memory never ceases to amaze us, and Tatsy asked her the other day how many times she has missed the bus and she accurately responded, "Four," then proceeded to recount who took her to school each time. In all fairness, we actually have only "missed" the bus twice, and the other two times we drove her on purpose. She completed her first season of Little Kickers soccer and seemed to enjoy herself while participating. It didn't hurt that a few of the kids she goes to school with from JME were on the opposing teams and her coach was our neighbor, Mr. Mike. She was probably the fastest kid out there, but was still a little nervous about getting into the action.

Aiden has been following in his big sister's footsteps as many second-born siblings do. He recently moved up to Room 10 at Chesterbrook and has been loving being the only Meibers there for the majority of the day. He too completed his first year of Little Kickers soccer and after spending most of the season on the sideline because he didn't want to play - finally came out of his shell with two games left in the season. He was out there running around, getting in the mix with the other kids, and in his final game even took a fast break all the way down the field and scored his very first goal! Talk about a Proud Dad moment - and I was right out there on the field with him when it happened. I wish Mommy B could have seen it, but she was taking Alli to her last game at the same time. We signed him up for Spring soccer too so we can get him back out there again, and hopefully he'll continue his improvement.

There has been lots of other stuff going on, and now that things are settling back down a bit at work I'll try my best to get back on here and update things. It's been far too long in between posts, and I don't want anyone to miss out on the action of our crazy lives!