Friday, December 27, 2013

Dear Nova

Dear Nova,

Today's the first day that you're gone.  Today is hard.  We miss you.

When you came to live with my parents, you were just twelve days old.  When we saw your pictures, T and I both felt something strong.  I fell in love with you then.  We wanted to bring you home, to have you in our family.  We waited and hoped and finally, just before you turned six weeks old, it became official that you'd become a McGill.  The day before you turned eight weeks old, you had your spay and your scar adhesion removal surgeries, and we brought you home to Tucson.  That was a special day.  December 2nd.

Over the next weeks, you grew and you ate and you loved and you chased and you dug holes in the yard.  You ran and played and snuggled and grew some more.  We started leash training and went on daily walks.  We began working on basic commands - you loved to learn new things!  By the time Christmas arrived, you knew come, sit, up, down, crawl, and we were working hard on stay.  You were so quick, so intelligent, so curious.

You loved your little girl, E.  You were so gentle with her.  I really appreciate you being careful with our toddler, even when she tried to sit on your head or hug you too tightly.  She loved taking you outside and praising your potty training efforts.  "Good girl!" quickly became her phrase of choice. She loved you from the start.  You two were supposed to grow up together; we'd hoped you would sleep in her room and be her champion.

Christmas morning arrived, and you happily pulled your new quacky duck toy from your stocking and ran around stealing wrapping paper and ribbon.  You got your very own tag for your collar - it had just arrived two days earlier in the mail.  We took Christmas photos and hugged your silvery body and kissed your wet black nose.  You went to bed a happy pup.

But the morning after Christmas, you weren't feeling well.  You scarfed down your breakfast as usual, but then you threw it back up.  You wanted to go lay down.  That was already the beginning of the end, but nobody knew how seriously sick you were.  I'm so sorry, Nova.  I'm so sorry I didn't know.  I wish I'd taken you sooner to the vet, maybe that would have made a difference.  But you were so damn strong, you were acting just like your normal self until you could not do it any longer.

You laid on your little dog bed, your blanket tucked around you, all morning.  All morning we watched and worried.  I tried to get you to drink water, but you didn't want any.  I syringed water into your mouth and you swallowed it.  I listened to your lungs, they sounded clear.  Your heart rate was getting higher and higher and you started working hard at breathing.  We grew more concerned.  We called the vet and were referred to the local emergency hospital.  My dad started his car and drove us.  You sat curled up in my lap, shivering and breathing hard.

The vet did some x-rays.  You had pretty bad pneumonia in both lungs.  Even when the vet listened to your lungs he'd said they sounded clear, so everyone was surprised.  He also found that your belly was full of gas from you swallowing air while trying to breathe more oxygen in.  Your intestines were inflamed, he said from a "dietary indescretion".  We'll never know what had your intestines so upset, but our guess was that you had too many different new kinds of treats and maybe you'd eaten some plants in the yard.

Dad and I left you in the vet hospital's ICU, in the oxygen box to help you breathe.  They hooked you up with IV fluids, antibiotics, anti-vomiting meds, antacids, and some pain control.  Your oxygen saturation was at 97 percent.  We had to open a Care Credit account to pay for your hospitalization, but I was just focused on getting you home healthy.

After dinner a few hours later, my phone rang.  I recognized the emergency hospital's phone number and my heart began to deflate.  It was your doctor.  He said that despite all the treatment and being in an oxygen saturated environment, you were looking worse and your oxygen saturation was down to only 91 percent.  He suggested that we come back to see you and make a decision about your continued care.

We packed up the family and drove to the hospital.  You lay in the oxygen box on your side, belly clenched tight, head up on a folded brown towel.  You had an IV in your leg, a temp probe and an oxygen sensor attached to your lip, and you were shaking with the effort to breathe.  Your eyes were open, but not focused.  I put my hand in through the small opening in the plexiglas door and touched your velvet nose, rubbed that soft little hollow between your eyes, and then I held your paw while the vet talked.  He left T and I with you to make a decision.  I took my hand out after we'd talked, and went to go get the doctor.  T said to wait, that you were upset I was leaving.  She said you tried to get up, you lifted your head and looked for me.  I came right back, but my hand through the opening and held your sweet face.  You looked into my eyes.  At that moment, I thought you were asking me to not to give up on you.  I think that's what I wanted to believe.  We decided to give you a few more hours to fight.

We let my parents come in to visit you while we played in the lobby with E.  A few minutes later, the next shift vet came running out to get us - you'd begun trembling violently and barking out.  We rushed back in and I again placed my hand on your head.  You stopped barking, but I could feel the vibrations through your skull of you groaning and growling as your eyes rolled halfway under your silver lids.  I knew that you were done.  I knew I couldn't bear to watch you suffer a moment longer.

Gently, the vet asked me if this changed my decision.  Tears spilling down my cheeks, I nodded and croaked, "I can't ask her to fight like this anymore." He touched my shoulder before going and getting the meds he would need to help you go to sleep. A tech gently lifted you out of the oxygen box and placed you on a table, leaned up against my body.  Your little girl came in and she wrapped her arms around your neck and hugged you one last time.  She touched her forehead to your head, and then she waved at you and said, "Bye!" so brightly that it cut me down deep.  T carried her back out to my parents while you and I waited for the end.

I curled my arms around you, I kissed your soft head and I whispered how much I loved you and how wonderful you were into your ears.  T came back and held us both as the vet injected an overdose of anesthesia into your little body, and I felt all your weight slump into my arms.  He listened to your chest with his stethoscope and said quietly that your heart had stopped.  It felt like mine had, too.  Tears upon tears slid down my cheeks as I hugged you again and kissed you and stroked your wonderful face one last time.  I laid you gently on the table and left as quickly as I could after shaking the vet's hand.

The feeling of your warm body in my arms is all too real.  The scent of your puppy breath, of fresh dirt in your fur, they are stuck in my nostrils.  The memory of you doesn't even feel like a memory yet; 'It can't be true! She can't be gone!' my arms cry out.  I cried off and on the whole drive home from Phoenix.  I cried myself to sleep.  I woke several times during the night, convinced I heard your little voice again.  I cried myself awake.

Your toys were still strewn about the house this morning.  Your pen is still set up by the table.  E is still carrying around your dog bowl and pointing at the backyard, asking me, "Good girl?"  And I have to say, "No baby, Nova isn't here anymore."  And I cry.

I've gathered up your things.  They're in a pile.  I think I'll donate your blankets and puppy pads to a rescue group, and your puppy toys if the rescue will take them.  I don't know if I could bear to see them around the house for Manni to play with.  Your collar with your brand new tag sits on top of the pile.  Those I'll keep, though I don't know where.  You looked so beautiful with your periwinkle collar and your copper tag with stars stamped into it.  You only got to wear your tag for two days.  It should have been a lifetime.

I miss you so much it hurts.  But I thought you should know how very much you were loved.  I wanted so badly to do right by you, and I hope upon hope that I made the right choice.  And I hope that one day, I'll find you again, my Little Grey Dog.  You were a wonderful piece of our lives; you touched hearts and you will be remembered.

Goodbye, SuperNova.

Love always,

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