Saturday, November 22, 2008

So Long to a Good Old Dog

Sleepy Tyler dog napping in the studio by my side as I write this...for the last time...


As I write this I feel like I need to provide a little back story for the blog reader who hasn’t been kept apprise of the events taking place in our household over the past few weeks. So let me rewind a bit. First of all Tyler is our dog. My dog actually, well initially, but now he is- or was- the beloved family dog. Tyler arrived on the scene in 1996 pre-husband and kids. Tyler was my first dog and my only dog. For over a decade he was loyally by my side as my service dog officially and my best friend unofficially. For the better part of a decade we were no further than a leash length apart. And fortunately for me, being that close to a source of constant support, encouragement, and unconditional love, can have a profound effect on a person. I have paralysis from a truck roll over accident in 1991 and for years Tyler trotted alongside my wheelchair, As I flip through the scrapbook pages of my life- my college graduations, first job, wedding, birth of my children, there is Tyler, or at least a recognizable Labrador body part, usually a tail, butt, back of his head, lounging lump of snoozing dog mass, somewhere in the photo.

At 13 years old Tyler’s been on the decline. 2 years ago moments before a toddler Halloween party he was bitten by a rattlesnake in our backyard, and upsetting as this was had he not been bit we might have had 18 toddlers on our porch painting pumpkins alongside a loose diamond back. (A short side note: this is only one tale of how Tyler saved the day his antics and bravery could fill a book that would put that Marley dog to shame!). After the rattlesnake bite Tyler never quite bounced back to his spunky old dog self. Despite this, he seemed content enough to follow the babies around wagging his tail while snagging goldfish crackers and forgetting all his service dog etiquette. Even when his eyesight began to fail he seemed overjoyed to hang out under the high chair and capture all the airborne peas and bananas catching food midair with almost a 6th sense. Then over the past months I’d noticed his back legs giving out- him having a harder time getting up and the cataracts that caused occasion diminished eyesight turn into complete blindness, but as long as we didn’t move the furniture around he did alright. Then one terrifying day a few weeks ago walking across the tile his back legs froze in paralysis and didn’t work at all, and he panicked dragging them behind him whining in terror and then as soon as it started they “popped’ back to working again as I watched in horror with a burning knot in my stomach.

Deep Breath.

Right about this time, approximately 3 weeks ago I went for a urology appointment. Those of you who may or may not be familiar with paraplegia urology is something that becomes a regular yearly thing to keep up on and well- having had two babies within 3 years, with all those appointment, I had skipped my annual urology duty a couple times, and then pretty soon it became 4 years and then I started having some symptoms and I thought I better go in.

During my visit the doc was looking at my bladder (from the inside) and said “oh mmmm” pregnant pause, and then “uh mmmmm”. And I knew that sound couldn’t be good, and as I inquired, she said. “See that there... that’s a tumor....and it looks, well, cancerous” and then went on to explain what a non-cancerous tumor looked like as opposed to cancerous one. Having no frame of reference of what the inside of my bladder looks like on a good day I couldn’t tell the difference just that this wasn’t sounding good, then the word cancer sort of settled in and rang in my ears, buzzing, over the sound of my 18 month old screaming in waiting room with dad and the rest of the doctors words morphed in “wahhh wahhh wa wa wa wahhhh” like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons and I have no idea what she said until she asked “would you like me to have you husband come in the room” and I somehow squeaked out a “yes”. From the buzz of words the room and lights took the same unfocused slant and slowly she came back into focus through my tears with my husband pale white and serious standing by her side holding our baby waving his plastic giraffe in the air.

Deep Breathe.

We decided that tumor needed to be removed and biopsied and scheduled the operation and the waiting began.

Deep Breathe.

November 11, the morning of the surgery I awoke to this piecing squeaking noise and upon awakening I realized it was Tyler whimpering and whining in his dog bed. He had had another episode of his back legs giving out and was stuck and bed. He couldn’t get up and joyfully bounce alongside the bed until we all woke up and gave him his breakfast. Carl tried to help him up and his backside was totally limp. Here I am having surgery in 4 hours to take out a possible cancerous tumor, with my best friend now also paralyzed crying helpless before me, what could I do? Again to use a Charlie Brown reference “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH”. I am not only worried enough about the two babies I am leaving in someone else’s care while I go under the knife now my old buddy decides to give out on me the morning of. So we give him an extra dose of his doggie anti-inflammatory drug and in about a ½ hour he pops back to his old self. So I told him that day just hang on buddy a couple more days- I still need you- then you can go, I’ll let you go, I promise. He licked my face- which he never does- he’s not a licky dog and I headed to surgery now my stomach in double knots.

I got through the surgery and then came the endless waiting for the results. 9 days of feeling my life hung in the balance. 9 days of not knowing what lie ahead. Tyler hung in there with us. Then Wednesday I got the biopsy results and they came back cancer free. Another Deep Breathe. We made it. Well, we made it, the humans of the household. Tyler was really not doing so well and I told him I remembered my promise and kissed him on the head- he met me halfway with a tap of his wet nose.

The next day Tyler stopped eating his breakfast. The next day I called the vet. This brings us up to today.

Right now it’s almost way past midnight on 11/21. I’ll bring him in sometime after 9 tomorrow and it will be the end of a long era of my life.

I’ve been sitting in my studio painting, sobbing, smiling, and remembering. Spinning in all the events that have taken place in a few short weeks. I breathe in and out matching my breathes to his calm dog deep breaths. Being still and quiet savoring the last few moments in my studio with Tyler by my side, sprawled out sleeping at my feet. I set the paints down a few moments to write this out. I wanted to remember the snores, the snuffles, the jittery rabbit chasing spasm sleeping dreams, the ear flips and sighs and how I’d look up from what I was doing to see him on his dog bed beside me. These fabulous all night painting sessions we’ve shared recently and especially since children came along. How much I’ve treasured these sacred and rare silent moments together in a still night time house.

I started this painting of trees when I got the tumor diagnosis and it was for me, a way to sort of paint the darkness and fear out of my head. Now that I am through that it seemed only fitting that Tyler be part of it, trotting happily back to the magical place he came from. Because in many ways it represents what he’s done for my life. That story, as I said, could fill a book, but in short he showed me the way- the way of kindness, silliness, not taking yourself so seriously, the way of merriment, gratitude, and most importantly the way of unconditional love. Tyler cleared a big bright path of Labrador Light romping merriment through what one could make into a dark and scary place and in the process his glow transformed it into something beautiful and mystical. The lesson Tyler taught me was its all in how you want to look at it that changes how it really is.

I’ll let the painting speak for itself. I know it’s sentimental and self-indulgent. I don’t care. I love my dog.

Thank you Tyler- you are a good dog. I set you free.

One more Deep Breathe.


It’s 2:30 am and I am just going to post this up on the blog and head to bed to catch a couple moments of sleep before we go in. So I am sure there are type-o’s and English errors. But I don’t want to chicken out and click “delete”. If you happen to read this and it is Saturday morning of 11/22 say a little prayer for my little doggy’s journey to the great big rabbit chasing field in the sky. And a little one for me- that I do alright getting through the departure this morning!


Vegiegail said...

What a beautiful memorial to such a loving friend. You were indeed blessed to have Tyler in your life, and he was truly lucky to have such a compassionate human in his.

PKT said...

We had the honor of having Tyler in our home for a week while Carolyn and Carl traveled to the midwest this year. He was the perfect gentleman, calm and cool in the presence of our two girls and wacky 11-year-old yellow lab, Shelby. When Carl brought him over, he let us know about his sight and his limitations; we weren't sure how he'd do as we have stairs. But he found his way around and his drive to be around us was so great, he found the strength to bound (in a way that a 13 year old pup can bound) up to our bedroom each night and sleep by my side. In those few days, he created for himself a special place in our family as only labs who truly engage with humans can.

Carolyn, I'm there with you. We are so lucky to be able to connect with these beings. Their love is true and honest. Their trust is absolute. And when we really take the time, the language of a touch and a look can be often be fathoms deeper than things we try to say to our human loved ones with words.

We're thinking of you. As you've done, we're doing the same with our old dog, simply living and loving each moment. It's all we have, right?

And the picture you painted of Tyler is great...I'm sure he's enjoying a wonderful romp in those woods on the banks of the far shore.

Unknown said...

Sorry about your best friend:( May he rest in Doggy Heaven... I love doggies! Get another one, when it's time:0) My parents say hello, I am in Kuwait now visiting my newborn niece, she is sooooooo cuuuuute

Anonymous said...

Oh Carolyn... I just read this and can't stop crying. Just the thought of it and your loss is horrible. Many times I complaint about our Rosalina, a Puerto Rican sata we adopted when we lived in PR, and now reading this all I can think of is how devastaded I would be when Rosa has to leave us. I can't stop crying, so I won't write anymore!

Soley said...

Good bye Tyler, you good ole dog. I know the loss is tremendous for you all...what a wonderful gift you guys gave to each other.
Here's to rabbit chasing in doggie heaven and benign tumors!
Sending love and hugs.

Anonymous said...

Carolyn, I'm so sorry for your loss. I didn't know it had gotten that bad so recently. He seemed to be doing better when I came over last monday. How like a true friend to hold on until you were better. What a great companion he was. I'm sorry he had to go.

Anonymous said...

unadvisCarolyn, Losing Tyler was very difficult and I can feel your pain. You must be a very strong person as well as asensitive.
God bless you. Shari

VeganMarr said...

Oh, I am heartbroken for you...We never ever have them long enough...What an amazing relationship you two had. He is your doggie angel now. Do consider writing a book of all your experiences with Tyler. He was your FIRST soulmate. :-)

And thank you for bringing out the character of each special doggie, in your wonderful paintings.

barbara said...

I just read your blog about Tyler. I have tears streaming down my face, as I'm sure you must have. What a sweet, fabulous, gentle soul he was, and how lucky you both were to have each other. That's the only bad thing about dogs...they simply do not live long enough, but their passing leaves a space for another sweet soul to fill in their own way, their own time. Thank you for sharing his story, and yours.

JNo said...

Dear Carolyn,
Two years later I am reading this for the first time as a visitor to your blog. It brings me to tears, but some of those are happy tears -- memories of the amazing lab I lost after 13 great years. The painting is perfect in every way, I love it. May happiness continue to fill your life.
Kindest regards, Jen N.

Anonymous said...

You post about Tyler was just forwarded to me. As confirmed dog lovers (Lab Rescue & Therapy Dogs International), my wife and I understand exactly the love and heartfelt attachment you had with Tyler.

We are so blessed to have these "best friends" enter our lives and make it so much richer.

I hope you have now enriched your life, and his/her, by having a new companion for yourself and your family.

Angela Biggs said...

Hi, I love you work and story,brought me to tears.Especially the "Woods" ,reminds somwhat of my work.I'm a 3rd year Fine Art student,with muscular dystropht.My dissertation is on how artists' disablities affects their work. Van Gogh, Chuck Close,Frida Kahlo,and I'd like a contemporary personal contact. Would you consider sharing with me ,maybe by email or skype,some of your views,please.I'd really appreciate it. Thanks, regards Newton.

Unknown said...

I came to your website after reading your "fleck" profile... first to your artwork, and ultimatelly to this blog. As a lifelong animal lover and mom to many furbabies, I have shared the unconditional companionship of my "kids" through good times and otherwise. I empathize with your loss of your beloved Tyler. My hope is that as you approach the 3 year anniversary of his transitioning to the rabbit fields of heaven, that the pain of your loss has deminished and been replaced with all of those cherished memories of which still pop into your day-to-day - or better yet, Tyler has sent a new furbaby to watch over you until you two should meet again.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story, not only of your companionship with Tyler but the inspirations from your life journey as you have faced these obstacles and overcome with amazing strength and courage.

Many blessings to you in the future!

Kerrilynn (Phoenix, AZ)
Fleck: Fleckn_Crazy and FleckMeSNORT (or FleckMeRunin) many personalities to play with ;-)