At one time or another, every pet parent has had to stand on this road. You know the pain, and sorrow that I feel, and when it comes to sending a beloved pet to the Rainbow Bridge you know it is not an easy decision to make. In my mind, I know that I made the best decision for him. My heart, however, feels as though I have encountered a head-on collision with a Mack truck at 100mph.
Cancer took my grandmother in 2004, and in 2012 it took my beloved Bear Theodore. Surprisingly, cancer strikes pets at the same rate that it does us. That does not make me feel any better about it. If I could catch it, strangle it, torture it, and tear it to pieces as it has done to me yet again I would, but that is not practical. I am making my vow to raise awareness about pet cancer from this day forward in an attempt to find a cure to this horrible unforgiving disease. Please bear with me as I share the memories of my beloved warrior Bear Theodore Robinson.
I don't know what happened in the beginning of his life as a puppy, but for some reason some one treated him like trash and threw dumped him in the woods near my home. I did not know that I was looking for a dog, but I guess God knew better and sent this gentle giant to me. He was emaciated, I could count every bone in his vertibrea, and his coat was dull and dry. I have no idea how long he had been fending for himself, all I know is that those big brown eyes had me at the moment I saw them. I fed him 2 loaves of bread, and I was thinking that he would go away as soon as he ate, but that was not the case. He had found an opening in the gate by neighbors house, and slipped in for more food. My entire family was thrilled about Bear being with me, but I wasn't so sure because I am a cat person by nature. My aunt gave me a dog house for him, my mom bought a 50lb bag of dog food, and my granny gave me a very nice quilt for his bedding. Bear was in like flynn without so much as a bark! When I took him to the vet, he was filled with worms. The vet determined that he was about 8 months old, and that the prognosis looked good for his recovery. We were on our way for a new adventure! The best part was that my baby loved cats! As a matter of fact he had a favorite little stray that he was very protective of! Their love affair was humorous to all of my neighbors, because as Bear and I went for our daily walk she was trailing right behind us tail high and doing her "business" when Bear did his. He would stop occasionally to check her whereabouts and she we poke her head out from the tall grass and meow at him like" here I am"!
Bear was my only dog child, so of course he was spoiled! I took him to canine education training to learn how to handle him. I read every book and magazine that I could find about the breed. I have always been around dogs, but this was the dog that I have ever had on my own. It is truly a very different experience. He loved going for a ride, so we went everywhere together! So much so, that I bought him a pair of mirrored sunglasses to protect his eyes as he looked out the window. It was not uncommon for a car to pull up next to us and someone say" hey that dog is wearing shades!" When I started working at the pet store, Bear had EVERY toy, bone and new bed that they came out with. I would take him to the store and let him pick out his own toy or treat. He was so well behaved in social settings, he was not overly dog aggressive, but he did not tolerate other dogs talking smack! If you brought the fight to him, he would lay the smackdown on you! That's just how he was, my gentle giant.
The first true health issue that he had was about a year after he came to me. During a routine check-up his blood work came back positive for heartworms. I listened to the vet's recommendations and options. At the time I could not wrap my mind around putting poison in his system to cure him of the parasites, so I sought a holistic approach. Finding a vet that would work with me was difficult, but I found one. After a year of following the treatment to the letter, Bear was heartworm free! I kept him on an organic diet, and we did our check ups every year. He was generally a very healthy dog, other than arthritis as he got older there were no problems.
I am grateful for being mobile, because I have been able to be home more. Now looking back on it, I cherish those afternoons and early evenings playing ball with him and the Phat Gurl. Had I know that this would have been our last run together, I would have done more. Thinking back over things, I can honestly say that missed somethings, or I just was not paying close enough attention. Because we live in a heavily wooded area, I am very diligent about flea and tick protection for all of my pets. This fall Bear had a hot spot caused by tick bites. That should have been my first clue about something happening with his immune system, but he recovered from it quickly so I wasn't worried. Then just before Christmas he stopped eating, his hips were hurting more for him to get up from a laying position, and our walks were getting shorter. The night before Christmas Eve, he had eaten a hardy meal. At midnight on the 23rd he woke up and threw his meal up half digested. My day started early and I was finishing my dogs in record speed. I stopped by the vet and was able to get an appointment for him that day. We had no idea what was going on, so they put him on a ton of meds. Christmas Eve he ate drank water, and played ball. He was able to take a full round of meds. The vet seemed to think that he may have had a virus from his blood work. Christmas Day was horrible! He wouldn't eat anything, he drank water it seemed by the gallons. On Monday I took a urine sample to the vet. Nothing unusual, he said that his urine was diluted probably from the water, and that his protein level was at +1 which wasn't that bad. He thought that maybe he was losing protein through his intestines or liver. The week following Christmas was touch and go. He would eat one day, but not alot. I watched his 103lb frame gradually reduce to 84lbs. I was up and down at 3:00am giving him meds and whatever food he would eat. Whether it was cheese curls, yogurt, scrambled eggs, rice, ground turkey whatever he would take. Giving him his meds became a constant fight. He would spit them out throw them up, he just didn't want it. I looked up the side effects of two of his meds and they were culprits of the same symptoms that we were trying for attack. Nausea, runny stool, and vomiting. I called the vet he advised me to stop one, and continue with the rest. The vomiting, and runny stool stopped, but he was uncomfortable. He couldn't rest. We would be up all night with him panting constantly and changing positions. His grandma bought him a new bed and came and baby sat with him while I was out on my grooming appointments. She spoon fed him, and he ate whatever she gave him(spoiled rotten)! From that point on, unless I spoon feed him, he wouldn't eat!
He still wasn't strong enough to go for a walk, but he would walk the perimeter of the yard, check on the outside cats and even ran a rouge male cat away, and come back in. I am thinking....ok the meds are addressing the virus! Then on Monday afternoon while I was rubbing his tummy, I felt it. I thought maybe it was his foot under his tummy, so I waited for him to reposition himself and I felt it again. A lump about the size of an egg, just above his belly button. I called the vet, we had an appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning. That morning I woke up at 4:30am. Bear was not ready to get up yet, so I prepared his breakfast, fresh ground turkey, boiled in turkey broth with macaroni noodles. As it cooled, he rose, drank his water and demanded to be let out to relieve himself. I watched him survey the yard and come back in for his breakfast. He ate the first couple of teaspoons by hand. The rest he ate on his own in small portions. His eyes were bright, and had their usual fire that I am use to. We went back out with the Phat Gurl in toe, and he went potty, we played ball for a while, and went back in for a snack. I was so excited because he had eaten 7 of his favorite puffed treats. When his grandma arrived he charged out the door to greet her with the zest that I was use to.
On the way to the vet he sat up front in Proud Mary watching everything and giving his grandma kisses all the way. He is always so excited to see her. Upon arriving at the vet's office he was in good spirits, he jumped out of the truck(with my guidance) marked his territory on the grounds and walked in with no problem. The vet wanted to re-check his blood work, palpatate his tummy to check the lump and do some x-rays. The results were devastating. His blood work regarding his kidneys, liver, and phosphate had gotten worse since a week ago, and the x-rays revealed that the tumor was much larger than what I had felt with my hand. At that moment, it seemed as though the air had been sucked out of the room. The vet's voice became like a static buzz in the background, basically what she telling me that this disease was very aggressive, and he would not survive. Her words were like shards of glass in my ears. There was no potion, no oil, no powder, or dollar amount that could save his life, and I had to give the okay to send him to the Rainbow Bridge. My mind tells me that I did the right thing, and I know I would not want him to suffer, or be less than warrior he was meant to be. But my heart.....my heart.....in my heart, I just can't breathe! I would have sold everything I owned to save him, but was not to be.
I miss you Bear! My heart will never be the same without you! Yes, even the Phat Gurl misses you! <3<3<3
If you find it in your heart, please donate to pet cancer awareness. If you would like to do it in my baby's name Bear Theodore Robinson I would appreciate it greatly! If you have had a pet that has fallen to this awful disease, you can donate in their name instead, but please donate whatever you can!