Advertisements

Remembering My Best Friend

thumb_DSC_7248_1024A year ago today I lost my best friend – today I fondly remember my best friend.  A year ago today was a horrible, awful day – today was a rough day, but it was a lot better.  A year ago today there were constant tears that felt like they would never end – today there are still occasional tears, but there are many more smiles and laughter.  A year ago today I never thought the pain would go away – today there is still pain, but the pain is dulled.  A year ago today I felt weak and helpless – today I feel strong and hopeful.

Throughout her life Nittany taught me so much and in her passing she has continued to be my teacher.  The most important lesson she has taught me in the past year is that I am so much stronger than I ever imagined.  It took strength to do what was best for Nittany and to make sure she didn’t live in pain anymore and it took strength to wake up each day in the days and weeks after she was gone and continue living.  After I lost Nittany I lost a piece of who I was.  It takes a lot of strength to come back from that dark place, but I did.  But, once you do, you realize your own strength and that you are capable of a lot more than you ever imagined.  I just kept telling myself that Nittany would not want me to be sad and cry all the time, she would want me to continue living and so, as hard as it was, I found the strength to keep moving forward.

Today, and every day, I remember Nittany and what a powerful impact she had on my life and how lucky I was to have been her dog mom.

Lazy Lab

Advertisements

The New Norm

I want to start by thanking everyone for their kind words and thoughts last week as our family was grieving the loss of Nittany.  We were overwhelmed with how many people reached out to share with us their thoughts and memories of Nittany.  It did not take us long to realize that our family and friends may actually have preferred the company of Nittany over the company of us…and I really don’t blame you.  Nittany was by far the coolest member of our family.

PT1

We’ve gone through a lot of the stages of grief and will continue to for a long time, if not forever, but there are more smiles and laughs than tears and for that I am grateful.  We are remembering the good times, the crazy antics and just trying to get used to the new norm of being a family of three.  The one that is probably taking the new family dynamics the hardest is Paterno.  Important Note:  Paterno is our epileptic, soon to be 10-year-old, golden retriever that we rescued from the Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue when he was going to be killed by his owner because he had a birth defect and one deformed paw.  Paterno is suddenly in the family spotlight and we aren’t sure if he is quite ready for that responsibility.  I will start the next thought by saying we were not neglecting Paterno in any way, he was always healthy and well fed, but for the past several months Nittany and her health have been an all-consuming part of our lives.  This allowed Paterno to sneak under the radar and a couple balls got dropped.  While going through medical records we realized he was a little late on some vaccines (not really the important ones) and he was possibly getting a little pudgy because he was (not so) secretly eating the food Nittany would leave in her bowl.  We also realized we couldn’t exactly put our finger on the last time he was groomed.  So, as the spotlight shifted we began “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever.”  Paterno was groomed within the week and vet appointments set to get him update-to-date on vaccines and get a good overall physical from the vet.  The last piece of “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” was to work on his physical stamina.  Paterno is not the most athletic dog in the world (having three good paws on one mediocre paw keeps expectations low) but we decided that some sort of regular physical exercise would do him good.  So daily walks commenced.  For the last week and a half the family has set out on family walks every night (except Sunday because, you know, that’s the day of rest).  Each day we have lengthened the walk and we are proud to announce we might be up to a half a mile.  Paterno is actually much more excited about the walks than the first couple days and his stamina is improving daily.  We do have a small issue with his bad paw bleeding from where he rubs it on the cement, but we are working on it.  All in all I feel like “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” is progressing very smoothly.

PT2

As Paterno has transitioned to the top dog in the house we have noticed some peculiar characteristics that we may not have fully embraced in the past.  It did not take us long to realize that Paterno is not your average dog and, in fact, there are times when we question if he is actually a dog.   Apparently his dog like characteristics were just him mimicking everything that Nittany was doing and in reality we had never taught him how to be a real dog.  I suppose this is very similar to what happens to parents and their second child.  You spend all your time and effort on your first child making sure everything is perfect and by the time you get to the second one you are just too tired to really care and you just figure it will all turn out okay.  Paterno has never been a barker, in the past his barking was always instigated by Nittany.  In the past week and a half he hasn’t made a single sound.  It’s like he’s a dog mime.  The silence is a little creepy and it’s taking a little time to get used to.  He does not ask to go outside or let us know when he is hungry.  If he needs either of these things he just silently lays in the kitchen until one of us passes through and guesses what he wants.  He does not greet you when you come home or really acknowledge your existence at all.  His complete lack of interest in interacting with us actually had us Googling the symptoms of autism in dogs (on a positive note we think we have ruled this out).  He is not excited by the arrival of delivery food and just lays quietly until the food has been paid for, we’ve had a nice conversation with the delivery man, and we get the food on to plates.  At this point he may come over to investigate further, but if he’s really comfortable where he’s laying he probably won’t.  Paterno also has no interest in other dogs.  On a recent walk we must have passed 10-15 dogs on one block and he didn’t glance at any of them.  The dogs were barking and racing up and down their yards trying to get his attention and he just moseyed by.  A guard dog Paterno is not.  Nittany did not let anyone come within a quarter mile radius of our house without her alerting us to their presence.  If someone broke in to our house Paterno would simply leave us to join their family, all Dug style from Up.

Dug

There is a ton of adjustment going on in our family right now and I think we will all get in to the groove of the new normal but I have my doubts that Paterno will ever turn in to a real dog, and I guess that is our new norm.

My Best Friend

Lazy LabWhen I moved to Colorado my husband promised me we would get a dog.  Less than two months into our Colorado adventure we were picking up Nittany and taking her home.  Nittany has been with me through everything Colorado has thrown at me…home sickness from moving half way across the country, a husband who was a full time PhD candidate (it’s kind of like being a widow), getting married, moving a bunch of times, changing jobs too many times, and finally settling in to a great life in Denver with a job I absolutely love.  She licked up my tears when I was sad and happily participated in puppy dance party when I was excited and happy.  But, in August we will have lived in Colorado 13 years which means Nittany is 12 and closer to 13 then I would like to admit.

 

I had never had a “real” pet growing up and Nittany was my first “real” pet (although the verdict is still out if I even consider thumb_DSC_7275_1024her a pet – she is a member of the family).  Everything I’ve gone through with Nittany has been a first for me.  Having a dog spayed, rushing a dog to the emergency vet because she had eaten a stuffed animal and got really sick, rushing to the emergency vet because she got stung by a bee and her face grew four times its original size, finding out that swans chase dogs when Nittany decided to take a quick dip in City Park Lake, having to put a dog under anesthesia because she somehow chipped her front tooth and it had to be pulled out, getting a call from a stranger who had found your dog downtown Fort Collins because she ran away and was mooching food off strangers at a sidewalk café….and this was probably just the first two years of her life.

 

That brings us to today and another first…finding out your dog has cancer and having to thumb_IMG_6041_1024make the most difficult decision of your entire life so that she doesn’t have to suffer anymore.  Nittany started getting sick shortly after the New Year and after several rounds of antibiotics and steroids and nothing really helping her get better it was discussed that that most likely cause of her illness was a nasal tumor.  Before that time, I never even thought that there was an end to Nittany’s life.  I was naïve and liked to think that she would be with me forever.  But, the reality was here and Nittany wouldn’t be in our lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

We struggled with asking ourselves when was the right time to let Nittany go from our IMG_1847lives and we even came up with a plan for Nittany’s last week with us, but the pain of knowing our time was limited was breaking our hearts and making us question our decision every minute.  I think we were both looking for a sign to know that our decision was the right one but we both agreed that Nittany had always been there for us and we needed to be there for her and make sure she isn’t in any more pain than absolutely necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

As you can tell from this rave review Nittany has already won The Best Dog in thumb_DSC_7248_1024the Entire Universe Award and today she gave us one last gift for which we will be forever grateful and will seal her title for eternity.  As we struggled with knowing if what we were doing was right or not Nittany gave us a sign and we knew it was her time to go…to go and not be in pain anymore and to finally be able to sleep a restful sleep.   Nittany went peacefully to sleep on the morning on Monday, July 18, 2016 after over 12 happy years with our family.

 

 

 

 

 

I have her paw print etched on my skin and my love for her will be etched on my heart forever.  Nittany was the best dog in the entire world and gave us more than we could ever thank her for.   IMG_3578