I have not been blogging in awhile. I think between my oldest dog Sedona aging out too quickly, and losing her has really dampened my writing soul. Over the last many many months I have watched her deteriorate. She went from eating Wellness food and organic eggs, vegetables and turkey.. to only wanting carbs and processed food. Her diet would consist of anything I could get her to eat. One week it might be bagels with cream cheese, the next week it could be donuts and deli ham, and the next she might take a liking to cheeseburgers from McDonalds. Her crunchy health nut of a mom did not dig it, but I just wanted her to stay alive. She began going blind at the age of three and was completely blind by eight years. Within the last year of her life she became deaf and developed some stomach and intestinal problems along with disorientation. I have written many blogs in my head, and wrote for hours on paper only to wrinkle them up covered in tear stains and throw them away.
Until about three months ago, even though so much turmoil has happened in my life one thing was always constant.. my relationship with Sedona. We met eachother thirteen and a half years ago. I can still hear the whimper of her puppy calls. In the mountains of the Northeast Kingdom is where she was born. She was the only girl surrounded by chubby little brothers that gnawed on her ears. Her grandfather and father were show dogs and avid hunters. Her mom was a simply a “member of the family” and had the classic “coffee table clearer wag”. One lick from her mom and long gaze into her eyes.. and I knew she was ok with me adopting her little girl into my life. I kissed her mothers head and thanked her. I promised her that Sedona would never just be “my dog” that she would be my family member, and I would love her until one of our last breaths.
Sedona came home at ten weeks of age. She weighed about twelve pounds. On the two hour drive home from Lake Willoughby to Burlington, VT she slept on my lap suckling on my elbow and occassionaly waking up to yawn, look at me, stretch and sprawl back out. Our relationship melded very fast, and we both learned a great respect and love for one another. She was hyper and intense, just like me. She could rarely sit still unless of course she was on the verge of sleeping or sacked out, just like me.. and she LOOVED the water, and hiking, and running, and eating, and meeting new people, and making others happy.. just like me.
Our only point of contention was her insatiable appetite and need to eat EVERYTHING. When she was barely six months old she discovered bagels. While I was upstairs she managed her first official surfing expedition on the kitchen counter to retrieve one dozen bagels from the Burlington Bagel Bakery. She ate them all, then managed to try and “hide” the bag under her dog bed as I looked around the kitchen in a puzzled fashion to find where in the crap I left an entire bag of bagels. That was the day I learned about hydrogen peroxide from our vet. That was also the day I began stockpiling bottles of it in my bathroom closet. Sedona began swimming in Lake Champlain with me almost immediately. She would swim circles around me barking with joy. We could spend hours in the water with her fetching and “working”. When she was a year old, we discovered agility. She was amazing. Top of her class. She did the weave polls, the tunnel, the see saw, and sat, laid down, and followed commands like the prize show dogs her family was. She also loved mud, and “gardening”. I thought she was the perfect version of a “Classy Vermont girl”. She was beautiful and dignified when she wanted to be.. and completely covered in mud and running up mountains on other days. She began going to work with me when I was in admin at Ben and Jerrys in South Burlington and would lay at my feet all day and play with coworkers dogs on my lunch break, there she developed her love of ice cream (and seriously, what better place). A few years later I started working with her to be more of a therapy dog, and would take her on calls when I served as an advocate at the womans rape crisis center. My pager would go off in the middle of the night, and she would accompany me to the hospital, or the police station, or to the woman and childrens safe house to “counsel” those affected. When I began working for a youth non profit in northern VT, she came to work with me daily. She would welcome the youth as they came through the doors. Sometimes a teenager would be upset and she would just lay on the couch beside them and when they were ready to jump up and go outside to play basketball she was right there beside them ready to head out into the Vermont air for some “outdoor therapy”. She has hiked well over 100 times in her life, summited close to 50 peaks.. swam in countless lakes, rivers, oceans, and streams.. She would swim along side me when I would kayak, often for a few miles through Lake Champlain.. her tail moving like a rudder. When she would get fatigued she would run ashore to get her breath back and then dart back out and keep swimming beside me.
She has moved with me eight times. She was my alarm clock each morning with a lick or her usual “body wag” under my feet and she bumped the bed “talking”. Sedona was my first dog. My co-worker, my training buddy, my constant. I was never so protective of anything in my entire life as I was with her. She was never kenneled, never left in a fenced in area, and for the most part, Im not sure she ever understood she was a dog.
The many many weeks leading up to her death I would lay with her and cry.. praying to God that he would take my sweet girl home.. She would lay drooling and panting heavily, but still manage to eat part of a cheese burger and thump her tail. Our niece played guitar for her a few times and although deaf, she would walk out and lay close to her and seem to “smile” listening to her vibrations. It was not until she started having accidents in the house that I knew she was so embarrassed she was miserable. I wanted to explain to her that mommy had a colostomy bag and a catheter for a very very long time.. and made many many accidents.. I wanted her to understand that I too struggle with incontinence from the trauma.. but I could not. The reality is, although we had that similarity also.. I am 37 and she was now over 91 in Dog years.. Over the last two years I wanted to take her swimming, but I could now not get in the water due to my open wounds and infection.. finally when my wounds were manageable enough and I got permission, it was too late.. we could not swim together anymore.
I have always feared the blackness in water. I have feared it more since the coma, intubation, resucitation, and far too many surgeries. This past weekend we went to the Lakes region in New Hampshire. I took her ashes with us. The sun shone brilliantly upon her ashes and bits of bone sparkling in my hand.. and I tossed them into the waters.. “Go swim again my sweet Sedona”. After I maintained my composure, I put on my wetsuit and walked out into the water and swam.. I did not want to stop swimming.. I felt happy, giddy actually.. She was free.. swimming with me.. no more pain.. age was no longer a factor.
The day we took her to go to sleep, she walked into the vets office on her own.. She laid down on the dog bed, on her own.. and we loved her and kissed her and fed her a cheeseburger. The vet gave the first injection to calm her body, and she fell asleep with us laying close to her and crying to God to show her mercy and give her peace. I believe we were really asking God to give us peace so we could let her go. When the final injection came, we listened to her breathing slow down until her last breath happened.. I cried out and could not let her go.. Then, when I finally composed myself I looked down at her lifeless body and it actually did not look lifeless. She was dead, her sprit was gone.. but her body was beautiful. Her face was full of peace. I closed her eyes.. and dealt with my own mortality.. I flashed back to my own death, and wondered.. “will she come back?, I did.. maybe she will breathe again.. maybe she will get strong again.. maybe we can take her back home.. “
I even asked Dr. Price if I could take her stethoscope to listen to her heart.. silence.. nothing..
She had crossed over and was already licking my tears.
Watching a loved one go through the dying process is incomprehensible. Some of us have the luxury of knowing our loved ones are on their way out.. others lose them unexpectedly.. My family almost lost me forever in the blink of an eye on Oct 8th, but God had a different plan.. which was to bring me back to life, so I would have stories to tell.. and hearts to change.. including my own. Now, I will swim with Sedona.