My Grosse Liebe (My Big Love)

My Big Poppy, my sweet boy, my grosse liebe has crossed the bridge on January 16th.  I’d love to be more eloquent in delivering this news but honestly I’m not sure I’ll be able to get through typing this.  This turn of events was so unexpected that I’m still in shock.  I’m numb.  But unfortunately not numb enough because I feel the incredible pain that his departure has caused.

I know that some of you may be thinking, geez he was 12 years old.  Your time with him was short.  And I agree.  Every day I had with him was a gift and I knew that.  But I had managed to convince myself that he would not leave me until after his 14th birthday.  And up until Saturday morning, his issues were very run of the mill.  At least they had seemed that way.

He had turned up with a small bruise on the inside of his thigh Monday evening.  I hadn’t seen any event that would have led to such a bruise, but it certainly happens that they fall, or play a little rough and someone has an unexplained boo-boo.  The next day the bruise had spread, and the day after that as well.  But by Thursday it had begun to heal up.  It was all going exactly according to my prior experience with greyhounds and bruises.

Blue the Gentleman Greyhound
Photo courtesy of Bille Axell, Axell Photography
I did notice it was still fairly swollen but assumed that was part of the healing process.  Friday it still looked to be healing.  Saturday morning he went outside and came back in OK.  He was eager for, and ate his breakfast.  Right after that I noticed he was limping and having real difficulty lying down.  I went over and checked his leg and it was swollen more than the previous day.

I called Dr. Amy and soon we were on our way to see her.  By the time we reached her office, his leg had swollen further and an ugly purple bruise covered the inside of his leg.  Dr. Amy did x-rays and blood tests.  Her news was not good.  It appeared to be hemangiosarcoma.  She had seen it before and it had presented just like this.  But to be sure, she wanted to send us to a vet hospital further south where they had experts to evaluate it.

I headed south.  My poor baby tried to be stoic but I could hear him crying in the back and it was killing me.  Given we were in the midst of a snowstorm I could not go any more than 45 miles per hour and I have never felt more helpless in my life.  We finally got there and Blue wasn’t able to get out of the car.  His entire leg was swollen up and extremely bruised.  They got him situated and eventually came to talk to me.

Their opinion was hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma or possibly a blood clot.  Of the 3 only the blood clot was potentially survivable but given the fact they could not get a pulse in the damaged leg and it had been that way for so long, he would most likely be facing amputation regardless of the eventual diagnosis.  And to properly diagnose it they would have to conduct more blood tests and a series of pelvic x-rays that, given his state, would have been very painful for him.  After the tests, they would have wanted to keep him onsite on IV pain medication pending a consult with an internist on Monday. 

My big baby boy was just that, a big baby.  He was very squeamish and he did not deal with pain very well.  I had made him a promise when we had lost the fight for Girly Girl’s life that if it ever came to that with him, I would not put him through it.  Such an easy promise to make when you
Blue greyhound at Hound-O-Ween
aren’t actually facing that situation.  I spent a good deal of time going back and forth trying to decide what to do.  The vet we were seeing was very kind but refused to give me any percentages on outcomes and wouldn’t even give me her opinion on “what she would do.”  That probably wasn’t a fair question to ask her.  But I was so lost sitting in that sterile room trying to decide life or death for a soul that meant the entire world to me.  My heart wanted to do everything possible to keep him longer.   

I finally asked if they would bring him in so I could sit with him for awhile.  I hoped that I’d see some clear sign in his eyes.  I had hoped for that with Girly Girl as well.  People always say that you’ll know when it’s time.  But so far I have not had a clear message on that score for either Blue or Girly Girl.  Most of you reading this will have been in my shoes at some point in the past.  So you know that there is truly nothing more terrible than trying to make a life or death decision for someone who cannot express their wishes.  Who has no say and only relies on you to make the right decision.  It is a terrible awesome responsibility.

I kept going back to three things.  He was 12 years old.  We had had a great run and by greyhound standards he had lived a good long life.  I had promised him I would not make him suffer any more than absolutely necessary, even if that meant I had to let him go.  And a dear friend who had just gone through this same tragedy with her greyhound told me that her guiding principle was: it was better to do this thing a day too soon than a day too late.  In other words, no extra suffering just for your selfish wishes to keep them with you as long as possible.

So I called the vet back in and told her it was time to let me baby go.  I had sat with him in my arms while trying to make this final decision and I stayed there with him in my arms while they prepared everything.  I told him over and over again how much he meant to me.  Thanked him for making my life so much brighter.  Reassured him that Girly Girl would be waiting for him and that he’d run again with no pain.  I told him Mumma and Bettina would be all right.  And when it was time, he would come and meet us.  He went out of this world with Mumma telling him how much she loved him.

Blue greyhound at Auntie Carol's
Blue was an old soul.  A friend called him a gentleman greyhound.  He was very much that.  I am already missing his gentle good morning wake up (always an hour too early but he did have a snooze button).  I miss our special cuddle times on the couch on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I miss seeing him lying on his big boy bed with his man pillow and his cozy blankets.  I miss the cheer-leading him up the stairs when he struggled to come up due to pain in his back end.  I miss mushing up his peas so he could eat them with all his missing teeth.  I miss having to slightly cook his chicken livers because he couldn’t stand the texture of raw ones.  I miss him standing at his food dish at suppertime and chirping at me to urge me to hurry it along.  I miss him staring at me intently with his ears straight up, trying to tell me some important thing.  Mumma’s head was always too thick to receive the message.  Blue had more friends than I ever have had or ever will have.  He was responsible for a number of greyhound adoptions among our friends.  I know that all greyhounds are special, but there was something about his manner that made him stand out among a field of stand outs. 

At this point, with the waves of sorrow and pain coming every few minutes, I don’t know if I’ll bring another hound home.  I told Blue we would do so in order to honor his memory.  I’m sure in a month or 6 months or a year when the pain is a dull ache and the waves are more spread out, I’ll feel differently.  At least I hope so.  There will never be another Blue.  But he made such a difference in so many lives while he was here.  If ever a hound earned his wings, Blue has.
Blue greyhound asleep
Sleep softly sweet prince. Royal Bluejay (Blue) 12/10/2003-1/16/2016

Post Script:  I hope all of our friends will forgive us for letting you know this news via this channel.  It was hard for Mumma to type this at all let alone type it many times in various emails.  

Post Post Script:  Grammy had a visit in a dream on Saturday night (the first night without Blue).  She was visited by Blue, Girly Girl, Fox and Bea (Blue’s littermate and beloved of Joe Shuster).  They were running together in a big field of tall grass.  They were all young and sleek and running with sheer joy.  Blue stopped and came back to the bridge, as though unsure which side he belonged on.  Fox, Girly Girl and Bea lay down to wait for him.   Then Grammy woke up.