I know I promised a post on my recent trip to India, but I have not managed to finish it yet because of very sad events in the weeks since I came home. My beautiful little dog Callie was sick when I returned, not eating and having trouble breathing, so I have been quite worried about her. Last Wednesday her breathing was so difficult and she seemed so frail that I took her in to the emergency room at my local animal hospital. They admitted her to the Critical Care Unit where she was put into an oxygen tent while they tried to figure out what was going on. On Saturday, after no real change and being told by the very good ER vet that there was nothing else to try, and seeing that she was in quite a bit of distress, I made the decision to help her go into whatever is next for us all.
I know that a lot of you here know how painful it is to lose a pet…and really pet seems like such an inadequate word, too, especially when it comes to Callie. We rescued each other in April of 2011 after my father and my first dog Gemma passed away within two months of each other. Callie had grown up in a commercial dog breeding enterprise, known here as a puppy mill; they are truly some of the worst examples of humans ill-treating our fellow creatures anywhere on earth. She had never known love, had been confined her whole life in a tiny cage barely larger than she, had had no medical care despite being forced to breed at every opportunity, providing cute puppies to be sold in pet stores. When she could not give birth any more, she was lucky enough to be rescued by a woman who coaxed her slowly into a new life and eventually sent her to me.
She quickly settled in and became attached to me (I fell in love with her instantly). Her big brown eyes followed me wherever I went, and if I disappeared from view she’d get up and come find me. She started to become anxious when I would leave the house without her, so in July I got her a companion who also instantly fell in love with her (Gilda has always and forever considered Callie her primary “Mom”). I think Callie was less sure she wanted to share space with Gilda at first, but Gilda persisted in her adoration and Callie in her infinite sweetness of spirit accepted her (and most importantly, stopped being anxious when I left the house without her). Gilda for her part gracefully accepted that Callie was always going to be the one in my lap when there was not room for two.
(Photos taken by my friend and photographer extraordinaire BD Colen)
We three bumbled along happily until February of 2012, when I was awakened one morning by Gilda and realized that Callie was having a seizure. My poor gentle girl was about to face another huge hurdle to cross: Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (GME). It is a devastating auto-immune disease which takes the life of most dogs within months, but I am lucky enough to live near Angell Memorial, one of the (if not THE) best animal hospitals in the world. She was treated by a neurologist who specializes in GME, and for a year and a half endured chemotherapy treatments (I had to learn how to give her injections) and large doses of prednisone, a steroid, which caused a lot of her fur to fall out and made her very weak indeed. She soldiered through it like a champ, though, and as of December last year was in remission, although decidedly more fragile. By this summer she seemed much brighter and happier than she had since her diagnosis, and when I left in October for India I felt as good about her health as was possible given her history and the toll it had taken on her.
I left all three dogs (had added Bandit to the family in May) in the capable and loving hands of a friend who came here to stay with them and take care of the house too. A couple of nights before I came home, Callie threw up her dinner and stopped eating, except for small amounts fed by hand. When I returned, her breathing was shallow and rapid and I couldn’t coax her to eat much either, which brings us to last Wednesday and three difficult days later, to Saturday. The vets are not sure what was wrong, but think she developed blood clots which went into her lungs, and nothing they tried eased her distress.
She endured so much trauma and pain in her ten years here on earth. I didn’t want her to hang on for my sake, which I knew she was capable of doing despite her own suffering. Dogs are amazing that way. She passed away peacefully in my lap, where she loved to be most, and I think she was reassured that her journey would be a good one, to a better place. But making the choice to let go and being left behind is one of the hardest things we ever have to endure. Her small, frail little body and enormous courage and sweetness of spirit have left a huge hole where they had burrowed in. I know I will be okay: I have my Bandit and Gilda to care for and to care for me, plus a wealth of friends and family helping to prop me up. I hope to be able to share details of my India trip soon, but this is all I can manage for now.
Sleep in peace, sweet Callie girl, and gain your strength for what is next. I hope that it includes me, in some form. I love you so.