I have been remiss. I have been absent. I must be forgiven. While blogging has been, for me, something like journaling, I carry the awareness when I post here that this is not my leather-bound journal, lying on my nightstand, written in with a fountain pen, known only to me. This is public, and as such, I come here only when I'm willing to be public. And since my last post, much, if not most, of what I have had to say has been too personal. It still is, but I've gained some distance, and can finally record here what the last 21 months of my life have held.
Following Crow's death on December 12, 2012, Hudson, who had been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma on Dec. 3, and had had a splenectomy on December 5th, recovered well from his surgery, but developed symptoms which were eventually diagnosed as Cushings.
It was a rough few months. The diagnostics from his cancer, Crow's final illness, and then for identifying the source of Hudson's new symptoms added up to a considerable financial drain. I was dealing with the grief of losing Crow, with deep concern for Hudson's condition, with the horrible burden of knowing I would soon lose him, and with struggling to get him some quality of life for the time he had left. It was also devastating to witness his struggle with the loss of his lifelong companion. Though I was exhausted, it was not a month after Crow's death when I began to realize that, for Hudson's sake, I had to consider getting him a companion. The prospect was not an unwelcome one, but it was going to have to be the perfect companion. Hudson could not be stressed. And, as I said, I was exhausted. We needed to find just the right girl. I poked around some rescue sites, but I couldn't find a dog I felt confident would suit our needs. I was looking at random, gazing at photographs, reading histories. And coming up empty. I needed a plan, a more systematic approach. Finally, I sat down and wrote a list of all the things that we needed in a new companion. It had to be a "she." "She" needed to be between 3 and 8 years of age, housebroken, and house safe, bombproof with Hudson, good with people, good with children, spayed, not a fence-jumper or a barker. Blah, blah, blah, without, as they would say in a horse ad, vices.
Once I'd written it all down, I sat back and realized the chances of finding this paragon of canine virtue were virtually nill. And the next day, on Facebook, a handler friend of mine posted a message that she was looking to rehome several dogs. Most of them were Beagles. There was a toy poodle. And a German Shepherd bitch, 8 years old, who met all of my criteria, and turned out to be the litter sister of a show dog I co-owned with the breeder.
So on February 1, 2013, Hudson and I drove to Binghamton, NY, and brought home Rhapsody. And we loved her. From day 1, we loved her. Sadly, she was not here a month when I noticed the first symptoms of degenerative myelopathy. This is a progressive disease that ends up crippling dogs, and will ultimately kill them. If you are unfamiliar with it, a closely related condition would be Lou Gehrig's disease in human beings, as it follows a similar course. Rhapsody was a good companion to Hudson for the rest of his life, and, while her disease was progressing, she enjoyed a wonderful spring, and a good summer, and was still on her feet in October, when Hudson finally lost his battle.
By late summer, I knew we were on the final road with Hudson. He had another mass in his abdomen, an aggressive, rapidly growing mass that was about the size of a grapefruit when I first palpated it. There was nothing more to be done for him. He was happy and comfortable throughout the summer, and into the early part of the fall. But on October 15, the mass began to impinge on his diaphragm. The day I came home from work and discovered him slow to get up, and demonstrating difficulty breathing was his last day. Rhapsody and I were with him at the end. Her sweetness and gentleness with him, and with me, made it all the more difficult to witness her decline.
On November 1,2013, Rhapsody and I brought home her litter brother, A.C. I had co-owned him since he was a puppy, but he had lived his life with his breeder and co-owner. He had spent some time in a new home after his championship was finished, because I couldn't bring him home while I had Hudson, and it seemed better to get him out of the kennel and onto a couch, but, ultimately, that didn't work out for him, and when Hudson died, the timing was right. A.C. was back in the kennel, and in need of a new couch. So, A.C. joined me and Rhaps. And quickly ensconced himself on our couch and in our hearts.
Sadly, Rhapsody declined very quickly in the new year of 2014. By the middle of February, she could no longer use her hind end at all, and was no longer able to get outside to use the potty. On March 26th, 2014, the vet came to the house, and Rhapsody died peacefully in my arms, no longer afraid of what was happening to her body, no longer anxious about trying to get herself around. I wish I could have stayed home with her every minute, to care for her needs every hour of the day, but it was not possible. I promised her one thing at the beginning of her symptoms. I would keep her safe from injury, and also safe from fear. When I could no longer do that, I would help her go. And I did. It was harder than I thought it would be. It's been hard every day since. She had come to soak up the echoes left by Crow in Hudson's and my hearts, and she ended up taking up residence in mine.
And so, once again, I found myself with only one dog. Unlike Hudson, who had never known a day in his life as an only dog until Crow's death, A.C. did not appear to be bothered being alone with me. This time, I was the one who needed the addition of another dog. On Saturday, April 5, A.C. and I went to get Halle. Halle is sweet, and silly, and the perfect soul to restore balance in our lives. The last almost 2 years have been emotionally arduous. Just writing down these dates of deaths and additions has helped me understand how fast and furious the changes have been. I have my two German Shepherds again, which was the shape of my life for the better part of 14 years.
There have always been dogs, sometimes as many as 8 at one time, but the longest stretch of my adult life was spent with Crow and Hudson. They were my heart and soul. A.C. and Halle do not replace them. They cannot. But these new relationships are rich, and satisfying, and full in and of themselves. I adore A.C., who is such a gentleman, and a gentle soul. He is easy company, sincere and endearing, and I am totally smitten. I love Halle, too, who is silly, and soft, and sweet. No, they are not Crow and Hudson. They are A.C. and Halle. They are who they are, and they are what I need. And spinning and tired and dizzy as I sometimes feel, I have them, and they have me, and it's not a substitute for anything else. It is itself. And it is good. And together we'll go on, figuring it out step by step, living our lives the best we can. There has always been a dog beside me, each one perfect for the time and place in which we found ourselves, each one perfect for who I was when we found one another. And every single one of them is woven into me, a part of me which I cannot and will not put down.