Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A life lived in fast-forward

He lived his life in fast forward. That's what we decided about Peyton. It's like he knew his time was short...so he wanted to experience everything, now...no waiting...he had to do it as soon as possible! That explains all the whining. That explains why even after 7 years he never learned to not pull on his leash till he choked because he wanted to go faster on his walks. He wanted to see, smell and hump everything in sight. There was a great, big world out there and he wanted to experience all of it. His time was short and he didn't have a minute to waste!

I think I've muddled through all the stages of grief over the last few days. Maybe not the 5 original ones that Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross published and everyone studies in their Psych 101 classes. I'm pretty sure I have my own  Five Six stages of grief. Lord knows I've experienced enough grief in my 41 years of life that by now I recognize exactly how I process it.

Stage 1: Denial and Isolation

Scott couldn't stay at the vet to watch the final injection of the medication that would stop Peyton's heart. Last year we had both listened to Alison Rosen's (a favorite podcaster of ours) horror story of her experience putting her dog down after an attack and he knew he could not handle the possibility of experiencing that himself were the same to happen with Peyton. Somehow I knew that Peyton would pass peacefully. Even so, I did ask the technician about the possibility and was assured that there was very, very little chance that it would go badly. I was willing to accept the risk but completely understood Scott's position. Even though I had Peyton for 4 years prior to meeting Scott, he was as much Scott's baby as he was mine. Scott left the room after saying his goodbyes with tears streaming down his face. When it was time for the injection the vet removed the breathing tube and monitoring systems and put Peyton in my arms for his final moments.

Though he died seemingly instantly once the injection started, I still held him for a long while. I shared some stories with the very compassionate vet about what a goofy dog he was while holding his still body in my arms. Stories about how he smiled a crooked smile with one side of his mouth, like Elvis. About how he would hug your arm if your were rubbing his chest while he laid on his back. About how he would run so fast through the house that he would skid across the floors and crash into the walls. The vet said he sounded like quite the character. Across the room the technician's face was red and her eyes were welled with tears. I don't know how they do this job every day. When I finally handed Peyton over to the tech his little body was still warm.

I walked out to my car and got in and wept in the parking lot of the vets office. And then I drove to work. I couldn't go home. Home scared me. I needed distraction. I needed to not see my husbands teary eyes. I needed to not be in the house with all the reminders of my dog who would not be coming home. I just wanted to be alone and busy somewhere else. Because that didn't just happen. That couldn't have possibly just happened to my 7 year old dog.

Stage 2: Depression

This stage is obvious.

Stage 3: Bargaining

They say it's a completely "normal reaction" to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability to try to regain control by wondering "if only"..."if only I had paid attention to symptoms the night before..." "If only I had taken him to the vet sooner...""If only I hadn't taken him to the vet at all and he had never gotten the medications that made him non-responsive so fast" (believe me...I realize now this one is stupid...but I did have this thought on Friday). "If only we had confirmed and treated his brain tumor..."

Stage 4: Aggressive Research

This is where I think I deviate from the normal person.

This is the part where I dig into my own records...and Google...and figure out what the hell happened. Was I right? Was it a tumor? Was it an overdose of sedation medications? Cancer? What the hell just took my dog away from me way sooner than we thought? I needed to know. I need answers.

Incidentally...this is the part when both my parents were diagnosed with cancer where I dug in and started doing aggressive research about their cancers, too...and my heart condition...and my paralysis...you name it...I've researched it. I don't call myself "the queen of the Google search" for nothing. I find solace in information. It's like putting together pieces of a puzzle in my mind.

Believe it or not...most of my answers were found in my own Facebook posts. What I learned was that my timeline for Peytons deterioration was far more distorted than what I had reported to the vet. I thought he lost his hearing 2 years ago...when in fact, it was only in January of 2014 that he suddenly lost it. I learned from a post that he could hear just fine on December 6th, 2013 when he went bananas as I was decorating the Christmas tree and that stupid Christmas song with all the dogs barking came on...he heard that just fine. But on January 30th I posted that I needed to take him to the vet because he seemed to be completely deaf.

I learned that the first time I posted about him walking into a wall was just 5 months later...in June.

In July I posted that he had gained a massive amount of weight (2 lbs on a 13lb dog is massive in just a couple months) even though we had him on a strict calorie controlled diet and daily exercise.

Late summer we started noticing "clumsiness" on occasion, like he would be walking along and suddenly would take a misstep and fall to the side, or would completely miss-judge a jump onto the bed or sofa.

In September we had increased issues with someone...uncertain which dog...eliminating in the house. I'm now fairly certain it was him.

In October I posted that he was driving me insane because he was whining and pawing at his food bowl to be fed hours and hours before a meal time. He started doing this more and more frequently.

All of these were signs of a tumor in the forebrain.

"Without treatment the average survival time for a brain tumor is 6-10 months."

So in fact...Peyton lived slightly longer than average.

Stage 5: Copious Reminiscing

All of the research of my own stage 4 has allowed me to achieve the Kubler-Ross stage of "acceptance" much more easily now that I felt more certain that not only were we right that he had a brain tumor, but also that even though that last day sucked...it was but one day in his short life. In the grand scheme of things, I wish he could have died peacefully in his sleep...but I'm content that he did not have weeks or months of pain or illness leading up to this. It was but only one night.

So with this acceptance...I turned back to Facebook...and my cellphone...and collected all my pictures and videos...and reviewed several of my goofy posts about him...and had some good laughs. He was quite a character.
Just a couple of past posts that made me laugh.

Stage 6: Humor

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