It’s Not Just a Dog

I’m supposed to be working. I worked all weekend and pushed through today, one of the hardest days of my life and actually get a lot done. Not enough but I got a lot done. It’s never enough… not for humans.

I sit here at 9:30 at night writing this because writing is how I grieve. It’s how I express my emotion and how I cope. My husband I don’t have kids. That’s another story for another time. I actually never wanted kids. Up until about a year ago when my biological clock started sounding the alarm, more of a bullhorn really, it wasn’t even something I really thought about at all.

I’m a dog person. When I’m walking or running or out and about and I see someone with a dog and a kid, I’m drawn to the dog. It’s just who I am. I treat my dogs like kids. I have a love for my dogs that my husband had to learn. I want to take them everywhere, I miss them whenever I’m gone. They were in our wedding.

I am that crazy dog person. My dogs mean more to me than almost any human I’ve ever met. My husband “jokes” that I would choose them over him… we’ll leave that one alone.

When we vacation we talk about our dogs. We can’t imagine life without them. We are a family. The four of us. We celebrate their birthdays, they unwrap Christmas gifts. They are my everything.

Aspen is 12. An ex boyfriend got her for me. He isn’t around anymore obviously but she was the best thing anyone ever “gave” me. I got her when I lived in Vail. We moved from Vail back to the Front Range then we drove across the country to Washington D.C. together. She is my ride or die. We’ve been together through everything. We moved to D.C., loved D.C., adventured in D.C., it was just her and I. Then we got our Chesney.

When I rescued Ches she had these giant ears and tiny little body. Her litter had been dumped on the side of a road, barely 4 or so weeks old. She fit into our family perfectly. The day I got her friends and I were going to the Kenny Chesney concert and I thought. That’s it! She’s Chesney. And she is a Chesney. My little Ches.

She got parvo the day after we brought her home. The rescue basically told me that it was my problem. I stayed up with her all night, crying. I thought she was going to die. Most pups do. She was a fighter though. After what felt like an eternity and an entire paycheck, she came home.

We lived through a couple of hurricanes in D.C. and for one, the dogs had to go outside and I had them on their leashes and the wind was so strong it lifted my little Ches off the ground!

We trained for and ran a marathon together. A first for all three of us. We went to wineries on the weekends and dog parks and all over D.C. We would run the National Mall and go to Happy Hours on patios. We were the three musketeers. When we went to our spot on the SouthWest Waterfront, everyone knew us and they had special bowls and treats.

We roadtripped to Maine where the girls got to play in the ocean. Ches was scared of the waves and barked at them for two days before she finally got in the water.

We roadtripped back to Colorado. My mom, Aspen, Ches and me. We stopped at fun hotels and found great parks and open spaces to run in.

Bryson came on the scene the year we moved back to Colorado. It was my birthday and he asked me what I wanted and I said, I have everything I need but you can buy my dogs something. So we went to Petsmart and he picked out a toy for each girl.

Ches has the cutest, sweetest, most pure personality. She loves belly rubs, loves to make friends and is the best mediator. Aspen, the alpha of our group doesn’t play well with others… except Ches. She loves her sissy. They wrestle and play and are truly best friends. Two peas in a pod.

I don’t know what I would do without both my girls. I always thought we would have to heal from losing Aspen. I thought she would eventually, someday, in the far future leave us for the rainbow bridge and I would be broken but I would have my Ches because she’s four years younger than Aspen.

We found out today that my Ches has bone cancer. Osteosarcoma. She stopped putting weight on one of her front legs four days ago. We thought she slipped on the ice in the backyard.

Last night we decided it would be best to take her to the vet because it wasn’t healing. Maybe she dislocated it or worst case scenario, a fracture. She would have a cute but annoying cast for a while but she would look so cute and pitiful and we would baby her and take cute pics.

The vet called and said they wanted to do x-rays. It was probably a ligament or maybe a fracture…but she also couldn’t rule out cancer.

I was in the car on the way home (because of COVID I couldn’t go in) and I was sad because Ches looked so sad when she went inside, like I was abandoning her. She said cancer and I gulped but thought for sure it was a fracture.

When the vet called back I knew, from the tone of the voicemail that it was cancer. I knew.

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think.

Not my little. Not my sweet Chesey girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly and was such a good, sweet girl. God couldn’t take her from me yet. We aren’t done!

We have more pictures to get with Santa, more trips to the farm to play in the ponds, more time to snuggle when you really don’t want to but I’m a helicopter and I make you. We have more time with Grandpa on the “crouton” (futon), more belly rubs while sissy plays ball, more time sitting in the snow.

Who is going to tan with me? Who is going to lay on the couch with me and take up more than half of it when we can’t sleep? Who is going to stare out the window for hours and protect us from leaves and the UPS man?

She hasn’t met Pluto. She has to go see the new cabin. We have so much to do. Walks and runs to go on together. She has to see Disney World. Drive under the sign and see the castle. We have to stay in the cabins at Fort Wilderness. We aren’t done! She isn’t done.

I haven’t stopped crying since we heard the words. It’s been 11 hours. I should be out of tears by now. But I’m not. I’m devastated. Broken.

Studies show that losing a pet is no different (for some) than losing a beloved family member. Well of course not. They are my family. They are a beloved family member.

I’m embarrased to tell anyone at work that my “family emergency” is that my baby has cancer. I shouldn’t be ashamed. She’s my love, one of my two best friends, my soulmate, one of my two heartogs. I shouldn’t have to hide my brokenheartedness. But, I know people won’t understand and will judge me. I know that “just losing a dog” is frowned upon as a reason to take a bit of time to heal when there are deadlines to make.

Quite honestly, I don’t care. If that is who you are, I don’t want anything to do with you and I’m judging you. But, I also don’t need to deal with it right now.

I know some people understand. We are special kind of people. To love a being who has never spoken a word but who loves you with their entire self, unjudging, not asking for anything in return. They are the only creatures on earth who love another more than they love themselves.

Dog is God spelled backwards.

She’s dying. She’s sad. She knows. Her sister knows. We all know. I know she knows. I can see it in her eyes.

I’m broken. I’m not ready. It’s not time. We haven’t had enough time!

I’m not okay.

They say that dogs are just a part of our lives but to our dogs, we are their whole life. My dogs are my life. I love them more than anything I own, the money in my bank account, our trips, I would give anything to have my Ches be okay.

I’m broken. I’m not ready. She’s not just a dog. She’s my heart.

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