Over the last couple of years, I have been particularly mindful of being “grateful for the grace of goodbye.” It’s a phrase that you will find over and over in my prayer journals. A great number of losses happen tragically and unexpectedly, so I’ve become tremendously appreciative of the ability to say goodbye properly.
And I think it is important to note that loss and grieving does not always refer to death. In fact, The Grief Recovery Handbook discusses dozens of different types of losses that people will grieve, and is an amazing resource – I highly recommend this book, or reading through their blog. I could go on and on about this topic, but since the focus of this post is Chase, and not as much about grieving, I’ll save those thoughts for another day!
Scroll to the bottom for picture gallery & video of Chase.
Yesterday was one of those times I am so grateful for the grace of goodbye. For over a decade Chase has been a constant companion, and an exceptional guard dog. He has been by my side from moving around together at least 5 times, experiencing a house fire and at least a dozen hurricanes. Chase has been my co-pilot on road trips all over the country, and he’s comforted me through numerous events, including 2 major surgeries, my illness, and the loss of family members and friends. I can’t even begin to describe the amazingness of this animal or the gratefulness that he’s been my best friend for much of my adult life.
Click Play below to watch The Tales That Chase Wrote:
Saying goodbye is never easy.
Chase has been struggling with arthritis for years. Over time, it slowly became worse, but especially in the last several months. For the last year he had been on pain medication non-stop. In early December he was physically stiff and had arthritis, but otherwise was doing well for a 15-year-old large dog.
Unfortunately, his blood work came back showing that he was in the first stage of kidney failure. While this wasn’t good news, I hoped that since his behavior wasn’t really different and he was still enjoying life, that by changing his diet and switching up the medication would prolong his life at least a few months. After all, he really didn’t show any physical signs of kidney failure. Other than losing mobility, he was such a happy guy!
The second weekend of December I went on a short trip to Milwaukee, and I’ve been so fortunate to have an amazing dog sitter stay at the house for years with the twins (pups) as I traveled. Especially when I was back and forth to the hospital at UNC Chapel Hill. The dogs never had a break in routine with Kayla, which I’m so grateful for. The day after I left, though, Chase was unable to walk. We eventually had to put him back on the pain medication and although it took a couple days after I returned, he was back to walking but not as mobile as he was when I left.
I’m sure you can guess what happened over the last few weeks.
We had great days, and bad days. Good hours and bad hours. But we were up at all hours of the night, because he wanted to go outside and not use the puppy pads. I could tell his stomach was starting to get very upset, but he was still eating (which was his favorite past time). It’s been unseasonably cold outside, so I wasn’t able to just let him lay outside as much as I am sure he wanted. He loved the outdoors, laying in the sun and running around his large yard barking at people walking by!
On Thursday (Christmas Eve) he started vomiting, and would no longer take a normal meal. He would only eat wet food and treats. I had set up his large dog couch and we’d all been cuddling together where he was most comfortable.
On Friday, Christmas Day, I was no longer comfortable leaving him longer than 2 hours.
I struggled to make a decision.
I searched Google and Pinterest. I studied my Bible and wrote in my prayer journal. I read countless blogs and articles in the middle of the night and prayed over and over and over again for comfort for Chase, Savannah and myself. I spent hours praying for guidance and thanking God for all this extra time I have been able to spend with Chase working from home due to COVID.
But I just couldn’t make the decision put him down. I consulted friends who have been through this recently and friends that just know us well. Over and over again I heard: “he will tell you when it’s time.” I wasn’t seeing it though… and I just couldn’t decide to give up on him. Chase’s quality of life was going downhill quickly, but he was still eating and I wasn’t ready to pull the plug (so to speak).
It must be said though, that throughout the entire process, our family vet (Dr. Dante Martin of Holly Ridge Veterinary Hospital) has been incredible. He answered the zillions of questions I had with such compassion, and truly his care of all of our animals over almost the last decade is phenomenal. I am so grateful for him, and for all those that have been there for me over the last month. Especially Karen Morgan, of Karen’s Critter Care, who ran over to my house twice on Monday in lightning speed to help me with Chase. I’m eternally grateful for you all.
Also, I really didn’t find any blog posts that I found helpful on this subject… which I found extremely disappointing. I mean, don’t we all blog about something these days?! In fact, some of my middle-of-the-night reading was the opposite of helpful. For anyone who wants to know more about the unhelpful reading, shoot me an email, and I’m happy to chat about this topic with you! That’s actually one of the reasons that prompted me to write this long post… the lack of experiences out there with a dying family pet.
The turning point.
In the early hours of Monday morning, December 28th, I heard Chase’s breathing change and become more shallow. It would happen for a few minutes and then he’d sleep peacefully for a couple hours. A few hours later, around 5am, he stopped being able to stand up and go outside… and looking back I think the last time I tried to help him up, he had stopped trying. He was using the puppy pads at this point, and the shallow breathing started to come on more frequently.
(For those of you who don’t know, I have terrible asthma. I have a history of episodes of struggling to breathe and at one point had swelling in my lung cavity, etc. I can clean up after urine and poop, but I absolutely cannot watch anyone struggle to breathe.)
At that point I started calling our beloved Holly Ridge Veterinary Hospital to ask about the arrangements for cremation and after care. By 12:45pm we scheduled with Dr. Dante Martin to put Chase down for early that evening as the breathing continued to get worse.
A little after 2pm, while Savannah and I were sitting on the dog couch with him, Chase had a seizure and passed away in my arms.
While I’m unspeakably heartbroken, I know he lived a full life and I’m so blessed that he was mine. He was a better dog than I could have ever asked for…. and I’ll share a picture gallery & video below. The house is deafeningly quiet now and I’m deeply saddened. Chase will forever be missed.
The Tales That Chase Wrote
The story behind the title:
Not long after I adopted Chase, I moved to North Carolina. At the time, I had taken a multi-year sabbatical from Facebook, so I would post photos on a Blogger for family and friends to follow his adventures. We called the page “The Tales that Chase Wrote.” (I was a terrible writer so that page didn’t last long). During this time I was also slowly learning how to transition from film to digital photography, so when I look back and see some of the older photos is interesting!
Anyone that has ever met Chase knows of his big personality, attitude, and all around stubbornness. Such endearing qualities, and so many felt an instant soft spot for him.
In the beginning, he was terrified of everything, but just like my photos he evolved over the years and didn’t even flinch at the artillery and mortar fire on Camp Lejeune, thunderstorms, or even fireworks. The only fear he didn’t get over was lightning, and I can’t say I blame him considering we experienced a house fire from lightning strikes.
I couldn’t be more proud of Chase or more grateful for the unconditional love and companionship he gave to me over the last 10+ years. I will forever miss him.