August 16 2011 was one of the hardest days of my life.
Sarge was deployed (again). Monkey and I had traveled to Arizona in June to spend some time with my parents. While visiting them she began having serious issues with her blood disorder. I sought treatment for her at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, about a 2 hour drive from my parents’ home. Monkey had some inpatient and some outpatient treatments so we stayed at Luke Air Force Base in the base temporary lodging when we weren’t in the hospital.
We had noticed that my dog, Rusty, had been acting kind of strangely around the time I left to take Monkey to Phoenix. I remember feeling torn – like my dog needed me and so did my baby. I had no choice but to trust my parents to take care of Rusty’s needs while I took Monkey down for the treatments she needed before her condition became more critical.
I knew my parents were taking him to our trusted vet in a town about an hour from their house, that day. I knew they would call me as soon as they knew anything. As the day went on and I didn’t hear anything, my heart sank and I felt like there had to be something wrong. I could never have expected that it was SO wrong. Dr Scott found that my Rusty boy had a tumor in his stomach that had essentially taken over his body and his organs were shutting down. There was nothing that could be done and he was already very clearly suffering and in pain.
In spite of the difficult news I find myself looking back and being so thankful…
I’m so incredibly thankful that Dr Scott had been our family veterinarian for over 20 years and that I knew without a shadow of a doubt I could trust his opinion. If there was anything that could have been done to save Rusty, without prolonging his discomfort, Dr Scott would have done it. He was so gently honest with me when I spoke to him on the phone, and I have so much respect for him.
I’m thankful that my baby girl was stable enough that the doctors let me leave with her and make the 3 hour drive that night so I could be there to hold my sweet pup as he took his final breaths. I never would have compromised her health, of course, and I would never have left her alone in the hospital. However, her doctors agreed it was fine as long as we came back in the morning and it meant a lot that I was able to be there to see Rusty through to the very end. I’m so thankful that Dr Scott was willing to wait until I could get there, even though it was several hours past closing time. They kept Rusty as comfortable as possible and those last moments I got to spend with him are still so precious to me.
I’m thankful to my parents for being my source of strength and for understanding that Rusty wasn’t just a dog to me, but he was my best friend. We had been through so much together that it felt impossible to say goodbye, but I knew I had to let go. It was only fair to him and it was the last bit of love I could show him, though the hardest thing I’d ever have to do.
As I drove up the mountain to say goodbye to Rusty, it rained. At some point, this rainbow appeared and I took this photo. I don’t remember why I did at the time, but when I picked up Rusty’s remains from the pet crematorium they included a copy of the poem “Rainbow Bridge. Perhaps that was Rusty’s way of letting me know that he’d be ok.
One year later it still doesn’t seem real. I struggle with him not being here more than I ever thought I would. We’ve recently added another pet to the family and I find it harder to get attached because I still miss my Rusty so much. He was an amazing, loyal dog – and he will always be my best friend. He may be gone, but he will simply never be forgotten.
Rainbow Bridget – inspired by a Norse legend
By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.