This week I said goodbye to my best buddy of 6 years, Cam, my beloved Goldendoodle.
An unexpected and sudden turn of events.
Life as I knew it was business as usual last week. Menu planning, grocery shopping, creating blog content, and doing my day-to-day routine. Zane was out of town with our daughter and some friends on a Spring vacation in Miami. I was home with my constant companion, Cam, doing life per usual. Little did I know that I was about to face the worst week of my life in recent memory.
To make things all the more surreal, two days before my difficult journey began, I recorded this podcast on grief with my friend Dimy Mixon, a licensed marriage & family therapist specializing in grief counseling. The timing seems so surreal.
How it started.
On Wednesday, April 14th, I noticed a spot of blood on the white hide rug in my office. Thinking Cam had cut his paw on a piece of glass (I had broken a vase that morning), I took him to the vet just before they closed for the day. The vet quickly saw that the blood was from a nosebleed and that Cam had swollen lymph nodes~two symptoms that indicated a serious problem.
Six days of a roller coaster ride.
The next six days were like a roller coaster. Blood draws and exams daily at the vet. One emergency room vet visit in the middle of the night. Multiple tests. Different doctors at every visit. On day 3, I decided to take Cam to Auburn University Vet School to the teaching hospital. This is one of the most advanced clinics in the United States for difficult cases in animals large and small.
Twice daily calls from Cam’s assigned physician at Auburn were basically the same. Cam’s disposition was always “bright,” “friendly,” and “loud.” The doctor told us Cam barked~a lot~from his cage. This of course was him looking for me, his mama. On the medical side, the news was never positive. Platelets kept dropping despite every attempt to boost them. From vincristine to several other chemo drugs to a blood transfusion, my buddy was not getting better.
Our last day with Cam.
Zane and Emma arrived home on Sunday, so I thankfully had my family nearby for what happened next. On Monday the 19th at midnight, the phone rang. Dr. Sender’s voice was grave, and I knew we were not going to get good news. Cam’s platelets were still low, and he had some internal bleeding. He needed a blood transfusion to make it through the night.
The next day, my daughters and I drove to Auburn. We called for them to bring Cam outside to us (COVID rules), as we were there to say goodbye. He walked out on a leash, with a sweet demeanor but obviously weak and no energy. My heart fell when I saw my normally spunky boy look so tired.
With two of my daughters, we spent the day with Cam outside the vet hospital. We spread blankets under a huge tree, and we had water and food for Cam. Zane was a few hours behind, so the girls and I loved on Cam all day by ourselves. We hugged him, laid beside him, and told him how wonderful he was. We face-timed special friends who loved him and showed him videos of him with his half-brother Winston barking and playing. Cam watched them all. He was so happy to be with us after being alone in a cage. He pressed up against us and soaked in every bit of the love.
We waited anxiously for Zane, as I needed him for strength to make the decision and carry it out. Cam was beginning to lose energy and cough (blood). When Zane finally arrived, Dr. Sender and his resident Brian Cali sat outside with us and talked about our options.
In a nutshell, we could keep going medically with little hope, meaning Cam would be back in a cage alone away from his family and being poked and stuck daily. We chose the other option, to love Cam one last day and release him peacefully while holding him in our arms.
We walked to a lovely courtyard at the vet school. Dr. Sender and Brian were beside us, not rushing us at all, and simply allowing us to grieve, cry, and give them the ok when we were ready. Cam was cradled in our arms at the end, and he had a smile on his face. I chose to step away before the last goodbye, but thankfully my family stayed until the end. My grief was so intense that I could not bear to watch his last breath.
Pain mixed with blessings.
Despite the excruciating pain, I’ve experienced myriad blessings from this ordeal. Below are just a few, as I am sure there will be more as time passes.
- 6 beautiful years with my boy. My 6 years with Cam were endless joy, laughter, companionship, and absolute unconditional love.
- Support from close friends. The outpouring of love, support, and prayers from friends has been astounding. From my closest circle who’ve brought meals, visited, called, sent care packages and more….they’ve kept me going.
- Love from virtual friends. I’ve been blessed by an outpouring of love from friends who follow Family Savvy and know and love Cam from seeing him beside me for the last 6 years. The messages have been so kind and heartfelt, and each one has helped make my heart heal a bit more.
- Perspective on grief. Grief had been a distant memory for me, as I had not experienced it for several decades until now. Losing Cam has reminded me to appreciate every day with my people, as we never know what tomorrow holds.
- Sweet blessings from God. The last day spent with Cam was bitter, but God gave us some sweetness. The beautiful weather allowed us to enjoy our last day outside. Four of my family members were able to be present. My best friend literally stayed by my side the entire time Zane was gone and things were getting worse with Cam. The blessing to be able to release Cam peacefully and not watch him suffer.
I know many of you have experienced the pain of losing a beloved pet. It is a pain in a class of its own, as a pet relationship is a unique one. Our pet gives unconditional love, constant companionship, and endless joy. Pets truly are a gift from God that I personally believe He will allow us to enjoy in Heaven. He created animals in the Garden, and I believe they will be present in the new Heaven and new Earth. Either way, pets are a special gift.
Thanks to you all who have reached out. Next week, I will share the journey of Cam’s last week on a podcast. I feel this is therapeutic for me and for those followers who have grown to know and love Cam through Family Savvy.
As always, blessings to all of you and yours.