Uma, my gorgeous gal, the one that has walked so many different paths with me and has always been there, the dog of my heart. I got her as a rescue dog and drove to Trail to bring her and the whole litter home to foster them. 13 years ago I had lost my golden lab Maia to mouth cancer and my black lab Rudolph was bereft, he had never been alone, he had always had Maia. Thus, I thought it was a great plan to foster some puppies to see if that helped him. He hated them, actually he hated all of them except Uma. So the others found their forever homes somewhere else and Uma came to our forever home.
She was such a brilliant dog, sharp, bright and so incredibly loving without being a slobbery git. She came camping, travelling, exploring and fairly much anywhere I could take her. In the woods she was always the one that stayed close whilst the male dogs cavorted amongst the trees. She was the one that the minute she heard me go to bed, I could hear her on the stairs flumping down after me to hop up on the bed and curl up on the bottom left hand corner. When I went to Victoria to help Dee (my mother), she kept me sane – when Dee would kick off Uma and I would walk and I would chant. One day between the myriad of walks I realised we had done 25 km. She has flown with me, hiked with me and when I haven’t been feeling well she was always there on the corner of the bed looking at me and checking in.
In the mornings I would get up and go to the kitchen and the minute she heard the toaster pop down and the frying pan go on, voila up she would get to hang out and see if there were any scraps going.
So it’s been a heck of a week. A week ago today was Chinese New Year, where we entered the Year of the Male Earth Dog. We had a glorious celebration and Uma and the other two bounded around excited to see all the people and snag some tidbits of beef, lemon chicken or salmon. Saturday as it started to snow and snow and snow some more we went for a glorious walk and as usual she explored but always came back to check in with me and then dash off to cavort with the other dogs.
On Monday even though it was chilly, the sky was blue and the sun bright and brilliant – quite a gorgeous day so I rejigged my schedule so I could take the doggos out for a glorious romp with my friend Christine and her dog. There was so much snowy expanse to run, play and frolic – as well as trees to dash behind and hide whilst waiting for another dog to run by, but she didn’t play. The others all did, but she didn’t cavort, she stayed right to my heel and seemed to be slower and the walk not so enjoyable for her. By Monday night I knew she wasn’t feeling well.
Tuesday, she was worse, stairs were becoming a problem and she wouldn’t eat (which was highly unusual for her). Wednesday it was even more prevalent and she would look at me with eyes that saw but didn’t really, and large strings of drool hanging from her mouth. I also noticed the two other male dogs were exceptionally gentle around her and they would cry, which they never do. In my head she was going to be fine, it was all good and it would be something simple. So off to the vet we went. First diagnosis was Pneumonia. Sweet! We can deal with that right? Some antibiotics, rest, lots of water and she will be right as rain and ready for another glorious adventure.
The vet ran blood tests and did a chest x-ray and you know there is something more when the Vet goes out to get a chair so she can sit next to you. Well the blood tests didn’t come out well, she had no white blood cells and a massive secondary infection.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. There were two things, either she had a tick borne virus or it was bone marrow cancer. The first one could be dealt with by antibiotics, the other one – nadda. Another test was run to see if it was tick borne, and whilst that was happening I walked in the wind and the bleak grey cold along the dog beach looking at all the other dogs and allowing tears to freeze on my cheeks. Come on Jen, think positive, it’s all going to be good. Back to the Vets and nope, not a tick borne virus – bone marrow cancer. However, give her antibiotics will deal with the secondary infection and she can rally and you have another year. FUCK!
I took my gorgeous girl home, snuggled her, cried and told her how much she was loved. My heart felt so incredibly sad and heavy. The next day I cleared my schedule and hung out with her, I poached chicken, baked salmon – cooked beef liver to try to entice her to eat. Nadda. My gorgeous girl normally would follow me around the house when I was home and she tried valiantly – but she couldn’t. She fell down the stairs, she would stand and wobble and look at me and I kept whispering to her “You are so loved, you are the bestest dog ever and if you need to leave I will miss you like a piece of my being has been taken, if you can rally – I would love that to pieces.”
That night I wrapped her in a gorgeous clean blankie, just for her and took her to bed. As I watched her I wondered if she would be there in the morning, and guess what? She was!
I was so excited!!! She’s going to be okay! More antibiotics down her throat (which she hated) and I had to go meet with clients and do some work, so my son stayed with her as I didn’t want her to be alone at all. When I got home in the early afternoon I bounded up the stairs looking for her, she was lying next to the water dish in the kitchen and it took all her energy to lift up her head and look at me. My legs melted and I sat on the floor next to her and sobbed. Uma, Puma – you need to go don’t you? Fuck! I have to be the adult and make that choice for you. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
2pm the Vet was phoned. 3:30 found my son and I walking into the vets with her wrapped up in her special blankie. Multiple visits from various technicians trying to amp up the price – for just a little more you can do this…… Seriously people, you have had over $1,000 in 2 days, can you please back away? We stroked her, told her gorgeous stories as the first sleepy injection went in. I took her collar off and told her she was free to leave, that it was okay – she had been such an amazing protector and friend, but it was okay to rest and release. The second injection went in and at 3:59 she passed. I stroked her and then she coughed and expelled air. But Uma was gone, it was just the body expelling air, which she did 3 times. Have to say scared the heck out of me at first.
As the ground is frozen solid here there is no where to bury her, so I had to leave her behind to be cremated. But as I watched her head loll I knew she wasn’t here anymore. I got home and sat. Just kind of numb and bleak and then randomly there was a moth. Ummm, excuse me, it’s a bazillion degrees cold outside, how the heck did you get here. It kept bopping around my head and part of me wanted to crush it between my palms. But hang on, moths and butterflies are all about transformation. Hmmmm, so I let her dance around me for a while and then after an hour or so, she just seemed to vanish. Was that Uma coming to say goodbye and that she was safe? I don’t know, but it did make me feel good.
Do I feel her here? You bet. Was last night tough to not see her on the left corner of the bed – hell yes. This morning when I went outside with my tea and the toaster had been popped down I could hear scratching at the door, so I opened it and a ghost came out. Five days, I wasn’t ready for this to be honest.