In Loving Memory of
Memories I Can Only Imagine
August 5th 2002 to October 26th 2009
So much loved and now so sadly missed by John and Nell Ward
It seemed to us that her head got more beautiful as her body deteriorated. She was a Champion and a Canine Good Citizen, but most of all, she was a beautiful lady. She was a veteran but she didn't get the chance to walk in the veterans parade.
Two weeks after we saw profound symptoms, we said good-bye to CJ. Basically she had overwhelming anemia secondary to histiocytosis in the bone marrow. She was in intensive care for 6 days, then came home with an estimate of 4-6 months. We got 4 days. I've written about her treatment and symptoms but this message is to remember and rejoice in the good times.
Things that make us smile
- landing noises - The first time I was alone with her I thought she growled at Pilgrim, but it was just her landing noise. The great rush of air out when they plop down. Have you heard it?
listening for hoof-beats -- she often lay with her head turned to the side and her ear down. "Kemo Sabe, three horsemen are coming, riding fast."
Daddy's girl -- I fed her and she liked me ok, but she loved her Daddy and preferred men. With CJ, John finally had his boat dog. She loved to ride on the pontoon boat. He took over her feeding and meds at the last. She left this world looking at her Daddy as she sank into my arms.
wriggling in the grass - one of her favorite activities was finding the perfect spot and throwing herself down on the back of her head and sliding down the slope. She got to enjoy this again in the final days at home.
adventures - we bought a small camper, modified especially for the dogs. We spent 111 nights in it in 2008 and 134 nights in 2009 so far. She visited the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. We camped in 36 of the lower 48 states . It took us four months to go and come to the Portland specialty.
One of our favorite memories is from Louisiana, where CJ became a great armadillo hunter. We had never seen them except as road kill or in a zoo. On a short walk, we saw about 15 - CJ saw 10 first and the other 3 of us eventually saw one first. She went back to all the siting places the next day. She was our best hunter. She often alerted to creatures.
CJ's music - she was frightened of storms and other unexpected noises. Within a few moments after starting her music - through a Dog's Ear; music to calm your canine companion - she would settle. We are finding comfort in listening to it now.
She could wag just the tip of her tail and always acknowledged us if we came near. She slept hard against my side of the bed and I had to always look sharp when I got up in the night. That's one of the places that seems so empty now. The other is her Daddy's office.
We have wonderful pictures of her life adventures and even those we took at the end. One day we will get our web-site updated, but tomorrow we go to the famous Berner Beach Walk, not to forget but to remember and rejoice. Chase is learning to be an only dog and we are adjusting to this new chapter.
Last year's Christmas letter and pictures did not get out until April Fool's Day. We included this quote -
We can't do anything yesterday - only today and maybe tomorrow, if we are lucky.
Ain't it the truth? Hug your dogs and be sure you are doing what you want now.
I can only imagine that CJ's pedigree name is a Christian modern genre song that her breeder, Cathy Burlile's sister clung to while she died of breast cancer at age 36. Her name Christine Jackson. I asked Cathy if she could give her to me - named after her dear sister. She said she loved her too much to leave her at the back of the bus.
She was finished to her championship so that her mother could be Cathy's first Top Producer of champions. She had a hip that didn't pass x-rays so she was not going to be bred. Both of my dogs could have stayed forever at their breeders homes, but when we came looking they both thought the dogs would have more fun with us.
Dear Memory Friends, we said good-bye to beautiful CJ yesterday. In Cathy's words - quickly from bad to worse to impossible. When I quit sobbing long enough, I will write a memorial with all her delight, but in this message I will try to tell about her final illness since some of you have relatives.
CJ - Haley/Corey-02 -- profound hemolytic anemia secondary to histiocytosis in the bone marrow
Her profound symptoms started 2 weeks before she died. She had had unexplained weight loss since the spring, but her blood work was OK.
Sat, Oct 10 - we went to a BMD club Howl-oween. She seemed fine. We went as the Red Hat Society - 2 veteran dogs and 2 senior people with purple shirts and red hats or the dogs had bandanas.
Sun, Oct 11 - she began to refuse her food mixture. We tried giving her the pieces, eventually during the week she refused cooked chicken, then potatoes, then rice and finally would only eat raw ground turkey with John coaxing her.
Tues, Oct 13 - I thought she looked like she was having trouble with her mouth. We took her to the holistic vet who adjusted her neck and jaw and gave her a vit B12 shot.
Fri, Oct 16 - went to conventional vet perhaps for metronidiazole. He took one look at her pale gums and sent us speeding to NC State. (An amazing member of our Berner family insisted that we stay at their house - 10 minutes from the vet school. What an amazing gift to give us a place to stay with Chase and grieve and go back and forth to the hospital.)
She was there until Thurs, Oct 22. I have 4 pages of discharge notes that I can share but here is an attempt to summarize. I'm not trying to list dates, etc. Her case was always a puzzle.
Packed red cells 12% on admission - 35-55% is normal --15% is the threshold for transfusion
She was walking and alert.
ultra-sound - enlarged and mottled spleen, enlarged liver
transfusion and PCV up to only 15; prednisone and another transfusion, PCV 24%, it fell to 17% by discharge.
aspirate of spleen and liver showed some histiocytes but not enough to confirm cancer. They were going for exploratory surgery to get biopsies, but did a bone marrow biopsy once she was asleep.
What they found in the bone marrow was so bad that they did not do the exploratory surgery. I am delighted that she did not have to deal with an abdominal incision in the short time she had left.
She had IV adriamycin to treat the cancer the day before she came home. After a week we were to do a CBC and if the white count was OK, then add cytoxan. She was also on doxycycline and cephalexin plus cerenia and metronidazole PRN if vomiting or diarrhea.
The first estimate was 6-8 weeks, then after the adriamycin they estimated 4-6 months.
Her care was complicated. John made a chart and kept records of what he could get her to eat and of her meds. He was wonderful. She thought the canned prescription diets was pretty terrible. They said she ate with great gusto in ICU. We never got a chance to ask what was different. I'm guessing it was digestive upset from the adriamyin. She got cerenia and famotidine for nausea. Cooked chicken was not of interest. Eventually all she would eat was EVO dry kibble.
By Sat night we began to admit that the treatment was not working. Sun she worsened during the day. We wondered if she would live through the night on Sun. She was not in pain, just getting tired.
We went to our vet Mon afternoon. We carried her in from the yard in the morning. Amazing she walked through the house one last time and jumped into the van with just a little boost. 30 min later she was not able to get up or walk across the parking lot. PCV was 5% - remember that 15% is the threshold for transfusion.
Our vet talked the oncologist at State. One option was to give her another transfusion in an attempt to keep her alive long enough for the drugs to help her bone marrow. Since she had been transfused, she would need to go back to State for a typed and cross-matched transfusion. That seemed too much for her.
We could have brought her home without treatment, but we couldn't stand the idea of her dying at home. She had not eaten in the last day and a half. We had promised her that she was going to be free.
We chose to euthanize her. She was always a Daddy's girl. She was looking at her beloved Daddy as she slumped into my arms.
We have never had cancer in our dogs before. We are shattered by the quick progression. She had a wonderful life. When I get a bit more focused I will write the memorial of all the good things we did together.
A friend sent me this link when CJ died a week ago
I learned something important - a new way to look at end-of-life and illness issues.
Basically it is this.
If you live in GUILT, you will be living in the PAST. If you live in FEAR, you will be living in the FUTURE. You need to try to live with your dog and yourself in the PRESENT.
It is so true and so hard. I see so many examples on all these lists. It would be easy for me with CJ to think I should have gotten her treated sooner or we should have brought her home from the hospital sooner, or fed her differently, or done more with her or less, or .... But every decision we made we thought was the best at that time. Indeed when you learn more, like with Arthur's pneumonia or with CJ's final diagnosis, perhaps there was another path that we could have traveled.
I see lots of fear on the lists. What if my dog gets cancer? What will happen as my dog ages and get less capable? What if my dog bites someone? What if I lose my job?
I could write many paragraphs about each of these ideas for ALL the dogs in my signature block, but I am trying hard to learn from my experiences but to live here and now instead of in the past or future.
We have sent Christmas pictures of us and the dogs since 1983. You can see them at our web-site. 2008 was not sent until April Fool's Day, 2009. I made up a quote, but the thought is not original.
We can't do anything yesterday - only today and maybe tomorrow, if we are lucky.
So let's all try to live in the present.
Born July 10th 2009
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