Peanut: Saying Goodbye

One year. Two years. Two milestones in the same week. And who would have remembered if not for the algorithms of Facebook pushing memories back into the present? 2 years ago I became a single mama and just 1 year ago I received the devastating news of Peanut’s cancer diagnosis. Eek. June has had a bad track record in recent years. But it’s not all bad news. Within the last year I also realized my lifelong dream of becoming a homeowner. See – there’s so much to share and catch up on, but let’s begin with Peanut.

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One year ago I shared about Peanut’s health diagnosis. That same day, through the tears, I wrote what would become a bucket list of activities that would carry us through the summer. And what an incredible summer it was. Peanut’s twilight months were filled with adventures, pup cups, cruises, barbecues, and extra snuggles with the people he loved.

Peanut was my first dog and my canine soul mate. Adopted from a local shelter in 2008 he stole my heart with his larger than life personality and supersized ears that matched. He became my study buddy after taking the leap to go back to school to finish my degree. He was my companion as I navigated the waters of launching my own indie business. He stood beside me as I sorted out my career path. Peanut’s slew of health problems and training needs built the foundations I’d need to transition into the field of animal welfare where I found my life’s calling. Peanut taught me how to be bold, compassionate, and ever so patient. He was my little shadow and one of my best friends.

 

After receiving the diagnosis I was committed to celebrating our remaining time together. I thought that the months ahead would prepare me for his departure, but they didn’t. Peanut’s condition declined in late September and though his spirit remained intact, his body was slipping. Our pain management plan was no longer effective, he was completely incontinent, and though he still enjoyed walks and snuggles, the pain attacks that would hit were growing more frequent and intensifying. I couldn’t watch as he suffered but couldn’t manage the timing of making “the call.”

In the midst of this decline I made the decision to move my little family in with my folks. Talk about changes. No one, no matter how great their relationship with their parents, wants to move back home with a toddler and 3 animals in tow. But I was fatigued by the rental lifestyle and knew there was no other way of saving up to buy my own place. So the moving commenced. After weeks of packing and stashing belongings between family members’s homes I was ready for the final move. That last day in my apartment was also the last day I would spend with Peanut. Choosing that day to be our final one was, single-handedly, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. From the drive down, to the procedure, to the gut wrenching sobbing that followed, it was earth shattering. It was not peaceful, how I’d imagined it would be, and I was completely wrecked. Here I was, surrounded by colleagues, a veteran in animal welfare, and I was a mess. Peanut had always been a fighter, so I should have guessed that he’d fight, even in the end, but the reality of that moment caught me off guard. Even having been present in many procedures with other animals – this was completely unexpected. But that was Peanut through and through: Always surprising me.

I was absolutely unprepared for what I was about to experience for the next several months. Despite a surge of condolences and shared tears, I fell into an abyss of grief that completely caught me off guard. For months I lived my daily routine through a cloud of sadness and silently wept into my pillow every night. I kept thinking about him, kept dreaming about him, and couldn’t let go. It felt surreal. He couldn’t be gone.

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In recent months I’ve read a lot about grief and animals. It takes most pet owners an average of one year to process a pet’s loss. The journey is emotional and messy. I knew all of that, and yet, even though surrounded by animal lovers I still felt some kind of silent stigma. How dare I mourn like this when there are others losing family members, children, spouses or friends? Why am I so consumed by this loss? And how do I change that? I cried through many prayers begging God to numb the pain, to make it go away, but it was a valley I had to cross. Like our favorite children’s book, Going on a Bear Hunt, “You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it.” And that’s exactly what I did. I accepted the pain and gave into the healing salve that only time could bring.

After 9 months of grieving I can now write this post. That’s what I call progress. Being able to openly talk about this loss, and how I uniquely processed it, shows evidence of healing. And though the sadness still pricks at times, more and more I’m finding joy in remembering the unique creature that was Peanut while also allowing myself to enjoy the newness of my current journey. I’m now a home owner and the caretaker of an incredibly toddler and two amazing animals. I’m learning to let myself enjoy Butter as a single dog without a cloud of guilt hovering overhead. “It’s okay to be happy,” I keep reminding myself.

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I write all of this because, it’s cathartic, and also I want others to know it’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay to grieve and feel this depth of loss. And it’s also okay to get help. I plan to join a local pet loss and support group to continue my path of healing and would encourage others to do the same.

So there it is – my first update in a long long time. Looking forward to sharing reflections on recent milestones in the coming weeks. In the meantime, hug your pets a little closer, and don’t be afraid to shed a tear for those you can’t.

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Peanut’s Bucket List: Canine Cruise

Just a couple of days after Peanut’s diagnosis, and the development of his epic bucket list, we had the opportunity to knock #1 straight off his list: Go on The Anti-Cruelty Society’s Canine Cruise!

I’ve been wanting to take Peanut on a dog-friendly architectural river tour for years and just kept putting it off. After learning that his condition was terminal, I knew I had to had to get him into the next ship to set sail. That’s when I signed him up for the Canine Cruise!

Part fundraiser, part pooch adventure, the Canine Cruise took off on a pleasantly cool Saturday afternoon on the Chicago River. Facilitated by Mercury Skyline Cruises, the tour took us down the river and back, and then on a little tangent into the open waters of Lake Michigan. Peanut loved ever moment of it! He enjoyed freshly baked doggie biscuits and pupcakes from Chicago natives High Hopes while soaking up the sun and smells. Surrounded by fellow rescue pups and dog lovers, the cruise was a dream for canines and owners alike. I can’t think of a better way to have spent our Saturday afternoon.

Peanut Loves Butter: Upcycled Cotton Bowtie

Next up on Peanut’s Bucket List:

Go for a car ride with a Starbuck’s pup cup.

Peanut’s Bucket List

Owning a pet is one of life’s greatest joys. The snuggles, the licks, the late-night chats, the antics, and of course, the unconditional love. Our pets provide affection unlike any other. Their devotion is untainted by our mistakes, short-comings, or blundering. For that very reason the prospect of losing that bond is heartbreaking. I’m prepping myself for that loss now.

Peanut has been a part of my life since June 2, 2008 when I adopted him from PAWS Chicago. He had been transferred in from Chicago’s Animal Care & Control, where he had arrived as a stray, emaciated, and with cherry eye in both peepers. PAWS transferred him in, got him neutered, fixed his third eyelids, and popped him onto the adoption floor. I came in the very next day, saw his pitiful little face and the blazing spirit lying under the surface. I fell in love instantly. I brought him home that same day and my life was forever changed.

We’ve spent the last 9 glorious years together. The first two it was just him, my hubby, and the cat. We’d spend hours on the lakefront, just relaxing, reading and strolling. In 2011 we adopted his best friend, Butter, from The Anti-Cruelty Society and the two have been inseparable since. Years later we also adopted a bunny so had quite the motley crew at home. Over the decade he’s tolerated many house guests, including rescued wildlife, street kittens in heat, and countless of fostered shelter dogs and cats. And the biggest adventure of all came in 2015: the new human. He took even that in stride.

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Deeply opinionated, always energized, communicative, and prone to mischief, Peanut provided the daily spice of life that always kept us on our toes. He’s now 11 years old and the fire hasn’t dissipated one bit.

Despite his continued zest for life, Peanut has not been feeling well. After many weeks of testing, it was confirmed last week that my sweet senior has prostate cancer. It’s rare in dogs, very aggressive, and there’s no effective treatment. Radiation can extend his life span by a touch, but the stress of the process would negatively impact his quality of life. So the plan is to provide veterinary support in keeping him comfortable for as long as possible. It could be weeks or a  months. My vet will be giving me a tighter timeline in the next few days.

I’m saddened by the news in many ways, but am deliberately choosing not to dwell in my despair. Instead, I plan to celebrate each day that we have together. I want to celebrate his fiery spirit so he can go out in true Peanut fashion: With a bang.

So here it is – Peanut’s go-out-in-glory bucket list. It includes some over-the-top adventures as well as more subdued routines that I know will make him smile. My hope is that focusing in on these fun-filled tasks will prevent the sadness from taking hold of our limited time together.

Peanut’s Bucket List

Peanut Loves Butter: Upcycled Cotton Bowtie

  1. Go on The Anti-Cruelty Society’s Canine Cruise
  2. Go for a car ride with a Starbucks pup cup
  3. Scavenge at the farmer’s market
  4. Hunt down the Fido to Go canine food truck
  5. Take a walk on the beach at sunset
  6. Enjoy a vanilla custard cone from Lickety Split
  7. Eat a mini burger from Hamburger Mary’s
  8. Barbecue at my parents house (steak included!)
  9. Go for a boat ride with grandpa Andrzej
  10. Chew up a Polish kielbasa
  11. Eat a homemade batch of High Hopes pup cupcakes
  12. Get a doggie massage from the Chicago School of Canine Massage
  13. Take a trailer ride by the lake
  14. Eat a Chicago-style hot dog
  15. Celebrate life at our DIY lakefront “Peanut Party”

I’ll be posting updates of our bucket list adventures here on the blog as well as on Instagram. Thank you in advance for your love and support.

Here’s to making this the best summer of Peanut’s life!

A Fine Feathered Friend

I love animals. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise given my profession and the menagerie of critters I’ve adopted over the years. But there’s a special boy who now has a permanent place in my heart: Joey.

This beautiful ring-necked dove made his way to our shelter earlier in the summer when a good Samaritan found him wandering the city. Though doves and pigeons are close cousins, he was clearly not made for the street life, so his rescuer brought him into us for re-homing.

 

Joey was an instant hit among staff and volunteers. Incredibly social, affectionate, and frankly, a huge flirt, he soon captured the hearts of all who met him. Including me. After seeing him spend a few weeks up in our small animals room, I decided the time had come to make him an office foster. So Joey moved in!

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All About Butter

Butter photo by Lydia Krupinski

If you thought this post would be about the fatty deliciousness of the dubious cooking ingredient, think again! In our family Butter takes on a new meaning in the form of a goofy, wiggly, snack stalking Boston Terrier.

This sweet sweet boy’s adoption anniversary is fast approaching. Adopted from The Anti-Cruelty Society on Valentine’s Day 2011, Butter is now 7 years old and officially a canine senior.

bow-tieButter photo by Lydia Krupinski

This little guy’s adventure started with us on New Year’s week. At the end of 2010 I had declared that it was time to adopt a buddy for Peanut. We had been fostering for a year and Peanut proved he’d make an excellent big brother to a shelter pup. When considering what kind of dog we wanted to adopt we knew we’d want someone as similar to Peanut in size and play style as possible. He loved wrestling with other small, smoosh faced dogs, so I had my sights set on another brachycephalic breed. We’d let the right dog come to us. It was the very next day that I met Butter at The Anti-Cruelty Society.

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The Gift of Love: Adoption from The Anti-Cruelty Society

The best gift is the gift of love. And in the spirit of today’s holiday our family has received just that in the form of a teeny 10 month old Boston Terrier. This little ball of energy was transfered to The Anti-Cruelty Society from Chicago’s Animal Care & Control with a mean case of Bordatella. I promptly scooped him up as a foster and immediately fell in love. David soon followed and even Peanut, our resident BT Frenchie mix, has had his heart swept away.

Love is truly in the air – wishing you a very merry Valentine’s Day!