~Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Heart

My dog died.

The Femme Fatale was always a supporting character on my blog, rarely making appearances because she was an ever-present constant in my life. I've had her since I was 19; I was never an adult without her.

She got cancer. The things that we thought were not cancer turned out to be cancer. Last November she had an operation on her elbow to remove a soft-tissue tumor. Then in January, she had another operation to remove a growing fatty tumor on her hind leg. It turned out that the elbow cancer was more dangerous that the hind-leg cancer, but it was the latter that killed her.

I tried to take care of her. When she had elbow surgery, she had to be in a leg cast that prevented her from going up and down stairs for a month. I took time off work while she recovered. We live in a second floor walk-up, so we carried her up and down those stairs until she eventually figured out that she could use her cast as a launching pad.

Six weeks later we were back at the surgeon's office. Her hind leg kept growing and growing. She had surgery in 2009 to remove a fatty mass, and I thought this was the same thing. Cut out the mass and we'll be good to go. But the pathology came back stage 1 cancer, and it was impossible to get clean margins on the tumor without disfiguring her hip. I did not want to disfigure my senior dog. She was 14 and beyond her life expectancy. We hoped and prayed that the fatty tumor would take its time to grow back.

While the Femme Fatale healed, she became a brand new dog, sprinting around my dad's backyard. She acted like she was 2, not 14 and a half. But this wonderful last hurrah only lasted for a few months. The tumor came back, and because there was a fresh blood supply from the surgery, it came back faster. She was gone in 6 months.

It was terrible and it was traumatic and it still makes me cry. I did things and I saw things that I was not prepared for as a non-medical professional. The sight of blood still feels like a gunshot to my own heart. But I did them because I loved this dog. She was my heart.

I hoped every day that I would come home from work and find her gone so that I wouldn't have to make the life-ending decision. But neither life nor death works that way. I made Abraham call the vet because I couldn't and we loaded her into the car and she stuck her head out the window on the way there.

It's not fair.

The things you love should have to be there forever; they shouldn't be allowed to leave you. I changed without her. My heart was irreparably broken. I couldn't process stessors the way I normally could. I didn't realize how much I had relied on her for my own emotional well-being. I couldn't lay on the floor and stroke her fur. I would dream about her standing by my nightstand and begging for snacks they way she had only weeks before.

The response I received from my other pet-loving friends was the only thing that helped. A friend of my mom's went to the animal shelter the same day and bought every single dog there a Frosty Paw in the Femme Fatale's name. My work sent flowers, something they didn't even do when my grandparents died. A friend made a donation to a husky rescue in the Femme Fatale's name and sent me a shadow box to display her collar. Another friend sent a card with her picture on it. Another friend had a blanket made with pictures of her. I'm very lucky to have such thoughtful people in my life.

I don't want to end this on a depressing note, so I'll speed up the timeline. Two months later we went to a Petsmart to look at the "ugly" dogs as I called them at the time. "They aren't pretty, so I know we aren't getting one," I had told Abe at the time. But the husky rescue had one girl who looked just enough like the Femme Fatale but also was just different enough. A red husky, taller and leaner, with one blue eye and one hazel eye. One eye to see heaven and one eye to see earth. She came home with us the same day.

We honored the Femme Fatale's life by saving another dog's life. The new dog was an owner surrender to a high-kill shelter in Tennessee. She was pulled by a lady who worked there until a rescue could make room for her. I'm grateful for that lady.

The hole in my heart for the Femme Fatale isn't filled. I don't think it will ever be. She is the first love of my life. I still miss her every day and think about her every day. I wonder if the two dogs would have liked each other. Probably not; the Femme Fatale was very much an only dog. But it feels good to laugh again.


  1. I have tears in my eyes while reading this. We put our baby girl to rest a few months ago and home hasn't been the same since. My daughter who is away at college is probably taking it the hardest. When she came home to visit at Thanksgiving, she noted the nose prints still on the window as I don't have the heart yet to clean them off.

  2. I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved dog. Losing my Mercy was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and whether it's sudden or long-building, the pain is still the same. Hugs to you for getting through it, and for having it in your heart to open yourself up to another dog who needed you!

  3. I'm so sorry for each of your losses. It's the worst.

  4. 😭😩😭😩😭😩😭😩 So sorry to hear that Femme Fatale has passed. I loved when you wrote stories about her, especially the story about when you and Abe said your first "I love you's" and she interrupted with howls.

    Although the new ginger wolfie won't replace her, I'm glad to hear that you've rescued a new pup.

  5. I lost my 16 year old Jack Russell to cancer 6 years ago. The hole in my heart will remain forever, but with time the pain does lessen. I'm sorry to hear of your loss. I always loved reading about the Femme Fetale when you included her in your posts. She was a very loved girl and she was lucky to have you. I hope you are able to find some comfort in knowing what a wonderful life you gave her

  6. What a beautiful tribute.
    Having a dog as an adult is much different that having one as a child as you wear the weight of the world on your shoulders for them, much like your own children.

  7. I am so sorry. :( I lost my last one, Walter, on November 2nd. I had to make the decision, as well. They offered to let me step outside whilst it happened, but I'd had him for almost seventeen years, and wasn't going to leave him at the last moment. I lost his siblings over the past four years. It's so hard, and I still cry for him, too. And his brothers and sisters. Emily was lost to cancer. They suspected the same with Walt.

    I'd wondered about the Femme Fatale, since you'd stopped writing here. :( We also adopted a new dog - he's currently at the bottom of my bed, but he's most my dad's dog than anyone's. It's been nice to see my dad happier again.

  8. Awww - Sarah. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. But she was truly loved, This post brought tears to my eyes and I don't even have a pet!

  9. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. This post made me teary and I don't even have a pet! From all your posts, the once thing I am certain of is that Femme Fatale was loved beyond measure! :)

  10. As someone who has always had 4-legged furry kids and who read your entire old blog (twice), I feel your pain. It's never easy to see a family member in pain or to say goodbye.

    Very happy you guys adopted another fur-child (and saved a dog from a kill shelter - my lab/Shepherd mix also came from a high kill shelter in TN). Hope everything is going well with your new pup.

  11. Awww -I have just read this! I am so sorry for your loss. I can only hope that whilst the new wolfie won't replace FF, she brings you an equivalent amount of joy! Big hugs lovely lady!

  12. I am so sorry that she died. I hope that you are healing. Hugs.