Our last picture together on his last night where he ate 5 hotdogs.
He never turned down food.
He always had a smile on his face.
Enjoying food up until his last day. Sept 27th 2010
I am writing this Sunday night because I know tomorrow I will be too distraught to write about this. I am letting go of the greatest thing from my childhood tomorrow (Monday). My 14 ½ year old yellow lab named Chance that I have had since I was in 5th grade. I formed an instant bond with Chance as I loved animals so much and wanted more then anything a dog. Something I nagged my parents about since they gave away our first dog when we moved when I was 8 years old. Chance came into my life in April 1997. For the next year I would share my darkest secrets of pain I was carrying of sexual abuse I was enduring with Chance because I knew my secret was safe with him. While he didn’t respond back he gave me true comfort during some of the most difficult days of my life and at the same time he brought the greatest joy in my life. While so much was being robbed in my childhood Chance was giving me so many happy memories I will never forget. I have a love for him no one will ever understand. It is one thing to be an animal lover and love your pets it is another thing for your animals to bring so much comfort and healing into your life the way Chance did for me. He gave me a reason to not give up and keep moving forward. Our long walks throughout his life helped clear my mind of so many things. I would not have taken those walks if he wasn’t there ready and wagging his tail when I say “Want to go for a walk”. Animals are like children they are so innocent. I cherished the innocence I saw in Chance and to see the joy and excitement in his eyes since 5th grade brought so much happiness and joy to me. He was a great form of therapy.
I remember so many of those early mornings at 6am before school started walking him or those cold winter mornings where I just wanted him to hurry up and go because my body was freezing. I remember the summer he came to Michigan with us at great grandmas house on Lake Cora and watched him run with so much speed off the pier and jump into the lake and then swim out to the raft. He loved the water and got so much use out of spending his summers or weekends in Lake Geneva jumping in the lake or taking off and jumping in the pond in our back yard. I remember crying at camp one night to one of the camp counselors because I was afraid since I was responsible for taking care of Chance that my parents would get rid of him while I was gone. The camp counselor reassured me that my parents wouldn’t do that.
I missed him so much when I went away to college the first time we were apart for a long period of time while my parents took care of him that I went into a pet store in my college town to fill that void of missing Chance to play with the puppies and kittens and one particular December day in 2004 my freshmen year of college I fell in love with an orange kitten and ended up buying him for $10.00. The problem was I was living in the dorms. I didn’t care I immediately formed a bond with this kitten I named Bailey and after a week living in my college dorm I got caught. That is a story for another time, but Bailey is what is going to get me through these weeks ahead when I am waking up or crying myself to sleep because there is this hole in my heart for the dog I loved so much and he is no longer around to be walked, fed, and love.
When I eventually got my own apartment off campus in college my junior year with one of my best friends I met in college there was no question that Chance and Bailey were coming with me. I made sure it was okay with my roommate and she ended up falling in love with both of them. Often allowing Chance and Bailey to sleep in her room at times. It was at college where even more memories were created. The guy across the hall from us used to love coming over to see Chance. I used to walk him all over campus, bring him to a beautiful park in the fall and take amazing pictures, and then discovered the dog-park where he enjoyed playing with the other dogs. It was during my senior year of college that I found myself waking from terrible nightmares from a man from my past. As I would lay there consumed with fear, anxiety, and sadness I’d look to the end of my bed and there Chance would be sleeping. I’d end up wrapping my arms around him, laying my head on him, or crying into his fur. He brought me so much comfort in the darkness of the night when terrible memories would haunt me. He brought me so much security and a sense of safety sleeping at the end of my bed. While he didn’t talk back he often licked my face or feet and I took that as him letting me know he understands and showing true comfort and love. Which is why he has had such a healing touch in my life. God brought him into my life at the perfect time. A time when sexual abuse was happening frequently in my life and it would be a year later after I got him in April of 1998 that I would be breaking my silence. In a sense it was almost as if when I was crying out to God at 12 years old to save me from the abuse he heard me and delivered my greatest wish to help comfort me through the terrible months that were to come.
That day is so crystal clear in my head as if it happened yesterday. April 28th, 1997 walking down the steps of the front of the house thinking I was helping carry groceries in and instead sitting on the front seat of the car was a huge, hyper, yellow Labrador retriever. I ran to several neighbors to show him off and then to my friend Emily’s who didn’t believe me at first. Once she saw my mother in the garage putting his cage together the two of us ran down the path to my aunt and uncle’s where my younger sister was and ran in their back yard and up to the window of the kitchen and I shouted “Look what mom got me.” My sister didn’t believe it and either did my cousins or aunt because they all knew my Dad would not get a dog. Well they were right about that. Dad didn’t know about the dog my mother got him behind my dad’s back. After being very concerned about me being depressed because she thought it had to do with vision problems, when she would later learn it was sexual abuse, she wanted to do something to make me be the happy kid I once was. She went into my bedroom and found a cut out classified ad for pets and the one I had circled was for a one year old yellow lab. She made the call, picked him up, and surprised me with him.
This past April 28th, 2010 13 years after my mother surprised me with him I carried Chance who could no longer make it up stairs into my bedroom to sleep for the night. Something I missed in his old age. I always slept better with the Dog in my room. Which I believe has to do with a security, safety, and comforting feeling he has brought me.
I told Chance this weekend as I cried laying by the campfire with him under a blanket of stars at our lake house, when you get to Heaven greet God by licking his feet the way you have always done to me. I told him to be my angel in heaven and protect me the way he brought me protection in this life. I also told him when I leave this lifetime and enter the gates of Heaven I want to see him there wagging his tail waiting for me.
I end this here on this Sunday night filled with so much grief over a dog that gave me so much happiness. I am about to give up the greatest thing from my childhood and it is going to leave a big hole in my heart. Mostly only my immediate family understand just how much love I have for Chance however if you read both my books “Stolen Innocence and Living For Today” you get a good understanding of what Chance did for me in my life and how much apart of my life he was.
A hole is dug in the yard at the lake house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin where my mother and I plan to bury him and place his maker we made last week with his paw prints. Thanks for the memories Chance. 10:45pm
Update Monday 9/27/2010 5:00pm
Rest In Peace Chance. He passed away in my arms a little after 10:15am this morning. I originally was going to leave and say goodbye while he was still alive but the vet assistant talked me out of it, but said everyone has their own choice. I am so glad I stayed in the room. My mother also did but stood behind me. I wrapped my arms around his head and kept kissing the top of his head and thanking him for all the amazing years and helping me through so much, bringing me so much joy and happiness, and to be waiting for me on the other side. The light in his eyes suddenly got very sleepy and he rested his head in my arms and looked just like he does every night when I lay next to him in his bed. I pet his head while he falls asleep. He looked just like he does when he is sleeping and even dreaming with his eyes slightly opened. He went into a sleep like state for about five minutes. The doctor checked his heart beat and said he still had a slight heart beat and his face by his whiskers were twitching a little. It was so much more peaceful then I ever imagined. A few moments later he passed to the other side. I was so glad I stayed in the room and not left wondering if he suffered because I know he did not suffer I was actually putting him out of his own suffering. While he cannot talk you could see the struggle when he walked or tried getting up and for a few months he has had random accidents in the middle of the night. His final week of life he was going all over himself. Some might of put him down when he began having random accidents at night. Not having a sense of smell I didn’t mind washing him every morning, but I knew when he got the runs last week something was not right and could tell he was not feeling well. After I wrote my last post on Friday I went outside and Chance was laying in his own poop. I washed him off and he laid back down in the garage. 15 minutes later my Dad arrives home and says Chance had an accident in the garage he is laying right next to it. He had gone again. An hour later he went again. It was almost as if something was shutting down. My parents left for the lake while I hosed down the garage and got Chance and Bailey in the car for the lake.
It was Friday evening when I arrived and told my parents I think it is time to put him down. My mom suggested putting him down in Lake Geneva which is what I thought about doing before. I called Saturday morning the animal vet up in Lake Geneva Wisconsin to see if they would come out to the house to put Chance down. I was informed the doctor only does that for regular clients but that I could bring him in. They had a 10am opening for Monday and I took it but felt so guilty. I kept telling my parents I feel like I am playing God by ending his life which is why I have prayed for 6 months for God to take him in his sleep. My parents understood but also reminded me the dog will be better off. Once again he had an accident on the front porch just laying down and going to the bathroom not even trying to get up because his hips are so bad. I got no sleep all weekend Friday night through this morning yet I still needed to clear my mind and walked 14 miles around the lake. I spent Saturday night laying by the campfire under the stars with Chance and just remembering all the happiness he brought me and thanking him.
On his last night my mom and I sat around and had another campfire with him and since I knew his greatest pleasure in life is food we cooked 5 hot dogs over the campfire and he got so excited to eat them. He was acting young again which made it so hard to make this decision seeing how excited he was getting and I was also told you will know when to put Chance down when he doesn’t eat anymore. Well I don’t think that day would ever come the dog would live forever because after 5 hot dogs and kissing him goodnight one last time I woke up in the morning today crying knowing what was about to come and he showed the most energy he has shown in weeks. Getting up on his own, walking all over the yard, and loving his last meal a McDonalds Chicken Biscuit since it was too early for a Bigmac. His last photo I took of him is him taking the chicken biscuit out of my hands this morning and boy was he excited for it.
I am emotionally drained from crying my eyes out for over a week about making the decision to do this and then Friday knowing I was going to do it and not being able to sleep for 3 days. I really need to go to sleep but can’t stop crying. I feel like something is missing now. It doesn’t seem right not having a dog to walk before bed and kissing him goodnight like I did ever night. He has been such a huge part of my life and fully my responsibility for the past 13 ½ years it is going to take a lot of adjusting to him not being here. My head and eyes hurt from crying so much. I hope tonight I sleep. Maybe my guardian angel in heaven will stop chasing rabbits, running in fields and lakes, and give me comfort and strength the way he used to during so many trials in my life. Rest in peace Chance.