My Dearest Harley
For anyone who has never been lucky enough to have a dog, you may not understand this letter or this post. But for anyone who has been lucky enough to raise a dog, then you know how hard it is when their time has come for them to move onto Rainbow Bridge. Time is a thief. There is never enough time or pictures. This letter is for Harley and also explains how we lost him. If you’ve been following along on Harley’s journey or you are one of the gracious people that contributed to his cause, then you know that Harley was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in March earlier this year. The vet’s and specialist gave us two months and we were lucky that Harley fought for an additional 9-months. Harley lost his battle with cancer last week and we are still trying to process it all and pick up the pieces. We are grieving and I have turned comments off in this post out of respect for Harley, me, and my family. Thank you for your understanding and to anyone that donated to his cause, thank you, for you helped Harley fight a unwavering battle and you gave us additional time with him. We are forever grateful for that.
I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you my beautiful boy. As you took your last breath I felt the wind get knocked out of me. I knew this day was coming but never wanted to face it. I thought we had more time. I thought you had become better. I thought we were stronger than the cancer that invaded your body 9-months ago. I thought we had more time. Your decline was fast and sharp and painful. You woke up Thursday morning and couldn’t walk. I tried to get you outside to go potty, but as you entered the hallway you slipped and your back legs went into a v-shape. It was the most horrific and scariest thing I’ve ever seen. The pain that came out of your mouth in those moments is something I will never forget. I was so scared because you were scared and I couldn’t explain to you what was happening. I couldn’t explain to you that you had become paralyzed and why you were unable to walk or hold yourself up. I could see the terror and fear in your eyes and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
We were alone at the house and Roxy and Marilyn (your puppy sisters) ran up, wondering why you and I were both crying. It was in that moment that I knew that this was the end. That today would be your last day in our hallway and your last day with your sisters, and the cats, and with us. I had to put on a brave face because every-time I cried, you would look at me with such anguish. I called the vet and explained to them the situation and she said we only had a few hours before things got way worse. I called your dad and he got home as fast as he could. I called Grandpa and he came over right away. We sat with you and told you what a good dog you were and are and how much we love you.
I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you. I did everything in my power to keep you alive for as long as possible after your diagnosis. When you were diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (a rare bone cancer that only 1% of dogs get) the vet said, at best, that you had two months, if that. And look at how we showed them Boo-dog. My pumpkin-pie, look at how you fought for a near additional 9-months and you powered through my birthday because I asked you to make it through my birthday and you lived exactly one week to the day past it. You held on and fought for so long until your body could fight no more.
In the two months prior you had become tired, but still got up and greeted people at the door, still chased lizards and that annoying squirrel who always bugged you (how dare he sit on your property and tease you) and you still ate like a horse. The vet said that as long as you were eating that meant that we had more time. Oh how quickly things can change. About a month ago we took you to the vet because I noticed a small, hard lump on the your back right hip. You were already a tripawd dog from your surgery to remove the initial cancer, so I knew that a lump on your back right leg wasn’t a good sign. After x-rays, they confirmed that the cancer had spread to your back leg, spine, and they assumed to more places, but didn’t know for sure.
They weren’t sure how long you had, but they knew it wouldn’t be long before it continued to spread to other parts of your body. Then, two weeks ago I noticed a tooth abscess in your mouth (or what I thought at the time it was) and we saw a different vet, your favorite vet, Dr. Amanda. She said the cancer had spread to your jaw and that this was the beginning of the end. You were so happy in her office and she couldn’t believe that you had cancer. She prescribed you pain meds and antibiotics and said we would wait and see and that as long as you kept eating, that meant we still had time. Your mouth got better for a week. You begun to eat more, started playing tug-o-war with your sisters again, and was chasing lizards like it was your job. You had a good week and then last Tuesday, I noticed you started not putting any weight on your back right leg. It became harder and harder to get you up and out to go to the bathroom but you were still eating so I kept telling myself that we had more time.
Then your Dad called me on Tuesday night during my run (he never calls during my runs unless it’s really important or an emergency) and he said your mouth was bleeding and he was having a hard time stopping the blood. The next day I stayed by your side and your mouth continued to bleed on and off. I knew things were getting worse but I thought we had more time. I called the vet on Wednesday and she wasn’t in so they said she would call me back Thursday morning. Then on Thursday morning when you didn’t want to get out of bed with me, I knew this was it. You look confused and scared and all I wanted to do was hold you and tell you everything was going to be okay. I kept saying it out-loud to the both of us. I managed to get you back into your bed and I sat with you and you kept giving me unconditional love and kisses the entire time. I called my friend and she and explained to me what was happening and she told me this was it. She had gone through something similar with her dog the year prior. She talked me through what would happen at the vet and told me that everything would be okay. I must have called her at-least ten times that day. After everyone sat with you, we knew we were running out of time.
Then it was time to get you into the car and you LOVED card rides. We kept you on your bed and Shane and Grandpa carried you out on your bed with all of your favorite toys and we put you in the living room. I knew this was it. This would be the last time you would ever sit in your favorite room in the house with your sisters and with Gio (your kitty best friend) and I sobbed. As I continued to sob it all hit me that we were going to the vet and we wouldn’t be coming home with you. How could we not come home with you? You’re our Harley, our Boo-Dog, our protector. You sleep with Gio your kitty brother by your side every night. You protect your sisters because you think the UPS guy is mean, and you protect us. You are obsessed with sitting on the couch with your chew toys and getting treats and with food. OMG how you love food. Treats last maybe 2-days in our house because of your amazing love for treats. I always loved buying you treats because I loved seeing your eyes light up every time I brought you home a surprise. Where would all the treats go? How will your sisters know the UPS man is coming if you aren’t here to alert them? Who will bark at the squirrel? Who will sleep by my side when I’m having an anxiety attack? When I come home, I won’t see you waiting to greet me in the driveway anymore. It hit me at 2pm on Thursday that this would be the last Thursday that you would ever be in our home again.
After we got you into the car, Shane asked me if I wanted to sit in the back with you and I said yes. I held your head in my arms as we drove to the vet and I could tell you were scared. I could tell that you knew that we couldn’t fix you. You gave me kisses and tried to comfort me during your darkest moment. It’s amazing how truly selfless dogs are, even in their last moments of life. We got to the vet and since you couldn’t walk, Shane stayed in the car with you and I got out and went into the vet and filled out paperwork. Signing that paper was one of the worse moments of my life. I barely heard the receptionist ask me about which ceramic paw print color I would want for you. Dr. Amanda came out and hugged me. I only noticed her because of her warming hug. I don’t remember much of what she said. Something about how they were going to do it in the car and that it would be nice because it would be a familiar place for you. Looking back now, I realize that was the best idea.
Her and the nurse came out to the back of the Jeep and your eyes lit up as you saw her. You loved Dr. Amanda. Even in your last moments you were still wagging your tail and your chocolate brown eyes were as bright as the sun. She gave you a big hug and told you how strong you were and how handsome you were. She then told us she was going to sedate you first to take away the pain. You went from being excited and vibrant (even through all of your pain) to falling asleep. She said you fell asleep before they put you down and I found that thought comforting. I didn’t want you to die in pain. I held your head and stared into your eyes until you closed them. Then Dr. Amanda asked us if we needed more time. Once you fell asleep, I knew you were ready to move on. Then all of the sudden you took your last breath and at that very moment I felt like I forgot something and I started to panic. Your dad says now those feelings of forgetting something is actually letting go of you and realizing you will never be coming home with us again. It’s a feeling I can’t shake.
The vet and the nurse were crying, as I sobbed into your head. I knew you were gone (animals spirits leave their bodies as soon as they die so all that’s left is the physical body) they went and got the stretcher for you and it all hit me. All of the memories, the moments, the kisses, the photos, the countless times you were there for me. They came back and placed your body on the stretcher and wrapped you in towels. They took you away and I will never forget seeing your three white paws sticking out from under the towels as they took you away. I just stood there in the parking lot in complete shock not really realizing what had just happened. My mind couldn’t process it because it all happened in a matter of minutes. It was the shortest vet appointment we had ever had and yet one of the longest too. And just like that…you were…..gone. You didn’t get back into the car with us and then it really hit me. You were never coming home with us again. As soon as I thought that, the sun beamed through the trees and I felt warm all over. I’d like to think that was your personal way of telling me you were okay and free, but I’m not sure.
I ask your dad constantly, is Harley okay? What if he’s not okay? What if he can’t find us? What if it his spirit didn’t come home with us? With tears streaming down my face I can’t help but think about all of the what-if’s. What if there was more we could have done? What if we missed something? What if there was another way? What if you are not okay? Unfortunately, with Osteosarcoma there is no other way. When it spreads throughout the body the pain becomes unbearable and since you all of the sudden became paralyzed, there was an increased risk you could snap your spine. There was nothing more we could do in those last hours. You had to move on. It was your time to go.
I want to thank you for finding me. Thank you for saving me in one of the darkest times of my life. Thank you for always being my shoulder to cry on. Thank you for being selfless and wanting for nothing. Thank you for being my friend, for never letting me down and for always being there. Thank you for protecting me, keeping me safe, and giving me unconditional love. We had a bond like no other and I was your Mom. Thank you for teaching me how to have more grace, be more patient, and how to let things go. Thank you for showing me how the simplest things in life can be so gratifying. Thank you for making me a better future parent and for teaching me to be softer. Thank you for showing me what unconditional love truly means and thank you for always being so happy even during our darkest moments.
From the time of your diagnosis in March to the day you moved on to Rainbow Bridge, you never once stopped smiling. Your tail never stopped wagging. Thank you for allowing me to be your mom and for allowing me 9-amazing years with you. Thank you for letting me tell you all of my secrets and for loving me for who I am. Thank you for being my weightlifting and yoga buddy and for always laying by my side when I cried. Thank you for teaching me how sunshine, water, food, and love are all a person really needs and helping me appreciate the most mundane things which now feel like glimmers of our best moments together. Thank you for all of the walks on the levy and all of the times we played at the river. Thank you for teaching me how to be a better human and how to forgive again and again.
I could write pages and pages of how much I will and do miss you. I keep feeling like I forgot something, I keep feeling like I’m stuck between two worlds. I miss you more than words could ever explain and I think of you constantly. Sometimes I get really lucky and I can feel you near me or I hear your collar jingle in the distance. Sometimes I swear I hear your bark. Sometimes I see you outside sitting and sunbathing in the yard in your favorite spot.
The night you died I had a nightmare that a huge dark bird came and took something out of my hands and I realized it was a dream of the deep sense of loss of losing you and lack of enough time. I keep feeling like I forgot something. My heart is heavy and there is a void now that I’m not sure will ever heal, but I will never forget you. Please don’t forget me Harley. Please know we did everything we could to save you. It’s never enough time. There are never enough moments, or photos, or kisses. There are never enough moments. You are a one of kind, loving, brave, loyal, selfless, unique, special dog, and I’m so thankful and grateful that I got to raise you.
Thank you for loving me and thank you for being my best friend. I will forever miss you.