In Memory of Daffie

A girl and her dog

(The lessons learned)

Most people in the journey of life have an animal or two, maybe even a flock. Mine was a petite yellow lab named Daffie. She was calm, even as a puppy. Always trying her best to please her momma, when all she really wanted to do was explore chewing up a shoe or two maybe even the coffee table corners. I still will never forget the first couple days we brought her home. For me I was on cloud nine, but for my boyfriend he was trying to tell me, you have no idea what you got yourself into. A puppy! How hard can it be? And then the first night came! What did I get myself into? We tried to give her own space blocked off in our unfinished kitchen, complete with warm cozy blankets, toys, even a clock that ticked loud thinking it would sooth her. Boy was I wrong! She screamed not barked which I thought how does this little thing make such an awful sound. I laid in bed for exactly 5 minutes and told my boyfriend, I can’t do this to her. I got up, scooped her in my arms, laid on the couch while she crawled up my chest and snuggled her nose deep into my neck and there we slept for the next 5 nights. We eventually gave up the fact that we would never have a dog sleep in our bed because for the rest of Daff Doo’s life she snuggled her nose deep into our necks, giving the fact of sleeping in awkward position a whole new meaning. I’d be the first to admit, only not out loud, that I babied her. Ice cubes in her water, food heated up, jackets when it was cold and raining, and even her own pillow on our bed. She was teaching me to be a mother. And when she went into heat, why didn’t anyone tell me that they actually have periods! My lord was that a shocker! And yes I babied her even more after the surgery to fix her. I tried to train her to be ride along dog, what a mistake that was. She would jump from that back of the car to the dash board all while she was thinking a 25 pound puppy should belong on my lap while I drove. My boyfriend got a truck and said she would be fine in the bed of the truck. As we tried her first ride, I remember needing a shot of something or a drink to calm the panic attack I was about to have. As I watched her go from side to side of the truck, putting her head outside the bed of the truck and letting her lips flap in the wind, I knew she was happy and that we would live a good life with our puppy.

After the first year of having her I could tell that something wasn’t right. She seemed to be picking about her food and loved veggies. What dog loves to eat lettuce and cucumbers? She was always very small and never seemed to gain a lot of weight. After a while we noticed she would throw up more than normal so we took her in to run blood work. Tail between her legs and ears perched high she walked into the vet with me. She never liked being on a leash, she barked at every person she didn’t know and always stood in front of me as if she was my protector. If she didn’t know you, I was taught to touch the persons hand and allow her to see me touch them to show I knew they were ok. I swear some people’s first thoughts were “why is this woman touching my hand.” But it calmed her when she knew I was ok. The blood work came in and the vet called us to tell us Daffie’s liver was not breaking proteins down. A small explanation to why she didn’t gain weight and why she had to go the bathroom 6 times a night. So began the journey with a dog with liver problems. Although a tough road, she again was teaching me something, that I am strong and can do anything I set my mind to.

She had a bad liver and with that finding a diet was a challenge her whole life. Normally a dog could have huge amounts of protein but with Daffie she was basically a vegetarian dog. Wow this was such a learning experience! A dog that could not have protein. She could, but in small amounts. Ever go to the dog food store and read the ingredients in dog food and the % of protein in them? And so begun the hunt to find the right food for Daffie. Through the years we tried many diets, some that worked for a short while and some that were a waste of time and money. When she was about 5 my boyfriend’s mom had some very close friends that were holistic veterinarians they were in town and came to see Daffie on a visit to our house. Bless their souls. I was at my wits end and loosing hope on what I was to do with Daffie. She seemed at the time real bad. She was on several medications and a Prescription diet. They saw her and informed me of a raw diet that would be excellent for Daffie. I still remember, before I started the raw diet, we thought we were going to have to put her down. She was super skinny, pacing all around and not eating a thing. That night my boyfriend said to me as gently as possible ‘we can’t be doing this to her we have to put her down’. That very night I stopped every medication she was on, held her on the back porch, cried, and prayed. I prayed hard!!! Ask him not to take her yet, that I needed her and I couldn’t let her go. I laid with her all night. And I still will never forget it, but the next day she slept comfortably all day. This with anyone who has a dog with liver disease knows they pace constantly. And so she slept, started eating regularly and playing again, day after day she got stronger. I got the raw diet and milk thistle to help her liver. God had answered my prayers and I thank him for that cause we had much more time we needed with Daffie.

5 words for you: Costco toilet paper jumbo pack.

When Daffie was about 5 she got band from upstairs when I wasn’t home cause I was coming home to her messy up our bed, all the dish rags on the floor, my coupon book open and every coupon shredded throughout the upstairs. So I threw my hands up and said “dog that is it, you’re grounded to downstairs when I leave.” So the next morning I had a sales meeting at my real estate office,  I baby gated the downstairs door, kissed her between the eyes and told her momma loved her and I’d be right back. Got in my car and thought how nice it was going to be to come home with no mess to clean up. Returned after the meeting and Tuesday property tours, opened the front door and she was sitting at the baby gate with her head down and her eyes squinting. That was the look of “oh man, momma is going to be real mad at me”. Daffie what did you do, I sternly said to her and that head of hers went even lower to the Ground.  I walked down the stairs and slowly it came into view. Pieces of toilet paper! OMG! We had made a trip to Costco and bought not one but TWO jumbo Kirkland toilet paper packs, where every roll was neatly wrapped. Every roll was taken out and chewed to pieces. It was like she had her own tee-pee partying in our basement. Damn dog!!! First off I was mad at the money we just lost and second the awful mess I had to pick up. She stayed clear of me while I picked up every roll and cursed every word under the sun. But there was a moment when she walked in from outside saw me picking up the mess and hearing the awful words coming out of my mouth that she gave me this look, and this look had one statement “momma serves you right trying to band me to the downstairs” and from that day she wasn’t band to only the downstairs and we certainly didn’t leave the Costco jumbo pack of toilet paper unattended

During this time my boyfriend and I bought a new home. Well I wouldn’t consider it new by any means. The siding was falling off, pink carpet through the whole upstairs; it was a 1969 split level home that had never seen an uplift in 30+ years. But it had one magical gem in the backyard, a 33×18 in-ground pool with blue water and a spotless bottom! It shined like a gold ring unlike the rest of the house. But to my boyfriend and me, we saw a new challenge. We had already done two remodels, what was another, only this one was one we planned living in full time, even during the remodel. My boyfriend worked full time and I was a real estate broker which allowed me to be more flexible with my schedule. So began the tearing out sheet rock, until we were at the studs, tossing the pink carpet, until we reach a clean slate to work with.  All while Daffie followed my every move. Running off once and awhile to take a nice dip in the pool once she was too hot. She was my little sidekick for the whole remodel. Lying under the ladder while I painted every inch of our 2500 sq foot home. Barking at every contractor I met to go over plans. Sometimes she was the only thing I had to talk to and sing to until my boyfriend came home. With her around I was never lonely. After 9 months we had our new remodel home, complete with a dog door!

In the winter of 2007 my boyfriend kept asking me to go look at rings and I just kept telling him whatever you pick out will be special and I will love it because it came from you. That didn’t sit to well with him. I could just see him now, wandering through the jewelry store, scratching his head saying to himself ‘man this would be a lot easier if she would just tell me what she likes’. That winter we went up skiing together and had a magical trip with a couple of friends. The snow was perfect; it was like gliding through whipping cream on the slopes.  We returned home and slept like two logs that night. The next morning we were in the kitchen and he bought up that he wanted me to look at rings; once again I told him he was to choose. I had my back to the counter and he said ‘please will you just look at this magazine of rings so I know’ I rolled me eyes and turned toward the counter and there on top of the magazine laid a gorgeous princess cut diamond ring, with his hand shaking on the small of my back he turned me around and said ‘will you marry me?’ With tears in my eyes I said, of course. He said that he was going to propose on the skiing slopes cause it was such a perfect day up at the mountain, but then he decided to wait till we got home because in his eyes no place was as perfect as in the home that we just recreated together and with our baby Daffie. We married in the summer of 2008 and so began the life of being husband and wife.

Our daughter.

March of 2009 when we found out I was pregnant with our daughter. For so long Daffie was our baby, that now Daffie was in for a real shocker not being the only one who was spoiled in this household. She would jump up on the bed and lay her head across my belly until one day she no longer could have her head horizontal across my stomach. I got huge! No lie. My belly felt like it stretched a mile out in front of me. I waddled everywhere I went. When Daffie and I went on walks, she would stretch the leash all the way to help pull me up the hills. She followed us around as we made our office into a baby room. My husband testing out the rocking chair with Daffie in his lap. Then it began. Two weeks before my due date I would get up in the middle of the night with sessions of contractions but never enough to say it was a go.  During which time Daffie was glued to my side. I’d take a bath; she would lay her head on the edge of the tub the whole time and watch me. I would waddle to the bathroom, she would be right there behind me. I’d pace in the middle of night and her four feet would be pacing next to me. It was like she knew before I did. And the night we went to the hospital I slowly bent on my knees, Daffie laying on the floor and looked into her eyes and smiled. When we came home, my husband went in first cause we both had been gone for three days so Daffie was going to be super excited to have momma and daddy home and she would be jumping all around. He calmed her and I walked through the door holding our daughter all swaddled up in my arms. I reached the top of the stairs knelt down and Daffie calmly and gently smelled every inch of this baby in her momma’s arms. She looked up at me, licked my chin as if to say ‘momma I will protect this baby’. And from that moment Daffie never left our daughters side. Daffie was more of a mother to our baby than a dog. Always pacing to allow me to know she was crying. Lying at my feet during my 2am nursing sessions. Licking her feet and making our daughter giggle. Daffie was just always there watching over her, protecting her. When our daughter started crawling Daffies patience was on high alert. She would just lay there while our daughter would explore every inch of Daffie. Crawling over the top of her, snuggling her head, giggling when Daffie would move her foot or head. It was a bond in the making, and I enjoyed watching every minute of it. By 10 months our daughter was walking and Daffie had a new person to follow around besides me. And so she did. I would find both Daffie and our daughter in her room, Daffie lying in a sea of toys with her head between her paws and our daughter right next to her with a book open mumbling words that I am sure only Daffie could understand. In our daughters eyes they were the best of friends but to Daffie our daughter was her child. Daffie always eagerly opened our daughter’s door when she was through with her nap and licked her through the bars of our daughters crib. When our daughter was almost two she accompanied me to one of Daffie’s vet appointments. The vet came in and Daffie barked hard until I gently touched the vets hand and Daffie watched me do so, she calmed down. Our daughter accidentally stumbled on the ground and the vet helped our daughter to her feet, this was something Daffie didn’t like. Daffie immediately stood in the middle of the tight space between our daughter and the vet and glared at the vet. I will never forget the vets look and the words that came out his mouth “ok Daffie I promise I will never do that again.” And Daffie herded our daughter back to my arms. Daffie was teaching me a lesson; that no one ever could come in the middle of their bond. They both were truly the best of friends.

Daffie was teaching me so many lessons. How to never give up, how to be a great mother, but the lessons that were still to be learned, were going to be the hardest and were closer than I thought. Christmas 2012 Daffie was now 9 and our daughter was 3. Our daughter showed Daffie every toy, book, and outfit she unwrapped. At this point Daffie was doing well. She had put on weight and looked healthy, she was slowing down though. In the body, she still looked like a pup but I could see the blond around her eyes had turned to white. And it seemed like overnight she aged. She still followed me everywhere, and at this point in her life it was as if she could predict when I was about to leave a room and she would jump to her feet to see where I was going. Springtime came and her liver seemed to be acting up again. She slowly began again to lose weight. We took her back in to run the blood work to see what was going on. We change to a different version of Milk thistle hoping it would help. But it didn’t. She began, again, to not like her food. So Daffie’s veterinarian; Dr. V and I switched her to another diet. Dr.V was and is an amazing vet. Every time we came in, he would walk through the door with his white doctor’s jacket on and immediately sit down on the floor with Daffie. It was this little thing that meant the world to me. To see him come down to Daffies level, although every time she wanted nothing to do with him. We set up an ultrasound appointment to see what was going on now with her. Deep in my heart I knew that she was beginning the signs of complete liver failure. But my heart was not allowing it to be. We had the ultrasound and it confirmed that her liver was in the last stages and she had a cyst on her kidney. And so the end of life talk was had with Dr. V. My niece, bless her heart, kept our daughter occupied while my husband and I had the talk with Dr.V. How he has the strength to have these talks with the owners of his patients is beside me. He sat on the floor across from me while Daffie laid in the middle. He told us Daffie appeared to be in no pain but that her liver was giving her no nutrition to her body. I asked him, when we would know that it was time. He simply suggested us to make a list of what makes Daffie her. And as she stops these things to cross them off and then you will know. At that moment I just buried my head in my hands and began to cry, HARD. Daffie stood up, walk over to me and nudged her head in between my hands until my face was on hers and tears rolled on to her fur. I walked out of there feeling as if I had been defeated. After almost 10 years of trying to heal her I was beat! Her liver was winning and it was going to take her soon. So we went home and I said Daffie, you are in for a real treat. She was going to get whatever food she wanted!!! So I steamed up a batch of vegetables with some cod fish and she went to town! She was in heaven. She gobbled down frozen blueberries even got a half of a chicken burger that she didn’t have to steal off the table. A little over a month had past and by this time she had not an itch of fat on her and her bones stuck out. I had a hard time petting her past her head because it was heartbreaking feeling her bones. The time was close and I could feel it in my heart.

So the time came to make that call. Where was going to find the strength to do make that choice? I will never forget that Monday in August, she was laying in her normal stop under the kitchen table, it was her favorite spot mainly to keep an eye on me and see if I was cooking up food cause she was in perfect view of something delicious hitting the floor. As she laid there I was reading an email on my phone and I caught her stare in the corner of my eye, which wasn’t out of the norm cause she was always staring at me but this time it was different, there was an intensity to it. Her head was perfectly lying between her paws, her ears were perched high on her head and her eyes were wide and dark, and in that very moment she told me “momma I am ready and I need you to be ready”. The following day I researched a company called Compassionate Care at home pet euthanasia service. I stared at the phone number for an hour and half before I could actually push the call button. I walked back to my home office and shut the door because I felt so awful inside having Daffie watch me make this phone call. The lady on the other end had a soft and calming voice. She told me the process of what they did and what we were to expect. Then she asked the question “when would you like to have us come?” Never was my first thought, but my response was “Sunday in the afternoon” she said “ok, I have Sunday August 11th between 12 and 1 with Dr. Amelie.” My goodness, I have a date now! Tears flowed like a river of pain down my cheeks. It was time to pull my big girl panties on and finally have that talk with our daughter. I am a type of person that before I have meetings with clients or when I am presenting an offer, I talk to myself to see how I sound. My brother always said to me “Megan your neighbors probably think you’re a loony because you’re always talking to yourself in the backyard.” Well that day I was speechless and unprepared on what on earth I was going to say to my daughter about her dog. I hopped in my car, picked her up from day care, buckled her in, and words just started flowing out of my mouth. “Now sweetheart you know how Daff has been sick for a really long time?” In a small voice she responded “we take her to the doctor?” “Well sugar no, on Sunday a doctor is going to come to our house” “what!!! Momma!!!” and with a smile and excitement in her voice “doctor come to my house?” “Yes baby, and when the doctor comes Daffie is going to go peacefully to sleep and at that time Daffie will become our invisible dog angel with wings and the whole nine yards. We will not be able to see her with our eyes but she will be there. We can still read books to her and color her pictures. Do you want to make her a necklace to put around her neck as she falls asleep on Sunday?” “Ya!!! With beads?!” “Of course baby, now I want you to know that momma and daddy are going to be really sad on Sunday and we will cry a lot and I want you to not worry for us”. And with eyes wide in the back seat she says “momma I no cry on Sunday”. “Sweetheart I want you to know that it is okay to cry, you don’t have to not cry just for us.” “No Momma! I no cry” “ok baby”.  And so The Talk was had. It went better than I thought and I was surprised the words just seemed to flow out of no where. There again, Daffie was teaching me that life can’t always be controlled and that I will sometimes be ok with being unprepared. Life went as normal for the rest of the week, Daffie with all her strength followed me everywhere in the house. Patiently waiting after I ate to start pacing around for her dinner time. Only it was a bit different this time, instead if jumping on the bed, we lifted her up and if I walked down the stairs, I walked next to her and helped her down cause she was falling down them. Saturday came and my husband and I had a concert to go to. I started to iron my husband’s shirts and that is when everything seemed different I was in this room alone. No Daffie! She was too weak to walk down the stairs so I left her upstairs on the bed. Tears flowed like April rains down my face and I needed God to know a few things about Daffie before Sunday came.

Dear God

Tomorrow I give you my best friend and baby, Daffie. She is the world’s greatest dog.  There is just a few things I need you know. She likes her water really cold and her food heated up. She is use to following me around everywhere for the past 10 years so if she could follow you around I’d appreciate it. She likes to snuggle at nighttime she has grown to like the end of the bed but prefers to lie on your pillow. She is a listener so please talk to her often. And one last thing she likes kisses between her eyes. Thank you.

I walked upstairs to find my husband lying on our bed with Daffie snuggled up to his side. He read my dear god letter and tears just ran out of his eyes. We both knew, at that moment, there was no stopping what was about to happen tomorrow. We dropped our daughter with her grandma on our way to the concert. Wow! What a concert! Micheal Franti and the Spearheads at Edgefield. They call them concerts on the lawn. No seating just a large field of green grass to sit upon and enjoy some very good music. A nice way to get things off of our minds for a short time. We climbed into bed and lifted Daffie in with us. And there she laid, sprawled out, front feet and head on our pillows and back feet pointing towards the end of the bed. She slept like a real princess. Me, waking up a few time a night to kiss between her eyes, my husband numerous times cuddling his arm around her. This would be our last nighttime snuggle session. Both my husband and myself, truly not wanting to get out of bed and face the day. Picked our daughter up from grandma’s house and prayed that the clock would slow down before Dr. Amelie, from the at home pet service, came.  We all paced around the house. I though stayed in the backyard while Daffie laid on her outside bed. Clipped some flowers from my pots to make an arrangement and laid it next her, all while she stared at my every move. Our daughter brought down a favorite blanket for Daffie to become an angel in and one of her all-time favorite cabbage patch mini babies to keep Daffie company while she found her way to heaven. We draped her homemade bead necklaces around her neck. Our daughters full of colors with a few letters here and there. And the other necklace said World’s Greatest dog I love you RIP Daffie. Then we all just sat there hoping the Dr. Amelie lady would never come. But she did. My husband led her to the backyard where I was laying on Daffie’s bed with her. Daffie slowly got up and bark this bark that sent tears out of my eyes. It took all her strength to bark and it sounded weak and coarse. Amelie with her kind voice and calming presents, sat next to Daffie,s bed took her shoes off and said  “Daffie it’s ok you need to smell me to make sure I am ok”. I took both Amelie’s hands in mine and allowed Daffie to see and smell me touch her, and then Daffie knew she was ok. Daffie Doo laid back on the bed with me. Her and I forming a circle with our bodies, head to head. Our daughter sat down right in the middle of us leaning against my stomach. Amelie proceeded to tell us everything that will happen during this process and in such a way that our daughter understood and felt at ease with it. “At one point when her spirit leaves her body, she may still move a foot or her whiskers may twitch, and this is perfectly normal,” Amelie said in such a calm and soothing voice. And then Amelie said “would like me to start the pain meds part of this.” I shook my head. And so the first shot. I planted my lips right between her eyes, my tears running so fast and hard that her whole face was wet. I just kept saying, your such a good dog, I love you, I am going to miss you. And right before the pain meds set in my voice became loud and I said “Daffie I told him you like your water cold your food heated up, you like to snuggled, you listen so talk to you, for you to follow him, and you love kisses right here between your eyes Daffie I told him I told him all of it I love you I miss you. And then her head went very relaxed. I could hear Amelie had started to cry. “Would you like me to do the last shot” she said with a crack in her voice. The last shot was given and Daffie’s belly stopped raising and falling. At that moment I had such a relief in my heart that we would not have to watch Daffie go through this anymore. After years and years of trying to fix her and it failing every time, my heart was at ease. Amelie with a soft touch to my back whispered “I will see myself out so you guys can be alone.” Man what a saint this woman was and the company, to be able to do this in Daffie’s home where she was comfortable and calm. It was worth every penny and I thank them with all my heart. Even though Daffie was gone I couldn’t let her head and soft floppy ears go. I breathed in her sent and kissed her hard. We chose to bury her. While we placed her in the ground we covered her with our daughter’s blanket she chose for her, laid cabbage patch dolly next to her, covered her with flowers and said goodbye. My husband and daughter began to shovel the dirt over her and I dropped to my knees on her bed and cried so loud everyone for at least a half a mile could hear me. I just laid there for a few and cried with empty arms. And then it hit her, she was so strong through the whole process, wiped my tears a few times and gave a look at her daddy but never shredded a tear, but at that moment when she could no longer see Daffie, our daughter started to cry. “I miss my dog I want my dog” she cried out. She walked over sat in my lap and I rocked her with my lips on her forehead “it is ok to cry baby” I whispered to her.

And so I sat out here writing this next to where Daffie lay in her resting place. Trying to figure out how we are going to make it in the days to come without her. No greeting at the door, no four feet behind me throughout the house, no bedtime snuggles, no stares from under the kitchen table. But we will make it. There again Daffie has taught me to let go and allow God to have his angels.

Megan Armstrong, Gresham, OR