In Memory of Harley

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Harley Quinn (Lowe) Ross was born a fighter and died a lover. Thought to have been born sometime in 2011, she was plucked off the mean streets of LA at an early age by a high-kill shelter overrun with strays. One day before she was to be euthanized, a rescue group saved her life and she lived with a nice lady for a little while. However, the next foster she ended up with turned out to be an animal hoarder, so once again, she returned to her original foster mom, who became very attached to her for the next 1.5 years.

In 2014, her Forever Mom, Stephanie had a dog-shaped hole in her heart that needed to be filled. After agonizing over images and bios online (she didn’t have the heart to go anywhere in person) of the many dogs out there that needed homes, she knew it was impossible to take them all because life just isn’t fair. She stumbled upon a photo of Harley and just had a feeling she was “the one.” Stephanie excitedly reached out to Harley’s foster mom, but it took nearly 3 months of communication and transport logistics to seal the deal. It was worth the wait.

Over the next 10 years, Harley and Stephanie had many adventures and wonderful experiences together running, camping, hiking, shopping, sharing food (tortillas and whipped cream were her favorites) and just cuddling on the couch.

Soon after taking her on walks, Stephanie noticed Harley seemed to want to go faster and faster. This escalated to the two of them being loyal running buddies who enjoyed many miles together. Harley even got to run on Pre’s Trails in Eugene, which was her longest and fastest run of 16 miles at 7:30/mile pace. She likely could have gone even longer and faster if she wasn’t slowed down by Stephanie. Despite her small size, Harley certainly had a performance-enhancing effect when pulling Stephanie along in a few dog-friendly races. Harley even once raced Alan Webb, the former American record holder in the mile! Stephanie liked to call Harley her PED (performance-enhancing dog). A true alpha dog, Harley had laser-focus in races and had to be in front of even easy runs. If someone got ahead of her, she whined and pulled with all her might, only hindered by Stephanie holding her back. Harley’s favorite runs seemed to be group runs where she got to meet and run with lots of people. She loved people! Most of these runners greeted her by name while referring to Stephanie as “Harley’s Mom.”

Among Harley’s people, she even put up with Stephanie’s boyfriend-turned-husband, Dave. But it was well known that Harley was Stephanie’s dog and Stephanie was Harley’s person. In 2020, Harley got a canine brother, Bowie, and in 2023, two more humans, Grayson and Lily. Harley wasn’t always a fan of sharing her mom with the rest of the family, but she tried her best.

Because of Harley’s love for running even into her later years, Stephanie easily noticed a drastic change in her energy, eating habits and behavior over the past couple of weeks. At first, Stephanie chalked this up to aging and stress around the young babies. However, last Wednesday, Harley was restless and trembling, so Stephanie took her to the emergency vet. There they discovered a mass on her liver. On Thursday, she had blood work indicating a diseased liver and on Friday, she had an ultrasound where the veterinarian described what looked like liver cancer as well as cysts on her kidneys indicating disease. While waiting over the weekend to speak with the regular vet over the full ultrasound results, Harley was declining rapidly. She would not eat or drink, and what little she did take in she would vomit, poop, or urinate soon after, so she went back to the emergency vet. That vet strongly suggested euthanasia, but Stephanie just couldn’t do it in a rushed, cold environment. This seemed to be happening so fast, but in reality Harley had been hiding her pain for a long time.

By Monday, Stephanie knew what she needed to do, but struggled to come to terms with the decision. Tuesday morning, she spoke with Harley’s vet and went over the full ultrasound report, which is what she felt was the final thing she needed for peace of mind. She then scheduled an in-home appointment with Compassionate Care for that afternoon.

The hours leading up to the appointment were torture for Stephanie as she continued doing “mental gymnastics” over whether this was the right thing to do or the right time to do it. All signs pointed to “yes” no matter how much she screamed NO inside. The question she kept asking was whether Harley was suffering ENOUGH yet. There could possibly be more medications, more vet appointments, more daily anxiety, more declining health, but why let it get there? Why let her go through that? Why force her to keep fighting when she needed peace?

Finally, the vet with Compassionate Care showed up and a little bit of weight was lifted. Stephanie was reassured for at least the 15th time (and 6th vet) that this was the best option. Harley was curled up on her favorite blanket on the couch with her head on Stephanie’s lap when she first fell asleep to dreaming about chasing squirrels, then to a deeper forever sleep where she’s no longer in pain.

Of course, there is so much emotional pain left behind, but that is the price of love and worth it every. single. time.

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