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The House of Harmony

November 26th, 2014

Thankful Thoughts

Posted by harmony in Uncategorized    

It was the weekend before Harmony got sick.

The hub-a-dub and I work at the same place and we commute daily together.

On the way to work we talk about how well we slept, what our schedule entails for the day and commenting on the things we see during our country commute.

Our drive home usually consists of our reflections of how the day went. This particular Friday we were quiet. I looked over at the hub-a-dub and asked, “Whatcha thinkin’?”

I KNOW! I KNOW! It is a cliché, but I still asked him anyway. But he surprised me with his response. He said, “I was just thinking about how perfect things are right now. I sit on the couch to watch TV, you’re by my side and I’ve got a dog on each foot. I don’t need anything else in my world.” Oh my gosh, he just melted my heart.

But ya know, I’m a good ole southern gal and we have many sayings and superstitions, one of which is “Don’t jinx things.”

It was just 3 weeks from that statement when our Harmony got her wings, never-ever saw that one coming.

With that said, there’s a lot I have to be thankful for . . .  but I ain’t sayin’ it!!!

I’ll just give one big ole “THANK YOU” and wake each morning with a grateful heart.

 

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!!!!

November 20th, 2014

Love Story

Posted by harmony in Uncategorized    

Every morning, always there, always waiting for his slumbered touch. It’s the wee hour of the morning. He reaches down looking to find her lying by his side on the carpeted floor. This morning his hand finds emptiness; a reminder of the rip in his heart and soul.

He weeps.

How to convey the depth and breath of this love story: he, never without her, her, never without him. It was an unspoken vocabulary of touch and eye contact.

It was magic. It was devotion. It was selfless. It was companionship. It was pure joy.

It was the deepest love ever.

It was an unbreakable bond.

The last days of the unbreakable bond.

The last days of the unbreakable bond.

"My most favorite place in the world."

“My most favorite place in the world.”

The Unbreakable Bond

Love Story

November 19th, 2014

Nothing Better Than Kids and Dogs

Posted by harmony in Uncategorized    
Harmony and her furless cousins.

Harmony and her furless cousins.

I LOVE this photo. If there was ever an image that captured Harmony’s true nature, this is the one. She loved everyone and everyone loved her. She knew no strangers.

Harmony and one of her favorite furless cousins.

Harmony and one of her favorite furless cousins.

 

Harmony is a great pillow.

Harmony is a great pillow.

Melody cuddling with a furless cousin.

Melody cuddling with a furless cousin.

November 18th, 2014

Melody’s First Official Photo

Posted by harmony in Uncategorized    

When Melody was dropped off at our front door 4 years ago, never would we have thought she would be the sweetest, loveable girl that she is today. At first we thought she was going to deal with Harmony’s passing pretty well, but then the nightmares started. They have diminished lately and she seems to be adjusting, but we’ve also stepped up our loving and play routines with her. We’re hoping to get another rescue pup as soon as we feel we’re ready. In the meantime, Melly is getting rottener every day. <3

 

Melody growing into her ears.

Melody growing into her ears.

“I was only around 3 months old when I found my forever home. The next few months I tested my pawrents’ patience by chewing and eating anything that wasn’t glued down. You shoulda seen that big ole GMC. They couldn’t get the 4-wheel drive to kick in after I got a hold of the wiring! LOL! I also took care of the wiring on the pontoon boat and the Ranger Bass boat. Good thing I couldn’t get under the cars ’cause they both looked awfully yummy to me! No worries though, I overheard them whispering the other day that they wouldn’t take nothing for me. Ahhhh . . . I love my home.”

November 18th, 2014

Just 4 Years Old

Posted by harmony in Uncategorized    

This was the first day Harmony came home with us. It was the day before Thanksgiving 5 years ago. She was a bit unsure and ran off. We were terrified. We spent the next 4 days looking for her. We live out in the country and in our neighborhood the houses are acres apart. However, our neighbors would tell us they had seen her not far from the house. We walked and walked and walked but never could find her.

Then, on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, the hub-a-dub and myself pulled out of the driveway and low-and-behold, as we turned out, there she stood in the road. She was skittish of us because she wasn’t used to the area and it didn’t look a thing like Grandma’s. So we stopped in the middle of the road (country road, no traffic) and he got out and called her name in a very calming voice. She started to run, but he called to her again and it was as if you could see the light bulb go off in her head when she recognized him. It was one of the most joyous reunions I’ve ever witnessed. She came running full speed toward him and nearly knocked him down.

We put her in the car (she actually sat in his lap) and turned around to go back to the house. We were all so happy.

Long-story-short, in many of the pictures you’ll see the little transmitters on the collars of both Harmony and Melody. We didn’t want to take any more chances. Where we live, there isn’t enough dirt to install a fence, so we went with the Pet Safe wireless fence. It’s been a God-send ever since.

 

My first day in my new home.

My first day in my new home.

“Did you notice the furless companion laying behind me? That’s my daddy. This was the beginning of a beautiful love story.

Mommy wanted to get me a pink harness, but daddy wouldn’t hear of it. Come on, I’m a hunting dog. I should be wearing gun-orange! Didn’t matter to me, I knew as soon as they weren’t looking I was going to chew this thing up like a piece of good ole Bazooka bubble gum!”

 

November 17th, 2014

Journey’s End

Posted by harmony in Uncategorized    

Harmony and I became Tripawd members on October 21st. Her, for physical reasons; me, for emotional reasons.

The surgeon called us on the 22nd to tell us that she was doing so well, we could pick her up. We were both happy and sad at the same time; excited to see her but terrified at seeing her. To prepare, I did what was suggested by looking at all the post-surgical images on Tripawds to help desensitize myself. I’m so glad I did, it made a huge difference in my emotional state when I laid eyes on her. The hub-a-dub wasn’t so fortunate. It was like someone reached in and pulled his heart out.

Thank goodness for the doggie t-shirt on her so we wouldn’t be startled by her incisions, but I took a peek later and was shocked by its size. She also had one on her abdomen from her spleen removal and one on top of her head where they removed another tumor. Just for a split second, I chuckled to myself about Frankenweenie. Reality soon set in as I began to survey the roadmap of shaved fur and endless staples. I felt my heart twist and turn as I looked into her perfect eyes and whispered, “I’m so sorry my love. Please forgive me.” All the while, her tail never stopped wagging. I think I could have taken it better if she was mad at me. Nope, nope, not her.

On the drive home, she kept her head out the window with her ears flopping in the wind. The hub-a-dub sat by her side and wept.

We got home and nervously watched and coddled her hopping up the sidewalk. She stopped at the outside water bowl and drank like she needed to wash down a box of saltines. It made me feel good to see her back to some semblance of normality.

I was terrified.

Because of our work situation, I was to stay home with her for the next 5 days. Again, worth repeating, I was terrified. There was so much that could have gone wrong and yet didn’t. I should have trusted her to guide me. She ate when she wanted, drank when she was thirsty and pottied when she needed to. Why was I so nervous? I guess I assumed she would react to surgery like we humans do.

“Be more dog.” I get it now.

As the days progressed, Harmony’s abdomen began to swell. I mentioned this in an on-going conversation via email with the surgeon who repeated an earlier factoid of the cancer having spread to her liver. He said he was hoping that once we got her started on chemo her liver would get better thereby addressing any future fluid buildup. In the meantime, if she got too uncomfortable they could drain the fluid.

It got worse, Harmony got worse. Before they could get her staples out the surgeon felt we needed to get her in sooner and start her chemo immediately. Her poor belly was the size of a watermelon. We create what we fear. The hub-a-dub was out of town on business, again. Fortunately for me I have the most wonderful friends, one of which used to be a vet tech. She actually took the day off work to help me get Harmony to her appointment. God bless her.

The oncologist was young and looked just like Harmony’s namesake. She sat in the floor with me and Harmony and painted a very realist portrait of Harmony’s chances. The odds weren’t good, but how could I look down at this angelic face who’s trying to get everyone’s attention and not give her that chance? So we left her there to get the fluid drawn and start her first round of chemo.

When we returned to pick her up, she burst through the doors pulling the vet tech. They had drained 2.5 liters off her belly. Oh my gosh! No wonder she was so miserable!

I was so happy! She looked like she felt like a million dollars. How could I have doubted her drive and will to beat all the odds? We got her in the car and decided it was time to celebrate. We stopped and got her a cheeseburger where she immediately woofed it down without swallowing. That was the absolute best 5 seconds, EVER.

At home, she stopped for water and a potty break and laid down to rest. She looked like she felt so much better. When the hub-a-dub got home he was amazed. However, the next morning would be the last time she would eat anything. It was a quick trip downhill from there.

November 1st, Saturday morning, two days after her visit, two days after the best cheeseburger in the world Harmony became severely lethargic. The hub-a-dub and I decided to take her for her very last car ride and maybe entice her with another glorious cheeseburger. Reality was setting in as she wouldn’t even raise her head off the car seat.

None-the-less, we took her riding all over town, but she never once attempted to move. When we got home we knew she was getting ready to leave us. We made the most comfortable pallet on the floor and placed her on it. The hub-a-dub stayed right by her side. It wasn’t long before she took her last breath.

Good-bye my sweet, my love, my heart.

Over the years I’ve read and witnessed the terminally ill who typically have one great day just before their departure from this world. Never, ever did I think it was the same in the animal world. It’s as if God gives us that one moment in time, a comfort, clarity, free from worry, where we can let our cherished loved ones know how much we love them and vice versa. It was no different with Harmony. On that one day of reprieve, she wasn’t in pain which afforded me the chance to feed her the best cheeseburger in the world.

My only regret through our entire journey is that I didn’t feed her the bun too.

November 17th, 2014

The Journey Begins

Posted by harmony in Uncategorized    

Harmony was such a smart girl, sometimes a little too smart. It was difficult to stay two steps ahead to keep her from obsessing over things like licking her paws. Sometimes she would lick them so much she would limp because her pads were so irritated. At least that’s what we (and the vets) thought. Little did we know the reason she had been limping was because of a growing mass in her arm pit.

Each visit with the vet (over a couple of years) resulted in perfect blood work, great joints, clear eyes and a personality that was eager to please. They would always inspect her paws but could never find anything. The mass growing in her arm pit was inward bound, not outward for easy discovery.

Her “OCD” seemed to be getting worse. She started licking a place on her flank that eventually became an open wound. Through the years of caring for her and Melody, I’ll confess many hours of Googling to find the best course of action for itchy paws and hot spots. But everything I tried didn’t keep her from licking. Earlier this year during her annual exam, the vet decided they would remove the hot spot while they had her sedated for her first teeth cleaning.

Days later we got the dreaded call. The hot spot had been identified as a Stage III Mast Cell Tumor.

A what?

Mast Cell Tumor, cancer, MTC for short; Google, here I come!

 When getting her stitches out, the vet tried to explain her thoughts and feelings about Harmony’s diagnosis. She said that although the lab reports came back as stage III, she felt it wasn’t an “angry” mass and wasn’t anywhere else in her body. To confirm, she did an ultra sound on her abdomen and found no abnormalities. And still, her blood work was perfect. However, it was left to us whether we wanted to consult a specialist for a second opinion. In the meantime we added Benadryl to her daily meds.

As the hub-a-dub and I were digesting all the info, we ended back at the vet’s for another Harmony visit. This time she was seen by her regular vet, he didn’t perform her surgery. He discussed the diagnosis with us the same as the other vet. What struck us was no one, not a single person could give us exact information. It wasn’t ‘til  later when I understood the true MO of MCT and realized the vast range of this deceitful disease.

Seems to me, vets (or doctors) have a way of telling you everything, but nothing at all. One minute you think you’ve got it figured out, the next, a curve ball. We’ve been using this vet for 5 years and his directions have always been concise; until now. We probably should have known we were in trouble when he couldn’t tell us what we needed to do for Harmony. It was like he was trying to get us to read between the lines.

I want to say, he said Harmony wasn’t at the point where she needed chemo. I want to say he encouraged us to do right by her by making sure she ate right, continue with Benadryl  and add high doses of vitamin C to her supplements.

So we did.

All was right in our world  . . . for 4 months.

Insert quote here, “You create what you fear.”

One of my biggest fears was that Harmony or Melody would get deathly ill while the hub-a-dub was gone on business. I imagined myself trying to get a 60 lb. rag dog to the vet by myself. Harmony’s hotspot surgery was in May. It was now the first week of October and the hub-a-dub was in Toledo on business. He left Sunday morning, Harmony got very sick Sunday night.

She woke me pacing. She would rest for seconds and then up again. We live in rural Tennessee and 24 hour vet ERs are nowhere close. I noticed her right paw twitching when she’d try to relax. That’s when I thought maybe she had hurt herself playing with Mel.

So I went to the doggie medicine cabinet and found some liver flavored (bleh) doggie aspirin. The vet didn’t like them, but in a pinch he said they would be okay. Within 45 minutes she was able to lay down and rest.

That night was the beginning of a very, very long journey; short in time, but long in emotion and energy.

The next morning the vet checked her leg and shoulder. Viewing her x-rays he told me he had good news and he had bad. The good; he couldn’t find anything wrong with her leg or shoulder. The bad; he couldn’t find anything wrong with her leg or shoulder. He said he thought she had probably strained it and needed to rest and take an anti-inflammatory. So that’s what we did. She immediately got better and was back to all her normal activities.

Then her RX ran out 10 days later on Sunday. This time was different. This time she lost her appetite and became lethargic. Again, the vet checked her shoulder again. However, this time he spent more time looking over the x-rays and feeling of her leg. He said he thought she had a mass in her arm pit and felt we needed to go ahead and see an oncologist.

Our hearts sank. I think that was the day we started to grieve. We already knew where this journey was going and had no say-so of the destination.

We drove an hour to see the specialist with Harmony  in tow. Actually he was a surgeon. And the first words out of his mouth, “Are you familiar with cancer?” The discussion progressed with, “We need to amputate the leg.”

The hub-a-dub and I were prepared for the “C” talk. But never in a million years did we expect to hear the word “amputation”. We were in shock. This was something new added to the equation. But, then again, we were talking about relieving Harmony’s pain and right now she could barely stand on that leg. On the flip side, we thought he wouldn’t have suggested drastic surgery if he thought she didn’t have a chance of living longer without it.

Stalling, we decided to have the lump biopsied under sedation. We left her there under his care for a few hours. In a daze, we walked out of the pet hospital and got into the car where we sat and wept for the next 30 minutes. Overcome with grief and shock, we couldn’t bear being responsible for such a horrible decision. At that moment, we both agreed we couldn’t take her leg.

A couple of hours later when we picked her up, she was the happy-go-lucky girl we knew, but visualizing her with only three legs was more than we could stand.

The next few days were heart wrenching as we watched her become more miserable. Then she stopped eating, again. Harmony NEVER stops eating for an extended amount of time. We knew this was a sign her pain was getting worse.

We contacted the surgeon and asked could he do an ultra sound on her abdomen (another stall) to make sure the cancer had not spread. If it had, there was no use in taking her leg. Quality over quantity was our top priority. The surgeon agreed, so we dropped her off on our way to work.

Looking back on that day, I think I was secretly wishing he would tell me that it had spread and her time was short. I did not want her to suffer and was ready to help her go out with the biggest party ever. But that’s not what happened. He said the cancer had spread to her spleen and that it, along with the leg, needed to be removed. He said she was in good health and could live a perfectly good life without a spleen and only on three legs.

I’m losing my beloved Harmony a piece at a time. It was unsettling. I asked him if there was ever a time when he started surgery only to immediately closed them up. He side-stepped the query as if to confirm, We create that which we fear.

 It was at that moment we decided to give Harmony the chance of a better, pain-free life, albeit minus a spleen and leg, that was our baggage not hers. The hub-a-dub was distraught because he didn’t get a chance to say good-bye if, God forbid, Harmony didn’t make it through surgery. But make it through she did and, to the surgeon’s (and ours) relief, woke with her tail wagging.

Thank God, that was the day I found Tripawds.

November 13th, 2014

The House of Harmony

Posted by harmony in Uncategorized    

Cancer and I are on a first name basis.

When we first met with the surgeon about Harmony’s diagnosis, he asked us, “Do you know anything about cancer?” I wanted to come back with a rude and smartie-pants answer. A hundred frustration filled responses came to mind, but I  also knew I was angry and hurt. Those kinds of emotions weren’t what was needed at this moment.

So I simply said, “Yes.”

Nine years ago, the hub-a-dub’s brother found out he had stage three lung cancer. In order to be closer to the Vanderbilt Cancer Center for treatment, he and his second ex-wife temporarily moved in with us for about 6 months. His own dog, Harley (a Tennessee Red) was left at home in the care of their (hub-a-dub and brother-in-love) aging mother. While there, Harley disappeared. An “antifreeze” crime spree that took the lives of much of that neighborhood’s pets was what we figured to his end since we never saw him again.

My brother-in-love was heartsick. Then a friend of his brought him a lab puppy as a replacement. All of us know there are no replacements, one just makes room for another in one’s heart.  But for this little black lab, the brother-in-love was so sick and angry at his own plight, he had little time to spend with a rambunctious lab puppy. She wasn’t loved the way she should have been. His misdirected anger kept him from allowing her a place in his heart. Out of obstinacy he wouldn’t even give her a name. She was nearly a year old before she received that honor.

As the brother-in-love got sicker, he had to spend a night at Vanderbilt for testing. We didn’t know the cancer had gone to his brain, but we knew something wasn’t right when he went without sleep for nearly 2 months. On this particular night, a nurse came in with a book and told us that she was his “sitter” as he would yank all the IVs and monitoring devices off. She was a beautiful young African-American girl. The hub-a-dub immediately told her, “I’m so sorry, but I want to apologize in advance for the night you’re getting ready to have.” We were so struck by the caring devotion of this girl that we decided to name the little black lab after her, Harmony, who unselfishly cared for this sweet dog’s only pawrent.

It was the next morning when the brother-in-love departed this world and Harmony was without a master. She moved on, like Harley, to Grandma’s to live a life of running, chasing and swimming on 40 some-odd acres. But trouble was just around the corner. Just like the brother-in-love, 7 months after the death of her master, the sister passed of cancer as well. What needs to be said here is that the father (grandpa/father-in-love) had passed of cancer 30 years prior. With a broken heart, Grandma (mother-in-love) passed within a year leaving Harmony alone and homeless.

As the only remaining immediate family member to the hub-a-dub, it was an easy decision to bring Harmony into our home and hearts.

She’s one of those pups that impresses you with sweetness upon initial meeting. Her first vet visit resulted with him telling the hub-a-dub that she was an amazing pooch who was well behaved and absolutely beautiful. He said that she could easily do commercials. I joked and told the hub-a-dub he should quit his job and become the dog’s agent! LOL!

It wasn’t but a couple of years down the road when a stray puppy was brought to us by our neighbors. She had been dropped off with spay stitches and an infection. Of course we took her in and felt she was the perfect match for our Harmony. That’s the day Melody was added to the pack.

Harmony & Melody

Harmony & Melody

The House of Harmony was complete.

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