Goodbye, sweet Tatum
I don’t know how to begin.
She’s only three. She would’ve turned four in late July.
And we’ve only known her since May of 2015. How could she slip this deep inside our hearts in so short a time?
She had the sweetest personality, gentle and friendly with everyone she met, even little children.
I told her she was our “hall monitor,” because she would come get me if someone was doing something wrong or might need help.
We have loved her.
We have fought to keep her alive.
But yesterday, we had to make the awful decision to let her go.
I’ve lost both my parents. I’ve lost close friends, a mentor I loved, other relatives I loved, held their hands as they breathed their last.
Yet I don’t remember anything hurting this bad. Not right now.
I think there may be something wrong with me (those who know me well are like, “What do you mean, ‘may‘?”) because my grief at losing this sweet little dog feels as raw, as overpowering as any I have felt.
I felt this way when we lost Murphy, who was fourteen, just a week after the death of my father.
And I feel this way now, totally undone, bereft and anguished.
Last year, she had her first (and what would prove her only) litter of puppies, eight in all, though only seven survived. She was such a good mother!
Each puppy was named for an American president. One, Madison, has already earned her Grand Championship in the show ring.
My grief feels so selfish, especially as I watch parents burying their children in Florida, and see images of the latest bombings in Syria, the government killing its own citizens, civilians whose plight is living in the wrong place at the wrong time, desperate men running with their bloodied babies in their arms.
I want you to understand: I don’t value a dog’s life more than a human life. I don’t.
But this hurts so much right now.
Tatum was by my side every moment of every day when I was home. She wanted to go anywhere I was going. She was happy to do whatever I wanted to do.
She never complained. She never protested or pouted. She was overjoyed every time Shannon or I walked through the door.
We found out after her usual annual blood workup, something each show dog does routinely.
Dr. Katie called to say there was an abnormality in her red blood count and she wanted to re-test her. Shannon and I were heading to California the next day so I asked if it could wait until we returned. Katie asked if we could bring her in right then, and so we knew it must be bad.
She had something called PIMA: Primary Immune Mediated Anemia. Her immune system was destroying her own red blood cells. It is not breed-specific to wheatens. Just bad luck.
The condition is fatal within two weeks in 70% of the dogs diagnosed with PIMA. Tatum was diagnosed in June last year.
She fought, and so did we.
Our vet sent us to a specialist and Tatum began taking large doses of cyclosporin, a human anti-rejection drug, and prednisone, a strong steroid, to try to tamp down her immune system and keep it from killing her.
All of you with dogs know how hard it is to get them to take meds, and while Tatum clearly didn’t like having to, she wagged her tail every time Shannon approached to push them down her little throat these last nine months.
And all of you who’ve had to put a pet down know you’re doing the right thing, that it really doesn’t hurt them, that it’s a mercy not a murder.
So why is it so, so hard right now?
Maybe it’s because we, humans, have to make the decision and we know our dogs trust us to make the right one, even as they take their last breath.
Maybe it’s because she’s so young and this has all happened so quickly.
Maybe it’s because I am — we are — on emotional overload right now, because of the Florida shootings, the wars in Syria and Yemen, the influenza deaths…
If I feel this so deeply, how must all those families feel?
I am so grateful that I am able to love so deeply. How shallow would life be if we didn’t feel such pain when it ends?
It is almost unbearably hard to lose those we love, even dogs. Sometimes, especially dogs.
And especially young lives.
Unrealized promise. Unmet futures. Unbearable pain.
And so we grieve, here in the deep, in the place within that holds our strongest bonds, our deepest love.
Still, we grieve.