Thursday was one of the worst days of my life. I lost a piece of my heart. I had to say goodbye to my MJ, my sweet Mara Jade, forever my puppy.
MJ’s last outing to the beach.
Sometime early last fall we thought she had a uti. Through a series of vet visits, prescriptions, homeopathic additives, and tears, she still did not seem to be herself. Eventually, this lead to a visit with a specialist and a surgery that lead to a biopsy, which proved positive for urethral transitional cell carcinoma. Our baby was in the 1 percent! That’s about how common dog bladder cancer is, and hers was even more rare as it was actually forming where it would eventually prevent her from even being able to pee. It also turns out it is an extremely aggressive cancer, with no cure, and a life expectancy of about 6 months if untreated, maybe about 8 with chemo. She had already been sick since at least October. We opted for mostly pain management, I researched a diet for dogs with cancer, and we got her special vitamins.
We loved her as much as we could. We wanted to fill her remaining time with adventures and quality time. She wasn’t up for as many adventures as we had hoped. Her energy faded, and even with her extra healthy diet and an appetite that was still strong, her body was using all those nutrients to fight and she was quickly losing weight, and her battle.
From the first night after her surgery that we felt she was healed enough, she not only slept on the bed between us, but she often stretched herself the long way against my side or back, as if she was soaking up or radiating into me as much love as she could. Her last week or so, nights were bad for her. She couldn’t get comfortable, and she was panting so hard she shook the whole bed sometimes. But she slept right up next to me, even on her last night, and I’ll never forget her looking at me with those ever intense eyes of hers as the light started to pervade the room. We knew it was the day. We had set up the appointment days before. I think she knew too. She didn’t want to move around much and just settled on a towel on our screened in back porch, staring into my eyes as I just talked to her.
I wanted to be able to write a beautiful tribute for MJ when her time came, but I knew I’d be the blubbering mess I am now, unable to focus or make much sense. What I did was write a little something from my heart about a week before we put her down. I knew it was coming, and I think she was trying to let me know too. This is what I had written before I even had the nerve to tell Robert I knew we were close.
When Dylan first accepted MJ as his baby sister, he let her snuggle with his best friend, Green.
She will never have been “just a dog.” She is…
- the reason we have tile instead of wood baseboards, and tile around our front door.
- the dog who attempted to eat an electrical cord as a puppy, shot across the house from the dining room to the foyer, messed herself, and still just wanted her mommy (she also ate a Blackberry phone, a remote control, Robert’s glasses, and probably an inedible Nylabone we never found).
- the dog who figured out if she barked at the front door, her brother would get off the couch to see and she could steal his spot.
- so intense that if she did not catch her “flippy” (frisbee) before it hit the ground she would pick it up, fling it back and forth in her mouth, and growl at it…then bring it back to us bent like a taco in her mouth.
- the dog who started trouble with other dogs at the dog park just to watch her brother come running to her rescue.
- the dog who came back slimy and green from having eluded us and running into a swampy canal behind the neighbor’s house… twice.
- the dog who could bend herself in half and walk at us sideways when she was happy to see us, snarling the whole time (a frightening sight if you didn’t know it meant she was happy).
- the dog who leaned on everything.
- the dog who scratched my arms every day when I got home because her love was so intense and she was trying to become one with me.
- the puppy who ran down the hall carrying a large bathroom rug in her mouth, shaking it and tripping over it.
- the devious dog who could duck into the shadows of the hallway and wait for the cat to fall into her trap, but then realize she was terrified of the cat.
- the dog who was unaccustomed to kids and the noises they make. When Linnea first moved in, she was scared, then curious. She would spy on her from a distance and check on her while she slept. Then she decided the little person needed her protection and they became the best of friends.
- the dog who still checked on Linnea’s room even when she stopped coming to visit us.
- the dog who practically jumped into my lap to cheer me up when I was sad because we found out she had cancer. Her level of empathy far exceeded most of the people I know.
MJ will never have been “just a dog.” She was our fur baby, our little girl, our puppy, our family. She loved unconditionally, and she loved hard. I know her time is coming, and coming faster than I thought it would. I don’t want to cheat her out of any of her quality time in joy and love, but her bad times are becoming more frequent now, and I also cannot drag out her pain and suffering. I don’t ever want to say goodbye, but I know it’s coming. I cannot imagine coming home to a house without my MJ greeting me. And I cannot cry in front of her because she feels so much that I feel. I haven’t had much loss in my life, thankfully, and I just don’t know how to prepare for this.
There is no way to prepare, and I know she’s now gone, but it still just doesn’t feel real yet. I’m glad we said goodbye in our home, where she was comfortable. I’m glad her brother was there and that I got to pet her as she went to sleep forever.