Losing Kiera, and God’s Mercies

Written around 1 pm today:

It is a beautiful, unusually warm, late October day.  I sit in a chair outside, feeling both sorrowful that tomorrow we say goodbye to a beloved family member, and grateful to God that He has provided blessings within this time.   Kiera, our black Labrador retriever, age 13, lays in the grass beside me.   Her sister, Jasmine, is near.  Kiera’s health noticeably declined over the past 10 days.  We had discovered in January that she has a tumor in her liver.  We had not known whether it was cancerous; it seems now that it was, and it spread to her lungs. In the last few days, the cancer got very aggressive.  Tomorrow we will have our final hours with her before we take her back to the vet so she can cross over the Rainbow Bridge to a place without suffering.

Why am I grateful?  I see God’s goodness in a heartbreaking situation.  These are the blessings from God within this heartbreaking situation, from the current time backward:

*Blessing #1:  The weather, the outdoors, and a lift in her spirit. After spending time indoors, laying on her side, looking so sick and miserable, Kiera wanted to come outside.  She is laying upright, looking around.  She has sniffed the grass.  She begged food.  Her ears are perked for the first time since Wednesday.  She is interested in the activity of a neighbor.  She has always loved the outdoors.  She lacks the strength to take our stairs or to move around much, but she is able to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the feel of a gentle breeze.

**Blessing #2:   General timing and the short duration of suffering.

Kiera’s symptoms began only the middle of the week before last.  A little cough, or catch, when she was panting.  Weight loss that recently became apparent even after months ago we had increased her food.  She became uninterested in her regular food but would eventually eat it. She still seemed herself but did not want to walk beyond our yard.  We  attributed this to the arthritis in her knees.  A week ago when we took her to the vet, a good vet but not her regular one in the practice, her lungs and heart sounded fine.  Her gums had paled slightly.  She’s had allergies before, so the cough was attributed to allergy.  Home we went with an antihistamine and cough suppressant. We were to go back in 2 weeks.

We gave her higher calorie dog food but had to put broth on it or she refused it.  We thought the dry food might be irritating her throat.  This past Wednesday she began having diarrhea, so chicken and rice were on her menu.

On Wednesday I made an appointment for Friday evening for a “Golden Paws” checkup that includes bloodwork and an X-ray.  Thursday she became so lethargic and weak we had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom.  I slept downstairs with her and decided to take off work Friday, call the vet and see if we could move her appointment to earlier in the day.  We were able to get in at 2:40 with her longtime vet, Dr. Hall.  It was the only appointment available.  Thank you, God!

While we certainly don’t want to worry about the convenience of a health crisis or death, decisions related to our work schedule can increase the stress of the situation.  Having most of the weekend with Kiera without concern of having to take off the days in between to be home with her, prevents further concern (although my husband Mitch did have to work today).

***This leads to Blessing #3:    Our son, Ross, had been informed a week or so ago about the potential for Kiera’s health.  He said he would come home from Los Angeles to see her one last time when it became necessary.   In his busy schedule, with meetings and presentations for his startup company, the weekend allowed him an opportunity to come home.   The timing of the appointment allowed us to find a flight for him to be home at midnight on Friday, and then with the weekend, to not have meetings to cancel.

****Blessing #4:  A wonderful vacation, a memory, just six weeks ago.  God’s timing again allowed us to celebrate the 13th birthdays of Kiera and sister Jasmine while we were in Minnesota.   The girls both have arthritis and some backside movement issues.  I had been praying they would make it to our Minnesota trip.

The week starting with Labor Day, we took them tent-camping near Ely, MN.  We stayed at Bearhead Lake State Park.  We took short hikes. They got their paws a bit wet around the shore of a serene lake.  They survived a thunderstorm, hunkered down in the tent. We took some great pictures.  On our way there and back, we stayed at my parents’ house, so Mom and Dad were able to see Kiera a short time ago.

Blessing #5:  13 years of Kiera’s funny personality and ability to make us laugh and smile.   Here is some classic Kiera, who we often call Kiki or K:

 – Drama.  We often say she is a drama queen.  If she was not engaged in activity, she would look sad or extremely bored, sitting on the couch looking back over the top with her head arched over it, like, “oh, woe is me”.

– Playfulness.  Kiera would ask Jasmine to play by waving a paw at her and barking, as she did just two weeks ago.  With us, she would sit in front of us and bark until we played with her.  Before her knees got bad, she would jump and put her paws on our chest as we sat on the couch.

She liked swimming in our pool.  When we had a floating chair, she would crawl up in it and just float.  To fetch, she never liked balls and preferred instead to chase a squeaky toy that she liked to toss in the air.

– Sassiness and the cutest expressions.  When she perks her ears, they are floppy but fold in the cutest way.  Add to this the expression in her bright, eager eyes, I would call this her “cute look”.

– Schedule-conscious.  She always reminded us when it was dinnertime and MilkBone time.  And time to walk.  She would stare at us until we responded.  Jasmine always relied on her for these reminders.

We know that our furry family members will not live forever, but we are never truly prepared.   When the inevitable is happening, God is blessing my family with His mercy and grace. And for this I am grateful.

We will miss you, dear Kiera.  Until we meet again in heaven.