Thank You for Being a Friend: A Very Late Goodbye to the Golden Girl That Was My Grandmother

NOTE:

Firstly, I was lucky enough to be on The Marilyn Denis Show with one of my best friends a few weeks ago. The two of us are featured for being thrifty university graduates who get spoiled with makeovers! The episode airs tomorrow (Friday April 21st) and I cannot post any behind the scenes pictures until after it airs, but next week’s blog will explain how we got the makeover opportunity (a contest may have been involved), what the process was really like, and of course lots of pictures. Looking forward to sharing it all with you next Thursday on here!

 

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The front and back of the bookmark given out at my grandmother’s Celebration of life.

Until then I thought that I would write a virtual letter to my grandmother. My husband and I are attending a friend’s celebration of life this coming Saturday and I’ve been thinking about the celebration we had for my grandmother approximately a year and a half ago. I was much too emotional to sing or even speak at the event we had and I thought that I’d put those thoughts and feelings down in a blog post. As an atheist, I’m reminded of my grandmother in my thoughts. I don’t believe that she’s with me or watching me, but that her memory lives on in stories and photos which is why this blog post has a lot of meaning to me. If I had been able to bravely speak at my grandmother’s celebration of life (like my mom and my grandmother’s sisters had), this is what I would have said:

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A photo taken of my mother (the child) and my grandmother in the late 1960s.

My grandmother, Heather Campbell, was a beautiful, funny, and fun-loving woman who was born October 16 1945 and died September 7th 2015. Although she passed away just one month shy of her 70th birthday, she had lived a full life. Growing up, I had thought that my grandma was different than those that I heard about and saw on television. She was single, young, and didn’t really cook us meals, she was more like my mom’s best friend who we would share laughs with. We would crack jokes at each others expense and sarcasm was a staple element of our conversations. I only truly appreciated the unique relationship that I had with her when I had gotten older, this is when we often treated each other as equals – she had become my friend as well as my mothers.

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Grandma and my mom just before she was diagnosed with cancer.

I became closer to my grandma after she was diagnosed with colon cancer. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think or what to do until someone had told me that I didn’t want to regret not spending enough time with her. I started visiting her by myself, which I had almost never done before. We always saw my grandma with my mom, but I was going to university and my school was near her apartment so I started touching base with her throughout the week. I would stop by after my morning class and we would watch The Price is Right, play along with the program, and make fun of the contestants. She often made me a sandwich and we would gab like girlfriends until I took the bus home or my mom picked me up.

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Photo of my grandma with my mom and her younger brother in approximately 1970.

When she had gone into the hospital for a long period of time (approximately 120 days), I’d started reading Pride and Prejudice to her, a favourite of mine. She had never read the book and enjoyed being read to, it was a nice change of pace from the few entertainment options that were provided by the hospital. I’d read for a few hours at a time and start to lose my voice, occasionally I’d stop to ask her if she was sleeping, but she rarely was, she would tell me to continue on and I would. I had gotten half way through the book when she had recovered enough to go home. She had fought with her body over a period of four months, a body that had gone through chemo and radiation only to develop a hole in her stomach that required multiple surgeries and months of hospitalization. She had been in there for so long that I didn’t think that she’d be leaving alive, but she did – incredibly she did.

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Some photos from Push for Your Tush 2015.

From there she took day trips with her friends, sisters, and my mom, but mostly she rested and looked forward to my sister’s wedding. A handful of us raised money and walked in the Push for your Tush colon cancer charity event in honour of her and she had such a big smile that day. She then celebrated at my sister’s bridal shower and she smiled her beautiful smile once more. By the time that my sister was getting married, my grandma was quite weak, but excited. Heather, my sister and my grandmother’s namesake, and (my

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A collection of happy photos from my sister’s wedding.

now brother-in-law) David had an intimate wedding of just 45 guests in their backyard and then a reception at a local pub. I really love the photos of my grandmother that day, she was so proud and happy to be able to see one of her grandchildren get married – another check off her list of ‘big-life-moments.’

My Grandma lived only two weeks after my sister’s wedding, she passed with pneumonia in the hospital surrounded by family. She is the first person that I have ever witnessed pass away and it was a difficult process. After the grueling six or seven hours of watching her body finally give up, we all cried and some people talked about that place called heaven. I knew that for me, she was gone, and that this would be the last time I would ever see her. Through tears, I kissed her on the forehead and felt like I would see her tomorrow, because goodbyes rarely feel real at the times that they’re said.

At the end of her life, Heather Campbell was a sister, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and more importantly a friend. Her best friends were her family members and there’s something really beautiful about that. I was lucky enough to grow closer to her in the two years that she hadIMG_6076.jpg colon cancer and even though she was in pain, I think that a lot of moments that took place in those two years could have been some of the best in her life. She was loved by many and she knew that. I loved her and she knew that too.

If I could stop by her apartment this afternoon to watch The Price is Right, I would update her on what’s happened in my life. I would tell her that Chris proposed a month after she passed away, that I won the opportunity to pick a wedding dress, that I missed her sitting on the couch as I chose my bridal gown, and that I graduated top of my university class. I would explain to her that I missed her at my

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Grandma and mom in approximately 1967.

bridal showers and that I couldn’t help, but feel jealous that she could attend my sister’s wedding, but not mine. I would tell her that I married the most wonderful man who lets me make fun of Jeopardy contestants and shares our sense of humour. I would tell her that I got to meet Marilyn Denis (who she, my sister and I love) and accidentally made a dark joke that she would have thought was funny, but Marilyn didn’t really get. I would tell her not to feel bad about not being able to be my mom’s best friend anymore, because I’ve taken on that role now and that we talk about her often. I would tell her everything that she’s missed and thank her for everything that she was because she was pretty awesome.

PS. My Grandma was a total Blanche and I’m closer to a Sophia… or maybe it’s the other way around, some days I don’t know.

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Rehoming a Rescue: Ready to Love Again

It has been approximately 40 days since Daq was put to sleep and I think about her daily, but it’s getting easier.

People said different things to me after I lost my dog, but the two most common pieces of advice were “never get another dog again” and “how long do you think you’ll wait until you get another dog?”

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Our late dog Daq, Chris, and myself after my university graduation.

Mourning the death of a pet is a unique journey and everyone has different ways of dealing with it. I knew that I wanted another dog again someday, I just didn’t know when that would be. The pain of the loss is hard, but it doesn’t outweigh the amount of love that you get during their short time with you. The question of when I would be ready to love another dog was something that I struggled with answering – it’s a personal choice that is unique to each person.

As Daq was getting older, Chris and I occasionally discussed when we might get another dog in the future. We had thought that we should wait a few years at least to have some ‘freedom’ in terms of travelling and going away for weekends. As the months got closer to Daq’s passing, Chris admitted that he never knew just how much he could love a dog before having Daq and how much he knew he would now miss it – he thought that we should get a dog sooner than we planned. I was shocked, but loved that he had truly become a dog person (the all-time sexiest trait).

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After losing Daq, Chris and I had an important conversation. He told me that he had spoken with someone at work about losing their dog and about how they had gotten another dog within a few months of the passing so that the family felt protected and helped bring the joy back into the house. I cried. His intentions were so sweet and we both have so much love to give to a dog. I agreed that getting one within the year would be great, but that I likely wouldn’t be ready until after Christmas.

Since then, we have started putting adoption application profiles into some dog rescue services. We started doing so because we know that sometimes it can take months or even years for the right dog for a family to come around and when one does, you need to act fast.

We’ve been watching rescue websites on a consistent basis and I just recently felt a special connection when coming across a two-year-old girl. The difficult thing is that we may or may not even get to meet her, we just need to be hopeful and patient.

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Everyone knows that I was obsessed with my best friend Daq and anyone who has had multiple dogs in their life knows that giving love to another dog doesn’t take away the love that you had for your previous fur babies.

Daq was incredibly special to me and I plan on trying my best not to compare whichever new dog we get to her because she’d be a lot to live up to. Each dog is innocent and unique, they don’t replace each other, your love for each dog is found within separate relationships.

I’m happy to say that somehow, I am ready to welcome another dog into our life already. That first night that Chris and I talked about rehoming a dog in the next year, I cried for another happy reason: since we weren’t looking into getting a puppy, that meant that our future little babe was already alive somewhere… being a cute lil’ doggo.


Update already?!

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I wrote this blog this past Sunday November 6th, 2016 and by the end of the day it had officially been arranged that I would meet the two-year-old dog I had aforementioned. Since then, I met this beautiful girl and brought her home! Can you believe it?

 

Chris and I are so elated to have Summit in our family. We had originally thought that we would want to rename any dog that we got, but we ended up liking her name. She is a Saint Berdoodle, a Saint Bernard/Standard Poodle mix, who was rescued from one of the Carolinas in the United States (I can’t remember if her foster mom said it was North or South). Her foster parents shaved her coat due to the negligence/lack of proper maintenance and it is growing back slowly to be nice and curly. She also gave birth to a large litter of eleven puppies this past August 18th (just five days after Chris and I married) and is truly a sweet girl (See a video of her below).

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She is timid when meeting new people due to her past abusive home, but loves meeting new dogs and is learning to build trust with our less hairy species. She just needs a home with a lot of love and some patience too. Even though she is two, her past owners didn’t teach her simple commands like sit, lay down, come, stay, and she even doesn’t know how to use staircases.

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I was grateful that my mom had come to see the dog with me and be my navigation pilot (yikes, right? Haha). We brought her home and she was so good in the back of our car for the two-hour drive. Last night had to be hard for her, but she exceeded my expectations with how well she handled the transition. She ate a full dinner and sniffed almost constantly. I slept on the couch so that she wouldn’t be alone on her first night (she was too nervous to try climbing the stairs to the bedroom) and we really bonded!

I can feel her trusting me more already and I swear I’m in love – I fall fast.

I am a proud fur mommy right now and taking photos of everything that she does, Chris Facetimed with us last night and is so excited to come home to us! I will share many more memories with you in the future, but for now I’m going to go pet my babe.

To Summit Up For You: Fun Furry Facts:

-Summit already has her own Instagram account under the name @summit.the.sweetheart
-She is ¾ Poodle and ¼ Saint Bernard which has resulted in her being non-shedding
-She has the longest doggy eyelashes I’ve ever seen
-We’re not sure if Summit has seen a TV before! She looks at it funny and was kind of scared at first
-She loves her new backyard
-She loves carrying her poop-emoticon-doll around the house
-Summit is already trotting and wagging her tail in happy spirits!
-We are so glad that we found each other and can’t wait to dance in the kitchen with Chris

Grieving Goodbyes – Putting Down My Dog Daq

For those of you who follow me on social media, you know that I had to put my dog Daq to sleep last Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 – less than two months away from her 13th birthday.

I thought that I would write something here as a follow up to last month’s post titled “My Dying Dog and the Love that She Inspires.” In summary, that previous entry explains how Daq came to be a part of my family, my best friend, and the details of her failing health that the vets believed was likely bladder cancer.

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Daq and my mom’s dog Deeks were being kept out of the kitchen during painting, but Daq pushed through and got paint all over herself.

I was painting my mom’s kitchen two weeks ago when she and I started talking about Daq’s worsening condition. For the first time, I admitted that if my husband Chris was home from overseas I would put her down. I started to cry as I had the crushing realization that I needed to put Daq down now, before Chris got home.

My husband works internationally for a month at a time, it would have been a two-week period before he got back and we were able to put her to sleep. I wanted so badly for him to be home, not only as emotional support for me, but because his connection with her had grown so strong and I knew he wanted to be there with her at the end. Something that other pilots/pilot’s families know all too well is that working in the industry means that you miss a lot of things at home – no matter how important they might be.

Many people had confessed to me about how hard it was for them to make ‘the decision,’ but it still hadn’t really prepared me for saying goodbye to Daq. What made it even harder was that I kept a very active social media presence that featured Daq more than regularly and that on those social feeds I posted Daq at her happiest, silliest, and most beautiful. This meant that her death may have seemed sudden to some online-onlookers, but our reality behind the social media veil allowed me to be sure that I was making the right decision.

This was our typical day:
-Wake up at 3:00am after going to bed at 1:00am to go pee (with blood)
-Fall back to sleep by 4:30am
-Wake up at 6:00am to go pee (with blood), she wants to sit and enjoy the backyard for a half hour
-Fall back to sleep by 7:45am
-Wake up at 9:00am to go pee (with blood), hang out in the backyard
-Daq sleeps throughout the day with pee breaks as well as many bloody leaks which I then would clean up off the floor and comfort Daq because she’s embarrassed.
-Gets dark outside and Daq can’t see well – she gets scared and barks so I need to go out with her with a flashlight.
-Daq wants her independence to lay outside on the deck, but also barks at nothing so I need to sit with her and the flashlight
-Goes in and out to the backyard many times from 6:00pm-1:00am together
-Repeat from beginning

This also included me watching her strain to pee drops of blood at least five times each time she went out and petting her as she cried a lot more often.

 

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Purple Woods with Harley and Daq.

Aside from her daily struggles, Daq was still eating (she loved food) and she almost always had a smile on her face. The thing is, that it’s hard to tell when your dog is in pain, because they often don’t show it. Her quality of life was worsening and I couldn’t personally put her through that any longer.

I gave myself and Daq time together before saying our final goodbye, I made the decision Thursday and her appointment was booked for the following Wednesday. During this period, I took many happy photos as my friend Harley and I took Daq to Purple Woods for a nice walk, my friend Ian and I took her for a tractor photo shoot, and she had plenty of other hangouts with visitors at home.

I was and still am completely overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to say their goodbyes to her – I thank you.

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Ian, Daq, and I taking tractor photos.

Eve of Destruction

On the eve of her final morning, I had a few hours to spare between my last visitor and my mom arriving. My mom was coming to spend the night with us and help me bring Daq to the vet in the morning.

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During those few hours that Daq and I were alone together we went for our last walk at a nearby soccer field and we cuddled. I started to break down on the walk, the reality had begun to set in that this was the last one. When we got back, we went outside and laid on the backyard deck. I hugged her again and again, holding her tight. I tried to remember the feeling of her soft wavy fur between my fingers and I continually took in her scent. I cried into her fur and spoke about my love for her.

It was sad, but I needed it and I think she was just happy to cuddle and be petted in the cool fall air of our backyard, oblivious as to why I was upset.

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Daq’s pasta, see the video at the bottom of this entry.

That night I made her pasta – Chris and I always discussed giving her a great human meal for her ‘last dinner,’ she loved it and was very happy. She was excited to greet my mom at the door and to hang out with us all night. We cuddled with her, took photos, cried, but I mostly wanted to try to get through the night and try to distract myself from what was to come so we watched comedies on Netflix.

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Her Final Mourning

Her appointment was for 10:00am so that Chris could Facebook video chat in live (Indonesia is a twelve-hour time difference so it was 10:00pm for him). Getting the technology to work during the appointment was an added stress, but I do not regret it as it provided some closure for my husband who I love very much. We were both able to see her go peacefully, and we cried, which was necessary.

Watching my grandmother die last year in a hospital bed for almost 6 hours was hard. Her death seemed painful, sad, and frustrating. That experience was so exhausting and difficult, but it helped me during this situation with Daq. Putting Daq to sleep was humane; it was peaceful, quick, and almost beautiful. I held her as she laid on a blanket and I watched her slowly fall asleep from the injection. The vet was incredibly empathetic and cried a little herself, she also allowed us to stay with Daq for as long as we needed. I hugged and kissed her soft greying forehead more times than I could count, letting my tears fall into the fur around her own eyes that would cry no more.

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Photo from our last morning.

Daq is gone, but I still love her. I feel like putting her to sleep was the right thing to do and she lived a very long happy life. Thank you to everyone who has supported me during this process and to those who have shared kind words with me since.

At this point the surreality is wearing away and I’m starting to finally feel like she won’t be coming home, but things get better with time. I will get better with time.

Daq was an amazing friend who had so much love to give, was loved by many, and will be thought of often. I am currently grieving our goodbyes, but will revere our relationship.

Video of Daq loving her pasta: