I never doubted that I was doing the right thing when I drove over 10 hours round trip to adopt a seven-year-old basset hound on December 30, 2020. The moment I saw Faith’s photo, I knew she was my dog.
Five days after her adoption, I rushed Faith to the animal hospital in renal failure. Until then, no one had realized how sick she was.
During her first hospitalization, the vet determined that Faith would need to be on prescription food for the rest of her life.
Ok, I thought. I can do that.
About a week later, she had to be hospitalized again. During that stay, the vet determined she would need to be on subcutaneous fluids every night for the rest of her life.
Ok, I thought. I can do that too.
They had to bring me into the hospital so the tech could teach me how to put the needle in her back between her shoulder blades. As I sat on the floor with Faith with one of her vets sitting on the floor across the room from us, we discussed her medical conditions. He had been employed at the hospital for about six months, but because of COVID, I was the first pet parent he’d spoken to in person.
Every day while Faith was hospitalized, I called the hospital at 4:30am to ask how she was doing as I drank my morning coffee. I knew the vet would call after morning rounds, but I didn’t want to wait to hear how my baby was doing. When the staff mentioned in passing that she liked the fleece blanket, I went to Target and bought her four. I wanted her to be surrounded by loving softness.
One of her fleeces, “purple blanket,” even came with us to the office every day. At the end of each day, I’d scoop up Faith’s 33-pound body and carry her to the car. At night, I administered her subcutaneous fluids. Each of her beds had one of her heavy fleece blankets, and I hung a hook on the wall above each one for the fluid bag. After she was done with her fluids, I covered her with a light fleece and the heating pad to keep her warm as her body absorbed the room temperature fluid.
I was prepared to do whatever she needed.
I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye so soon.
On January 31, 2021, as I was about to climb into bed, I noticed that Faith was breathing somewhat rapidly. I called the hospital and they said to bring her in. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was met by three techs. Two of them loaded Faith onto a stretcher and whisked her inside, and one handed me a clipboard with a consent form. I climbed into the back seat and tried to sleep, knowing it would be a while before the vet called with an update. Close to midnight, my phone rang. Not only were Faith’s kidney numbers worse than ever, she also had pneumonia. Her little body was failing.
The vet offered to put her down that night, but I declined. “Faith will die at home,” I said.
Faith and I went to the office on Faith’s last full day. I invited the legal assistant who adored Faith to come pet her before we left for the day. She was busy and said something like, “I’ll see her next time.”
With tears welling in my eyes I responded, “There isn’t going to be a next time.”
That night, Faith and I cuddled on the couch with purple blanket and watched “The Devil Wears Prada.” The next morning, Dr. Katherine Campabadal came to the house and helped little Faith over the Rainbow Bridge. Just like with Rosie, I stayed at Faith’s side through to the end, and then kept her home for a few hours until I was ready to take our final photos before taking her to the pet mortuary.
Faith died on February 3, 2021, only 36 days after her adoption. I didn’t know it when I adopted her, but my job was to give her a soft place to land and surround her with love for her final days.
Oh my goodness â€“ I’ve been living in a pandemic-based society for over eight months. All of my in-person conferences were converted to virtual ones this year, and my Ironman race was deferred until 2021. For the bulk of the year, I worked and trained. I only left the Phoenix metro area once since we all started needing masks to leave the house.
Even with the monotony, there were still some important events that happened this year:
Helping Rosie Over the Rainbow Bridge
I’d had a suspicion for months that Rosie wasn’t going to make it to end of 2020, and as her arthritis and doggy dementia added more and more challenges to her life, I helped her over the Rainbow Bridge on August 7, 2020. My eyes still well with tears when I think about losing her, but I know I made the right decision and gave her a good death.
Officiating Sarah and Thomas’ Wedding
My friends and neighbors, Sarah and Thomas, got engaged last year. I thought they were going to ask me to watch their dog while they were getting married, but to my surprise, they asked me to be their officiant. I had a blast spending time with each of them individually, asking about how they met, their relationship, and their hopes for the future. From their stories, I found themes, looked up quotes about marriage, and wove them into a short ceremony that was customized to them.
I also felt like a bit of a MacGyver that day because at the beginning of the ceremony, I had the bride and groom’s rings on my fingers (because they didn’t have a wedding party), and the bride’s handkerchief tucked into the back of my belt to hand over when she started crying since neither of us had pockets.
Singing at Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary
I love spending time at Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary. In the winter, I was out there to help with Gracie the baby lamb with the crooked neck. At one point, I was snuggling her on my lap, and I started to sing. Aimee was awestruck and said I have the voice of an angel. Since then, she invites me out to sing whenever an animal needs extra love and attention â€“ like Peanut the pony when he was new to the farm and scared, Duke the cow who was born without elbows, and Wooliam the sheep after he had surgery (neutered). I love when I start to sing to one animal and other animals wander over to listen too. Aimee even had me out on the Fourth of July to help keep the animals calm while the fireworks were going off.
Releasing the Lights Camera Lawsuit Online Course
It’s been about three years in the making, but I finally finished and released my first online course, Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography. I wanted to create a course that gave the photographers the information about copyright and contracts at an affordable price, so could avoid making the painful and avoidable mistakes that I see photographers making all the time.
This course has been a journey, and probably the start of more courses to come. I had to form a separate business, create the website, hire people to create the logos and slide templates, create the lesson outlines, record and upload each lesson, and promote the course. It felt so good to bring this to market.Â
Every Time Miss K Says â€œOggy Ruthâ€
I have a nibling who lives across the country. She’s two and has brilliant blue Disney eyes. She’s so expressive. Now, I’m not a fan of children as a species, but I adore this little creature. If her parents don’t post pictures of her often enough, I’ll send them a text that says, â€œSend proof of child.â€ Since there isn’t a gender-neutral term for aunt/uncle, I picked â€œoggyâ€ as my title (rhymes with â€œdoggyâ€), and everyone in this kid’s life is completely on board with it. My heart melts every time I hear her say, â€œOggy Ruth.â€
There were a few things that didn’t make my top five for 2020 â€“ including going to my friend Cora’s wedding and participating in multiple Love and Compliments rallies. The thing that made these and the other top events from the year so important was that I got to spend time with my friends, even when we had to stay at least six feet apart at all times. Being away from loved ones has been one of, if not the biggest challenge of the COVID pandemic.
I didn’t have many firsts or any celebrity sightings in 2020, so they’re not in this Undeniable Recap. Hopefully, they’ll be back next year.
Humans: Mary Griffith, Maggie Griffin, Katherine Johnson, Grant Imahara, Justin Lutch, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sean Connery, Alex Trebek
Other Creatures: Ziggy Moriarty the Boston Terrier, Moonflower Takaha the Cow, George the Corgi
I knew Rosie wouldn’t make it to the end of the summer this year. Probably starting in June, I could see that her arthritis and canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) aka doggy dementia were slowing her down. She didn’t want to walk as much, and she didn’t want to go to the office with me. She slept so much that many times I watched her to see if she was still breathing. Each time I went to the grocery store to get her more chicken, I wondered if this was going to be the last time I’d cooked chicken for her.
I told her that if she was done, it was ok to let go. There were many nights I’d look at her laying on her bed and pray, “God, please take her in her sleep.”
Making the Decision
Dogs communicate in their own ways, but the message isn’t always crystal clear. When she started stumbling when she walked, I seriously started questioning her quality of life. About a week before she died, I invited Rosie’s godfather over to see her, knowing it was probably the last chance he’d see her alive. A dog owner himself, I knew he’d give me an honest opinion about how she was doing.
In her youth, Rosie used to bolt around the house and bark like crazy when he’d visit. This visit, she wagged her tail weakly with recognition, but it was obvious her energy wasn’t there. When I asked him what he though, he said, “She’s struggling.”
Looking for confirmation that I was making the right decision, I search online for quality of life assessments. One of my challenges was she was still eating all her meals and finishing mine too. I also called our vet to have the quality of life discussion. As painful as it was, I knew it was time. On Wednesday night, I exchanged texts with a mobile vet and made the appointment for Friday morning at 10 a.m. to send her over the Rainbow Bridge.
Good-Byes with Dog and Human Friends
Rosie and I were lucky to have an amazing group of dog and human friends. I messaged some of them to let them know that Rosie would be passing on Friday and invited them to visit one last time. On Thursday night, Rosie’s Aunt Des and Uncle Mike came over with their dog Phoenix as did Aunt Sarah and Uncle Thomas with their dog Brodie. We let the dogs roam on the grass, Rosie mostly doing her own thing, sniffing around.
When Rosie was done being outside, we went back in the house. The humans sat in the living room while Rosie opted to lay by herself in the hallway. I gave Des a lot of Rosie’s treats for Phoenix since we wouldn’t need them anymore. (They were too big for Brodie’s little mouth.) I don’t remember what anybody said, but it was so glad that everyone got to love on Rosie one more time.
Dying at Home
Friday morning was surreal. I didn’t know what to do while I waited for our appointment time with the mobile vet. I sat on the floor next to her in the hallway, petting her while watching YouTube on my phone. I sang her “You Are My Sunshine” which was the first song I sang to her during our meet-and-greet before her adoption . . . well, I managed to say the words on the song with tears in my eyes. I told her I loved her.
There was a knock at the door at 10 a.m. Tears were streaming down my face as I turned the doorknob to see Dr. Katherine Campabadal. I invited her in and coaxed Rosie into her bed. She talked me through everything she was doing. She had me give Rosie treats as she injected her with the medicine that would make her fall asleep. Dr. Campabadal said it would take 10-15 minutes for the medication to take effect and warned me that it would make Rosie’s tongue stick out.
She stepped out while the medicine kicked in. I scratched Rosie’s head as I sat on the floor next to her and watched as she fell asleep, her pink tongue poking out of her month. I checked my watch. It had only been 4 minutes. When Dr. Campabadal came back in and asked how long it took for Rosie to fall asleep, she said the fact that Rosie went out so fast was a sign that her internal organs weren’t very strong. That validated that I was doing the right thing. She also said something like it was sad that our dogs went before us, I responded that it meant we could love more of them.
The final shot had to be administered directly into a vein. As Dr. Campabadal injected Rosie, I had the panicked thought, “What have I done?” even though I knew I was doing the right thing. I reached up to her chest, but it had stopped moving. My Rosie was gone.
Time with Rosie
Usually the mobile vet takes the pet after they’ve passed at home, but I opted to keep Rosie’s body home for a few hours. I’m a fan of mortician Caitlin Doughty, who encourages people to spend time with their loved one’s dead body. One thing I learned from her was when someone passes away, it’s not an emergency. You can take the time you need. I found her video about how she gave her cat “the good death” particularly helpful as Rosie was getting older.
Dr. Campabadal slid a puppy pad under Rosie’s butt and showed herself out. I continued to scratch Rosie’s head as I cried. I hoped she knew I gave her the best life I could. I laid down next to her on the floor, petting her soft fur, watching her pink tongue turn a lavender gray. I sat and laid with her for about 90 minutes, and during that time, there was a shift where my brain understood that she was really gone. I think something about having this extra time with her made my grieving process easier.
Last Car Ride
Since I didn’t let the mobile vet take Rosie, I was responsible for getting her to the pet crematory. I’d picked out who our provider was going to be and given them a call the day before, so they knew we were coming.
In life, I made sure I was always strong enough to lift Rosie, but I knew I needed help getting her to the car. I called my neighbor Sarah (Rosie’s Aunt Sarah) to help. I learned the meaning of “dead weight” that day. It’s a completely different experience to lift your dog when she can’t hold herself up. Sarah helped me load Rosie against my shoulder and handled the opening and locking of doors between my bedroom and the car.
As I carried Rosie to the car with her paws flopping against my back with each step, I thought, “I hope none of my neighbors see me carrying my dead dog.” Thankfully, no one popped their head out at that moment. Sarah opened my back seat and help me gently lay Rosie across it. She was on her back with all her paws in the air.
As I pulled into the pet crematory, I noticed there was a children’s playground directly across the street. Oh, the juxtaposition. The crematory operator was expecting me and rolled a cart to the car so we could easily transport Rosie inside.
I opted for what I call the “buddy cremation” where they put two animals in the machine at the same time. The fire is the same size every time they run the machine and doing two together is more energy efficient. Plus, as the operator said, it’s like they have a buddy in there. Each body is kept separate, so each family gets their own pet back.
The operator showed me what size Rosie’s urn would be. It seemed so small, but if humans are 60% water, then dogs probably are too.
I asked the operator when they’d cremate Rosie, and she said, “Probably today.” I thought, “So soon?!” but then my rational mind kicked in. This is what they do. There’s no reason to keep her in a refrigerator.
I got the call two days later that Rosie was ready to be picked up. The back of her urn has a sticker that says, “Rose Louise ‘Rosie’ belonging to the Carter family, Cremated on 08/07/2020.” For now, she sits on my dresser, but the plan is to sprinkle her at the beach when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.