One Week


It’ll be exactly one week in a few hours since we lost Jenna.  Although I am coping, I’m still trying to come to terms with the loss.  My mind is still in disbelief and denial.  I still see and hear them.  And although I know I am hallucinating from the grief of my loss, some websites that I have been reading about coping with pet loss, suggest that the spirit or the souls of the dogs are still in this house and they are trying to comfort me.

Today, my wife took Haru to cheerleading practice to practice for a special event next month.  I decided to stay home, because I really just wanted some time to be alone and collect my thoughts.  But I think I was too alone, because I kept hearing things all day. I heard Princess snoring like she normally does when she was asleep, and I could also hear them walking around the floors.  I also found comfort laying on the floor, where both dogs spent most of their time.  I felt as if they were laying their with me.  Perhaps this is why my wife spent the entire week sleeping on the living floor.  Maybe subconsciously she also felt as if they are still with us in spirit.  Usually, I don’t believe in this kind of stuff, and I am usually more logically minded person rather than spiritual, but I definitely feel sense of presence (not all of the times) but sometimes.  It makes me wonder if there is such thing as spirituality and an afterlife, are the dogs still here?

Princess and Jenna were somewhat famous among the Westie owners community in Japan.  We use to go to a lot of events a long time ago and we would often see the same people, hence Princess and Jenna was like a household name like Terry and Lala, Wing, and Mint and Basil.  They were all well known names within the community.  When some of the owners learned that Princess and Jenna passed away, they were kind enough to send us flowers which I included in the dogs’ memorial.  The memorial has gotten so big now, that I actually had clear everything off the shelved to fit everything.  So, rebuilding and expanding the memorial actually helped be to take my mind off of things and was extremely helpful and therapeutic.

I’ve also gotten to the point where I was able to sit down with Haru, and watch old videos of the dogs.  Haru loved doing this, because some of these videos we haven’t seen in years.  It was the first time I had been able to laugh in days.

And finally, I have created a memorial page for the dogs on this site.  I will probably be updating it from time to time with pictures and videos I find of the dogs.

 

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A Belated Congratulations and It’s About Time!


Yesterday was a bit better, I think.  I managed to get through most of the day without having too many thoughts about Princess and Jenna, which in reality means that instead of thinking of them every single moment of the day, I thought about them a bit less than that.  The memories have been slightly less painful, but they are still there and still painful none the less.

I think what remains to be the hardest part of the day is coming home.  Right now, that house is a toxic haven for memories for me.  The moment I see the house as I walk down the street, I begin to see the dogs on the balcony poking their heads through the railing, and hear their paws clicking against the wood deck as they bark and welcome me home from work.   And as I walk closer, they begin to fade, only to bring me back to the realization that they no longer exist -except in my memories and in my heart.

Yesterday, coming home was particularly difficult, because my wife had taken Haru to cheerleading practice, so I came home to in empty house.  As I opened the front door, the silence was deafening.  Usually, I would come home to the sound of the TV blaring in the background, or Haru talking or singing out loud, or to the sound of water running in the kitchen or bathroom, or …to the sound of the dogs clicking their paws on the wood floors of the hallway to see who just walked into the front door.   Instead, it was just lifelessness, darkness, and dead silence, and the memories started again, and I began to cry.

This weekend is going to be hell, because it will be one week after their passing, and I already know I am going to struggle with it.  Since its a long weekend for me (9 days off from work due to national holidays), I really wished we could just go somewhere far away from this house.  But since we didn’t plan anything because of Princess and Jenna’s illnesses, it would be too late to plan anything now.  I thought about going out to the summer house in Chiba, but that place would be equally painful for me because we spent so much time out there with the dogs.  So in essence, I would feel trapped and imprisoned in my own home with painful memories tormenting every moment that I am there.

I am very angry at myself because I haven’t been able function well in almost a week.  Aside from work, there seemed to be no purpose for doing anything.  I just wanted to sleep all day, and I feel really bad for feeling this way, and for neglecting Haru.  Haru, if you read this someday, I hope you forgive me for those days when you always saw me  sad and crying.  I shouldn’t let this sadness take over our lives , and I feel really really bad for not giving you more attention, and I promise to make it up to you when I feel better.

Despite the dogs leaving us, we had one really good thing that happened that unfortunately got overshadowed and nearly forgotten.  Haru finally FINALLY got chosen to join the advanced gymnastics class!  I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She actually participated in her first class as an advanced gymnast last Saturday (right before all of this happened).  She struggled with it at first because she had gone to her usual class earlier that morning, and was fairly tired by the afternoon.  But her new advanced gymnastics coach, which is the same coach she had when she first started out in her kindergarten gymnastics class said that she will do fine once she gets use to the new routines.

Haru will actually be starting advanced gymnastics regularly in November, once she has completed all of her cheerleading events which will take up most of her Saturdays in October.

So out of curiosity, we all wondered why it took the coaches so long to recognize that Haru was ready for the advanced class.  I thought that perhaps my wife and I were just being stupid parents for thinking that Haru was better than she really is.  Or perhaps the coaches just didn’t see any potential in Haru’s ability, and just thought it’d be best to keep her where she is, or eventually that she might even quit.  Or maybe it was because the coaches where just plain stupid and not paying any attention to the fact that Haru was clearly out performing everyone in her class including the much older senior level students.  Well, the answer is none of the above.

Apparently, the coaches did recognized Haru a long time ago, apparently back in her kindergarten days.  But the reason why she never got promoted to the advanced class was because of one misunderstood comment she made to her gym coach back when she was in kindergarten.

When Haru just started cheerleading a few years back, she use to be so proud of her cheerleading hair ribbon, that she use to wear it everywhere -even to gymnastics class.  When her coach asked her what the ribbon was for, Haru said that she is a cheerleader and that she was so busy with cheerleading that she had forgetten to take it off.  (which wasn’t true -she just wanted to wear it) Based on that one comment, her coach assumed that Haru would be way too busy to commit to being in advanced gymnastics and passed her up.  She assumed that Haru was doing cheerleading several times a week, when in reality it was (and still is -if you don’t count tumbling) only once a week, and in no way would interfere with her schedule if she joined the advanced class.

This all came into realization when Haru attended the nature camp last month with her gymnastics school.  My whole intention for Haru to attend that camp was not only to make new friends and have fun, but to also to be able communicate with the coaches in the hopes that they would recognized that she is a good gymnast -and IT WORKED!  While at camp, her once was, and soon to be again gym coach approached her and asked how her cheerleading career was going, and Haru responded okay.  Then the coach asked, are you still really busy? to which Haru replied, no….it’s only on Thursdays.  The coach probably assumed that Haru was a competition cheerleader who practices several times a week and do complicated cheer routines, hence her ability to do skills beyond what is taught in regular gymnastics class.  Thus, started a new dialog between us and the coaches and clarifying what Haru’s schedule is really like and how we wondered when Haru would ever move up into advanced gym.

The reason why the coaches what so concerned over Haru’s schedule is because her regular gym class was once a week and 50 minutes per session.  Once she moves up, this can go up to 3 times a week and 90 minutes per session.  If she moves up further to competition level courses, it can go up to 5 days a week and 3 hours per session.  By this point, Haru have to make a commitment and pretty much quit everything else she is doing (including cheerleading and tumbling), and I know she isn’t ready to do that.   But for advanced gymnastics, we both have time in our schedules to do it at least twice a week.  Three times a week will be more of a challenge, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. So at this point, we are just going to ease in the advanced class to test the waters.  If she enjoys it and is good at it, we will see about bumping it up to twice a week, and maybe even more if she wants to.

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The Most Important Thing in My Life


I promised yesterday that I would try to focus on Haru, and I am going to try to keep that promise, but in a more gradual sense.  I am still feeling an enormous sense of loss and loneliness, and I feel as if the only person who understands me and the profound sadness I feel, is me.  I am at best. a “functional” emotionless zombie at work.  One of my coworkers commented that I looked very fatigued, in which I gave very little or no reaction to, not because I was offended, but because I really didn’t know how I should react.  Right now, I feel as if I have to turn off all emotions while I am at work otherwise I will fall apart, which is never a good thing in a structured environment.

However, by doing this, I feel that my despair over the loss of my dogs are being too suppressed and they tend to build as if I were holding my breath, to the point where I erupt with sadness the moment I walk into the door at home.  I know Haru feels bad for me, but she’s not too sure what to do about it.  It’s totally understandable -I mean, how is a seven year old suppose to react to an adult who constantly cries, especially when it’s their own father.  She came into the bedroom last night and offered me ice cream, which I thought was kind, but I feel so weak in that I couldn’t even sit down and have ice cream with my own daughter.

I think my wife is getting sick of me.  I haven’t eaten much in days now.  Just maybe some bread and orange juice in the morning and that’s about it.  I’m afraid that if I go out to lunch that I will start to think about them again.  It’s best to just keep busy and keep my mind off of them as much as possible. so I would either work through lunch or sit on the bench in front of our office building for an hour and just space out until its time to go back to work.  My wife actually got angry with me last night for not wanting any dinner, but  I really didn’t feel like eating, and being in the living room is still too difficult. Even as I was sitting at the dinner table and Haru was spilling food all over the floor, I would think, it’s okay, Jenna will be by to lick it up, but of course that never happened, and I broke down and cried while my wife looked on with more anger.  I wish she were a little bit more understanding of my pain, rather than caring so much about the time she wasted preparing my dinner. I just wanted to do what I did the night before and just go to sleep so I didn’t have to think about anything anymore.

Last night, I heard noises again.  This time it wasn’t the sound of the dogs walking on the wood floors.  It was whimpering sounds, -the kind of sounds that Princess use to make when she wanted to go outside. I buried my head in pillows and just begged for it to please stop.  Why is my mind torturing me!  But after a while, I realized that the sound wasn’t my imagination; it was real.  So I got up and tried to figure out where it was coming from, but it was so intermittent, that I couldn’t pin point it.  It sounded as if it was coming from the hallway.  Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me again.  Then it happened again, and it came from Haru’s room.

I went into Haru’s room to check on her to see if she was alright.  Her asthma seemed to be flaring up as she slept, because her breathing sounded rough.  It reminded me of Princess in her final days; her breathing was very rough too.  So naturally I was very worried.  I crawled into her bed with her and every once in a while she would make whimpering sounds in her sleep -the same sounds that I had been hearing all night.  I hugged her, and asked if she wanted to sleep in our bedroom (which she loved to do) but there was no response.  She just continued to sleep.

I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.  My thoughts shifted from the dogs to worrying about Haru.  She is the most important thing in my life, far more important than the dogs, and if anything were to happen to her, I couldn’t imagine being able to continue on.  Life wouldn’t be worth it anymore.  All I could think about was Haru’s breathing and whimpering in the next room, and how Princess did the same thing before she passed away.  So I stayed awake for most of the night making sure that she’d be alright, and walked back and forth to her room periodically to check up on her.

Having only slept a couple of hours or so, I woke up the next morning and immediately checked up on Haru again.  She was breathing much better, and wasn’t whimpering anymore.  I felt a great sense of relief, but then my mind shifted its attention back to the dogs.  But this time, I felt a bit better.  I think that realizing that the most important thing in life for me is Haru, and she is living and breathing and is right there with us.  I need to stop feeling so much misery because it wasn’t doing me any good, nor was it going to bring the dogs back.  I need focus on Haru and give her my full attention going forward, because she is who counts the most. This helped me to take a step closer to coming to terms with the loss of our dogs.  I am still very far from achieving acceptance, but I think I am finally on the road to it.

 

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In Mourning


For most of the day yesterday, I was absolutely distraught over the loss of Princess and Jenna, so much so that I had to leave work early because I couldn’t stop crying, especially after leaning that Princess passed away too. They had been a very significant part of our lives for the last nearly 16 years.  They were in fact a part of our family.  Some may think it’s silly to regard animals as family members, but those people have obviously never cared for and loved a pet as much as we loved and cared for Princess and Jenna.

I promised myself that I would be strong today and to not to think about them so much and try to concentrate on work, but I find it to be more therapeutic to reflect and write about them, as a part of my healing process.  It’s difficult -very difficult, and although I have never lost a human child, I cannot imagine it being much worse (at least for me).

Princess passed away yesterday morning while I was at work.  I got an email from my wife shortly afternoon that Jenna had taken Princess with her.  I immediately went into the restroom, lock myself into one of the stalls, and wept heavily.  The person in the next stall must have thought I was crazy.  As much I tried to focus on work, I couldn’t; it was just too difficult, so I left early with the permission of my boss, saying that I wasn’t feeling well -which was the truth.

When I got home, I was already weeping even before I saw Princess.  Why I got my first glance at her, I saw something that I saw everyday.  Princess was sleeping peacefully in her bed.  My mind kept telling me, she’s just asleep!  I will pet her on the head and she’ll spring to life like she always does.  This is called the first stage of grief: Denial.  But when I did petted her, she didn’t spring to life.  All I felt was coldness and lifelessness.  I kept petting her and petting her, thinking that she will wake up at any moment; and for a split second, I thought I even saw her breathe.  But of course, this was just my imagination.

Since we were pretty much prepared for this moment, I thought Princess’s passing would be much less of a blow, but it was too soon.  It was too soon after Jenna left us.  She didn’t even give us a chance to recover, and she left us.  So for a short time, Iwas mad at her for leaving me.  This is the second stage of grief: Anger.

That morning before I rushed off to work, I took one good look at the memorial we set up in Jenna’s honor.  Everything will be alright, Princess is still here, I thought to myself.  She’ll help me through our loss by helping us remember all of the great times we had together.  I petted her on the head and she looked up at me.  For a very brief moment, a thought went through my head that this could be the very last time I see her alive, but I immediately dismissed it.  She’ll be okay.  If only I had known, I would have stayed longer and gave her a proper goodbye, or maybe I might have even taken the day off.  The guilt I feel right now for leaving her without a proper goodbye hurts my soul to it’s core.

Although she never expressed it, I think Princess was also feeling grief in her own way over the loss of her sister, and after a very long fight with illness, felt that it was a good time to leave too.  Being Princess, I am almost certain that she didn’t want us to have to grieve again later.  All that went through my head as I laid their on the floor next to Princess’s lifelessness, is if she could only come back for only one minute so I could thank her and say goodbye properly.  In my head, I pleaded with her over and over again, but of course it wasn’t going to happen.  Bargaining: the third stage of grief.

Having never experienced a death of a pet, I never knew how overwhelming it could be.  The grief engulfs you and takes over everything if you let it.  I am trying not to let it overwhelm me by continuing my daily activities, but it’s hard -very hard.  Even at Haru’s tumbling practice last night, all I could think was -why am I here?  Haru doesn’t need me to be here.  I want to go home and just go to bed.  I don’t want to have to think about this anymore. I just want to go to sleep and dream about better times.  The more I thought about it, the more sadder and distraught I got.  Then I realized that I cannot let this happen.  Depression is dangerous and it cannot take over my life.  It’s okay to mourn, but its not okay to let it overtake you.  So as I normally do on all Monday nights, I coached Haru through the glass and made sure that she was sticking all of her tumbling skills.  It made me much MUCH happier to see Haru smile back at me.  The fourth stage of grief: Depression.

The fifth and final stage of grief is: Acceptance.  This is when you have come to terms with everything and understand that there is no reversing the affect.  You just accept that what happened has happened, and you move on.  Well, I am definitely NOT there yet.  I am in a constant state of limbo between denial and depression.  My mind still can’t accept that they’re gone, and there are actually still parts of me that believe that Princess and Jenna are alive and well, and waiting for me to come home.  And when the logical side of my brain swats that thought down and brings me back to reality, I begin to feel sad and depressed once again.  And this has been a constant cycle for the last 48 hours.

Last night during dinner, Haru was talking about wanting another pet -this time something she could call her own.  I nearly broke down and cried, but realized that she wasn’t saying this because she didn’t care about Princess or Jenna, but out of sense of loss.  She said that the house was too quiet and she felt lonely.  But as much as I would love to have another dog, it’s way too soon, and I just want to be able spend some time with my family without the responsibility of caring for another pet right now.  I just want to be able to travel again, take over night trips, and enjoy life as a family of three once again, and now is a good time to do it.  It will also help us to finally find acceptance and recall all of the joyous memories that Princess and Jenna brought us.

 

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Farewell Princess


Just a little more than a day after her sister’s passing, Princess, our beloved Westie decided that it was time for her to leave us as well.   Princess was born on October 13th, 1999 in Shizuoka prefecture among a litter of five Westies, three females and two males.  Among the females, Princess was the most friendly, active, and rambunctious.  We were instantly in love with her and decided that she would be the one to come home with us.  Jenna was quiet and evasive and tried to avoid human contact, and for that nobody wanted her, except for us, so we adopted her too -and she became a lifetime companion, sister, rival, and best friend to Princess and us.

Princess loved people and was the most happiest when she was around us. She had a very sweet demeanor, and trusted everyone.  She would always snuggle up to us while we were asleep or just jump up and lick our faces without warning.  Often times when Haru was afraid to take a bath alone, Princess would comfort her by sitting outside by the door and keeping her company. She was playful, sweet, kind, gentle, comforting, funny, mischievous, and smart.

During the last few years of her life, she suffered from a number of ailments including cancer and hypoglycemia.  We tirelessly struggled to keep her well with numerous visits the vet and even surgery, but she finally succumbed to her illnesses earlier today.

Jenna and Princess were virtually inseparable during life, only being separated from each other when in the hospital.  They played together, ate together, slept together, and even traveled together.  It’s only fitting that they are inseparable in death as well.

Both will be furiously missed.  We will never forget you Princess and Jenna, and thanks for filling our home with love for the last 15 years and 11 months.

 

 


Fast Tube by Casper

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Heartbroken


It’s been a bit more than 24 hours since Jenna died, and I have been profoundly heartbroken and saddened.  From Jenna’s death, I learned something new about myself, and that is that I don’t handle death too well.  Fortunately for me, I have not been exposed to a death of a loved one too much death in my life.  As a matter of fact, I can only think of only two other instances when I was exposed to death: when my pet bird died when I was 9 years old and when when my grandfather passed away when I was 20 years old.

When my pet bird died, I think I was too young to realize that the bird was in fact a precious life.  I was more disgusted over having to dispose of the body, which in hindsight I realize I did in a very cruel and disrespectful way.  I wrapped in a ball of tissue and threw it into a dumpster.   I remember that my pet bird had died the day after I got my first dog, so my lack of grief could have been stemmed from the fact that I was too excited over having a new puppy.

I never had to face death with my first dog, because I had gone off to college and learned that my mom had given him away to someone else a short time later.   Although I never witnessed his death, I did grieve in the hopes the he got a proper send off when he eventually did die.  I occasionally do think about him and even quietly celebrate his birthday every year (August 9th, 1981).

My grandfather’s death was a bit more abrupt, and although I did grieve and cry at his funeral, in all honesty, in the 20 short years I knew him, I was never really close to him.  Probably in the 20 years I did know him, he literally said less that 30 words to me. The longest conversation we’ve ever had, was being when he asked me how school was (because I had just started college), and me responding with a one word answer: “good”.  The whole conversation was less than 10 seconds; and the longest conversation we’ve ever had.  So, my grief after my grandfather’s death was short lived and only came as a sense of sudden loss and disbelief rather than sorrow.

So as I said earlier, I didn’t had too much exposure to death in my life, and although that can be seen as a “good thing” conversely, it could be a not so good thing for me later in life, because that means I will eventually have to deal with it more later.

Princess has been sick for months, if not years (if you count her hypoglycemia condition) which is makes caring for her quite a challenge.  On top of that, when she had the growths removed from her face and stomach a few months ago, the vet told us that many of the growths were cancerous and had spread to her lungs, and would get progressively worse.  Because of this, in the last month, Princess’s breathing had grown very shallow.  My wife and I had  prepared for the inevitable for quite some time now, knowing that the moment could come really soon.  Because of this, our future plans to go on family trips really included finding care for Jenna, but not Princess, because we believed that Jenna would be would be around a while longer.

Then last Wednesday, when I returned home from work, and as I opened the door to the entrance of our house, I found Jenna panting and drooling heavily in the hallway and wandering around aimlessly.  Since she had arthritis in her hind quarters, I figured that she had been trying to jump up to up to the hallway, so I helped her up and lead her to her water dish where she took a very long drink of water.  However, things only got worse from there.

It was only a couple of days earlier when she had a seemingly insatiable appetite and was eating not only all of her food, but Princess’s food as well.  But after Wednesday, she had completely lost her appetite and refused to eat anything.  By Friday evening, Jenna had lost her eyesight and was bumping into walls and walking in circles, which was soon follow by completely losing her ability to walk.  At first, I thought this was because she had not taken a few rounds of her medication, because the symptoms were very similar to the Cushings Syndrome symptoms which she suffered from since 2013.  And by Saturday afternoon, she was completely bed ridden.

My wife and I had been taking turns sleeping in the leaving room to watch over Princess, although my wife had taken up much of the burden due to my work schedule.  But on Saturday night, I decided to be the one to stay up.   Although Jenna wasn’t too great of shape at the time, I had no idea she was so close to death.  If I had to put money on it, I would have bet that Princess would be the one pass away that morning.  I had fell asleep on the living room sofa at around 12:30am, and has woken up 3 hours later by the sound of one of the dogs drinking out of the water dish.  I looked up to see that it was Princess which was a relief, but when I went over to check on Jenna, she has already passed away, and her body had already grown cold.

I went to wake up my wife to notify of her of the truly saddening news, and her first reaction was that of disbelief -as to say, NOT Jenna!  But she was okay.  How could it be Jenna?  We both petted Jenna’s body, which was once full of life and energy just a few days earlier -both of us in disbelief that she was gone.  I don’t know if it was out of a sense of denial that this was actually happening, but I felt emotionless and stoic, whereas my wife was already in tears and obviously deeply saddened.  At the time, I thought,  this isn’t too bad, and I am taking this surprisingly well.  But after about an hour of petting Jenna and quietly thanking her for the 15 years and 11 months of happiness and joy she provided us, the reality finally caught up to me and I also broke down and cried.

Haru woke a few hours later, and her initial reaction to Jenna’s passing was very discomforting.  She just shrugged it off and had an “Oh well” type of reaction to it, as if this really didn’t concern her.  I didn’t really know how to react to her reaction -whether to get angry because she wasn’t grieving with us, or whether to be okay that she was more comfortable with death than we were.  She had a much more emotional reaction when the two cock roaches Japanese Beetles that she brought home from camp a couple of years ago had died after she left them outside in a plastic transparent case in the hot summer sun, but I think this was because she felt directly responsible for killing them.  Out of deep sense of remorse, she buried them by the Shinto shrine near our house and still thinks about those two dead insects from time to time.

My wife had made arrangements for cremation later that morning.  Until then we laid Jenna to rest on her blanket as if she were asleep, and said our final farewells.  By now, I was an emotional wreck and so was my wife.  I didn’t realize how much of an impact Jenna had on our lives.  We were both in our late 20’s, newly weds, and childless when we adopted our dogs.  They were like our daughters and we cared for them so much, almost to a fanatical degree.  Because of both Princess and Jenna, we made new friends, we learned to care, and most of all we learned how valuable all life is and passed that value down to our daughter, who refuses to even kill ants if they get into the house.

The pet cremation service service arrived at our house to pick up Jenna later that morning.  This was literally the most emotionally difficult thing I have ever done in my life.  I carried Jenna’s lifeless body and laid he down on the hallway flow near the entrance, and we all kneeled down around her to give our final goodbyes while weeping furiously.  Haru still seemed emotionless over the situation, although she had grown quiet.  We carried her outside, where the cremation truck had a small little prayer shrine built in.  We gave her incense and said a small prayer for her.  It was at the moment that the reality that Jenna would never be returning to us hit Haru, as she she began to weep with the rest of us.  I then realized that we all grieve differently, it all hits us at different times, and the sadness and sorrow lasts differently for all of us.

For me, its already Monday and I as sit at my desk at work and write this, I think about Jenna constantly and tear up every time I recall her lifeless body aboard the pet cremation service truck.  I am an emotional wreck and I feel as I am not in the right state of mind to even be at work.  I feel guilt for not being more intuitive to her dire condition and I can’t help but to think that perhaps there was more I could have done to help her or maybe even save her.  But even so, this would have only postponed the inevitable, and maybe even caused more suffering for her.   I also feel guilt for putting so much in emphasis on Princess thinking that she was in a more dire state, hence more important than Jenna was.  Had I known better, I would fed her better food, petted her more, comforted her more instead of shooing her off every time she tried to eat Princess’s food.  The guilt is so overwhelming sometimes and I know its not healthy to think so negatively but sometimes it just can’t be helped.  I just hope she didn’t die thinking that she wasn’t loved because it is very far from the truth, and me being sobbing emotional wreck is proof on that.

Jenna’s final resting place is in our living room her ashes are kept in a small little urn on top of a shelf.  Haru and I even bought some flowers yesterday on the way back from Haru’s gym practice and placed in near her small little memorial.  Although I feel sad every time I look at her memorial, I also feel comforted to know that she is there.

Rest in Peace Jenna.  We all love you and miss you terribly.

 

Edit: As I finished writing this, I got an email from my wife.  Late this morning, a little over a day after Jenna’s passing, Princess decided to follow.  I have no words, just deep profound grief.

Rest in Peace Princess. You will be missed and we will always love you dearly.

 

 

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Under the Knife…Again


For about the last couple of years, our dog Princess has had hypoglycemia and occasionally experiences hypoglycemic seizures.  At first, it was a scary sight to see when she would just suddenly keel over and go into uncontrollable convulsions that would last for several seconds, especially when we didn’t know the cause at the time.   After a lot of Googling for answers, we were able to assess that the she was indeed suffering from hypoglycemia and a blood test at the vet confirmed it.

Fast forward two years, and we now have Princess’s hypoglycemia pretty much under control by means of a controlled diet.  There are still times when she gets into a picky mood or has an upset stomach, and refuses to eat, which it turn causes her blood sugar level to drop.  But most of the time we are able to catch her seizure episodes before they go into a full grand mal mode, and give her a shot of glucose to bring it back under control.  Of course there are other rare times when we miss the signs completely and she seizes.

For the most part everything has been fairly controllable, but it has always haunted me as to what the root cause of the problem is.  I have research it until the ends of the earth and I could not find anything conclusive as to what the cause of the hypoglycemia is, so I just accepted as being a part of old age, even though hypoglycemia affects dogs of all ages.

Shortly after discovering that Princess has hypoglycemia, we noticed small growth on her face.  At the time, it was about the size of a pea, so I didn’t really panic too much.  I figured it was just a growth and it wouldn’t get much bigger than it was.  However, over time the growth of the growth seemed to accelerate, so we took her to the vet to get it examined.  They assured up that it was nothing to be alarmed about and that although visually unpleasing, it probably wouldn’t get any bigger.  A year later, the growth had grown to about the size of half of a walnut, and was now clearly visible.  We debated as to whether or not it would be worth having it removed.  We really wanted to have it removed, because it looked terrible.  However, since Princess was now 15 years old and also had hypoglycemia, there was a risk that the removal procedure could be fatal.

Then last month, we noticed some blood stains on the doggy bed that both Princess and Jenna shared.  At first, we had thought that one of the dogs had brought food into the bed, hence leaving the stain.  However no matter how many times the bed was washed, the stains would reappear.  We inspect both dogs to see if there were any wounds that may have been bleeding, and that’s when I noticed a small open wound on one of Princess’s underside.  I figure that she may have just bit or scratched herself, but even after a few days, the wound didn’t look to be healing and I was a bit worried about infection, especially with the warm weather ahead.

Again, we took Princess to the vet to have her wound examined, and was told that it was a cancerous growth.  Because it was cancerous, the wound would not heal on it’s own and needed to be surgically removed.  The vet also recommend also doing a complete mastectomy to reduce the chance of the cancer spreading to the other mammary glands.   This was also a good opportunity to finally get rid of the unsightly growth on her face as well.  Although we were reluctant to have Princess undergo surgery just for cosmetic purposes, this surgery was a necessity, so we opted to get it done.

So the next week, we took Princess in for her surgery, and said our final goodbyes to the big walnut on growing on her face.  I had a theory that perhaps some of these growths may be responsible for her hypoglycemia, because cancer cells need a lot of sugar to grow, often robbing the blood of its glucose content.  So I was hoping that we were killing not just two birds, but many birds with one stone.

After spending the day in the hospital, Princess came home with half of her face missing…well not quite.   In order to operate, the had to shave half her face, which made her look more like a toy poodle than a westie.  But what was pleasantly obvious was the big walnut was no longer there.  Despite looking like a show poodle, he looked so much better, and I was so glad that we finally were able to get her face fixed.

Unfortunately, analysis of some the cancerous cells removed showed that they are malignant, and have spread throughout her body.  So although the removal of some of the visible cancers does help, there are other inoperable cancers that exist and could be trouble for her in the future.  For now, they seem to be dormant, and I really hope that they stay that way for a while, but there is no telling when they can flare up again.

For now, I just want to enjoy looking at Princess’s tumor free face once again.

 

 

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Disneyland….Again


Its seems as if Disneyland is now a family tradition, because we have been going there every year on Haru’s birthdaysince Haru was 2 years old.  We really wanted to do something different this year, like go to the new Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studio in Osaka.  Unfortunately, we decided against it for two reasons:  #1.  Waaaaay too crowded.  The attraction just opened last summer, so it’s insanely crowded and hardly worth the trip.  #2.  The dogs (especially Princess) can’t make the trip in their conditions, and they are too old to get a dog sitter to watch them.  So again, we settle for Disneyland.

But even with Disneyland, it was a bit of a challenge in strategizing on how to go about the day.  First of all, we needed to figure out how to deal with Princess’s hypoglycemia.  At most, she can only go 6 to 8 hours without eating something, or without a dose of glucose.  We estimated that we would be away from the house at least 13 to 14 hours, which meant that Princess would probably have a hypoglycemic seizure sometime in the middle of the day and possibly again in the evening.  This wasn’t good!

The biggest problem was that both Princess and Jenna will eat all of the food that is placed in front of them, so we couldn’t just give them a whole lot of food and and expect them to self-ration throughout the day.  Chances were very high, they would have eaten their whole meat within the first few minutes.

I tried to think of ways of putting together some kind of device that would pull a lid off of their food bowls at a certain time.  I experimented by tying a plastic lid to the hour hand of an old to see if it had enough power to pull the lid off after a certain time, but of course it didn’t work.  The dogs would probably just knock the lid once they figured out what was underneath.

I searched online for a solution and found exactly what I was looking for on Amazon.com.  Basically, it was a food bowl with a lid that is connected to timer.  When the timer reached a certain time, the lid pops up exposing the food underneath.   The timer can be set up to 12 hours ahead of time.  The best part is that there are two bowls and two different timer, so I can set one to open in the afternoon, and one late in the evening.  It was the perfect solution and didn’t cost much, so I ordered one.

The timer/doggy bowl thingy arrived the next day, and it worked well, but it brought up a new concern.  Even if the timer worked perfectly and the bowls open like they should, how do we know which dog will their food, assuming that they would even wake up and eat at all.  There was a strong probably that Jenna would both servings.  I struggled all day to think of way to make sure that Princess did eat at least one of the servings, but aside from separating the dogs into separate rooms, there was no way to make sure she would eat when the timer went off.  It was a risk we had to take.

As precaution, I set up the webcam we used as a baby monitor when Haru was a baby.  I pointed the camera to the dog bowls and set up our iphones so that we could monitor the dogs while were away for the day.

The next day was Disneyland day.  Still concerns of whether Princess will wake up and eat before Jenna does was brewing in my head.  I tested the web camera and the iphones again to make sure that they worked, and they did.  We were able to see the dog bowls and the bed where both Princess slept using our iphones.  If by chance, we could see that Princess wasn’t eating, or that there was evidence of her having had a seizure, we would have to cut the day a bit short and come home early.  I was really hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but we all realized this is something we would have to prepare.

Disneyland was more crowded than ever.   We left the house at around 7AM, expecting to get to get there a little after 8AM.  As we got closer and closer to Urayasu, traffic got slower and slower until we were at complete stand still.  We realized that the jam we were stuck in was the line to exit to Disneyland, and we were still a quite a distance away.  Overall, we must have been stuck in traffic for over an hour, and we eventually arrived at Disneyland at just before 10AM.   The park was already packed, and lines were already very long by the time we got in.  We decided that we wouldn’t make getting on the rides such a high priority, but rather just take it easy and just enjoy the park itself.

At about noon, I checked my iPhone to see if the first timer had opened the dog dish.  However, when I checked my phone, all I could see was what looked like a closeup of a wooden floor.  No matter how I tried to move the camera remotely, I couldn’t get a clear picture of anything.  When we got home that evening, I discovered that one of the dogs must have knocked over the camera and it was facing face down towards the floor.

I was very concerned that, since I couldn’t see anything through the camera and I couldn’t tell if Princess had woken up or not, that Princess would not wake up to eat her food.  I was debating on whether to leave Haru and my wife at Disneyland while I rushed home to check on them (potentially a 3 hour round trip), or to just risk Princess having a hypoglycemic seizure.

We decided to have lunch at the Alice in Wonderland restaurant.   While we were taking our break from the activities at the park, I checked my phone again.  This time I noticed that there was light being reflected off of the floor into the camera lens. I quickly realized that this was the bathroom light.  The bathroom light is hooked up to a motion sensor, so if it detect movement in the hallway, the light will automatically turn on.  We got this a few years ago because Haru was still too short to reach the wall switch.  So this meant that one of the two dogs must have walked towards the dog dish within the last 5 minutes or so.  I decided to just risk it and not bother going home.  Even if wasn’t Princess who woke up, she would have another change in another few hours when the timer on the second dog dish goes off.

We didn’t really have the opportunity ride on too many rides.  We spent most of the day taking pictures and doing other activities like participating in a How to Draw Mickey Mouse class.  I think Haru enjoyed that class the most.  Overall, it wasn’t a bad day, and everyone had fun.

On the way home, I was dreading the worst.   I could see three possible scenarios: 1. Princess sleeping through the entire day and nothing happened.  2.  Princess had one or two seizures and she is laying on the floor probably drenched in her own urine (which of course I hoped did not happen). Or 3. Princess woke up and ate her food as planned and she is perfectly okay.

When we got home, amazingly Princess was awake and waiting for us by the door.  Both dog dishes were empty and there were no signs that Princess had a seizure, so everything worked according to plan.  Overall, it was a big win for all of us.

 

 

 

 

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Fall is Here Again


September is here…finally.  But having said this, summer seemed unusually short this year.  This is in part due to the usually long monsoon season that lasted until mid July.  Things started cooling off by the last week of August, and now it pretty much rains everyday so the weather has been quite cool.  I’m not too keen on hot weather, especially hot and humid weather which is common in Japan, so this for me is a welcomed change.

Around this time last year, we had planned to take a trip to Mikazuki onsen, because Haru had been wanting to take an overnight trip somewhere.  But unfortunately, with both Princess and Jenna (our beloved but aging westies) had both fallen ill, we had to cancel our trips which had deeply disappointed Haru to the point where she was wishing away their existence.

Although we kind of found a work around to Princess’s ailment, and that was to basically keep her GI (glucose index) in check by feeding her high glucose foods (which we still do to this day), Jenna was another story.  She had lost her ability to walk, and eventually she was no longer able stand or even move at all.  The vets told us it would be a minor miracle is she even survives until the end of the year, let alone ever walk again.

Fast forward one year, and $3000 in vet bills later, and not only is Jenna still alive despite the death sentence our vets handed down to her last year, she is alive and walking again.  As a matter of fact she is even running again.  She isn’t in perfect condition of course, she still walks with a slight limp, and she is still unable to walk up steps, but she is able to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom by herself which is far more important.   This “minor miracle” baffled all of the vets at the animal hospital.  They told us that if they hadn’t seen it for themselves -if they hadn’t seen the condition she was in last year, and the condition she is in now, they would not have believed it was possible. She had a slipped vertebrae which takes a very long time to heal even for younger healthier dogs -and sometimes they don’t heal at all, so owners often put their dogs to sleep.  She has Cushing Syndrome caused by a possible inoperable tumor in her brain.  And she has arthritis in her hind quarters, which the vets said was probably causing her a lot of pain.  She had a long laundry list of health issues, none of which was going to get better because she was too old to recover -so said the vets.

Despite the vets advising us to seriously consider putting her to sleep, I made the very difficult decision not to listen.  I decided that the line would be drawn if one of two things happened:  1. She loses her appetite and no longer has the desire to eat, or 2. She is in so much pain that its not worth keeping her alive.  Jenna never lost her appetite.  As a matter of fact, if anything her appetite was bigger than ever, often out eating Princess.  She never seemed to be in pain either.  We would pick her up and move her about pretty freely and she never yelped or tried to bite us, or do anything that indicted she was in any sort of pain.  So as long as she had the will and the strength to live, and as long as  we could afford to keep her alive, I was willing to keep her alive.  And less than six months later, she was walking again.

So, one year later, we are going to try to take our trip again.  We are confident that both dogs are healthy enough to travel, although we’ll need to monitor Princess’s diet carefully to make sure that she doesn’t go into a hypoglycemic seizure.  we’ve been pretty good at being able to catch her before she goes into a full seizure, and the quick fix is to give her some vanilla ice cream coated with powdered sugar which has a very high glucose index.  We’re not even worried about Jenna.  She is pretty healthy and a trip away from the house would do her good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OT:Doggy Dilemma


It started around two weeks ago shortly after Haruka and my wife returned from their spring vacation to Yamaguchi.  The dogs has stayed home with me, because I had to take care of business at work, and couldn’t really go anywhere this year.

Princess, one of our beloved Westies, was sleeping on the living room floor as she normally does, while I was outside working on our wood deck.  As she got up to move to a different part of the room, apparently she lost her balance and fell.  Since our dogs are so small, there is no real danger of injuries if they fall over, but it was really strange that she even fell in the first place.  My wife witnessed the whole incident and immediately noticed that something was wrong with Princess.  She was disorientated, as if she didn’t know where she was, and she was twitching and convulsing.  Not quite understanding what was going on with her, my wife immediately took her outside in the hopes that some fresh air may revive her and help to get her orientation back.

They returned a few minutes later, and my wife called me in from the deck.  Princess was still very disorientated, and had trouble walking.  She would walk into furniture and other obstacles as  if she were blind.  When I waved my hand in from of her face, she did not respond; it was clear that she was unable to see me.  We placed her on the sofa, but she tried to jump off, probably because she was frighted from the the sudden loss of sight.  I tried to remain calm but I was really frightened for her.  I tried to keep her stationary on the sofa, and comforted her by petting her and ensuring her that we were nearby.  After a few minutes, she began to calm down.  She seemed to be regaining her orientation again, so I waved an object in front of her face again, and she was able to track it with her eyes again, so it looked as if she had regained her vision back.

After about 30 minutes, Princess seemed to be back to normal.  She was able to see, and walk straight.  She even got her appetite back.  Puzzled, I wasn’t too sure what to make of what just happened.  Prior to the brief but very scary incident, I was weatherproofing the deck with wood sealer, so I thought that maybe the fumes had made her sick.  For the rest of the day, she was perfectly normal, so I didn’t think too much of it after that.  But, that wasn’t the end of it.

Princess had gone a few days without incident.  Then, one night, my wife and I were up later than usual watching TV.  Both Princess and Jenna were in the living room sleeping as usual.  At about 1AM, we went upstairs to prepare for bed.  Princess and Jenna slept in their usual place out in the hallway in their doggy beds.  About an hour later, as I was falling asleep, I was awakened by noises coming from the hallway downstairs.  It sounded like one of the dogs was pacing back and forth down the hall.  I figured that one of them was having problems getting comfortable or perhaps something (like noise from the outside or maybe the light in the toilet -which has a motion sensor that turns on the light when it senses movement, had awakened them.  However, the pacing persisted for several minutes and it didn’t seem like it was going to let up.

Knowing that I would not be able to sleep until I knew what was happening, I went downstairs to investigate.  When I got to the downstairs hallway, I saw Princess at the end of the hallway pacing aimlessly.  After a few seconds, she finally noticed me,  and she walked up and started to whimper.   I immediately noticed that her face was wet, especially around her mouth.  She had been panting and drooling heavily.

I took her into the living room and immediately gave her fresh dish of water, but she refused to drink.  She just continued to whimper and crawled up onto my lap.  I petted her for few minutes to try to comfort her, and at that moment I realized that she probably had just had another incident.  I went upstairs and woke up my wife, because I wasn’t sure if Princess was going to be okay or not.  We both tried to comfort Princess, but she  continued to act confused and disorientated.  I don’t think she realized what time of day it was because she kept prompting us and Jenna (who was half asleep) to play.  We tried for several minutes to get her to go back to sleep, but she was very energetic and wanted to play.  We had no choice but to try to tire her out so she would sleep, so we took her for a fairly long walk at 2:30 in the morning.

We leashed up both Princess and Jenna and took them for a walk around the neighborhood.  Initially, it was just going to be a quick trot around the block, Princess was so abnormally hyper that she probably wouldn’t have gone to sleep had we returned home too early.  So we wound up taking a nearly 45 minute walk in the middle of the night.  Jenna was already clearly very tired and wanted  sleep, and so were we, but Princess probably could have gone on for several more minutes if we had let her.  But after a while, we decided that enough was enough and we returned home.  Princess was still in a playful mood, so we turned off every single light (including the motion sensing light in the toilet) and left the dogs to get to sleep on their own.  After a few minutes, Princess seemed to have tired out and eventually went to sleep.

The next morning, my wife and contemplated on whether or not to take her to the vet.  But we both agreed that all the vet would do is tell us that Princess is an aging dog, and that it could be any number of things.  So I did what anyone else would have done in the modern age of computers.  I Googled her symptoms (the wandering around in the middle of the night, wanting to play at odd hours, inexhaustible energy, sleeplessness etc.) and I came up with Canine Dementia.   Although the symptoms weren’t a perfect match, it seemed to be close to Princess’s behavior the previous night, so we started treating her ailment as being canine dementia.  The treatment is similar to that of human dementia, and that is to expose her to as much stimuli as possible.  Frequent walks, and exposure to other dogs, and as much attention we could possibly give her.  But it was the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

Over the next week, Princess had 2 more seizures -once in the middle of the day, and then again in the middle of the night a few days later.  And again, we had the challenge of trying to get her back to sleep again.  By now, I was really concerned.  This was definitely not canine dementia, nor anything associated with old age, or exposure to household chemicals.  I had spent several hours online at this point researching and narrowed it down to few possible illnesses: kidney or liver failure, a brain tumor, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  I didn’t even want to believe that it could be a brain tumor, but the symptoms were uncomfortably very close to what she was experiencing.  If it was a brain tumor, there is no cure aside from surgery.  This would be very costly, because it would involve expensive CAT or MRI brain scans, then surgery in which there would be a high probability of death during the procedure because of her age.  kidney or liver failure would only be marginally better.  At least they can be treated with medication or maybe less invasive surgery.  Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) would in this case be the best case scenario.  The treatment requires no surgery or drugs.  It would be a matter of just changing what she eats,assuming that there are no other underlying problems.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the opportunity to test my theory. Shortly after I read the articles about the effects of hypoglycemia on dogs, Princess had another seizure.   This time it lasted about 20 minutes.  Although it lasted much longer than the previous seizures, it was less violent, and Princess seemed more coherent and less disorientated than the last few times.  We decided not to take chances this time, and to take her to the vet to get an expert analysis.  My wife had to take Haru to one of her events so we agreed to meet later at the vets office.  Princess slept for about an hour after her last seizure.  I still believed that my hypothesis was correct and that Princess was suffering from hypoglycemia, so I fed Princess some high GI (glucose index or foods with high complex sugar contents) foods.  I gave her some dog biscuits that were dipped in honey, which she loved, and a piece of banana.   I noticed that she seemed to recover really quick after that, and she immediately became more coherent and aware of her surroundings.  Before I loaded her into the car, I gave her another lick of honey (which is a quick fix for hypoglycemic animals and people.)

As expected, the vet gave the same dreadful talk about how Princess is an aging dog, and that her illness could one of many things -basically information I already knew, and got for free from surfing the internet.  Eventually, after condemning Princess to death, she suggested that she take a blood sample so that we could get a more definitive answer to what it may be (or what it isn’t) so that we don’t have to keep speculating.  So we agreed to a blood test, which in my mind was the best thing we took away from this visit to the vet.

The blood test came back as negative for, chemical poisoning, and liver and kidney failure, which was a relief.  Everything else was normal except for blood sugar level.   According to the vet, the blood sugar level should not be any lower than 60mg/dL; Princess was at 50mg/dL.  The vet said that 50mg/dL is pretty low, but would not be low enough to cause a seizure.  For a moment, I was discouraged and upset because I thought that would be conclusive evidence that all of these seizures were caused by her sugar levels.  But then, I remembered that prior to coming to the vet’s office, I had given Princess a dog biscuit and some honey -both very high in glucose (complex sugar) so her sugar level should have spiked before her blood test.  When I explained that to the vet, she agreed that the blood sugar level may have been low enough to have caused a seizure.  Although its still just a theory, I think its a storng one with good evidence behind it now.

As a precautionary measure, the vet prescribed some anti-seizure medication which we give to Princess twice a day.  This isn’t a miracle drug, and it takes long time for it to build up within the system for it to take effect, so we won’t be able to see the affects of it for weeks.  In the meantime, we have been feeding both Princess and Jenna three small high glucose meals in addition to their two regular meals every day.  We can already see a difference in the behavior in both dogs.  They sleep less, seem less fatigued, and much more energetic.  Although its only been four days, Princess has yet to have another seizure, and I feel pretty confident that she probably won’t (cross fingers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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