I Miss You

September 25, 2012  

StubbyDog’s volunteer editor shares her story of grieving after losing her beloved pit bull

By Micaela Myers

Our elderbull Rocky is about 10 years old and has been through many medical trials and tribulations, including two knee surgeries, back surgery and exploratory abdominal surgery. The knee and back surgeries years ago have left him with bad arthritis, and we are daily faced with the fact he is aging, and within the next few years we will have to say goodbye.

We weren’t thinking that way yet with our 7-year-old pit bull mix, Omega, a certified therapy dog. But on July 12, that all changed, and we were suddenly hit with the terrible and profound grief of losing her unexpectedly.

Here, I share a little of my experience and some of the things that have helped me grieve.

How it Went Down

Growing up with animals, I have had to say goodbye before, and in the past the decision on whether it’s time is often the hardest part – the idea of playing God and making that call is an impossible one. But in the case of Omega, her downward spiral was so fast and severe, I wanted to put her out of her misery as soon as possible. The decision was clear.

What hit me was guilt – guilt and regret that I could have made better, more informed decisions earlier on. You see, several months before she died Omega had a series of seizures. The vet said that it might be epilepsy and that we could do an MRI but that often they show nothing because epilepsy doesn’t show up on MRI. Alternately, he said we could just put her on anti-seizure medication and see what happened. (She never had any more seizures.)

I didn’t ask a lot of questions, and I didn’t research things. Perhaps if I researched, I would have found out that a brain tumor might be more likely than sudden epilepsy at her age (which is what the emergency vet later told us).

Maybe if we’d dug more, we would have known that the changes we were seeing in her after the seizures were not side effects of the potassium bromide, as the vet suggested, but further signs of a brain tumor. As it was, one Thursday night after her walk (which she did fine on), she lost more and more coordination, then couldn’t get up, then couldn’t walk, then began crying. We rushed her to emergency, and the vet there guessed a brain tumor or brain cancer and suggested we see a neurologist the next morning.

I held her all night as she writhed and cried. She was uncomfortable and distressed. Her condition was such that the next morning I was ready to put her down. But the vet thought we should check her potassium bromide levels just in case they were elevated enough to possibly explain some of this. But her incoordination was complete on the right side and not the left, and so none of us thought this likely. He said if it were his dog, he would always have a nagging feeling if he didn’t wait the 24 hours for the test results. He said he could keep her comfortable, but when I picked her up she was screaming. I have never seen an animal so distressed. That night, we put her down at the emergency vet’s before the potassium bromide results came back. I regretted so much not learning more in the beginning, and I felt terrible guilt for having her suffer those extra 12 hours for nothing.

Stages of Grief

People tried to comfort me. And I knew I had made those decisions with the best intentions. I had done the best I could in those moments. But hindsight is 20/20. There are things I wish I’d done differently.

In the six weeks since, the terrible guilt has lessened somewhat as I keep repeating to myself, “I made the best decisions I could with the information I had at the time and in the moment.” I hope I have learned from the mistakes I made. These thoughts help a bit.

Most of all, it was hard to get the suffering out of my mind. It was impossible not to remember her writhing and screaming. To combat that, I made this video celebrating her life. I wanted to replace the haunting memories with the good ones of our many wonderful years together. Making and sharing the video was very therapeutic for me. I posted it on Facebook and emailed it to everyone who would care. I received back amazing messages, and that too was therapeutic – to know so many people cared and that she’d touched so many lives.

Then, as the days stretch on, you’re left with missing them – pure missing. I kept thinking of all the things I missed about her, all the little things that made her so special. I was afraid somehow that I would forget them over time, and I didn’t want to. I began to write her the letter below, which I still add to. Writing the letter was also therapeutic.

My advice in a nutshell? While nothing can make the pain go away but time, I think celebrating their life, sharing your feelings and doing something creative can help. It doesn’t have to be writing or a video – could be a scrapbook (a friend made me one), a painting, a memory box or another memorial. That is what I’ve learned so far. I hope it helps you when you need it. For now, give your furbabies a big hug.

A Letter to Omega

Dear Omega,

I miss you.

I miss the way you would sit in the recliner with your head on the wooden armrest.

I miss the way you’d follow me with those big doe eyes, and in the last few weeks, you’d keep your nose gently on my leg as I walked.

I miss lying in bed with you, cuddling, and the way you’d move if I moved to keep your body against mine. Spooning was your favorite.

I miss the way you’d get so excited before dinner or a walk or when treats were out that you didn’t know what to do with yourself and you’d shake with excitement. If we’d play bow back to you, you’d bow or box or jump or run.

I miss the map of your body – the notch at the bottom of your ribcage, where it opened up into your soft stomach, the bump on your left side that I would feel as I lay beside you, stroking you, and the dent on your left shoulder where your microchip used to be. I can feel each in the memory of my fingers.

I miss the way you could jump in the air like Tigger – like there were springs on your paws.

I miss the way you’d lay upside down, on the floor, the bed, the couch – wiggling around if you were happy.

I miss your calm energy around the house – the kind of peaceful love you exuded.

I miss touching your soft velvety ears.

I miss looking into your big, brown, knowing eyes.

I miss kissing your face.

I miss the way you’d give me a perfect “watch me” and care about nothing else in the world if we were practicing our training. Treats worked but so did baby talk. You loved baby talk and would heel – looking up into my eyes and prancing along.

I miss that way you pranced. Everyone commented on it. A happy little jig. Your ears would bounce, one more than the other, one more up than the other.

I miss the way you were always in the garden sunning yourself. And when you’d hear us coming with the sunscreen, you’d roll over so we could rub it in.

I miss the way no matter how crazy your brother would act, you’d stay calm, like “What’s all the fuss about? It’s just another dog.”

I miss the way you learned to give us kisses – on command or just when you felt like it.

I miss the way we could pick you up or put you on our lap or cuddle you, and you’d melt into us like butter. You trusted us completely.

I am so sorry you suffered at the end. I’m sorry I hadn’t researched what could be wrong more. I’m sorry I didn’t know it was a brain tumor. I’m sorry I didn’t help you cross the rainbow bridge sooner, before you suffered so long. I’m sorry I didn’t trust my instincts more. I’m sorry I didn’t question the vets more. I’m sorry.

I hope you are up in a doggie heaven, where there are angels to cuddle and love you and rub your belly until we meet again. I hope there is sunshine you can rest in all day and the softest of couches to curl up in at night. I hope there are dogs to play with when you’re in the mood – Nylabones you can share, stuffed toys you can rip apart, lizards you can stomp out of the bushes. I hope you will be there to greet me when the time comes.

I miss you with all my heart. You were the most beautiful, gentle, loving, peaceful, calm, precious being I have ever met in my whole life. And when you felt joy or playfulness, it was such a gift to watch.

I miss the way you’d get the zoomies, and if we could let you off leash, you’d run in big circles, zooming straight for us, just experiencing the joy of running, of freedom, of trusting and loving the people you were with – your family.

I loved you purely and completely.

I miss you Omega. I will always love you. There is an Omega-shaped space inside my heart.

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38 Responses to “I Miss You”
  1. Omega was blessed having you in her life.  I pray you find comfort in knowing that Omega is safe, running & jumping free over the Rainbow Bridge. Dream of her often and laugh at her antics just as much as you dream of her!

  2. Omega was blessed having you in her life.  I pray you find comfort in knowing that Omega is safe, running & jumping free over the Rainbow Bridge. Dream of her often and laugh at her antics just as much as you dream of her!

  3. Omega was blessed having you in her life.  I pray you find comfort in knowing that Omega is safe, running & jumping free over the Rainbow Bridge. Dream of her often and laugh at her antics just as much as you dream of her!

  4. Anne says:

    Micaela, the video, the photos, the poem –each and every one, touches me deeply.  Thank you for sharing your time with her and your grieving process.

  5. larshine says:

    What a beautiful and moving tribute to Omega. She was so clearly loved and beloved, and she had to have known it right through to the end. As she runs free now, try and take some comfort in knowing how your love story with her has touched so many others as well. Someday you will be with her again – what a wonderful thing to look forward to!

  6. ileenie3 says:

    Micaela, it is obvious the immense love you had for your beautiful baby. Your video, letter and memories of her that you shared with the Stubby Dog Community was moving. In April I lost my beautiful pit bull, Tyson to brain cancer at the age of seven.. Tyson was chosen as ‘Mr. March’ for Stubby Dog’s 2010 calendar. We fostered him when he came in to our local shelter as an abuse case and then adopted him when his separation anxiety deemed him “not adoptable” and he would be slated for euthanasia. Tyson showed no symptoms to us until the night before he died. The emergency vet could not find the cause of his symptoms that evening so we took him home and brought him to our vet the next day. At that point he had gone completely blind and could barely stand. Those images of him hurting and scared still haunt me but we held him as he peacefully went to the rainbow bridge. I understand your feelings completely. I wish he did not have to suffer at all. I wish he had more time to enjoy his life. To this day I feel like I might have missed something even though the vet assures me otherwise. Your letter to Omega has inspired me to write my own to Tyson whether I share it with those I know loved him, or keep it for myself. Thank you for posting this story as I am certain it was difficult for you to write. It helped me realize again that I am not alone. May you be always comforted by your happy memories.

    • micaelamyers says:

      ileenie3 Thank you. It sounds like you went through something similar with Tyson. I did find writing her the letter helpful and hope it helps you too. I appreciate your note 🙂

  7. BaltimoreGal says:

    That omega-shaped space will always be there, I imagine, but I know you wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for sharing this beautiful letter with us.

    • micaelamyers says:

      BaltimoreGal Yes, we will always remember her and are thankful she was a part of our lives. Thank you for the note.

  8. mansbstfrend says:

    wow….wata story of love, she was indeed a beautiful soul, so sorry 4 yor loss, i can jus imagine yor greif…yor video is so lovely i feel i alredy know omega. …shes happily playn at the rainbow bridge…

  9. barbaraleeanderson07090 says:

    Being the mama of a 12-year old elderbull (Diva), Micaela, I’m crying right now.  I know that I will have to face this same sorrow one day.  My love, prayers, and thoughts are with you as you mourn.  I also await, with you, the day when the pain begins to lessen and those beautiful memories of Omega flood your heart and mind.  Omega is surely in a beautiful place right now, waiting for the day you two will run together.  As Will Rogers put it, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” 

    • micaelamyers says:

      barbaraleeanderson07090 Thank you for the good wishes. Yes, with our elderbull Rocky and your girl Diva, it is so hard to watch them get old 🙁 But definitely treasuring our time together. 

  10. Damera says:

    As hard as this article was for you to write, please know how much it has helped others.  I lost my boy unexpectedly this year and grieving is hard enough without throwing in the doubt of whether or not we made the right decision…  “I made the best decisions I could with the information I had at the time and in the moment.” is an important thing for me to remember – and for that I thank you!I hope your loss gets a bit easier each day :)And I think I need to go write a letter to my Big Red now…

    • micaelamyers says:

      Damera Thank you. I’m so glad you found it helpful. That was my hope – that someone might find it helpful for their journey. I definitely recommend writing it out. Hope your Big Red is romping with Omega somewhere wonderful 🙂

  11. JoshLiddySwayLove says:

    Devastating. Again, I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to Omega. And so sorry for your grief in this long and drawn out aftermath. Ahh, I know these feelings all too well. Dogs are so incredible. You are also incredible. Omega definitely knew that. If we were able to ask a dog one thing that they loved about life, I’d be willing to bet my actual life that their answer would be time and time again how much they loved their person. You were Omega’s. She knew that that love was mutual. She still knows. This is a forever thing.

    • micaelamyers says:

      JoshLiddySwayLove Thanks Josh. That means a lot. And I know you have definitely been through this before. I appreciate your note. 

  12. SueCraneBryan says:

    I just lost my old girl in August..it really was the hardest decision I ever made..I did not like playing God. Angel also had seizures..swollen belly..hard time breathing..it all happened so quick just like yours..6 weeks from start to finish. I wasn’t ready for my old girl to go..she was only 12.5..lol But I made the decision finally..she deserved to be out of pain..out of breath no more. She loved to run and that is how I picture her..I was with her when she took her last breath and I am grateful for that. She gave us unconditional love her whole life. I miss her..<3 I send you hugs..you did the right things…second guessing yourself now will not help you.Omega knew you loved her and she knew you didn’t want her to be in pain..I am sorry for your loss..thanks for sharing your story..<3

    • micaelamyers says:

      SueCraneBryan Aw, I’m sorry you lost your girl too. Thank you for the note. I too hope they are romping happily somewhere 🙂

  13. adoremydogs says:

    As said many times, you did the best you could, with what you had.  The dearest gift I’ve ever been given, loaned actually, showed up at my back door as a puppy and was taken from me just 4 years, too short a time, later.  She literally dropped dead at my feet, no warning, no symptoms, just gone.  (This little angel had brought my cold damaged heart back from a very dark place and then was just gone)  My loss, my pain in losing Gracie was not getting to say goodbye.  I’ve also made the decision to end the pain, as many others, and know the guilt and second-quessing of my decision.  I think it’s all part of sharing your heart.  You’ll find that time does heal, or softens, the pain that goes with loss.  You just do the best you can at the moment….. 

    • micaelamyers says:

      adoremydogs They do bring so much to our lives despite how hard it is when they leave. Thanks for the note

  14. JanetHill says:

    This is so beautiful. We had to put our 12 1/2 year old Mercy to sleep in July and so we share in your grief. I made a photobook of all the pictures we had of her and we like to take it out and laugh and remember all the wonderful times.You did your best and you did it all out of love and Omega wants you happy. I believe we will all see our furbabies again.

    • micaelamyers says:

      JanetHill The photos definitely help to remember their lives. Sorry for your loss as well. Thank you for posting. 

  15. ReneeMKeller says:

    Thank you for sharing your story.  My heart breaks for you.  The letter you wrote to Omega was beautiful.  So very touching.  She will always be in your heart and you will always be in hers.  She is free from pain now and running free with the other pups, waiting, at the bridge.I already know how many things I will miss when I have to let go of my girl.  Its funny, but Ill even miss her taco toes!!!  

    • micaelamyers says:

      ReneeMKeller Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all these lovely notes. 

  16. SharonIsaacs says:

    Wow. What a beautiful letter. I still struggle with the guilt of a decision I made with one of my beloved kitties and I truly appreciate you sharing your story here. The unconditional love of an animal is such an amazing, wonderful gift. I’m sure Omega knew how much she was loved, as my Marley did as well…(and I can really envision the prance, I imagine that’s exactly what she’s doing right now). Thanks again for sharing. 

    • micaelamyers says:

      SharonIsaacs It was a cute prance! Thank you so much for your comments. Guilt it useless they say, but nonetheless it’s hard to get rid of!  All the best to you.

  17. Chrisparsons says:

    I’m so very sorry for you’re loss, I’m in the same thing right now I’ve been rescuing pits for 14 yrs and my old gal the irst dog I rescued was a bait dog and I kept her but now her time has come and I hate paying god! I loved you’re video and letter it helped me greatly. God bless you and Omega.this is like a living hell to have to make that call, but its for the best, again thanks for sharing!

    • micaelamyers says:

      Chrisparsons I’m sorry you’re going through that. It definitely is a hard decision to make. My thoughts are with you, and thank you for your note. 

  18. Chrisparsons says:

    Sorry Michaela for leaving out your name initially while posting lol sorry.

  19. Matt.S says:

    Moving story. Coping with grief is different for everyone. Your grieving proccess is helping you and that’s all that matters. thank you for sharing this personal experience with us. The letter is touching.

  20. Chrisparsons says:

    I just received an ode to all our dogs from the man at the crematorium and I would make copies for anyone who would like a copy its called a Dogs Plea it’s hard to read but also rather cathartic, it only been two weeks since I had to put my gal down but the poem comforts one. Imat chrisparsons01@gmail.com

    • StubbyDog says:

      @Chrisparsons so sorry for your loss Chris, and thank you for your offer to share your poem. We are glad you find comfort in it and the memories of your pup.

  21. LilisNotes says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine how it feels to lose a best friend, a soul mate. Thank you for sharing your story. Omega and Rockey are beautiful; the video you made is beautiful.