One Year Later: The Grief Continues

By Tina Michelle Cameron 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of making the difficult decision to send my sweet Haley Michelle-my beloved Yorkie over the Rainbow Bridge. My first blog was about her because it was so fresh and raw; today, one year later, it is still so painful. Pet grief is real. People that are not dog lovers do not understand. Haley was in my life for almost ten years. She brought such joy to my life and to my sons lives (even though they thought she was a girl’s dog and thought I was crazy to dress her up in dresses). They grew to love her and even talked sweet baby talk to her. She was always so happy to see them when they came home and couldn’t wait to greet them at the door when they returned home from college for the weekend.

Call me crazy, but Haley was “my daughter I never had”. I often joked I didn’t have to send her to college, I could take her places with me, dress her up in dresses, pajamas and Haley 2hair-bows (she hated the hair-bows and could shake them out in about 10 seconds). She loved cheese and knew where it was located. Like clockwork every morning, she would go potty and then return and sit in front of the fridge until she got a small bite of a cheese stick. When she was a puppy, every night, she would carry her baby (stuffed animal) up to bed. She would go tell the boys goodnight and sit outside their door until they told her goodnight.

Haley was sick from 8 months on with several major illnesses and each time she would get sick, I thought it was going to be time to say goodbye. She went into liver failure at age 2 and I was told she would not live to be four. So, I decided she would eat whatever her little heart desired. Besides cheese, she loved Cheetos and chicken. In a million years, I never thought at almost 10 years old, her liver enzymes would be normal, and she would be diagnosed with a rare pancreatic cancer. This cancer would ravage her tiny body. First, with weight loss (despite having a great appetite), then with low blood sugars, seizures, no appetite for food or water followed by bleeding. Twelve days after diagnosis, I made the difficult decision to end her suffering. I wrapped her inHaley 1 one of her blankets, held her and told her how much I loved her through the tears. Before I could get the words “I’m not ready yet” out of my mouth, the second medicine was given by the vet and it was over. The sweet vet tech took a picture of me holding her just before that and Haley perked up for a second, looked at the camera (she hated having pictures taken) and appeared to be smiling and at peace. I know I did the humane thing by ending her suffering, but my heart still hurts. I still cry when I think about her. My sweet daddy came over that afternoon and we buried her in my backyard. I allowed my other pets to see her and say goodbye. I made her burial site a little flower garden which makes me smile when I look at it.

Peyton grieving for Haley

Peyton grieving the loss of Haley

The loss of a pet is real and painful-not just for the owners, but also for the other pets in the family. Peyton, my other Yorkie is still not herself. She stares out the window for most of the day, doesn’t play like she used to, and will cry on my lap for no apparent reason. I know with time, my grief will get easier, but for now it is still painful. Writing about her today on the first anniversary has helped me get through the day.

Dogs Leave Paw Prints on Our Hearts

by Tina Michelle Cameron

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Fluffy

I have owned 13 dogs in my life. All of them have touched my life in their own unique way, but some have left their paw prints on my heart forever. My Nanny gave me a dog when I was nine-years-old. He was a tiny ball of white fluff, so his name became Fluffy. He was a Cock-a-Poo. He was my everything as a child and would play hide-and-seek with me and my brother. He would cuddle with me at night and was there to comfort me if I had a bad day.

He went missing for two weeks when I was a teenager. My family and I searched and finally found him on a truck that had just been brought in to the animal shelter—he was already being adopted when I heard his bark over the other animals. He was also hit by a man in a van and suffered fractures in his back. At times, he was unable to walk and would have to be hand-fed and carried out to the grass to use the bathroom. He bounced back after about two weeks and became the same energetic Fluffy.

When I was in college and married, he was the bright spot in my life and my heart. I got into a disagreement with my husband (now ex) about Fluffy having an accident in the house during a time when he was having pain in his back. I left for work and came home that evening and found that he was missing. I searched for him for months and found out later by police that there was a cult that had taken over 100 animals and sacrificed them. My heart still breaks to this day over this. He was 13 ½ years old, and my heart was forever broken. I will never forget him.

After Fluffy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, I promised myself I would have more dogs, but that I would never get that close to another one again because my heart could not take it. Well, I could not keep that promise. Each dog I have owned since Fluffy has touched my heart and made me fall in love with them. Molly the golden retriever, AC and DC the yellow lab brothers, and Greyson the Dalmatian all brought joy to me and my two sons. However, my heart did not know how bad it could break over the loss of a dog until my sweet Yorkie, Haley Michelle, had to be put down on June 25th, 2018.

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Haley in her bed.

My first blog last year was about her. She was almost 10 years-old when she passed and crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I became her mommy when she was a 2 lbs. 4 oz puppy. She was healthy until she turned 8 months old and developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease and ended up having emergency surgery. She had issues with this every few weeks, but it eventually got to where she was only sick every few months. That is until she turned two and was diagnosed with liver failure at one of her regular check-ups. I was told unless she went on oral chemotherapy everyday for the rest of her life, she would not live past four years old. The chemo pill was $60 a day, and as a single mom who had two sons to put through college, there was no way I could afford this. I researched her condition and changed her diet, and her elevated liver enzymes started dropping. They were still abnormal, but better. She continued to have numerous other health problems throughout the years but was still a happy and playful sweet girl.

 

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Haley

Fast forward to June 13th, 2018—my sweet, spoiled, dress-wearing, hairbow-hating, cheese-eating dog was 9 ½-years-old and began losing weight. Despite eating like a pig, I could feel her bones. I was absolutely floored and devastated when I took her in thinking it was her liver failing her and was told she had pancreatic cancer. I don’t remember a time when I have cried so much. I took her home and checked off as much as I could on her bucket list. Twelve days later, I made the hardest decision ever to end her suffering. I remember that terrible day as I sat in this room alone with her and the vet staff, holding her and telling her I love her more than anything. I am still mourning her loss, and so is my other Yorkie, Peyton. I have her buried in a small garden in my backyard. I still call her name by accident at times and can still remember her ear-piercing bark.

 

She will always hold a special place in my heart as will each dog I have ever owned. Dogs are not just pets; they are family, and they have a way of leaving paw prints on our hearts.

 

Hank-Dog

by Tina Michelle Cameron

In October 2017, my son Hunter and his friend saw a puppy running down a busy street in Rock Hill, SC. My son was a senior at the time at Winthrop University living in a fraternity house, so the last thing he needed was a dog. Well, he showed up the night before Thanksgiving with this precious surprise that I knew nothing about. He named him Hank Williams, Jr. (he did spend 3 weeks posting flyers, taking him to be scanned for a chip, and looking for the owner without luck).

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My first thought was “no.” Then this sweet dog came into the den to meet me and my other dogs and proceeded within a minute to mark his territory on my cloth chair in the den. That put another “no” in my mind. I am so thankful that my son was able to save this poor puppy from being hit from a car or put into a bad person’s hands. After spending Thanksgiving with him, I was in love. My son understood the responsibility of having a dog, and since he was a student without a job, I agreed to help him pay for the dog’s needs. Hank is a Beagle-German Shepherd mix and was 8 months old when he was rescued off the street.

Fast forward to June 2018 and having to put my beloved Haley, my older Yorkie, to sleep.

My other Yorkie, Peyton, became extremely depressed and would not eat or drink. My20181225_105439 son suggested that I keep Hank for a week or two while he finished his summer job before moving to Charleston for graduate school. Peyton was not too happy at first, but they eventually started playing a little here and there. I decided that when Hunter started grad school, it would be best if Hank stayed with me to let him get adjusted with a school schedule. Plus, Charleston apartment rentals are expensive and even more so with a pet. He reluctantly agreed. Hank’s bark is rather loud, and he needs a backyard for the space to run and chase squirrels and birds and just be a dog.

Hank has settled in nicely at my home, and now he and Peyton have a love-hate relationship. She is 6 years older than him and is still suffering from depression from losing her best friend Haley. For the most part, she loves playing with him; however, he never slows down. He is 90 miles an hour, wide-open 24/7. I wish I knew the story of his first 8 months. My heart tells me he was abused because when you go to pet him on his head, he cowers down like you are going to hit him. This breaks my heart. He is the sweetest, craziest (sometimes most annoying) dog, but he has brought joy to my home.

His favorite play time is 3 a.m. every single morning—nudging me in the face with his toy all while standing on my stomach. Peyton and Hank both suffer from separation anxiety which is a challenge, but they comfort each other by snuggling is his large crate when I leave.

I am so proud of my son for saving this poor, scared dog, and even though Hank can be a handful at times, I love his sweet hugs and puppy kisses, and I love that he and Peyton are best buddies. Here are some pictures of Hank and Peyton- enjoy!

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Paying It Forward in a Small Way

By Tina Cameron

Today was a good day. It has been 4 months and 1 day since I had to put my precious 9-year old Yorkie—Haley Michelle to sleep. I wrote about her in my first blog. She lived longer than she was supposed to according to her vet –she had been in liver failure since the age of 2. However, she ended up being diagnosed with a rare Pancreatic cancer 12 days before I made the painful decision to let her go as she was rapidly declining.

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Haley Michelle

Haley’s birthday was on September 20th and I have been paying it forward since then in little ways to honor her. I donated to a pet charity on her birthday and have been looking to pay the adoption fee for someone. Well, today was the day! I happened to be at the Humane Society in Columbia picking up a voucher for my grand-dog Hanks neutering appointment this Thursday. While waiting I noticed a woman petting and loving on a Pit-bull mix breed dog named Clayton. He is approximately 2 years old. I overheard the woman give her name—Savannah to the lady at the counter and told her she would be back tomorrow afternoon to pick Clayton up. When she went to return the dog to his room, I asked if I could pay the adoption fee for this young lady. I excitedly sat back down and waited for her to leave. I explained about my sweet Haley passing and that I wanted to pay it forward. The two wonderful ladies who helped me were so excited to be in on this secret. They also explained to me that Clayton had been there longer than the other dogs who were already adopted out.

I immediately felt a sense of happiness in my heart for doing this for this dog. I am terrified of Pit Bulls and I know that a lot are put down because of either waiting for their fur-ever home and never getting it or because of their temperament. Last week, I hugged and petted a beautiful Pit at Pet Smart. This was a first for me.

While I was waiting to get my voucher, I could tell that the woman was already falling for this dog and the dog seemed to be so excited for someone to be paying attention to him. After I paid the $35 adoption fee and was waiting on my receipt, I wrote Savannah a sweet little note that will be given to her tomorrow when she returns to pick Clayton up. I wish I could see her face when she picks up her sweet dog. Happy Gotcha Day Clayton!! Wishing you and your fur-ever family nothing but happiness. I know my sweet Haley is smiling down on me today.

If you would like to help The Humane Society, they take newspapers, old towels and sheets. Their address is 121 Humane Lane Columbia, SC 29209. Their phone number is 803-783-1267. Also, if you are a Richland County resident and are having your cat/dog spayed or neutered, you can get a voucher to use to help with the cost of the surgery at Pawmetto Lifeline Spay/Neuter Clinic located on 1275 Bower Parkway Columbia, SC 29212. Their phone number is 803-465-9150. You are allowed 2 vouchers a year. This is a great thing that these two organizations do.

Facing your fears

By Eliza Boulware

I am scared, or should I say AFRAID of dogs. Any size, any type – yes, even the tea cup dogs. I know it’s bad and it is sometimes embarrassing because it seems like everyone has a dog. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer and they told me it was aggressive which mean it grows fast, so I was faced with a greater fear. The fear of cancer and not sure if I would live through it.

Before I started treatment, I was told that they would bring therapy dogs around and I began to panic. If a dog came near me, I would run, jump, break things, as I screamed. My heart would race and it felt like I stopped breathing.  Now I am trying to figure if I am sitting there plugged up to all these machines, what if I pulled the needle out? I began to pray and made my mind up that if I could face the fear of cancer, I will face my fear of dogs at the same time. My journey started and I became the main attraction.  Everybody would walk up to see how I would respond. At first, I could not relax when the dog came in. The lady had to keep the dog from even touching me. As I continued treatment, I kept dogworking on overcoming my fear. As you can see in the picture, with trusting God to face my fears, I was able to allow the dog to sit beside me and even rub the dog. I can’t express how major that was.

Lesson learned that when we trust God, we can face any fear and overcome them. Life sometimes has us to face some difficult situations and we become fearful of the unknown. I still don’t know why I am afraid of dogs but that fear could hinder me from doing what God has for me to do or can keep me from being in the right place to receive my blessing. Face your fear so that you can overcome what maybe hindering you on your journey. With God all things are possible. Face your fear!

The Loss of My Precious Haley

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Tina:

By Tina Cameron

The loss of a pet is heartbreaking. It doesn’t matter the circumstances; a pet dying from old age; an illness such as cancer or the difficult decision to send them over the Rainbow Bridge to end their suffering–it is just heartbreaking. This is the story of my precious Haley who was in my life for almost 10 years. She loved food, her stuffed animals and stealing my pillow at night.And, unfortunately, was also sick most of her life.

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At eight months old, she had emergency surgery and was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and seizures. At age two, she was diagnosed with liver failure and I was told she would not live past four. I was determined to have her time left with me to be just lots of snuggles, love and any food she wanted to eat. After a few months, we returned to the vet and there was no change in her liver enzymes but, she was still active and thriving, so I decided to change her diet myself since she refused to eat the specialty food from the vet anymore. Within three weeks, her liver enzymes were reduced by half. I was thrilled as was her vet. So, we carried on and still had the occasional Chick-fil-a run.FB_IMG_1510321410447

Year after year she continued to have elevated enzymes and birthdays. In October 2017 her liver enzymes were normal for the first time in 7 years. I was ecstatic since we had just celebrated her 9th birthday on September 20th, 2017. Fast forward to June 13th, 2018 at her next vet visit. She had begun losing weight despite eating like a pig. At the vet, while waiting to be seen, she became lethargic. She was seen right away and after her assessment was rushed for lab work and an x-ray. She had an enlarged heart, a heart murmur, severe constipation, low blood sugar (which explains the lethargy) and with Insulinoma, which is a rare malignant pancreatic tumor that causes low blood sugar, seizures, difficulty walking, and weight loss. She had all of these symptoms. The vet talked to me about options and that quality was more important than quantity.

The next twelve days were a blur as she had to be fed every four hours to keep her sugar elevated. She began to decline rapidly and started distancing herself from me in a way to prepare me for what was coming. On day 12, June 25th, 2018 I made the most difficult decision to put her down and to end her suffering. By this time, she was bleeding and vomiting bright red blood and refused to be syringed fed or watered.

On the way to the vet, we had the windows down, took selfies at red lights, and cranked up Miranda Lambert. She was smiling because I think she knew where we were going. At the vet, her IV was started, pictures were taken, and I wrapped her in her favorite blanket, held her and repeatedly told her through the tears it was okay to go and how much I loved her. The medications were given, and her suffering was over in a minute and a half.

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It has now been four weeks, I am still grieving and missing her every day. My other Yorkie– Peyton Manning is still grieving as well. Pets are our family. So, Haley, please know that you were/are my heart; my chick-fil-a loving, cheese and Pringles crunching loving sweet girl. You brought so much joy into our lives. You were sick more than you were healthy the 9 years, 9 months and 5 days you were on this Earth. You are finally free of pain and can run with all the sweet dogs, cats and bunnies in Heaven. My heart is broken but knowing you are happy and healthy gives me comfort. I will look after Peyton as she is so lost without you. I will love you furever my precious sweet girl.

Girl’s Best Friend

By: Katie Austin

Dafny as she looks off the back deck of the house

They say a man’s best friend is his dog, but I would venture to say that a dog can be a girl’s best friend too.  We have a 10-year old black Labrador Retriever named Dafny.  She is more than a pet, she is an important part of our family and we couldn’t imagine life without her.  Like a mom bragging about her child, I want everyone to know how truly special Dafny is and I think after reading my post, you will think she is too 🙂

Where to begin?  She is by far the cutest dog in the world!  Of course, I am biased because she is our dog, but she really is one of the sweetest, loving animals I have ever known.  What you see in the pictures is what you get with her and is just a small insight to what it is like to have here with us every day.  She, like her other furry friends, loves to go for walks (good for us too!) and meal time is her favorite part of the day as she runs in circles with excitement!  In a nutshell, she just wants to be loved and to love you back.   She is always there to greet you with a toy when you come home.  After a long day, all your troubles seem to fade away as you look down to see Dafny jumping up and down, almost smiling that you have arrived home.

Dafny sits in the snow, patiently waiting for her favorite thing - a cookie!

Dafny secured a special place in my heart during my breast cancer battle.  It was as if she knew I was sick and that she was going to sign up to be one of my caretakers.  She kept me company during the day as everyone was off at school/work, lying beside me for hours as I rested.  If I was in the bathroom sick from the treatments, I would open the door to find her sitting there, waiting for me to come out to see if I were ok.  She would check on me periodically as I lay in bed or on the couch, coming up to sniff me, lick my hand or face, then laying down as if wanting to be right there in case I needed something.  There were many days that I would hold her, crying as I didn’t know if the treatments were going to cure me.  She became my confident with whom I could tell her anything and knew that she would keep it to herself.  I think what helped is that no one else knew dog language, plus I bribed her with cookies which does the trick every time! 🙂

During that time, I learned just how special she is and how much I valued her companionship.  She was my guardian angel and she made me smile even during my toughest days.  I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have made it through my cancer battle if she wasn’t in my life as she seemed to nudge me forward in her special way.  She is more than a dog to us.  She is an important part of our family and we are so truly blessed that we adopted her so many years ago.

Do you have a pet that you couldn’t imagine life without them?  Have they helped you through a difficult time?  Post your story here for the Every Woman Blog family to honor them and appreciate the good deeds they have done 🙂