Reflections on the Past Year

As I sit here drinking my second cup of coffee – listening to and watching Shadow nap and Ducky eat her breakfast – my thoughts wander off to memories of my sweet Callie. And Kissy. It has been a year (last week) since our vet called to tell us the lab results confirmed his diagnosis two days earlier of Callie’s lymphoma. We had already decided to go ahead with the chemotherapy. If there was even a slight chance that it would improve Callie’s prognosis – which Steve felt it would – we had to do it. And it did help some. Her eyes brightened, she started playing more often, and the visible tumors had started to shrink in size. But the cancer had started to spread internally despite the chemo. 


Callie was a trooper. She did her best to hide her pain and discomfort. She continued to play with her sisters as much as she could. She even took the time to teach Ducky how to behave, and to teach Shadow how to tolerate and deal with Ducky when she was snarky. She knew we humans were in denial about her remaining time with us, I guess; and figured her younger sisters needed to start getting along with each other to make life easier for us.

Kissy and I shared a bond that I thought I’d never have again. We were each other’s soulmate, best friend. She was the first dog who was mine from the start; my “baby” as opposed to my “baby sister”.  I was “Mommy” and I took the responsibility for her health, happiness, and overall wellbeing to heart. I considered her needs in every decision I made from the day I first brought her home at 16 weeks of age to the day I held her in my arms as the vet gave her the final injection when she was 15-1/2 years old. Although I loved my husband with my whole heart (and still do), Kissy’s departure left me heartbroken and empty. At first I didn’t think I’d ever get another dog. But as each day passed, I missed hearing the pitter-patter of little puppy feet on the kitchen floor more and more. I knew what was missing in my life. And I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I had another dog in my life. Hubby resisted at first, but I wasn’t giving in. He finally agreed to another dog on the condition it not be another small dog. I was okay with that. We decided on a Golden Retriever.

Kissy found Callie for me. She knew Callie would be perfect. As a puppy, Callie had been as sweet and affectionate as Kissy. In some ways, even more so. And as she grew up, she remained sweet and affectionate. But she was also self-confident, independent, and a little “bossy”. And, like Kissy, a quick learner. And when I decided she needed a playmate, another dog to keep her company when we had to be away from home, Callie took it upon herself to be surrogate mama. Kissy knew Callie would help fill my emptiness and so she went back to sleep in my heart and allowed Callie to take over.  

Callie was my heart dog, too. Kissy had been totally dependent on me her entire life, at a time when that was what I needed in my life. Callie was my independent girl, but with a heart of gold. She was my helper, my teacher, my best friend as well as my canine daughter. She helped me raise Shadow, and then Ducky.  And to be honest, she did a better job of raising them than I did. She taught them both how to be dogs and enjoy life. And she taught them how to get along with each other once she was gone. Ducky was a better student than I gave her credit for at first.

Shadow has always been a “Velcro dog”.  I named her “Callie’s Shadow” because we got her to be Callie’s buddy, cohort, and companion. The name fit her perfectly.  They were only six months apart in age, so we never really thought about one of them ever being without the other. 


Since Callie’s departure to the spirit world, Shadow has become MY shadow. A little more each day. She seems to have accepted the fact that Callie isn’t coming home, at least not in her earthly form. But she still prefers to sleep in Callie’s favorite spots – other than the (human) beds – and play Callie’s favorite outdoor game. And she sniffs at Callie’s favorite stuffy toys when I take them out of the closet, even though she walks away from them after a moment or two. I know she misses Callie. She misses the snuggling, the grooming, the companionship, all the moments they shared from day one.  All those moments that can’t be replaced, only added to, as each day went by. 

Every time that hubby and I have to leave the house without Shadow – whether Ducky’s home or at daycare – I feel guilty. And I feel like we should adopt another senior Golden Retriever to keep Shadow company, and to be her friend. 

Two things stop me. First, the mere fact that we just cannot afford a third dog at this point in our lives. And second, but more important, I don’t want to risk a setback in the relationship between Shadow and Ducky. Ducky was always competing with Shadow for Callie’s attention. Callie was “top dog” and Ducky knew it. She didn’t want Shadow around when she played with Callie. 

Now that Callie is here in spirit only, Ducky is happy to have Shadow around even though she still gets snarky with her at times. And Shadow likes to play doggie games with her little sister. A third dog – I think – would just upset the applecart all over again. Someone would end up being left out of the games. And I’d end up feeling guilty about it. So, when we leave the house without the dogs, I ask Callie to watch over them. And I try to put my guilty feelings aside.

Why I Trust Our Vet

Early yesterday I noticed a response to a comment I made on a blog post about the differences between IBD and IBS. This response, while well-intentioned I’m sure, irked me a bit. So I was glad that my friend had already responded to it by the time I noticed it. And she did so in such a way that I didn’t have to add my own thoughts.

Still, that response from a stranger bothered me all afternoon. So I’ve decided to get it off my chest, per sé.

Why do some people feel the need to suggest to strangers that they should change a pet’s diet?  This person doesn’t know me, my hubby, or our dogs, from a hole in the wall.  She has no way of knowing what kind of relationship we have with our dogs’ veterinarian; nor his knowledge of pet nutrition. And this person is not even a veterinarian herself. So, whatever happened to the “I’m not a vet” disclaimer? 

First of all, our vet has been our vet for 16 years. He has treated all of our dogs – from Kissy, my poodle who was five years old when I first moved us down here from Long Island almost 23 years ago, to Ducky, who joined our family nearly four years ago.  Our vet has been there for us through Kissy’s final days and through our beloved Callie’s battle with cancer and everything before, during, and since those “events.”

Our vet is a good man. He’s honest, forthright, compassionate, and he truly cares about his patients. He sells the prescription diets at his hospital as a convenience for his clients whose pets need them, not as a way to make extra money. The profit he might make off the sale of a case – or bag – of these foods probably wouldn’t buy coffee and a pastry at Starbucks.

When Ducky was first suffering through her IBS issues, our vet gave me his personal mobile phone number in case something came up for which I needed advice. (I tried not to abuse the privilege since we do have an emergency animal clinic nearby staffed by wonderful, caring folks.)

And when Callie was so sick at the end from the lymphoma, our vet and his wife took time out of their busy Saturday to meet me at his hospital and hook her up to IV meds that got her feeling better for most of the rest of the weekend. 

I’m aware that not all vet schools have provided much pet nutrition education in the past. Aside from a very basic course in dog and cat nutrition, I don’t have any formal education in that area either. I mostly rely on my common sense and some research. And our vet. I have not always agreed with our vet’s suggestions about our dogs’ diets; however, I have always known that his suggestions are made in the dogs’ best interests. Over this past year, I have fully transitioned Shadow and Ducky to one of the diets our vet suggested. And both dogs have done well on them. Much better than on the premium foods that I’ve tried for them in the past. And raw diets are totally out of the question. I won’t even discuss them any more. The raw diets may be good for some dogs – and I don’t judge anyone who swears by them – but they aren’t for us or for our dogs. And our vet agrees with us. 

So, I’ll close by saying that even when our vet and I “agree to disagree” on certain things related to our dogs, in the long and short run I will follow his advice.

Okay, rant over.  #LettingItGo

#LoveOurVet

Welcome! 

Let’s get started with “Hello! Welcome to my new blog, In My Heart 4Ever”. 

This new blog will eventually replace My Golden Life, but for now I’ll just be posting here intermittently and over there about Shadow and Ducky, as usual.

I have a lot of work to do – more than I bargained for, I think – so hang in there with me and eventually I’ll get it done.  Meanwhile, check out my “About” page, and my pages dedicated to my canine angels, Kissy and Callie.