Remembering Spencer...

I've tried to write this post a hundred times.

About three months ago, our beloved golden retriever, Spencer, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in his abdomen. And it had spread. Not good.

We were devastated.

I've felt as if I've dropped off the face of the earth since then. So where have I been? Work has been good but busy and in our spare time, we have been nursing our sweet boy. And although I wanted to write and share my sadness with all of you, thinking it would be cathartic and comforting, every time I sat down to update you all on my life, I couldn't spare the energy. I just couldn't find the oomph to write out the details. It was just so sad and I wanted to enjoy the time I had with him, not focus on the negative.

So why now? Well, Spencer lost his battle last Thursday. We said goodbye to him on a beautiful, warm afternoon - it was an agonizing decision, but the end was peaceful. My husband and I are both veterinarians and we have helped people with this decision for years. I've cried alongside patients and friends as they said their parting words to their furry companions. We even had to say goodbye to one of our own a year and a half ago. But it was different then. As sad as it was, a year and a half ago, Freya had emergency surgery for a twisted stomach. She never woke up from anesthesia. So she made the decision for us, even though it was so hard to let her go. With Spencer, we had to make the decision after we felt that is quality of life was non-existent and when we thought we were keeping him going for us, not him. Finally, his hind end gave out on him and my husband and I decided it was time. I cried for a day and a half. I could see he was tired. I could see he was uncomfortable. But the guilt and pain involved with making this decision was so overwhelming. I'm sure a lot of you know what I mean.

Now that all is said and done, we are so sad but there's something else. No guilt. I know now, even though it feels as if there is a hole in my chest, that it was the right decision. He is free from pain and weakness. He is free from cancer. I firmly believe he is reunited with Freya. He has all the tennis balls he can handle. He is himself again.

I still cry; when I look for him in his "spot", when I see a toy or his bed, when I think of saying goodbye. But we laugh and smile too. Thinking of him and everything he meant to us. He was with us for 11 and half years. Before we were married. Before we moved, again and again and again. He's been with us through graduation from veterinary school, our first jobs, my residency… he was always there. I even helped deliver him as a pup :)

He was so interwoven with our lives. He and Freya. And it feels like there's a huge emptiness now they're gone. But they have left our hearts so full and our lives more complete. As Roger Caras so aptly said, "Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole".

So in memory of them both, here's a little list of all the things I've learned from Spencer and Freya.

1. Live each and every day. Greet the day with gusto. I've been guilty of letting life pass me by from time to time. To busy to do this or that. But now, because of them, I'll try to enjoy more of the things life has to offer. To earnestly try. And sometimes that might mean relaxing and taking a bit of "me" time too :)

2. If I'm with someone I love, BE with that someone. No matter the day at work, every time I stepped foot through the door, there they were. So happy that I was home. And that was it. They just wanted to be with us. Well, let's be completely honest, dinner time was part of their excitement :) Instead of focusing on other things, I want people I love to know how important they are to me.

3. Forgive and move on. No need to say more.

4. Wag more, bark less. I am in control of how much things affect me. And while there is a time and place for you to stand up for yourself or others, there is also something to be said for not letting angry or unhappy people drag you into their emotional pit.

5. It's the little things that matter most. Like tennis balls :) Little things like "I love you" before bedtime, every night. Saying a word of encouragement or praise to someone who does an really good job. A note to say "I'm thinking about you". These are all small things but can mean so much.

6. Accept people for who they are. We are not all the same. We are not made the same way. But we are all human and deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. This is so cliche, however, you never know someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes so we shouldn't jump to assumptions based on an action or how they look. Dogs don't judge based purely on appearance. Dogs really don't judge. A good lesson indeed.

7. Love unconditionally. Boy, that's a tough one. Mostly because as humans, we all have our own agendas. But dogs truly love unconditionally and should be a model for how we treat each other as human beings. Dogs sometimes approach people, animals or situations with trepidation, and that's ok. We should be able to trust our instincts. But if you earn their trust, which usually doesn't take much effort, the love you get in return is unquestioning.

Sorry for the length of this post but I finally needed to share :) Spencer and Freya were not "just dogs" to us, they were part of our family. Perhaps some may not feel the same way or share the same thought process… and that's OK. But what I feel it boils down to isn't animals vs people and who you should love more or less, it's about love. Period.

Here's to you and yours. I wish you health wealth and happiness :) Thanks for reading!


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