The Power of Therapy Dogs:
Introducing Shadow & Busters Story
By: Matthew Johnson of Waggz & Whiskerz
A pet is so much more than an animal; it is loved just like any other member of the family. Often when you have two pets, the loss of one of them is even harder to deal with. Often you have the grief and difficulties of having to watch the other pets endure the loss and experiencing the difficult void in their lives and our own.
Unfortunately death is one of those things we all dread in life, and even when we know it's coming, we can never be prepared for the feelings that come with it. This is the story of the human-dog bond and how the loss of one pet (Shadow) has helped a young family member learn to cope with and understand death while
growing closer to another family pet (Buster).
Over the last couple of months a wonderful Samoyed named Shadow who I had the pleasure of getting to know and bond with during 2009 and 2010(Shadow & Buster are clients of Waggz & Whiskerz Pet Services), had been eating less and less upon her physical examination, despite the fact that she appeared to be fine. On Christmas Eve, her owner Noelle Rathee noticed that she had started to urinate blood. Noelle
and her husband Raj took Shadow to a vet near their home, (as their usual vet was on holiday).
The vet they attended did a complete blood work up on Shadow, including a thyroid test, and an x-ray (to check for kidney stones). Everything came back normal and Shadow was started on antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. Over the next few days Shadow seemed to be getting better. There was no more blood in her urine, but Noelle had noticed that Shadow wasn't eating.
After a week of antibiotics Shadow began to pass blood in her urine again. At this stage Noelle had got in touch with their regular vet and took Shadow in for a more detailed examination. Upon this second examination Shadow seemed to be very tender in the abdomen/bladder area, her vet then scheduled an ultrasound. At this point, she was noticeably deteriorating day by day. More and more blood was passing in her urine; eventually it looked like she was only peeing blood.
After Shadow’s ultrasound was complete the results were in and it showed a large mass in her bladder. The mass was very close to the bladder neck causing her to bleed, and also causing Shadow to feel as if she had the urgency to pee all the time. The tumor appeared to be growing quickly, and the fear was that in a few more days, the mass would completely obstruct the bladder neck, and she wouldn't be able to pee at all. Her prognosis was not good. With much sadness, the Rathee family decided that the more humane thing to do would be to put her to sleep before her pain became unbearable.
Shadow had her last walk in the fluffy white snow. Noelle says, “It was almost poetic, Shadow’s favorite weather to walk in, is when there's lots of fluffy snow, and it was still snowing as we walked for the last time together”. Shadow seemed happy, resigned and at peace the morning she went to sleep. She knew it was her time to go, and she was okay with it. She held her head high as Noelle hugged her for the last time, and then she lay down to sleep so peacefully.
Following Shadow’s good bye, the peaceful rest that Shadow inhabits was not quite transferred over to the home of the Rathee’s; they have a 2 year old daughter named Karina and another special needs dog named Buster (A boarder Collie mix). Needless to say having a small child and a special needs dog require allot of attention, on top of which Noelle recently started her own company called Mumme Wear (www.mummewear.com) that requires allot of attention too.
On the day Shadow passed Noelle noticed that Buster was whining the whole day she says, “It was if he was calling out to Shadow to come back”. The following day he seemed to "know" that Shadow was gone. The whining stopped but Buster continued to have a sad look on his face. After the first few days with Shadow no longer hanging around the house Noelle reported that Buster seemed to be doing ok but she could tell that he was missing Shadow a lot. “We have been trying to have him upstairs with us, so he doesn't feel alone downstairs but then he fears the upstairs too, because it is not carpeted. His eyesight has gotten worse and as a result, his fear of non-carpeted floors has increased.”
The loss of Shadow to the Rathee family had been incredibly draining emotionally as one could imagine it would be. Not only was Noelle dealing with her own feelings of sadness, but also she was trying to lessen the sadness for Buster and explain the situation to her Daughter (Karina). Karina who thought Shadow would come home soon had never dealt with loss before. She didn’t realize that Shadow would not be coming home at first she was saying things like ”when Shadow wakes up, I will show her my toys" explains Noelle. Noelle tried to explain that Shadow was gone but later in the evening, when the doorbell rang, Karina exclaimed, "Shadow's coming home!" “It is gut wrenching trying to explain the situation to an innocent little face.” Says Noelle.
They say kids are resilient, and it's true, Karina might not have understood why Shadow was gone and still kept asking when Shadow would be back, but as time marches on Karina seems to be accepting Shadow being gone. It seems as if Karina has a new focus, making sure Buster is okay! Karina says "Shadow left, so Buster is all alone, we need to buy mats so Buster can come upstairs and not fall” Kids can be so sweet and touching and have a healing power on their own.
Karina continues to constantly check to make sure Buster is okay and althoughBuster is still very morose, he’s learning new ways to remember and stay close to Shadow even in her absence. “Buster was sleeping in Shadow's bed instead of his own and lying in Shadow's spot by the door as if he was trying to be close to
Shadow,” explains Noelle.
When Noelle and Buster went for their typical morning walk, Buster kept looking behind him as if he was hoping Shadow would come up and when she didn't, he looked so depressed. But throughout time and with the help of Karina, "checking" on him, he seems to be perking up a bit. Karina and Buster will help each other over this hump and prove that the human-dog bond goes far beyond physicality; the loss of one pet has the power to bring others closer.
Shadow will be missed allot by the Rathee family and myself, but she will always be in our hearts and our memories.
Stay tuned for more inspirational stories of the human dog bond on FEB 15th as I will be introducing Benji my new 8-week-old therapy dog!