When I called Joe and the kids at 6:45am on Tuesday 12/6/11, I had left the house 15 minutes ago, and was just a few blocks away from the Emergency Vet. I knew Aleethea had already passed away, but the kids didn't yet know.
Just a little over an hour before...it was so early in the morning, and still dark out. It was raining. Joey and Lily had just woken up since they heard me already awake, and I told them Aleethea wasn't feeling well...but I had no idea she was as sick as she was. Soonafter they saw me crying while laying down on the floor next to Aleethea, and Souvlaki was laying down next to us too...as if Souvlaki knew what was happening right before our eyes. I started to get dressed and ready to go. Within moments Aleethea was very, very weak, and she couldn't stand up. Moments later her breathing was labored, her gums were grayish, then a minute later they were blue.
I told the kids Aleethea is not in any pain, but she had suddenly become very sick, and I'm going to have to take her to the Emergency Vet.
But I knew Aleethea only had a few minutes left to live, and wouldn't make it to the vet 15 minutes away. I had seen her life slip away in the moments prior.
Then the kids saw Joe carrying Aleethea and rushing out to put her in the car. I told the kids Dad will stay with them, and they will sit and have breakfast together. After I left, Joe and the kids prayed for Aleethea, to not be in any pain.
When I was on the phone with them, I told Joey and Lily to get their crayons and paper. I told them if they wanted to, they could draw a picture of Aleethea, and draw a picture about how they remember their dog. Also, if they had to say goodbye to her, what would they want Aleethea to know.
When I returned home at 8am, Joe and I had to sit down and tell the kids that our sweet puppy Aleethea had died. After a little while and lots of tears, the kids showed me their art.
This is what Lily drew:
Lily described the drawing she made:
"That's a rainbow.
And the big blue is home.
The little blue is the doctor's.
Aleethea walked over the rainbow."
This is what Joey drew:
Then Joey described his drawing:
"I knew Aleethea loved me.
Thats how I remember Aleethea,
on the grass, playing,
under the blue shining sky."
Children are simply amazing.
After I told them what to expect at the vet's office, we all drove to the emergency vet where they knew they would see Aleethea laying down on the vet's table, with her blanket over her, her face showing and her eyes closed. We brought Souvlaki with us too. It was our time to say our final goodbye, pray together next to her, and pet our Aleethea for the very last time.
We returned home. Joe and I spent the day with the kids, and no one went to work or school. We talked about why Aleethea died, and what the vet said, and how she died. They watched the movie "All Dogs Go To Heaven". They painted quietly that day. We talked about how important it is for them to draw, and write, and talk, and express their feelings.
We talked about how she will always be with us, and how she will always be remembered in our hearts and minds. We discussed how to remember her, and how to talk about what we remember about her. We answered lots of the kids' questions, and talked about how it's ok to be sad. We also talked about how their sadness might make them feel angry. We talked about how to express that anger and sadness. We talked about how they're going to see Mama and Dada cry over Aleethea, and we'll all need lots of hugs and understanding and compassion, because we are very, very sad for now. and how they won't be sad all the time.
We talked about how it's ok to be happy and sometimes forget your sadness, and always remember to play. We talked about how they could tell everyone they know about Aleethea, and that she died and is now in heaven.
We talked about how their other puppy Souvlaki is still here, and needs lots of extra love these days too. Souvlaki lost her best doggy friend and also who she saw as her "Mama". We talked about how lucky we are to still have a dog in our lives, and we should always let Souvlaki know how much we love her.
Throughout the day, we told each other of our favorite memories of Aleethea, and we looked at lots of pictures of Aleethea. We held each other through tears. We cried alone, we cried together.
We also went out to buy the book "Dog Heaven" for our bedtime story. Our first bedtime in 7 1/2 years without Aleethea. Our young beautiful energetic dog now sleeps and plays in heaven.
It all just happened so quickly that morning. Aleethea wasn't supposed to die. She was healthy. She was so energetic. She never showed signs of slowing down. She never showed signs of being ill. She was supposed to live long. She was supposed to have an old age. We just moved back to NY. She was supposed to play in the NY snow this winter. She was supposed to have another Christmas with us.
What happened to my sweet and energetic dog, my loving pup of just 7 years young??
Aleethea died of a Spleenic Mass, aka Hemangiosarcoma (HSA). Some refer to it as Spleen Cancer, and it's known as the Silent Killer. It is a terribly sudden death, and often very unexpected. Her abdomen was filled with blood. She had a tumor in her spleen near her heart.
It's called the Silent Killer because there are hardly any noticeable symptoms which would lead you to believe death was imminent, until it is already too late. Even if we would’ve rushed Aleethea into the vet weeks earlier when the tumor probably began to grow, she would’ve needed emergency surgery to remove her spleen. Even with spleen removal surgery, dogs would then require chemotherapy and have some painful days. And after the surgery, a dog would generally only live a max of 1 to 3 more months. To read more about this awful Hemangiosarcoma (HSA), see this article - warning there are graphic photos involved.
The day after Aleethea died was Wednesday, and Joey and Lily returned to Kindergarten and Preschool. They each carried a photo of Aleethea with them, and a note for their teacher informing them of their loss. The kids told their friends at school about what happened to their dog, and they received many hugs.
While the kids were at school, I now had hours to grieve without worrying about my kids...and I went numb. I could hardly breathe. I was walking around in a foggy haze. There are only two things getting me out of bed and eating food thru the day...one is my husband taking such good care of me and his kids. The other is because of this baby boy that I'm carrying inside.
Today I'm 32 weeks pregnant, and I am absolutely heartbroken over my first baby, Aleethea Faith.