My dog peed on the carpet three times today. He pants heavily while standing. It may be heart failure. Probably is. His breath is stinky. He is almost deaf. He stands at the top of our deck stairs when it's time to go out and takes forever talking himself into making the four step trek down. His legs buckle underneath him if he stands too long.
But, even with all of that. I still love him. I am trying really hard not to because I am trying to separate myself. So it won't hurt so bad when it's time to put him to sleep. I just can't seem to do it. I know it's time, but I just can't.
It would be easy for me to tell my husband to take him. Even my friend said she would do it for me. But he is my dog and he trusts me. It's is my responsibility. It is my honor and duty to give him love and comfort in his last moments. Even if it is a terrible thing. I keep hoping I will come home one day and he will be gone so I don't have to make the choice. I have been waiting for six months.
How am I supposed to take him on his last walk?
How am I supposed to decide which meal is his last?
How am I supposed to drive to the vet?
He is old. He is 16. He is a shepherd-collie mix. He has been with me for my infertility, my bed rest, my two new 6 pound babies, my heart failure, Rocco's diabetes. He has been with me duing the loss of my dad and the breast cancer with my now healthy (Thank God!) sister. He has seen me with greasy hair, ripped pjs, unbrushed teeth, Rocco's blood on me and Zeke's blood on me. He never cared. He has accepted me unconditionally. When I cried, he laid next to my bedside. When I squeeled with joy, he wagged his tail. He has seen me at my lowest and my highest. Just lying next to me.
He was a comfort when I was having a hard time trying to have a baby. I was so heart broken and lonely. I just needed to take care of something, anything. I had all of this love just bottled up waiting to burst. I was volunteering at a shelter at that time and I saw him. He had heartworms and was wild. I was afraid of him at first. His shepherd side was so strong. He was a year and a half. But he was beautiful. I got inside his kennel and knelt down. As soon as I started to squish his neck fur into my hands he leaned into me. He leaned into me so hard that he knocked me down. Then he just snuggled his way into my lap. All 60 pounds of him. I remember saying to him, "Aww, you need me as much as I need you". I brought him home on Valentine's Day.
He has been amazing ever since. My friend who used to pet sit for him said he is the most grateful dog she has ever met. During his early wild days, my dad saw through that and said he had a gentle soul. He was right.
He still walks/ limps once a day around the block. He still eats every day. He still loves every day. But I know its close. It's just so hard.
How do you know when it's time to say goodbye? Did you ever have to put down your loved pet?
Two years ago, before the boys started kindergarten, I attended a "Back to School" conference put on by my local JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). I was super anxious about sending my four-year-olds to kindergarten, much less one that had diabetes. They would be turning five within the month,but they seemed so young. Thank God it was only for a half a day! To hand off Rocco to someone who knew nothing about diabetes gave me heart palpitations (literally). I used the conference as a training class. It taught me what to tell the school and what paperwork I would need to fill out. I even met my friend Michelle, who was speaking that day. She is a great school advocate for kids with diabetes. It was very worthwhile.
But even more importantly, during the conference I met a man who said he had a boy with Type 1 diabetes who was in our new school. I was thrilled and eager to meet him. I needed him to tell me what types of things were already in place for his son. I introduced myself and we began talking about our diabetic children. Then, later in the conversation, he said something about his son being a twin. What? Could it be?
Yes! What are the odds? He said his Type 1 diabetic son had a twin brother. Then, something else happened. He said his son's name and wouldn't you know it was the same as Rocco's!! Seriously, what are the odds? No, his other son was not named Zeke, but this was really cool! I asked him a couple of specific school questions and he referred me to his wife. Haha! He gave me her phone number and I called her right away.
As soon as we started talking, we became fast friends. She has become a jewel in my life. It is so refreshing to speak to another mother, living the exact same life as you, isn't it? She and I talk a lot about diabetes, but also about how this will all affect our other sons. Diabetes has this ability to enter your life and take over like a new puppy. You have to feed it, maintain it, and keep your eye on it at all times or it will eat your couch! So it is nice to speak with my friend who has the same worries about each of her children. Since our guys attend the same school, we also can collaborate on our school plans. Finally, we can talk about how caring for a 24-7 disease can be stressful, daunting and exhausting, but how we wouldn't change our lives or our guys for the world. I treasure the times we hang out together! It's like a free therapy session.
On the flip side, we also enjoy watching all four of our boys share the same life. Recently, in the middle of a bounce house playdate, we had both kids with diabetes check their blood sugar. But, the cool part was when I looked up I saw the other two guys stood waiting patiently for the number to come up. I was so glad for Zeke have someone to stand next to during the blood sugar break! As with our life, the blood sugar number dictates what comes next, even for the kids without diabetes. Maybe they get a juice boxwith their twin (if the number is low), or maybe they can just continue to exercise (if the number is a little higher). Between the three pairs of people - moms, kids with diabetes and kids without- we are like kindred spirits walking the same path.
Man! Meeting this family keeps unfolding perks on so many levels. My friend and I are hoping the boys stay close throughout their lives. We hope they will find as much comradery as she and I have found in each other!
It was even more strange that the two kids with blonde hair have diabetes and the brown haired kids don't!
Ugh! Look at all of these forms...
Each one represents a possible scenario whereby Rocco could be in trouble from his blood sugar going too low or too high at school. I am starting to get nervous, as I always do when the school year starts. However, I do feel as if I am getting better at rallying people to care for Rocco. The pump breaking in the water and the 23 blood sugar have really lit a fire for me this year.
It seemed like this next year was going to be easier to trust the people at school to take my place and care for him during the day. Well, at least I thought so.
One of the reasons was that the boys have made the decision to be in the same classroom (I kind of have been letting them choose each year). At first, I thought I wanted them to be in separate classes like last year. It worked well because during the school breaks when they were just starting to get sick of each other, the break was over and they went their seperate ways. Even if it was just across the school hallway! But, I must admit, it will be much easier on me in the long run if they are in the same room. Especially during the school parties. It was always hard to count carbs for Rocco's party when I was in Zeke's classroom. Each boy wanted me to be thier special mom and not go to their brother's classroom. The Mother's Day Tea was by far the worst.
This picture sums it up. See, it's a nice picture of me and Zeke. You'd never even notice Rocco waiting next to us totally mad that we are not in his room!
They each had planned such great things and when it was time to perform each thing, I was always in the opposite room. It ended in Rocco just coming in to Zeke's classroom missing at least half his party. And when we got back to Rocco's class, the party was over, the moms were gone, the room was cleaned up and all the kids were back at their seats. Rocco and I were devastated.
So, if they are in the same room that means one party, two kids. Plus, schedules, homework and tests will be easier to manage if they are the same. The boys are comforted by each other but don't rely on each other. This is why it doesn't bother me either way to put them in the same rooms or separate. Whatever they feel is good for them is good for me. Such a hippie statement! Haha! So far, each year they have agreed on their decision. Let's just hope that continues. Ugh! I dread the day when only one wants to be with the other.
Also, this year seemed easier because the staff was well-versed on how to care for Rocco's diabetes. Rocco has two other children in his school with diabetes, so the library, gym, art, music and lunch teachers all know how to care for him/them.By October, the principal finally understood the severity of having three different kids with three fluctuating blood sugars every day. She hired an aide to care for just them throughout the day.
Finally, I felt like the school district was making some progress. The superintendent was making changes within the district that benefited all of the children with Type 1 diabetes. Such as carb counts for cafeteria food, being accepting of 504 plans and ensuring staff implement these plans. A 504 plan spells out the modifications and accommodations that will be needed for students with a "disability" to perform at the same level as their peers. For example, when Rocco's blood sugar is low he has trouble focusing because his vision gets blurry. He can not be expected to take a test when he can't read it. This type of information is in the 504 plan. Believe it or not, some schools give you a hard time about the plans that explain how to care for your child. Usually because it something they are legally bound to do and are held accountable.
We were well on our way to a successful year! I was getting excited to get back to my blog full-time and start my new at-home part-time job and really make them both fly to next level!
Boys same room - check!
Rocco's "staff" trained - check!
Then, over the summer, the superintendent quit, the principal retired and the aide told me she isn't coming back, the district is outsourcing the bus drivers and the teacher will be new. Shoot!
So now, here I sit trying to fill out all of this paperwork to explain how to ensure that my Rocco doesn't get too low or too high to a bunch of people that haven't even been hired yet! I feel anxious!
Teaching someone how to care for a diabetic child is easy if they are only going to be in that person's care for a couple of hours. But, the overall responsibilities of the full-time aide are far more complicated.
One of the other diabetes moms said she might want to take the job (after I practically begged her!) But she changed her mind as we discussed how this would be really difficult for a number of reasons:
Anyway, so here I sit, shuffling papers, trying to coherently communicate what to do for Rocco in all of the different scenarios that may come up during the school year. Wish us luck! Of course, I will keep you posted!