May 14, 2006

Sad Weekend

For me, Mother's Day weekend was filled with sadness. A CT scan last month revealed that my 6-year-old Boston Terrier, Samantha, had a brain tumor. We were told that she had at most two months to live, but she was doing relatively well with a few days to go before making it a month when she began having seizures Thursday night.

Sammi foamed at the mouth and experienced violent spasms that were incredibly frightening to watch, and in the process seemed to go blind. I was hoping it was a one-time thing, but over the course of about 10 hours she had a total of six seizures that got progressively scarier. By around three in the morning she was in horrible shape and obviously very scared.

We decided to take Sammi to the vet once they opened Friday morning to have her put to sleep. As tough as the decision was, it was infinitely easier than watching her in such pain. I will never forget holding her in my arms as she writhed in pain, her eyes rolling back into her head and her mouth overflowing with foam. I only wish we would have known to end her life a day earlier, so she didn't have to go through such suffering.

The actual process of putting her to sleep was quick and easy, which is good because of what a tired, emotional wreck I was after staying up with her all night. I would have liked one more day with Sammi, to make peace with the whole thing and give her a little more love, but by the time we got to the vet I just wanted the whole thing over with as soon as possible.

As I wrote last month after finding out that Sammi had a tumor, it seems sort of odd to feel so strongly about a dog. However, after six years of spending nearly every day with her it's amazing how strange life feels without her. I'll get over that eventually, I hope, but for now I find myself thinking about Sammi constantly throughout the day and it's tough to deal with.

I also feel guilty for the way her life ended. In trying to selfishly coax some extra time with her, we made her go through more suffering than was necessary. I feel awful that she died so young, but even more than that I feel horrible about her dying scared and in pain. That's the last thing I wanted, and if I had it to do over again I would have ended things once we found out that she had a terminal diagnosis.

From the moment we took her home six years ago and tried unsuccessfully to get her to sleep somewhere other than in a bed, it was clear that she was extremely high-strung and a little crazy. She had bad knees that didn't stop her from jumping over couches and on top of anyone who dared to enter our house, and her delicate stomach never stopped her from eating anything she could find, from kleenex to chicken wings that were perched atop the kitchen table.

None of it was truly bad behavior, rather just a dog who never really got over the puppy stage. She got so excited to be around people--especially little kids--that at 25 pounds she often overpowered them with her wild enthusiasm. Her trips outside to go to the bathroom would almost always be interrupted by whatever sound from the neighborhood grabbed her attention. Whether it was a car driving by or a basketball bouncing a block away, those floppy ears heard everything.

All of which is why it was so tough to see her fall apart over these last few months. Even at her worst point--blind and weak, hobbling around the house with numb limbs and drugs ruining her bladder--she found the strength to make it outside a dozen times per day. She was an iffy bet to make it down the stairs each time, but as long as she could control it there was no way she'd let herself have an accident in the house because of some stupid tumor and a bunch of diuretics.

I'll get another dog some day, but I'll never find one as lovable as Sammi. She was so sweet and energetic, and so in love with her owners that she hated to leave our side for a second. She'd sit with me all day watching baseball, following me around the house every time I got up to answer the phone or get something from the kitchen. And each time we left the house it was like she'd never see us again. Holding her at the vet Friday morning, I knew how she felt.

As one of my mom's friends said Saturday, Sammi is another in a long line of great athletes to fall victim to the Sports Illustrated curse.

Samantha Rose Gleeman (2000-2006)

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