Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda…

March 25. All of the sites on grieving for your furry child advise you not to question yourself with “shoulda, woulda, coulda,” but that is just what I am doing. I should’ve called Lee at 5:30am. Would that have changed the outcome? I should’ve stayed with her and not taken a shower. I should’ve just held on to her and not let go. Is it my imagination now, or did she cry out to me? Or was she just struggling to breathe? Did she still have life left in her when I scooped her up?  She was gasping, and then a long sigh as I picked her up. Did I really feel her heart beating? And then another sigh to startle David enough to think she was still with us. It reminded me of Tiger’s death. That last escape of air. The pink foam from her mouth and nose told me her lungs had been filled with fluid. I hate to even say that, and have it permanently put into “print.” But that’s how it was. She had had a wheezing sound to her breathing all along. Was that a sign that should’ve been paid more attention to? I can’t think about that. In my heart, I don’t think she was in pain, ever. I think she fought to the end. She was fighting for me as much as I was fighting for her.

Were there early warning signs I should have caught on to that something wasn’t right? She had been having accidents more frequently. Was there something wrong with her kidneys or her bladder? There was that Sunday afternoon in early March when Katherine was home, and Josie threw up what she had just eaten. Did she just over eat or was there something wrong with her tummy? There was the morning I was leaving for work and couldn’t find her. She was hiding under Katherine’s bed. She usually hid when she did something wrong, or if she just didn’t feel like being social. Or if she just felt like burrowing down in the big bunch of sleeping bags Katherine had under her bed. A warm coccoon.

Another feeling I have is anger. I am mad at myself for loving her so very much. I have said Josie was my soul mate, and she was. She loved me unconditionally. Period. She gave me so much love and brought me so much unbridled joy. I love how she would snuggle into my chest in the bed. Or stretch out behind my back under the covers. She loved my nose. That was her thing with me. She would lick and lick my nose, what I called Josie kisses.  She was feisty. She bit me twice – on the face. And both times (years apart from the other) I had skin cancer pretty much where she had bitten me. It is “said” that a dog can detect cancer. I originally thought I had just had my elbow on her tail or something to make her bite me; in hindsight – she was telling me something was wrong there.  

I have mentioned the little dance of greeting I got when I came home from work every day. She couldn’t just wag her tail – her whole behind wagged. And she would talk to me then with her happy bark of excitement. I wish I had that recorded.

March 26. It’s raining this morning. This would be the perfect day for Josie to snuggle up beside me on the sofa. She wasn’t too fond of the rain. She would run out and back to do  her business. No nonsense. When the postman delivered the mail this afternoon, it was too quiet. Josie would’ve been barking her head off talking to him. She was a good watch dog. She always let me know if someone was walking by the house, up the sidewalk, or if a car drove into the driveway.

I decided I needed to get out of the house. My big race is coming up, so it was a good excuse to go for a ride to Texas Valley. Trouble with this idea, was it was one of Josie’s favorite things to do, and she always made this trip with me – doing recon work for my upcoming handcycle race. David and Chaco went with me. But on the way there, I felt an overwhelming sense of betrayal. We hadn’t made it past the airport, I choked up and the tears started flowing freely. I asked David if I had done enough for Josie (yes) and then I asked him the question I had been asking myself for a week – was she still alive when I picked her up? (I couldn’t bear the thought if she had died alone on her sleeping bag.) Yes, she was. He had been with her. So I wasn’t second guessing myself after all. She was still struggling, and did take her last breath in my arms. Her last few moments did scare us both, and we both had that split second of hope that her very last gasp was her still breathing, and I knew it was not.

God how I loved that child. I have never hurt so bad in my entire life. I have never cried over someone every single day. I loved my Josie. Everybody has pet names – even our pets. She was my “Jo-Jo-Bo-Bo. My Hoooo-Seeeee! Josie, the pretty girl, prettiest girl in the whole wide world.”

I should’ve had more time with her. I would’ve given anything to go back in time to see if I missed any signs. And I could’ve not loved her any more than I did, because I love her still with all my heart and soul.

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