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On December 18th, my 12-year-old dog, Lola, who was doing perfectly fine until then, suddenly started acting weird. Very weird. I made an appointment with the vet.
That appointment led to another, and to another, and to another. Between the appointments and the tests done to figure out what was going on, in less than a week, her condition got worse. Eventually, the decision was made to have her undergo an MRI, in order to confirm a diagnostic hypothesis I was absolutely not ready to hear.
I canceled my Christmas and New Year’s Eve plans because I couldn’t imagine traveling with her in her condition.
Although she seemed to be hurting in certain spots, she was always so happy… going out, eating, being with me. Therefore I had a hard time dealing with the idea the problem could be serious. I thought, “They’ll figure it out, she’ll get treatment, for life if needed, and everything will be fine.” A little voice was telling me that things weren’t going to work out that way, but I didn’t want to listen.
We spent Christmas together. She had a nice big steak for dinner, and I even had bought her little gifts; she was over the moon.
When I took her for a walk in the woods, as usual, she was still so happy to leave the house and to get there, but then she would walk for barely five minutes and come up to me. I so knew that look of hers. She usually only used it on rainy days. “Can we go home now?”
Then, suddenly, one day, her left eye started to swell up, and a bump appeared on top of her head. I couldn’t believe these things were happening so fast, so I looked at pictures I had taken of her barely a week before, and there was NOTHING there. Nothing. At least nothing visible.
On December 30th, the day of the MRI, the diagnosis hit me like a sledgehammer. Lola had a massive brain tumor, extremely aggressive, and it was destroying everything in its way. I saw the pictures. Horrible. Some of the bones in her skull had been completely eaten away. There was no more separation between her left eye and sinuses and her brain, and the tumor was now pushing her eyeball out of its socket.
“There’s nothing we can do; it’s too far gone.”
How can I express how I felt, not being a vet and not knowing what that meant for the next few days, weeks, or months. And then they said: “Anytime between one day and two months.”
I cried a lot.
Then my dog and I spent New Year’s Eve together.
Lola had a beef fricassee with gravy and veggies, and a huge bone she didn’t let go of until anything that could be eaten was all gone.
The following day, January 1st, I took her for a walk in the woods. She was so happy… It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining through the trees, and she was trotting along as if nothing had ever happened. It was too good to be true, but I remember thinking: “If this is our last beautiful moment together, our very last walk, it will be a beautiful memory.” I took tons of pictures.
After 30 minutes or so, Lola decided that she wanted to go home. So we went back to the car, and all of a sudden, just like that, everything just fell apart. I had to carry her from the car to the house, and once at home, she lay down. She who always asked for her “snack” when she came back from a walk, she didn’t want to swallow anything anymore. For the very first time in her life, she refused everything I handed her, a piece of sausage, a piece of chicken, a small piece of cheese… so I knew.
My one and only concern has always been to ensure that my animals do not suffer. Until that moment, even if she was probably in pain, her joy, her enthusiasm, her happiness took over. As long as her life made sense to her, it made sense to me… but everything changed that day.
It was January 1st, when everyone is either away or busy. Going through this alone, making this decision alone, like a single parent, is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Fortunately, a friend came to support me in this difficult moment, and I will always be grateful to her.
Not being sure if I was making the right decision – you never know if you’re making the right decision in this situation – I called the emergency veterinary services and asked them to come to my house. I wanted Lola to leave peacefully, calmly, at home, among her things, and in my arms. And that’s exactly what happened.
After speaking for a long time with the veterinarian – who was extraordinary by the way – and after refusing to let her be injected with medication strong enough “to allow her to last another day or two until I could cope,” I let my dog go, holding her and talking to her until her very last breath.
From the time the problems first occurred to the day she died, only 13 short days went by. I didn’t have time to prepare myself for her absence, and I didn’t have time to prepare to say goodbye. I was left in shock for a week after that.
That’s why I decided to create these illustrations. It was my way of spending a little more time with her. My way of taking the time to express my gratitude for all the happiness and the joy she brought into my life. For being by my side all those years. My way of saying goodbye.
Through our story, I want to encourage people who are thinking of having a pet to think of all the Lolas out there, all those little souls, all alone behind bars, who are cold, stressed out and afraid, just waiting for one thing: for someone who will give them the opportunity to learn it all, and to teach it all in return: unconditional love, gratitude, and resilience.
Don’t shop, adopt. <3
P.S. Whether you shop or adopt, keep them safe, take care of them, and give them the best life you can give them until their very last breath. If you can’t do that, do shop, don’t adopt, don’t do nothing.