It’s been really hard for me to formulate words after the passing of my Golden Retriever, Dexie, exactly one month ago. It felt too great a burden to try and sum up her life into a caption let alone a blog post. She was so much more than that, a dog I have come to learn these past 8 weeks meant a great deal to so many beyond our four walls.
This post is quite lengthy, so bare with me but I promise her story is well worth the read.
Dexie was first diagnosed with lymphoma cancer around Thanksgiving. The pain I felt was raw. It was a culmination of fear, sadness and overwhelming grief that my buddy wasn’t going to be around forever. Right away I started a journal to capture not only the pain I was feeling, but to also treasure our memories so they wouldn’t be plagued by this journey we were about embark on. I had my days of wallowing, then we both went in head strong to the oncologist determined to beat cancer and give her the best final year of her life. *Lymphoma is not curable in dogs, but they can enter remission rather quickly and live for 10-16 months.
While Dexie took to chemo right away (she was in remission within 2 weeks), the rest of her body was battling. It felt like every other week we were in the emergency room for fevers, lack of strength, tremors, etc. It was utterly gut wrenching to watch her take 5 steps forward and quickly fall 10 back. The emotional and physical roller coaster was daunting. My sweet girl was so weak at times that through pure adrenaline, I would carry her up and down our stairs (75lbs) so she could be with us at night, sleeping in her bed where she wanted to be. I slept very little those 5 weeks, but she needed me, more so, I needed her by my side.
Right around New Year’s she started to not feel good again and we were in and out of the vet with fluids and x-rays to determine what was wrong. Sadly to say, she never fully recovered. Whatever she was battling had turned into pneumonia and she was beginning to suffer. We rushed her to the hospital on Wednesday afternoon, January 8th only to learn that it was likely too advanced at this point and I had to make a decision. Keep battling, for my own sake, or let her go peacefully. Ultimately, I knew in my heart that it was time, I promised her that I wouldn’t let her suffer for my sake.
I carry a lot of guilt over her final days, constantly questioning if I did enough. She had been to and from the Vet so much lately, that in the end I feel like I waited too long to take her back in. Constantly questioning that maybe they could have done more if I went in even 24 hours earlier. Those final days, her final hours, are on replay in my mind and the pain is unbearable at times, the guilt so heavy. It’s something that only I can work through and it’s going to take some time, but I hope my mind begins to transition from only remembering these final weeks, hours and minutes to all the amazing days we had together the past 7 years.
For those of you who don’t know, we rescued Dexie when she was 4 years old, back in October of 2012. I’ve had Golden Retrievers my whole life and I felt an incredible void in my life not having a dog by my side. I remember checking in daily on the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue website to see who had become available and then there she was. It was instantaneous, I knew we were meant to be together. I know that sounds cliché, but that’s what happened. I was in Austin for work and immediately sent my request to adopt email to the foster parent. The next day I got a response that they wanted to meet in person and the wheels were in motion. Within just a few weeks we were now the proud parents of Dexie girl. My heart was complete.
Stay with me as I’d like to share some of my favorite memories with Dexie and even some of her adorable quirks that are helping me get through the tough days as I laugh, smile and often times cry looking back at her beautiful life with us.
First of all, we would always joke that we got the “Golden,” but not the “Retriever.” Play fetch? Nope. Love the ocean or the lake? Nope. (she only took a dip to cool off. How regal of her.) Cuddle? Nope. Love other dogs? Nope. (tolerate them? Yes.)
However, she did love to —
- go for walks and sniff… everything. Some days we just had to reign her in if we wanted to actually accomplish walking.
- humans. Gosh this dog loved good humans. I said good humans because she had a keen sense of people and would stay away or cautiously approach those she didn’t trust. I imagine that stems from her previous life where she wasn’t treated well.
- food. I can hear it now… well duh Kristin, what dog doesn’t. The thing is, this dog was so damn awesome in that we taught the commands “No kitchen” which meant she had to sit outside the island space and “No begging” which indicated she needed to back up. So yes, we gave her people food, often, but she was so polite about it!
- belly rubs. Per typical Golden, all she wanted in life was to be pet and given belly rubs. She could be quite forceful about it too if you tried to stop.
- booty rubs. Dex had the best fluffy butt. She was an English Golden Retriever which typically means stocky, blocky in nature, big paws and light in color. This gave her a big booty with lots of fluff and she loved some good booty rubs. We use to call her Big Booty Dexie… ie. BBD.
- her antler. I love my sweet girl, but she was a bit bougie. She wouldn’t chew on just any bone (she’d carry a rawhide around for months!), but Sean once brought her home an antler and that became her favorite chew toy. She’d throw it up in the air, check to see if I was watching, and then pounce on it.
- cool floors. Dexie ran hot… all the time. I think that’s partly why she didn’t like to cuddle or had any desire to join us on the couch or the bed. Often times, she’d choose the cool floors to lay on and “cool the cooch” as we used to say. I loved her little froggy pose with the back legs splayed out. Gosh, I would tell Sean “look at how cute she is!” every other day when she did that even after 7 years. It never got old.
For those of you that had a chance to know Dexie and I together, you know just how connected we were. I think there was equal parts separation anxiety for one another, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. She came to me in a time when earlier that year I was in a very scary car accident and left wondering how in the world I walked away, but committed to fulfilling my life with things I love. Dexie was in need of finding a loving home that treated her with kindness, an abundance of love and trust. We could do that for one another and we bonded within in a heartbeat of meeting each other.
I’ve always said that my calling in life was dogs and so far, Golden Retrievers in specific. I personally don’t want kids and I think deep down that motherly desire is projected onto my love of dogs and this desire to give them the best life possible. I dream one day of owning a ranch with 12 rescue pups running around the property. Thus, I’m all in and that was how it was with Dexie. We worked alongside each other day in & day out, took her on countless trips and included her in every aspect of my life when possible. It’s a bond I’ll forever hold close to my heart and one that breaks me to pieces over the grief of not having her by my side any longer.
Mama’s as we like to call her, was such a cool dog. I was spoiled hands down. I’d get done working out and say, “It’s time for a shower,” and up she went to lay in the bathroom while I got ready. I could tell her to poo on command (no joke), and she could tell time. 5:01 was feeding time and she’d let you know it! She only wanted to walk on my left side (did I mention she’s stubborn AF?) and got very anxious in public places and would approach the trunk of every car thinking it would rescue her from having to go any further. Ask anyone who tried to walk her for me and I’m pretty sure they’d first say “stubborn” and then proceed to tell me how they only made it 2 houses down before she quit, or she’d abruptly stop in a cross walk and not go any further. These stories are countless and always make me laugh. My girl didn’t want to miss the chance that I might come home while out on a walk, so therefore, she just didn’t want to go and hell, you sure as shit couldn’t make her. She was loyal.
Every morning I would sing her a song… “Good Morning, Good Morning, it’s going to be a good morning.” Then shower her with a ton of kisses and I love you’s. Often times she’d then get up, go lay outside the bedroom door in the hallway and wait for me. Once I came out, she roll on her back, wag her tag and beg for belly rubs. She’d pretend to wipe off my kisses and I’d shower her with more. It was truly the best way to start any day and something I so desperately miss.
I feel like her story should never end because how do you sum up your best friends life in just a blog post. You can’t. It’s impossible. I’m so grateful to have experienced growing into the person I am today with her by my side. I mostly have good days with tough moments. It’s the lack of routine that I miss, the hearing of her paws when making my morning smoothie, feeding time at 5:01 or her laying by my feet while watching a show. I’m trying to go for our morning walks still, but just the other day I cried through almost the entire thing because I just missed her so much sniffing every tree and her little booty shaking as she confidently walked ahead because she knew these streets better than I did.
I feel robbed of so many more great years together and this wasn’t how I wanted her to go out. I’m struggling with the suddenness of it all, but have peace knowing she’s not suffering. I can only hope she’s hanging out with her cousins, Brandy, Whiskey, Bailee, Jozi, Abbey and Gracie. We have a herd of Goldens up there that have meant the world to my family. We’re lucky to have experienced their love and joy.
So to Dexie (aka Mamas, Koplexi, BBD, Dexie Mamas, Dex, Sweet Girl), I know you were taken from us way too soon and you had so much more life to live but I promise to treasure your life and learn these lessons from you —
- Your ability to forgive and move forward.
- Your ability to trust again.
- Your willingness to love unconditionally.
- Your eagerness to greet each new day.
- Your resolve to remain true to yourself.
- Your loyalty to family.
Thank you to everyone who has reached out these past weeks, it’s appreciated more than you know. If you shared a memory of Dexie, thank you. Truly. It was reading those memories that got me through those initial days as I couldn’t see beyond what had just happened right in front me. It’s comforting to know that Dexie was loved by so many and made such a loving impact on so many people. She’s irreplaceable and set the bar pretty damn high, but I know she’d want me to continue my journey on providing a loving home to another beautiful Golden girl.