In 2012, I started on an another adventure in my veterinary education. Along with my 70+ other (incredible) classmates, I started surgery labs. And I am proud to say that we helped all of those dogs find homes. One of those dogs ended up in my home.
So the story began with a white pitt bull, a sweet girl who I just adored. But somehow it got all changed around and we walked out of the school with a cattle dog. (A cattle dog?!) When I brought Mark to see the pitty, he didn’t feel the connection. One (of several) cattle dogs was hanging out, this boy in particular was rather glum in his cage. Mark opened the cage and his speckled body came alive, twisting and writhing in giddy joy. He immediately attached to our side and followed us right out, as if he already knew all that there was with us.
Cedric was born, at least in the sense of our family. He was (seriously) one of the cutest cattle dogs ever. Prior to him, I did not know the joy of a (crazy) cattle dog. As a matter of fact, when Mark opened his cage, I said “... A cattle dog?!!”. I began to find myself prepping folks that he he was quite the sweet one and not to worry about the rep this bred gets. Oh sure, he kept our crew in line and loved to herd our beloved kitty Shroomie. But he wasn’t a nipper… though he was mighty with his stare! My dad called it his “terminal stare” and he would lock down on you and wait. For love or food.
Cedric was the first dog Mark and I brought in to our family together. And though Mark picked him out, he will be the first to say that Cedric was a mama’s boy. He totally led the “Courtney train” around the house. I can say I have never been loved so very much by another being. This dog loved me with an intensity that I could not fathom. Those bat ears and crazy coat, determined eyes and stubborn ways. He was our one and only Cedric.
I could go on and on about the years he spent with us but I think I can sum it up in some spattering of words: Bananas (!!), utter devotion, underware ingestion, car ride chaos, cat herding, bear clawing, cat poop delicacies, love, ears to be loved, crazy…sweet and wonderful.
We figured, Cedric was at least 16+ years old. We got to enjoy his crazy for this last extra year plus after a tough surgery (thanks to the surgical skills of the Dr. Patti Sura). As much as we didn’t want to admit it, Cedric really grew old on us. Yet somehow, he was still a sassy old fella at times and we enjoyed these glimpses of who he really was. Things got tougher of late, who knows how long that was as it seems to blur together. The talk started about how long we could go on like this- lots (and I mean lots) of urinary accidents, carrying him up the stairs, pain management and the like. But it was all doable. And we would do it a thousand times over.
Until the past few weeks, maybe more. And really it was the last week of his life that was the absolute hardest to watch. I held him a week prior as he experienced his first seizure. It broke my heart. We had the talk, the talk we had been sort of having for a little while now. We decided to wait and watch, give him the night and that next day was torture our hearts. Of course, that stubborn old cattle dog rallied. I have to say, I even had to dig a cat turd laced plant root out of his mouth the last week of his life. He enjoyed some more good times and we let our guard down. That is just what happens, it was easy to let ourselves sink in to complacent happiness that our old man was once again.
Cedric had an acute decline again with another seizure. I was home alone in my bedroom at midnight. And let me tell you, I balled my eyes out, holding him and apologizing for what I could not control. What does one do? Sob and offer any words to your friend to express that you hate that you cannot control everything and make them better. That you cannot have all the answers and the know how to predict when something like this would happen or better yet stop it. That you are just sorry… because you love them so very much and you don’t know how to say good bye.
I helped Cedric be comfortable. I gave him good medications to help him be free of pain, stress and suffering. That lasted for about 12 hours until Mark could be with us. And together we cried and held him and acknowledged that it was time to let this bold and wild man pass on to his next journey.
If you are still with me at this point, I want to make sure you know that this is absolutely the hardest thing we ever do. I have since been in a place of teetering between light and dark, between numbness and raw sadness. But I can say that I have peace. I have no doubt that our one and only Cedric had an amazing life and a very gentle death. I just wish it didn’t have to hurt so much.
A few nights later, Mark took down the barricade to keep Cedric from getting to the litterbox. And I still step over it, as if it is still there, and I smile and choke up a bit and hold a piece of that cattle dog even closer to my heart.
I am thankful to the friends and family we have who love us and loved Cedric. And to those that helped me, especially the last few days. Including the clients who (without knowing what personal emergency I had) were understanding of me needing to take care of myself and my family.
I am finding my words now. And there is a great sadness and a great joy. There is love and there is a knowledge that my heart was forever touched by one amazing cattle dog. The grief is there and we are walking through it, with tears and smiles. How can you love a being so much and not be forever changed. You simply can’t. And the realness of having to make a decision on end of life care after having watched an amazing and proud friend go through such difficulties... it is softening, taking you to the core. This is love and love.
(To Cedric with love.)