Monday, August 31, 2009



It has been a crazy 18 months and 18 days at my house...and...cancer seems to dominate every conversation.

My baby girl...Theresa Tuxedo...died...Saturday morning.

That is better the above picture.

Theresa was our home...on December 18, 2000. She was one of three babies I found when I came home for lunch that day to check on Precious...her mommy...whom I knew was due any day.

When the other puppies began to stand and walk around...Theresa still lay on her chest...dragging her back legs behind her. I took her to the vet, beside myself. Something was wrong with this adorable little girl.

The vet told me she was a "swimmer puppy." He taught me exercises and sent me home to do physical therapy with Theresa to help her legs grow stronger. For months afterward, I would pick her up and exercise her legs...before I went to work in the morning...when I came home at lunchtime...twice each evening...and every two hours on weekends...praying all the way.

Not only did her legs strengthen...and she began to walk...but, she began to RUN around the house at high speeds...and so, earned the nickname: "SpeedRacer," from my older son.

Theresa was such a success story...born crippled to SpeedRacer only a few short months!

A very sweet little girl with the humans in the house, Theresa took no guff from the other canines...or the boss. Several years ago, she began barking loudly at the then pastor as I brought her before him, at the Annual Blessing of the Animals. Before I could tell him her name, he joked: "This one's named 'Rosemarie,' right?"

She was my good baby girl. When she went for her annual physical this past June I wanted to know what food I should give her, because she had put on a great deal of weight. Her belly was very large for a little dog. Her weight had increased from 24 to over 27 pounds.

The vet said she wasn't fat she had a tumor growing inside her.

Talk about feeling like an idiot!

Her bloodwork showed her white blood cell count was very high...over forty thousand. The doctor put her on a two week regimen of meds, and said that if they helped he would perform surgery to remove the tumor.

I went home, started the meds and began praying. I asked St. Peregrine, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Jude to intercede for Theresa as well.

After two weeks, we returned and surgery was scheduled. The doctor said he didn't know if Theresa would survive the surgery...I continued praying...and she did!

The doctor had gotten the entire tumor out...over three pounds worth...but said he couldn't be sure that the cancer hadn't seeded elswhere in Theresa's body. Complicating it all was the fact that the original tumor was in a mammary gland, but the biopsy showed it was a particularly fast growing and aggressive bone cancer that was involved...even though it was not in Theresa's bones!

Her blood count fell to a more normal thirteen thousand, and she came home with an E-collar and a drain in her belly:


The prognosis was guarded...but good.

Until, I found another growth on her shoulder shortly after the drain and stitches had come out.

The growth was removed in a second surgery, and Theresa was racing through the house, being her normal loving, gentle self...a demeanor that had not changed during any part of her journey here on earth.

I began to call her Terry Terrific!

She returned to the vet last Saturday to have the stitches in her shoulder removed and it was then that two more growths were found in her belly. She came home with more meds and an appointment in two weeks to see if they grew.

By Monday, August 24th...merely two days later...the two growths had doubled in size. On Tuesday, I was in the dining room and heard something fall, down the hall. I went to investigate and saw nothing.

Theresa was sitting in the hallway so I gave her a pat, and that is when I noticed her breathing was labored. As I sat watching her for a minute, she fell forward onto the tile floor. That was the noise I had heard. I felt the growths and found they had doubled again...overnight.

I brought her to the vet that afternoon, he gave her a steroid shot and more meds. After he took an x-ray, he brought me into the operating room to show me that the cancer had spread to Theresa's lungs. And, something was blocking her stomach as well.

I thought he was going to tell me that we would have to put Theresa down...but to my surprise he gave me meds to make her comfortable...all the while apologizing to me...and telling me that all we could do now was make her comfortable. Through it all, Theresa did not utter a sound...aside from all the barking she had done at the other dogs in the waiting room...before we saw the doctor.

I had to get to work, so I asked the doctor if I could bring Theresa with me. He told me by all means...bring her everywhere!

And so, I did.

Theresa came to work with me that night, and every night last week. She strutted on the leash even as her little sides worked hard for air. She sat by my side at my desk each evening. She was so excited that she was going everywhere with me in the my aunt's to let the man in who diagnosed the leak in the basement, and the following day to let the man in to fix the sprinklers. Each time I went to leave the house last week, Theresa raced down the stairs and sat by the door waiting for me to put on her leash.

She just strutted on that leash...pulling me along.

To the very end, Theresa lived up to her nickname: "SpeedRacer!"

But then, late Friday night, something changed. I was already in bed and Theresa wasn't coming into the room to sleep by my she always did. She stayed in the hall sitting upright with my younger son's bedroom door seemingly supporting her. I went to down on the floor with her...and...between her demeanor and the demeanor of the other dogs...realized the end was very near.

Lucky, her dad...ran into the bedroom and hid on the other side of the bed. Her brother, Mr. Wiggles (he's a whole other story all by himself!) sat upright in the hallway as if standing guard...very uncharacteristic for him, since he likes to be the center of attention.

Theresa put her head on my leg, and I pet and consoled her. Her eyes were not right, and I knew that whatever my prayer...this time around...God's Will was going to be very hard to take!

My sweet little Theresa snuggled as close as she could, and I kissed her on the bridge of her nose. I thought about how much I despised cancer, and spoke some of the same things to Theresa, that I had spoken to my aunt back in April. I told her that she had fought a good fight, but there was nothing more we could do...that I loved her, and would miss her...but that the time for suffering was over. I made the Sign of the Cross on her forehead.

Theresa licked the tears from my face, and just sat with me for a couple of hours. When she went back to her position by my son's door, I tried to help her rest on a pillow...but she would not have any part of it.

She sat upright that entire night.

The next morning Theresa had an appointment with the vet. She was walking and acting normally, with the exception of the still labored breathing, but even my older son commented on how different her eyes were.

As for me, I told my husband, if the vet thought another surgery would help...schedule it!

My heart, though, knew better.

I had Catechist Training that morning, so my husband took Theresa to the vet. I gave her a kiss...told her I loved her...and...made the Sign of the Cross on her head...before she left.

The last picture I have in my mind of Theresa, is of her plopping down on the porch, not wanting to leave with my husband. He picked her up, carried her to the truck and they were on their way.

As I was driving to the church, I got the call that on the way to the vet, Theresa looked over her shoulder at my husband...sighed...and, dropped her head on the seat. He could not find a pulse. He rushed the rest of the way to the vet...they tried to revive her...but, it was too late.

Theresa was gone...another statistic in the insanity that is cancer!

We are heartbroken...and, again struggling with the "how-comes" and the "if-onlys"...that accompany illness and death...whether it be the death of a man, woman, child, or beloved pet.

Theresa is now at rest.

Her earthly journey ended.

I know that animals do not have the same souls as humans...but, because they are energy...I do hope and pray...that the energy that was Theresa...somehow returned on the energy's Source...our Heavenly Father!

My husband simply insists: "All dogs go to heaven!"

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal.
Love leaves a memory no one can steal.

~ From a Headstone in Ireland ~

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