Sunday, November 27, 2011

This One's For You...

Dad's text along with this picture: Not trying to make you cry,
but I like this picture. She's in her favorite spot in the
backyard and I thought you might like it.

It still hasn't hit me quite yet that Hannah's actually gone.  I really just don't want to believe it.  My dog who was completely healthy when I left and through the first three months of my semester in Hawaii got very sick very fast and couldn't recover.

I half-expect her to be alive and well upon my return home, and I don't want to accept the fact quite yet that it's not going to happen.  I had a dream the other night that she wasn't really gone - Mom had just put her under a coma for the remaining three weeks I was away, even though she told me she had passed.  I then came home, saw her lifeless in the house, started crying out her name, and she came back to life and was healthier than ever.

If only.  That would be my dream come true.

I shouldn't dwell on the fact that she's gone, or the regret I harbor because I couldn't be there for her when she needed me.  My parents did the best they could.  Hannah just couldn't fight it.  I just can't imagine coming back to my house and her not being there to greet me at the door.

I still and will always remember my last moments with her.  Right before I left for the airport I hugged her and told her not to get sick.  Stay healthy for 4 months.  Getting sick was not even a option for her since I never thought it could actually happen.  I just wanted to make sure she would be there when I got back, and I wanted to solidify that with a promise from her.  I jinxed her.  That's an awful feeling.  She walked to the garage door with me.  I said goodbye again at the top of the stairs, kissed her tiny little head, and walked away.  I didn't look back.  It would have been harder to leave her that way.

I should have looked back, just once more.  I didn't even occur to me that this would be the last time I would ever see my best friend.  But it was.

I need to remember the good times with her, how she had a great life, how she made me so happy.  That's what this post is really supposed to be about.  Not me sobbing over the keyboard trying to write this, although that's inevitable and I'm just going to have to power through this post as a hot, weepy mess.

The day we brought Hannah home I'll never forget.  I believe we still had our fat purple van... I wish I had a picture of it.  The whole family went to pick her up, which was a decent drive, after one of my soccer games.  We had this little cardboard box to put her in for the drive home.  All 3 kids wanted to hold her on the trip back.  When we got home I took her to our front lawn by the mailbox to go potty, and she did right away.  I knew right then and there that she was going to be a great dog.  Nobody ever had to convince me of that.

She was a tiny little pup; a boxer with droopy ears and a brindle coat.  Her tail had already been docked.  We believed that she was the little runt of the litter because she was so small.  Even as an adult she was smaller than most boxers are, and people always thought she was still a growing dog when she was 8 years old.  But after a while when her gray fur started setting in, it was harder to mistake her for a young dog.  To me, she was the perfect size.

Right after she came home with us, she got very sick.  Throwing up, diarrhea, the whole works.  Mom was concerned and took her to the vet.  They treated her and she got better right away.  In my young mind I figured she just missed her mommy and her old home and that's why she was so sick.

She was so tiny we couldn't use the food and water dishes we had bought for her yet; we had to use these small bowls that were about the size of a 1-cup measuring cup.

But Hannah outgew those bowls quickly.  When she got old enough, my parents decided to get her ears cropped.  I liked her ears how they were, but Mom insisted that we get them done because that's how a standard boxer looked.  I didn't think erect pointy ears looked as cute as her big floppy ones but again I was young and didn't really understand.

Whoever did the procedure butched her ears up real nice, jagged edges and all.  It looked awful, and not just because I liked her droopy ears better.  They were messed up.  As they healed and her fur grew back around the edges, it covered up the disaster a little bit, but throughout her life I would sometimes notice her ears and think, "Wow, someone really did a number on you pup."  Good thing she had a pretty face.

Hannah was one of a kind.  During her younger years, we would let her outside free to roam the neighborhood, and she would be out there all day.  We never worried about her running away or getting hit by a car.  She was a smart dog.  The only way she would have been hit by a vehicle was if she was blindsided by it.  She had a thing for chasing tires.  She especially loved bicycles, motorcycles, and 4-wheelers, as well as the occasional dirtbike or golf cart that came through.

Wow, I sure do live in Illinois country.

I took her on all my runs.  In the beginning I had her on a leash, but she didn't like that and neither did I.  Eventually the leash became unnecessary.  She would stay right with me unless something else seemed more interesting, which happened quite often.  She always ran ahead of me, never would she let me lead.  At the one-mile point on my runs I would stop at this little watering hole that collected rainwater so she could get a drink and jump in for a minute to cool off.

Even if Hannah was already outside preoccupied with something and I came out to go on a run, she would drop whatever she was doing and come along for the trip.  Every single time.  It got to the point where I would be inside putting on my running shoes and she would get all excited and wait for me at the door.  She just knew.  I really believe she enjoyed going with me on my runs.  I also believe I wouldn't have gone on half as many runs if I didn't have her there with me.

After our runs when we went back inside, Hannah cooled off by laying on the kitchen tile.  It was always funny to see her there laying in the middle of the kitchen in everyone's way, just hanging out.

Towards the end of her running career, if a car was coming our way all I had to do was call her over and say "stay" as I ran, and she wouldn't leave my side. I received multiple compliments on her obedience from people passing by, asking how I got her to listen to me and not chase the car.  I just chalked it up to the fact that we had been on so many runs together that she just knew to stay with me. 

This spring while I was home for break, I took her on a run.  It had been a while since we had been on one together because I had been away at college and winter was just starting to end.  Hannah faithfully came with me, just like every other time.  It was only 2 miles.  After we got back, I noticed she was acting differently than normal.  She wouldn't eat or drink anything and just laid in her bed the rest of the day.  She wouldn't get up for anything.  I explained her behavior to my parents and they were concerned about it, so the next day we took her in to get checked out.  I told the vet about the run, and she said Hannah was probably just super worn out and probably shouldn't go on runs like that anymore.  Mom and Dad didn't know I took her on the run (I must have left that tidbit out when I first told them...) before we took her into the vet, and were like "no wonder she was acting sick - you almost ran her to death!".  They thought I was really stupid after that one.  But that was the time I almost killed my dog.

If any of us were ever outisde with her when another neighborhood dog approached us, Hannah would never let the dog get too close.  She always stayed in the middle of us.  I guess she was protecting us from the stranger, but the anthropomorphic side of me says she was jealous of other dogs and didn't want any of us getting too close to pet them.  I was always constantly reminding Hannah that no other dog could ever take her place or be loved more than she was, but she never took a chance with other dogs.

That doesn't mean she wasn't a friendly dog, though.  She was friends with all the canines in the neighborhood, except when one of us were around.  I like to think Hannah was popular among her peers, so to speak, and was the leader of the pack.

When Hannah wasn't outside, she was in Sister's room on her bed.  That was her favorite place in the house because it gave the perfect view of the driveway and front lawn, where she could keep an eye on things.  Sister wasn't too fond of this because there was always dog hair in her bed, so when she was home she always kept her door shut.  But I would secretly open it when she wasn't around so Hannah could attend to her post.  After Sister went to college, her door was open all the time and Hannah had full access to the bed.  When she saw something like a squirrel or another dog, she would bark and run into the living room to alert one of us to let her outside.  I could always bet on her being on Sister's bed when she was in the house.

Caught in the act!

Hannah was not a cuddler, even though I wanted her to be.  She would sleep by herself in her bed in the living room every night while I was in high school.  But after I went to college and came back for winter and spring breaks, she started this habit where she would scratch on my door at 4 in the morning until I let her in, where she proceeded to get in my bed and under my covers and sleep at my feet for a couple hours.  That was the extent of her cuddling,  and I was always happy when she came in to sleep with me.

Dad was her alpha. There was no doubt about that. Whenever Hannah did something wrong and Dad found out about it, she knew she was in trouble. Every time he called her, she came, ears low and tail under her butt, waiting for a punishment, even if Dad just wanted to pet her. She was faithfully obedient to him, and it was adorable to watch their interactions. If he was ever outside working in the yard, Hannah was right there beside him. Daddy probably loved her more than he let on, and I'm sure having to let her go was as hard for him as it was for me.  Hannah was Dad's "ugly spud", a very affectionate nickname in my mind.

Dad did a really good job training her.  She learned how to use the bell at our back door when she needed to go outside to do her business.  And damn, she was smart.  She would ring the bell and wait for us to open the back door, but when she wouldn't move it meant she wanted to go outside, the real outside via the front door where she wasn't limited to the fenced-in area in the backyard.

She was so smart, she learned the word "outside" really quick.  If anyone said the word, she would perk up, bark, and run around to the front door until someone let her out.  Sometimes I'd make her sit and stay as I opened the door.  I watched her eyes focus on me intently until I said the magic word.  I'd mess with her and say words like "banana" or something so she'd have to sit there a second longer.  Finally I'd give her the "okay!" and she was out of the house like it was on fire.  She was always wanting to go outside, even if it was for a minute (which that happened a lot later in her life).  I was glad we lived in a neighborhood out in the country where we could let her out to roam free and give her a happy life.

We taught Hannah all the usual commands: come, sit, lay, stay.  Mom had gotten really creative and taught her a trick where she would be told to lay, Mom would drag a treat along the floor, and Hannah had to crawl across the floor to get the treat.  That one was called G.I. Joe.

I was really proud of myself for teaching her several new tricks.  I taught her how to "speak".  It was funny to me because I would just keep repeating the word "speak", and Hannah would get all angry and riled up at the word until she began barking.  I'm not sure what she associated "speak" with, but it must have pissed her off because it worked every time.

I also taught her the trick where I would put the treat on her nose, tell her to stay while the treat balanced there, and then said "okay!" and she would throw the treat up and catch it in her mouth.  Very skilled, coordinated, athletic dog.  She really was the best.

She knew the word "treat", and knew exactly where to go where she could find one.

Hannah also knew where the laser was, which was a fun toy for her.  We would shine the light on the carpet and she would try to attack it and chase it wherever she went.  She always got so confused when we shined the light on her paw or on one of our feet.  But she knew exactly which drawer we kept the laser in.  Even if we were in that drawer fishing for something else, Hannah would get really attentive and start looking back and forth between us and the floor, waiting for that laser.

Hannah was a great family pet.  She never hurt any of us (intentionally).  We would play with her all the time.  If any of us said "get him/her!" to Hannah, she would playfully attack whoever we were talking to.  If any of us kids were rough-housing and Hannah was around to witness it, she barked and tried to break us up.  She didn't like seeing us fight.  If one of us kids acted like the other one hurt us, Hannah would bark at and playfully attack the culprit.

She would never hurt any of us, and was really friendly to strangers.  Little children that wanted to pet her could and nobody would  be worried about her growling or biting.  Hannah did have a tendency to love people and would want to jump up on them and lick them until they fought her off.  That was my only concern when small children wanted to pet her.   She had been known to jump up on them to kiss them and knock them over.  It was all in fun, though, and nobody ever got hurt.  I just explained that Hannah liked them a lot.  She had so much energy and loved being around people and getting attention.

She only had a few toys she really liked playing with. They happend to be stuffed squirrels. She really had a thing for them. Even the real ones. She would chase and try to catch them all the time. Her success rate was really low, but she was never the type to be a quitter.

While I was in high school, Hannah tore something in her knee.  It was her ACL or MCL or meniscus or something, and she needed surgery to reapair it.  At this time, I was deciding what I wanted to study in college and do in life, and veterinary medicine had always been my first choice (because when we had to put my first dog, Cocoa, down when I was in elementary school), so I wanted to observe the surgery.  I am grateful for Dr. Miller in Atkinson for letting me sit in on the surgery.  She explained what she was doing as she was doing it and showed me all the components to her knee and how to fix her problem.  I remember her telling me that if I started to get nauseous or lightheaded that I could sit down.  But I was too intrigued and didn't feel  the slighteset bit sick, even though it was my own dog I was observing.  That experience solidified my decision to study animal sciences in college and become a veterinarian.

Our family is a boxer-loving one.  My grandparents even have a sign that says "A house is not a home without a boxer".  They had a boxer while my mom was growing up.  A couple years before we got Hannah, my uncle got a fawn boxer.  Her name is Mandy.  She is the best behaved dog I have ever met.  My uncle trained her very, very well.  She is the sweetest, most lovable, cuddliest dog who doesn't have a mean bone in her entire body.  So obedient.

When my uncle had to move, he decided to give Mandy to my grandparents.  They spoiled her rotten to the core, and continue to to this day.  But she deserves it.  She's a wonderful dog.

Her and Hannah became good friends.  Dogs tend to have a problem getting along with each other, especially two females.  But for whatever reason, Hannah and Mandy were like sisters (without the fighting, because sisters still fight).  They would run around and play and always have a good time with each other.

Summer 2011

So maybe Mandy has a droopy eye and a drooling problem.  She's still the sweetest dog.  Besides fading of her senses and joint pain in her hips, Mandy is still alive and kickin', and I'm thankful for that.

I also hold a slight bit of resentment, because she is older than Hannah but is still here with us.  As happy as I am to have her around, it will always be a little sad to see her, because I will always be wondering why Hannah had to go first.

But Mandy was part of the reason Hannah had such an excellent life.  Her and Mandy shared this camaraderie that was good for both of them.  They had this goofy quirk where we would fill each of their bowls with food, but Hannah would eat out of Mandy's bowl and vice versa.  You couldn't give one a treat without giving on to the other.  In observing their interactions, I think Mandy was the more submissive dog and followed what Hannah did.  Hannah was bossy and had to eat first.  She was a bad sharer.

Like me.

Hannah just had a thing about wanting to eat every time I was in the kitchen.  In the mornings when I went to get breakfast, she would follow me and paw at her bowl, wanting some food.  As time went on all she had to do was look at me to let me know she wanted food.  I pretended not to know what she wanted, though, and had to ask until she pawed at her bowl.  After I filled it, she would look at me for the go-ahead signal so she could start eating.  I'm not sure why she did this.  She was strange.  My go-ahead signal to her was "Eat, Papa!".  From the 1964 claymation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Okay I was strange too.

Go to 1:26-1:40
Hannah always amazed me with how smart she was.  If I made a sandwich, I'd always give her some of the lunchmeat I used.  It got to the point where I would be in the process of making the sandwich and open the drawer in the refrigerator where the lunchmeat was and she would hear it and come into the kitchen to eat her slice of meat.  Incredible.  What a fatty-fat-fat (from the movie The Producers).  I had some strange nicknames and phrases for my dog.

Go to 0:28

The older she got, the more I appreciated my time with her, because I knew I didn't have all the time in the world left with her.  I just didn't realize how little time was actually left for us.  This past spring during break, my parents and grandparents were in Florida for Sister's softball, and they had taken both Hannah and Mandy to a kennel.  I missed Hannah so much I drove down to Peoria only a day before I would have otherwise seen her, and picked them up.  Over the summer, I would take her with me if I had to run an errand real quick.  I loved taking her with me when I went places, and she was happy to tag along in the car.
While I've been in Hawaii, I've missed Hannah immensely.  Whenever anyone asked whether I was homesick I always replied something like "yeah, I miss my family and friends, and my puppy too!"  Every skype session I had with my family, I always got to say hello to Hannah.  Just seeing her brightened my day.  I knew until I got back this was the best way to see her.  Dad kept me updated and sent me a few pictures he took on his phone to me.  Those were adorable.

During a skype session.  I was so grateful for these

One of the pictures Dad sent me from his phone

The bad news started a few weeks before my parents came to visit me here in Hawaii.  Mom called and said that Hannah had had a seizure.  They took her into the vet,  but there wasn't much they could do since it was only one seizure and they weren't sure what triggered it.  The vet mentioned anti-seizure medication and said if Hannah kept having them that they would put her on that.

Mom later told me that Hannah had been out in the garage with Dad while he was working on something that put out a lot of fumes in the garage.  We all believed that was what triggered her seizure.  We told ourselves it was a one-time occurrence, and she was fine.

And she was fine, for about a month.  Family came to visit me in early November, and they left Hannah with my grandparents and Mandy for the week.  She was absolutely fine there.

Then a week or two ago, Mom called me with some bad news that Hannah had another seizure.  She didn't sound too concerned about it,  but was thinking more about putting her on the anti-seizure medicine.

The rest of this seems like a whirlwind.

Sunday: Mom called me with awful news.  Hannah had been acting strangely all day.  She was tired and had no energy, was lying around all day, barely had any coordination, didn't eat or drink or go outside for the bathroom, and even looked lifeless when she looked into her eyes.  As if Hannah didn't recognize anyone.  She told me it was so bad that she was thinking of having her put down that very day.  That was such heartbreaking news, and she and I cried together over skype.  I wanted to see Hannah, so Mom had to carry her up the stairs.  She looked like she didn't know where she was.  I called her name and she looked around.  I started talking to her and she wagged her tail slightly.  Mom said she hadn't done that all day.  It made me really happy to know that me talking to her got her a little excited, but at the same time it was so sad.  It was just a sad, awful day.

Monday: Mom took Hannah to the vet and they said she had a lesion or tumor that was pressing against her brain.  They gave her a shot of steroids to hopefully shrink the tumor.  They also gave her steroid pills that she would need to be on for the rest of her life.  The vet explained this could work for 2 years, 2 months, 2 weeks, they didn't really know.  But they said it had a very good successful rate.  I just needed the medicine to work and Hannah to hold out for 4 weeks so I could come back and see her.  Maybe me being home could make her better.  Mom told me the news over skype that day that Hannah had completely turned around and was back to her usual self.  She really believed this was going to work.  She really had me believing it was going to work too.  Or we were both just hoping and praying it would work.  I saw Hannah that day over skype.  She seemed to be doing better, and I was so relieved.

I didn't know her situation was going to take a turn for the worst.

Tuesday: Mom called and said she had another seizure, or set of seizures.  It was really hard for her to come out of them and her heart rate was high and she was panting hard and couldn't shake it.  The vet told Mom to give Hannah some valium to try to calm her  down.  When I skyped Mom that day Hannah was up walking around not staying in one place just panting and not sitting still.  She didn't look right.  Mom said they were going to go to the vet tomorrow to see about putting her on the anti-seizure medicine, but they were running out of things they could do for her.  We still believed Hannah could turn around and show improvement, and I was hoping this anti-seizure medicine would do it.

Mom said they were going to take her to the vet first thing in the morning.  I told her to call me after the appointment to tell me how it went and what they were going to do for her.  I knew it was going to be five in the morning my time, but I didn't care.  I needed to know.

What I didn't know was that that skype session was going to be the last time I would ever see my dog.

Wednesday: My phone rang at five in the morning, just like I knew it would, but I didn't want to answer.  I didn't want the possibility of hearing bad news.  At that moment, I wanted to avoid everything and not deal with the fact that my dog was very sick and I could lose her by this phone call.

But eventually I answered.  It was my dad.  He said, "Sorry, Kate, but we had to put her down."  That was the single worst feeling I have ever experienced.  Dad told me that she had a seizure that morning and couldn't get out of it.  My parents really didn't want to see her suffer any more so they just had to do it.  In that moment, I lost it.  I had balled myself up in the corner of the living room in my apartment, silently sobbing so I wouldn't wake up my roommates.  For 45 minutes I sat there, numb, feeling nothing except like I the most alone person in the world.

All along, we kept saying that nobody wanted to see her suffer, and if it got too bad, they were goint to have to put her  down.  I absolutely agreed but at the same time the selfish part of me wanted my parents to wait if it got too bad on the decision to put her down until I got home.  If she had to be put down, the only thing I wanted was to be there to say goodbye.

I was not there to say goodbye.

That is the number one worst part.  Not being there for my dog in her time of need.  Hannah was there for everything in my life and helped me through so much, without even knowing it.  She helped me through heartbreak, losses, and random days where I was feeling blue for no particular reason.  She was always there to cheer me up, and it worked every single time.

I wish I could have repayed her for that.  I wish I could have been there to say goodbye to her and tell her that she was soon going to be in a place where she was done suffering.

But I can't go back and change any of that.  All I can do now is be grateful and know that she will not suffer anymore.  All I can do is remember all the fantastic times I had with her and know she had the best life my family could have possibly given her.

That's what this post is about.  This is to remember everything about Hannah.  My Hanners, Hanner-pie, fatty-fat-fat, sweeters, tiny head, ugly spud, and any other nickname I have ever called her.  This one's for you, baby girl...


  1. Crying. Tears flowing down my face. lol And laughing. She was silly and spunky just like you. I know you miss her but she misses you too and you both are taking each other everywhere. Love you Katie. It will get easier. And I loved all the funny and happy things in this post. :)

  2. ^ ^ ^ That last post was me (Shell) lol

  3. and cue the tears! =( i did laugh once in here at something you said. Miss and love Hannah so much! Love this post <3 -Jen

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. This is just kind of random but right before I left for Hawaii to come and see you Hannah was already at Grandma and Grandaddy's house and for the first time ever she jumped up on me and kept giving me kisses (you know how she NEVER does this normally). I think that was her trying to say hello to you and a final goodbye the only way she knew how. Love ya sis! This is hard and it's going to be harder when we have to go home and face the fact that she is actually gone, but we gave her a great life and I believe she was truly happy. <3