THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
Chance has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. On Saturday morning (8/18/2007) I lost one of my closest and dearest friends. I felt the knot in my stomach and cried the tears that most people experience upon the death of a loved one. The fact that we had been waiting for this to occur for about two months made it no less devastating to AnnMarie and me.
Chance was a “rescue” dog. We first acquired him about 5 years ago. He had been a client at our veterinarian’s practice. He had suffered a hematoma in his ear and had required corrective surgery. He had subsequently become an unwanted member of a broken home, a divorce problem. Our vet was aware of our interest in Golden Retrievers and his staff asked if we could take the dog out of his current situation and place him in a new home. I soon found myself knocking on a door to pick up the dog known as “Arson.” Arson was two years old, about the same as our own Golden, Jeb. Arson was a red Golden, not unlike our own dogs, Rusty and Penny. Arson’s ear was still bandaged from his recent surgery but otherwise he appeared in good health. He obviously had been well cared for and had not been abused in any way, but it was obvious that he was not a valued family member. His vet bills had all been paid and he required only a final check up and to have the bandage removed. AnnMarie and I decided that we would look for a new home for Arson but would keep him with us until his bandages were removed within a few days.
AnnMarie succeeded in finding a candidate family to adopt Arson and I had the follow-up vet visit scheduled with Dr. Greg Lindimood who had done Arson’s surgery. Dr. Greg explained what had happened to Arson’s ear and instructed me on the continuing attention and care that the ear would require; nothing too difficult or complicated. Arson had only limited interaction with our own pack of dogs while we waited for his placement. He was adopted by a couple with 3 young children. They signed all of our contract paperwork, which included agreeing not to sell the dog or turn him over to a shelter; if the adoption didn’t work out they were to bring him back to us and we would refund their adoption fee. I had fully explained Arson’s ear problem and the periodic care required; no problem. Off went Arson in the back of a pickup truck to his new home.
It was about two months later that we got a phone call from Arson’s new owner. The dog had snapped at their youngest son who was playing with him. No damage had been done but they didn’t feel comfortable keeping the dog and wanted to return him. We were happy to take him back, although disappointed, because we didn’t want the dog being dumped in a kill shelter or the like. The dog was returned and we were informed that they had changed his name to “Chance.” AnnMarie had never liked the name Arson but didn’t want us to change it ourselves for the short period of time that we had had him in our initial care.
Once the now former owners had left, it became apparent that Chance had a severe ear infection. His “bad’ ear was a scarlet red and radiating heat; it was extremely sensitive and apparently very painful when touched. I could envision the youngest son pulling at the dog’s ear and suffering the reactive consequence. We ignorantly put Chance out in the back paddock with our other Goldens. It was only a short while before a fight broke out that forced our intervention. AnnMarie’s daughter and son-in-law were over visiting; they were both canine handlers on the Pentagon Police Force. We blindly jumped into the fray to pull all the participants, including Chance, apart. During the ensuing effort Chance was successfully able to bite AnnMarie, her son-in-law Bill, and me. Only her daughter Sarah escaped being bitten. The three of us all had minor bleeding bites. Once separated from the other dogs, Chance calmed down and we kept him out of the pack. We self treated our wounds, not wanting to report the dog bites and incurring the required quarantine which we would in effect be doing anyway. We knew that all of Chance’s shots were current and up to date. I took Chance in to the vet and had his ear treated and got the required medication to continue his treatment. He got to wear the Elizabethan collar for a few weeks to keep him from scratching at the ear. During his recuperation, we became attached to him and he seemed to become attached to us. He melded into the pack with the other dogs without any further incidents.
Chance was a different type of Golden Retriever. He didn’t like the water. He wouldn’t retrieve anything. He didn’t play with toys, and if you tossed him a tennis ball it would more than likely bounce off of his forehead. Unlike our other Goldens, who would gladly show a burglar where the silver was kept, Chance was a good watchdog, barking loudly upon the approach of any stranger.
Chance and I became very close. He was the most loyal of our pack. He was not as carefree and frolicking as the others. AnnMarie dubbed him to be a “huckleberry” saying that although he looked like a Golden Retriever and his mother might have been a Golden Retriever, his father was obviously Huckleberry Hound.
When we’d go on vacation we’d leave the dogs in the care of our next door neighbor Doug. Doug would tell us about how when he came over for evening feedings or to let them do their business he would provide some time to just stay with them. He told us how Chance would sit with him on the sofa and watch the “western channel” on our satellite TV. Doug and Chance were good buddies and Chance was always glad to see Doug out in the yard or whenever he’d stop by the house.
When we acquired our Yellow Lab pup Abby, it was Chance who befriended her. He and Abby would wrestle and tug with toys for what seemed to be hours on end. That’s about the only time Chance would actually play with toys. Chance was, however, that dog that always has to be first. First out the door; first in the door; first to eat; first to get in line for treats, etc. No matter what, Chance always had to be first.
Chance would jump up on AnnMarie and she would hold his front legs and dance with him. Chance loved to dance. He was also well known as the world’s greatest suck-up. He would sit next to you and casually place his head on your lap and look up at you with his deep brown eyes while perhaps licking you hand. Whenever the treat cabinet or refrigerator was open, Chance would be there and assume a perfect “sit.” On the morning of Wednesday, June 20th, Chance didn’t want to eat his breakfast when I fed the pack at 5 AM prior to going to work; a real indication that he didn’t feel well. However, all of our dogs have suffered with garbage gut at one time or another so I didn’t think too much of it. He seemed OK otherwise. Later in the morning AnnMarie called me at work to tell me that when she had let the dogs out at about 6 AM and when she went to bring them in at about 7 AM to crate them she couldn’t initially find Chance. Normally he would be first in line to come in. She then found him seemingly hiding under the stairs to our upper deck. She had to coax him into the kennel and his crate. She told me that it appeared that he had eaten his breakfast. She asked that I schedule him to see our vet and I scheduled an appointment for Thursday afternoon. When I got home at about 5 PM Wednesday afternoon I found Chance lying down in his crate and seeming to be immobile. I was able to get him standing but as he exited his crate he collapsed. I immediately called our vet at Confederate Ridge Animal Hospital in Fredericksburg, they would be open until 7 PM and told them that I was coming in with Chance. I got him to the vet by 6 PM and he was seen immediately. He had been close to comatose the entire hour long ride from Lake Anna to Fredericksburg. He was running a high fever and was dehydrated. A sonogram indicated that his spleen was enlarged. He was admitted to the emergency clinic it preparation for surgery the following day.
We got the biopsy report from our vet early the following week. The pathology report came back as a splenic hamangiosarcoma. Not good. They tend to metastasize in the abdomen and to the liver. Chemotherapy can slow things down, but it doesn't do great things. The general time frame has been to only expect a couple of months without chemotherapy, and up to six months with chemotherapy. After serious consideration as to what we expected Chance’s quality of life would be we opted not to do the chemo or any other extreme measures that would only prolong the inevitable.After his diagnosis, we decided that whatever time Chance had left would be the best of his young seven year old life. He became the privileged prince of the house. He no longer had to go out to the paddock with the rest of the pack. I took him just about everywhere I went; he really enjoyed riding in the car. He got to know the girls at the McDonald’s drive-thru. He went to PetSmart and PetCo. He even went out on the pontoon boat with us and his good friend Doug and his wife Kim. Chance ate steak and liver and chicken mixed with his kibble. He had one of AnnMarie’s special cookies with her every morning.
Chance got to be a really spoiled guy and put on a few pounds. He did quite well for the two months that his prognosis said that he had left with us. During the two month period, he only had two days when he was less than his spirited self. Like our other dogs, Chance acquired a multiple of nicknames over the years. We can’t remember the origins of them all. He was responsive to them all; Chance, Chance O’ Pants, Chancy Pants, Pants, CP and Huckleberry. He was our Chancy Pants from France who loves to dance. Call him whatever you wanted as long as it wasn’t late for dinner.
Chance was doing so well that we opted to go out to dinner on Friday night, the 17th, with some close friends. When we left him at about 5 PM he was fine, although he indicated he’d have preferred to go along with us. We spoke of him, undoubtedly boringly so, with our friends at dinner. We got home at around 10:30 PM and found Chance on our bed. He seemed to be in physical distress; he could barely stand-alone and was breathing heavily. In our hearts we knew that this might be Chance’s final night with us. It had been just over two months since his diagnosis. I carried him outside but he was only able to sit or lie down and had difficulty standing or walking. We brought him into the house and put him on a bed that we had set up under our kitchen table where he had access to a bowl of ice chips and water. I rolled out a quilt out alongside his bed and lay down beside him along with our orange Maine Coon cat, Boru. Chance slept from about midnight until 3 AM and then he awoke with distressed breathing. I held him close to me caressing his muzzle and patting his head trying to comfort and reassure him as best I could. At daybreak, AnnMarie and I discussed the situation and we called our vet at their 8:00 AM opening time to make arrangements to bring Chance in for what we knew would be his final visit. Dr. Witter and his staff were thoughtful enough to come out to our truck so that we wouldn’t have to carry Chance in. We arrived at the vet’s at 10:30 and Dr. Witter came out to look at Chance. By this time Chance’s gums and tongue were a pale whitish color as he was obviously bleeding internally. His continued deterioration would be a painful one. The choice of what to do was obvious but difficult. As we had unfortunately had to face this decision before with Penny, we knew we had to let Chance go while his cognitive senses and his dignity were still intact. AnnMarie and I were stroking him gently and I held him close and spoke my goodbyes to him as he received the injection and took his last breath, closed his eyes and crossed over the Rainbow Bridge at about 11:15 AM to join Bear, Rusty Penny and Kodi who had all crossed before him. As we do all of our dogs, we loved Chance as a family member and know in our hearts that he loved us, unconditionally. Chance and I, however, shared a very special companionship that was closer than I have with the others. I will miss him terribly and he will always be with me in my heart. He was my best friend.
Chance: January 1, 2000 – August 18, 2007
The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this – the last battle – can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me ‘til the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its’ last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close – we two – these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.