Saying Goodbye to Milo

9:23 PM

// This blog is like a journal for me. Talking about the loss of Milo may come off as somewhat detailed, graphic, etc. though my intent is never to upset anyone, I am just sharing my life - the good and the bad. If you are somewhat bothered by details associated with sickness or death, maybe do not continue reading/viewing. If you think I am crazy and weird for blogging about my dog's death and burial, you're probably right, but either's happening. This is my memorial to Milo, my sweet schnoodle who we sadly lost to cancer. //

I remember the day we got Milo. I found a Kijiji ad about rehoming a schnoodle and after seeing his photo I needed to meet him. Scott was super hesitant to get a second dog but agreed it wouldn't hurt to just go meet the dog and see what we thought of it (of course I also had plans to leave with said dog lol). We brought Meadow along to meet this Milo and they got along great, running around in the backyard. His previous owner was so relieved to see a family who clearly loved dogs and already had a similar dog so she knew we would take good care of him. Scott realized at some point during this visit that we weren't leaving without the dog, and the rest was history. He came with the name Milo and since it sounded so cute next to Meadow, we decided not to rename him.

He fit into our family immediately and took to me as his mama that very day. He followed me around and snuggled right up to my face that night to sleep. I knew I had found in him a kindred spirit - the kind of sweet "my dog Skip" dog I had always dreamed of having. He was my shadow and over the next while became one of my best friends.

On the outside looking in, maybe I loved him "too much." Maybe you aren't supposed to grow so attached to your dog. Maybe he became some sort of fill-in child for me through our years of infertility. But on the inside looking out, I could never have loved him enough or repaid him for the comfort and happiness he brought to my life. He brought sunshine with him when he walked in the room. He snuggled so close the night I lost my pregnancy. He never left my side during the early labour at home. He never demanded anything, he just wanted to be close by. He always followed me outside while I hung the laundry on the line. He went everywhere with me. Coming home was such a joy to see the two sweet furry faces in the window. Milo never wanted to run away, he always just wanted to be with us.

When Isla came around, I was a little worried because I didn't know how he would do having to step down from his prime spot in the bed and in my life. He handled the change so gracefully...even beginning to sleep more often at the end of the bed, as if he understood there had been a power shift. I would still grab him to snuggle once Isla was in her bassinet but he never tried to compete with her for my attention. In fact, he often just wanted to be near Isla and always fought me to give her kisses.

Once he got sick, things began going downhill so fast. His weight just kept dropping and things kept getting worse. We thought his weight issue was him adjusting to a newborn in the house, maybe eating less from the stress of her crying or all the changes, and it didn't occur to us until around late July that maybe something was wrong. At the beginning of August we had a vet come out to the house to see Milo and she determined he had a problem digesting protein and that he would need to go on certain foods and drugs but was otherwise seemingly fine. With her new regime everything was going great and Milo was even gaining weight until one day when we were out shopping, our friend & renter Hayley found Milo out in the lawn unable to get up. We rushed him to the emergency vet and everything just spiraled from there. First it seemed like he had an infection, then it seemed like he had swallowed a foreign object that had got stuck, and then eventually it was confirmed he had cancer and likely not long to live. His weight kept dropping until he was just skin and bone.

He had taken a turn for the worse on the 22nd but it was Scott's birthday and we were not keen on spending it putting our dog down, so we decided to wait it out and see if Milo improved. I had already planned a surprise trip 6 hours north for Scott's birthday on the 23rd to visit our friends there and I decided not to cancel. If we absolutely needed an emergency vet while gone, we would find one, and otherwise it would be a nice last trip for Milo who enjoyed the car a lot and especially loved the one-on-one lap time with me (since Isla arrived his lap time has quickly diminished). The weather and trip were beautiful and he slept peacefully on my lap in the warm sun. He was just so sweet, there is no other word to describe him, even when he was deathly ill. He still followed me around at our friends house and still so gently loved us, gave kisses, and showed he had to go outside (which sadly became quite often). That night, he ended up needing to go outside every hour or more, keeping us up all night, and by the time we were leaving to head home we knew that a detour to our vet in Barrie was inevitable. He was no longer able to eat anything, keep any water in, and was sadly only pooing blood which meant he likely had internal bleeding. We didn't want to have to have him put down but it was clear if we kept him going it would only be to suffer and bleed or starve to death, and how could we humanely let that happen? We couldn't. Sadly within a month and a half, we went from thinking he wasn't digesting certain food properly to preparing to say goodbye to him. We arrived there hoping they could offer to do something, anything, but they couldn't. It was obvious that he was beyond help and too weak to try to treat any further. Pain management wasn't even possible because he wouldn't eat and the pills on an empty stomach were just making him feel worse. The vet said I am so sorry but there is nothing we can do and so the decision was made that it was time to say goodbye. I was stressed, though this may not seem logical, that Milo didn't say goodbye to Meadow.

I had never been through this process at the vet, though I have had a dog die in my arms before. My childhood dog Shelby passed away an hour before she was scheduled to be put down. My brother and I held her while she died as my parents weren't home. But this was much different - Milo was MY dog, and so much more than a dog to me...a best friend. We were given a private room and it was actually a really nice room. I pictured a sterile cold type room and it wasn't at all. They had furnished a small comfortable dim room that played some kind of instrumental relaxing music and had nice decor with no medical look to it at all. I sat in an arm chair (weeping uncontrollably of course) and was able to wrap him in my sweater and hold him in my arms while it all happened. The vet explained the process to me. First they give the pet anesthetic so they are asleep and then once they are asleep they give them a lethal injection. The vet explained to me that often when the dogs pass, they may let out a gasp, they may shake or twitch, or a few other things. I was nervous to see this happen to Milo but sometimes this is what love looks like, being there for someone even when it's incredibly hard. They explained the best thing I can do is to keep petting him and talking to him as this is all happening. During the few minutes we had to say goodbye before the vet came in, I told Milo over and over how happy he has made me, how he was such a good boy and was the best friend I could have asked for. I thanked him for loving me so well and told him I will miss him terribly. He looked up at me and kissed my tears away, and then looked over and kissed Isla. It was as if he knew he was saying goodbye. I was so incredibly grateful that he fell asleep easily and that was that, no side effects or strange reactions - he was just there and then he was gone. I had a peace that his body didn't put up any was his time to go.

The vet had already made arrangements with us prior to putting him to sleep that we were going to take him home and bury him. Initially I assumed I would have him cremated and since I am not the type to want an urn in my livingroom or as a locket or anything like that, I figured I would just have him cremated and taken to the pet cemetery where they spread the animal ashes together. Once I faced the decision however, I pictured some guy shoveling dog bodies into a furnace and not giving a crap (no offense to anyone...this is just what popped into my mind) and I decided I couldn't do it. So we agreed to give him a proper burial at home. I felt it would be the most comforting to me to know his body was handled with respect even after he was gone and that way I didn't have to leave him behind and wonder what would happen. Scott totally respected my choice and agreed that being buried at home was the best way we could honour Milo and so we brought him home. I decided he should be buried beside the fence at the spot where Milo would always dig beside Meadow while she barked at the neighbour's dog. I knew it was probably 50% morbid, but the other 50% was comforting to me...and when you're grieving it just makes sense to go with something that is comforting. At first I said "I don't care where you bury him and I definitely don't want to be there"...but thankfully the ride home is an hour long and I slowly came around. When we got home, Scott headed to the spot with a shovel and got to work. The whole process showed just how strong he is...I knew it was really hurting him too to lose Milo but then to have to dig his grave and bury him was really tough and something I couldn't have done myself. I was so grateful in those moments that Scott was able to carry through with the plan and be strong for me.

It was a beautiful sunny and warm fall evening when we lay Milo to rest. I grabbed some favourite blankets and sat out on the grass with Isla where Milo used to join me to tan in the sun. I cried but I was also thankful that his suffering was over. We debated whether Meadow should see any of the process...didn't know the right answer...googled it...called the vet to ask them...and then with all that info decided it felt right for her to see him and to know he was gone. Scott brought Milo into the backyard where he was placed in an open box wrapped in a blanket and then we let Meadow out. She came running to the fence to see Scott and then immediately kind of stopped and slowly approached the box. She looked in it and looked at Scott and back at the box. I am not too sure what he said to her but I think it was pretty clear she understood. She took a bit of time sniffing around and then came running back to me and joined me on the blankets. Despite being sad in the days that followed, she never once seemed like she was waiting for him to come home. That made me feel a lot better about our decision to let her see his body...I think it would have broke my heart even more if she seemed like she was waiting up for him to come back. 

It was too soon, he was too young (had just turned 6 that week), and it was really hard. But I look at Isla and remember that God gives and He takes away. Theologically, I always wrestle with the concept that God takes away. But as I sat on that blanket, I sure felt that I had lost something. I prayed and prayed and prayed that Milo would get better and improve and he didn't. So it was a hard truth Scott said to me when I asked him, rather immaturely, why God didn't answer my prayer. "He did answer your prayer" Scott replied, "He said no." Bam. Hard truth. But truth nonetheless. I asked "why?" and Scott just assured me that there is a reason for everything, and this must be what we need going forward. Death and loss are never easy to understand. If you're not a person of faith, it's probably impossible to believe that death has a purpose. If you are a person of faith, it's probably still near impossible to be comforted by that fact. I reminded myself that if Scott had not lost his dad, we would never have met and Isla wouldn't exist. So death does work in mysterious ways. I still don't know or understand why we had to lose our beloved Milo but I trust there is a reason. The end of his journey was so hard but his life was beautiful and he was so very loved and cherished by all who knew him. If you're not a dog person, I know you probably think I am a lunatic, but if you aren't a dog person I don't know why you would be reading this long and thorough post so I would in turn call you the!

Here are some images from the end of the journey with Milo. As a photographer, I like to document everything, even if it's not all peaches and roses and sunsets. I take photos as a comfort to myself just as I write as a comfort to myself. I will never forget my sweet Milo.

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