In Loving Memory Of ...
“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose” -The Wonder Years
The feelings of deep grief and heartache that occur when our pets pass away prove how intense the bonds are that we share with these precious family members. It is devastating when the pets who have provided pure, unconditional love and companionship leave us.
Understanding your heartache, we have created this Memorial page for those that wish to celebrate their pet’s life by writing about special memories together, stories of your love, and what they meant to you. We wanted to create a safe and comforting place to express feelings that sometimes can’t be spoken… knowing those that read it share your same love of animals and also share the belief that their lives, however short, make this world a better place and the lives around them forever touched
To submit your pet's story, click here.
Maverick and Montana Norkunas
Last year, on April 24th, 2014, my family went through devastating heartbreak when we suddenly lost our Golden Retriever, Maverick, to a ruptured cancerous mass. And last week, on Sept. 16th, 2015, we experienced the pain all over again as we said goodbye to his brother, Montana.
For those of you who didn't know them personally, these two, my Golden boys, were my heart and soul. Even as puppies, there was something special about them... everywhere we went, they were the center of attention- and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Adults and children were drawn to them and they could get along with eve n the grumpiest of four-legged animals. I soon realized that they were too special NOT to share, and when they were three years old, I started bringing them with me to work at Rialto Animal Hospital.
At RAH, they quickly became well-known and loved by all who came, and quickly became our hospital "mascots". Kids and pets would climb all over them, and our clients would gush over how beautiful and well-mannered they were. They were our welcoming committee and they were there to comfort those people who had said goodbye to their own beloved pets... sitting patiently as people would hug them and cry softly into their fur. They would ease the anxious dogs by leading the way into the exam rooms. You could almost hear them saying, "Come on... there's nothing to worry about! We LOVE it here!"... and the nervous dogs would follow them (okay, I have to admit that occasionally they would come because Maverick and Montana were known to take the leashes and walk the dogs in the themselves!) Mav and Mon also helped us save lives... they each donated blood on several occasions to some very sick patients. They were even a bit "famous" as KFROG radio hosts talked about them on their morning show and described why they were the "best dogs around".
As loved as they were at RAH, they were loved even more by our family. Maverick and Montana were my first kids, and were there as my husband and I grew our family to have three two-legged children. They were unbelievably patient and kind through the tail-pulling and toddler falls that came with growing babies.
Yes, Maverick and Montana's passing has left an indescribable, often unbearable, heartbreaking pain... but if I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. The unconditional love and devotion of these two boys- brothers- was something many people will never experience in their lifetime... and I was lucky enough to experience it twice. Knowing too, that they were loved by so many touches my heart (people still ask me about them to this day even though they "retired" from RAH a couple years ago when age made coming to and from work difficult). They have left my family with a huge hole in our hearts, but solace comes from knowing that they are together once again... youthful and happy and waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge. And one day, we will be reunited once again. But until then, I will hold their memory close to my heart and dream of the day we can cross the Rainbow Bridge together. Maverick and Montana, you will be in my heart forever... I love you my sweet Golden boys!
I didn’t yet know his name, but I first met him on a hot August afternoon in 2008. He was sitting in a small square of shade thrown on the ground by a sign that announced some business complex that would one day be built on this very large patch of desert nothingness. On the other side of the paved road were old and somewhat shabby industrial buildings. Cars and trucks sped along the freeway behind those buildings. There were no residential properties nearby, though. There were no easily accessible or identifiable water sources, either. And there was nothing to suggest that he had simply gotten lost.
I couldn’t tell what he was thinking or what his intentions were, or whether he had any intentions at all. He was just sitting there in that little patch of shade, unreadable, and strangely imposing despite his emaciated condition.
In my experience, people use the word “emaciated” somewhat loosely, to the point that I take their descriptions with a grain of salt. But he wasn’t just “thin.” He wasn’t even just “skinny.” He wasn’t simply “underweight.” He was emaciated, in the true meaning of the word: abnormally lean or thin by a gradual wasting away of flesh. Wasting away…that’s what he’d been doing for who knows how long. If he had merely gotten lost, he would have died of dehydration in this place long before his flesh had wasted to the point that it had. He had clearly done without food for far, far longer than he had done without water.
He hadn’t gotten lost. Someone had just left him beneath that sign in the blistering desert heat after letting him waste away for a period of time.
A passing motorist saw him and called animal control about a sick dog at this intersection. That’s how I came to find him there.
Because I couldn’t read him, I was nervous on several levels when I got out of my truck. He might be aggressive and attack me. Much more likely, though, he might be frightened off at my approach and flee into the desert, where there would be little to no hope of my catching him on my own in that wide open space. He might do any number of things, but he gave me no indication whatsoever of what any of those things might be. So I did what I usually do–I got out of my truck casually, conscious of conveying a relaxed yet confident demeanor even if I didn’t really feel that way. I talked to him as I approached slowly, and waited for a sign from him.
There are a few people I know who have, because it was necessary for their survival, developed a keen sensitivity to the moods of other people. Apparently, I sometimes unnerve people like that because, I’m told, I can be hard to read. I’ve been asked enough times by these sensitive people, “What’s wrong?” when there wasn’t anything wrong that I found it kind of annoying. I was talking about this phenomenon with a friend a few years ago, and she told me that it wasn’t that I looked particularly upset or angry–she just saw the words “waiting for input” written on my forehead.
Sitting beneath that sign, he was just “waiting for input” in an unnervingly unreadable way.
He didn’t need much input, though. A few words in a friendly tone was all the impetus he needed to start wagging his tail.
That is how this dog came to be a part of our family, and his name was Brick.
Little things became such an integral and consistent part of our lives, like the way he would groan in satisfaction when he lied down, or how we got so used to him lying at our feet that we developed a sort of muscle memory when it came to scooting our chairs back and where we placed our feet while sitting in those chairs, or where we stepped in getting from one place to another. Once he went deaf, we found ourselves missing the way that he would wag his tail–even in his sleep–whenever one of said his name.
Somewhere along the way, it had become my habit to greet him with the words “hello, my handsome” when I walked through the door at the end of the day without even thinking about where those words came from or why. I couldn’t help clutching his fleshy cheeks in my hands and telling him what a good boy he was. And there were more than a few nights while going through the trials and tribulations of this complicated life that I put my arms around his neck and cried in ways that I do everything I can to avoid crying in front of other people.
My wife took him to vet last month while I was at work because he had a small tumor under his ear that needed to be looked at. She’d also noticed that he wasn’t quite himself. For the most part, he seemed fine, but he hadn’t been finishing his dinner for the last few days. The vet wanted to surgically remove the tumor and did the pre-surgery blood work in preparation for that procedure. The results of the blood work revealed that our beloved Brick might have leukemia. His lymphocyte count was, at 36,000, about six times higher than normal. Dr. Schroer told us we could do a much more expensive blood test to narrow it all down even more, but she didn’t recommend that. She suggested instead that we do more blood work in a week and compare the results so as to get a better indication of what was happening.
The following week’s blood work results weren’t optimistic. His lymphocyte count had increased yet again–this time to 150,000. Dr. Schroer was sure of what the problem was, and prescribed prednisone and antibiotics with the caveat that the prednisone might buy us a few more weeks or even months, but that we’d just have to wait and see. She also told us to prepare for the possibility that we might have to put him down as early as the beginning of the following week, but cautioned us not to make any rash decisions.
I did my best to be stoic and optimistic in the face of this news while my wife outwardly struggled with it. The way she grew up was entirely different than the way I had when it came to things like this. She hadn’t been indoctrinated to the concept of vet care, let alone that of seeing an animal member of the family through from beginning to end. This was all completely new to her, and she just didn’t know what do do with news like this. But I was no less heartbroken than she was. I just hid my heartbreak more effectively.
Happily, though, Brick responded well to his medications. He perked up and was more like the dog he used be. He had a tad more energy and finished his dinner every night. Admittedly, with our vet’s approval, we spiced up his meals with cans of Campbell’s Chunky soup, and gave him a variety of treats in between. I wondered if the little things that I had attributed to age had instead been symptoms of his illness, and I felt a bit guilty at the subtle signs I might have missed that he hadn’t been feeling well. Like me, he has always been inclined toward stoicism. But I also knew that it was all only a matter of time. The question was, and had been from the start, how much time?
By the middle of the following week, with him improving instead of declining in subtle ways, Dr. Schroer suggested that more blood work be done in three weeks. I began to hope that we would have a few more months with him, at least. Meanwhile, my wife, who is pursuing an education in nursing and has always been interested in all things medical, explained to me what lymphocytes and steroids are and how that relates to the immune system and to leukemia. I vaguely understood what she explained, which gave me a basic framework for understanding later test results. I optimistically believed, because Brick had perked up, that later test results might yield static or maybe even lower lymphocyte counts.
But I’d noticed some other things, too. I came home one evening and noted that his head looked different than it had just a few days before. We were feeding him more than we had been, and supplementing with treats and bites of our own food, but he seemed to be losing mass in strange places. His body had more of a lumpy sack of potatoes look about it. My wife described instances of him stumbling or falling down while I was at work, and she took note of how his breathing wasn’t quite right. He was wasting away in a different way and for a different reason than when I’d first met him. We took him back to the vet for another round of blood work and talked with Dr. Schroer about changes in dosages of his medications. But it would take a couple of days to get the results back.
When the results came in, his lymphocyte count had doubled since the last test. They were at 300,000 now–about 50 times higher than a normal count. That’s when I knew that it was essentially over. There was no more time to be bought. We had to not only face this truth, but swallow it like a pill that would stick in our throats. It was September 16, 2015. A Wednesday.
We talked about what to do. It was very important to my wife that Brick not suffer. That was important to me, too. And this wasn’t going to get better. The medications had bought some extra time, but his illness was progressing quickly. When I went to bed, I didn’t actually go to bed. I placed the couch cushions on the living room floor so that I could go to sleep with Brick lying near me.
The strangest things went through my mind as the euthanasia syringe delivered him peace. I was in a sort of limbo between compassion and practicality. As I looked into Brick’s eyes and watched the life almost instantly go out of them, as my world shifted on its axis and I realized it would never be the same again.
The best I could do after that was continue to hold Brick’s head in my lap and try to spare my wife having to see the lifelessness in his eyes. Then I gently laid his blocky, lovable head between his paws, which was the position in which he often slept.
But it was done, at least it. It was over now. Then we carried Brick out to my dad’s truck. My dad drove Brick and me to Gateway Pet Cemetery and Crematory, where we chose an urn for his remains, as well as the words that would be engraved in the black granite. We didn’t know his date of birth, but we knew that this day, September 18, 2015, was the day that he died. As I was filling out the paperwork and discussing the urn engraving options, my dad said, with a slight hitch in his voice, “Don’t forget ‘The Best Dog Ever.'”
A number of people have insisted that Brick knew that I was his “savior.” I’ve always doubted that, because I just don’t know everything there is to know about what kinds of connections dogs make in their heads between one event or another, or how long those connections can really last. It had been seven years since I’d found him in that tiny patch of shade in the desert. A lot of life, for both of us, had taken place in the interim, and I’ll never know how much he remembered of that day, or whether he remembered anything of it at all. My wife and my dad have both told me numerous times that when Brick heard my car pull into the driveway, he got excited and looked for me, regardless of whose company he was in. But I didn’t need him to see me as his savior–it was enough for me that he saw me as someone who could be trusted and who loved him. Inexplicably, despite what had surely been a rough beginning, he saw almost everyone that way.
Still, though, even with the people who surrounded him in love on his final day, he did his tranquilized best to move closer to me when I sat down next to him on that blanket. I’d like to think that that means something.
Goodbye, my handsome. Thank you for everything. I miss you.
Miss Billie Sings the Blues
“We’ll give you pick of the litter… please??” I can still hear my friend as she wore me down with talk about the benefits of having a second dog. “Two Aussies, are you nuts??” I replied. Apparently I was the one that was crazy because in 1999 I fell madly in love with this little Blue Merle fuzz ball. She had the power to make me laugh, melt my heart, and frustrate the heck out of me, all at the same time!
Billie was almost perfect in form and often smarter than some humans. She was stubborn, loyal, athletic, incredibly strong, and yet so loveable. Aussies have natural tendencies to be either a “header” or a “heeler” and Billie was definitely a “header.” I remember one day when I was throwing a tennis ball around for exercise. She charged out, grabbed the ball and headed back toward me at full speed. I assumed she would turn at the last minute to avoid hitting me, but she didn’t! I ended up flat on my back, with her standing over me, that snarky tennis ball in her mouth, butt wiggling, and a crazy Aussie smile on her face.
As a puppy she chewed up two new pairs of eye glasses in one weekend, survived eating a poisonous mushroom (the only mushroom that has ever had grown in my yard) and somehow managed to pull down and eat a full bottle of arthritis medicine for my other dog that I had “safely” stored on the window sill over the kitchen sink. In Las Vegas, she physically pushed me away from the front of the house during a break-in attempt followed by sheriff and ATF authorities chasing a man with guns drawn through my back yard! Several years later when my other Aussie developed epilepsy, Billie would wake me up in the middle of the night pacing and whining just before his seizures would begin. And, when the episodes had passed she would lay down beside him, licking his face and paws as if to comfort him and say that everything would be “OK.”
When I moved to Rancho Cucamonga I had difficulty finding a good and caring veterinarian. After several bad experiences I discovered Rialto Animal Hospital on the Yelp website. I called to schedule a tour and new patient appointment with Dr. Creswell. Immediately I knew that we had found a special place. By that time Billie had a fairly extensive medical history and Dr. Juarez was the first vet who took the time to read her entire history. As Billie began to age I wasted no time in rushing her in for any little problem. Looking back I realize I desperately wanted to stall time before saying good-bye to my baby. Doctors Juarez and Schroer and everyone at Rialto Animal Hospital were always so kind, patient and caring, and never made me feel as though I were over-reacting to the situation.
Early an Sunday morning, November 4, 2014 Billie stumbled into my arms and had a stroke. I rushed her to the emergency hospital, already knowing what was going to happen. Somehow I think she did too, and when they wheeled her out on a gurney for me to say good-bye, she licked my hand as if to comfort me.
I miss her deeply and still find her buried treats scattered throughout the back yard. God entrusted her to me and I was blessed with fifteen years of doggie shenanigans, love and laughter to remember her by. My life was forever changed by sharing it with her. RIP Miss Billie Sings the Blues.
On January 13th, 2016 I had to put my beloved Punkin down, as she had cancer and was in kidney failure. Punkin’s sister, Stinker, misses her so much and walks around the house and crying, looking in the hiding places that Punkin used to visit. I had many good years with Punkin. I miss how as soon as she heard the bath water, she would rush in and sit on the edge of the bathtub, to make sure I was doing it “right.” I miss how she would run under blankets, move around then pop her head out, as if to say “SURPRISE!” I miss her so much, but I know I did the right thing for her. Thank you to Dr. Wolf and all of the staff for their compassion.