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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thanks for Understanding

The outpouring of love, empathy, care, and compassion that has been expressed to us as regards the passing of our beloved dog Tanner has been of great comfort to us during these very sad days of adjusting to life without his presence in our lives.
I love this photo taken by friends visiting Stockholm. We often stood with Tanner looking out our window in Stockholm watching the world go by. 
Sometimes people who have never loved a pet have a hard time understanding the depth of grief that accompanies letting a furry friend go. In our case, those voices have not emerged and instead what has emerged is a beautiful chorus of understanding how much Tanner meant to us. For you see, to know Jodi and Doug was to know Tanner. His presence in our lives was big and bold.
There's Tanner, in the middle of the swimming hole with everyone else!
For much of his life, he weighed over 40 kilos (80 pounds) and at his largest he hit 45 kilos or about 100 pounds! And he was 100 pounds of energy, loving, curiosity and joy. Oh he could be annoying for sure, but mostly he was just super interested in anything and everything we did. He loved to eat and often stole food off the counter or table. He loved to swim and would bark and cry when we were out on the boat if we made him wait for one minute to jump in.
Tanner's 3 life jackets!
He loved anyone that came into his presence, exhibiting that wonderful confidence of a dog that thinks that the whole world exists for his good pleasure. Tanner just knew that anyone who met him would love him and pet him and potentially feed him. He was Immanuel International's mascot and many people who were uncomfortable or fearful of dogs "cut their dog loving teeth" on Tanner because even though he was giant, he was so lovable. Yes, to know Jodi and Doug was to know and eventually love Tanner.
Just last week, we had dinner with my cousin's best friend. He writes a funny review each week entitled Average Joe, grading various aspects of the public conversation. He only met Tanner once, the Wednesday before he died, and yet, he included him in this week's review. 
So many people talk of Tanner as being a dog that changed them. He was so present with us and formed a beautiful and unique part of our identity. To have that now ripped away is really hard and I guess that is what lies at the heart of losing a pet. It's never just a dog that passes. It's this living being that ties everything together, the one 'hobby' or interest that the entire household gets behind and shares together. People knew that if they wanted to enjoy time on our boat with us in Sweden, then they would have to figure out how to be close to Tanner, and yes, even a wet Tanner! They knew that if they rang our doorbell the first noise they would hear would be his bark. And then in true retriever fashion, he would get a toy in his mouth in order to help him cope with the excitement! 
Tanner's pig toy that I won at my book club's white elephant exchange.
I couldn't bear to get rid of it.
And they knew that if they came in and ignored him for a little while, he would eventually settle down enough for them to pet him without him jumping all over them. He was such a huge presence in our lives and it's that tremendous void that is hard to fill.
I believe that it was philosopher Blaise Pascal who spoke of the profundity of the presence of the absence and while he was perhaps referencing our need for God, the principle certainly applies to Tanner. Remember, God spelled backward is dog after all. Right now, there is nothing harder than coming into our empty house after being gone to nothingness. No click, click, click of nails on the wood floor, no wiggling labrador whose tail is going a mile a minute, no cuddle and longing to be loved by the one who loved us without condition for 11 years. That part is hard and will take a long time to get over. 
So I guess what has been very special and incredibly meaningful regarding the comments and notes and calls that have some our way is this deep understanding that losing Tanner is a really big deal for us. We love how many of you have used the term goofy when describing him. We love that so many of you have bold memories of Tanner! We've received so many lovely notes that there is no way I can respond to each one individually so just know that for each word sent and received, we have treasured it. We have enjoyed seeing the photos that many of you have posted that reflect your love of our beloved boy and as time goes on, the sting gets a little less and the joy emerges in the midst the lovely and funny memories that so many have with our pup. 
Tanner was an amazing comfort to us, especially as we watched beloved family members pass away. He would come and lick away my tears if he knew I was crying. He was such a good sport of letting me squeeze him and cuddle with him when I needed that extra layer of comfort. Doug and Tanner shared a nightly ritual of being on the bed, Tanner sprawled out on top of Doug, waiting to be given treats before the deep slumber and loud snoring would commence. The small, funny little things are the profound things we will miss the most. I know for sure that we loved Tanner and we loved the name Tanner. Tanner was the first thing that Doug and I ever named together and it took a long time to come up with this most perfect of names. We'll miss having his name on our lips and calling him our baby dog, Tanner bananer (the plural of banana in Swedish), hunden (the dog in Swedish), Nicky nyfiken, (curious George in Swedish), Mr. Tan Man, and our favorite of all, love bug. 
In many ways, it's a bit easier to be here in the desert without him than if we were still living in Stockholm. For while we have good memories of him in London, especially in our garden, at Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath, and fun memories of him during the renovation and riding the golf cart, sunning on the chaise lounges here in the desert, the bulk of our life with him was in Stockholm, on the boat, in the snow,
and walking through the city. It would be tough to maintain that lifestyle without him by our side experiencing it all. We had really hoped to create more memories here with him, especially when cooler weather hit, but that was not to be.  I am very thankful that he is not hurting anymore even though I wish he would never had gotten sick.
We will miss finding him sprawled out on our bed taking a nap and the many other places he found a comfy place to settle. 
I write today to say thanks for the compassionate empathy and to encourage all who know someone who loses a pet to walk gently with folks in their loss. It is usually more profound than one can imagine and leaves a giant void that often hard to fill. We will miss seeing our dear Tan Man on his bed in front of our fireplace and in all of the places in our hearts that he snuggled into. Thanks for being such a good, good boy.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Our Beloved Tanner

Well, after the rally, unfortunately things went south.
The last photo I took of Tanner while he still alive.
We will miss you love bug.
He just quit eating, was having trouble walking, becoming more and more listless as the days marched on. He began panting and licking his chops a lot. Last night he had a rough night and by this morning, my worst fears were becoming a reality. I began to see new lesions on his tummy and one of his eyes was totally bloodshot. Even though we couldn't see his regular vet or the specialist today, we needed an opinion as he really seemed to be in a lot of pain. Turns out he was bleeding internally and that was the clear sign then that he was not going to overcome all that has plagued him. So with tears in our eyes, we made that most devastating of all decisions to let him go. The vet was supportive and caring. And the only thing that got us through the decision was knowing that he was struggling so much. 
This is tough. We've had so much loss in the last several years that for me I think it is just coughing up all of that. It's going to take us some time to adjust to not having our big bundle of love and goofy around. We have so many dear memories of him that in time, I know those will all bring us such joy. But for today, we are devastated. There are no words to describe the odd feelings that accompany a pet's death. Those of you who have experienced this know this clearly.
We are thankful that we were able to have him for 11 years. Sometimes you just wish you could rewind a dog's life and start again with him as a pup. So now we need to rest up a bit, heal a bit, and try to cope with all of the difficulties that we've been through over the past few weeks. It's especially hard given that we had hoped he was turning the corner but alas, the problems were too deep and we all finally had to say, enough. Go to doggy heaven. Be well again. No more pain. No more sickness. No more hardship. For this we are grateful. For all of the unconditional love he gave us, we can only say thanks Tanner...you really have been the best dog ever.
        Tanner: June 5, 2005-August 20, 2016
You loved us well and we are so grateful for your amazing companionship.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tanner's Rally

In the spirit of the Olympics, Tanner is rallying! What a difference a week makes indeed. We saw the vet this morning and she was amazed and thrilled with his progress. The mouth continues to heal and she says looks 100% better than it did a week ago.  He may not be ready to try this rings routine, but he has been cleared to eat anything crunchy again.
The issue with his toe is still a bit sore but he is no longer limping and it seems that the healing is in the right direction as well. In fact, they trimmed a little matted fur from around the toe and as soon as it fell to the ground, he ate it! What goofball. He will stay on the meds routine as it does seem to be working. He is eating quite well but he has turned into a terribly picky eater so we have to keep changing up his diet. He's definitely on to the reality that can get good stuff if he holds out long enough. I guess it's a small price for us to pay for keeping him around!


His fur has almost completely filled in as well and his weight is holding steady, even though he's a full 10 kilograms lighter than he was at his robust.
This photo, one of my absolute favorites, was taken when we arrived in the Netherlands on our way to England about a year ago. I just adore the expression on Tanner's face.
So after a very stressful week, we are feeling hopeful again. He even chased a golf ball around a little bit last night and continues to love to bask in the hot sun.
He is still mostly lounging around but so are we! We're still a few weeks from cooler temperatures and being able to really walk him outside but for now, we're enjoying his very good company. Thanks for all your prayers. Definitely appreciated by all. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tanner's Trials Part II

Last Saturday we thought we had reached a new milestone with Tanner. He was playful, eager to get outside, happily rolled in the grass for the first time in weeks, and was eating like a champion. All signs were pointing in the direction of being restored to better, if not full health. 
Then on Sunday we noticed that he was limping. He was really favoring his front right paw. We couldn't figure out if the issue was with the leg or the paw, if it was an injury or just stiffness from inactivity. Monday things worsened and we noticed bleeding coming from the paw itself. Initially we thought he had lost a nail even though we couldn't figure out how he would've done that. He was in a lot of pain, having a lot of trouble walking, and bleeding. He was also very lethargic and less interested in eating. We were scheduled to see the vet Tuesday morning and were glad for that as we noticed there was also still bleeding on the right side of his mouth.
Today we spent 3.5 hours at the vet. Poor Tanner. It seems that the issues with his immune system just seem to keep escalating. This time it appears as though a condition known as vasculitis has emerged. It's basically a swelling of the blood vessels caused by many different things. Our little guy's immune system is just under a lot of pressure and he's having a rough time holding off all of these secondary issues. The vet suspects that it is this issue that is keeping the mouth from healing in the way she would like it to as well. She said that the one side looks great, but the right side is still quite red and sore. Initially, after consulting with our regular vet by phone, they were both thinking we should see a special internist, in Orange County, which is about 2 hours from where we live. They were talking about doing a bone marrow aspiration and more extensive procedures and our heads were just spinning. We cannot put him through that. One weird thing that they were all seeing is a drop in white blood cells, which shouldn't be given that he has had so much infection in his body. So the vet did say that doing a blood panel would at least tell them if that count was still low and if that were the case, then we'd be looking at a very serious situation. So after a lot of tears, we decided that blood work was the first line of defense. Fortunately, the blood work showed that the white blood cells were rallying so that was a big encouragement that his body is still fighting and that he is able to produce white cells. SO, we finally decided that big gun antibiotics along with pain management meds are what we will try for this week. They recommend leaving the foot open to the air and hoping that the wounds will close up again on their own.
It's been a pretty rough day as you might imagine. The choices we are facing are not easy. Tanner is 11 and it just seems like his issues are escalating. There is definitely a root cause in his immune system that seems to go back to the eye issue that started in London, the skin issue, the mouth issue, the vascular issues, but, at this stage the procedures needed to get a clear diagnosis on the base causes are just far too invasive for our comfort level. And every dog owner has to ask, to what end? Tanner has given us more love, more unconditional joy, more laughter than we could ever have imagined. While neither of us can imagine our household without him, we do know that eventually he will head for doggy heaven. So right now, we are trying the new antibiotics, upping the ante on the pain meds, feeding him good food that he loves, and loving him as much as we possibly can, which isn't hard.
We took him out on his daily cart ride tonight and he was so happy. It's a beautiful evening here in the desert. A bit cooler and just lovely. His foot does better on grass than the rock or sand so we'll try to get him to the grass as often as possible. He's very quiet now. Hoping the antibiotics will get to work immediately and that even by morning we'll see a happier dog.
He still loves to be outside basking in the sunshine. Thankfully, his skin issue is almost gone, so he can be in the sun as much as he wants to be. Also, the eye looks fantastic so maybe he'll rally and heal from this too. But we certainly would like for everything to heal without another issue emerging as one gets under control.
Thanks for all the love we receive from our canine-loving readership! All of you pet owners and dog lovers know the anguish of a failing pet. Thankful that we are at home in California with him. Praying he'll rally so we can enjoy more time outside with him when the oppressive summer heat abates.
As for me, well, I'm ready to order one of these.