The Gift of Time

I told myself that I wasn’t going to write about this publicly…That I wasn’t going to spill a bunch of emotions again because my last two posts were rather long and personal (and somewhat heavy). But as the days went by and I found myself struggling to write up simple recipe posts, I realized that what I needed was to write + share what was on my mind and in my heart to move forward. And honestly, since many of you followed along with our Abbey journey, it only makes sense to update you. So, grab a tissue and I promise that there are upbeat posts on the way! xo

On New Years Eve, Tonya messaged me to let us know that their recent trip to the vet came with some sad news. Abbey’s liver was growing and it was believed that she had cancer. Her vet told her to start spoiling her because there was no telling how long she had. Tonya asked if we would like to see Abbey since we lived close enough (1.5 hours away) and after some serious consideration, we decided we would very much like to see Abbey. We had a sit down talk with Willow to let her know what all of this meant – that seeing Abbey again could stir up some hard emotions and we would only go if she was ok with it. Her face lit up at the mention of seeing Abbey and so I knew in my heart this was something we needed to do. Our original plan was to drive to go visit and spend a few hours with her, but then Tonya asked if we would like to take her home with us for a few days. I realize how crazy this might sound to some of you, but I have been in this “go with the flow” mindset and I saw this as something that we needed to do. That the universe put this in front of me for a reason – When opportunities present themselves, I’ve been saying yes and getting the chance to see Abbey again was something I didn’t think would ever come about.

So on January 7, 2018, we met at the halfway point to pick up Abbey and nothing could have prepared me for what we were about to see. When Tonya opened up the back of her Subaru, my heart stopped. Looking back at me was a dog so weak and thin that she wasn’t able to get up on her own. The dog we said goodbye to a few months earlier was still full of life and healthy. I was in shock at how rapidly she had declined and in my mind I thought, “I don’t think this was wise. What was I thinking saying yes to bringing her home?”

I reached out and took her fragile face in my hands and all of the love and emotions came flooding back. I erased my earlier thoughts as we loaded her into my car and spent the ride home almost in silence fighting back tears. I was playing the dangerous “what if” game in my head and was so worried about what all of this would do to Willow.

The next few days were incredibly difficult. Willow and I set up camp in the living room (which Willow thought was the best thing ever) since Abbey was unable to walk up/down the stairs – this way we could be close to her in case she needed anything. I ended up setting alarms on my phone for every 2-3 hours so I could pick Abbey up and take her outside or offer her water. The liver had gotten so big that it was pushing on everything – and her back legs had no strength. She would collapse or fall and couldn’t get out of her bed or a lying position without help.

After the first full day and night with Abbey, my heart hurt so much and I found myself hiding in the bathroom to cry. This was no way to live – the Abbey we knew before was racing past us up the stairs, meeting us at the door when we came home, joining us on long hikes, and barking at the neighbor’s dog. Now she was skin and bones. I could count her ribs and the hip bones were jutting out. I was terrified I’d hurt her when I hugged her or picked her up. I missed being greeted at the garage door after grocery shopping or her waiting for me outside the bathroom door. Heck, I even missed her barking matches with the dog next door. All she did was lay in her bed, barely moved…unable to even get up to get water on her own.

In the middle of the night on the second night, I laid down next to her and told her not to fight for anyone. That it was OK to let go and that we all loved her very much. That all we cared about was her well-being and happiness. I was so worried about her quality of life and the dog looking back at me didn’t have life in her eyes – all I saw was sadness. I did the best I could to stay positive and be happy around Abbey and Willow, but it was hard.

She had some highs and lows while with us and there were moments when I thought, maybe she would pull through this. But the lows were really low and I’ll be honest, I feared waking up to find that she had passed. We spoiled her with lots love and sweet potato…her absolute favorite and it warmed my heart to see her eyes light up at the sheer site of it. During the years when Abbey lived with us, I always tried to offer her some of my apple, but she always refused. For good times sake I sliced up an apple and offered it to her and she actually grabbed for it! And begged for more! I may have cried a little.

On January 10, 2018, we met once again at the halfway point to bring Abbey back to Tonya. We covered her in kisses and hugs and said our goodbyes. The tears didn’t hit me until we closed the car door and I realized that this would be the last time we would see her. We updated Tonya and gave our input on Abbey’s state – we were all in agreement that this was probably the end for her.

*I didn’t realize it until going through the old photos in my phone that the day Abbey became a part of our family was January 10, 2015…exactly three years earlier.

The next morning, January 11, 2018, Tonya sent me a text to let me know that Abbey wasn’t eating and that she couldn’t even get her outside to go potty. She went on to say that she was going to call her vet to make the appointment because she knew it was time. A couple of hours later, I was driving with Willow and Abbey was on my mind…when I looked up, there was a bright rainbow in the sky. Yet another rainbow. An eerie sense of peace and sadness washed over me and the tears started to flow. I knew in my heart that that was Abbey telling me she was OK, to not worry anymore. Sure enough, I received a message from Tonya letting me know that Abbey had passed away quietly in their home (no vet involved). Words will never be able to properly explain the emotions, to tell you how much it hurt…and it still does. I was angry that Abbey didn’t get more time to enjoy the property that she loved so much – angry that the cancer moved so fast. I felt pain for Tonya and her dog, Milly, because they loved her and didn’t even get four full months to spend together.

I was so worried about Willow through all of this, but she has been the one consoling me. A few days after the news about Abbey, Willow saw me crying and said, “Are you sad about Abbey?” I told her I was and I asked her if she was sad. She replied, “I’m not sad, I’m happy that she was happy in her new home.” Wisdom from a five-year-old. She helped me to shift my thinking – to acknowledge the sadness, but to remember gratitude. I’m grateful that she spent her last few months in a loving, peaceful home with her buddy, Milly. I am grateful that Abbey brought us to Tonya because she will be a friend for life – our frequent texting to this day reminds me of all that we have to be thankful for.

Most of all, I am incredibly grateful for the gift that Tonya gave us…..time. A few more days to spend with Abbey to really show her how much we love her. This whole experience taught me that the best gift you could give someone is time. To be all there and to be grateful for the minutes, hours, and days spent with those you love.

Rest in peace, sweet Abbey. We miss you terribly and will forever carry you in our hearts.

I don’t take many photos these days, but I am so glad that I snapped this one during Abbey’s visit with us before her passing.