Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Saying Goodbye to Harper Lee

While the kids and I were in St. Louis we facetimed or called Ty every night. One night while we were talking Ty mentioned he'd given Harper a bath and found some lumps on her. He also said she'd been having diarrhea and throwing up. I wasn't too concerned because she tends to "get sick" every time I go on a trip and leave her at home. I think she just gets sick out of worry or from being upset. When I got home I checked Harper over and found a small lump on her hip which seemed like a fatty tumor or something. Then Ty got home from work that night and showed me the lumps in her tummy area he was talking about and I realized it was something serious. I had already made an appointment with my parents' vet for that weekend since we would be in town visiting and I absolutely love him. I ended up calling back to tell them about the lumps because they seemed very serious. I tried to stay positive but I was pretty sure it was something life threatening. I was just hopeful Harper could live a few more years with whatever was causing the issue. The lumps were huge and had popped up so quickly. I also noticed her throat seemed swollen when I rubbed her neck. Typically I only ever rub her neck because she loves it so much. If I ever try to pet her somewhere else, she moves around to force her neck into my hand because she wants me to rub her neck!
Harper squishing into a cat bed. She loves to squeeze into small spaces!
Harper's appointment was Saturday morning. The vet felt her neck and stomach and then felt a few other places and immediately diagnosed her with lymphoma. He showed Ty lymph nodes that were swollen which we hadn't even noticed. That's part of the problem of having a long haired dog. We couldn't see any of the lumps, except the ones on her abdomen, we could just feel them. He said without chemotherapy Harper has a few months. He said we could do steroids to make her more comfortable if we don't end up doing chemo. He said not to do steroids until we were sure we weren't going to go the chemo route. We weren't sure what we would be able to do so we decided to wait on steroids. We immediately started looking into veterinary oncologists and vets who specialize in lymphoma in our area. We were pretty sure chemotherapy would not be possible for monetary reasons, but we wanted to know what our options were. The more we researched, the more hopeless I felt. Our vet didn't mention what stage Harper's lymphoma is but from reading I'd guess she's at least stage 3 of 5. The prognosis of a dog who undergoes chemotherapy and goes into "remission" is only about a year and chemotherapy would cost us around $7,000 for the initial treatment. Just getting the sonogram to find out what stage her cancer is would be close to $400. Ty and I are in agreement at this point that we'd rather make Harper comfortable and give her the best life possible for the next couple months rather than put her through chemotherapy that would only prolong her life a few months. That's without even considering the fact that we can't afford the treatment. We would have to clean out our savings account and then put thousands of dollars on our credit card which is just an irresponsible thing to do when we have 2 children to care for and are still paying bills for Carter's tonsillectomy and ear tube surgery.
We took Harper on a walk at the Wilderness Park after her appointment and found a leaf shaped like a heart!

I am having a really hard time with the thought of losing Harper. I first laid eyes on her when she was just hours old and hadn't even opened her eyes yet. She was my baby before I had babies of my own. When I lived alone she slept with me and kept me from feeling lonely. She was and is always there. I know no matter what is going on in my life she will always, always be happy to see me. For the past 10 years she has met me at the door every day when I arrived home. I held her and cried into her fur during my first year teaching when I had an especially difficult day. She has been the rock in my life that I've always been able to count on to dry my tears. She laid guard next to Carter when he came home from the hospital. When he was a baby and had yet to crawl she would lay next to him and even when he grabbed handfuls of her fur she wouldn't move, just allowing him to pull her fur and play with her tail. As he got older and was able to walk she allowed him to hold her leash and it was the only time she didn't pull on a walk, there would actually be slack in the leash. When Carter went through a spell where he had difficulty sleeping Harper came to the rescue, calming him by sleeping in his bed with him. I even wrote multiple posts about Carter and Harper's relationship, one from April 2013 here, one from June 2013 here, and one from 2014 here. When Elise came home it was the same thing all over again. When we aren't all in the same room, she's in a central location where she can see everyone and know we are all safe. She's not the best dog ever but she is the best dog ever for me. She follows me from room to room and loves me unconditionally. We've had 10 wonderful years together and so many memories, but I want more. I've always had it in my head she'd make it to at least 15. She has been so healthy with no age-related health issues so I didn't see this coming at all. There was no part of me that was thinking Harper would soon be leaving us and I am not at all prepared. It was such a shock to find out we have just mere months left. I was hopeful if the news wasn't good we'd have at least a year left to love on her. There's nothing harder than saying goodbye to someone you love.
Harper with baby Carter.
Carter and Harper checking out what's going on on the other side of the fence.
Harper loving on baby Elise.
Carter walking Harper when he was little.

Harper always right with the kids!
Carter saved the day by sleeping with Carter when he started having trouble at bedtime.
We had to move Harper's food into the garage because Elise was always feeding her!
This weekend has been very emotional and I've gone over and over some of my favorite memories. Harper came from a litter of puppies that belonged to my littler sister through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. I came to pick my little sister up one Sunday morning to find the puppies had been born earlier that morning. After I graduated from college mom went with me to pick out one of the puppies and I'd have to say it was less me picking Harper than it was Harper picking me. I sat down on the floor and she immediately climbed into my lap. All the other dogs would climb in and then go away but she stayed in my lap the entire time. She never got up and walked away. I just knew she was meant to be mine. From that moment on I've loved her with all my heart.
Picking Harper out from the litter of dogs.
My little Lee Lee.
When Harper was a puppy I'd set my alarm for super early in the morning so I could take her on a walk before I left for work. As she got older she didn't need as much exercise and when my alarm would go off for our walk, she wouldn't get out of bed. She started running with me as she got older and one of my favorite memories from a run was when she got tired at the end of an 8 mile run and faked taking a poop so I'd stop. Once I stopped she sat down in the street like we were done and we were only a few blocks from home! When Ty came into my life she instantly loved him. She was there on our first date while we hiked at the Wilderness Park and she was there when he proposed to me, again at the Wilderness Park. She's rested her head on my pregnant belly through 3 pregnancies and let me hold her and cry into her fur when we lost the 2nd. There's really nothing in life that won't feel a little bit better after a hug from a dog and petting her has always helped me feel relaxed. There has been some talk about what we'll do to fill the hole in our family that Harper will leave, but I have no idea. When I think about it, all I can think is, "I just want Harper." When Harper has been gone on "doggy vacation" at her Uncie Taco's house and we get home before we pick her up, I always think it will be so nice not to have to worry about feeding her and taking care of her before leaving the house. But I'm shocked to find how empty the house feels without her. How empty it feels without her following me from room to room and laying at my feet. How empty it feels without the love she is constantly giving out. How quiet it sounds without the jingle of her collar. And how lonely it feels to be in a room completely alone, which only happens when she's not there. It's crazy to think I've spent a third of my life with her by my side. She's been my constant companion throughout my entire adult life.
Harper with my mom as a puppy.
Thomas, Harper, and me when she was a puppy.

Harper between my dad's feet as he cooked.
Harper burrito!
Harper with Jeremy.
Harper playing with Zuma.

Harper in her bumble bee Halloween costume.
Harper couldn't wait her turn to go outside!
Harper as Mrs. Claus.
Harper with Skippy.
All we can do at this point is our best to make her comfortable and help her enjoy these last weeks as much as possible. I know Ty will be the support I need when it is time to say goodbye. We don't want her to suffer and the vet said she eventually will struggle to breathe due to the swelling of the lymph nodes in her neck. It is our goal to take her on a walk every single day, no matter what, and to take her to different hiking areas she hasn't been to before. We've given her treats here and there but she's also throwing up a lot due to the pressure her swollen lymph nodes are putting on her stomach so we don't want to do that too much. Mostly I'm just making sure she knows how loved she is. I stop to pet her every time I walk by her and I make sure to really appreciate her greeting me at the door. Although I wish we had more time with her, I'm glad we know her time is coming so we can go above and beyond to make her last days the best days we can.
Harper enjoying her first ever pup cup from Freddie's after her diagnosis on Saturday.
Harper enjoying a hike at one of the spots she hadn't been to before.
Some other posts about Harper:

Running with Harper in 2013 here.
Her 5th birthday in 2013 here.
Running with Harper and the stroller in 2013 here.
Harper's weight-related difficulties in 2014 here.
Facts about Harper in an Unrelated Post in 2014 here.
Harper Walking a Race in 2014 here.
Harper Sleeping with Carter in 2017 here.
These are just the ones I found while searching, I'm sure there are more and she's in almost every post through pictures.


  1. It's sad, but I'm glad you know and have some time, so she can have special days and treats.

  2. Her face with her first pupcup and her last pupcup sure look a lot different. Remember her being Benny's nurse?

    1. She was a different dog, for sure. Yes, she was so sweet with the little dogs.