Monday, September 17, 2018

Harper's Final Farewell

This past Friday, September 14th, we said our final good byes to Harper. My hope was that we could let her die naturally at home but as her lymphoma progressed and she began to show signs of being miserable, I knew it was time to do the right thing for her. I thought it would be the hardest decision I ever made, but it was actually the easiest. The moment I spoke the words to Ty, I knew it was time to let her go. While my heart wanted to hold on just so she wasn't gone, I knew deep down that it wasn't fair to keep her here just so I wouldn't have to miss her. And, honestly, I already missed her because she wasn't herself since she wasn't feeling well. That Monday she tried to get up and walk to the back door to go out to potty but wasn't able to and pottied on herself and the floor. That Tuesday when I took her out front for what had turned from a walk into a meander across the street and back, she didn't leave the front yard and looked at me with this sad look in her eyes like she was asking me to help her as she swayed from side to side while walking. Wednesday she stopped eating and when she still wouldn't eat on Thursday I knew it was time. Ty called and made an appointment for Friday evening.
When the kids and I got home Friday afternoon it was the first time in 10 years that Harper was home and didn't greet me at the door. I could hear her in the kitchen scrambling in an attempt to get up and meet us, but just couldn't do it fast enough. I met her in the kitchen and carried her to the car so we could take her for a pup cup of ice cream at Freddie's before her 5:30 appointment. She didn't even want to eat the ice cream and I could tell she only took a few licks because she could tell I so desperately wanted her to. I was sad that she wasn't able to enjoy her last treat but it also reaffirmed the decision to allow her to pass on before she was completely miserable.

When Harper first got sick Ty told me she loved me so much that no matter how poorly she felt, she'd wag her tail for me. I thought he was wrong and eventually she would be miserable enough that wagging her tail would be more than she could handle, but she wagged her tail for me to the very end. Even when she was throwing up, if I'd walk in and talk to her she would wag her tail when she saw me. There's just no way to describe the amount of love she gave and how cherished I felt. That evening at the vet's office was the happiest I had seen Harper in weeks. I was standing at her head rubbing her neck while Ty stood toward her back petting her. She was wagging her tail and seemed to smile at me. It hurt so much to let her go. I loved her with an intensity that I doubt I will ever love another pet with again. Even as I stood with tears streaming down my face, I knew we had done the right thing. As much as I wished there was a different option for her and for us, there just wasn't.
Harper saying good bye to her good friend, Zuma.

I look back over the past 10 years and I smile at all the memories we are left with. The day I took her home with me and was so excited to stop and buy her a bed and cute dog toys. My attempts at training her to sleep on my bed but she'd always end up moving to the floor during the night. The early morning alarms for me to take her on a walk before I left for work and then as she got older and heard the alarm she would push herself under the bed because she was tired and didn't want to get up. She was never much of a morning dog. Ty and my first date at The Wilderness Park where we took Harper on a walk and she pulled out of his hands to jump into a nasty lake. He panicked knowing if he was the reason I lost my beloved dog that first date would also be our last. Bringing Carter home from the hospital and Harper excitedly sniffing all over him. How any time I'd lay him down she'd cuddle up right next to him if she could. When he was a baby how she'd lay there and let him pull handfuls of her fur, not leaving or moving even though all she'd have to do would be move away to where he couldn't reach because he couldn't move yet. Her excitement over Elise when she was born and how she'd allow the kids to walk her, not pulling at all!
Carter walking Harper at the playground.
There are so many ways that caring for Harper has been ingrained into my life in a way that I start to do things before remembering that she's no longer here. I keep stepping really far out of bed so I won't step on her because she always slept right up against my side of the bed, before remembering she's no longer there. I keep going to let her out for her morning potty or go to feed her. There have been so many times when I start to grab her leash as I go out the door for a walk and it's no longer there. As much as I miss her, I know it wouldn't have been fair to keep her here with how difficult her life was becoming. When I thought about it, the reasons I wanted her here were so she'd be there in the morning when I woke up and because she'd greet me at the door when I got home. Beyond that she wasn't able to do much else because she was so sick. One of the ladies we deliver meals to on our Meals on Wheels route told me today that she's 96 and she is ready to go at any time. She said, "I don't have a purpose anymore. I can't do any of the things I want to do." I think that's exactly how Harper felt. She couldn't eat, she couldn't walk, she struggled to breathe. Her daily life was just making it to the next day and she wasn't enjoying it.
Pretty girl out for a walk when she was younger.
Harper was a wonderful dog and the special bond she and I shared was something I don't ever expect to experience again. Our love was formed when we were the only other loves in each other's lives. Later I brought Ty, Carter, and Elise into our family and she loved all of them but there was just something special about what she and I shared. Nothing can replace her and I wouldn't want to anyway. I am glad we had 5 weeks after she was diagnosed with lymphoma to really spoil her and give her all the attention she deserved. It also gave me time to grieve her before she was gone. I feel like at this point I've mostly grieved the loss and now am going through missing her, instead of grieving the loss and missing her at the same time. I woke up Saturday morning feeling depressed but not nearly as depressed as I felt every day I woke up that first week after her diagnosis. Part of me felt like Harper had been cheated out of the last years of her life by lymphoma. We were talking about different dog breeds this weekend and I looked up the life span of a border collie and it said 10-17 years. Although I wish she'd been on the 17 years end of the spectrum, I felt better knowing that her life really wasn't cut all that short compared to averages. Even though I know without lymphoma she would have lived much longer, I felt comforted by the average life span for some reason.
Harper with Elise when she was younger.
Harper was a very special dog and I will always love her. There is a special place in my heart that will always belong to her and can never be filled by another pet. I am so glad I got 10 wonderful years with her. She has made my life better in so many ways. I found myself crying Friday evening after she was gone and so desperate to soothe myself in the way I had for the past 10 years when nothing else made me feel better, by burying my face in her fur as I petted her precious head. I know she knew how much I loved her and I know she enjoyed being able to comfort me in my times of need. I wanted this post to be an ode to Harper, more of a happy recounting of her life and my favorite memories, but once I started writing the words just came forth and were mostly sad. I guess I'm just not quite there yet, I'm still grieving and processing the absence she has left behind. Hopefully after more time I'll be able to collect the things I most want to remember in a post to share for you and for my memory's sake. For now I guess this was just more of a post for me to release my feelings and get out a good cry. Read about Harper's diagnosis here.
With all my babies after Elise was born.


  1. Yes, she was a wonderful dog. I felt that way about Street, and Peanut was kind of the same, even though they were SO different. :) Very nice tribute to her.

  2. I think starting with just her and me made our love extra special. I would have been so lonely those years in Lamar had I not had her! Peanut was a freaking awesome dog! I know Street was too but I don’t remember her as well.

  3. What a sweet but heartbreaking post! I'm glad you and Harper had each other, and I am sorry for your loss.