“Don’t cry because it’s over…smile because it happened.” That’s how one of my incoming text messages read this morning and it immediately made me feel just a tiny bit better.
We adopted Katie formally known as “Mary Kate” from Chicagoland Dog Rescue (CDR) on Saturday July 14, 2007. Outside our local Petco at the corner of Barrington Road and Weathersfield Way, this rescue organization was setup with dogs available for adoption. We wandered around and Anthony initially found Katie. I hadn’t made it quite that far yet and he rushed me over to meet “our dog”. Katie was happily hanging out in the warm sun lapping up water from a ceramic Notre Dame dog bowl. It was obvious we were destined to bring Katie into our family! We were unprepared to adopt a dog. And that’s putting it mildly. We lived in a townhome without a real yard, the house wasn’t “doggy-proofed” and we barely had any extra cash, but that wasn’t going to stop us. We were adopting a dog! We went to Chase Bank, pulled out the adoption fee in cash and within a couple of hours, Katie had arrived for a home visit with the CDR volunteer. Before we knew it, we were alone with our dog and quite excited! This was the first real commitment Anthony and I had made together (other than the whole moving in together thing…). We quickly decided to take a walk as a family. Anthony, Michael, Katie and me headed out the door and we walked. It was hot and I was a nag. I’m sure of it. I remember being worried that Katie was getting tired or that she needed a drink. I remember being worried about picking up everything that she “dropped” along the way as to not upset the neighbors. I remember coming home with her and the way she panted from the heat while she lay on the kitchen floor. That was the start of a beautiful life together.
Soon, Anthony and Michael became Katie’s main walkers. We never had a fenced yard in our almost eight years with her, so she quickly learned how to behave on a leash. We had a lead when we lived on Colony Lake that we used for a while, but she was always a leash girl. Anthony liked to take her to the open field to let her run around. She always came right back to him. Always.
When Katie first came to live with us, we were anti-crate. We didn’t know enough to know if we should or shouldn’t crate our dog. Anthony hated to put her in the crate and so we didn’t always when we left the house. Katie must have been bored one day and so she decided to gnaw on the corner of the coffee table. Later that same week, she made a mess of the kitchen garbage and tore up her new dog bed spreading its contents all over the kitchen and family room. Her daddy gave her a stern talking to and she never did anything like that again.
Seriously, Katie was the very best dog. She learned things like “Sundays are for sleeping”. And she learned it quickly. We were still young and a little wild, so Saturday night usually went into early Sunday morning back in those days. Katie would sleep with us until we told her that it was time to get up. She would not whine or make a mess. She would just sleep in our bed right alongside us until it was time to get up. These days, we are older and wiser and Sundays are rarely for sleeping. Instead, Katie started her day out with her daddy and brother, Tanner (the dog), with a nice walk and some breakfast long before Michael or I even think about leaving the comfort of our beds.
Katie loved her daddy. She truly was a daddy’s girl in every sense of those words. Katie followed Anthony around “like a puppy dog” no matter what he was doing. It sounds so cliché, but it was so true. If he got up and went to the other room, she would follow. When he wasn’t home, she would lie in his spot on the bed and sleep on his pillow. When he was working extra early morning hours, she would snap his spot right after he left. Those were some of my favorite times. Snuggling with my baby girl dog.
Katie used to love to rush into Michael’s room and jump on his bed to wake him up when he was younger. I loved when she did that! He would be annoyed and whine at her, but before long, she would just lay down with him and relax on his bed. They were great friends!
Katie was not a barker. She would bark if Anthony or Michael encouraged her to do so. They loved to mess around with her like that and make me crazy. I would shush them all, but it was too much fun to annoy mom, so they kept on doing it. Katie did bark at the doorbell/buzzer. Even if she heard one on TV! She was not a fan of uninvited guests. Katie was a low-key, laid back kind of girl. She fit perfectly with our family.
When Anthony or Michael were not able to be home with me and I was alone, particularly for extended periods of time, Katie was my companion. We all know who she preferred most, but when she wanted my attention, she would push up with her nose under my forearm to remind me that she was there and needed my companionship too. She could be forceful, but never mean. If I didn’t acknowledge her, she would just do it again. It was her “Hey mom, look at me!” move.
Katie’s tail was as strong as a whip! If anyone came by to visit, particularly in her younger days, she would greet them and then proceed to dance around and whip them with her tail. She was stronger than she knew.
When Katie joined our family, she had a lump on her left hind quarter. Our veterinarian at the time looked at it (multiple times at our urging) and said it was just a skin cyst. Over the years, we would remind them to check it and no one seemed concerned. In March 2012, Katie’s little bump had grown to the size of a tennis ball and after a long, sad night, we were convinced that her time with us was through. We found Dr. Debra Rycoff, obtained a second opinion and before long, Katie was doing great again through some alternative approaches. Katie has had some minor issues and we continued to treat with Dr. Deb. She has been wonderful!
Just over a month ago, Katie was not acting like herself and we learned that she had a tumor on her spleen. We were referred to a wonderful surgeon at Fox Lake Animal Hospital. This all happened over the weekend, so Katie’s splenectomy was delayed until Monday. We were in the middle of a blizzard and took the hour-plus drive to Fox Lake. Katie’s surgery was on February 2, 2015 and it was at that time that we learned her tumor had burst. The kind surgeon explained that although he removed all visible signs of the tumor and the cancer it carried that there were no guarantees the cancer would not reappear. And it did.
On Monday March 9, 2015, Katie was clearly not happy to be moving about. I spoke with Dr. Deb, gave Katie a little honey to boost her blood sugar and rushed her in for a CBC blood test the next morning. We learned that Katie likely either had internal bleeding or wasn’t producing any red blood cells. It was likely that the cancer was back. We opted to try the prednisone to help her produce red blood cells, but by dinner time, it was obvious that it was time to put down the boxing gloves. Katie had fought the good fight. Long and hard…she fought well before we even knew she had a fight going on inside of her beautiful body. And so we went to The Whole Pet in Bartlett where we met Dr. Theresa SaLee. I don’t know that I could ever adequately express my appreciation for her kindness and for staying long past closing time to help our baby girl. Just as I will never be able to tell Dr. Debra Rycoff how grateful we are to her for saving our baby when no one else would/could and giving us another wonderful three years with her!
At approximately 7:30pm on Tuesday March 10, 2015, Katie went to wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge. I held her as she made her journey and I kissed her goodbye for the last time. We are heartbroken and will truly never be the same. I will attempt to smile when I think of Katie until we meet again.