Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dear Rocco


It's been 5 weeks since you've been gone. Every Monday that has come since Labor Day I count the weeks. I wonder how long it will be like that. I was just playing with your brother outside. Playing fetch in the dark. It reminded me of the times we played back in San Mateo after dinner time. We would play tug in the dark, and whenever we stepped in front of the motion light we would have these brief periods of light and then it would go dark again. Your Mom was usually washing the dishes and we could see her through the kitchen window. How I miss those times. I would give anything to have another game of tug with you in the dark.
I signed up to volunteer at another shelter. After I went to the orientation I had a dream that night. I was volunteering and I saw you in one of the kennels. I couldn't believe it. I took you out to the back play yard and you were so excited to see me. I remember giving you all the hand commands you learned to see if it really was you. You did them all. I was going to call Alicia I was so excited. My first instinct was take you right out the front and into the car. Then I thought if I did that they would think I was stealing you, and would never give you to me after that. I don't remember what happened after. I had another dream that happened in another dimension. You and I were together in a house and clothes I'd never seen before. I've been reading some articles about physics and dimensions and I thought maybe this was real, happening in another dimension. The thing was you had cancer there too. Somehow in the dream I knew. It's like it was your destiny. What does all this mean? Ever since you've been gone I've been asking your Momma to tell me any dreams she has about you. She finally told me one a couple of days ago. She said you were laying in her arms like you used to do and you were smiling at her. I said "smiling?". You mean like when you are hot and panting? She said "No, it was a different smile, a knowing smile". I was glad to hear that.
I played four songs today for you on guitar, I usually take your book down off the mantle and look at your picture while I play them for you. I wish you we here. I miss you so so much, sometimes too much. I want to go back in time to when we first met. The only catch is I want to have all my memories from then until now, or else everything plays out the same. I don't know how to connect with you. The logical part of me tells me not to try. But I'm compelled to. I think about you and talk to you and play songs for you. I try to feel you, remembering what it was like to pet you. I touch you box of ashes, I put all my fingers in the pad print of the clay tile that was made at your cremation. Sometimes I slide the bottom of the box of ashes out and feel the ashes through the plastic bag. There are some coarse pieces mixed in with the ash. My heart races when I do this, so I usually just touch the box. I don't know my boy. I hope against all odds to somehow meet with you again.

Funny picture for you.....this is when you first saw snow. You kept trying to chomp it coming down from the air! Was so funny! That was a good day.

Love you

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dear Rocco,

It's been three weeks since you've been gone. Alicia and I went to New Jersey and got married. I played a song for you in front of everyone, "Blood Brothers". I wanted to say some things about to everyone but couldn't, so I just started singing. It was hard to do and wasn't my best performance, kind of overtaken by emotions. We had a slideshow made up for the Wedding and you were in so many pictures. A copy of your book was there for people to read. My father told me he gave a copy of that book to his friend Ritchie, who is a lawyer. Ritchie leaves the book on his desk and says people love to look at it. Anyway.....
I read that first letter I wrote to you three weeks ago. There are some things I told you that are wrong. I told you Barney was too distracted to notice your deceased body. That may be true but your leaving has had as much an impact on him as it has Havana. It dawned on me that while Havana liked playing with him more than you he still liked playing with you more than her. You guys played every morning and night, sometimes tug, sometimes wrestle, and sometimes chase. He misses that and is almost as boring as Havana in the morning now. I hope he can grow to be as happy as you were some day. I want that for him.
The other thing I told you was that we were going to bury your ashes by the fig tree. I told the guy I didn't want an urn because I was burying your ashes, and just put them in a box. When I picked up the box it was very nice, with carvings and a name plate with "Rocco" written on it. It seemed too nice to bury. Then I thought about the coming rainy season and didn't like the idea of your ashes being out there in the cold and rain alone. I've been keeping the box on top of Havana's crate. I like that we are all together at night, just like before. I know this doesn't make sense. I've opened the box and seen and felt the ashes through the plastic bag. It's hard to believe that is all that is left of you. I can't bury the ashes now because I know this. When I die I want to be burned like you and I want your ashes spread over my body before I'm incinerated. This is as close as I can get to you physically. You know what comfort I get from death? It's knowing that I will meet that same fate as you, my Grandfather, and the rest of my family. The irrational part of me still hopes to meet you somewhere again. Coming home and looking through your pictures I sometimes freeze and can't take my eyes off you, I just stare. I touch your box of ashes and I put my fingers in the depressed paw print pads from the molding they took. I smelled your sweater today. I can still smell you on it, fading as it is. I'm just trying to connect with you somehow. I don't know how.
Okay, just felt like writing to you for a bit. I attached one of my favorite pictures of you to this letter. Until next time.

I love you

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dear Rocco


It's been one week since we've lost you. You could probably tell from my last letter how upset I was. Last Monday was the worst day of my life. The few days before and the few days after it make up the worst week of my life. Even though we knew it was coming, and that this was how it was going to end, it was still hard to accept. It seemed surreal at first. After you left I went to all these places we used to spend time together; the old shelter, the old walking route in Los Altos. I went back up to Alicia's work and walked the bay trail there without you. I'm not sure what I was doing. Trying to trigger memories of you I guess. I sat on a bench facing the bay in Redwood city and closed my eyes, asking you if you could feel me. I tried hard to connect with you. I could feel my hands pulsing and I could feel myself squeezing the phone in my hand. My eyes were closed. After a bit the wind picked up and blew in my face. I felt some type of hum or buzz come into my ear. I got up walked down the trail and came to that concrete calendar that you walk on. I hopped up on the wall there and laid down under a tree. I heard a bird make a singular "caw" type noise in the canopy. I looked around and saw this bird of prey in the canopy. What was this hunting bird doing here? Why did it yell once? I stared at the bird and it just kept staring back at me. It didn't turn it's head or even blink an eye. So we stared at each other for a long time. I thought in my head "is that you Rocco?". I thought about how connected we were. And I thought that your energy somehow ended up in this bird. And that this bird was drawn to me but didn't know why. It just felt compelled to stare.

My Aunt Fran wrote that "you were not part of my life, but part of my being". I think this is true. It's why I'm compelled to look for you in a breeze or in a bird. It's why I walked out in the drizzling rain the other night and just stood there. I closed my eyes and imagined myself rubbing your chest. I could feel myself doing it. I think I'll always seek you, because you are a part of me.

Anyway, by Thursday I had accepted that you were gone and not coming back. There is nothing I can do now. I can't change your diet. I can't take you on that extra walk or play another game of tug with you. It's SO boring here without you. No one wants to tug in the morning (strangely I do). Barney and Havana aren't playing as much as before but they are playing at least. You know I thought this would be worse on Havana but I'm not so sure. Barney seems to have taken it hard. He doesn't chew bone much right now, and he chewed bone with you all the time. He played with you every night. I guess five months was enough to develop a strong bond with you. Testament to how much we all miss you. Your Mama wrote a nice letter to you as well, she shared it with me. I've been making this DVD slideshow for our wedding and putting lots of pictures of you in it. I'm able to look at these now and not cry but smile. I laugh at the funny things you did and admire how you chased a ball or jumped for a rope in the photos where we are playing. I marvel at the beauty of your golden eyes and how they can pierce through deep inside me. Sometimes I forget I'm looking at pixels on a screen, and I think I'm looking at you.

Where do we go from here friend? I don't know. I remember how you didn't like my guitar at first, and that eventually you got so used to it you would fall asleep while I was playing. Then I felt like I was singing lullaby's to you. My favorite song to sing to you was Bruce's "Blood Brothers". The first chorus summed up how I felt about us pretty well.

"We stood side by side, each one fightin' for the other
We said until we died, we'd always be blood brothers"

Now I feel I must take the advice of the last chorus.

"But the stars are burnin' bright, like some mystery uncovered
I'll keep movin' through the dark with you in my heart, my blood brother"

You'll always have that part of me, and I'll always have part of you in my heart.


PS: I took a picture of that bird I saw. I attached it to this letter.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear Rocco


Yesterday was the worst day of my life. I've been feeling sick ever since you've been gone. Words can't describe how much I loved you and how much it broke my heart to do that to you. I feel like I tricked you, like I betrayed you. You gave me unconditional trust and I deceived you. Seeing the look of confusion in your eyes when the anesthesia shot incapacitated your body was horrible. I know it must have been scary to lose your muscle function and not be able to stand. I felt for you when you couldn't hold your tongue in your mouth. When I thought your tongue could move no more you twice tried to lick your nose. I think you must have been trying so hard and willed yourself to do that. I tried to keep eye contact with you while you blinked and struggled with your loss of feeling. I held your arms in my hands and rubbed them. I spoke softly into your ears. I hope I was with you when you left consciousness. Part of me wanted to go with you, for you not to have to bear this journey alone. When the euthanasia shot came it was so quick and painless. I was so glad there was no struggle.
You looked up to me like I was your hero but you were mine. I thought you were so strong that the cancer would not take you. I thought your mind could conquer your body. When I saw Friday that the cancer was going to win I was heartbroken. I didn't know what to do. I don't know if we made the right decision. I don't know if I should have taken you in the next day or if you should be lying in your bed next to me now. I don't know if I took time away from you that you would have enjoyed. I know yesterday you enjoyed your food like you always have, like it was the greatest thing ever. You greeted Dr. Chad with so much excitement I feel terrible knowing that I brought him there to kill you. Rocco I had to decide whether to end your life now while you still had some enjoyment of it or wait until it was clear that you were suffering. I thought it would be wrong to wait till you were so sick that you wouldn't eat or move. If I had let you get to the point that you were living in complete misery than the gift of life would have turned into a curse. I wanted you to take the gift with you. I wanted your last moments to be good ones and not full of pain and agony. Alicia and I loved you so much and it sounds so sick but mistake or not we did it for you.
I want you to know there were others besides us who loved you. I saw people crying for you. People wrote me and called me about you. You touched many hearts. Havana is hurting for you now. After the euthanasia shot we let her out with Barney. Barney was too scared of Dr. Chad to acknowledge your condition. Havana came up and saw something was wrong, she tried to smell for your breath. Then she laid down on the blanket next to you. She just laid with her head down for maybe a minute or so and then got up. This meant a lot to Alicia and I and I hope you knew how much she loved you. Barney may have distracted her lately but you and her had such a strong bond and were meant to be together. She isn't the same right now just like us.
I don't know where to go from here. It's hard. After you were taken away I couldn't look at the empty dog bed where you usually slept. Alicia and I took Havana up to Los Altos, to Tony's neighborhood and we walked the old route. It was a beautiful day and there wasn't a dog or cat in sight. We thought you would have loved being there. Alicia and I shared a smoothie and when the cup got to the bottom we took the top off a let Havana lick what she could. I told Alicia if you were here your long tongue would get to the bottom and it would be all gone. We're going to miss those little things you did. There are so many daily rituals that are now gone. I tried to tug with Barney but he wasn't interested. Your energy in the morning was the spark plug for the whole house. I loved that you loved being dragged around on the carpet, holding onto that rope. Alicia thought it was ridiculous and I thought it was great. I loved that goofy side of you that just lived and relished in the simplest moments.
We had a terrible night last night with much crying and Alicia called in sick today. We went down to the old HSSV. The adoption kennels you stayed in were gone, just a parking lot. The gravel play yard is gone, there is a cinder block wall there. I went to the spot where you made that lady who lost her dog so happy. I could picture you there, the moments came back to me. We walked up Martin to those grass islands with the maple trees were. Memories came back. I remember sitting there with you and Alicia and she wouldn't let you kiss her! She didn't like dog kisses then. It's funny how now she was always asking you and Havana for kisses. She told me today that you showed her how to like dog kisses. How many times did I hear her tell you "gimmie kiss" and you looked up in her eyes and off you went!
We are having your body cremated. They are going to give us your ashes and a molded tile of your paw print. I'm going to bury the ashes by the fig tree where you, Havana and Barney liked to lay in the sun. I'm going to make a bracelet out of your old dog tag.
Well, I've apologized, and reminisced. I wish you could read and understand this letter. Mostly I just want you to know that you were everything to me. I could not love you anymore than I did or do. It leaves me sad because I believe when you are gone that's it. It aches in my heart to think I'll never be with you again. I would love to be proven wrong some day. I'd love to be with you again and forever. I do know that while I'm living you will forever be in my heart. You were a beautiful soul.
I know you're not going to write me back but I'll keep writing you my sweet boy.

With love

PS. Found the most beautiful picture of you on a CD that Ali Talley gave me almost 3 years ago. I put the CD in my folder and forgot about it. Alicia and I had never seen it until today. I'll attach it with this letter.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rocco's last night.....

Tonight is Rocco's last night. We have a vet coming to our home tomorrow at noon to euthanize him. Things turned for him on Friday afternoon, just like that. He turned away food for the first time in his life, some dry kibble. His appetite has come back though and he's eaten all his food since. However he hasn't tugged rope or wrestled since Friday morning. We can tell by the way he is resting that he is uncomfortable. It's a difficult decision because I love Rocco more than life (at least it feels that way sometimes). He has always been there for me. He has been my best friend (yes, literally) for the past 5 years. Dogs live in the movement, Rocco lives in the moment. To play a game of tug with him was to be there with him, in the moment, relishing it. The excitement of competition, the joy of movement. He felt it and I did to. Jobs, money, the things of modern society don't matter in these moments. Rocco always reminded me whether he was tugging, chewing a bone, sun bathing, or stealing strawberries from my planters, that life was a gift. You have to enjoy it and seize everyday. Rocco's mind is stronger than his body. Instead of being a gift life is now becoming a struggle. His body can not cope with the lymphoma anymore.

I remember five years ago having Rocco out as a volunteer at the old Humane Society. A woman came in and said she just lost her dog and can she pet him. I told her yes and she squats down. Rocco lights up with excitement and starts licking her face, she starts to laugh and he puts his front paws up on her shoulders and knocks her back to the ground. Now here is this middle aged woman lying on her back with a homeless pit bull standing over her and licking her face all over. She is laughing so hard she starts crying. She eventually gets up, wipes her eyes and says "I needed that so much...thank you". Rocco knew that.

Tonight as I watch him uncomfortably rest in his bed I go and lay next to him. I start to cry. As tired as he is he sits up and starts licking my face, over and over. Taking care of me the best he can. Here he is dying of cancer taking care of me the best he can. He always took care of me best and I've tried to do the same for him.

Rocco is my family. He is my blood brother. I love him more than life. The picture here is from tonight. If ever a dog could smile it's Rocco.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rocco's Lymph Nodes are large

I'm not sure where to began. Last week we were told Rocco would probably live 1-2 months. One week on and is lymph nodes are getting bigger by the day. I think this week or next will be his last. This is very hard to deal with. One reason it's hard is because Rocco is not a old dog with chronic problems and pain. He is a happy 6 year old dog. He loves to tug every morning. He loves to go on his walks and eat. He loves to say hi and meet people. His spirit is indomitable. He's been through a lot. Being picked up as a stray. Spending over half a year in narrow concrete and chain link kennel at the old shelter. Getting giardia and mange there. He has been to the vet so many times. He's been stuck with needles all over his front and back legs, his chest, his jaw. He has been given toxic chemicals time and time again. If ever there was a dog that should resent going to the vet it should be him. Yet he is always happy and excited to go there. Not for needles or drugs but for every person who will even take a second to make eye contact with him. When I first got Rocco I remember taking him to my uncles storage unit. I took him there because the facility is fenced and I wanted to see what he would do if I let him off leash. I took the leash off and walked away from him, around the corner down row of storage units. I stopped and looked, he tentatively came around the corner and looked me in the eye. He then walked up to me. I knew then that Rocco and I had a special bond. He is my faithful friend and I his. I feel sick at what is happening. I have much trouble sleeping. I stay awake and think about Rocco. I can't take care of him anymore, only comfort him until his death. I know life is not fair and it just is what it is but I think this is bull shit. He is 6 years old and 2 of those years were living with cancer and 2 were spent in a shelter/on the street/living with people who most likely did not give a shit about him. A good dog like him deserves better. We should have taken him around class today for goodbyes. Don't know if he'll be back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rocco's Vet Appointment

Rocco had a vet visit today to administer a chemo drug he took three weeks ago for the first time. When the vet personally called me while Rocco was there I knew it was not good news. Rocco's lymph nodes had gotten harder and larger. The chemo drug didn't work. His chemo appointment was canceled today as the drug we were going to give him is ineffective.

His options are:
-Try 1 of the 2 other drugs that also have a 50% chance of success (success being an extra 2-3 months of life average)
-No more drugs and let him live until he is not comfortable any more. The vet thinks this will mean 1-2 months for him.

Alicia and I had said previously that we would try this one drug and if it didn't work that's it. The other drugs have the same odds, come with side effects, and high costs. We'll talk tonight when she gets back.

The good news is the failed chemo drug didn't damage his liver and Rocco feels great. He plays, eats, goes on walks, and thinks everybody at the vet is the best person ever. I'm glad dogs live in the moment and don't worry about death. We'll try and make his remaining time the best we can for him. Will post any updates here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rocco's Vet Appointment

Just to follow up:

Rocco went in on Monday and the vet checked his lymph nodes. They went down from the Friday chemo but not back to normal size. The vet speculated it could be from not enough time (only had been 3.5 days) or that was as effective as it was going to be. We chose this option with a drug called CCNU. It's an oral chemo medication and he took it Monday. He has to go back next Tuesday and we'll see if this drug is working (40-50% success rate). If it does he'll have another 2-3 months. If not treatment will be done for him. He's feeling okay. Today he went on a walk, had some short spells of playing tug and chasing his little brudda and he chewed some bone. I'll post back next Tuesday. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rocco's Endgame, His new brother

I'm resurrecting this blog. Not doing this blog was good for a while. It seemed sometimes just living life and forgetting about Rocco's cancer was best. There was no need to be constantly reminded of it, even if I was taking him every two weeks for Chemo treatment. Rocco finished his second round of the Wisconsin-Madison protocol for treating lymphoma for dogs 3 weeks ago. The treatment has been very successful overall for him. It's been over 27 months since he was diagnosed. The side effects have been minimal except for a bad day here or there. However 3 weeks after his last treatment I brought him in because I felt his lymph nodes growing since the last treatment. The doctor confirmed his cancer was back and also said the WM protocol was no longer effective as evidenced by the quick relapse. The vet gave Rocco some different chemo drugs and Prednisone this Friday and while it seems to have had an effect on the cancer it also has hit Rocco pretty hard. Today he hasn't wanted to tug or even go outside. So obviously he is feeling very bad but he is stoic and just lays on the couch. He still has his appetite and I've been making him fresh food since Friday PM. Tomorrow he goes back to the vet and we decide what to do from there. He has three different drug options, they range in price (from 800$-1600$ a month) and they range in side effects to his health. They have a 40%-60% chance of success rate (of course the 60% rate is the 1600$ treatment). Regardless if they happen to be successful it gives him just another 2-3 months. The vet and I are on the same page of "quality" of life and not "quantity". I'd rather have 2 weeks of him being his happy self rather than 3 months of what I see today. It's going to be a difficult time for Alicia and I (and Havana) but such is life.

We've been on the fence about adopting our foster dog Barney for a while now. He has fit great with Rocco and Havana and they all are best buds. Havana is very bonded to Rocco and we think it would be very hard on her when Rocco's gone. Having Barney here will make it better for her. Of course we thought about what is best for all the dogs, and we think it's best for Barney to live with us. He is happy here and we know we can give him what he needs to become a more confident dog. Alicia signed the paperwork today and Barney is now a part of the family. Not as happy an occasion as we would want it to be but we'll still have Margaritas tonight to celebrate Barney's welcome to the family. (Havana likes booze so she'll partake too.) Attached is a picture of the new boy with his "big brudda" as we say. We'll keep this blog updated until the end.