“And I know of the pain that you feel the same as me, and I dream of the rain as it falls upon the leaves. And the cracks in our lives like the cracks upon the ground, they are sealed and now washed away.” — Iron Maiden, “Rainmaker”
“I decided like a bird that’s trapped inside a gilded cage, it’s right to set it free, hurts to watch it fly away. Letting go of you was so hard to do. And I thought that it would kill me, but I made it through somehow, and I’m so much stronger now.” — Warrant, “Stronger Now”
One of the things that I like about the Paleo Approach program is that it is truly holistic, with a major emphasis on stress management. In that vein, I need to talk about one of the most stressful, and certainly one of the most painful events in my life. April 15 was the 12th birthday of my (ex) beloved dog, Kacy. Kacy is a beautiful, spunky Norwich Terrier, who sadly no longer could live with us after she began attacking our daughter.
Kacy had lived with us since she was nine months old. She was meant to be a show dog, and indeed was a repeat breeding of a champion stud and champion bitch. Alas, she was too small to compete in conformation shows, so her breeders sold her to us. We had a rough start after we learned a few months later that Kacy needed liver surgery to fix a shunt that was the reason that she was small. After that, Kacy lived a life of luxury with us in D.C. and quickly became spoiled. Like most problems with dogs, this was owner error, not hers. When she would bark incessantly for food, I would always think of that Pop Evil song “Monster You Made” (“I’m only the monster you made me.”) Kacy had 11 years of getting her way when Roya was born. We did everything we read in the “prepare your dog for baby” books and Web sites, and implemented all of our veterinarian’s suggestions. None of them made a bit of a difference. Kacy was hostile from the get-go, even getting food aggressive toward my breast milk, which was most certainly not for her!
We kept the girls far apart and hoped that things would cool down, which they did until Roya started crawling. At that point, Kacy became an unpredictable lunatic, lunging and biting the baby without provocation. Thankfully, she didn’t really hurt Roya, though it was terrifying for her. We consulted with our vet, Kacy’s previous dog trainer, and even a new specialty trainer with the Dogs and Storks program. Nothing made a difference. Soon, our lives became a hell of baby gates everywhere and constant vigilance trying to keep Kacy and Roya apart. It is no exaggeration to say that the only time that David and I relaxed was when the baby was asleep. It was frustrating to see both Kacy’s and Roya’s worlds getting smaller by the day because of the forced separation. Nobody was happy.
Then, Kacy finally bit Roya on the face, and she bled. We called her vet and said, “We have to re-home this dog.” Knowing how much we love Kacy, the vet urged us to bear with 100 percent separation a little while longer and get a consult with an animal behaviorist, Dr. Katherine Meyer, who might have other suggestions. At worst, the consult with Meyer would mean that if we had to give Kacy away, we would do so knowing we truly had no other choice. That is exactly what happened. Dr. Meyer said did a thorough bite assessment and said to me, “Your daughter is in grave danger if you don’t remove Kacy from your home. Don’t wait.”
I spent the next week soaking through tissues, literally having to pull the car over because I was sobbing so hard; I couldn’t get over the fact that very soon would be the last time I would see Kacy. Given her long and tight history with us, Dr. Meyer strongly advised no contact after we re-homed her. Terrible for me, but good for Kacy, so I’m taking the high road. Kacy was more than a pet to me. She is a registered service dog, so we partnered as hospice volunteers and sat at the beds of many dying patients. We did other volunteer work, too, such as going to college campuses to help students de-stress during exam week, and letting kids read to her at public libraries. We spent countless Sundays at nursing homes visiting patients with a group of other dogs.
More than that, Kacy was my buddy during the darkest days of my Lyme Disease infection. When I couldn’t wash my hair or do anything else, I still had to get her outside during the day. We couldn’t always go far, but I had to always get her out. She was responsible for my contact with the world during my darkest days. I also spent hours crying into her fur after our three miscarriages, consoled that if I couldn’t have a human baby, at least I had the world’s cutest dog.
I was scared that we wouldn’t be able to re-home an older dog who was headed into a time of her life when she would begin to incur higher medical costs. I worked my butt off to find Kacy a deserving home, and luckily, people started to compete for her. After weighing the options and consulting with our vets for their opinions, we decided to give her to my friend’s parents in a neighboring state.
We felt good about her new family, but the day we dropped her off was one of the worst days of my life. I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest: I was giving away a family member. Even though I knew I was doing so to protect my very vulnerable human family member, it still hurt like hell. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it. I will say that I knew she would be just fine in her new home when I saw that they had custom grave markers for their previous two family dogs buried in the back yard. Yesss!
As previously mentioned, Kacy is a healing dog. She just snuggles up next to anyone (uh, except Roya, whom she wanted to tear apart). I have come to see now that the energy couldn’t be contained here, and she really did need to leave our house. Her new mom is facing a terminal illness, so Kacy gets to do what she does best: exude healing love and energy. My friend brilliantly described her as a “fun-sized bodhisattva.” I couldn’t say it better! I am so sad that Kacy’s new mom is so ill, but I am grateful that she and her family have Kacy to help them through that transition.
I don’t think I am someone who tries to see a reason in everything, but in this case it seems very apparent to me that God or the Universe sent Kacy to her new family where she could truly be of service and free from a scary toddler. I will love and miss her forever.