Goodbye, Cleo…

November 17, 2020 10:22pm
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At the height of our shared exercise regiment, Cleo and I used to go on walks together just about every night.

This was before the kids, so it wasn’t uncommon for us to be out wandering around our extended neighborhood for an hour or two, though our average trip settled in at right around 3.5 miles which we could usually knock out in a little over an hour.

Cleo would’ve been anywhere from about 9 months to 3 years old, so that puppy had all of the energy in the world! I would seriously try to get changed in secret because once she saw me lacing up my tennis shoes, she was beyond excited. 

I was in my early 30s, so I wasn’t as out of shape as I am now, yet she would still drag me all over the place! If she happened to see a rabbit or a squirrel before I had a chance to tighten up my grip on her leash … uh oh!

We walked for hundreds and hundreds of miles together over a couple of years, her just sniffing and pulling in her own little world while I listened to music and podcasts and admittedly spent a lot of time just talking to myself trying to work through whatever was going on in my life at the time.

So I didn’t really know what to expect in taking her for our last walk together last night.

Needless to say, she didn’t have nearly the energy that she used to. Most of her time is spent sleeping and she really doesn’t run anymore, yet I was surprised how she really seemed to perk up when we got outside and reverted to her nose to the ground, forever curious-self that I remember … just a lot slower.

There was no pulling on the leash and I often had to slow down to her pace like I do when I’m walking with one of the kids. But low and behold, we ended up putting in a whole mile around the neighborhood with a nice break in the middle to “chat” and take a few pictures…

It was such a nice, pure time that momentarily it made me wonder if maybe she still had a chance after all, but once we got back home instead of curling up for bed she spent the next two hours wandering around the house and eventually got herself “stuck” behind the toilet again, so I guess this would be a good time to talk about all of her symptoms next…

* * *

Earlier this spring, Cleo was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, which is basically a small tumor in her adrenal gland. There was really nothing we could do – the vet had a couple of pretty invasive procedures that might’ve worked, and even the testing for them was prohibitively expensive. Ultimately we decided that we’d just try to enjoy the time we had left and make her as comfortable, as the vet mentioned that we’d start to see the signs when her time got closer, but in hindsight I never would’ve expected her to show all of the signs to the point where aside from a bit of snuggling and still responding to her name, she was barely the same dog that we’ve come to love all of these years…

  • She didn’t bark anymore. Ever.
  • She didn’t give kisses anymore.
  • She couldn’t jump up on the couch, and she hadn’t been able to jump up on our bed for a while.
  • She almost always fell coming back down, and she’d gotten some nasty bruises to show for it.
  • Sometimes she would just randomly wander around the house in circles, occasionally squeezing into small, dark places (like beside the toilet) where she couldn’t get out without help.
  • She even sometimes showed difficulty walking and would cross her paws and stumble from time to time.
  • And her incontinence had me washing towels almost as fast as we could use them to clean up her messes.
  • Plus, she’d been losing her hair for a while. Most recently, a small patch on her back that left behind this really awful looking scaly patch.

We knew that it was the right choice, but it didn’t mean that I was in any way ready to say goodbye.

This past weekend as I started putting my thoughts together for this post, I had more than a couple of breakdowns – one of which found me crying on the floor and hugging Cleo. I would’ve given anything for a nuzzle or a random kiss that she hadn’t given in weeks to comfort me, but instead she just stared off into space and eventually went back to her new routine of wandering back and forth across the house as if it was the first time she’d ever been here, yet without the energy of the dog that she had eight years ago when we all walked into this house for the first time together.

When took her to the vet one last time over the weekend, his best guess was that the tumor in her gland had likely spread into her brain, which supported her general state of confusion and all of her troubles walking, and it was only going to get worse until she basically was no longer able to function at all.

As much as I was clinging desperately to her, I knew the truth was that really she was already gone.

* * *

Taking Cleo to the vet to be put down is easily one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do.

Sara and I went together while the kids were at school, and we spent about 2.5 hours between saying goodbye and going over everything with the vet one last time.

Needless to say, there were a lot of tears.

Cleo wasn’t really with it for most of it, which is probably all for the best. I think she might’ve actually fallen asleep in our arms when we were going over the billing stuff, and when it finally came time for her IV she fought them to the point that they gave her some of the sedation drug early to help calm her down.

The drug to actually stop her heart was this bright pink, pepto bismol-looking stuff that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the vet injecting. I just helped Sara to hold her and kept my eyes shut until I heard her say that she’d checked for a heartbeat and confirmed that she had passed.

Thankfully, the staff was all super supportive during the whole ordeal. We had a private room just for us with its own entrance, so we didn’t have to pass by other people when we were finally ready to leave.

There were a couple unexpected moments of comedy … or at least I had forgotten that thing where dead animals tend to empty their bowels when they expire, so that amused us that she got in one last chance to pee all over us on her way to the afterlife!

I also found it a little bizarre how unlike they do with people in the movies, I couldn’t close her eyes after she’d died and eventually resorted to pulling the towel she was wrapped in over her head once we’d said our goodbyes and taken the footprints that Sara wanted to take for the kids to do crafts with later.

To their credit, the kids so far have taken it pretty well. We’ve really tried to do our best over the last couple of days, and even the last months as her sickness had gotten worse, to prepare them that Cleo wasn’t going to get better and how eventually she was going to die. We told them that she’d be going to live with Sara’s Grandma Shorty in heaven because she loved animals so much, although I’m not sure that they entirely get the permanence because so far we’ve had a couple of times where they’ve asked when she’s coming back.

But the breakdowns have been limited to the adults and as a parent, I’m grateful for that.

* * *

It’s the day after we put Cleo down and the crying has (mostly) stopped.

Instead, the house just feels … empty.

Life goes on – we take the kids to school, I try to get some work done, etc, etc…

…but something is missing.

I keep waiting for Cleo’s head to pop up out of the sheets on the bed while I’m at our bathroom sink.

Or I catch myself not wanting to leave food unattended so that she doesn’t steal it.

We put the door guard over her doggy door because I couldn’t bring myself to remove the panel altogether, and yet now every time I walk by that guard reminds me that she’s not here to use it anymore.

The same for her gate between the playroom and the kitchen.

There are so many little reminders around this house of our furry family member who has passed on, and I’m constantly fighting between remembering the good times and staving off tears.

It’s amazing how much food my kids really waste when there isn’t a dog to clean up after them.

God, I miss that little brat so much.

* * *

To round out this post on a somewhat happy note, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Cleo moments from over the years…

  1. By and far, our long walks at night as described earlier were absolutely my favorite times!
  2. It sounds funny, but just seeing her sleeping in the corner of my office on her big, fluffy cloud of a comforter always made me smile and love working from home.
  3. We didn’t go very often once we had kids, but taking Cleo to the dog beach where she could actually wade into the water was always a treat. (she wouldn’t swim in our pool because it was too hard to get out)
  4. It was after a very special episode of Puppy Dog Pals that the boys officially dubbed Cleo with the name Superdog, which soon became interchangeable with all of the other fun pet names we called her around the house.
  5. Considering how she wasn’t exactly a fan of strangers coming in our house, it was particularly comforting to watch her snuggling with each of our newborn kids as we brought them home. She guarded those kids like they were her own…
  6. It was obnoxious at times, but there was something special about her snuggling up in the bed when we went to sleep … it was nice if you got her back and not her feet, anyways! I kind of likened it to pack animals huddling up at night to stay warm, and we were her pack.
  7. Although she managed to “forget” most of the other commands we tried to teach her, Cleo used to love jumping for treats. I tried teaching the kids how to have her do it, but at the time they’d always end up overhanding it across the house instead of giving her a gentle lob that she actually had a chance of catching!
  8. Before the kids were born and our house was much, much cleaner, we would also play hide and seek for treats where she would get told to stay and then we’d walk around the house randomly throwing dog treats around for her to seek out once she’d been given the all clear. She was surprisingly good at it, too – I could scatter treats across several rooms of the house and she would systematically track them down one by one, chewing away as she scarfed them down as fast as she could find them!
  9. And of course, it wasn’t a holiday in our house until Cleo got her toy to tear apart … stuffed toys, particularly with squeakers, didn’t stand a chance with her. They were a mess to clean up and never lasted very long – one year for Christmas we got her one of these big, stuffed chairs shaped like a giraffe or something meant for kids to sit in, and she tore into that thing like a lion feasting on a gazelle!
  10. Two words – Cleo. Kisses. They were the most enthusiastic and full of energy kisses you’d ever had, to the point where it sometimes got hard to breathe with her tongue essentially probing the inside of your nose! That dog made no secret who she adored and no face was safe when she got into her affectionate mode… 😀

* * *

Cleo “Superdog” Sevener
(2011 – 2020)

Today we had to say goodbye to Cleo, known by the kids as Superdog. Before her Cushing’s began to take over, this dog had more energy than a lot of people could handle. She loved to bark and chase things, and she was like a kid on Christmas morning tearing into her latest stuffed toy … which lasted about 30 seconds at best around her!

We’ll always remember Cleo for her voracious kisses, and her adoring snuggles, and how protective she was of her family – particularly of the boys.

Enjoy your next adventure wherever the afterlife takes you, Superdog – there’s no doubt that you stole our hearts even more than you stole our food…

Today was a great day!

Historically I haven’t really been much of a Busch Gardens fan because A) I’m scared shitless of “real roller coasters”; and B) I tend to spend half the time comparing everything to Disney and just being perpetually disappointed.

That said, somehow the stars aligned today and what was our first of likely many visits in 2019 was actually pretty great. Granted, it certainly didn’t hurt that admission for our family of 5 only cost us about $120 … for the entire year! … thanks to a buy 1, get 1 free offer on their Fun Cards that they offered for Black Friday last year coupled with free preschooler cards for all of our kids.

We pretty much spent the entire afternoon just walking around, looking at animals, and the boys absolutely LOVED it!

I ended up with Christopher and David because Matthew was cranky and Sara was trying to get him to fall asleep, but it was pretty awesome just how engaged they were with each and every new animal that we came across – whether it was something big like the giraffes or lions or even smaller stuff like lizards and snakes and whatnot. We took a little time to learn something new about each one, and I think they really liked being able to call the shots by picking which animals we were going to check out next…

…even if I did have a hell of a time actually finding some of them!

If I had to rank our favorites, I think it might look something like this:

  1. Hippo
  2. Elephants
  3. Gorillas
  4. Flamingoes
  5. Duck fishing in the Hippo pond

After our animal hunt, we ended up over in the Sesame Street area, which I absolutely loved the last time we were here because I think that Busch just did a really great job of making it so fun and colorful and interactive for the kids.

David was still a little nervous going on rides, but he really enjoyed the ones that he could do with Christopher.

Christopher, on the other hand, would’ve lived there if we’d given him the chance, and one ride in particular was pretty amazing. He and David were going to ride their Snuffleupagus version of a Dumbo ride, but it turns out that while they were both tall enough to ride, Christopher wasn’t tall enough to supervise his little brother on the ride, so he rode by himself while David rode with Sara.

Watching that kid slowly realize that he could make the elephant go as high or low as he wanted all by himself was absolutely wonderful, even if it felt like he was literally growing up before my very eyes!

I wish I would’ve gotten a better picture of the GINORMOUS SMILE on his face, but darkness + spinning ride doesn’t make for good pictures… 😛

It was almost the same with their last ride of the night – the two boys were able to drive a car for The Count together, and boy, do I wish that I could’ve had a GoPro strapped to the dashboard to catch a glimpse into that little joy ride! 😀

On our way out, we got to enjoy the lights and Christmas decorations during their final weekend, which was a nice way to wind down the evening as we slowly headed out to the car. The kids split a couple of giant cookies, Sara and I each got to indulge in some holiday-themed desserts, and before we had even pulled out of the parking lot, two of the three kids were already fast asleep in their car seats…

Ultimately the weather was great – a bit chilly with the wind, but nowhere near spring or summer heats that make theme parks more challenging, the kids were amazingly well behaved, and it’s nice that we’ve got another option to entertain them that’s a little closer than driving all the way over to Disney World.

And I didn’t have to go on a single roller coaster!

Swim lessons are expensive for three kids, but it’s nights like tonight when I’m beyond satisfied with the investment we’re making in these crazy, little swimmers.

The swim school that we’ve taken the boys to basically since Christopher was born does this program twice a year called Water Safety Week – during which instead of their usual lessons, every kid wears their normal clothes into the pool and gets taught at their level about the core basics of keeping themselves safe around around water. They spend some time in the pool so that they’re not foreign to the shock of being in the water with their clothes on, and then they all try on life jackets and float around the pool in the most adorable choo-choo train formation you’ve ever seen in your life!

They also take a few minutes to talk to us parents about the importance of using safety features with our pools at home and having designated watchdogs when attending or hosting a party where kids will be in or around the water. Some of the statistics shared are just terrifying – apparently in Florida alone, we’ve lost 86 kids to drowning this year … which is the equivalent of four preschool classes of drownings on average each year.

Fortunately, they say that swim lessons reduces the risk of a child drowning by 88%, so that’s something to help us sleep even just a little better at night.

Plus, the kids all just absolutely love their swim lessons, and it’s always fun to watch them trying out the new things that they’ve learned and being pushed towards new skills in an area that I myself very much struggled with growing up, and honestly still kind of do!

I figured I’ve shared these just about everywhere else, so why not throw ’em up on the trusty, old blog, too?!

In a word, Christopher’s 1st birthday party came together spectacularly awesome. She’ll tell you that we did a lot of it together, but Sara was really the driving force behind a lot of the colorful fun seen here below, from the rainbow-assorted sugar cookies to Ernie’s Rubber Duckie Punch to all of the other sweet Sesame Street ideas that she collected on Pinterest and got a “Sure!” from me about in a typical man’s reply. 😉

It’s hard to believe that this little guy has already been around for an entire year – in that time he’s gone from an extremely expensive little science project to this almost Muppet-like, silly personality that giggles and laughs at just about everything and is due to start tearing into anything not bolted down around our house pretty much any day now!

Happy Birthday, little dude! I, for one, would be more than happy to tell you how to get to Sesame Street. 😀

THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

October 28, 2013 7:45pm
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So good news, everyone … this is officially happening…

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And also for a more sugary take on it all…

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What to say, what to say?! :mrgreen:

It’s all still very surreal to me, even though we’re technically now out of the first trimester and are 1/3 of the way to having a baby.

HAVING A BABY

It’s definitely going to take a while to get used to seeing those words in the present tense instead of merely wishful thinking!!!

There’s a lot of back story behind all of this that I promise we’ll talk about eventually … it’s been quite the ordeal over the last couple of years, to say the least … but for now I’d rather focus on the crazy, insane, unbelievable positive that in roughly 187 days I’m going to be a Daddy! 😯 😯 😯

Needless to say, I’ve already started on the first of many new humor columns that are to be written about the mere idea of me being a parent. It’s wild, and the one thing that I’m starting to realize from talking to other people who are already classified as such, it’s that as much as I feel like I’m not ready, I’m starting to get the impression that most people never are, and it’s just one of those things where you roll with the punches and just kind of see what happens…

And so that’s what we’re going to do! There’s so much to do, and a lot of it honestly makes me feel equal parts excited and terrified, but I’m just trying to take it one day at a time as Sara and I slowly prepare for one of the biggest things that will ever happen in our entire lives … no pressure.

Current Baby To-Do List:

  • Put “bun” into “oven”
  • Announce said 9-month baking process
  • Panic
  • Calm self down from panic by buying toys
  • Read through 100,000 baby names and, in collaboration with wife, pick 1
  • Buy stock in Babies ‘R Us in preparation for their huge stock increase after we buy pretty much buy every single item they have in stock
  • Sell lots and lots … and lots of books so that I don’t later have to rob a bank to pay for above-mentioned purchases
  • Teach Cleo not to eat babies (work in progress)

187 days and counting… 😯 😀 😕 😐 :mrgreen:

Let’s Make Cake Pops!

June 15, 2013 12:06am
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Today was fun!

Hung out and did family stuff up here in Michigan all day, the highlight of which was making cake pops which ended up being extraordinarily messy and yummy and fun, as you can clearly see in the picture above from my niece, Madelyn. (click through for more pics!)

My only complaint was that the glaze didn’t work out quite well and the cake wouldn’t stick to the sticks … not sure if the cake wasn’t dense enough or the glaze thin enough or what, but it make decorating them afterwards quite the ordeal. Eventually we all just sort of gave up and dug in with our hands, following Madelyn’s lead, and there was much rejoicing.

Also, apparently kids get super hyper when you let them eat half a dozen cake pops in a row and god knows how much icing and “beans” (sprinkles) off of the rest…  🙄

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