Monday, January 26, 2015

Make a Difference Monday - love like it's your last day

We knew the day was coming.  Over time she stopped climbing the stairs to sleep with Colby.  Over time she stopped chasing tennis balls.  Over time she stopped climbing on the couch to sleep in "her spot".  Over time her body just gave out but never, ever did she stop loving us with every ounce of her being.

Our sweet Kennedy was two months shy from being 16 years old.  Over those sixteen years she has been there with us through it all.  The ups, the downs, and everything in between. She has greeted us at the door when we brought all three of our babies home.  She was even there when I went through two miscarriages.  When no one else knew what to say or do, she did.  She would lay there next to me and just be.  She's been something different to all of us but none of us got just a piece of her.  We all felt 100% of her love all the time. To Mike, she was HIS dog.  First and foremost, she belonged to him.  His love for her has never been more evident as he has lovingly taken care of her in her time of need these last few months.  He has cleaned up her messes when she could no longer control her bodily functions, he has held her when she could no longer hold up herself, he has carried her when she could no longer walk.  He was right there with her till the end.  To Colby, she was a fan.  She always wanted to be outside with him.  Not to play with him - just to watch him and be with him.  To Holden she was a best friend.  She was a constant companion and the best secret keeper!  To Hope, she was a babysitter.  I could always count on Kennedy to make sure Hope didn't get into anything that she wasn't suppose to.  She had this gentle way of positioning herself between Hope and anything that could hurt her. And, to me, she was that quiet presence and constant companion that I could always count on - even when everyone else was out of the house.

We've watched her slowly age and have gone through episodes where we thought this might be it.  But, in true Kennedy fashion, she would always rally.  This past Thanksgiving was one of those times.  We even cancelled our Thanksgiving plans with family so that we could be with her.  Holden begged and pleaded with Kennedy to please make it till Christmas.  I honestly believe that Kennedy willed herself to make it through Christmas.

This past week, Kennedy started refusing food.  She wouldn't eat anything - not even treats which she loved.  She was having a hard time getting around.  Thursday night as Mike and I were laying in bed, he quietly said, "I think it might be time."  Hot tears puddled in my eyes.  It had been the elephant in the room but we hadn't talked about it.  We both agreed that he would call the vet on Friday.

Friday came and went and the vet never returned his call.  We took this as a sign that it wasn't suppose to be and went about making plans for the weekend.  Mike finally heard back from the vet around 10am on Saturday and he told Mike what we didn't want to hear.  It was our decision but he recommended that we put Kennedy to sleep.  The appointment was made for 2pm that afternoon.  So we had four hours.  Four more hours to love on the dog that had loved us for her entire life.
It had been raining for the last couple of days but this day the sun was shining.  Kennedy loved to lay in the sunshine so I got her and pulled her in my lap like I did when she was a puppy.  I cried and told her all the things I wanted to make sure she heard before she left us.  I had been praying that she would pass away in her sleep but I honestly feel like she just didn't want to leave us.  As hard as it was to make the decision, I think she needed us around her as she took her last breath.
Colby came in to love on her and as I took this picture, I couldn't help but see the little boy he use to be.  He would be outside playing and I could always count on Kennedy to not let him get too far.  In the house we lived in prior to this one, she fiercely protected our sidewalk with her deep barks but anyone that knew her knew that it was all for show! Never once did I ever worry that she would hurt anyone.
Holden had the hardest time letting go.  She and Kennedy had a special bond that's hard to put into words.  She made her bacon (one of Kennedy's favorites!) and tried to get her to eat it.  Hoping and praying that she could make her better.  She even sewed her a little pillow to rest her head on.
Initially we tried to shield Hope and not tell her everything that was going on.  She knew that Kennedy was going to heaven but it's hard to explain euthanasia to a four year old. She understood that Kennedy was going to die but she kept telling us, "it's ok, Jesus is going to make her all better and then she'll come back to our family".  She couldn't understand that she would not be able to see Kennedy again.
And Mike.  Seeing him hurting for her was almost more than I could bare.  His heart was breaking and there was nothing that I could do.

Time passed and then it was time to go.  Kennedy slowly walked to the garage almost like she knew.  Mike had gotten her kennel out but had taken off the top.  It made it easier to get her in and out of our car with less stress on her.  No one said a word.  We pulled up to a stoplight and the truck in front of us had two golden retrievers in the back of the bed.  It almost looked like they were smiling.  The sun was shining and the wind was blowing. Kennedy use to love to ride in the back of Mike's truck!  It was like a sign - she was going to be ok.  Soon she wouldn't hurt anymore.

We arrived at the vet and the led us back to a room.  We let each kiddo decide if they wanted to be there and they all agreed they did.  They were all very brave but very upset. Kennedy's breathing was heavy but she didn't seem agitated or scared.  The vet staff took her to the back to place the catheter in her front leg and then brought her back for us to have a few more minutes with her.  Each morning we stand in a circle and hold hands and Mike prays a quick prayer before everyone heads out the door.  We always loved when Kennedy would stick her head in our circle so we only thought it was fitting to gather around her and pray.  We thanked God for giving her to us and for showing us what real love looked like.  We prayed for a peaceful passing for her and for comfort for our broken hearts.  We petted her, kissed her, and told her goodbye.  We noticed her breathing was not as labored.  She seemed at peace.  The vet then came in to put the medicine in her catheter.  At this time, all three kiddos left the room.  It was just too much for them.  But then Hope came back.  So, Mike, Hope, and I, through tear filled eyes, watched as Kennedy took her last breath.  It was peaceful.  She just stopped breathing.  The vet checked for a heartbeat and then confirmed what we already knew.  She was gone.

The vet staff prepared her so that we could bury her at our home.  We loaded her in the back of our car for one final road trip.  As we walked through our door, the finality of it hit. She wasn't there waiting for us.

The boys spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening preparing her grave.  Once it was ready, we all went outside and said one last goodbye.  They filled the hole in the ground but the hole in our hearts will never go away.  We know with time the sadness will be replaced with happy memories but for now we grieve.  We grieve a dog that loved us with every thing she had.  She forgave us immediately when we would get upset with her. She never put herself before us.  She always protected.  She was always there.  Until now. But even though she's gone, she's left us the best part.  The reminder of what it feels like to be loved the right way.  The reminder of how we should love others.

Rest in peace, sweet Kennedy.  We love you so much.

And, thank you to so many of you that texted, came over, left Facebook messages or commented on Instagram.  You'll never know how much every single message meant to us.  Thank you for understanding how hard this is on our family and for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.  Each and every one of you made a difference!  Never underestimate the power of your words.  

Holly

And just in case you came back today looking for my Love Challenge post - I'm sure you understand that I needed the weekend to be with my family.  Check back on Wednesday - I'll have it posted then.  Thanks again!

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Thank you, Julie from Redhead Can Decorate and Alycia from Crazily Normal for featuring my story about Kennedy!  It was such an honor and so appreciated to help more people hear her story!  Let's all love like it's our last day!
Inspiration Monday
Saturday Spotlight

22 comments:

  1. My heart just breaks for you and your family. Those moments are so difficult. May God surround you with comfort and peace at this time.

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    1. Thank you, Kristy! The house is just too quiet without her. No one to pick up after, no one to let out, no one waiting on you when you get home. It's our new normal and it will just take time getting use to. Thank you for your kind words!

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  2. This was a beautiful post. We finally made the decision to put our 14 and a half year old "white" Lab down last April when we realized we were keeping him alive more for us than for him. Such a difficult decision! Our sons are all grown so Boudreaux Skyped with them the night before he left us. I ended up making a YouTube video of pictures of him with the boys through the years as they grew up and he grew old and then for Christmas turned that video into a photo book for all of them. Dogs bring such love and joy into our lives and our families. I'm sorry for your loss. It looks like you gave Kennedy a great life and he gave you great memories.

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    1. It sounds like you know exactly what we are going through. Those big brown eyes, that soft fur - there's just something about a dog that strips you down to the barest emotions. We didn't want to feel like we were letting her down in the end. No matter the circumstances - it's the hardest decision to make. Thank you for your sweet words.

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  3. ohh I cried while reading this! praying for you and your sweet family, that the LORD will comfort you in this season

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    1. Thank you! We definitely feel everyone's thoughts and prayers and truly appreciate each and every one.

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  4. I was crying so hard while reading this post. You wrote it so beautifully. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog. May the Lord comfort you and your family during this time, Holly.

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    1. Thank you for reading (and I'm sorry for making you cry!). It's been an emotional weekend and typing through tears was hard but it felt good to share her story. She was an amazing dog and we were blessed to be her family.

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  5. This was a heartbreakingly beautiful post. My heart goes out to you and your family.

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  6. I'm so sorry about your beautiful Kennedy. Praying the Lord comforts you and your family during this time

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! We appreciate your thoughts and prayers!

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  7. Tears...what a beautiful tribute to Kennedy! Love you friend!

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    1. Thank you, Sara! It was hard to write - I didn't want to remember all of it again - but it was something I didn't want to forget either. There are truly no words to thank you enough for what you did. I am amazed at how thoughtful you are - seriously one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me! Love you!

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  8. I am seriously sitting at my desk bawling my eyes out.....this is the most heartfelt, sweetest thing you have ever written. I'm so glad you guys took all those pictures and the way you describe her role with each one was perfect. All weekend I just kept thinking about picking Carly up at Rhi's house on Graz and Mike throwing the ball and Kennedy bounding down the street over and over. It's really hard to even grasp that it has been that long. We will miss sweet Kennedy too.

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    1. Thank you! It was incredibly hard to write - I would sit down and just cry. But, it was also something I needed to write too. And, these are the only pictures I have - it was hard wanting to remember but not wanting to either. Thankful that Hope took that picture of Kennedy and I - that's what made me realize I should try and take pictures of everyone else. And, oh, how Kennedy love to chase tennis balls!!! I remember Mike coming home from work, putting one of the kids in a baby carrier, and heading outside to throw the ball for her for hours. Things just aren't the same without her. We miss her so much!

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  9. Shady Del Knight sent me a link to this post. What a beautiful dog and beautiful family. The photos are almost too much to bear in their beauty.

    Love,
    Janie Junebug

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    1. Thank you, Janie! The pictures are hard for me to look at now but I know they will forever be cherished. Thank you for reading about our sweet girl!

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  10. I'm so very sorry, Holly. Here I am rushing through my day, and you pulled me in and reminded me to slow down. We lost our "Dude" 2 yrs. ago, and Kennedy looks a lot like him. I will be paying tribute to your wonderful dog, Kennedy at our Inspiration Monday Party this Sunday @ 2pm. Sending you hugs...XO

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    1. Thank you so much, Julie! Those that have been there truly understand the pain. I'm sorry to hear about your Dude! Thank you for paying tribute to Kennedy. She truly was the best.dog.ever and we miss her so much!

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  11. oh my...tears in my eyes. We have an eleven year old Mikey...and while he is older he is in good health. I do not want to think about his not being with us. To have a truck with two goldens pull up beside you is just uncanny. What a message, sign? oh my. You can meet Mikey here if you want to. http://mykentuckyliving.blogspot.com/2015/01/living-with-golden-retriever.html
    I am so sorry for your family's loss.
    sheila@MyKentuckyLiving

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    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words, Sheila! Your Mikey is absolutely beautiful! There's just something about when they start getting white hair around their face that gets me. Their eyes are so kind and they love us so much! I hope for many, many more beautiful years with your sweet pup!

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