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Apr. 20th, 2007 @ 08:23 pm My two-legged sister's tribute to Coriander
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Current Mood: sadsad

This was written by my human sister:

January 29 was a very sad day: One of my family's dogs died very unexpectedly.  Coriander (Cori) was only 7 1/2 when she passed away from liver cancer -- an illness we didn't know she had until 45 minutes before her death.  I am still kind of numb and sorting out my feelings.

Cori has a special place in my heart because we got her to help me get over my first dog's death.  Ginger was my very first dog.  She was a basset hound, and I got her when I was six years old.  She was just an 8-week-old puppy when we brought her home, and I totally fell in love with her.  She slept in my room and was kind of a best friend to me in many ways.  She was stubborn, stinky, snored really loudly, produced incredibly huge drools, and stole food all the time, but I loved her so much that all of these traits were endearing to me.  She had a very soft belly that she loved to show off and have people rub, and she would tolerate ANYTHING you wanted to do to her, from dressing her up to jumping on her.  When I was 20 years old, Ginger passed away at the very old age of over 14.  She had been quite sick (actually, I think she had liver cancer, too) for a couple of weeks, refusing to eat, being lethargic, etc., so we all saw it coming, but didn't want to accept it.  For the last few days, we were forcing her to eat Karo corn syrup (to this day, I still can't bear to look at the bottles of Karo in the grocery store) to keep her alive.  She had gotten so thin, and while she was still loving and affectionate, you could see her suffering.  We brought her in to the vet, and he told us that she was very ill.  It was possible to do surgery, but it would likely not help, and she would suffer a lot.  We chose to let her pass into sleep peacefully (euthanize), which I was there for and cannot bear to write any details about, because it was the most painful day of my life.  I don't think I'll ever be able to talk about it, because it tears me up to remember...I try very hard not to.  It's already breaking me down right now.  I need to cry over Cori, so that's probably a good thing--writing this is helping me grieve for Cori, actually, which I've been having trouble doing, for some reason--but I can't go into that day with Ginger.

After we put Ginger to sleep, I came home and basically collapsed with grief.  I couldn't stop crying.  That was the only time in my life I understood what it means to be depressed.  The next day, I didn't want to get out of bed.  Being awake meant realizing that Ginger was gone, and I couldn't bear it.  Every time I woke up, I just forced myself to drift back into sleep.  It was just easier like that.  I don't think I really ate anything either.  I just remember lying in my parents' bed all day.  They were really worried about me.  The next day, they forced me to get up and go to the public pool with them and my brother, and I remember that all I did was lay out to tan, because I could just fall asleep and try to forget about what had happened to my life.

But I believe I also did some thinking while I was lying there, because I remember getting home and telling my mom that I couldn't take it anymore.  Cinnamon, our German Shephard/lab/golden retriever (???) mix, was still around, but I still felt like there was something missing.  I felt like I just wanted to walk around the house looking for Ginger.  I needed that warm, fuzzy being in my life, and I couldn't bear the emptiness of her absence.  And while I was laying there, I realized what would fix that problem and give me an outlet for all of my feelings: We needed a puppy.

I wasn't replacing Ginger.  She was so unique and special.  She could never be replaced.  Instead, I felt that Ginger had taught me a lot about how to love another being, and I needed to pass that on -- kind of like a legacy.  And I just needed another warm, fuzzy belly to nuzzle, long ears to stroke.  So my mom set about calling rescue agencies and breeders.  I was adamant that I needed a female puppy -- it's just how I felt at the time.  The rescue groups didn't have puppies, so after several hours of making calls, my mom found a breeder in West Virginia who had a litter of 12-week-old puppies with one unclaimed female.  We immediately got in the car and drove through the boondocks to get to this breeder.  Turns out that she was a "backyard breeder" -- a pejorative term that means someone who breeds for profit without paying attention to bloodlines, which is considered bad by many because backyard breeders don't try to breed out negative traits and genetic conditions...although many might argue that the whole pedigree-breeding thing is a crock anyway -- but we didn't know that at the time.  Really, though, it didn't matter, because when she brought us into the barn, showed us the two or three puppies behind the gate, and pointed out which was her unclaimed female, we were instantly in love.

Cori was the cutest puppy ever.  She was floppy, tricolored, and just adorable.  Instantly, I felt so much of my grief wash away.  It's not that it was OK that Ginger was dead -- FAR from it -- but at least we were giving her a legacy, and we could love that legacy so much.  I just felt like something good had come of something so horrible.  I would put all of my love and affection into Cori...which wasn't hard, because she was so cute and sweet.

I remember that she conked out in the car ride home.  Actually, we didn't go straight home.  Instead, we went to a family friend's house to show her off.  We put her on the leash -- she was so small -- and walked her around and were just enamored with her.  It was wonderful to be able to focus our energy on something so positive and fresh and innocent.

All of this happened in July 1997.  That summer, I was responsible for raising Cori, which I TOTALLY wanted.  She was my baby.  We initially tried to crate train her.  The first night, we tried to put the crate in my room, but she kept crying and wanting to come out, so we had to take it downstairs to the living room.  But I heard her crying and crying, so I came downstairs and ended up sleeping next to her crate until I woke up later and she was asleep, and I could go back to my bed.  The second night was the same.  By the third night, she had gotten much better.  That was the summer I worked at home as an editor (my first summer editing), so I was home all day with her.  It was so much fun raising a puppy!  Cori was just so cute and funny.  We tried to crate her for a couple of hours during the day, to get her used to it, but she wasn't having it.  She would whine and look at me with those sad basset eyes, and I just couldn't take it; I'm such a softie.  I ended up letting her out and playing with her.  We also had a lot of mishaps during that time, because our backyard fence was old and decaying and had a lot of holes in it.  She kept escaping, and then we'd patch the hole she went through, only to find her wriggling out through a new hole.  Finally, we got all the holes (although that wasn't until after Basil came in August, but that's a whole other story).

I basically raised and trained Cori.  She never was an obedient dog (bassets typically aren't), but the one thing I taught her to do really well was to give doggie kisses.  Instead of biting (which little puppies do a lot), she learned to give licks.  She always put a lot of oomph into her licks.

Gosh, I remember being so elated when we got her.  My mom still has on the wall a photo of her and me from her first trip to the vet, which was probably the day after we got her.  I'm holding her in my arms and smiling this gigantic smile -- I felt so much better after those couple of days of intensive grief.

When the summer ended, I went back to college.  But Cori and I were always special to each other.  I lived with my parents for a year or so a couple of years after we got her, and of course, I came for many visits while I was still in the area and even while I've been here in Boston.  Cori always cried and got very excited when I walked in the door.

Cori was a total princess.  I guess I spoiled her when I was raising her.  It was just so hard to discipline such a cute dog!  She ended up getting addicted to smoked pig ears (a common dog treat) and demanded one every night.  She even manipulated my mom into giving her a massage (!) every night at 10!!!  How?  Well, when it was time for the massage, she would come to my mom, wave her front feet at her, and whine whine whine until you couldn't take it anymore; you had to give in.  That might sound annoying -- and really, it was -- but it was also Cori, and you had to love her.  She loved to show her belly to people for a belly rub.  We called it a rubber belly, because it had the consistency of rubber -- a good thing, believe it or not.  And she had a gorgeous howl and would do it on command.  Well, command in this case is if you howl at her for a while, so perhaps she had us trained to howl more than we had her trained to do it!  "Woo woo woo woo woooooooo!" she would always say.

That was 7 1/2 years ago, almost.  Sadly, Cori aged very quickly.  She started going gray at age 4 or 5.  Her teeth also didn't do that well even though my parents took decent care of them.  While the vet would look at Cinnamon's teeth and say, "If it weren't for the age her teeth show, I would guess she's 6 years old instead of 14," he would look at Cori's and say, "From the condition of her teeth, if I didn't know better, I'd think this dog was way older than she actually is."  So maybe she was meant to have a short life.  But her death was just so sudden anyway.  She showed signs of sickness only since Thursday, when she didn't eat all of her food.  On Friday, she refused a pig ear -- very out of character for her -- although she accepted it later.  And then she started peeing on the carpet and throwing up a few times, so my mom took her to the vet today.  The vet was open till only 1 today, so he told my mom to take Cori to the emergency clinic so that she could be checked out instead of having to wait until Monday.  At the emergency clinic, they were a bit baffled.  Cori's stomach was VERY distended, and when they withdrew fluid, there was blood in it.  They were thinking enlargement of the spleen or liver, or perhaps cancer.

At 8 pm, they started their exploratory surgery, and at 8:45 they called my parents to tell them that Cori was full of liver tumors, some as big as tennis balls, that were bleeding.  This was so sudden and so rapid.  Cori had a vet checkup only a month ago, and she was given a clean bill of health, including normal liver enzymes -- which were gauged to be through the roof today.  They said they could put her back together and let her live out her few remaining days in pain, or they could just have her pass into a permanent sleep.  We chose the second option, so that she wouldn't have to suffer.

I guess I'm still in a stage of disbelief.  I wasn't there -- I'm here in Boston, of course -- and so it's harder for me to feel that she won't be there when I go visit next.  In many ways, though, I'm glad I'm not there, because I could never go through what I went through with Ginger again.  But I'm still just sorting out my feelings.  In some ways, I feel really bad, because I feel that I wasn't as close to Cori as I used to be.  My parents have a lot of dogs now, and I myself have my OWN dog, Cocoa, who is basically a child to me.  So I worry that I neglected Cori in the more recent years, although I always loved her.  I kind of feel guilty, too, because I took the news pretty stoically -- which I certainly wouldn't have done if it were Cocoa.  I think I'm waiting for it to hit, which it kind of is, but not completely.  I mean, my mom was SOBBING on the phone...but part of it is that I was in a restaurant with Jack and his friend at the time, and I think part of me knew that I had to keep my composure.  I felt kind of sick on the drive back home, but that might have been because I ate way too much at the restaurant (well, it was a sushi buffet, so what can you expect?).  I don't know.  I feel sort of knotted up inside.  I feel like she's still alive, only I can't see her -- which is natural, because I'm 8 hours away.  I feel like this is some weird dream or other dimension.  And then I remind myself that I will never see Cori again, and then it hits.  But then it goes away.  I don't know.  I wish I got to say goodbye, but that would have been really hard to take -- and I definitely wouldn't have wanted her to have been kept alive to give me time to get down there.  That's not right.

It's kind of weird, though, because my dad was saying that we chose the humane option...and I thought that word choice was ironic, since "humane" is obviously related to "human"...and so many PEOPLE suffer with horrible terminal illnesses, but we refuse to give them the humane end to their suffering.  Not that I'm some kind of big euthanasia advocate or anything, but I still thought it was interesting.

Anyway, I guess I'm just trying to come to terms with this.  It just hasn't sunk in.  There was nothing we could have done -- this cancer happened SO rapidly -- so I don't feel like we messed up.  And she lived a wonderful 7 1/2 years, with very very much love and affection.  So her short life was well lived.  But it's just so strange thinking that she won't be there when I go to my parents' house.  It just doesn't feel real.

It's kind of like when my ex-boyfriend died.  Maybe I'll tell that story sometime, but the gist of it is that he was gunned down by a white supremacist as he was entering church on Sunday, July 4, 1999.  (He was Korean.)  It made national news.  Anyway, I hadn't seen him for over 2 years or talked to him for not much shorter than that, but I still had thought of him often and had even tried to contact him to say hi three weeks prior to his death, not realizing that he had gone on to a different school and thus wasn't at the e-mail address I wrote to.  He and I had remained friends after our breakup, and in fact we almost got back together (although the result surely would have been the same) back in summer 1997.  He had invited me out to Illinois so that we could talk and think about things again, and I almost accepted his invitation, but then Ginger died...and then we got Cori, and I had to take care of her...so it never worked out.  Anyway, so when I found out about his death, it was so strange, because while nothing had changed, everything had changed.  What I mean is that my daily life didn't change.  I hadn't seen him or talked to him, and I continued not seeing him or talking to him.  But it was so hard to comprehend that I never had the option of talking to or seeing him again.  I felt like I needed to search the world in every single corner just to prove that he wasn't hiding somewhere.  It was hard to understand that it was impossible.

That's how I feel about Cori.  My life is still the same here.  But now I'm told that there's no more Cori, and I'm just so used to there being Cori that it's hard to understand that I don't have the option of seeing her anymore.

My feelings about death are very complicated.  You know, I'm not a religious person at all.  I used to be Christian, and it just wasn't me.  I don't buy the concept of faith.  The thought of a heaven just doesn't make sense to me.  It's a very lovely thought, but to me, that's all it is -- a thought.  It's a thought that people like to have because it makes them feel better about something that brings them so much grief.  And for some people, maybe that's why it's so important to have that belief -- that is, to have that conviction that death is NOT the end.  And that's such a comforting idea, but I can't bring myself to believe something just because it's nice and it makes me feel better.  (Anyone who's Christian, reads this, and feels compelled to try to convince me that I'm wrong, well, I appreciate the effort, but I actually have thought this one out really well.  I don't feel like going into it here, but I'm not just making bold statements here; I really have fleshed out my thoughts on this one.  Actually, that's the main reason my murdered ex-boyfriend and I broke up -- he was Christian and needed to be with someone of his faith.)

So death is difficult, because I don't think it leads to continued existence of some sort.  Well, actually, my position is agnostic: I simply don't know, and I accept that I don't know.  I suspect that nothing happens after death...or if something mystical really IS going on, I have a stronger gut feeling toward the concept of a kind of rebirth, but not a spirtually continuous rebirth.  Anyway, so I simply don't know what happens when people die, and I accept that.  But the burden for me is that there's no real comforting thoughts that one can have with this belief.  I see death as a part of life.  Everything ends.  I really admire cultures that are more accepting of death than Western culture.  For example, many Chinese seem to take death in stride; it happens to everyone at some point, and we can't expect for something different to occur for a particular person.  I know it's cliche, but death really is a part of life.  If death didn't happen, this word would be FILLED beyond the brim.  And when it happens, it's horrible and sad for the living, since they will miss the person or animal that used to exist, but no longer does -- but you have to accept it.

But when it DOES happen, it sometimes makes me feel a twinge of despair, like everything is for naught in the end.  I think what keeps people going is that death makes way for new life -- kind of like how Cori's new life took up where Ginger's life ended.  When someone dies, there's that moment of "Why do we even bother when we have to deal with this pain?" -- kind of like a brief moment of "Why is life worth living when we have to suffer so much loss?"  But then I remember the joys of new life -- and not just of new life, but of so many things in the world.  There are so many lovely, wonderful things to enjoy, and I try very hard to remember that when I get that twinge of despair that comes from realizing that it DOES all end in loss.  Maybe the best way to see things really is as a "circle of life," because death isn't necessarily an end.  It's just part of a cycle that includes birth, death, and everything in between.  That's how it's been for millions of years, and we're no more special or exempt than anyone who lived 4,000 years ago.  It was all real to them then, and what we have is real to us now.

Maybe most people can't stomach the idea of no "ultimate" purpose in life, but I guess to me, the ultimate purpose is to live a full life and to feel deeply.

Well, I guess I'm going to be sorting things out for a while now.  I know she was "just a dog," but to me, dogs are some of the most incredible creatures ever, and Cori was a sweet, loving one who brought a lot of joy into my life at the time I needed it most.  I am just so glad we could give her a happy, warm, stable life with lots of doggy friends and human love.  Oh yeah, and a kitty friend, too -- she LOVED my kitty Brie and would always lick her when I brought Brie to their house.

I will definitely miss Cori, my beautiful, sweet minihound.