One Year Later

I've been dreading this day all year. Today is the one year anniversary of when we said goodbye to Otto -- the day my heart broke into a million pieces. A lot has happened in the past year: Nick and I adopted Webster, I refocused on this blog, I became a spin instructor, I co-founded a website I love with 3 other women, I started a business. To be honest, I probably did most of these things to distract me from my feelings.  I traveled, I wrote, I laughed, I cried… a lot. In fact, I've cried more in these past 12 months than I can ever remember crying. And I learned about grief.

Of all the emotions, grief is the most complicated. And the grief that comes from the finality of death even more so. It grabs you with alarming ferocity at the most unexpected of times. I know the feeling all too well: the constriction in my chest, the shortness of breath, the tears welling behind my eyes. And it really doesn't get any easier: as time goes on, you just get better at dealing with it. It doesn't mean that you can't be happy, it just means that a little part of you is changed. Forever.

Scenes from my Weekend

Whoever decided that weekends  should only last two days demonstrated a serious lack of sound judgement in coming up with this decision. Because weekends and awesome, and they should be longer, damn it! This weekend I managed to fit in a lot of relaxation (read: naps) with a lot of fun, so I feel ready to tackle the week ahead.

Friday, Nick and I attended a super fun event on the GOODTIME III-- it was a white party for AIA,  which fit in perfectly with my "All White Everything" theme this summer. My white seersucker dress (in the middle) is from the Gap, and BONUS, its on sale. Amazing views, perfect temps, and great friends made for a really fun evening. Post, cruise, Nick and I stopped in at Luxe for dinner. If you haven't been lately, its worth a visit-- they have a revamped menu, and the wings are AMAZING.

Saturday was a really nice detox ride at Harness, followed by some meandering and lunch at The Cleveland Flea with Allison. Post nap, Nick and I went to Humble Wine Bar for dinner-- seriously, this place has never failed me-- some rose, some pizza--- a lot of perfect summer evening. I also reached a decision this weekend-- I'm not a fuchsia nail kinda person (even though that's what color my nails are painted right now).

Sunday was a tough day-- it would have been Otto's 7th Birthday. We hung out with Clair and Webster and spoiled them silly with a special breakfast, trip to the pet store, and fun and the dog park. It was a good way to remember Otto and celebrate his life. And then I bought myself some peonies and rose. Because I deserve both. As I type this, I'm a nervous wreck watching the Cavs in Game 5--- by the end of this week, there will be a new NBA Champion, and I really hope its us!

This week is going to be packed with activities--- Cavs games, NKOTB + Nelly + TLC, an Indians game, all leading up to the sold-out Solstice Party at Cleveland Museum of Art! Stay tuned!!

PS: If you're impatient like me, follow along on Instagram for live updates of my week!

Welcome Webster Slaughter

This past Saturday was exactly two weeks since we said goodbye to our beloved Otto-- Nick and I miss him terribly, and honestly, our house has been unnervingly quiet with just Clair. I didn't realize just how loud Otto was with his breathing and grunting and snoring LOL. In any case, over the past two weeks, Nick and I had been trolling Petfinder for male boxer pups to rescue. We weren't in a hurry, but were certainly open to the right pup.

And then on Friday afternoon (right after lunch with my friend Lisa, who gave me a beautiful good luck charm), I got this text "There is a boxer puppy available in Eastlake. His name is Otto".

I don't know if you know this about me, but for someone who is typically very logical, I can be incredibly superstitious at times. If there ever was a sign from the universe, SURELY this was it.

At 11:50 am on Saturday, March 28th, we were first in line to see Otto at The Animal Rescue Center. We walked in, signed up, showed our ID, and were immediately led in the puppy-meeting area with Otto. Anyway, Otto was a wild man. He was running from Nick to me and back, trying to climb us, nipping us with his razor sharp puppy teeth (as puppies do)-- one look at Nick and I knew Otto was not coming home with us. I asked the volunteers to bring in another puppy-- Ozzy had caught my eye. Otto and Ozzy wrestled for a while, and we noticed that Ozzy was definitely much bigger than Otto. We asked to spend some alone-time with Ozzy and he immediately jumped into Nick's arms and started giving him kisses. And I knew that Ozzy would be coming home with us.  By 12:35 pm, we had filled out our application, paid our adoption fee, and were on our way home. We renamed him Webster Slaughter Faehnle, and the rest, is history….

Here's what we know about Webster: He's estimated to be 12 weeks old, and he and his siblings were rescued from a pound in Athens, Ohio. He's definitely part boxer, but we have no idea what the other half of him is. He is as sweet as can be, and is ridiculously smart. He has HUGE paws, so we're guessing he's going to grow up to be a pretty big dog! Clair is an amazing big sister-- she's incredibly patient with him, and plays with him all the time.

We still miss Otto, and there will never be another dog like him, but we are back to being a family of four, and starting on a whole new adventure.

Follow me on Instagram to keep up with all our puppy adventures!

The Hardest Goodbye

When I wrote this original post about Otto, I didn't think I would be writing this one so soon. 

Two weeks ago, we received the results from the biopsy: undifferentiated sarcoma. Basically, it meant that the cancer was confirmed. It was a sarcoma, but there was no way to tell if it was the sarcoma of the bone, the membrane surrounding the spinal cord, the tissue surrounding it… not enough information to tell how aggressive it was, how fast it would grow back…. nothing. This past Tuesday, I took Otto for his follow up from surgery at Metropolitan Veterinary, and they were very pleased with his progress. And then things started to go very wrong. 

On Thursday, he seemed to be struggling to stand up unassisted. By Friday morning, his right hind leg was partially paralyzed, and we knew what was coming. Friday evening, Otto's favorite people came over to say their last goodbyes-- we all sat on the floor on blankets, picnic style, surrounding him with love and kisses. Nick, Clair, Otto and I had a slumber party in our living room Friday night-- Nick held him in his arms all night. By Saturday morning, Otto was breathing really hard. By the time our vet Dr. Bob came over to our home around 1:30 pm, Otto's chest was starting to get paralyzed. It was time. Dr. Bob administered a powerful sedative, and Otto fell into a deep sleep-- cuddled in Nick's arms, as I held his paws and kissed his face. A short time later, the barbiturate. At that very moment, the sun came streaming through our windows, and I knew Otto was gone. Our baby boy, who brought us so much joy, had left us with this little last piece of sunshine. 

Otto was such a big part of our lives, both literally and figuratively. There is so much about him that I miss: the way he would push open the door to the bathroom, the way he would lay on the couch and look out the window, the way we never needed a doorbell because he would bark so loud anytime anyone came over, his grunts, his loud snoring, the way his tongue would fall out of his mouth when he slept very deeply, the way he sounded like he was deflating when I hugged him, his goofy smile and butt wiggle every time we came home, his kisses, staring into his big brown soulful eyes, kissing him on the top of his head, and even his stinky farts. 

People have asked how Clair is doing: She was in the living room with us when Otto died, so I think she knows he's gone. Sometimes she seems lonely, but I can't tell if its really how she feels or us projecting our feelings on her. At other times she's perfectly herself-- perky, cheerful, cuddly, wagging her tail. 

I won't speak for Nick's feelings, but as for myself, I would describe myself as emotionally fragile. Its an hour by hour thing. Sometimes, I'm at peace knowing that we gave him an amazing life, and that he had a beautiful, peaceful death and is free from pain. At other times, I burst into tears. I'm acutely aware of his absence, and it feels like I'm being stabbed in the heart. I know this will eventually turn into a dull ache, but in the mean time, its very raw. Grief. Its not a feeling I've really encountered before-- I've been incredibly lucky. I'm trying to take comfort in the fact that I know he loved us, and that he knew just how much we loved him.

People have asked whether we will get another dog-- yes. We are a two-dog family, and we will rescue a male boxer in time. Probably sooner than later. 

But in the mean time, we continue to try and come to terms with his loss. Rest in peace, my sweet baby Otto. We love you forever and will miss you always.

There will be no more posts this week. Please feel free to leave your comments-- I read them all, even if I don't respond this week. Thank you for your compassion and understanding. XO

An Emotional Week

If you're friends with me IRL, or follow me on Instagram, then you know that a week ago today, Otto was diagnosed with a huge tumor on his spine that was pressing down on his spinal cord. What you may not know is how quickly we got to this point. Exactly 4 weeks ago, Otto came in the house and I noticed that the entire back half of his body was trembling. I turned on the fireplace, but a half hour later, he was still shaking.

We took him to Tremont Animal Clinic the next day, and we started treating Otto for what we believed (and hoped) was a strained back. Failing to respond to meds, he was back a week later to start on steroids. Sadly that didn't work either, and along with our vets, we made the decision to go see a neurologist at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital. A few hours and an MRI later--we had a diagnosis. A huge tumor on his spine.

Nick and I made the decision to schedule surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible the following Monday. We carefully considered the risks of surgery (paralysis or even death) and then began one of the hardest weekends of our lives. We started to tell friends and family, and the response from everyone was so overwhelming (in a wonderful way). Say what you will about social media, but I cannot even begin to describe what it meant to hear from people that I haven't heard from for a long time. We spoiled Otto rotten, did lots of fun things together, and his favorite people came to visit.

Everything seemed to be going well, and then suddenly on Sunday, Otto couldn't sit or stand. We rushed him down to the ER, where they amped up his pain meds and kept him overnight. To say we were distraught would be an understatement. Even poor Clair was upset-- walking around the house looking for Otto.

Surgery happened on Monday, and then things really started to look up. Not only did the surgery go well, but Otto got to come home on Tuesday, a whole day ahead of schedule! 

As of this writing, he's been home a full two days, and he's doing SO well! He definitely feels more comfortable-- he's supposed to be on bed rest, but he keeps wanting to walk around and play-- I've had to resort to bribing him with treats to lay down!  I'm convinced that it was everyone's thoughts, prayers and energy that are causing his recovery. 

We are still waiting on the results of the biopsy-- I suppose we could have a miracle and it may not be confirmed cancer, but even I am not that optimistic. What I am optimistic about is that Otto is a strong pup, and that the cancer is slow growing (fingers crossed), and that Nick and I (and Clair) are going to make amazing memories with him, for as long as that may be. We are starting a new journey together, and we will carry each other through it. In the mean time, Otto is being Otto-- barking at unauthorized people (the mailman, UPS lady), showing an excessive interest in our food, trying to sneak in licking the dishes as we load the dishwasher -- being the big goofball we know and love. 

So in closing, I just want to thank you for all your love, support and wishes over the past week. I will certainly continue to update you on Otto's condition via social media and you will probably see a few more posts about Otto on this blog.