Love letter to Viva's Second Chance

My dear sweet precious Chance ... It has now been a few days since you went to the Rainbow Bridge and I have spent a lot of time thinking about you and your impact on my life. [caption id="attachment_280" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A handsome boy"]Viva's Secind Chance[/caption] I remember when I met you for the first time ... originally thinking you were a "replacement" dog for my first Italian Greyhound (IG), Prince of Thieves. You see, Prince was born a month or so before you, so when we (your "Dad" and I) went to pick out our very first IG, his was the litter we were selecting from. I didn't even know about you then ... but sadly, Prince was not with us long at all - God called him home less than 6 weeks later. I realize now that it was God's way of clearing the path to my heart for you to fill it. Your breeder, Mary Ann, still had you because she was thinking of keeping you for herself (you were that special), but she was kind enough to give me a second chance to be an IG mom and sent you home with me to become "Viva's Second Chance". [caption id="attachment_281" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A mid-air leaping catch!"]Chance and his favorite ball[/caption] You were such an adorable puppy ... a beautiful sable color with very dark face (not for long though!) and cute "Irish" white markings with white on your chest and all 4 paws. You were a little athlete too ... you loved chasing the ball in the back yard, although you never did get the concept of fetch - you always kept the ball for yourself. Inside, you played with an assortment of toys, but the banana and carrot plush squeak toys were your favorites (at least until you discovered the frog that went "ribbit" a few years later at a dog show). I was so proud of you when you learned to pick up your toys and put them back in the "toy box" (well, not all the time but that's OK). You always brought a smile to my face with your antics. When you weren't playing, indoors or out, you could be found one of 2 places - cuddled on my lap or basking somewhere comfortable in the sun. You were such a little sun worshiper (and that never changed throughout your life). And it made my heart leap that you loved me so much - you were always a "mama's boy" and would look at me with such adoration in your eyes it made me melt - I was putty in your paws. I think Dad was a little jealous ... if I was around and had a lap available, you would leave him and come sit with me. So, about a year after you entered our lives, the 3 of us went back to see Mary Ann and pick out a brother for you. You were really the deciding factor - the older dog we looked at challenged your dominance and you were not about to give up the alpha dog spot. Of the 2 puppies, the blue was too timid but "Brown Boy" stood up to you without dominating you ... plus he looked so much like you even with the unusual white spot on the back of both your necks. So "Brown Boy" came home with us and became "Viva's Another Chance for Love" ... and I thought getting another "Chance" for love was pretty "Lucky". You easily established yourself as the alpha dog over your brother and life settled in. You played together in the yard ... [caption id="attachment_284" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="And the chase is on ..."]Chance chasing his little brother, Lucky[/caption] And napped together on the chair ... [caption id="attachment_285" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Watching over Lucky while he naps"]Lucky naps while Chance watches over him[/caption] And hung out with Mom ... [caption id="attachment_286" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Chillin' with Mom while she reads"]Chance and Lucky hanging out with Mom[/caption] It made me so happy that the two of you were so close, especially when I had to travel or just be a work all day. You were my two little peas-in-a-pod. Then "Dad" and I decided to split up ... the only thing I really cared about taking with me was you and your brother, as you were already the center of my life. So we moved out and into a nice little townhouse - one with an IG-sized fenced yard just for you. :) I still remember one of the very first mornings, after I had been very sad the night before, I woke up to you with your head on the other pillow, looking into my eyes with a comforting paw on my shoulder as if to say "it will be OK, Mom, I am here for you". And you always were ... when life got tough and I wanted to give up, you and Lucky would remind me of all the good in my life - most especially the two of you. At times when I felt like the world was against me, you would be there to tell me you would always love me. And when my confidence dwindled, it was always you who let me know I was perfect in your eyes. I truly wouldn't have made it through those dark times without you. [caption id="attachment_288" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Lounging in the window (2003)"]The boys enjoyed the window seat over looking the backyard in Pittsford[/caption] You and Lucky were such troopers too ... while most dogs/pets get upset when their environment changes, you took every one of our 10 (yes, 10) moves in stride. As long as we were all together, you were up for each new adventure. You especially liked our house in Pittsford though - the window seat was one of your favorite places to hang out. But no matter how large or small the residence, with fenced yard or not, it was always "home" because we were all together. And I was never lonely, as I always had you to hang out with. Even when the choices in living arrangements weren't ideal, you made the best of it and forgave me (although I know the years without a fenced yard to play in were hard on you - you never did like going potty on a leash). You were a great listener too - whether I had some exciting news (to which you jumped around or in later years, wagged your tail) or needed to talk through an issue (you would cock your head and listen intently with your wise stare) or just cry (you would sit on my lap and give me kisses until I stopped) - you never judged or criticized or tried to "solve my problem" ... what else could I ask for? You were such a good big brother to Lucky as well - when he got sick and was given his terminal diagnosis (of a mere 6-8 weeks!), you stayed by his side. And you never acted resentful for all the extra time Mom spent with him ... you took it in stride, but stayed close for when it was time for family hugs. Luckily the doctors down at that fancy veterinary school were all wrong ... with our great vet team at Storybook Farm, we found the right combination of things and Lucky not only survived, but thrived as he is still with me today. I am sure having you around helped - Lucky always did look up to you and follow your lead. Being away from you always made me sad ... when I traveled for work, I looked for the best possible places for you to stay, and of course called to check on you daily. My life was a little less when I wasn't home with you. [caption id="attachment_289" align="alignright" width="300" caption="My precious sun dog"]Chance on the back of the couch in the sun[/caption] Even in your later years, when your energy was less and your eyesight dwindled, you were there for me. You learned to adapt so well to the cataracts growing in your beautiful soft brown eyes, I didn't even realize how little vision you had left until the vet confirmed it on a routine exam. But my little trooper had just created a mind-map of the house and yard to still get around - it left me in awe. When I lost my job, you sat with me each day while I looked for a new job or (as time went on) started my own business (just renamed in your honor - Chance 2 Grow LLC). Your love and support gave me confidence that things would be OK, as long as we were together. Your favorite spot was on the back of the couch snoozing in the sun (some things never change) next to me while I worked. And of course you provided a distraction when I needed a break - always willing to indulge me with a petting session. :) When I was offered a long-term project in CA though, you were a main reason I declined to move - I didn't want to uproot your life and take you to a new environment (especially without a fenced yard) for your golden years. Learning a completely new home with what little vision you had left would have been so hard, yet I have no doubt you would have taken it in stride, just like you always did. [caption id="attachment_290" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Looking expectantly to see if I would bring him another treat"]Even in his last weeks, Chance still loved laying in the window[/caption] Then the trouble with your front leg started ... at first I was hopeful the wonderful team at Storybook Farm would figure it out and be able to cure you ... or at least give us a lot more time together. Even though you were 15 (over 105 in people years!), it wasn't long enough ... but once we had eliminated the other possibilities, I had to accept your symptoms were caused by a brain tumor. You were such a trooper though - even though you would fall because of the instability in your legs and balance issues, you found ways to compensate and when you couldn't, you would patiently wait for help. I got used to the scraping sound of your front paw - it because a good sound when you were out of my sight as I knew you were still upright and moving around. You were such an inspiration to me - a study in how to overcome obstacles and deal with whatever curve ball life threw at you. But I watched you carefully, willing to help you as much as needed, but constantly vigilant for signs of pain. As long as you weren't hurting and were still enjoying all your favorite things like treats and sun bathing, I would make whatever accommodations were needed to keep you with me and as much as possible protect you for harm. In the last month I didn't get much sleep - I would wake up at your slightest sound or movement to see what you might need or what I could do for you (whether it was bringing you the water bowl in bed, repositioning you to a more comfortable position, or even just petting you until you fell back asleep). I was constantly aware of you and your needs - nothing during this time got my complete attention because you were top of mind. I watched your courage and determination to overcome this with admiration (and to be honest, a constant state of fear) ... and I would have been there to support you indefinitely, as you had always been there for me. I was grateful to have the chance to return the favor. [caption id="attachment_291" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Angus Hanger Steak cooked with bacon - only the best!"]Chance's last dinner - Angus Steak cooked with bacon[/caption] Then it happened ... something that probably no one but me (and your brother) would notice ... a subtle shift in your gait and a little less light in your eyes ... and I knew in my heart it was time. You were in pain and I needed to let you go ... even though you still were enjoying your simple pleasures like people food (like the wonderful steak dinner on your last night), I had promised you no pain. I had to fulfill my promise, even though the mere thought of losing you broke my heart. I loved you too much not to send you on to the Rainbow Bridge to wait for me. As a pet parent, this is our greatest gift of love, and our ultimate pain, all wrapped up together - to allow our babies to go with dignity and as little pain as possible. Many of my friends sent us love and prayers - it helped me so much and I hope you felt the outpouring of positive energy directed at you. ♥ Your last few days I did little else than be with you ... even though I had work to do (and did the best I could to work at least some of the time), I wanted to treasure each of these last hours. I knew my clients would understand ... my "child" was leaving me for good. I gave you love and pets and kind words and of course, as many of your favorite foods as I could. We spent time in the sun, took rides in the car, and cuddled together (with Lucky too) enjoying our last moments here together. Our last hour before heading to see Dr. Giles, I mostly just watched you nap on the couch. [caption id="attachment_292" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The final hour"]Spending time together in our last hour[/caption] Then it was time ... Jonathan insisted on a stop at Wendy's on the way for one last chicken nugget ... then it was just you and me in the room (a very rare occurrence in our lives together to be honest) . They left us alone together while the sedative did its job - I gave you a few last treats but then just held you on my lap and loved you. We carefully moved you to the table for the last shot ... I looked into your eyes, stroked your neck, and told you how much I loved you and would miss you. I know the sedative was strong, but I hope you were aware in your last moments of my love for you. Then you were gone, at least from this body, and were on your way to the Rainbow Bridge. You gave me 15 years of joy, happiness, and unconditional love and devotion and for that I am eternally grateful. I miss you, my precious little one, as does your baby brother. You will always be in my heart and my mind ... and one day, we will be together again. But for now, know how much you touched my life and how much I love you, my sweet baby Chance. [caption id="attachment_294" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Viva's Second Chance"]Viva's Second Chance[/caption] Love, Mom