Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Stoli Taking it Easy
Aaah the day we brought Stoli home was a day we will never forget. Kevin had wanted a dog for quite some time and I was dragging my feet because of my 16-year old cat. I didn't want Kitty to have to compete with a dog (especially a puppy) during the last few months of her life. But Kevin was persistent and came home one day from work and said "I have something to show you." So he opens up his laptop and pops open Petfinder.com and shows me a picture of the silliest looking dog you can imagine. I just looked at him and said "Show me some other dogs." We flipped through several pages and numerous other dogs but we kept coming back to "Sampson" aka Stoli. :) There was just something about Stoli that tugged at our (well, Kevin's anyway) hearts.

Day we brought Stoli home
(all cleaned up)

Since we were celebrating Kevin's legal residency into the United States (he is Canadian) the next day, we decided to go visit the rescue kennel where Stoli was located. When we first got there, we went to the front desk and announced that we were there to take a look at "Sampson." The lady behind the desk was thrilled. She told us immediately "Oh, you will love Sampson. He is such a clean dog. He even poops in the other dog's kennels and then goes and lays in his own." That made us laugh. So off we went to see "Sampson."

When we first got to the meet and greet area, I was a bit nervous. So many dogs running around and it wasn't particularly a clean place. I was scheduled to be back at work later that morning and Kevin was "hoping" to go home with our new pet. As I was looking around, all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I see this dog running full force towards me. He jumped up on me with poop all over his paws. You guessed it….. I had poop from the top of my jacket all the way down to my knees. As I was standing there looking at the gift of nastiness that Stoli just left me, and thinking, uh, yeah, I so don't want a dog, Kevin was standing there with tears in his eyes asking ever so gently "Can we get him please?" How could I say no to THAT! :)

With the promise of a clean dog by time I got home, off they went to go get spiffed up and off I went to find a place where I could freshen up and get rid of the jacket I had on (remember I still had to go to work). Kevin did clean Stoli up by time I got home, but he still had kennel cough and it was just plain nasty for a few weeks. But once that cleared up, he wasn't so bad. Although I must say Kitty never warmed up to Stoli and was REALLY ticked when we brought him home and would not come upstairs anymore. :( She died 6 months later and had it not been for Stoli, I would have been a complete basket case. He provided me with so much love and comfort during those weeks and months of grieving.

My Kitty (the day we brought Stoli home)

Shortly after bringing Sampson home, we decided that our new dog would be named Stoli because Sampson he was not! Stoli not only took to his new name but also to his new home. I can't say that I immediately fell in love with Stoli but over time I fell head over heels and he became Mommy's boy and Daddy's buddy. He was everything you would ever want in a dog, obedient, loving and loyal. Stoli definitely wasn't the most attractive dog at the rescue kennel that day, but somehow he touched our hearts, and we knew he needed us and we needed him. Little did we know how he would change our life and become such a huge part of it. He became and was our baby!

The pleasure and love he gave us was immeasurable, which makes our grieving and mourning feelings very powerful. Although he didn't speak human, he communicated with us in his own unique ways which formed an incredibly strong emotional bond with us. Someday we hope to think about Stoli without shedding a tear and only remember the good times and not just the last month of his life. Some may tell us to get over it but we feel a loss is a loss and the loss of genuine, unconditional love of any kind is certfiably painful. He was so much more than that dreadful disease lymphoma. He was our baby, our champion and he will be greatly missed.

Enjoying the sunshine

We have to always remind ourselves that our decision was made in love, and not allowing Stoli to suffer was out of compassion. We considered Stoli's best interests over ours even though it was tough and so we refuse to feel guilty or regret our decision. One way that we feel we can honor and preserve Stoli's memory is to create a memorial garden in his honor. We will post pictures as the garden progresses. Until then we will hold dear the memories we have in our hearts.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Our Lion King

An emotional week, filled with tears was how this past week can best be described. Just when we think we have finally pulled it together, we lose it again. I do not think there will ever be a day that goes by that we will not think of Stoli. The transition has been tough. I mean let’s face it, Stoli was a HUGE part of our life. He even went with us to drop off our recyclables. I sobbed like a big ol’ baby yesterday when we dropped off our papers, aluminum and plastic. I am sure Stoli was up in heaven looking down going “it’s okay Mommy. You are doing what’s best for the environment!” :)

Every where we turn, we are reminded of Stoli. His loss is felt tremendously. The way he would sit on his mat and watch Kevin cook dinner, wishing upon every star in heaven that Kevin would drop something on the floor, so he could gobble it up. Or the way he would pop is head in the window when we would pull into the driveway, wow, was he ever excited about us coming home from work. We could feel his energy and excitement all the way outside. The way he would sit and stare at “Sarge” the kitty next door hoping he would take a stroll through our backyard! :) I know in time it will get easier but it sure is tough right now.

Our family and friends keep reminding us to remember the good times we had with Stoli. Every last moment we had with Stoli was wonderful. He was never a “bad” dog. He never chewed on things he wasn’t supposed to, he never barked at people (except for my father-in-law but even they made peace in the last few years), and he never pooped or peed in the house. Heck, he even woke Kevin up when he had to be sick by smacking his paw on Kevin’s chest in the middle of the night. Stoli would have been horrified to have “puked” on our carpet. He was over-all a perfect dog.

A few days ago I was gathering up pictures because my sweet cousin has decided to create a memorial book for us. I had to laugh at some of the photos I found. Stoli was not the “cutest” of dogs when we first got him but Kevin saw something in Stoli that even Mommy didn’t see. And that was the potential that Stoli had and how beautiful Stoli turned out to be, not just in his appearance but in his great disposition as well. It was not that I was completely opposed to getting a dog, but I had a kitty who was 16 years old and I wanted her to live the remaining part of her life in peace. Turns out Stoli was there to comfort me when she passed six months later. I would have been lost without Stoli. It is great how God works things out for us, eh? :)

The day we brought Stoli home

We are going to celebrate Stoli's life, enjoy our memories, and write about him, what he has meant to us, how and in what manner he enlightened our spirit and soul, with his sloppy slobbers and his silliness. He was a loyal friend always, not judging nor condemning, but accepting us with unconditional love.

A vision for hope does not eliminate pain or sorrow, but allows one to look forward to something better in the moment and the days to come. It is with that thought we stay in the moment with the hopes of mending our hearts and quieting our minds and hopefully finding that peace that we are craving.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I know the text above is hard to read so I thought I would retype it. It is the Rainbow Bridge poem and it certainly gives us hope that we will see Stoli again someday! :) (a Tracker member sent this to me this morning. What a wonderful memorial for our buddy!)

"Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... "

Author unknown...

(NOTE: We will give you an update on how we are coping in a few days. We still need a few more days. Thanks again for all of your support. Without it, we would be totally lost.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008


We truly believe that Stoli is content and oh so happy this morning since he finally was able to get a peaceful sleep. We went to bed clutching Stoli's favorite toys, somehow it gave us comfort holding them. This morning the first thing I thought about was worrying about not stepping on Stoli as he would lay on the floor on my side of the bed and then it hit me and I was overcome by emotion. I imagine this is what it will be like for months to come. Our house is so "silent" without him.... Everything reminds us of him.....

What was it like living with a dog with lymphoma? It had its moments. It would be an understatement to say you are on an emotional roller coaster. You find yourself in tears with no forewarning when you least expect it. But there are the good times too. The times when the two of you share a very special moment and you appreciate it all the more because you know it may never come your way again. There is the downside. Fear and foreboding. Sleepless nights. A sick dog in your lap. But there is the upside too. Bright eyes, a wagging tail, that neverending unconditional love. A burst of energy and high spirits. A loving heart. And there is hope, always hope.

How quickly the time passes...when we are given unconditional love by another who is blind to our human faults and frailties. God was wise when He gave us Stoli. He gave us a 'mirror' to what we should be....loving, faithful, protective, funny, forgiving, graceful and giving without expecting something in return. Enjoying the simple pleasures of those around them and reveling in the sheer beauty of life itself.

Yesterday was very difficult for us and almost unbearable, but we knew we were making the right decision for Stoli. Stoli was a trooper and a Champion of a dog even to the very end. He kissed both of us on our hands, leaned his body into my legs and rested his head in Kevin's hands and went to sleep. It was very beautiful but oh so very heartbreaking. And, although we believe that Stoli may be out of our vision, he certainly will never be out of our hearts.

Thanks again for all of your wonderful support and love during the last few weeks.
Elizabeth & Kevin

Monday, August 11, 2008

Enough is Enough

Ideally we would like our pets to die peacefully in their sleep instead of making a difficult and painful decision. However, rarely does this occur when a pet is suffering from an illness such as lymphoma. We believe Stoli is trying to tell us he has had enough. He still tries to please US but HE isn’t happy. I don’t hate many things in this life but I HATE this. I hate that we have to make this decision even though it is the right one.

Overnight, Stoli has had some issues come up that has made it impossible for him to be comfortable. The lymph nodes in his neck are HUGE (almost grapefruit size) and it is hard for him to breathe. The lymph nodes in his legs are the size of golf balls which makes it hard for him to walk, although he does his very best to get in that walk he loves so much. :) He also developed a nasty rash around his groin area and some new “tumor” like bumps on his back. :( The vet thinks he is definitely in his last days and thinks we should make the call now rather than waiting for his body to shut down on his own. Remember when we first posted about Stoli’s illness, it was always our intention to do what was best for Stoli and not us, including THIS decision.

There is an old adage that if you really love something, you will let it go. This is pretty much the decision we are facing with Stoli. The inevitable is upon us and we have recognized that Stoli is under a lot of distress but is still trying to make us happy. While we can’t bear to think of losing him, we aren’t selfish either.

This week is going to be hard as we say our final goodbyes to Stoli. You betcha we are going to spoil the ever loving snot out of this Champion of a dog. In the meantime, I ask that you all pray for our emotional strength because IT ISN’T GOING TO BE EASY! :(

~ Elizabeth

Sunday, August 10, 2008

No Walk in the Park

Stoli is living his doggy life to the fullest -- which to him means quality napping, quantity eating, evening walks with Mommy and of course, the staple in his life, his fabulous no-grain treats. The late nights and early morning hours seem to be the hardest for Stoli. He can't seem to get comfortable and seems to have a hard time breathing, although I must tell you that Stoli has ALWAYS been a heavy panter.

The only way I can describe our nights now are like this: it is though we have a newborn in the house and we GET TO get up every few hours to take care of the baby. Not that either one of us mind. Stoli IS our baby! :)

A few nights ago, I got up and took him for a walk because he had some "issues" to take care of. Once he relieved himself, he was much better and off to sleep he went, until about 4 in the morning. The only difference I see with a newborn and Stoli is that we aren't changing diapers, we are just taking him for a walk. I can't say that I am fully awake when he needs to go out but I do the best I can. Adrenaline usually kicks in and we are out the door. There are some nights, I don't sleep a wink. Every little move or sound he makes, I am up out of bed making sure he is breathing. It is tough on all of us, but Stoli is the one we are thinking about. We will have plenty of time later to do the things we want to do when Stoli has passed.

Everyday it becomes more and more real that our days with Stoli are becoming limited. As I hear him struggle to breathe or walk, it breaks my heart. We are not quite ready to say goodbye to him, nor is Stoli ready to leave us. The vet said so long as he has some spunk and spirit in him then it is not time yet. He definitely has been the best dog anyone could ever ask for. I don't know how much longer he has, but I have a gut feeling that it isn't going to be much longer. I'll be honest, I thought I was stronger and tougher but I am scared because I am afraid of losing him. This past month, we have grown even closer to Stoli and it just makes it harder. Needless to say losing our Stoli will certainly leave a big hole in our hearts. But until that day.... we will do whatever we can to make him happy! :)

~ Elizabeth

Friday, August 08, 2008

Bonne Fete Kevin (Happy Birthday Kevin) :)

Today is my sweet, sweet husband’s birthday. For those who do not know him, he is bright, amazing, witty and extremely hot (oooh, la, la). For those who think "I" am wonder woman, well, I must confess that all the things I have accomplished is made possible by one very simple thing. Kevin…. he makes me happy. Although sometimes life can really shovel stuff on you at times, there is an essence of joy in my life that none of it can penetrate into. And that particular source of happiness is my husband. He is quite literally the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, to me, he is proof that there is hope in the world. Because he is absolute proof that sometimes someone (me) gets much, much more than they deserve. And if creation can be that gracious to me, well, maybe there is compassion for all of us in the future.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Teeter Totter Syndrome

"No matter how little money and how few possessions you own,having a dog makes you rich."--dog" Louis Sabin

I am sure you all know what the title of this blog means... We are up and down quite a bit with this disease. Stoli has really good days but equally bad days. I must say the good days are extra-ordinary but man, oh, man, those bad days... really make me wonder how long we actually have.

His vet/oncologist called me yesterday and informed me that this will be the pattern of his life until the end so we shouldn't get alarmed or make any drastic decisions until his bad days outnumber his good days. Right now, that hasn't happened. She also informed us that lymphoma is NOT a painful cancer, but makes Stoli just not feel good. That really made us feel much better. Not that we want Stoli not to feel good, but that he is not in severe pain.

Our neighbor Lisa has been a godsend to us. She has been "watching" Stoli for us as we go to work each day, which has really reduced my anxiety levels. However, I must say when she calls me my heart stops until I receive whatever news it is she is calling me about. Usually it is just an update on our little Champion and that he is feeling much better than when we left him.

Kevin and I are extremely blessed to have so many friends and family members who are really concerned and are compassionate about our situation. I have only encountered one snarky remark by one grouchy individual about Stoli "he is only a dog, get over it." I chalked it up to that person having a really bad day and that they have never owned a pet before...... because I am here to tell you, if you ever had the opportunity to spend five minutes with our Stoli, you would immediately fall in love with him and share the same emotions we have for him. :) I'm just sayin'! :)

So thanks to all of you who have left comments and called and prayed for us. We TRULY do appreciate you and love you!
~ Elizabeth

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Unfortunately, we believe Stoli's time is limited. We had hoped for a few months but after watching him just in the past few days, things are looking quite bleak. He is having issues getting up or down our stairs so we have adjusted his schedule so he can just go out to do his business in our front yard. Whatever keeps him as comfortable as possible. He doesn't get too excited about anything, not even cheese or his walks....:(

Morning times are the worst for him. He does seem to have a little bit more energy in the afternoon, but not a whole lot. His ears perk right up when we tell him "kitty"is outside and he will even venture out to the deck but he won't go down the stairs. So this is what he sees staring back at him! :) Like Kevin reminded me, there is nothing wrong with his mind, he is fully aware of what is going on, his body just isn't cooperating. :(

Our relationship with Stoli is pretty special, probably not all that different than the one you have with your pet. And as his owners, we are responsible for his care and welfare. Unfortunately, eventually, we are faced with making life or death decisions for our pet. The decision we are facing right now is NOT easy.... and we just hate the fact that we may have to make it sooner than later.... but more than I hate that fact, I hate to see him miserable.

I mean look at him....doesn't he look like an Angel Dog! That's our Stoli! :)