Dog Arthritis Lab

When One Door Closes…

Eli’s Story

Losing Shelby on January 6th, 2018 was one of the hardest days/times I ever endured. My sweet Chocolate Lab, whom I had devoted the past year to, fighting for her to become healthy and well, was gone. In that instant of hearing the news that there was No Hope, left me reeling, wondering how I could ever go on without her. I felt as if I’d failed. Not only myself but her too. How was I ever supposed to pick up the pieces and continue doing what I do? When everything I had believed in, still ended in the devastating news that she had Lymphoma, the highest numbers they’d ever seen. How could this have happened, when just 3 months earlier, blood work all showed to be just fine? Had I let my Shelby girl down? HOW did this happen? Or WHY??? I could not accept that there was something ‘good’ that was going to come of this. How could it, when all I felt was pure despair, anger, and sorrow? I’m always the first one to say ‘Everything happens for a reason’, but this time? I had nothing. I didn’t believe my own words.

Joy In My Sorrow – Shelby & Eli.

Over the past weeks, before Shelby passed away, specifically the Thursday before Christmas 2017, Shelby started ‘talking’ to me. She was telling me that she wanted to Go. Her eyes had a sadness that I’d not seen before. I knew that I had to tell her that she could. I knew without a doubt that her time with us was short. As much as it devastated me to accept that, when she was no longer able to keep any food in, and lost a ton of weight, I knew I had to bring her in to be checked out. My daughter Turi came with me.

The vet confirmed my fear, she was dying. And quite fast. Her entire body was riddled with Lymphoma, and her numbers were so high, they’d never seen anything like it before. HOW could this be? After everything I’d been doing for her, it just didn’t add up. But, I knew the years of being sick, and having been on meds and drugs and poor quality food had taken its toll on her. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like I had failed her. How could I ever get over this?

As the vet was telling me the results, my world became like a blur. I was ‘hearing’ the words, but I couldn’t comprehend this utter shock.

In the midst of all this, sitting in the vet’s office, my phone rings… Obviously, I can’t answer it, I silenced it. There was no way I could talk to anyone!? They left a message. I’ll get it later, or tomorrow; or maybe never, that’s the way I felt. My heart was ripping in two. I couldn’t even think about ‘working’. But, I ended up listening to it as they took Shelby to get her IV inserted for later. (I’ll get back to this)

We brought Shelby back home, loved her and spoiled her, and prepared ourselves for the vet to come to our house later that afternoon, and let Shelby be surrounded by her people family, and her fur family; on her favorite ‘perch’ when she passed. My dear friend Morgan, the animal communicator who had seen Shelby back in October, dropped everything she had going on and made time for Shelby to be able to ‘speak’ to her one more time. This time, the whole family got to be a part of it, and all hear what Shelby had to tell us.

Shelby - digressingMentally, Shelby was in a very different place than where she’d been just 3 months earlier. She was no longer hurting and a wreck as a result of her past life before she came to us. She’d come a long way. But her worry was, that ‘I’ wasn’t going to be OK without her. Shelby was always ‘mommy’s girl’. She always had to be within sight of me and followed me everywhere. Morgan told me I had to tell Shelby that I WOULD be ok. That’s what she needed to know. That, and that the final thing she wanted was to see my face as she was crossing over. She needed her Mom.

When the vet arrived; it sent us into a state of hysterics. Especially the kids. Now; it was going to happen, and we couldn’t have any more moments with her. It was time.

Shelby passed very peacefully. My son Koen played the meditation music for her which she had always loved listening to in his room,  and I held her head in my hands, with our eyes locked. We looked at each other, whilst she snored, and she began her new Journey.   As I closed her eyes, I just kept telling her over and over, ‘You go Shelby girl, I’ll be OK’. Even though I didn’t know HOW I was ever going to be ok again. The pain I felt, the despair, I truly felt like I wanted to die with her. Life had changed forever.

Dealing with Loss

When they took Shelby’s body away, we all stood at the window and watched her being put into the Central Vets truck. We cried uncontrollably, and my daughter Turi threw herself onto Shelby’s bed and wailed.

Where do we go from here? How do we ever get over this gut-wrenching grief and despair that we feel? There was zero joy. We were all ‘broken’, wandering from room to room, being reminded of her everywhere we turned. I cannot even describe the emotions I felt, especially understanding that her death was so FINAL! I didn’t want to accept that she was truly gone. Now what? What do I do with myself to not be in this deep dark pit?

Darryl told me I needed to ‘get right back on it’. In other words, return my calls that I’d ignored for the past hours. Namely, the one that came through while I was getting ‘the news’ at the vet’s office.

That call came from a lady in Emerson Manitoba. Joanne. She had a 12-year-old dog, who had developed severe arthritis in his back end and had also had a few ACL surgeries in the past. He was in bad shape. And, out of ALL the dog breeds out there in the world, guess what kind of dog he was? Yup. Of all things, a CHOCOLATE LAB!

Seriously? After what I’ve just been through with MY chocolate lab, and I’m supposed to try and talk to someone who has one???? Not a chance. No way. I can NOT do this. Especially after what seemed like just moments since I lost Shelby. The thought of calling someone with a Shelby dog; just burst the waterworks even more. Not gonna happen.

“Do it for Shelby!”

The next day, Sunday, Darryl was pushing me to call the lady with the Lab and help him. Ugh. Again, the thought of talking with her knowing what dog she had, was overwhelmingly emotional for me. I can’t do this! ‘Yes you can’ Darryl insisted. ‘Do it for Shelby’.

So, I sucked it up and called Joanne’s number. Holding my breath, sucking in the burst of tears, dreading the moment she might answer. HOW am I supposed to talk to her and keep it together??? Without being a blubbering baby? What is she going to think of me?! Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out. There was no answer, and the answering machine didn’t give me a ‘beep’ to leave a message. I hung up, relieved. It wasn’t meant to be.

The next day, Monday, I was standing in the shower just bawling. Oh, how it hurt to not have my Shelby girl laying there in the bathroom waiting for me to be done. As I stood there, all I could do was pray. I needed ‘help’. I pleaded to ‘please bring me comfort. Another chocolate lab. Not to keep, but to help’. I felt like, Shelby was ‘pushing’ me. Pushing me to NOT give up, and to carry on. And the only way I felt like I could get over her big brown eyes, was to help another ‘big brown eyes’. This is what somehow I knew I ‘needed’.

I got a call again from Joanne later that morning. I was busy at the time, and couldn’t answer. She left another message. Two hours later, I was free to be able to call her back. I knew I couldn’t put it off and just had to face it. If I cried; I was going to cry. I was going to be honest right from the get-go, and let her know ‘why’ I hadn’t been able to call her back since Saturday.

Our phone call started off just as I’d expected. Me, not being able to hold it in from the moment she answered. I told her everything through my tears, and when I was done, she too was crying. Her tears were for Eli, her chocolate lab. Eli, had an appointment later that day, to be put to sleep. And just before I’d called her? She had called and canceled the appointment. She just couldn’t go through with it. Our emotions were through the roof!

And that’s when, things began to show themselves to us, for ‘what’ they were. Shelby had truly orchestrated this! There was no denying it.

Shelby, promoted to Guardian Angel!

I found out that she and her husband were leaving for vacation; the next day, Tuesday. And now that Eli wasn’t going to ‘that’ vet appointment, it meant that he’d be going to a local boarding facility until they returned.

Ummmm, No!!! No!!!! He can’t be left lying in a boarding facility somewhere, in the shape he’s in, and who knows what kind of attention he’d get? No, this can’t happen. So…I did it again. Just like Gunther’s owner, I asked Joanne if I could have Eli for those 9 days that they were away? Now, it was ALL coming together for me. This was ‘the’ chocolate lab I’d prayed for that morning!!?? These were the big brown eyes that I needed to see again and help me, and my family to heal.

Everything began to fall into place. I could ‘see’ what had transpired! The fact that I got THAT call about Eli on Saturday morning as I was getting the news about Shelby, was all HER doing! That was not a coincidence. I truly believed that this was her way of knowing; that I was going to be OK! Another chocolate lab. Not to keep, but one to help. And I couldn’t have known how close that other chocolate lab was to death also. I could feel a warmth come over me, and just like that, the heavy weight of sorrow was lifted, and I knew, I WAS going to be OK. Just as Shelby had wanted for me.

Bringing Eli Home

Joanne didn’t answer me right away. She needed to discuss it with her husband. Besides, this was a bit of a ‘crazy can you believe this just happened’ kind of thing. A stranger, asking to take your dog. I knew she didn’t ‘know’ me, or who I was; and what I do, and with all the scams and shams in the world today, it sure was an ‘out there’ request. But; I had my fingers crossed, a smile emerging through my tears. I wanted to ‘save’ Eli. I couldn’t save Shelby, but just maybe; I could save him??!!

THEY SAID YES!!! Yes, we could have Eli during their vacation! I was ecstatic. I knew he was going to be something pretty special for our family, he was a ‘part’ of Shelby, it was because of her, that he was coming?! She had to go; so he could come ‘live’. It was ALL making sense to me now. The kids and Darryl; were all very excited about Eli. They knew too; this was Shelby’s gift to us. The whole ‘mood’ in our house went from days of somber to excitement and anticipation. But most of all? Hope for Eli.

I warned Joanne that I knew I would lose it the moment I met him the next day. I knew when I saw his eyes, it would affect me big time. And it did. When they opened up the back hatch; and I saw this giant of a chocolate lab, with the same sweet brown eyes, looking back at me, tail just a wagging,  I ‘felt’ him; and he knew too the ‘role’ we all had for each other. The emotions and tears, and prayers of thankfulness were plentiful.

Lab can't get upNow I knew Eli had not been able to get up for a long while. For the past 2 years, he’d been deteriorating to the point that he wouldn’t go outside. He just couldn’t get up, and his ‘business’ would happen on his bed. Exercise was practically non-existent as he had a really bad cough, and his panting was terrible. They were scared to overexert him. So, he spent his time laying in his bed, watching life go by.

He could walk, very slowly, after he’d been given help to get up. And with a 100+ pound dog, that’s not an easy task on anyone.

Getting Eli Started

But I didn’t care. I was going to give Eli 100% to save him. And for the first part of the day Tuesday, into the early evening, if he wanted to get up, I had to help him. I wish I’d taken video of that, but I didn’t think of it when I was lifting him up. Darryl said repeatedly while watching him struggle so hard, that he saw ‘why’ they’d thought his quality of life was very poor, hence thinking euthanasia was the answer.

I started him immediately on an all raw diet, which took a bit of coaxing. But once I pretended to eat it, he cocked his head, watched me, and then he too wanted it! He licked it all away. No ‘bites’, just licks. It took a while, but he finished his 2 pounds. In the raw, I had 2 teaspoons Nzymes, 10 OxE Drops, 1 gram Bak Pak, 15 mls of Excel Oil, 1 ounce colloidal silver and also 200 mg of CoEnzymeQ10. I gave him a session with the laser over his back end, whilst giving him a big combing to get all his winter coat ‘molting’ fur out.

By the end of the evening on Wednesday Day 2, he was able to get up on his own!!! Very slowly, but I no longer had to give him that ‘push’ to get up! He wanted to come with every time the other dogs went out, and wherever they were, he had to be too. He also drank a ton of water repeatedly.

His bathroom duties ALL took place outside! No accidents in the house. His bowel movements were very large, quite mushy. His urine was very dark; and oh my gosh, did it stink! Even outside; being near it you were overtaken by the smell.

The first night was a bit rough. His panting was almost a bit concerning to me. His coughing had already significantly reduced! From hearing it all the time, to maybe twice.

Wednesday, we had a totally different dog! The panting was almost completely gone, his coughing; we heard once, and his urine, was now pale yellow, and no smell!!! He was constantly up on his feet. Able to get up no problem. He was on all fours for hours on end! We couldn’t believe that THIS was the same Eli, who just less than 48 hours earlier, hadn’t been able to barely move. A dog who’d spent so much time in bed!?

A whole NEW Eli was ‘emerging’. It’s as if he knew what Shelby used to do, and he had filled her shoes to a T! He had become just like ‘her’, and sometimes when we looked at him, we’d see her smiling back at us. I know it sounds hard to believe, but even the kids had come running saying ‘MOM!!! I just saw Shelby, T-shirt and all’.

Eli would come with me into the shower, laying his head on my lap when I was getting ready after, following me around from place to place. JUST like Shelby used to do!

He was able to bounce up after my daughter Turi, paws up in the air, and then proceeded to RUN after her! She had him fired right up. We did end up having to stop his crazy play, and he was beginning to ‘huff’. Not the cough he had, but maybe a lesser version of that? I didn’t want to push it. My gosh, it had only been 3 days!

Our hearts were healed. Our family had Joy. This amazing dog had brought into our lives, something I just can’t describe. It is Divine. Spiritual. Powerful.

My husband told me that he had been truly worried about me. He’d been scared for my depth of grief. And that I wanted to just throw in the towel, I didn’t want to do this anymore. I wanted to give up. He had thought it was going to take me a REALLY long time for me to get over this bottomless pit of despair. And yet, here I was, here we were, on the cusp of the one week anniversary of Shelby’s passing, and we were fulfilled and felt peaceful. No more tears. I could never; have believed that was possible!

But, it is because I DID Believe that once again, SOOO many lives have been changed.   My prayer in the shower; was answered that very same day. And I know, that Shelby, who was one of the most spiritual dogs I’d ever met, orchestrated this all for us. On the news of her impending death, I receive a call about a dog, that I had NO idea, was going to change all of our lives forever.

We had Eli for a total of 18 days, and by the time Rob and Joanne came to get him, he really had become a whole new dog! They couldn’t believe it was the same Eli! He’d dropped quite a bit of weight, hardly coughing, was active and playful, and trotted down to see them, proud as can be. It was as if he’d been ‘reborn’, and in doing so, showed myself, and my family, one of the loving lessons we’ve learned!

We still continue to have Eli as a part of our lives. He’s come back frequently since, for lengthy visits. He and my daughter Turi became the best of friends. They spend every moment together, even sleeping together on his bed.

Lab recovers from arthritis

Eli & Turi

Plus, he STILL is improving! Hard to believe that 5 months ago, he didn’t have a ‘future’, and now? He has a great future, with who knows how many years ahead?! With his newfound active mobility and whole new perspective, I think Eli is living the best years of his life now, free of pain and discomfort, a healthy diet, and lots and lots of love everywhere he goes.

I know now, that Shelby had to ‘Go’ in order to allow dogs like Eli to be saved. I couldn’t save her, in the physical way I’d hoped to, but I have no doubt, that her ‘spiritual Journey needed to happen, in order for me to see beyond the realms of anything I’d ever experienced before! A Reason, A Season, or a Lifetime.  I will forever be grateful to her and what she taught all of us.

Shelby’s ‘Gifts’ keep on coming

Shelby’s ‘gift’ to me, didn’t just end with Eli. The day after Eli left, I took in a 10-year-old German Shepherd Mia, who’d been diagnosed with severe Degenerative Myelopathy, given a few weeks before the vet said she’d also need to be euthanized. She was with us for 9 days, and was leaping through the air catching snowballs when her owners returned to get her!

Then, I had another sweet Chocolate Lab named Nala came my way. Transforming her also in three weeks, but not so much in the physical end, as it was the emotional/spiritual end. Again, Shelby shone through.

Nicolas is the latest dog to have come into my life, needing to be helped.

Whether they are here for a short time, or a long time, I know that none of this would have been possible if Shelby was still here. Every single one of them is/was brought to me because of her. She said she wanted me to be ‘ok’ and I sure am! I embrace her gift every day, smiling proudly at the animals here, knowing that her legacy will always, live on.

She showed me true Joy in my Sorrow.

Don’t Stop Believing!!!

A word from Joanne:

We had been worried about Eli for quite some time.  He had started to lose control of his bowels, and we knew then,  that things did not look good. He could hardly stand and walk at this point.  Sadly, we knew what the inevitable outcome was going to have to be.   

I did a post on Facebook about Eli, hoping someone could help us? A friend had seen it and told me to call this woman Brenda.  She was apparently amazing with animals.  

My husband and I were ready to start our holidays and I was in turmoil knowing that when we got back from our holidays that we would be putting him to sleep.  I thought I could hold off till then.  

I ended up making the phone call to Brenda and leaving her a message telling her that we would be putting our chocolate lab to sleep. It took Brenda a few days to call back because they had just put their chocolate lab to sleep and when we finally connected on the phone, we were both pretty emotional. 

Brenda asked if we would trust her to take Eli in at her house and have her nurse him back to life. We were so surprised at the kindness of this woman and we agreed to bring Eli to her house on the same day we were headed to the airport. 

To make a long story short, after a few weeks at her house we brought home a new dog who was able to climb up our stairs and go for walks and even do some running. His coat was shiny and he looked 10 years younger! 

Almost 6 months later, Eli is still doing great and hasn’t slowed down at all.  He’s now become a happy, healthy chocolate lab, and we hope for many more years with him.  

We can’t thank Brenda and her family for taking such care of and saving, our sweet Eli.

Joanne Milne 

Eli’s Final Chapter

In early July of 2018, Joanne reached out to let me know that Eli wasn’t doing too well, and that they thought it was ‘time’.  We all knew that because of his age,  eventually we really did have to face that.

My daughter Turi was away on a trip, and we knew, that if such a decision was made while she was gone, she’d never forgive us all.  So,  we waited for her to come back, which was the following week,  and the choice was made that she’d get to spend one more week with Eli,  and then,  together, all as a family, we’d let Eli cross over.

When Turi got home, Eli arrived the next day.  Well, this old boy,  suddenly sprang to life!! He was with ‘his girl’ and there was no way, that this dog was on his last days??!!  He was full of energy and we couldn’t hold him back.  It became very apparent that he was living for Turi!

I had many conversations with Joanne, about ‘what’ we were going to do.  At ‘home’, Eli was dying, but with Turi, he was living.   His family, made the most unselfish decision,  to let Eli stay with Turi.  They were both ecstatic and Eli shared the summer with us at the lake,  following Turi around everywhere, and even took a trip to Saskatchewan with us,  where he got to spend a week on the farm with her, chasing her around, and following her on horseback.

On October 9, ‘the’ day came.  Eli’s body, could no longer Go.  He had a hard time getting up in the morning,  and Turi was finally able to get him outside,  and that was as far as he could go.  Even though his mind was still good, his body, was not.   We knew we had to make the call.

Turi made a bed for Eli on the garage floor,  and she laid with him for hours,  giving him lots of Nzymes treats, while reading him all his favorite books.  (This was something they did every night) It was very peaceful, and even though we were all dreading for the vet to arrive in the afternoon, nobody shed a tear because we didn’t want to make it harder for Eli.  We wanted him to happily cross over, and not feel ‘held back’ for Turi’s sake.

Losing Eli was a huge loss to our families.  Not a day goes by that we don’t think about him.  Turi, still cries for him daily,  and its been over 8 months since.  He was her best friend, and she his.  We are forever grateful for the gift that Shelby gave to us.

Because of Shelby, we got Eli,  and because of Eli,  this story will never end.  I am excited to tell of the next story coming up that wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Eli and having met his family.

We will always love you Eli!  Your girl will never stop missing you.

Nicolas' Journey back to Health
Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs, and Lyme