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A Life Story Grieving Exercise for Barret

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Epic-Long Blog Post ahead: I wanted to do the life story exercise from Dr. Dressler’s Dog Cancer Survival Guide, even though goodbye isn’t in our immediate future, but I wanted it down on paper before I forgot too much. Life is too short.

This post was written over a few days and with a lot of tears. I don’t think I realized how much I still haven’t come to terms with the diagnosis and the upcoming  surgery. I still feel a lot of guilt (even though he still has all 4 legs). It is something I am working on.

Without further ado, Barret, this is your story:

I was working on a Saturday, and I wasn’t particularly pleased about it. It was an event called a Frag Swap… very aquarium oriented so I was a bit out of my element. I took a stroll around the store to take photos for our Facebook page when I saw you, sleeping in a cart with your brothers and sister. Most of you were black or black and brown, but your sister was white and speckled. You were all TINY, like rat sized puppies. I struck up a conversation with your mom’s mom. She said that your mom was a cocker spaniel and your dad was a miniature pinscher… an accidental litter. You were only 5 weeks old and she needed to find homes for most of you for when you were ready to go home.

On impulse, I snapped a couple of pictures to show your daddy and got a phone number. We had just moved into our first house with our cats and I love dogs… we’d been discussing adopting a dog. I thought it was a perfect opportunity. I don’t really remember if your dad required a lot of convincing or not, I just remember that when I called your mom’s pawrent (Hope) a few days later and that there were 2 black males available.

CIMG0084I was so ready, or at least I thought I was. I went into the retail store and bought a bunch of things for you. Teething toys, a bed, blanket, food dishes.. the works! The day we came to bring you home our GPS gave us instructions to the wrong side of town (North vs. South) but eventually we found you. The house you were born in was full of animals. Dogs, cats, chinchillas, rabbits, children… It was overwhelming. But then I saw the puppies running around in the living room. Hope picked up the two black boys and held them up for me to choose. Why did I choose you? I’m not really sure. At the time I said it was because you had a more symmetrical face, but I really want to say it was because you ‘spoke’ to me. Either way I have never made a better decision. I handed Hope a check for $100 and she handed me you and a slip of paper with your birth date, and vaccination information.

Barret Wallace

Barret Wallace – who ironically enough has a prosthetic arm.

On the car ride home you snuggled under my hair on my shoulder while your daddy and I cooed and tried to figure out just what we were going to name our new baby. You were so tiny and so wrinkly, one of our friends liked to call you Benjamin Button because you grew out of your wrinkles, like you were slowly getting younger as you aged. We had a stream of visitors to come see the new baby. We eventually settled on the name Barret, after Barret Wallace from a video game called Final Fantasy VII. We’d call you Bear for short. We took tons of photos.

I put a crate next to the bed with every intention of crate training you. That didn’t last one night. The first whimper you made when you woke up, I pulled you onto the bed and you snuggled in my hair. You’ve slept with me almost every night since. You’re such a good snuggler!

Only one of the cats wanted to meet you and play with you (though I suspect that Big One just wanted to steal your bones when you weren’t looking).

CIMG0151A few weeks or so later, I bought you your first sweater so we could go outside to watch daddy play hockey and I could show you off to my friends. We didn’t like to leave you home alone. We knew you didn’t like to be alone. That was your first of many many sweaters and dog clothes. I’m not sure if you like it or you are just humoring me.

One day that I couldn’t make it home from lunch, I had my friend Donna come in my stead. I guess you pooed in your crate and didn’t like it very much. You had poo all over you. That was her first puppy experience, and it still makes me laugh to think about it.

We had to install cat doors where we kept the cat food and litter boxes because you really liked to snack on both of those things. In retrospect that was not the best decision as it made the cats really anti-social. I just really didn’t like kitty poo kisses!

Either luckily or not luckily, depending on how you look at it, your dad got laid off when you were a few months old and you were able to spend the next several months never leaving his side. I was really jealous though, because if he left you with me, you would cry and whine and carry on until he came back. Daddy potty trained you, played with you every day, took lots of pictures, and even taught you to fetch with your beloved red ball. Your daddy loves you as much as I do, though he does not verbalize it as much.

IMG_0939Oh the red ball. We still have it, you know. We hide it from you because you become obsessed with fetching the red ball. You can’t sleep if you know the red ball is there, waiting to be thrown. We bring it out for special occasions, but it still “goes missing” a lot. Mostly it is out of fear that the red ball will break, or one of your brothers or sisters will tear it to shreds, but sometimes it is because mom and dad don’t want to play fetch anymore.

Barret-GatsbyThere’s a lot in this section that I don’t remember all that well, I can’t remember the order of events or which job your dad had gotten, but we decided you needed a brother or sister to keep you company since we were both working again. That’s Gatsby’s story and he will have his turn sometime to have his story told. We brought him home from New York from a rescue. I don’t remember if you were immediately thrilled with the idea of having a brother, but I think you were. You played with him and snuggled with him until he got bigger than you. He was not allowed to fetch your red ball, though.

Gatsby came with a lot of issues, destructive issues, and I suspect we may have ignored you a little because your brother was high maintenance as a pup. We even had a trainer in at one point to help. It didn’t help, but that was when you started getting 2 walks a day to tire you guys out.

A lot of the next year or two is a blur. My mom moved away to Florida, which was really hard on me. You were there for me. At some point you became more of a momma’s boy than a daddy’s boy (probably because Gatsby was supposed to be “daddy’s dog”, but he didn’t grow up to be quite as big and formidable as we expected). We would frequent the dog park until Gatbsy because a noisebucket, then just you and I would go.

CIMG1108When you were almost 3, an opportunity to save and bring home a third puppy presented itself. Sara’s story is a long one, too, but long story short when we came home from Thanksgiving in Florida, we had more than just luggage, we had one 8 week old puppy in tow. You were more interested in the toys she came with instead of her. You didn’t take to her as well as you did to Gatsby. You’d growl if she wanted to snuggle, but you gave in eventually once in awhile.

BearI go to visit my mom a lot, and when I do you have a great babysitter (grammie). You love her house. She spoils you with treats and kisses and lots of fetch. When I come home, it is a ritual that you help me unpack and find the toys and goodies that I’ve hidden in the suitcases. I look forward to it.

BearYou love presents. We celebrate every birthday and Christmas with toys all wrapped up and puppy friendly cake. You love presents so much I am never sure if I will come home to find all the presents under the tree unwrapped. Every year you surprise me when you wait until Christmas to unwrap anything. Sometimes on Christmas morning you get a little ahead of yourself and start unwrapping other presents while we aren’t looking. It always makes us laugh! You usually find one present that you really love and you become inseparable from it for a few weeks. You can’t sleep without it.  I love that about you.

I think I am glazing over a lot and I can come back and add things as I remember them, but it felt important for me to get your story down on paper before I started to forget it.

BearBearbear, you are my first dog. We had a lot of firsts together and there was a strong learning curve, but we made it.

Barret, you have such a strong personality I can’t imagine the house without you. You’re my heart dog. You’re so special to me, I could hold you and squeeze you tight for the rest of my days. You’re only four and the day we have to say goodbye should be many years down the road.  Unfortunately, that thing that was growing on your arm a few weeks ago was cancer. I know that the first surgery was painful and you didn’t understand what was going on. You were so patient with me while I changed bandages and checked on you every five minutes to make sure you were breathing. I am sorry that I am going to have to put you through that again, and this time you’re only going to be able to hop out of the hospital on 3 legs this time. It is not a decision that I’ve taken lightly, but the fire of life burns so brightly in you that I know I have to do everything in my power to keep you healthy and here on this earth. It is not your time to cross the rainbow bridge, and this surgery will give you years to live with us, and to fetch the red ball. You will hurt for a little while, but then we will get back to life as usual. Maybe we won’t take it for granted as much, I hope we take this opportunity to live more in the now than we have been. Maybe I won’t forget all the little moments in between.

Sweet Barret, you’ll never know how much I love you.

 As marketing professional in the pet supplies trade for over 6 years and an pawrent of 3 dogs and 2 cats, I’ve gained a plethora of pet-related experience ripe for the picking, though I am new to tripawd pawrenting. My goal is to share my story and the knowledge I’ve gained with the pet pawrents everywhere. You can also find me on That Pet Blog or .


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~ by BarretsMomHeather on June 4, 2013 . Tagged:



5 Responses to “A Life Story Grieving Exercise for Barret”

  1.   fourminipups Says:

    What a beautiful story. Barrett, Gatsby and Sarah are lucky to have such a wonderful family. Barrett is a strong boy and we are sending only the most positive thoughts his way.

  2.   Dakota Dawg Says:

    Mama Heather, I knew that thing on my arm was no good. It’s hurting and I don’t like it. I’m not sure what it is but I’m smart enough and intuitive enough to know it has to go. It stinks! Please cut the damn thing off, even if it means cutting off my whole leg to get rid of it. I won’t care. It’s an extra anyway.

    I want you to know you won’t be putting me through anything. You’ll be giving me the best chance possible to live a happy life for as long as I can. And don’t worry if I have to hop out of the hospital on three legs. That’s fine with me. (Remember: extra!) I’ll be so grateful to have three legs and to get to hop on home that I won’t care. The alternative is simply unthinkable.

    So please help me ditch this thing and send it as far from me as you can. If the tables were turned, I’d do the same for you because I love you and want you here a long, long time.

    Love, Barret

  3.   jerry Says:

    Heather, what a great way to put down your most cherished times together, and of course to cope with what’s ahead, someday. Not now.

    I love getting to know you and Barret though this blog, and look forward to more great pics and posts of you two. I LOVE that close up of Barret! What. A. Face!!!

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