A Beautiful Life

by Kimberly Hickok

It had been a long day. I’d just driven three hours from New Jersey in some pretty crappy weather after attending an all day conference. I was tired, hungry and just a little cranky.

As I pull into the garage door, the cellar door opens and Lexie comes running to meet me with a big smile on her face. I open the car door and she jumps in, giving me kisses. Now that’s the way to be welcomed home!

I go up the stairs and the rest of the family greets me. Lexie is still jumping up and down and I notice that she’s still ‘smiling’ – except something is a little off. Her tongue is sticking out of her mouth a little.

I ask Mark if she’s okay. He tells me that she had a play date with his brother’s young dog and maybe she ate something weird. We check her but she seems okay.

I call the vet on Tuesday and tell them that something isn’t right with Lexie. Her appetite is fine and she’s got plenty of energy but something is wrong with her mouth/jaw. She has allergies and was taking some medication, could that be a side effect? They wanted to take a look.

Wednesday morning, Lexie jumps into the car. She LOVES going to the vet. Weird. They weigh her, listen to her heart and check all vitals. This is taking longer than normal. I’m starting to get worried. I don’t want to upset Lexie though.

I ask if everything’s okay. They’re not sure. Her lymph nodes all over her body are inflamed. They let me see for myself. They ask if it’s okay to draw some blood and to aspirate her lymph nodes. Why? To send to a pathologist.

A pathologist??? A pathologist? My head is reeling. I ask the doctor to just tell it to me straight. She looks me in the eye and said she’s worried that Lexie has canine lymphoma. She’ll let me know the results ASAP. Lexie looks fine. She’s happy. WTF?

I call Mark. He’s on the road to see a client in New Jersey (about 3 hours away). He can’t talk. He’s angry. He starts grilling me. He’s convinced that I didn’t ask the right questions. He’s not mad at me really. He’s just mad because deep down he knows that it’s not good.

The diagnosis is confirmed. We’ve got decisions to make. We Google. We talk to the vet. We cry. We hope. We pray.

Bottom line – even with intense treatment there is no cure. We may extend her life for 9 months or so. This is so unfair. She’s young. She’s only five. We rescued her. Is this ironic or what?

We decide to let her enjoy the time she has left. No chemo. We go on long walks. She plays with her other doggie buddies. She doesn’t get shooed off the couch or the bed and she can have as many treats as she wants.

We begin to think. They made a mistake. She beat the odds. She’s fine. She’ll make it.

But she doesn’t. Two weeks later she wakes up fine. Happy. Justin goes to school. I go to the office. Mark is working from home and he heads out to lunch at noon. By 3:30 when Justin comes home, he notices that she’s shaking and acting a little off. He tries to keep her calm.

I come home at 4:00. Lexie tries to greet me and falls down the stairs. It’s bad. It’s horrible. She’s shaking. Panicking. She has vertigo. She can’t jump into the car.

I call the vet. Justin calls Mark, tells him to meet Mom at the vet’s. He doesn’t need to say anything else.

We all know. We don’t say it but we know.

By 5PM she’s gone. It hurts a lot. It’s been a week. We’re raw.

It’s tough losing a pet. This was especially hard because she was so young. I still expect to hear her jump off the bed to come greet me. I’m not sure when that stops.

Will we get another dog? Probably. When we’re ready. What Lexie (and all the others before her) have brought to our lives is more than the pain of their loss.

So . . . what I try to force myself to remember is her like this:

Happy dog!


Water dog! (or should I say boat dog)?

Merry Christmas! Where’s my bone?


Yes, I’m on the couch and I’m ignoring you . . .

Sunning on the deck.



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Rhonda February 14, 2012 - 1:35 pm

So very sad and my hearts go out to you and your family.

Karen February 14, 2012 - 1:52 pm

Kim – my heart is broken for you guys. Lexi was such a good dog and had so much love. She was lucky to have you rescue her and offer her love too for the remainder of her short life. I believe that each animal we are fortunate to know in our lives leave a piece of themselves behind with us when they go. Those warm, fuzzy, happy feelings you get when you think about her greeting you will stay and not fade with time. Big hugs

Linda Miller February 14, 2012 - 1:57 pm

Beautifully told story of a sad part of life, losing a pet. I empathize, as we’ve loved & lost too. Anyone who has understands that tender spot in your heart that she filled, and is now gone. Lexie had a high quality of life during her 5 short years. I’m so sorry for your pain and loss of a special family member.

Love, Linda

Wendy Meola February 14, 2012 - 2:01 pm

I needed a good cry…thanks for sharing your story.


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