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Saying goodbye

When I moved to North Carolina 11 years ago, I was a bit scared to leave my family and everything I knew in Utah. But a few months into my new state, I decided to get a puppy, as many mid-20s adults do, not really knowing what I was signing up for and not knowing how that pup would change my life. I picked up an 11-week-old boxer, the only brindle in the litter, and knew I was in love when she threw up in my lap that first day.

I was so sad she didn’t feel well and wished I could do more for her other than hold and comfort her. Then again, as she whimpered throughout her first night with me, I got out of bed and held her and tried to comfort her. I held her paws, pet her ears, told her I loved her and would never leave her.

saying goodbye

 

When Maizey came home as a puppy, she was a complete, perfect terror, as all boxer puppies are.  My focus shifted from my own hobbies to making sure that sweet girl was happy. I’d wake up early before work to take her on a walk and drive 20 minutes home from work over lunch to take her potty. I didn’t have much extra income, but I scrimped on other things so I could afford to take her to doggy daycare a few days a week.

I started exploring Winston-Salem and North Carolina with Maizey by my side. She ran with me, hiked with me, went on car rides with me. She went to the beach and the mountains. Pet-friendly AirBnBs became mandatory and when I had to fly somewhere, I booked her spot at Riverside Kennel (one of her favorite places in the world) before I booked my own flight.

saying goodbye

I knew that Maizey was helping me fall in love with North Carolina, but what I didn’t know is that she would hold me together when my life started to fall apart over the next few years. When I moved to NC from Utah, I didn’t know a soul. I left the mountains, trails and city I loved and moved to a small town where the nearest mountains were 1.5 hours aways and seemed like hills. I left a job I loved and went to a job I hated. And I went through two horrific breakups. I moved multiple times, all while being thousands of miles away from family, who couldn’t get to me quickly.

But Maizey was always there. She made me laugh on the days I couldn’t. She laid by me when I cried. And she hogged the bed. She got me out of the house when I wanted to hole up. She explored and made me appreciate my surroundings. And she helped me feel safe. She helped me love life when there were lots of things to not love. Maizey was the one constant in my adult life and a constant source of joy.

Eventually, life blessedly became more peaceful, and shortly thereafter Tommy came into my life. Maizey fell in love with him instantly (as do most people who meet him) and while I was skeptical of another relationship, Maizey knew she had found her dad.

Three years later, Tommy asked Maizey’s permission before proposing to me. And on our wedding day, Maizey was my flower girl and maid of honor when we added Tommy to our family.

In the last year, as I drove myself into the ground, overworking, logging 80-90 hour weeks, while simultaneously training 50-60+ miles a week, she always forced me to take a break. Maizey begged incessantly for a walk at 3pm and again at 5 p.m. For a while, I thought she needed a break. But I think more than anything, she knew I needed a break. Maizey was taking me on a walk.

woman walking a boxer dog

Despite Maizey’s clean bill of health, from the day I got her, I always feared she would get cancer after reading that boxers are prone to mast cell tumors. And every day, I would feel her all over, searching for any lumps. Sure enough, when she was 6, I found a bump that turned out to be a mast cell tumor. They removed it and she recovered like a champ. But the fear that I would find more lumps sat in my gut for years.

And in Maizey fashion, she decided to grow another tumor, but this time one I couldn’t see: brain cancer. She was diagnosed with a glioma in July, after a sudden onset of seizures and vision loss. Her prognosis was weeks without treatment, but treatment was only available in Raleigh, 1.5 hours away from home. So I packed up and rented an AirBnB in Raleigh so she could have daily treatments at NC State Veterinary Hospital. Tommy drove down after work to be with us at night and a dear friend came and stayed with me on the nights he couldn’t be there. And during that week I held her, tried to comfort her and told her I loved her. Again, she tolerated treatment like a champ. Her seizures stopped and her vision returned.

She went back to her playful self and we returned to our 3-4 walks a day. She did her usual – following me around the house, climbing in my lap while I worked, giving me the sweetest nose kisses and pawing at me if I wasn’t petting her while watching TV.

But then in September, despite her apparent brain tumor remission, she started limping without explanation. The fourth x-ray in three weeks finally showed something: bone cancer. It was completely unrelated to her brain tumor. It hadn’t metastasized. She had simply gotten a third type of cancer. The only treatment was amputation of her front leg, which was not an option in my mind given her age and what she had already gone through. So we simply had to do our best to make her comfortable, tell her we loved her and enjoy every last minute.

saying goodbye

We weren’t sure if we had days or weeks since bone cancer can progress very quickly. Work didn’t get done, trips got shortened or cancelled and I left the house only 1-2x a day so she wouldn’t be alone. She had taken such good care of me for years and it was an honor to take care of her. Thankfully, we got two more months together.

Throughout it all, Tommy supported and cared for both Maizey and me. He loved our baby girl just as much as I did, but he also knew that he needed to be there for me, as her diagnoses shattered me over and over. He always made supporting Maizey and me his top priority, driving her to vet appointments, driving to and from Raleigh, and coming home to be with Maizey, forcing me to leave the house for a break.

We were so fortunate that we had the absolute best group of people supporting us and Maizey. Dr. Shannon Jarvis at Old Town Veterinary worked literally around the clock to help give Maizey the best care possible. Our neurologist, Dr. Williams at Carolina Vet Specialists, gave us the initial diagnosis of her brain tumor and her compassion is unmatched. Jordi Behrens, a dear friend’s sister and also a vet, spent hours on the phone with me when I was overwhelmed by information, and talked me through everything, including what to expect as her disease progressed.

Both Dr. Jarvis and Dr. Williams helped get us into NC State Vet Hospital as soon as possible for treatment, and at NC State Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Katherine Sweet was the perfect balance of empathy, compassion and delivering tough news with kindness. I’m so thankful for my employee Hannah, and Matt and Michelle with Ardmore Dog Walkers. The three of them were the only people we trusted to care for Maizey during it all when Tommy and I both had to go out of town for a wedding.  We had a team who was there for us and helped us navigate treatments, always keeping Maizey’s best interest at the forefront of every decision.

But gradually, our sweet girl slowed down. Our last few days together were the same as our first few together. She was hurting throughout the night, so I got out of bed, laid next to her and tried to comfort her. I laid on the ground during the day, holding her paw. I was so sad, and I wished I could do more for her, but I knew it was nearly time to let her go. And I promised Maizey with every diagnosis that I would do everything I could to help her, but if at any point, she was ready, she could tell me and I would listen.

saying goodbye

And a few days ago, she told me she was ready. While I was falling apart, I also knew it was time, without a doubt, and Tommy and I had comfort in knowing we were doing the right thing for her. We made plans to have her send-off celebration on Tuesday with a steak dinner and brussel sprouts on Monday night (her favorite).

But she barely slept Sunday night and on Monday morning, she couldn’t get out of bed. If we tried to help her, it hurt her and I knew it wasn’t fair to put her through pain for another day just to keep our plans to celebrate her. The best way to honor her was to let her go early. Our amazing vet, Dr. Jarvis and Maizey’s favorite vet tech Lauren, were able to come a day early. We had the most peaceful goodbye, in our home, while I laid on the floor looking in her eyes, holding her paw, petting her ears, thanking her, and telling I loved her. And then I let her go.

saying goodbye

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44 Comments

  • Reply
    Whitney Shuman
    at

    Teri I and so sorry for you and for Tommy. What a luxury they have over us to not have to suffer. I will keep you both in my prayers. This is a rough time of year for anyone who has lost someone so near and dear to them. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my first two dogs as an adult. They stood by me through some really tough times. Time will make things better. Lots of Love from Chapel Hill??

  • Reply
    Brenda
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    Teri—so sorry. Losing a pet stinks, but you have SO MANY great memories! She had a great life thanks to you and Tommy!

  • Reply
    Jenn
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    Teri- there are no words to comfort you during this incredibly difficult time. Always know that your girl will be with you during everything you will go through in the future as she’s been with you for so many ups and downs over the many years she’s been with you. I am so sorry for your loss and will give my girl and extra hug and kiss tonight in honor of your girl. Xoxo

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Lucht
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    Crying with you, friend. Even though we never met, I felt like I knew Maizey. Glad that you go to spend those last minutes with her in her favorite place around her favorite people. Love you.

  • Reply
    Seema
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    I am so so sorry for your and Tommy’s loss. I’ve been a blog reader and Instagram follower for a while and loved seeing your pictures with Maizey. They just brighten my day seeing how happy you both always were. Maizey was lucky to have you and Tommy. Xoxoox

  • Reply
    Olivia Card-Childers
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    Teri, I’m so sorry for your loss. My own brindle pup, Sally, is everything Maizey was to you – a constant comfort through all the uncertainty of life in my 20s, a daily dose of laughter, my family when mine was far away. I love her more than I ever imagined I could love a dog and my heart breaks thinking of the loss you must feel. There’s no consolation other than remembering you gave her the best life. I hope you can find some peace in that. Snuggling my Sally extra tight tonight and sending some love your way.

  • Reply
    Jenna
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    I’m literally bawling after reading this. I feel so sad for you, but this was also such a beautiful post and tribute to Maizey. I hate that dogs touch our lives in such a big way but are only with us for a very short time. Please know I’m thinking of you and Tommy during this difficult time.

  • Reply
    Annie H
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    This was such a beautifully written goodbye. I cried through the whole thing. You and I had emailed back and forth last year about our doppleganger pups (I have a male brindle Boxer who’s 10 and looks exactly like Maizey). This certainly makes me want to squeeze him a little tighter and cherish all the time I have left with him a little more. Thinking of you and sending love!

  • Reply
    Kelly
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    I’m sobbing on my couch with you. What a beautiful life she lived. Praying for you friend as you grieve.

  • Reply
    Sheri
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    I am sitting here crying. You said it all so beautifully. As someone who is dealing with an aging dog and numerous vet visits I am reminded that this time is short with our pets so I am embracing ever minute. Hope you remember all the good times and you are blessed to have so many posts with her in them!!!

  • Reply
    Lynne
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    I am so, so sorry for the loss of your sweet girl. I had to put down my pup that was 12 1/2 two weeks ago, I cried reading your blog. I know how difficult it must be for you and Tommy.

  • Reply
    Ashly Hutcheon
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    This made me cry ugly tears. She really was the best. I’m so glad I got to come see her a few weeks ago. So much llove to you and Tommy.

  • Reply
    Haley
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    So, so sorry. Sending you so much love! Saying bye Is so hard, especially when your pup is your best friend. Sending you love & strength! <3

  • Reply
    Katie
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    I’m so sorry for your loss. My mom just lost her sweet pup in similar circumstances and she is hurting so much. Thank you for sharing and know that you’re not alone.

  • Reply
    Dawn Everhart
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    I am so sorry for the lost of your fur baby. I can understand each word because I living that feelings now. One month ago my sweet Maddie had cancer and taking her leg was something I couldn’t put her through. Maddie came to me two years after losing my daughter in a car accident. Maddie helped me get through some really hard days she could never take my daughter place but she did fill a void. I’m just in tears at this moment I can’t find any words but I am truly sorry. I will keep all of you in my prayers. ?. I.

  • Reply
    Amanda
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    I am so so sorry! Dogs are so special. It seems like they always know more about what we need than we do. Although their time with us is short, it sounds like she was so very loved.

  • Reply
    Stevie
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    Teri, my heart aches for you both. My stomach immediately sank when I saw the title of this post. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the last 10 years and seeing Maizey as a constant in your life. From one dog owner to another, my deepest sympathies to you during this time. Maizey was blessed with the best, no doubt. She knew her work here was done, and her mom was in good hands. <3

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      Thank you so much for following us for so long! You know how much she meant to me having seen the last 10 years And… your comment about Maizey knowing her work was done and that I was in good hands has brought me so much comfort and brought me to tears every day since you commented. THANK YOU. xo

  • Reply
    Greta Sharp
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    My heart goes out to you and Tommy. I am so sorry for your loss, but you gave her a beautiful life and wrote a lovely goodbye.

  • Reply
    Jessica Stocker
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    I am so sorry for your loss! I lost both of my boxers to cancer over the last 3 years and my heart breaks for you reading this. It looks like she had a wonderful life and you gave her the peace she needed in the end. Letting them go is the last gift we can give them after years of their unconditional love ??

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      Oh Jessica, I can’t imagine going through that twice. I’m so sorry for your losses as well! Thank you for your kind words and comfort about letting her go.

  • Reply
    Penny
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    Your relationship with Maizey has always touched me, and I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending you love and strength.

  • Reply
    Elly
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    This was an unexpected cry and the most beautifully written post. I feel grateful to have known Maizey just through your posts! Dogs are so special and you’ve given her the most special life.

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my post Elly. I was debating publishing or not since it was so deeply personal so your kind words about it mean a lot.

  • Reply
    Mary
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    So sorry for the loss of your sweet Maizey.

  • Reply
    Kath
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    Such a beautiful tribute to your girl

  • Reply
    Renee Weitzne
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    I am so sorry, Teri. Maizey was a one of a kind dog, the way our pets are…. I’m glad you had each .other for. a long time…wish it could have been for longer….. I feel the same way about my cats…

  • Reply
    Katie
    at

    Teri, this was a beautiful tribute and heartbreaking to read. I’ve loved watching Maizey through your blog and instagram and will be thinking of you and Tommy as you grieve. You were an amazing dog mom!

  • Reply
    Megan
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    I am so sorry to hear this, Teri + Tommy. Sending you love <3

  • Reply
    Caroline
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    Oh Teri, I am weeping. I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve loved reading about your adventures with Maizey over the years; your bond was truly something special. She clearly was incredibly loved and lucky to have you as a mom.

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
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      Thank you so much for your kind words Caroline! I know you’ve followed us for a long time and it means a lot! xo

  • Reply
    Deanna
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    Oh Teri this post made me cry. What an incredible dog mom you are to an equally incredible girl. I am so glad you had those 11 years with your Maizey. Sending love!

  • Reply
    Alexandra James
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    I’m crying as I write to thank you for sharing this beautiful, painful, honest story. My heart goes out to you and Tommy, knowing all too well that nothing hurts quite like losing a family member that provided such unconditional love and support for so long. Life changes so much from 20s to 30s and a pet tends to be one of the only things to survive some of that change (unless you’re equally lucky in family and friendship). I think of Maizey each day when I reminisce about my own recent loss of a sweet, gentle cat that trekked through life with me since I was 19 years old. I hope you find peace in the end of her suffering and joy in every beautiful memory you made together. Until you meet again. <3

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      Yes, exactly. Maizey was the one thing that stayed consistently through SO MUCH CHANGE. I love the thought of meeting her again too. Thanks for your sweet comment. xo

  • Reply
    Erin Hackathorn
    at

    Oh Teri, this is so incredibly heartbreaking to read and I am sitting at my desk with tears flowing down my face. I am so sorry you had to go through this, but what a wonderful life she had! with you. You and Tommy made the right decision but that doesn’t take the pain away. You are all in my thoughts during this difficult time.

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