Category Archives: Conan

Dungeons, Dragons, and Dreams

conan-pup
Conan at four months old

It’s been a month and a half since I lost Conan. For awhile, I thought things were getting easier and I started perusing dogs on shelter sites because I miss having a dog around. Then the dreams came.

The first one I was at a party. A friend arrived (I don’t know who), and they brought Conan. In the dream, it turned out that I had given him up to a friend and they were allowing me a visit. I couldn’t stop apologizing to Conan.

The second one I was at a shelter. I was looking at dogs, when I found Conan. In this dream it turned out he wasn’t gone, I’d just accidentally left him at a shelter. I was so happy to find him again.

What these dreams taught me is that I am not really wanting a dog again (yet), I’m wanting Conan again. My searching through adoptable dogs was me looking for one that might be Conan. None of them are.

IMG_20170205_221316_536.jpg

The above photo is my party of adventurers (I’m the monk on the far right) with a spiritual guardian represented by the four-sided die. I’m not sure what connection this has to my dreams about Conan, except that Dungeons and Dragons is a place I go to once a week where I am surrounded by friends who make me smile and help me forget for a bit the world that weighs on me.

I once claimed that Dungeons and Dragons had saved my life when my appendix became infected during a game. Now, dealing with life without Conan, Dungeons and Dragons continues to save me. It allows me to be creative, to escape, and to spend time with a group of friends who make me laugh and smile.

People ask me all the time, “How are you?” and I say, “Fine.” It’s true, I am, because when grief hits again it will do so in a wave when I’m not expecting it. Such as on my way home from work, when I suddenly feel happy about walking Conan when I get home. Or first thing in the morning when I expect to see Conan at the foot of my bed. Or when I vacuum my suite and there are no dog dishes to move out of the way. Ask me then, and I am not fine. For those tiny, fleeting moments, grief takes over.

Grief isn’t always about being sad or depressed. Sometimes, grief is about appreciating the moments that made you happy when the one you lost was still with you. So, when I’m asked, I will say, “I’m fine” and that will be an honest answer. But if you do catch me when I am not fine, just remember that it is a fleeting moment. An important moment. A moment I need.

If you want to help me, grab a set of polyhedron dice, and let’s play a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Conan, 2000-2016

I haven’t posted in a long while since there haven’t been any great days for road trips. In other words, I haven’t had much to say, and I don’t like posting just for the sake of posting.

20161221_171424

A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to my pet and friend, Conan the shih tzu. I’ve been debating if I wanted to post about this, or if I wanted to keep the blog light and fluffy. It was during Christmas festivities, when a friend started asking questions about my decisions because he will one day soon also have to make the same decisions, and then when other friends who lost pets recently messaged me telling me about the comfort they took in my openness, that I knew I needed to make this post.

For months while I was trying to make that final decision, I googled for advice and found help online. So, for all those who have pets, I will pass on what I have learned.

1) The Natural Death

475When we think of this concept, we imagine our pets passing painlessly in their sleep into the next realm. That’s what I was hoping for since the day that Conan was diagnosed with liver disease in 2014. The truth is, this concept just doesn’t exist. Conan’s liver disease was probably cutting the air off to his brain, and it was starting to cause his lungs to fill with fluid. If he was going to pass naturally, he would have died in pain, probably when I wasn’t home, and filled with fear. Don’t consider the “natural” option. Natural sucks.

2) Where You Say Goodbye

I considered saying goodbye in our home. It seemed like a place where he’d be most comfortable, and perhaps that would have made it easier. However, that would have meant finding a vet I didn’t know, and there was always a tiny part of me clinging to the notion that someone was going to say to me, “Are you sure about this? He’s fine. Look at him!”

I chose the vet we’d been going to for the last seven years. In the end this was the healthy decision, because the vet had a chance to say goodbye, to tell me that he was going to miss the two of us, and to remind me that I had done more than most would have done. He was amazed that Conan had stayed healthy for so long.”He’s a fighter, that one. You should have no regrets,” is what he told me.

As for Conan’s comfort, his place of solitude was anywhere I was–just as it had always been. Cradled in my arms, his gaze staring up at me, his tiny body completely relaxed.

3) After

I spent so much time preparing for the event, that I didn’t think much about what I was going to do after. I chose to be in the room with him alone, which was a mistake. Take someone with you. I had plenty of people offer, but for some reason I thought it needed to be a moment for me and him. And maybe that moment did–but the moments after was when I knew I needed someone for me the same way Conan always needed me there for him.

When asked if I wanted the ashes, I initially thought no. But thankfully I understood how final that decision was, and decided to say yes in case I changed my mind and wanted them. I did change my mind, and am now very glad I have them.

img_0139-1Grief will come in waves. I can’t tell you what to expect or how to prepare as it comes to everyone differently. I cleaned up and put away his things immediately as having them out just made me sad. However, I keep going on our walks and I say goodbye to him each day when I leave for work as I always did. Sometimes I cry when  memory hits, and sometimes I just smile and remember him.

4) Memories

What I came to understand is that although I loved him no matter what, I was missing him long before he died. I was missing that happy puppy that wagged his tail at the sight of other dogs, who chased my feet when we walked, who jumped onto the couch to sit on my lap, who sniffed out the crumbs when I dropped food, who ran to the door to greet me every day when I came home. That’s the Conan I miss, even if it wasn’t the Conan I loved and said goodbye to.

511I take comfort in remembering the many good times we had together. I may blog about that for a while, because Conan was a part of my life for a very long time–from when I was 28 until 16 and a half years later. We had a lot of really great times. And that is my last piece of advice: don’t fear the memories. Sometimes they may make you sad, but mostly they will bring you comfort.

conan

Godspeed, little buddy.

New Home

It’s been almost two months since I’ve been in my new home. Conan and I have settled in quite nicely, and I think we’ve explored most of the area. Thankfully, I’m walking distance to an Internet cafe, an inkjet refill store, a baker, a butcher (but no candlestick maker – unless you include the knickknack shop, which has lots of candles).

That’s all fine and dandy, but what about Conan? Yes, we are walking distance (though when your legs are three inches long it’s a pretty long trek) to a pet supply shop and a dog groomer. So today, Conan and I visited Something to Bark About so Conan could get a haircut. He was getting scraggy and dirty, so it was definitely time. His after shot is probably one of my favourites of him:

Chest Lumps

About a month ago I took Conan to the vet because I felt a little lump in his chest. He also had one on his side, but neither lump was large enough that a sample could be taken. Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed these lumps growing and, probably due to my own experience with cancer, I grew concerned.

The vet could no longer say that it was nothing. It is definitely worth investigating, although it could wind up just being fat cells. Not only that, but there are three lumps that need removal. Actually, there were three options: a needle biopsy where, while Conan is awake, they freeze the area, hold him down, and remove a piece of the area with a needle. #2: They biopsy the area while he is under by taking a portion out – meaning a second operation if it turns out to be cancer. #3: Complete removal of the lumps – the only 100% guarantee since, if it is cancer, it is a form that doesn’t spread to muscles or bones.

In discussions with the vet, there was the question all pet owners hate to ask: What is this going to cost? I’m thankful that I live in a country where I don’t have to put a monetary value on my health, but, of course, dogs don’t have that luxury. (Yes, there is pet insurance, but if you put that $50+ a month away into a bank savings account, you’ll have a small fortune saved by the time you need it.) As I waited for the doctor to tell me the estimate, I tried to come up with a dollar figure that I wouldn’t pay or borrow to ensure that I would have my companion by my side for at least another ten years. My mind went blank.

I chose the third option, to have the lumps completely removed. Thankfully, it was an estimate that fits in with my budget. It will mean tightening things up over the next few months, and not taking as many weeks off this summer as I’d hoped to do. (Though I will be able to spend a week at home with him while he recovers.) It means not taking my Alaskan cruise, and it means not buying the new couch I was hoping for. But these are sacrifices I’m willing to make for the health and comfort and companionship of my little buddy.

His operation is a week and a half away. I’ll keep you all informed of his progress.