Three Kids and a Dog

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dear Adler

Dear Adler,

Yesterday was our first snow. It's not even Thanksgiving yet but we already have about 6 inches of snow outside. Oh how you loved the snow. It probably was your favorite season mainly due to the air temperature. I remember how you would lay for a long time in the cold snow, burrow in it, eat it, roll in it and frolic in it. I know your favorite way to kick off the winter season was to come with us to chop down our Christmas tree. Next weekend when we go, you will be noticeably absent. Oh how I loved to see you run between the Frasier Firs, Blue Spruce and Scotch Pines. We would let you off leash and you would get lost among the acres of trees. A quick call of "front" would have you running through the trees until you found us. You were so happy then and so much a part of our lives. You still are. I want you to know that. One month later, I still think of you so many times a day. Yes, I am still sad and I still miss you terribly. But I still see you. The other day I was driving Peyton and Hailey home from school. It was mid morning and there was a Berner walking away from the street we were approaching. Suddenly, as we reached the street, the Berner turned around to look at us like it heard something. Maybe it was a squirrel or another dog, but I'd like to think it was you. And, just yesterday a new clump of rust-colored hair appeared in my workout room close to where you used to lay as I worked out.

Austen, Peyton and Hailey still talk about you too. Peyton wants a new puppy and her teacher recently asked me if she was getting one since she talks about it at school a lot. I think Hailey would call any new puppy we would get, especially a Berner, Adler. She was so confused when we saw that Berner on the way home from school. She sees you in the many pictures in our house and says Adler's picture, but I don't know if a 2 year old can really comprehend that you are not physically here anymore and then see another Berner who looks so much like you and wonder why you don't live in our house any longer.

She's growing up our Hailey. She went to see her first movie in a theater on Nov. 7 - the Peanuts Movie. She was just 2 years and one month old (almost a year younger than when Austen and Peyton saw their first movie), but she did great and sat through about 2 hours of the movie and previews.

When you were with us, I couldn't wait to see what Hailey would be doing at the next stage. But, I will tell you that I was torn about wanting to see her grow up because I knew that meant you would be getting older too and I didn't want that to happen because I knew our time together was growing short. I may not have to worry about that any longer but I do worry that she won't remember you. The reality is that she probably won't. Thankfully we have so many pictures and videos of you. I can't believe how many there are. Even if we were taking a picture or a video of one of the kids, you were there. You were and still are a big part of our family. In fact, you made us a family as you were our first baby that Tom and I were honored to take care of. I hope you know how much you are missed and how much we all loved you. How much we still love you.

Winnie the Pooh said, "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
Yes, we were lucky and blessed to have had almost 11 great years with you. Thank you for loving us too. 

Love Always,
Your Mom

Monday, November 16, 2015


I loathe Thursdays. For me, it's the day that marks another week that we have lived without Adler, and part of me doesn't want life to go on without her. I want time to rewind and stand still so we can forever be a family in that same way. So I can look behind me in the backseat of our car and see the three children I was blessed to have in my second row and see my perfect Adler in our third row (just looking out the window or with her face pressed in between the headrests, especially if the kids had a snack and she wanted some), and my husband sitting right next to me. I felt lucky then - surrounded by people I loved doing just ordinary errands or sometimes extraordinary road trips together.

Time I know can heal our grief but it can also rob us of our memories too.  I can't believe Adler's been gone almost a month now. She has never been gone from me this long before even when we have been separated for vacations. I think our maximum time apart was maybe 10 days. Now it feels like eternity until I can see her again, and until then I don't want to forget how she smelled, how her fur felt or all of the things she loved including munchkins, rolling in the sand and the snow, and belly rubs.

I am not sure what the proper amount of time is for grieving for your pet, but I am sure some would say it's time to move on. I'm not there yet although the waves of grief come a little farther apart now but they still come without warning and sometimes they can still knock the wind out of me and pull me under. I get up because I have to, because my kids and my husband expect me to, because it's acceptable to grieve as long as you want for another human being but not for another being.

Peace and comfort comes sometimes in the strangest ways or at times when I least expect it. This past week, I woke up with a piece of Adler hair in my mouth. Now the cleaning ladies have come twice since her passing and I had just changed my sheets so a little odd that I would wake up and she would be present. I like to think of it as one way for her to let me know she was near.

Last week, I also received a package and I didn't recognize the return address. Inside was a beautiful card with the Rainbow Bridge poem on it and three Bernese Mountain Dogs with their backs to me looking at the rainbow. The package included a tiny Berner angel pin - all sent from the Berner community. I have been part of a list serv of Berner owners and a Berner database that contains all of the different pedigree information for Bernese Mountain Dogs since Adler was young but I never knew they sent these to those of us who had joined the sad ranks of the now Berner-less. I also received many kind emails from Berner owners across the world expressing their condolences for the loss of our precious girl. Yes, Adler was part of a unique and striking breed, but she was also part of this awesome Berner community. I will be forever grateful to her for introducing us to them.


Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Kids

Life goes on I know, and I will once again post regularly about our kids' latest antics, but right now I want to give you fair warning that my posts will probably be more about Adler and how we are coping without her. I started this blog and she was the focus of it so it only seems fitting that we continue to remember her here. Oh, and for those of you who ask if I am going to change the name of my blog, the answer is no. My family will always include our three kids and Adler. Even though we can't physically see her anymore, we know she is here and a part of us always. She will live on in our hearts forever.

Breaking the news to my two oldest about Adler's passing was one of the hardest things to do especially when you are so completely shattered and heartbroken yourself. But Tom and I agreed not to tell them right away as they were just waking up when Adler passed. We let them go to school and decided that after school we would tell them together. They both broke down sobbing and my heart hurt even more for them. I know they both understood the finality of her being gone but they still had lots of questions like where is she right now and what is cremation. That was a tough one. How do you explain cremation without mentioning an oven or fire so as not to frighten a child?! We answered the questions as honestly as we could and told them that Adler was in Heaven and that she would always be with us, watching over us even though we can't see her. We read a great book that I had by chance found at the library four days before she passed called "Up in Heaven." Maybe somehow I just knew her time was short, but the book provided some source of comfort to all of us. It is told from an old dog's point of view and how he looks down from Heaven on his family and sees how sad they are and how much they miss him. He doesn't want them to be sad so he sends them all sorts of happy dreams to ease their sorrows. I have read that book many times to all three of my kids in the 2 1/2 weeks since Adler's been gone. On the night she passed before bed, Austen asked me to read the book to him once again but to change the names of the boy and the dog in the book to him and Adler.

I've tried to do many things to honor Adler in the hours and weeks since her passing. The night she passed, we went out to dinner as a family and told stories about our favorite memories of Adler. I took the kids to the toy store the day after and told them that Adler had asked me to buy them a special gift for each of them to remember her by. I also framed a picture of each child with Adler for their rooms so they can always see and remember her. And, of course we carved her name into one of our three pumpkins for Halloween and lit a candle in it for her.

The kids have handled their grief so differently. Austen doesn't want to talk about it too much because it makes him sad. He didn't want to tell his teachers or friends because he didn't want anyone to feel bad for him. Peyton on the other hand talks about Adler nonstop. She has a deep understanding of our sadness and looks to us as to how we are going to react when she mentions her. The day after Adler passed, she came up with her own solution for not missing Adler so much. She took her stuffed Bernese Mountain Dog and her toy dog bowl and placed them in the exact spot where Adler would eat. That made my breath catch when I saw it, but I didn't have the heart to tell her to move them. They still sit there today, more than two weeks later.

They say that grief is the final expression of love. I hope Adler can see how deep our grief is and how much we all loved her - how much I loved her. I knew this day would come but I never imagined how deeply I would feel her loss.

"And can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up." -- Charles Dickens


Sunday, November 01, 2015


 There was no happy in Halloween this year. It rained almost the entire day and not the kind of rain that's a light mist but the type where you can be soaked within minutes of leaving your house. It was the kind of Halloween where you snuggled up by the fire and didn't want to leave it's warmth to venture outside.

There was also no happy in Halloween this year because there was no Adler. For so many years we would take her with us to walk the houses with the kids on Halloween and this year, she was noticeably absent - at least by me. It's been a week and a half since her passing and most days are still hard. I miss her most at night and when Hailey is napping during the day. 

Life does go on, even without her unfortunately, and on Halloween, I had three kids wanting to go trick or treating despite the poor weather. So I got them ready - a White Sox player, a kitty cat and a lion, and we met up with some friends to work our block. Austen and Peyton took off with their friends leaving us in the dust so we took Hailey to most houses at her own pace. After a few she really got the hang of picking the candy out of the bowl and putting it in her bag while saying thank you. It was cute to see her all bundled up in her lion costume - the same one Austen wore when he was almost 2 (and my favorite costume to date for all three kids). After trick or treating (Austen did a whole other block with a friend because we were too slow), we enjoyed some food and drink at a neighbor's house before calling it a night at 10pm. Of course we only called it a night at 10pm  because Peyton along with two of her girl friends decided to paint our neighbor's carpet so poor Tom was wet vacuuming their rug for an hour to try to get out the paint. Despite this mishap, missing Adler and the poor weather, it was still a fun evening with friends and nice to forget that my heart was still least for a little while.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Goodbye My Sweet Adler Girl

"The moment that you left me, my heart was split in two, one side was filled with memories, the other side died with you. I often lay awake at night when the world is fast asleep and take a walk down memory lane with tears upon my cheek.  Remembering you is easy, I do it everyday, but missing you is a heartache that never goes away. I hold you tightly within my heart and there you will remain; you see life has gone on without you but will never be the same." --

On Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, we said goodbye to our beautiful, sweet Adler. She lived on this earth for almost 11 years – defying the life expectancy of her breed’s 7-9 years. She was a pretty perfect dog never chewing a toy or shoe that was left out. She traveled through many states with us on road trips and enjoyed many vacations, especially the ones that included the beach. She loved rolling in the sand and running on the shore. I can picture her now running down the beach with a huge grin on her face, tongue hanging out. Run sweet girl, run and jump. Know that I will forever look for you behind the couch and on the landing of our stairs. I will see you in your leftover hair embedded in our carpet and those that are still collecting in the corners of our home. I will remember you forever by the scratches I see on our hardwood floors and on the steps. I will always know the sound of the jingling of your collar and I will recognize it instantly when we meet again. Rest in peace my sweet Addie girl. I love you always and forever. 11/27/04 - 10/22/15.

She's gone and my heart is broken. On Wednesday, all Adler wanted to do was lay in the yard. She would go outside for hours on end (something she never did). She barely mustered the energy to eat and toward the end of the day she had difficulty standing. In fact, Tom carried her up to bed the last night she spent on this earth because she couldn't walk. I called the vet hospital as we were scheduled for chemo the next morning and decided I would take her in early to be checked out before any scheduled chemo. At 5am, I awoke to her crying trying to get up. I presumed she had to go to the bathroom so Tom carried her downstairs while I quickly dressed. It was time. I needed to bring her to the hospital.

Tom laid her on our front lawn and while I was pulling the car up, we saw her get up for what would be the last time and bolt to the other side of the lawn to go to the bathroom. She then collapsed and we carried her to the car. I drove her 40 minutes away to the vet hospital where they loaded her on a gurney and I told her I loved her for what would be the last time. I never saw her alive again. She went into cardiac arrest pretty soon after we were separated and they couldn't bring her back with CPR. I'd like to think she waited until I was gone to do that so I wouldn't have to see it but it kills me that I wasn't there to be with her those final moments of her life.  I also believe that she didn't want me to have to make the decision to end her life. She was going to take that decision out of my hands because she knew how hard it was going to be for me. See, she was the best dog even at the end.

I spent about three hours with her after her death (Tom joined me with Hailey as soon as he dropped Austen and Peyton off at school). They brought me to a room and brought her in soon thereafter. I couldn't believe how cold she was getting already and stiff. I kissed her and rubbed her body like I did so many times before remembering every inch of her and taking it all in for the final time. I cut her beautiful fur and kept the striking rust, white and black hairs that I still see all over my house even after the cleaning ladies have come. I know I will see those hairs for a long while. Sometimes they make me feel sad and other times they make me smile. I look for them now. In the spots where she always laid or on my clothes. It's only been three days but I can't bring myself to remove her bed or her treats or so many of the other reminders of her. Seeing the place where her dog bowls were looks so bare. I look for her in her usual spots where she sleeps and she's not there anymore. The house is so quiet now during the day without her, especially when I put Hailey down for a nap and it's usually just Adler and I. That's when I miss her the most.

Oh my beautiful sweet Adler, I will miss you and love you forever. You were one of a kind and there will never be another like you. Someday, we'll see you again when you meet us at the bridge. Until then watch over us always and we'll visit you often in our many wonderful memories. We love you.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Day I've Dreaded

I have dreaded this day since Jan. 23, 2005. It was the day we brought Adler home and she buried her way into our hearts that I knew that losing her some day would be one of the toughest things to go through. And, while we haven't lost her just yet (she is still fighting) her recent diagnosis makes it more real that her time with us is short.

About two to three months ago we noticed that Adler wasn't eating all of her food anymore. I had switched types on her recently so I just chalked it up to that and went back to her original food. That helped for a bit but then about two weeks ago she stopped eating entirely and started panting a lot. So off to the vet we went for the full blood work up. Everything seemed good except she showed low platelet counts. The vet did a chest x-ray and abdominal ultrasound only to find her lymph nodes, spleen and liver enlarged as well as a small tumor in her lungs. All signs pointed to cancer so the vet took some tissue samples to determine what type of cancer it was and the results showed lymphoma.

This is good news, said the vet. If your dog has to have a type of cancer, this is the best one to have. Of course they couldn't determine what type of cancer the lung mass was but we are hoping that one is lymphoma too and not histiosarcoma - one of the most fatal cancers for Bernese Mountain Dogs. We won't know for sure until after several rounds of her chemo treatment then we can check to see if that tumor has shrunk. So we decided to do a 25 week regimen of 8 weekly and then 8 biweekly chemo treatments. She had her first one last Thursday and on day one, I wasn't sure we made the right choice as she was so out of it and lethargic. By day 2 she was definitely more alert and a bit more interested in food. Day 3, she was like her old self and eating her old food. It was like night and day. If this was one treatment, I wonder what 16 will do for her?!

All I know is I'm not ready to give her up so soon, and I don't think she's ready to leave us just yet. Average life expectancy after treatment is about 13 months. I hope we get at least that with her. All I know is that each day we have with her is a gift. She is a gift. And, there will never be another who captured my heart as she has.

Day 1 of Chemotherapy

Day 2 of chemotherapy - I made it downstairs to watch my mom workout

Day 3 of Chemotherapy - who has cancer? I am alert and begging for food!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

She's Two!

Happy Birthday to Hailey! Can't believe our baby turned 2 today. It was a gorgeous day to celebrate as we had a bit of Indian Summer with a near 80 degree day. It has been so nice to have one child where we can celebrate outside since Austen and Peyton's birthdays are in the dead of winter!

We started the morning by opening Hailey's presents from our little family. Austen and Peyton each got to pick the presents they gave to Hailey and helped to wrap them too. I don't know who was more excited about Hailey's birthday though, them or Hailey! We had to remind the other two whose birthday it really was more than once. Anyway, since it was a Paw Patrol birthday party, Hailey received a lot of Paw Patrol! She was in Heaven and carried her favorite character, Zuma, with her to Austen's soccer game later that morning (Despite losing, Austen still scored the only goal for his sister).

Later that afternoon, we celebrated with family. She tried out a jumpy house, played a lot of Paw Patrol with her family and ate lots of popcorn! She received even more Paw Patrol (and some Minnie Mouse). Again, I don't know who was more excited, Hailey or Austen and Peyton! Peyton more than once asked if we could open up Hailey's new toys so she could play with them.

She loved opening her presents but immediately wanted to play with what she opened instead of moving onto the next present - and who could blame her! Those were some cool toys that she received! She really had a great day until we went to sing happy birthday to her. I don't know if it was the fire or everyone singing happy birthday to her but she really did not like it all! She cried through all of our singing (maybe our voices were bad!).

At any rate, it was a great day to turn 2!