Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This one's for Chlo

This morning I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with a classic case of IM butterflies. All kinds of thoughts in my head and details and things to pack and "what ifs" and what not. Eventually, I landed in a place where I was thinking about our dog Chlo. As some of you may know, we lost Chlo at this very same time last year. A beautiful yellow lab and we loved her more than I'm able to put into words. She was the first dog that we had as a family, my boys grew up with her and she was my husbands faithful and beloved companion (of the four legged variety) for about 9 years.

So, the reason I need to tell you her story is this. Last year, we had plans to fly out to Phoenix to volunteer at the IMAZ '09 and sign up for this year. My husband and I and a couple of friends made this plan months in advance and the plan was to get away for a weekend, go someplace we'd never been, volunteer and cheer on friends who were racing, etc. Well, the night before we were to catch an early morning flight to Phoenix, Chlo was not right. Now you need to understand that Chlo had issues already. She had Addison's disease which was diagnosed when she was about three years old. This is a condition that has to be managed, but she did well with it. However, on this Friday evening she was not right. She couldn't stand up and would not eat or drink. She had been having these kinds of episodes every now and then for a while, but this one was a bit more alarming.

I had just come home from work this Friday evening and my husband was quickly out the door to the vet with Chlo just to make sure that she was okay to leave for the weekend. Twenty minutes into his absence, the telephone rang and it was Dave. He sounded distraught — and I knew... He told me that I should come and bring Brendan (our son) along too. We didn't discuss details then, but I knew...

When we arrived, my husband had already been discussing things with the vet. I knew when I saw him that it wasn't good. The vet filled us in. Basically, Chlo had a tumor wrapped around her spleen. She was bleeding internally periodically and when this happened it caused her to have these episodes where she couldn't stand or eat or be her normal self. The vet made it clear that there was little to be done for her outside of making her comfortable. His recommendation —which he put forth very delicately — was to not let her suffer.

He left us alone for a bit with Chlo in the little exam room —the three of us and our Chlo. She lay on the floor, but every now and then she'd get up and put her head on one of our knees as she was prone to do when one of us wasn't feeling well. If you've ever had the pleasure of a relationship with a Labrador Retriever, you know what special dogs they are. Incredibly sensitive to your mood and your needs as a human. Always there to give love. She didn't have much energy and would end up back on the floor again soon. Eventually, we got down there with her .

As we lay on the floor, we agonized over the decision at hand. Basically, we were devastated. The vet knew this and gave us the time we needed to deal with it. In our 20 plus year marriage, I had never seen my husband openly cry. It had been years since I'd seen my teen age son shed a tear.

So we lay there with her and ate up those moments with her until we decided that we could not do this again — feel this pain of letting her go. We let the vet know that we were ready. We were incredibly distraught and he and his staff was incredibly supportive. They asked us if we wanted to stay with her and, of course, we did. We stayed until she was gone and then some. It took everything we had to get up off that floor and leave her.

When we returned home, there was emptiness. The trip to Arizona was a distant thought. We sat in shock trying to absorb what had just happened. In the morning, we did get up and make our way to the airport where we met up with our friends. It took tremendous effort to keep it together. As we moved across the country, it got a little easier. I felt bad about leaving Brendan, but knew his aunt and uncle would take good care of him. We still needed to let our son Ian know that she was gone. In our heads, we knew that we had done the right thing for Chlo. In our hearts, we could only feel the pain of letting her go. As I thought about this early this morning while lying in bed, it made me cry. And, as I write this — I am very much without composure.

Now some of you reading this will find it ridiculous that I could go on so about a dog — that I would dedicate my race to her. But Chlo was so much more than just a dog.  She was family. And we learned so much from her about how to love each other unselfishly.

So this one is for you Chlo. Hoping I can channel some of your boundless energy, enthusiasm and optimism into my race on Sunday.


  1. I don't think it is ridiculous I think it is beautiful!

  2. As I sat and read this, I too, had no composure. These dogs are so loving and it is a blessing to have the opportunity to have one in your life. Chlo will be with you all day in spirit and will make sure you succeed in your journey...good luck at Ironman Arizona, Pam. Kick some butt!

  3. Pam,

    I am not embarrassed to say that I shed a tear or two reading this. This was a beautiful tribute to a very special family member. I will be thinking about you Sunday.


  4. Oh Pam, today on my 12 yr old labs birthday I am ballin my eyes out reading your story...oh i can soooo relate and dread my day, I hope it is later than sooner, but every week i see things change. Unless your a dog person, you don't understand. They ARE part of the family and I believe their souls live on in our hearts forever, never can be replaced, I am sorry you had to go thru all that, but believe with her so much on your mind she will be there with you in spirit, and you may hear a dog bark or see something that reminds you of her there. I just know it. Good luck in the race, I will be watching your status and let the fighter in her come out in you, I know you will do great!

  5. Pam,

    Nancy and I got choked up too reading Chlo's story. It probably took you a year to be able to put these thoughts into words. I know she'll be there with you throughout your day as much as you need her. You'll picture her running next to your bike or while you are on the marathon course and it'll make you smile and give you strength. You will do such a great job, we'll be thinking of you all day.

  6. Pam

    I am so touched by your thoughts & now putting them into words sheds quite a few tears. We lost our Lab a little over two years ago & there is not a day that goes by without us thinking about her. My son keeps her name on all his hockey sticks & keeps her favorite red ball on his desk in his room. In my fuel belt is a small dog angel pin that I have with me all the time. My wife keeps pic's of her in her cell phone.

    There will be no better time to reflect on Chlo then in a IM. At IMAZ there will be no boundaries for you Pam. You will swim, bike & run endlessly. Out thoughts will be with you.

  7. Hi - I just found your blog and read this story. I don't even know you and I was balling! There's nothing sadder than having to put a dog down. My condolences to you.

    I also write a blog about IM AZ (that's how I found yours) and did the race on Sunday. Hope you did well - can you believe how cold the water was???