I'm not sure if God feels I need more fire in my belly for this war I have waged against cancer - I want to scream "Enough!!!"
Cancer took my auntie, aged 32, leaving three young kids and her husband behind.
My son will fight cancer for all his days and the damage it has left behind.
Cancer tried to take my grandmother, my mentor and many others I'm close to.
Now cancer took my dog. Our Winston! Our first CKc mascot! Our bullmastiff.
Yesterday we said goodbye to our dog Winston, or "Winstonian" as we used to call him sometimes.
You would think logically after witnessing my 2 year old son endure 108 hours of straight chemotherapy as just one part of his treatment that finding out your dog is terminal with incurable cancer would be bearable. It's not. It wasn't.
A little about my boy. We got Winston right when I moved to the U.S. Olivia, Michael and I picked him out from the litter and had him in our new home from 6 weeks old. He will forever be 5 years old. Michael and Olivia had adopted a bullmastiff before and he died at age 4 so we wanted to get one from a breeder this time. It didn't quite work out how we planned - but such is life!
He was my first dog as an adult. My first baby before babies. The first dog I ever loved and lost. What's the stupid quote "Better to have loved and lost than never loved"... True, perhaps, but it hurts like heck!
Calling Olivia and Michael last night on the phone, neither whom are in the state I am was painful. That's not what I want to tell my freshman daughter in her first semester of college. And certainly not what I want to share with my husband. Olivia, while home, walked Winston. In his last days he would go in her room and just lay on her floor. He missed her since she left for college. I have lots of nice memories of her being goofy with our big Winston.
Michael and Winston got the paper together every morning and while Michael would work at his desk, Winston would lay under it and on his feet. Michael would scratch Winston's chest forever - they had a special bond. It was hard to watch tears in his eyes as I told him yesterday.
At first Winston wasn't allowed on our bed. Then Michael would travel and Winston would go on the bed with me. Slowly but surely, it was our nightly ritual. He would follow me around... the dog would sigh! No joke! He would sigh at me as all he wanted was for me to sit down. He couldn't relax until I was on the bed and until then he would follow me around as I tidied up after the boys.
Two months ago I had the carpets and sofa cleaned and I stopped Winston from sleeping on the bed with me and bought him a bed. How much do I regret that? More than anyone can know. This past week he slept in my bed until he wasn't able to get up on the last night and I slept on the floor with him. A very hard, valuable lesson for this mumma bear. One that weighs so heavy on my heart.
I was trying to make my life easier. I would dress the boys and they would get hair and drool on them from all the shedding. I should have just loved on my dog. Regret is truly a useless emotion in my opinion but I do feel regret and remorse.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, I want to focus on everything we had.
Even on his last day, I only left him to pick up the boys from school. When I got home, there he was as I opened the door - wagging and so happy so see us. I had only been gone ten minutes.
Imagine if we humans were as kind and loving to each other. Imagine if we opened the door to our husbands and acted that encouraged to see them. Excited even though we just saw them ten minutes before.
Winston loved me. He would bypass the boys just to get to me. I loved Winston. My first dog. My first baby.
He has left paw prints on my heart.
This will be a transition. Not making him breakfast this morning and not getting to love on him before anyone was even up - it feels so painful.
I had a home vet hospice called Lap of Love (an amazing organization) come and Winston went to Heaven in our front yard where he would sit nobly looking after the boys and me as we played. He had to be aside me and if I stopped rubbing him he would put his paw on me like "don't stop".
As he went to Heaven, Winston laid on me. He was 142 pounds but he thought he weighed 3 pounds and that he was a lapdog. Bullmastiffs are gentle giants. He was scared of cats - no joke!
I remember one time at the dog park Winston had a dog bite his neck and he was bleeding. Winston didn't even retaliate or anything. In fact, he just wagged his tail and on he played. I took him to the dog park yesterday but his breathing was so bad he only lasted 5 minutes. He got his fix of peeing on the bushes and smelling other dogs. That's all I wanted for him. We hit Petco for his favorite biscuits then we sat on the porch and I rubbed and loved on him.
When Cannon was diagnosed with cancer and the twins were with Angela and Nicole and Michael was with Cannon at the hospital, I would come home and Winston was the one who was there for me. I could cry to him. I didn't need to be brave for him - I could be me. I could be vulnerable. What a gift Winston gave me.
All Winston wanted was to be part of the family and loved. He was! We never played outside in front or back without him by our sides and last night, with no Winston to watch us play was rough. Even tougher was coming downstairs from storytime last night with the boys and no wagging tail to walk around with me as I cleaned.
Today we got in from school and our usual wagging tail, banging at the door wagging wasn't there. The house feels so quiet and strange.
What an adjustment for all of us.
The truth is, Winston was a gift to my family. We are beyond blessed that we got to be his family until Heaven. I am not sure a dog could ever measure up to him. He really was special. I am forever changed for having him in my life.
He has been there with our family through some awful and amazing times!
As I spent my last moments with him I told him not to worry about me... that Cannon and the boys and Daddy would take care of me. I told him Olivia missed him so much and how Daddy was so thankful that he protected all of us while he worked. I thanked him for loving me and I said over and over, "It's okay, Mumma loves you." I'm not sure he heard any of it through my tears.
This was a first for me. I have never experienced the loss of a dog and I never want to again. What a horrible ordeal.
My only saving grace is that he is not in pain now. Those huge, cancerous tumors hanging from his neck are gone! He is happier and healthier than ever! He is playing with my brother, I am sure of it. James will love on him.
Just know Winston that you will always be my first dog and my favorite!! I love you with all my heart. I am forever your mumma!
If you're not a dog lover or have ever lost a pet you probably think I'm crazy! That's okay. It's best that way.
Thank you to my special friends who stayed with me until Winston was gone yesterday. It meant the world to me but more so to Winston - he loved the attention. Thank you!
I was fueled for this war against cancer before, that has not changed! I will continue to fight for our kids and your kids and our future generations.
Mumma loves you.
I continue to be
Thankful For The Fight
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Melissa M. Wiggins
Cannonball Kids' cancer Foundation