This is the hardest article I’ve ever written. As you know, our beloved miniature Schnauzer Parker has been an integral part of Paws and Claws Photography. My love of photographing him gave me the spark to start the business; the logo is a rendering of him; and he has been by my side every day from the beginning.
You may remember that Parker beat intestinal cancer a few years back. He is one tough cookie, always fighting, and does so in a stoic manner and with sense of peace about him. Parker is once again fighting. He has a lipoma that has been growing on his backside. It has been growing for several years, but is inoperable. We learned during pre-operative testing that he has a weakened heart. Isn’t it ironic how a living soul can have the biggest and most loving heart, but when it comes to medical statistics, it’s considered weakened? When we first learned of the heart diagnosis, we didn’t think Parker would have much time left. But, in true Parker fashion, he continues to beat the odds. He continues to fight.
Parker has been living with this growing lipoma for much longer than the vets expected – two and a half years to be exact. We were told that his heart would give out before it grew much bigger. The lipoma is now to the point that it is in danger of becoming infected, so we need to treat it and him very carefully. We bandage it and apply Neosporin to abrasions on it daily. But the thing is, Parker seems no different than the days before he had it! It hasn’t slowed him down. It is a nuisance, it gets in his way when he walks, and he doesn’t seem to appreciate its location (who would?), but it has allowed him to accumulate and wear a fashionable wardrobe of distinguished older gentleman pajamas and afforded him some extra cuddle time with mom and dad. The tables have turned now that his heart seems stronger but the lipoma is the problem.
Unfortunately, the reality is that with the increased chances of infection, Corey and I have had to have many difficult conversations about what comes next. And we know what comes next. We’ve been down this road many times before with other pets who have had cancer or other diseases. See, when your pet has a life-threatening illness, it sometimes seems easier to talk about next steps because you know that, many times, your decision will save them from pain and suffering. But when you have an animal that doesn’t appear to be in any pain or suffering, it’s a completely different situation. There is a significant amount of stretched skin and blood flowing to this lipoma, which makes it a danger to him should it become infected.
We feel very fortunate to have had the best vets looking after Parker throughout the years. He’s had multiple specialists over the course of his cancer treatment and other health issues and they love him as if he were one of their own. I recently learned about another group of amazing vets in the organization called Lap of Love. Lap of Love is a veterinary hospice group that will come to your house, evaluate your pet, give you straight answers and prepare you for what’s next. They also provide in-home euthanasia, which is a very difficult topic to discuss, but provides peace for many families and their pets. In some cases, next steps could take a long time, but in other cases, the time frame is shorter. Regardless of how much time you have, the Lap of Love specialized and caring teams work very closely with you to prepare you for all aspects of what’s ahead. I have found so much peace in their visits and the valuable information they have shared with me about Parker’s health.
I am thankful for each and every day I have my Parker with me. He is a gift and any pet owner knows the indelible paw prints your furbaby makes on your heart. I also recognize that as his owner, I have a tremendous responsibility to take the best care of him, and put his needs above my own. In the past, my pets have told me when it is time. Parker has not yet told me that. But I recognize now and take comfort in the fact that when it is his time, it will be the right thing to do. Parker isn’t going to give up on his own, but at some point, his body will be stronger than his heart and mind.
The vets at Lap of Love helped me realize that right now, it’s all about Parker. We are going to celebrate him. We are not holding on to him to be selfish, we are indeed watching his signs and hoping he will tell us. But the vets prepared us with both medical and personal information to better understand when the right time will be. We feel it has bought us time and allowed us to celebrate Parker, not mourn him before he’s actually gone.
In case you don’t know Parker that well, here’s a little summary. He’s a small guy, topping out at about 25 pounds, which is on the larger side for a miniature Schnauzer. He loves to swim in the ocean and in our pool. One of his favorite pastimes is hoping up into the RV with us and going on adventures. He’s fearless and has never been afraid to try something new. He’s also very brave. With all of his many medical procedures, he’s handled them with grace and a stoic manner that befits a wise man well beyond his years. His display of that demeanor is why we call him the granddad of our mini Schnauzer crew. When our three puppies joined Hunter and Parker, he showed them the ropes and to this day, he keeps them in line. He’s not a cranky old man, rather one who wants to make sure everyone is aware of their role, what their place is and that they do the things they should. He truly is one in a million. And I know when he crosses the Rainbow Bridge, he will continue to live on through the puppies.
Parker started me on this journey and I hate to think about continuing it without him. But I know that he will always be with me. And I hope he knows that my heart, my home, my RV and my lap, have always has places of love for him.