Maya…Our Great Pyrenees Princess
My week has been full of emotion, and my focus was not on design or the last bit I needed to accomplish for our One Room Challenge reveal.
We had to make the difficult decision to let our sweet Maya go. We chose to use hospice to help Maya transition from our home to heaven. My biggest prayer right now is that it’s true…
Maya joined our family in 2008. We decided to get a pure breed dog due to past experiences with pets from the pound. One experience was oh so good, but had a sad ending. The other experience was a total nightmare.
My brother, Dr. Sean Jennett, had to help me through that one. He told me that it was OK if the dog we brought home wasn’t a fit for our family; some are and some aren’t.
Rico, an Australian Cattle Shepherd, was recommended to us as a great family dog. He turned out to be a complete “alpha” with me and our son which caused a whole bunch of problems. The relationship was so bad that when he and I went into the dog training facility, people rolled their eyes and the trainer put us in a corner as far away from everyone else as possible. Rico was not the beloved pet we had hoped for, but rather a Tasmanian devil dog that we resented.
After many tears, frustration, and council with Sean, we found a home for him where he thrived. The family who took him in, no questions asked, had a special needs daughter whom he bonded with immediately. God has his ways. Thank you, LORD!
After taking a little “pet break”, we decided to try one more time. If it didn’t work out, I was done.
We learned about the Great Pyrenees breed from the Sandy Hollar Christmas Tree Farm in Leicester, NC. They had them all over their property as guard dogs for their farm animals. We had never seen that breed before and completely fell in love with them.
After extensive research on Great Pyrenees, we made our decision. They are known as confident, loving, gentle giants and we needed a loving, gentle dog for our family. Maya was that and so much more. We knew that big dogs have shorter life spans, but we didn’t think she’d pass at 9 ½.
Maya was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy last August. According to the Canine Genetics Diseases, “Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet.”
Our vet, Dr. Tim McMullen, said it’s a terrible disease because there is absolutely no cure. She’d only get worse and a time would come that we’d have to decide if her quality of life was gone.
As she progressed, we ended up with rugs all over our wood floors to help her feel comfortable moving about the house. Her feet constantly slipped out from under her hips because she couldn’t stand up straight. She bumped into walls and furniture and would even fall down at times. It was so hard to watch her struggle.
April Johnson…Asheville Pet Photography
I was fortunate to have won a pet photography session with April Johnson. She started her business after her own god passed quickly at the age of four. She understood how important it is to capture beautiful moments of families with their beloved pets.
Since Maya couldn’t move around well, April came to us. We had no intention of being photographed with Maya, but I’m eternally grateful that we were.
I put together a little video of her life. I’m proud to also include photos taken by my daughter, Samantha. She’s a budding photographer who loved capturing moments with her sweet puppy- sister she affectionately called “doge”.
Life tip: Take time to capture the memories with pictures and video, if you can.
Maya’s quality of life decision came this past week. She started losing control of her bowels and was so embarrassed when it happened. She’d avoid all eye contact to try and hide her “accident”. At other times she’d want to play and interact like a puppy but couldn’t. It was as if she was trapped in an aging body that wouldn’t cooperate.
Maya was quietly suffering, and her weight loss was evident despite all her fluffy white fur.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Maya stood at the top of the stairs that morning and peeked around the corner at me. She was ready to come down and needed help. As I looked back up the stairs, I greeted her with the usual, “Good morning Princess,” and fought back tears. It’d be the last time she’d ever walk those stairs. It’d be the last time I’d ever see her look down at me from above.
I’d never had a dog as long as we had her. She lived in our home as a cherished member of our family. Maya was our baby!
Hospice for Pets
Dr. Beth Marchitelli came highly recommended. She’s a mobile pet hospice, palliative care veterinarian who performs home euthanasia. While it felt like we were playing “God” with Maya’s life, she assured us we were doing the right thing.
It was an easy decision to have Dr. Beth come to us because Maya hated car rides.
The moment Beth walked in our home, I lost it. She greeted George and then came directly to me with her arms open wide. Beth hugged me hard and said, “It’s great to meet you but this sucks!” I had to agree.
Dr. Beth noticed right away that Maya’s gums were very pale pink. She said that was an indication something else was seriously wrong, possibly cancer. Without an autopsy, we’ll never know.
What I do know is this.
Waking up each morning with the knowledge that this fateful day was coming was so hard on us all. We walked and talked about everything under the sun but that. We tried to dismiss the inevitable, as we went through life and took care of Maya, because our hearts were breaking.
No matter how much we loved her,
we couldn’t ignore that she was suffering.
After getting acquainted, Beth asked to go to a place where Maya would be most comfortable. We chose the living room because that was one of Maya’s favorite places to lay. Beth suggested we give her something to eat to help distract her from the first injection. Our snack of choice…a bag of bacon. Maya enjoyed her last treat as she ate every crumb from George’s hand, while the sleeping medicine took effect.
After Maya was sound asleep, Beth explained the how she’d help Maya pass on to a “better place”, constantly reassuring us in our decision. She made it sound so simple and peaceful.
We shared stories about Maya and her unique traits, like how she’d only eat sautéed zucchini (not raw), or pick lettuce out of a sandwich to eat everything but the lettuce. She’d hug you with her head and her whole body as she leaned into you because she was just that big. When our son was little, Maya would chase him around the yard until she knocked him over. She’d then open her big mouth and place it ever so gently around his arm or leg, but never bite down. Her movements simply declared “tag…you’re it!”
We laughed and I cried.
The most beautiful part of this whole gut wrenching experience was that we were able to hold Maya, pet her and tell her how much we loved her…until she breathed her very last breath. I can still feel her breath on the back of my hand as I held her paw.
Beth left us alone with her until we were ready for her to take her. I held Maya and sobbed, getting mascara on her white fur. George stayed by my side, rubbing my back as I hugged her…the strong support that he always is.
I’m crying as I type this. My heart is still so sad.
Why I’m sharing Maya’s story…
The reason for sharing Maya’s story is to let you and others know there is a special option to help your beloved pet move onto a peaceful place. There is something so beautiful when you can share a meaningful goodbye with your fur babies.
They are part of our homes. They are a part of our lives. They are a part of our hearts.
My other reason for sharing Maya’s story is because we loved her so much and we wish everyone could have known her. Writing this post is somewhat therapeutic; we have bragging rights and always will. She was one stunning creature! Don’t you agree?
I’ll never forget this experience, nor will George. He was hesitant to have me there because
- I’m so emotional, and
- The last time he went through this, we had to put our Paco down in Texas. It was not peaceful. Paco seemed to know what was happening and looked into his eyes with fear as his heart stopped beating.
If you’re going through a tough time like this, here are some resources to help you.
Veterinary Wisdom Pet Parents provides resources, products and referrals to provide you with helpful support during your stages of planning.
The PAUSE Program: offers counseling or consultation appointments for emotional support for pet loss, assessment and resource referral services. This is part of the University of Tennessee Veterinary Social Work Program. PAUSEline: (865) 755-8839
4 Paws Farewell: this is Dr. Beth’s site.
We are so grateful.
I want to thank April for capturing beautiful moments with Maya. April, you are so kind and loving with what you do. You’re understanding, compassion, and empathy for what Maya was going through will never leave me, especially when I look at the photos you took of her. What you give to the world is a treasure. Never stop!
I also what to offer a huge thank you to Dr. Beth. Your compassionate heart and soul were so comforting. You’re right…it did SUCK! Even though time heals hearts, that will never be easy. YOU help people in ways I could have never dreamed of. George and I will never forget you. You hugged me as if we’d known one another forever. Times like these create fast friends…thank you. By the way, you and my brother would make great vet partners…just sayin. He’s got your same gift.
Thank you to Dr. Tim and his staff for taking great care of Maya. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate your time on the phone Tim and your recommendation of Dr. Beth! P.S. you remind me a bit of my brother. That’s a compliment.
To my brother Sean, who is always there to answer my questions, give me honest feedback and understanding, and be with me through my tears and heartbreak. You are an amazing doctor, and brother, and I’m so proud of how you too help pet parents adjust and get through these difficult moments. You are so gifted, just the way God intended you to be.
To our family and friends who shared love and understanding with us.
Thank you. GOD for Maya! You did good! Forever she is in our hearts. She’s free to roam and play with you up there…till we see her again.
Thank you all for the gifts of time with Maya. For the memories. For the grace. For the love.
Love on your pets. Take photos and videos. Find ways to remember the moments, and always make the most of them. For one day, they will be gone.
I made these little prints for my kids and ourselves. I can’t show you how I did it, simply because Maya is up in heaven now. There are smudges and mistakes due to the fact that I made them the morning of. They are not perfect, but what is. The important thing is that we have her print and we made a new memory once again.
Should you want to make a Paw Print Card with your pet…
1. Cut cardstock to your desired size. I cut cards to 5×7 with a paper cutter, in case they get framed. No paper cutter? Scissors and a straight line work perfectly too.
2. Get a paint brush and paint (pick a color you love).
3. Trim the fur from their paws. Maya had a bunch and that’s why our prints are so unique. If they are sensitive, like Maya was, you can also use electric clippers to trim fur away.
4. Paint their paws and stamp them on the paper. Maya was laying down and she wasn’t very cooperative that morning, so they are all different.
5. Have a washcloth with soapy water to clean their paws. I washed her paws but didn’t get all the paint off. I left to get more cloths and she decided she’d had enough of me and my craft idea, so she got up to move. I came back to find black paw prints on the rug. The acrylic paint came up easily enough with soapy water, but I honestly didn’t care.
6. Find a font you love and print it on a piece of paper. Lay the card over the printed “name”, against a window for light, and trace it. Other options: print on a piece of cardstock before you stamp their paw. OR hand write the name if you prefer.
7. I added her time of life on the back of each print. You can also date the artwork as you create them.
If you, or someone you know, are going through a difficult decision like this, know that there are great resources to help you. Please share this story and information with them. Together, we may be able to help someone through their tough time.
God bless you and your families, including your four legged babies.