For the love of Ivy

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Something that has surprised me and moved me these past few years on my Facebook feed — even more than the Russians inviting me to a PTO meeting, peculiar cat videos and what you all had for lunch even as I had another bowl of soup from George's — have been the posts about putting down pets who have made their intimate place in your hearts.

There are weeks when it has felt like endless grief as one family, then the next shares the painful news about a dog or cat who faced the vet's final visit. Usually accompanied on Facebook by a photo and a few emotional words of loss, we all immediately know the pain and the process that led to that essential family moment.

I'm writing this Monday morning knowing that I'll leave work early today to head home to gather with family and await the arrival of our exceptional vet, Aaron Vigil, who will close out the too short life of Ivy.

Ivy is one of those dogs who, several years back, were transferred by the van-full from overburdened shelters in Oklahoma and into the caring embrace of the no-kill Animal Care League in Oak Park. That was the first needle that Ivy and her sister Holly dodged as young pups. These arrivals from the South had become so common that the Journal wrote a story about the volunteers who repeatedly loaded vans and headed north.

Ivy is some sort of mixed-up mutt with a heavy pit bull lineage and a lot of what we were told, oddly, was Greyhound. Made for a dramatic-looking friend — gigantic chest, tiny waist — with a mess of energy, a sweetness and soulfulness and, still, as Mary said early this morning, as we sat with Ivy on the living room floor, always those rare flashes reminding us that she had a little wild in her that she wouldn't ever let go.

We chose not to list Ivy as a pit bull on her annual vaccine shot owing to the overwrought bias against the breed. But we knew and loved our pittie. And if it was wiser to list her as a poodle on her paperwork, then so be it.

Don't mean this to be an ad, but one of our good fortunes these past dozen years has been having a vet who comes to our house. Aaron Vigil comes whether it is time for vaccinations, the cat got into a fight and is scratched up, or the counter-cruising pit bull discovered a plate of eight uncooked pork chops and demolished them, bones and all. 

It was Ivy's four courses of the other white meat last September that led to blood work looking for uncooked pork disease. The blood test confirmed that Ivy has a cast iron stomach but also that at just 7 years old she had signs of terminal lymphatic cancer. So we've been living on four months of borrowed time, a hundred extra evening walks, and both Thanksgiving and Christmas with this lovely animal.

On Saturday afternoon as I sat in my comfortable chair watching an old movie, Ivy kept coming and standing, leaning against me. She just stayed and stayed, wanting rubs and connection. By evening she was pacing, her breathing just off from normal. And we knew the cancer had come for her. The tumors in her throat have been growing rapidly since the first of the year; her mood seemed off.

Our goal, Mary, Mariah and I, was to make it to Monday, make it until Dr. Vigil could come, and we could all gather for what has now become a loving and brutal ritual. This will be our second pooch in a row to have died young, 7-8 years. What should be Ivy's prime will now be her passing. 

To adopt a dog is to sign on for the complete cycle. 

We just need these cycles to be full cycles, not so painfully shortened.

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Reader Comments

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Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 6th, 2018 1:46 PM

Sorry for you loss. I have 3 "rescue" pets myself. They like most pets, are probably more loyal, loving and affectionate than 99% of humans. I often tell people I didn't rescue them, they rescued me. Thank you for giving Ivy a loving home. I am sure she returned the favor 10 fold.

Mark Moroney from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2018 1:12 PM

Ivy the Great Escape Artist. Joyful memories of kids chasing her up and down the block will last.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: February 6th, 2018 1:00 PM

We welcome dogs and cats into our lives, knowing full well that they will eventually and inevitably break our hearts. I may very well find myself in your unenviable position with my own 13-year-old pittie by year's end, my condolences.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 6th, 2018 8:43 AM

I'm so sorry Dan. I understand your and Mary's pain. Cancer took my 2nd dog Strider just last week. Dogs and cats are front-end loaded emotionally, so to speak. The joy they bring us is great enough to overcome the knowledge that we will inevitably feel great pain at the end.

Susan Talaber from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2018 8:12 PM

We too have had dogs and cats all our lives. They give us so much love and then some! And then we suffer the inevitable. We prayed that day would never come but knew better-it would happen someday. Our family lost our beloved Boston this past month. But we do know, she had the best life we could give her to her last days here on earth. There are so many shelter dogs that need homes, and we have a place here waiting. Its going to be a while, but we know there will be another canine critter that finds us. Thank you for your story "For the love of Ivy" it touched our hearts.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 9:13 PM

My wife Kathy grew up on a farm and was surrounded by animals. When my two daughters were about 4-5, my wife found a pair of female kittens and adopted them. The kittens not the kids. On the first night home with the kittens, I was walking down the stairs in the dark and stepped on Twinklelene. I almost killed my daughters brand new kitten. Twinkie lasted a long time and on a Christmas break home college Twinkie started to fail. We called the Vet, reserved an examination , we said our goodbyes.Twinkie was quiet on the last ride. I dropped everyone off at the door, parked the van and the 3 and the cat were already in the examination room. I walked into the exam room .Twinkie had died on my wifes lap waiting for the injection. She wouldn't allow us the pain of putting her down. I hope to die so well.

Jill O'Mahony Stewart from Oak Park   

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 3:57 PM

Oh, Dan: I'm so sorry to hear that you've lost Ivy. We loved her, too! She was such a sweet girl. Your touching column captures what we all feel when we lose our canine companions. She's with Finn and her other pals. Hugs to you, Mary and Mariah. I hope you'll take the pet plunge again. Thanks for sharing both your love and your pain with readers and this former neighbor. Jill

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