I am a photographer. I am not a writer. I am not good with my words. But I can tell a story through photos, and I hope that is what I’ve been able to do for Slava over the last 4.5 years she’s been in my care.
She came to FBRN in the summer of 2008. She had severe diarrhea – not only was she pooping, but essentially her entire bowel movement consisted of blood. She originally went to another foster home, but after she was diagnosed with IBD I volunteered to take her. We’d had Gabriel, my heart dog, and surely if we managed his IBD we could manage Slava’s, right? My naive barely 23 year old self had no doubt we’d cure her in no time.
In a few days we found out she was battling with not only IBD, but cryptosporidium. Some of the treatment for each conflicted the treatment for the other. Eventually we knocked out the crypto and were left with only the IBD.
Despite our best efforts in all areas, Slava was never able to be a normal dog. She’d seen a half dozen vets – both traditional and holistic. She’d tried at least a dozen diets. Too many meds or supplements to name. Let’s just say that the last vet we saw reviewed her records and said frankly “I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking for ME to do here. It looks like you’ve tried it all.”
But in spite of her never quite being a normal dog, she found “her” normal. She was happy. And healthy for HER. And loved her toys and food and snuggling. She just continued to poop. A lot. And there was no way I’d put a dog down for poo. No matter how not fun it was for me to deal with!
She had her bad days. But for every bad day she had many more good.
The last few weeks I’d struggled. She’d gotten stressed. She’d lost weight. And I kept saying “If I can only get her to eat more and gain weight …” but this week she told me she’d had enough. Her frail body was tired of fighting. She was ready to be at peace.
I couldn’t help but document her last few hours. When I am emotional and unable to speak, I can still photograph. I am so thankful for these images, no matter how hard they are to look at.
We spent some time in my carpeted room that she’s not allowed in. We snuggled in the sunshine on the couch. I gave her treats that she was never allowed to have due to her restricted diet. I let her lick my bowl from lunch.And then I did the kindest thing I could do for her, and I let her go to sleep.
I made sure to hold her head while she went, and I let her see me – I wanted her to see how much I loved her.