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What Muttville Means To Me: The Story of Collette

What Muttville Means To Me: The Story of Collette

I truly miss the joy my fospice girl brought me everyday. In honor of Collette, I want to share my great experience of fostering and hospicing for Muttville. Even if it comes with sadness, what I’ve gained because of her is immeasurable.

I loved an old, weathered Border Collie. Her name was Collette.

January last year, she was delivered to my door, having traveled all night via transport from Los Angeles. After receiving heartfelt emails from shelter volunteers who gave her the name Collette and pleaded with Muttville to save her life, Sherri knew she belonged with us.

A scared and unhappy dog, Collette chose to keep to herself and curl up in a bed in a corner of my house for 7 days. Sherri nicknamed her “the saddest face in the world,” and we lovingly described her this way on her profile. Her eyes reflected a lost, displaced dog who could not make sense of why she was here or where she belonged. Collette did not do well at adoption events, always looking around like she was waiting to see someone or something familiar. I later learned that this was an inherent part of her personality.

Our first hike together at Land’s End I will never forget. She smiled for the first time, and she began to carry herself with purpose. We didn’t know each other well yet, but she stayed right next to me. If I fell behind, she would slow down and look back at me as if to say, “hey, i’m waiting for you!” In over 20 dogs that I fostered, this was the first time I felt a bond. We were yin and yang. And it seemed that she had decided I was her “someone.”

Her initial vet check included a biopsy of a large growth on her front paw. I knew it could be a tumor, but I certainly wasn’t prepared to hear our vet say she would only have 3-6 months to live. I was equally unprepared to hear Sherri say, “Let’s cut off her leg if it can save her life.” The day I brought her in for surgery I was a nervous wreck. The vet would not know how much of her leg he would remove until he was in surgery. Luckily, she ended up losing only one toe in her paw. But the bad news was the tumor appeared again just a few days later.

Having mass-cell cancer and possibly a short time to live, Collette joined Muttville’s hospice program. I committed to learn all I could about caring for a dog with cancer and researched holistic treatments. She started chemo and steroids as well. I shared her story with Pet Nutrisystems, and as a result a majority of her holistic cancer supplements were donated by customers who lost their pets to cancer. I was touched by the selflessness of pet owners who, amidst their grief, took the time to donate their unused treatments to help Collette and other dogs in Muttville’s hospice program.

Although the term “hospice care” means caring for someone facing an end of life situation, I decided that I would look at this as an opportunity to beat the odds, a challenge to see if I could give her more life. Her diagnosis motivated me to take her for special hikes every Saturday morning. It became our weekend ritual, and it also helped me to rest my “workaholic” self. When we were enjoying a beautiful view or peaceful spot together, I’d realize how much I needed it for my health as much as hers. I also knew that I wouldn’t be there if not for Collette.

Muttville volunteers re-named her “no longer the saddest face in the world”, and everyone knew Collette and I were meant to be together. At times we’d walk with other dogs and friends, and no matter what, Collette was always next to me. Even at home she stood up when I did and had to know what I was up to. She never acted like she was following me. She carried herself like she was just doing her job.

After a year, it felt inappropriate to call her my “hospice” dog. She was so healthy, her coat was shiny, and she had no signs of cancer. Muttville profiled Collette in its Winter 2010 newsletter, celebrating her extended life. I thought she would be with me for years to come, and it was easy to believe looking at her smiling face, excited for her weekend hike.

I wasn’t prepared for the sudden turn of events that happened last week. It wasn’t even cancer that took her in the end. During the unexpected final moments that Tuesday morning, she was cradled in my arms. I wasn’t ready for her to go, and I begged her to stay. I believed Collette would fight it all the way, if only her frail body was as strong as her desire to stay by my side. The night before, I slept beside her, holding her paw. She was looking at me steadily, eyes wide open. It was almost 3:00 am and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I fell asleep as she watched over me. Perhaps she already knew.

Our life together lasted a year and three months. Missing her is unbearable still, and it’s so hard to believe she is gone. I think about that January when she entered my world, how I thought I was going to give her more life. Words can not describe how much life she gave me.

Because of her, I’ve learned about cancer care for dogs, enabling me to help Muttville in a more special way. The best gift Collette gave me during our 15 months together was a lifetime of love, loyalty, and memories I will never forget.

When my time comes, Collette just might be at the end of my life’s road, looking back at me, as if to say, “hey, i’ve been waiting for you…”

mariem3 | 04.02.11
Comments

This brought tears to my eyes. Collette was a working dog and believe her work here is done. Let the healing begin.
Thanks Muttville!

mobuki | 04.02.11 04:46pm

A gorgeous piece, Marie….But I didn’t cry, (yet)...I felt your strength and love and what you two shared….Yes, there comes an unspeakable, hardly bearable sadness when this happens…..

ksnasat | 04.02.11 05:50pm

I am so very very sorry or your loss, I’m in tears right now. A year ago today I lost my sweet Brutus (14 years young) so this sad news hit home.
I do regularly donate to Mutville, but have made a donation today in honor of Collette’s life and your kind heart.
Just remember her paw prints will be forever etched on your heart and she WILL be wating for you and will meet you with her sweet face saying “Let’s go on our hike now”.

Joannie | 04.02.11 06:06pm

A beautiful tribute both to a wonderful dog and to the joys of senior adoption. I always tell people that old dogs pack more love and life into a single day than most people do into a year. You were lucky to have one another.

grumbledog | 04.02.11 06:16pm

Blessings to Collette on her journey, and sincere thanks to Marie for sharing the story of a most special, life-saving love! I cross posted on my FB.

LTG | 04.02.11 07:45pm

Thanks for sharing your story of Collette! I have witnessed the hard work that Sherri has done to get Muttville’s presence known and to get people involved with opening their hearts and hoes to our much loved and sometimes misunderstood 4 legged companions. We lost one of our dogs to Cancer, which grew undiagnosed for years until it was too late to put our little Athena through the arduous process of cancer treatments for her throat cancer. Even when the going got tough for her her spirit never wavered. I am glad that you had the time and experience to share a life with Collette that undoubtedly will also touch the hearts and lives of many other people from your sharing of your story with her. Thanks for having the courage to adopt and to foster when you can!

Jesse

jessegxoxo | 04.03.11 02:59am

Marie, the sweetness and generosity of your spirit shines through in your wonderful telling of the story of Collette. Some people, as well as some creatures, have more to tell us about the sweetness of life- and that is certainly true for the two of you.

I’m crying right now, but there’s quite a bit of gratitude in those tears for your story and being reminded of how important it is to stay present and enjoy the ones we love right here in the moment.

Thank you for sharing Collette’s story with all of us.

Rita | 04.03.11 06:52am

R.I.P. Colette, you were lucky to find Marie and have such a great end…

Patz | 04.03.11 09:02am

How can I feel so strongly about a dog I never met? Because of you, Marie. Collette made her way into a lot of peoples’ hearts because of you. Just the other day a client wrote me to ask about Collette. I told her Collette’s cancer was still in remission and doing well, so to get this news today was a shock. I am so sorry to hear she is gone and I know will you miss her. Let us know if/when you have another cancer patient that we can help.

Lee Ann Cox
Pet NutriSystems
www.petnutrisystems.com

lacox702 | 04.03.11 12:27pm

So sorry for the loss of your beautiful Collette. It was SO obvious Collette had chosen YOU for her mom & best friend…

Jennie

jrc | 04.03.11 02:36pm

What a warm and beautiful way you tell the story of Colette and you. Now I just need to have a tissue next to the computer.

How good it is that she had you for the last part of her time here.

Thank you for such commitment to the animals. You definitely walk the talk.

carolina | 04.07.11 05:10am

Oh, Marie! What a beautifully written tribute to Colette about what caring for an older or hospice dog is all about. The life and joy you shared together is a beautiful example of how precious every day is, and how it is quality and not quantity. Thank you so much for sharing this touching story. Wishing you much love and comfort until you meet again.

Julie | 04.08.11 03:07pm

thank you so much for sharing your story!

I just had to put a senior dog down and although i had him since he was one year old, this is another reminder of how much senior dogs need love and how awesome they are.

kudos to you for taking on such a big task of taking care of a wonderful, older sick dog.

you made her golden years fantastic. I hope you find love in a four legged friend again soon.

cheers,
donna :)

donaliza | 04.14.11 12:59am

Marie:

My heart goes out to you, having lost several dogs
over the years through old age and illness, and
treasuring the two dogs I have in my life right
now. You gave Collette the quality of life she
deserved and the good memories will stay with you
forever.

Jutta

JubriH | 04.16.11 07:56am

“The lessons of simplicity teach us to love deeply and to let go; to savor each sound, taste, sight, and smell and to let go; to cherish each moment as a precious gift and to let go; to appreciate with profound sensitivity each connection with others, every thought and feeling, every birth and death, and to be a calm presence and conscious participant in their natural unfolding and passing. The path of simplicity is learning to live in harmony with the rhythms of life and each moment. It is a path of joy and freedom.”
Christina Feldman,
author of “The Buddhist Path to Simplicity”

Nancy | 04.27.11 12:50pm

RIP Collette I’m so happy I got to spend some time with you at adoptions and Marie thank you for being the best fospice Mom a dog could ever have.
I handed the Ipad to my Mom this past Sunday at the Walnut creek event to show her the blog and the next thing I know she’s crying!!
Marie your a class act at all levels and I’m so lucky to know you.

jdis2006 | 05.06.11 01:01am

I’m so glad you found each other in this life.

anniesgirl | 05.23.11 09:03pm

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