How cancer can slip into life

If you’re not an animal lover I suggest you skip this post. Some of us are pet people, some of us are not, I am a huge pet person. So, I am speaking to those of you who are pet people. That have pets that melt you. You literally understand their personalities . You can see when they are uncomfortable, nervous, unsure, or feeling guilty – because you haven’t found that loaf of bread they ate off the counter yet. I threaten Derek regularly that I am going to volunteer at an animal shelter. He gets all wide eyed and panicky because he knows that I will literally take home as many animals as possible. I know it too.  I am going to have a house full of quirky, lovable, and sporadic pets.

It would probably be the same scenario if I started to visit orphanages. I’d end up with a house full of kids. So, just know that if you ever come to my house there will most likely be a lot of dogs in here. I know Derek is relieved to be living on the road for a year, for the very fact that I can’t start collecting my farm yet!

My very first baby is a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. She came to me on plane from California. I remember pulling up to the terminal loading dock and watching her giant dog crate slide down. Derek and I were beyond excited to open that carrier and meet our puppy. We were both prepped, on either side of the cage, incase she decided to make a run for it when we opened the door.

We opened the door in full anticipation of a bounding puppy  leaping out at us. she was completely glued to the back of kennel. Trying as hard as she could to melt into the kennel wall itself. I had to go in on my hands and knees and lovingly pet her. This is where we made our first introductions. Then I literally dragged her out of the kennel so she could sit with me in the back seat of the car. Little did I realize this was the first glimpse into the calm, cautious, and thoughtful personality that she has.

This is my Deja. My baby. The dog that is not allowed on furniture but snuggles me to death in bed every night that Derek is out of town. She is my comfort. The person who is always happiest to see me.  I embarrassingly admit that I am “that dog mom” who made birthday cakes, puppy graduations, and annoyingly sent out family video texts of her chewing her bone…like it is the cutest thing you have ever seen.

Two weeks ago we found out that she has cancer. An aggressive, fast moving, and inoperable cancer. This year  has been filled with so much excitement but tonight as I gave her her chemo and watched her crawl into her bed I burst into tears. She has become this solid part of my life and family. She shows me the patience that the rest of the world never has. The tail wagging excitement that makes me feel like I matter. Needless to say my heart has been slowly breaking down each day as I realize her life is passing me by and that I can’t image what my family will look like with out her. It feels like each pet is perfectly made to fill in the gaps that are missing in your home life and I am not ready for her space to be empty.

I lovingly acknowledge the life that I see in those brown eyes. My heart is slowly breaking over losing her and I don’t know how to adequately express it to her. I don’t know how to tell her I don’t want to let her go. There are many daily moments that make up our home and we just follow the flow of those day in and day out. My daily moments when she is with me  in the middle of the night as I check to make sure the house is locked up. Deja regularly licking all the baby food off Wren’s face, her helpless to stop it.

That first day home, where she doesn’t come to greet me, tail wagging is not a day I feel like I can emotionally handle. It’s hard when you feel like something is yours and you have no say in whether it gets to stay or go. So I am trying to figure out how to close these last 8 years I’ve had with her. This is me over my dog-image how intense I get over other relationships! Derek better not die before me because I image that would be the worlds most depressing blog post ever!!! I guess you could call this blog therapy?

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Five Take Flight Faves

  • Chelsea Campbell
    Posted at 13:50h, 24 April Reply


    I am sorry to hear that Deja has been diagnosed with cancer, reading your blog made me cry…of course…I knew it would, but I had to read it anyway. I am also a animal, pet person, who looks forward to all those little moments shared and spent with our two dogs Callie and Gizmo. I have been following your family adventures through blogs and your Facebook page, and I am truly in awe of the strength and courage it has taken you and your family to go through will all of these plans; selling your house, travel, finding a nanny, etc. This year will be an incredible year for you and your family, no doubt about that. Deja is part of your family, she has walked with you through all of life’s uncertainties, accomplishments, additional family members (your three little ones), and she was the first ‘baby’ that you and Derek shared together. Looking into her big brown eyes knowing she will not be with you for much longer must be devastating, but please know that she will always be with you. Dogs come into our lives, and leave our lives, for a reason; it’s never easy, but feel comfort in knowing that she had the best 8 years of her life, and she has you and Derek, and the kiddos to thank for that. She has an amazing, comforting family to help her to the end of the road, and she will continue to live on in your hearts and thoughts forever. This is your chance to give her all the comfort, patience, love, and compassion she has given to you and your family throughout the years. Stay strong, and make the most out of the days that still stand with Deja by your side. xo

    • Kenzie Tillotson
      Posted at 14:31h, 28 April Reply

      I agree with you. I think our animals are always with us even if it’s no longer physically. It is my turn to return to her all the comfort she has given me these years. Thank you for these sweet message and for uplifting my spirits.

  • Kirsty van der Westhuizen
    Posted at 21:38h, 24 April Reply

    I feel compelled to suggest that you not let her suffer. Not that we ever intend to but it happens because we are just unable to let go. My only children are dogs and I have allowed my emotions to get in the way of better judgement in the past. It’s so much easier when you’re on the outside looking in, I’m full of wonderful advice when not in the throes of the ordeal! Thank God for the animals in our lives, who like you say, fill those gaps, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Stay strong but have the meltdowns when you need, as there is nothing else like these moments. So incredibly hard.

    • Kenzie Tillotson
      Posted at 14:28h, 28 April Reply

      Thank you for your reminder. You are right…some times we hold onto things longer than necessary because we aren’t ready but we need to often remove ourselves from the situation to make the better decision.

  • Renee
    Posted at 11:35h, 13 May Reply

    I am weeping as I read your words!
    I still think often of my beloved Slingky. My beautiful Chinese Shar Pei that I also lost to Cancer fifteen years ago.
    She was my rock and, although I have now other dogs, that I love as much as her, she can never be replaced.
    So what I would say to you is love her as much as you can for the rest of the time you do have with her. Give her all you can as this is what she as been giving you throughout the years. She will let you know when she is ready to cross over the rainbow bridge. And at that time let her go, you will know I am certain that it is the moment. Remember that we often try to prolong their life with medicine for our own benefit more than theirs. Cherish her now as you will cherish her memories for years after.
    My heart goes out to you and your family.

    • Kenzie Tillotson
      Posted at 21:00h, 13 May Reply

      Thank you for your sweet words and reminder to cherish my time now and the memories down the road

  • Jon Coello
    Posted at 21:23h, 17 May Reply

    I came across your post in searching for answers and trying to make any sense of my own loss. I had to make to the decision to let go of my 9 1/2 year old companion, Buddy, last month. He was a Rhodesian Ridgeback rescue I adopted at a year old. Living away from most of my family and friends, it was just me and Buddy for several years. The bond we created over that time I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have with an animal again. In having him and being his caretaker, I received a life and gifts I could have never imagined. He was always there for me with his waging tail and canine smile and his big boney and cheeky head. He was the best cuddler and knew just when somebody needed some love and healing. He followed me everywhere and had a relentless spirit.
    He was diagnosed with a cancer in the back of his nasal cavity in mid March. The mass grew to the point where it blocked his breathing completely through his nose. Everything happened so quickly and unexpectedly, as he had never been really sick in the 8 years that I had him. He kept being himself, although proper sleep eluded him like someone with severe sleep apnea. I took some time off work with the thought of getting him better, not fully understanding or believing that it was the last time we’d have together. We spent his last few day close to each other as we had in the beginning, and we did as many of the things he enjoyed doing as we could. Family and friends and loved ones that shared in my Buddy experience came to be with him too. He let me know when it was time, when he was ready to move on.
    The last few months have been the hardest I’ve had since I lost a parent more than a decade ago. I don’t have children, so he was effectively and emotionally my kid.
    I’m still in the midst of the emotions of loss and anger, so I am grateful to come across your post while searching for Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Cancer information. It has helped me process some of these, as my eyes are now swollen and the bin is full of tissues as I write this.

    I am truly, deeply, sorry about Deja’s diagnosis. I know what experiencing the love and companionship and spirit of a Ridgeback is like, and never wanting to let that wonderful feeling go.
    I can only echo what’s been said,… let go of the what if’s and be in the moment with Deja, enjoy everything you can about her and with her. There will be plenty of time to go through all the tough emotions, but now use this time to give love, treats, hugs and belly rubs. Your deep bond with Deja will let you know the rest.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience. Its brought me a little bit closer to peace and understanding, and there is where I can find my Buddy and his spirit is still with me.

    I wish you, Deja and your family blessings during this time… and big warm furry Ridgeback hug!

    • Kenzie Tillotson
      Posted at 22:00h, 17 May Reply

      Your post is so touching. I am heart broken for you and the struggle you are experiencing. Your advice is much needed. You are right I can go through the tough emotions later, now I should just give love. I’ll send some love out to you along with healing light.

  • Rachel Amov #gypsyfiddler
    Posted at 06:56h, 18 September Reply

    I lost one to cancer, an Anatolian, it’s never easy! 💔

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