** I realize this is long, and it's naught to me who reads it or who doesn't. We all grieve in our own ways, and I find writing to be therapeutic. My only message, really, is that if you can, be there with your best friend as they leave this world. They will be scared and looking to you for comfort, guidance and support. Was it hard? You bet. I DID give my children the option, but they stood firm on wanting to be with her at the end, and I couldn't be more proud of them for having the courage to do so. **
A little over a week ago, my children and I made the joint decision that it was time to let our sweet Comet go. Over the past few months, she had been repeatedly falling, could not stand up on her own nor walk very far without assistance, and, the big tell, she stopped eating. Comet was my first poodle and a once in a lifetime dog. My daughter was 2 years old when we made the 1,000 mile journey to Virginia to pick her up, making frequent stops because my toddler was in the process of being potty trained. I had searched for close to a year for the perfect poodle. "They" will tell you that the perfect poodle does not exist. "They" would be wrong. Comet's breeder, Edith Coradazzi, grilled me. I remember during my search sending out nearly 50 emails initiating contact with breeders. I had a list of questions, and Edie answered them all, then turned the interview on me. When she decided, finally, that I would be acceptable, she had me ship some clothes and a crate to her home. She let me choose (remotely) out of 2 of the girls that she felt would suit what I wanted. Although very similar, I chose the rose collared girl. She put my clothes in the kennel with that puppy for the weeks until I made the drive up to VA. When I walked in the front door, out of the 11 pups, the rose collared girl turned towards me first. I can only assume it was because she recognized my familiar scent.
Many have wondered about her name. That is what happens when you let your 2 year old child name the family dog! Comet loved to jump. She was a vivacious and brilliant pup. Jillian (my daughter) said she was like a comet. It seemed to fit. I attended a puppy match in Folsom, LA, about an hour from home, where I was building a new construction as a real estate investment project and happened to see a sign advertising the AKC sanctioned event. Comet and I stopped in to check it out, and we were instantly grabbed up by Meg Wood, a handler who lived about 30 mins from home. Was it fate? Maybe! Meg exchanged grooming lessons for help with her beautiful Airedales, and an unbreakable bond was formed among the 3 of us.
In the midst of these new beginnings, and shortly after acquiring this pup, Jillian, Comet, and I were forced out of our home due to hurricane Katrina. I remember when my grooming supplies all fit in a fishing tackle box. That is what I took so that I could keep her in show coat regardless of the circumstances. Grooming her became my therapy as I struggled with the loss of my home, community, and displacement of my close-knit family. We spent 6 months in Marietta, GA, and I was fortunate enough to have help from breeder/groomer/handler Michele Polito (Allure poodles), who took the better part of her day helping me trim and talking to me about show coat. Michele was from New Orleans. I will never forget her kindness and generosity to a newbie. She was incredibly selfless and knowledgable.
Meg's house in Metairie had sustained less damage than my own which was only a couple of miles from one of the levee breaches, but her fence had been lost in the storm, and her grooming assistants were displaced. She invited me, Comet, and Jill to come home and stay with her until my house was livable again. I accepted, and the journey continued. Eventually I was back in my home, and Meg moved to North Carolina.
So much happened in my life in the years that followed - another child, marriage, divorce, bankruptcy, new relationships, breakups, relocations, new career paths, school, more school, new dogs, puppies. The list is long, but Comet was my faithful companion through every item. She was my comfort when I was sad, my napping buddy, my study partner, my babysitter, my grooming and show guinea pig, my puppy raiser, my walking buddy, my running buddy, my confidant, my therapist, and my best girl. I used to joke that if she had thumbs she would have made my coffee. I often called her my best half and my right hand. My children grew up with her loving presence, and she was one of the few constants in their lives. I should also mention that she was an exquisitely talented counter surfer, food thief, and trash aficionado. I had to make many changes to the kitchen in order to meet her talents. She could take pizza out of the box without disturbing its position on the counter, trash out of the foot-pedal lid, and meat out of a sandwich without disturbing the bread. I'm not even lying. We laugh often about her antics. She was always my first choice as the canine partner when socializing a new puppy. She was both social and confident, eagerly greeting the world with a wagging tail. She instilled this confidence into her charges. She was a shepherd to the poodles and cats. It was only with her assistance that I was able to recover my Armani when he was lost and terrified in full blown flight mode and unresponsive to his humans. I released Comet off of her leash, and she navigated the dark ditch and brush to get to him. If she could've spoken, I imagine she must have said "Get in the car, fool. You're being rescued." Armani immediately snapped out of it, followed her back, and jumped in the car. Just like that.
Comet remained active, jumping the baby gates in the house until she was about ten years old. As she progressed, it was harder for her to do the things she loved. We got her a wagon so she could still be included in our walks, for she would try to the point of exhaustion to keep up. As fate would have it, Meg came to town earlier this year while Comet could still get around. I took Comet and my children to the dog show in Gonzales to see Meg, and what a blessing it was to do that. Comet was like a stubborn old lady and refused stay in her wagon at the show. She walked around the entire center with a pig ear in her mouth, greeting everyone and generally owning the place. She slept for the next 3 days after that exertion! I still chuckle about that.
Very recently, as she failed, and in between sobs, I explained to my beautiful children what was happening to our dog and what options that we had. While hard to swallow, the three of us agreed that her time was closing in, and we wanted to be with her at the end. As a family, the three of us faced the harsh reality of saying goodbye to our girl.
I am fortunate enough to have relationships with two of the most amazing veterinary clinics. One is around the corner and the other in mid city New Orleans. I opted to take Comet around the corner since they know us, and my other vet was going to be out of town. In her final days, I reflected on our life together. I can count the times that Comet was sick on one hand. She had an ear infection when she was a pup and once again as an adult, kennel cough that she contracted at a dog show, and diarrhea when she was a new dam. That's it. She had diarrhea in her final days and it was indicative of a GI bleed as well. She was failing before our eyes and could no longer walk, stand, drink water, or eat on her own. We still held her up and hand fed her home made meals. We dragged her dog bed from room to room so she could hang out wherever we were. We pushed her in her wagon so she could come with us on walks. She still made a faint "woof" twice nightly, soft as a whisper, for me to get out of bed and help her to the yard to do her business. She was in a great deal of discomfort but ever stoic in her pain. That was my girl. She enjoyed life until the end. She loved her wagon rides and had one on her final day. I took her to my mom's so she could say good bye to her friends and family there.
We made the appointment for Saturday morning, Sep 22. Coincidentally, it was my late friend and handler Sherri Vidrine's birthday. I didn't realize it until the day, and the thought brought me into a bittersweet emotional state. It felt as though I was giving my dear friend the best birthday present in the world. I was giving to Heaven a piece of my heart and soul. We spent the morning loving on Comet and trying not to cry. She mostly refused her breakfast. We took her for her last wagon ride. As we made our entrance into the clinic, the sympathetic faces ushered us into a private room. I laid her giant fleece bed on the cold table and we gently placed her on her familiar bed. This is when I started to break down. It was really hitting me that these were to be our final moments with the best dog on the planet, and it really sucked to believe that. My children and I tried to get it together for her sake, and we loved on her as the tech shaved her leg and placed the IV catheter. They gave us a book to read and let us take as long as we needed. We read a book together. When sweet Dr. Amster peeked her head in the door, I nodded at her. She said some soothing words to my kids. Comet lifted her head to greet the vet, and Dr. Amster gave her a loving look and head pat. She reassured the crying kids "This is how you want it to be, guys. I know it's hard but this is the best way to go." I concurred. Our beautiful girl spent her final moments embraced in the loving arms of the people she would have laid down her life for on any given day. I told her to go find Sherri, Giselle, and P-nut and whispered "Good girl" in her ear as she slipped away. We should all be surrounded by so much love, compassion, and peace in our final moments. Pictured below, the book they gave us to read and us saying goodbye to our girl before Dr. Amster came in.