I (shannon) recently spent time in a Google rabbit hole about a dog’s bucket list and the best things to do with your dog during their last day or days. Man, you want to be depressed, more than you already are when you find yourself looking for that, read the beautiful stories about how awesome pet parents are with their pups at the end.
There is no beating around the bush with this. Our sweet Betty White has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. We don’t know how many days there will be, which may be the torturous part of all of this. It could also be the blessing. When our Pharrell died, or even our cats, Kiko and Wilson, we were not given a warning.
The Dreaded Days as a Pet Parent
You begin getting that awful feeling in your stomach when your pet becomes a senior. Betty White’s arthritis has been bad for years, but not until this year did we find that she began really slowing down, not walking much at all. Instead, she wants to go for long stroller rides around our little island town. Who can blame her?!
About a month or so ago, Betty White began having a cough. The cough was random at times, but enough to notice. She was treated with an antibiotic, then a steroid that soon gave her ulcers, so we stopped and treated the ulcers. The cough worsened. We had chest X-rays, and more tests, all reviewed by our veterinarian and a vet radiologist. The results were the worst, lung cancer. She has a tumor inside her left lung.
Surgery is an option, but if successful, the life span is anywhere from 3-16 months. At her age, she would spend most of that recovering. We have decided to have her under palliative care. We want her to be as comfortable and happy as possible. We will watch her quality of life and make sure that she is enjoying her life as she always has. When she is not, or when she is struggling, or more pain arrives than her medications will pacify, we must make the difficult decision.
It’s the decision every pet parent dreads. To be honest, I dreaded it the very day that Pharrel passed away. Sweet Betty was actually lively and happy that she was now the star of the show. In our home, she had always shared the spotlight. I couldn’t get out of bed for days, and she kept me company. I cuddled with her and the anxiety of what would one day come with her began. I couldn’t even fathom her being a senior dog at that point.
I feel like I have been defined by the term “pet loss” because it had such a huge impact on my life and still does. No one wants to read the words pet loss and they sure don’t want to experience it. No matter what, as a pet mom or pet dad, you must know that your dog dying or any pet for that matter, is more than likely going to happen in your lifetime.
Anticipatory grief has been a real thing in our lives for years. Despite knowing it, when the time comes, it feels like a complete shock, and like there is no way you can live past your dog dying. There is just no way, right?
It feels like that, but from experience, you can.
What do we do, now?
We are now left with spending each and every second with Betty White, making sure that while saying goodbye, we are giving her final days the most adventure-filled days a dog can have. After all, she is our little girl, our daughter. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this for every family member?
We have come up with a list of adventures for Betty White called “Rainbow Adventures.” It is Betty White’s own, dog bucket list. Our hope is that these days that lead up to the last are the happiest of her life.
Whether you are in the middle of trying to make your dog comfortable, looking for the best in dog health, or what life care should be for your furry family members, just know that we are all doing the best that we can. Dogs know when they are loved, and they know when pet owners want the best for pet care.
Betty White’s Bucket List aka Rainbow Adventures
Here are some of the things we have done so far, and some of the things we have planned for Betty White’s Rainbow Adventures. As much as we have talked about being here now in our lives, we truly are learning to do that now.
Her Dog Bucket List
We are doing our best to fulfill Betty White’s dreams as we continue to create her ultimate Rainbow Adventures!
Golf Cart Day
Betty White LOVES riding in a golf cart. Once her gamma heard about her prognosis, she came to visit Betty and rented her a golf cart for a couple of days. We rode all over our island, watching people, other dogs, the horses, and the boats ride by splashing the water. We ended the day watching the sunset.
Ice Cream Treats and More!
Betty White has a sensitive stomach, so we have always been careful with what she eats. Well, now, we aren’t as cautious but we spread out the treats and she seems to love that. She has enjoyed a hamburger from McDonald’s, even riding through the drive-thru to order it. Ben and Jerry’s Pup Ice Cream has been a favorite! We also bought some wet food to mix in with her regular food each day. If she gets to where she is struggling to walk at all, we think she may be able to roll at some point. That is a piggie/pittie joke.
We had a DIY spa day. She had a bath in her lavender shampoo, and after, she had a mani-pedi with the most adorable pink nails you’ve ever seen. We have had several at this point now, which is a nice thing to be able to say.
OOTD Betty White Style
Each day she has had a different outfit to wear. She begins the day with a sundress or a party dress, sometimes sequins start the day off right. It doesn’t matter what she wears. She always wears it in style and loves to show off her outfit of the day!
Dinner in Bed
Betty White has always been great about her meals. She arrives in the kitchen for breakfast and dinner to eat. We decided to treat her to dinner in bed. Rather than have her leave the comfortable bed where she was enjoying the space, we prepared her dinner on a tray, along with flowers, and a candle. We think she is starting to finally understand that she is our little princess. We now feed her blueberries and cucumber bites at every meal. She loves them!
Road Trip to the NC Mountains
Fortunately, her gamma and gampa live in the North Carolina Mountains. They recently went on an international trip and I (shannon) had agreed to stay at their house with their dogs. Before Bety’s diagnosis, we had decided that she would stay at home where she is most comfortable.
Selfishly, I just could not leave her that long. After convincing Gerry, I took Betty White on a road trip with me, stopping plenty for to her stretch her legs and potty along the 6-hour drive.
Betty White has thrived during the trip. She has enjoyed being around her little furry uncles, going on scenic drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and sitting on the balcony in the mornings, overlooking her temporary kingdom. Their backyard is like their own personal dog park, so she is enjoying time with her furry friends.
A Golden Birthday Party
Not planned as part of the bucket list, but a couple of months ago, Betty White turned 13. We had a true golden girl birthday bash. We always have had birthday parties for her, but this was on another level. This was a party that any dog would love to have. We are so thankful that we were able to spend quality time with her on such a special day!
She has more toys than she knows what to do with, but she was spoiled with more toys on her special day, and actually, most days since.
Girls’ Weekend with her Cousins
Betty White was able to spend an entire girls’ weekend with her cousins, Marleigh and Hendrix. They love Betty White, but she loves them even more. The girls came to Beaufort to see Betty White. They enjoyed morning strolls down to the ocean. They enjoyed playtime and lots of cuddles.
We have always had activities with Betty White to spend time together throughout her life. We find it important to allow dogs the ability to solve doggy puzzles, show off what they can do, and be proud of themselves. We have upped our activity time along with dog treats that go along with the puzzles. Each night before bed, we have more activities, then cuddle time in her pita.
Bike Rides in her Chariot
Schwinn was so kind to send Betty White a bike dog trailer, called a Rascal. We call it her chariot. It’s not much different than her stroller, however, this can be connected to our Schwinn bikes. Now, when we want to take a bike adventure, Betty White comes along with us.
Betty White’s Rainbow Adventures Continue
It seems as though we keep saying, “Wow! Betty is thriving! What a great day!” Her cough continues, and her breathing is a little noisier, but her respiratory rate is normal. Her oxygen levels seem to be normal as well. For now, we are taking things day by day, but living each one to the fullest.
We continue to look at bucket list ideas and then consider whether Betty would love the Rainbow Adventure. If it is even remotely a yes, we do it! Some days the adventures are small like having a little more homemade soft dog food with her meals. Some days it is getting a little bit of cat food before we take it outside to the kitty colony.
Don’t wait for bucket lists!
When you hear about people making bucket lists, it seems sort of sad. Most people struggle to enjoy their bucket list moments when they wait until the end of their lives to experience them. Senior dogs deserve the world! What we have learned is that when you are fortunate enough to wake in the morning, it is a day for a bucket list moment.
None of us know how long we have. Betty White is proof of that. When we started this Rainbow Journey, we weren’t sure she would be here still. At the time of writing this, she is napping after having had another exciting, adventurous day. Today, we are grateful.
One day, when she finally crosses the rainbow bridge, we know that she will have spent much time knowing love, sunshine, and rainbows, and will feel the warmest welcome from those who crossed the rainbow bridge before her. We will be heartbroken, but we will be grateful to have had a life where our little Betty White filled our hearts with so much joy.