7/26/2011 to 8/8/2023
Virtual Memorial Page
A SORROWFUL GOODBYE
***Trigger Warning - Pet Loss/Death/Grief/Pet Abuse***
Written By Victoria Elena Nones - Founder/CEO of Sit Social
Reading Time 10 mins
Mabel the white frenchie, who is the logo of the Sit Social business, has been a joyful and loving part of my life for the last 7 years. Every day with her was a blessing, and her ability to grow and triumph from a trauma filled beginning of life - into the loving, affectionate girl she was on her final days - is inspiring and heartwarming. I'd like to share a bit about her life story below, about my experiences going through this monumental loss, and provide some links and resources for the coping tools and services that have helped me through this difficult time. This page will be her living virtual memorial, and at the bottom of this page, you are welcome to leave comments of support, memories of Mabel, photos of Mabel, share your own personal stories of pet loss, or send a condolence message.
Mabel is my first personal dog that I've had to put to rest and the experience has been a trauma that I do not wish anyone to endure, and yet so many of us have endured this type of loss or will in the future. Pet loss and grief is not honored or discussed enough in our culture and society - and I hope we can all work together to give more voice, share more stories, talk openly about the grief, and change the way pet loss is viewed and handled in our society. Mabel was not 'just a pet', she was a beloved member of my family and was like my child. My heart goes out to all who have had to put a beloved pet to rest, and for those who will experience this in the future, please know that I am here to share my courage, strength, hope and resources to aide in that grieving process- so please don't hesitate to reach out. The biggest thing I've learned from all of this is that surrounding myself with people who love me and were willing to share in my heartache, while also having plans in place ahead of time (ideal plan A and emergency plan B) - can help ease the suffering and stress that the final days bring on your pet and yourself/family. This grief of her passing is a part of me now. It will never go away, but I will learn to grow around it.
As a single woman, choosing not to have human children, Mabel and her sister dog Bettie are my kin. Mabel has provided unconditional love, joy, and so much happiness in my life. I already miss her squeezable little jowls and her the outline of her black mouth against her white fur, her sweet round little belly, her snorts and grunts, and being able to walk her off leash because she'd follow me anywhere - as she always wanted to be by my side. Putting her to rest has been one of the most heart breaking decisions and experiences I have gone through, and I highly recommend taking the time to put end of life plans in place now for the pets you love, to ease that stress and burden when your beloved's time comes.
Thank you to all the friends and family who have been here to support me during these awful few weeks including my mother Marla, my sister Jenny, my nephew Rae En, my cousins Uyen & Charlie, Billy & Stephanie, my Auntie Monica, my brother Len - his wife Amanda - my nephew Sedwyn - and my niece Era, my niece Zurie, my close friends Brittany, Mayra, Tabi & Austin, Nathaniel, Amber, Danielle & Brody, Nicole, Tornu, Bob, Mark, and my beloved Sit Social team Nelly, Sarah, Jackie, Kimy, Dom, Cee, Caley, Aasia, Sophia, & Jack. Your time, love, and support has meant the world and I wouldn't have gotten through this without all of you. Thank you to the lap of love support group members for sharing their stories and support - especially Karen, Paula, Meg, and Christiana (who is the anticipatory pet loss grief support group leader). Thank you to the entire team at Premier Veterinary Hospital (Dr. Becky Ritchie, Dr. Amanda Full, Katie, Jacq, Kaitlyn, Taylor, Adrian, and all the customer care team for answering all of my calls and questions) Scout Urgent Veterinary Care (Dr. Monick, Dominique, & Dr.Simpson for supporting me and seeing Mabel last minute on bad days) and Dr. Tyler with Lap of Love for helping her be put to rest, for Dr. Nancy Curotto Psy D & Dr. Khrystyna Savchuk MD for supporting me through my grief. I am forever grateful to everyone who has been part of this journey.
Although I have an abundant group of friends and family to talk to and support me through this trauma - having experts who understand and can provide healthy coping tools and a safe space to process, as well as the power of community storytelling/connecting with others going through the same experiences at the same time - has been so helpful during this awful experience. Let's all work together to change the disenfranchised grief that comes with pet loss, to share resources like these with our friends, family, and loved ones - and may anyone still suffering from this grief find moments of peace and communities of support. You are not 'crazy', needing extra support doesn't make you 'weird' , holding goodbye ceremonies or funerals are not 'too much', and you do not need to 'get over it'. Anyone who says things like this to you does not deserve to be part of your process. You deserve to grieve, have support, and create ceremonies and memorials that are meaningful to you if you are losing a beloved family member. I will also say that if you are in a position of power/authority/influence or even if you just wish to start the conversation at your place of employment - I encourage you to consider leading the charge to offer employees paid leave for pet bereavement as we do at Sit Social. Losing my beloved has been debilitating and I know I am not alone in this experience. We all deserve time to mourn and process.
My sweet Mabel spent the first 5 years of her life cruelly confined in a cage. She was used and abused in a puppy mill down south - and her everyday existence consisted of constant pregnancies, deliveries, and stealing her babies to sell - breeding puppies for human profit. She was barely being cared for or fed properly. As a puppy mill breeding mother, she was treated as a commodity, never touching grass, never feeling love, often not being fed and having to eat her own feces to survive. She was provided limited and only necessary veterinary care to keep the puppy mill's 'product' alive, and for 5 years she never knew the human/dog bonds of love & affection.
Mabel came into my life as a foster from the Chicago French Bulldog Rescue (CFBR) CFBR saved her at an auction, so they could free Mabel from a lifetime of misery. I am forever grateful for the day they brought Mabel into my life.
What started out as me giving back to the rescue community by rehabilitating and nurturing her for 6 months into her truest, most loving self - turned into what we lovingly call a "foster fail". It was love at first underbite, and I quickly bonded to her boss bitch energy, her hilarious derpy sticking out tongue, the way she'd run and plop and roll in the grass, her smiles and snorts, and her puppy mill fight scars near her eyes that tell of her tortured past and resilience. When Mabel came to me - she had to be the only dog in the household because she would snarl and try to lunge at other dogs. She would nip at people who tried to pet her. The dog she became in her final days was a completely different dog who enjoyed time in our doggy daycare amongst dozens of pups, bonded with her best friend and sister dog Bettie, and now lovingly walks up to strangers for affection. This is in part thanks to Juliette DeGeorge who helped with her training and to all the loving staff and clients at Sit Social who spent time with her.
During the last 7 years Mabel got to travel all over the country - and even once internationally - she traveled with me on planes, car rides with her head out the window, stroller rides, and next to my heart - snuggled in tight for baby bjorn adventures. She has seen countless beaches, mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers. Mabel adored sunbathing, scratching her body on walls/wood like Baloo from the jungle book, and her love language was physical touch. You could win her over easily and melt her heart with a nice brushing session using her orange furminator. She has eaten tableside at numerous patios and restaurants. She would come to work with me at Sit Social daily making the dog hotel her second home. I loved her free spirit, sweet heart, and queen of the castle vibes as she would greet humans and dogs at the business front Barkery space. Mabel was spoiled with 'human food' constantly, she was cooked for daily, provided ample snuggles, kisses, sassy dog collars/bandanas/doggles/necklaces, a small Mercedes to ride around in for hilarious videos, and given the best of everything a dog could ever ask for including all the pupcakes and tasty treats she wanted from the Barkery. She has been accompanied on all her adventures by her sister from another mister - Bettie the Boston Terrier - who I also "foster failed" from CFBR shortly after adding Mabel to my family. Both of them are with me almost 24 hrs per day and therefore it makes this loss that much more difficult to bear. I had hoped she would be one of the oldest living frenchies, but my sweet baby just had her 12th birthday and then things took a turn for the worse.
I had noticed she was becoming slower on walks starting in June/July, sometimes didn't want to come/would be a little less responsive to commands on walks/zoning out a little over the course of a few weeks. I wasn't sure if it was because it was hot outside, she was tired, or she had arthritis or what was wrong. Her same day booked vet checkup at Scout on July 17th didn't show anything significant. On July 22 I returned from a trip and Mabel was not herself - she did not greet my return with her usual smiles and excitement - but instead with a drunken disorientation and glazed looks. What started as just slowness and seeming tiredness on walks rapidly declined into a different dog. I immediately rushed her to the ER at Premier Veterinary Hospital on Belmont. It was a whirlwind of heartbreaking news as I found that she likely had a brain tumor. After this terrible discovery, I was met with an onslaught of anxieties - How can I help her? How much time does she have? Will I wake up to her gone? Is she in pain? Do I put her through more painful treatments to buy limited time? When do I let her go? What would she want? Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right thing? This part of the process was the hardest on me as I was racked with immense guilt - feeling like nothing I did would be 'right' and that no amount of time I could buy her would ever be enough. During these anxiety and guilt ridden days, I utilized Taylor St. Onge at Premier Veterinary Hospital (she is their free veterinary social worker for pet loss!) as an amazing resource for ways to handle this anticipatory grief, assess Mabel's quality of life, and provide resources for end of life services.
The entire team at Premier was so compassionate and caring from her first day in the ER to the final phone call telling me it was her time. I was pointed to and highly recommend Lap of Love FREE virtual pet loss support groups to feel less alone during the processing, and found Nancy Curotto Psy.D who specializes in one on one pet loss/grief therapy to provide coping tools and wisdom. And, if you suffer from sleepless nights or paralyzing anxiety while going through this - I recommend my primary care physician Dr. Khrystyna Savchuk, MD who helped me with low dose emergency medications for sleep/hard days and to compensate for the rough nights where neither Mabel or I got sleep.
The next day after hearing this devastating news, and after two nights of no sleep - I booked a photographer named Nadia with Barking Dog Images. I discovered her services from a list of end of life photographers with The Tilly Project and scheduled an end of life photoshoot with my baby right away since I didn't know how much time we would have left. Thank you Nadia for getting us in for a 6am photoshoot the next day!
Although I was completely sleep deprived, anxious, running on fumes and no food - we scheduled it for the morning after I got Mabel's bad news. I look forward to seeing these photos soon and framing my favorites as a way to remember the love we shared always. I'm so glad I did this end of life photoshoot - because within two weeks - her symptoms rapidly progressed to a point where there was nothing more we could do for her.
Her final days were agonizing - unable to rest or get comfortable without having extreme pain/panting/falling over/brain traumas every 1-2 hours. I did not wish for things to get worse, and I wanted to ensure she went out with dignity - as Sandi from CFBR said to me, "This is what we sign up for as pet parents, and it is your job to make sure she leaves this world with dignity."
As Nancy Curotto said to me "When we get a pet, we make a contract with them - they give us unconditional love, and in return, we agree to be responsible for them, and in their final days - to speak for them." There was a moment between Mabel's episodes where - even though she was mentally gone- for one moment she looked up into my eyes as if to say "please end this suffering mom." And I had to do the painful thing and speak for her.
On Tuesday August 8, 2023 I spent my last moments with my sweet angel. She accompanied me to buy a dress for her goodbye day, got a final spa mud bath at Sit Social, was fed popsicles and easy cheese by the Sit Social staff, took photos and videos, given ample cuddles, ate two huge slices of pizza, and got to take her final walk at Montrose Harbor. After reading her goodbye letter, and holding her as she was administered her sedation shot, at 3:45pm CST she was given her end of life injection, and she took her final breaths in my arms. It was the kind thing to do to let her pass on in the comfort of my arms at the Montrose Harbor lakefront - one of our favorite spots to go walking daily. I carved her name into a giant tree there -because at the foot of the tree is where we had our final moments with my mother Marla, my nephew Rae En, my friend Mayra, and my friends/family Jenny, Uyen, Nathaniel, & Tornu who joined us virtually - with Dr.Tyler helping her pass on (through Lap of Love in home euthanasia services). I am forever grateful that she was able to pass in a place she loved outdoors, without any fear, and even though it was emotional agony for me - I was able to end her physical body's suffering. I take on the pain of this loss, so that she no longer had to suffer or be in pain.
Thank you to all of our Sit Social team who were a special part of her last day (Nelly, Sarah, Cee, Dom, Caley who drew beautiful sketches of my sweet girl, & Rae En). Thank you to the family and friends who were there with me at the most heart-wrenching moment of saying goodbye.
My sweet Mabel is already dearly missed, and you are welcome to share any kind words, memories of Mabel, photos, stories of your own pet loss/process, or condolences below. All are welcome. Please be sure to end your message with your name so I know who left the message/comment. An End of Life ceremony celebrating all the love she gave and sharing a video memorial tribute will be held at the Sit Social Barkery for her in the coming weeks.