To tell the story of the original three Mehaffey dogs, we have to round it out by talking about Sawyer. Sawyer was by far the BEST out of the three – Harley barked at people and was cranky (though he has my heart forever), Fiona bit other dogs and was extremely ill behaved….Sawyer was this calm and accepting presence that liked every dog and every person he met. He was a pitty with a giant head, who had the gentlest disposition. He came into our lives when we certainly didn’t need a third dog – it was the summer we were getting married, we had just moved into our new SMALL townhouse with a tiny, tiny yard, and I was about to start vet school in the fall. So yeah…three dogs was not exactly on the agenda.
However, there was just something about him. He was surrendered to my job at only 10 weeks old and we were fostering him, and after a he went out and came back, I just knew he had to stay. Even as a puppy he was so mellow. From a young age he earned the nickname Eeyore and he truly acted that way. He was the dog who would go with me whenever I needed a volunteer for presentations for kids – there would be 20 kids crowded around loving him, and he would sit there in all his glory, just soaking it in. He is the unsung hero of my crew – he was always this wonderful personality that just quietly asked you to be his friend and to pet him. I always said he was the poster child for pitbulls – everyone who met him fell in love. So many people who were afraid of the breed would meet Sawyer and he would help them change their mind.
Sawyer loved to give kisses too – we called them lick-slaps because he was so intense with his kisses…they would knock you back with how MUCH he loved you. When Connor was a tiny baby if we made the mistake of leaving any traces of food on his face when he was on the ground playing, Sawyer was all over him, drowning him in kisses. He was such a good boy.
It just fits his personality that of the three, he was the first to get sick. When he was only 10 years old, I found a bleeding spot in his mouth that looked like he had chewed something and irritated his gums. I started him on antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories, and kept an eye on it. Just three days later, what had appeared to be irritation was now clearly a mass. I brought him in that next day and Jen removed the area and we biopsied it – which confirmed what I already knew – it was osteosarcoma in his jaw. Osteosarcoma is an extremely aggressive bony tumor, that was already invading the entire side of his lower jaw. I immediately consulted with an oncologist friend of mine, and we discussed our very limited options – either a radical surgery to remove over half of his lower jaw, which would possibly not even get it all, or aggressive radiation therapy, which would only maybe slow it down by a few months, at best. My god…what horrible, heartbreaking options, right?
Here I am with my (relatively) young, amazing dog – I would literally move the EARTH to save, and I can’t. Talk about heartbreak. I cried – so much crying. I knew my dog – he would not do well with a radical surgery, and I just could not justify putting him through radiation to buy him only months, and at what cost to his comfort and happiness? No, there was only one choice – love the hell out of him, check things off his bucket list, and get ourselves ready to say goodbye.
We did a cherish photo session with him, which I cried through the entire thing. He loved food – so my mom baked him his very own cake with a big glass of milk. You should have seen his eyes when I told him ‘go ahead’ and he could dive in and eat the whole damn thing. We took just him camping for the weekend, and I’m so glad we did – what wonderful memories we made that weekend loving him and giving him everything he wanted.
He did ok for about a month – but as the tumor grew it also grew more difficult for him to eat. He started dropping food, then struggling to chew. I softened his food, and even switched to all soft food mush that made it really easy to eat, but we all knew it was coming. The day we decided was the day is forever etched in my memories. We got up that morning and he didn’t want to eat, and when I tried to coax him his tumor started bleeding, and just wouldn’t stop. He looked at me with his sad Eeyore eyes and I knew – this was it. People always ask me – ‘how will I know when it’s time?’ Sawyer being the first dog I ever had to make this decision, I even asked myself the same question – how will I know? Trust me when I tell you, you will know. I looked at him and he at me, and I just knew – this was it, it was time.
I am so thankful to Sawyer – he taught me so much about love and patience, and about the pitbull breed. He is why I love them so much, and he inspired many others to love the breed too. He left this world at home, surrounded by love and sobbing friends and family, in the most peaceful way, on his favorite bed. To this day his pictures make me smile, and I see so much of him in Tully (our newest addition) – so I like to think that a piece of him lives on in him. All three of our original pups had such a huge impact on who I am as a person and as a vet. Though I miss them all deeply, their memories live on forever – the greatest gift that he gave me was teaching me how to say goodbye, and that is something that I will be forever grateful to him for teaching me. Until we meet again, my big-headed meatball.