Shadrack’s Star-Spangled at Nitewater
June 22, 2013 – April 13, 2024

To me, Newfs are like light.  You know the feeling of walking into a room and turning on the light switch?  I watched a rerun of a Northern Exposure episode recently where Chris was philosophizing about light, how it is has properties that are both energy and matter (particle-like).  For me, this explains something about their presence, and their absence.  When they are here, they feel like light.  When they leave, the room feels dark and vacant.

Banner has always been independent and loved exercising her freedom and sharing her life with us.  She brought a lot of Light into our lives.  Our home was built for life with Newfs, and our van.  Now they both feel vacant, like the space occupied, while it was a mere 126 lbs., filled the void with energy and warm, touchable matter.

Each Newf who arrives here turns on the light switch.  They learn with us and grow old or older with us.  They teach us, they set examples and they help keep priorities straight.  Their light shows the Goodness that can be present in our world.  Being like light, when their energy is gone, and their Presence, we are more aware of the void. Banner would overcome her challenges, look back at me smiling and feeling strong.  When we quit going to town for walks, I began walking her up the slope by our drive, to maintain some muscle mass for joint stability.  She wasn’t sure at first, but she made it up that hill and was quite happy about it, looking back and giving me that expression that says, “Hah!  I got this.”  She has conquered a lot of obstacles with that attitude, and with some remarkable coping skills.  But about a week to ten days ago, she hit a point where she looked at me without her normal head carriage, and for the first time she seemed to say, “I don’t think I want to do this any more.”  I talked with her about it, and then once more, we found improvement, and her head was up again, alert and enthusiastic.  This lasted for about 4 days, and the change that brought her back up again was doxycycline, presumably to treat an abscess under her chin in an area that had been constantly wet from drinking.  Then she began eating less and throwing up.  I took her to MU for an abdominal ultrasound, and they said that the very reason for her improvement may have also caused or contributed to megaesophagus.  She began throwing up, even the water that she drank.  The LDDS test showed a pattern that matched Cushings, but there were a couple of parameters in her blood tests that did not fit. MU considered Myasthenia Gravis, but she had the coat loss, skin bumps and enlarged belly that are typical with Cushings.  So they said that she may have more than one thing.  Her joint muscling and skull muscling had taken a rapid decline, so a neurological cause was apparently involved.  Cushings symptoms can occur from tumors in areas of the brain and brain stem, but they wouldn’t do a CT scan until we addressed the issues with megaesophagus, so that could not be diagnosed.  This took place on Thurs.  On Wed. night, she had been getting up on her own, going outside to take care of business on her own, and eating, but less at a time.  She began a rapid decline after getting back Thurs. evening and passed Saturday – less than 2 days later – as we were preparing the van to take her in.

Looking back, I think there were subtle indications that may have been related to a developing megaesophagus issue, like when she began rejecting some foods, starting with vegetables.  In the future, I think I would do an x-ray to verify this for one who clamps their jaws about taking medication or becomes a very picky eater.  If there is no increase in the size of the esophagus, then any issue would hopefully be more treatable.  This may be a condition that increases with aging.  Soft foods may be a good practice for senior Newfs in any case.  And avoiding capsule or pill forms for supplements and medications may be better when there is a liquid option.  “Taking with food” probably helps but it doesn’t ensure that pills or capsules won’t sit in their esophagus.

I had found that an injectable form of doxycycline was available and would have tried that, but could not find it from a local source.  That could have circumvented the issue with irritation in her esophagus, and may have given her more of a fighting chance, but there was an unknown on top of this.  It is hard to fight the battles that you can’t see.

When you bring a Newf home with you, and especially when you’ve done this before, you understand something of the commitment you are making, as well as the joy that you will share.  They need guidance to get started, and they need freedom whenever that is possible, and they need safety provided from you as the caregiver.  Living with a Newf is being a member of their pod, more than that they become a member of your home.  They need love as much as a plant needs water.  And the return on the investment is enormous.

If the law of conservation of matter and energy holds true, then the Light that left may become the Light for a fortunate beneficiary.  Their presence is a Gift, one that we cherish and do not want to part with.  10 years and 10 months, less the first 10 weeks, was a very cherished, but very short time.  She had such a big personality, and it leaves an equally big void.

*Click on the photo to see more photos.

ADDENDUM 4/20/24:
Today is one week from her loss. When a Newf passes, I tend to get earworms. The prevalent one for Banner has been James Taylor’s “Her Town Too”. It may seem odd to think about passing being like divorce, but it fits well. His talent and empathy bring this to light. Many of his songs have helped us contemplate, but this one fits particularly well for Banner.
Beautifully presented version of “Her Town Too.”

A more torturous one, very persistent (not that it doesn’t have fit), is Blood, Sweat and Tears “And When I Die”. (Today I’ll force a trade for this one with “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”. And of course, among some others, Diamond Rio, “One More Day”. The JT song is, with appreciation, gentler, at least at this point.)

Newfs become very important family/companions, and the process of requieting after a loss can be slow.

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