Blarney, I can totally understand what you mean about the support, I am so glad you had MsLadyHawk to talk to! some folks just aren't lucky enough to understand just how much more an animal can be to a person than 'just a pet'... each are idividuals and can dig their way into your heart in so many different ways. To this day I still have trouble talking about my dog Sadie who passed away nearly 4 yrs ago. Each pet holds it's own place in a person's heart. To be able to experience the joy they bring to us also means we expose ourselves to the pain of losing them... I take comfort in knowing that for whatever time my animals are with me they are cared for, included, cuddled or comforted when they needed it and kept as happy and safe as any critter could be. In return they have always offered me the same and I know when anything happens to any I have now I can take comfort in knowing that when I am ready I will be able to offer that to another animal who will be welcomed into our home.
You can't 'prepare' really... but talking to good friends sure lightens the load! My fingers are crossed that your big girl continues to improve and your vet visit gives you good news. Give her a few extra belly rubs for us!