This is from September 1st, 2016....
My dog died a week ago.
It’s taken this long for me to even think about it let alone process it. There are so many emotions that I can’t even being to understand, to talk about, to feel. All I do is feel. There are so many feelings.
I look at places in my apartment different and I can’t interact with them. I’m constantly checking the spot on the floor where is water bowl was worried I’d knock it over. I’m constantly waking up in the night wondering where he is in the bed, if he has enough room, if I’m crushing him, listening for his snores.
Opening the door to my apartment I wait a moment, looking towards the bed, towards his bed, looking towards the where he should be to come running towards me, to say hello, to tell me thank you for coming back.
He’s not there.
The day after he died I spent an hour on my floor crying, inconsolable. My stomach hurt, my back clenched, I couldn’t move. Hellion came in and found me on the floor and put me in bed.
This is how my life has been. To celebrate the dog I ordered pictures of him printed. Real pictures, I needed something I could hold. I put a picture of the dog on the fridge.
I talk to his picture.
Hellion talks to his picture, too. It’s like he should be here. I’m angry with him for not being here.
I’m angry with me for not saving him.
The day I woke up and knew my dog was dying he was panting hard in the bed next to me. I was worried. I was supposed to work from home, but was thinking to go to the office anyway. Fate changed my mind and I stayed home all day and listened to him coughing and struggling to breathe. I knew it was bad. I had a feeling there would be no going back from this.
I talked to him then, I told him, if he needed to go, he needed to go. Part of me understood this was a great lie, he would live forever, this was the rule, this was required. I told him, if he wanted to live to get through the night and we’d go to the vet and see what we could do. But I wanted him, really to go peacefully at home.
For the last year I have woken up in the middle of the night to check and see if my dog was still alive. Every morning I’d put my hand against his heart to see if my dog was still alive. I knew he was going to die, but with every extra day I had with him I convinced myself I had more days, more years. He would live. All the medication, the good life, the good food, he’d live. He was strong and healthy. There was no reason for him to die.
Still, I woke every morning to check to see if he was still alive.
The night I knew my dog was going to die I stayed up all night with him. I made him comfortable. He helped me sleep. I passed out and took a nap with him, exhausted. He woke coughing. Took himself out of bed. Came back, laid down, coughed. I made him comfortable again. The last time he took himself out of bed, went to the bathroom and got a drink, came back to the edge of the bed and looked at me. I knew what he was saying.
“Somethings wrong. I don’t know what’s wrong, but it’s wrong. I can’t get into the bed. I can’t breathe. Help me.”
I stared at him.
It was four a.m. I got up and I got dressed and I ordered a cab and grabbed the dog. We went to the emergency vet. I held him in my arms.
“And what’s the emergency.”
They called the code blue vets. I tried to explain, he has heart disease, he can’t seem to calm down, just hold him, you can feel him, his entire body is his heart at his point.
The two vets looked at each other and reached out for him. I knew this was going to be the last time I would hold my dog. I didn’t want to let him go. I let them take him. He was gone.
I sat in a cold vets room waiting for the vet to come talk to me, to tell me what is going to happen, to explain what is going on. There are bills presented to me. I ask if I want to pay the bills, there really isn’t a choice. By now we are committed. I will do what I can.
The vet tries to explain there still be something we can do. That the cost could be worth it. He uses words like “make him comfortable.” I work with language for a living. I understand meeting. I know what his words mean. I sign the bills. He asks me if I want to see the dog before I leave. I want to say no.
I say yes.
There are many apologies before they bring me down to the ICU. It’s a mess with animals in a variety of cages, all in ill health, all their owners hopeful for recovery.
I don’t hold it together. The nurse stops me.
“I can’t let you see him if you can’t keep it together. He doesn’t know what is going on. You are his person. You have to be strong make this okay for him.”
I don’t want to be strong. I want to grab my dog and squeeze him and promise that he will never have to feel pain, that he will be okay in my arms and he will live forever and there is nothing to worry about because there is no past or future just now and right now we will be together and happy and breathe easily and brightly.
I bite back tears and they take me to him. He is in an oxygen tank. He looks at me, part relieved part terrified. He doesn’t like hospitals. I can see he is afraid and I try to tell him it’s okay, that everything we are doing is okay and he will be okay and he will be able to breathe here and I will be back soon.
In the taxi I send an email saying I’ll be late to start work. I sleep until 10 and workout. I try not to think about it.
Later the day vet calls. She uses words like “make him comfortable” and “stabilize”. My heart breaks. I spend the next hour crying as I work. She wants to keep him overnight. She doesn’t want me to visit. I know there is only one way this is going to end. I’m heartbroken.
The following day Hellion returns and he wants to come with me to the vet. I don’t want to go alone. He is eager, excited, he is convinced it will be fine. I want his ability to believe it to be true. On the way there the vet calls and tries to discourage me from coming. The dog has not stabilized.
“I’m on my way.”
My mind is clear, there is only really one thought there. It is time to end this.
The decent to ICU is harder this time. My beloved mammal is in a bottom crate asleep. Hellion wants to wake him but I tell him not to, to let him have the few last moments. Someone behind us makes a noise that wakes the dog and he looks up at us. ICU goes code blue. I realize after a moment that what has set off all the alarms is the racing heartbeat of my dog, so excited to see us. He immediately aspirates fluid from his lungs in a streaming puddle just as the vet walks in. We look at each other.
“There is still a chance he could stabilize.”
“I’ve had enough time to think about it. I know it’s time to do the right thing.”
We sit in the final viewing room. It has old worn leather couches. I’m sure it is meant to be comfortable, but I am not comfortable there. We wait. I sign papers and pay money for the administration of the final services that he will receive.
The vet brings my dog in, cradled in his arms. He kisses the top of his head before placing him in our arms. I want to cry even more but I don’t want to upset the dog. He goes almost immediately to sleep, cuddled against us. His human’s are here. His best friend for the last two years, his owner for the last ten. We ask for more time, delaying the inevitable.
I can’t be there at the end. I know better. I want to remember him like this, asleep, full of love, snoring gently with people. Hellion wants to be there. I try to discourage him but he won’t have it. I finally leave waiting down the hall for the end to come. I know when it does. I hear Hellion’s wails. I want to fall on the floor.
We hold hands as we walk down the street together. We go to a bar. I order strong drinks as the bar tender jokes about our demeanor.
“My dog just died.”
Now I feel like I am defined by the death of my dog. I take the next two days off work. I spend the better part of the night on my floor crying.
It’s been a week. I can write about it now, it’s not really better or worse, just reality. Life moving forward with all the little losses that build up along the way keeping us grounded and human.