Usually, I write something glib, flippant, sarcastic, satirical, or otherwise just plain old damn un-serious, even if I am writing about a serious matter. Not this time. It wouldn’t do the subject justice to treat it with humor. I am in mourning. I had to put my dog down.
Many of you (well, okay five or six of you) have faithfully read this blog for about a year and a half now. Some of you have come to the table only recently. How could you know how important that damn silly dog was to me? Well, I’ll just say I loved her more than most humans I know.
I think I might miss her more than I miss drinking, although with her recent death, those two loves seem to get increasingly mixed up in my head. Miss my dog, need a drink. Miss my dog, need a drink. I try to hold myself at bay with the rational thought that it is just the latest of a series of excuses that I’ve used over the better part of a decade to drink alone.
If you have been keeping up with things recently, my last post, Weiner Dog Blues, described my dilemma. My dog was a faithful and loyal and loving companion for seven years. I fed her and watered her, often threw a Kong ball for her amusement (after we figured out that those tennis balls wouldn’t last a day). I took her for walks where she was the neighborhood celebrity weiner dog, a hit with children everywhere.
I took her to the vet’s. She always actually liked going to the vet’s. She would get excited, and her little tail would wag, and she’d be beside herself with all those new butts to sniff and new humans to love on her and give her doggie treats. What was a little anal probing and needles compared to the delights of the less unseemly side of the vet’s office?
I did the usual requisite responsible pet ownership stuff: shots and city license, outdoor dog house, kennel, collar and leash and flea and worm prevention and obedience class. To tell you the truth, the obedience class never really worked like it should have, not because she wasn’t a smart dog. She was plenty smart. She just didn’t give a hoot about doing what I wanted her to do most of the time. She learned how to sit and lay down on command and how to ignore me about 33% of the time when I called.
Up until approximately the last year of her life, she was a very active dog. For most of, well, okay, you got me, ALL of that time, I was under the influence of my moderately functioning alcoholism. Read that as: I could maintain the status quo at a Dilbert desk job that was well beneath my capabilities (How else could I afford my drug of choice?)). I think that it’s safe to say that I didn’t really do her justice. She never ever complained, though. She was always happy to see me. She loved to snuggle and to play, and if something was lacking in our relationship or the quality of her care, she certainly never let on about it.
That might be because she couldn’t talk. How I wish she could have talked those last few days so that I could have asked her what she would like for me to do. I read an article by a physician in The New Yorker that addressed issues of terminal illness, living wills, and hospice programs, etc. The thing that struck me from that article was an exchange that an elderly man had with his daughter about his wishes before an operation for terminal cancer. He told her that he wanted the doctors to resuscitate him as long as he could sit up to watch television and he could still eat chocolate ice cream. Many of us might assume that our loved ones would wish for more.
After I talked with the vet on Monday morning, we agreed that my dog should be brought back in for evaluation on Wednesday. I told her that I wanted to leave her off the medication all day Tuesday and see how things go. She did okay, except that again she couldn’t stand to be held or to sleep with me in the bed, as she always had before she went blind, every night. I put her in the spare bedroom because I figured that room had the least chance for injury with her bumping into things.
At approximately 1:00 in the morning Wednesday I awoke to blood curdling scream barks, and I had thankfully stockpiled some medication. I gave her two pills like she was prescribed. She became mellow and sleepy, and we got to have a right nice slumber before I took her to the vet’s Wednesday morning.
I dropped her off at the vet’s at about 6:30, and I thought that she had jumped clear of the car, but I accidentally shut one of her back paws in the car door and came across like Cruella de Vil again in front of the vet tech in the parking lot. I tried to tell her that my dog had gone blind very recently and that I was still getting used to the situation. I think she was probably less hard on me than I was on myself.
Later that morning, after observation, and after the other vets in the practice had been consulted, the vet called me again. This time the news was that they had done another blood screen and that the Tylenol had not permanently damaged her kidneys and liver and that they could give her stronger pain meds! This didn’t sound very optimistic to me.
So, I said to her, “I don’t care if she’s blind or not. I love her, and I can accommodate, but if the only way to keep her from screaming and crying and being scared and possibly in pain is to keep her doped all the time, what kind of quality of life is that?” It occurs to me that in some ways it’s not too far off from the quality of life I had when I was drinking myself silly on a nightly basis.
She told me that was something I would have to take under consideration. And I get, really, that they can’t tell you what the hell to do. How I wish someone would have, though, for the convenience of being able to finger point later.
I said, “Is this something that can ever be fixed? Can you make her better?”
She said no, and she told me that the “neurological disorder” could not actually be diagnosed without an expensive MRI but that my dog was exhibiting many of the classic symptoms of a brain tumor and that was what she thought the diagnosis probably would be. Even if I paid for the MRI they would not be able to do anything more than give her meds to make her “comfortable.” Even if it was not a brain tumor they still could not fix her or treat her or improve her condition in any way.
So, for me, really, there was no choice. I didn’t want to do it; trust me, I didn’t. But I could not live with her continuing to suffer for no good reason. I could have picked up the dog and my pain meds and had someone to cuddle with, a nice little bed warmer for perhaps a few months more. The pain pills would have cost less than the euthanasia. Don’t think the thought didn’t occur to me.
I opted to end her suffering. I called my friend Lubbock who came up to the vet’s office and met me. When they brought her in, I knew that I had made the right decision because they had already given her something, and she still whined continually like a siren in pain or anxiety (probably both) until just after the vet made the first shot through the IV tube.
Even the vet said that I was making the right decision. I held her and stroked her and whispered in her ear what a good, good dog she was and how much I loved her until her heart stopped beating and her head lolled. Even the last twitch was done, and her little barrel body was fully limp before I stepped away. I bawled like a baby, and so did Lubbock.
Afterward, I went to Lubbock’s. I meant to just hang out and watch Boardwalk Empire and eat pizza. I didn’t want to go home. Lubbock talked me into showering and putting on a pair of her ex husband’s jammies and staying the night. It wasn’t that hard to talk me into it. I didn’t want to go back to the empty house. Last night I went straight to the Mr. Brewsters after work and hung out there.
When I got home last night I practically went straight to bed and yet there must have been at least three or four separate instances where I thought of my dead dog as if she were still living and still here, wondering where she was lying around, wanting to make sure she wasn’t under foot. I didn’t actually call for her. The brain doesn’t go that far. The thought is a nanosecond of impulse, and then you stop yourself and think, oh, yeah, she’s gone. She won’t be back.