Posts tagged ‘euthenasia’
i only remember the best things about you: how soft your fur was, how sweet you looked while you slept, how big your clouded eyes were. i’ve forgotten everything else and need to remind myself that you were a handful and a half. it makes it harder to live with this decision if i only think about your sweet paws.
i picked up your remains last week. i haven’t been able to write about it till now because it was so unexpectedly difficult. i figured we’d get a cheesy container with your ashes in it. i was in no way prepared for the small cedar chest with your name engraved on it. i couldn’t not look inside at the ashes, how few of them there were. how little of you remains. how 20 pounds of fur and life and restlessness was reduced to something that would fit inside a tiny box.
but what really killed me was the clay plaque with the impression of your foot print. every little bump of your skin. i traced my fingers over it for hours, feeling the last reminder of your physical form. until i couldn’t stand it anymore.
the night before i went to pick up your ashes, i had a dream about you. it was in our old house; i came down the stairs and found you lying on the carpet. for some reason, you let me pet you for a long time (something you would not have done in real life). i awoke suddenly with the conviction that we had made the wrong decision. i cried in the dark until i fell back asleep.
in the bright day, i know we made the right decision. i mean you were 14, for crying out loud. you were going to the bathroom in the house. in front of us. like right after we would sit down for dinner. you weren’t really eating. you must’ve been in constant been, even with the opiates and steroids.
still. i want you back–but only the best parts of you, please. i’m hoping you’ll come back to me in another furry, wriggly way and worm your way into my heart all over again.
ooh, i seem to be entering the anger stage of grieving. well either that, or it’s that time of the month. i was curled up in bed reading instyle last night, and all i could think was, “stupid fashion, totally sucks this spring.” the cookies i made didn’t come out right. stupid cookies. i don’t have anything to wear, even though i did laundry yesterday. stupid clothes.
i tried channeling it with some manual labor, so i vacuumed out the car today–it totally needed it–and that helped a little bit. now i’m looking around for more mindless tasks that i can really focus on. it’s one of those days where scrubbing the kitchen floor cinderella-style seems like an excellent idea.
it’s starting to rain here, and my first thought is how you hated rain. you could splash through a creek and drink out of mud puddles, but walk on the damp grass? oh, no. your paws would come up, like you were a dainty princess who would never deign to get wet. remember when we were hiking in the bitterroots and that hail storm came up so suddenly? you promptly turned around, headed in the exact opposite direction of the car with all the speed you could muster! you had to be tracked down and carried back to the car, nestled inside my sweatshirt and safely covered by my rain jacket. i smelled like wet dog the whole ride back. well, so did you, so i guess that makes us even steven.
so right about now, there should be pee puddles and doggy bombs accumulating in the house. i guess we’re both spared the indignity now.
molly, your dad, and i are headed up to the mountains this weekend for some much needed r & r. allow me to say that as much as i loved you (and still do), it is so much easier to pack without you. all molly needs is food and a bowl and a place to rest her head. no pills, no pill pockets, no wet food–okay, she seems to have developed a fondness for wet food, but we’re trying to ween her off of it.
i probably won’t write for a few days, but i’ll think of you often.
today was the first day i felt like we made the right decision. today was the first time i was able to tell someone about your death and not cry. i felt the sun on my neck. i heard the birds singing and wasn’t envious.
i still can’t bring myself to wash your coat, so i know it’s not over. and i still had cheese curls and junior mints for lunch. and a glass of wine before dinner. i know you would approve: you loved self-indulgence.
today seems to be going better (so far at least). i am optimistic enough to put on mascara; we’ll see how long that lasts.
the laundry and other tasks are piling up around here, as they just seem so inconsequential. i still can’t bring myself to wash your coat, which looks empty without you in it: a red quilted shell. i feel empty too, like a little space has been carved out inside my heart and i’m not sure how to fill it. the silence is overwhelming.
on a brighter note, we’re going to the mountains this weekend. do you remember the mountains? i remember how you would bound through the snow like a maniacal deer, confused about why your paws were so cold and the world was so blindingly white. or maybe you were happy. it was always so hard to tell.
i hope that wherever you are now, you are happy. it’s all i ever wanted for you, of course, but now it seems even more important.
nothing is the same without you. i know that sounds cliché, but the things that used to bring me joy just seem so hollow now. thinking the worst is over, i go sit outside in the sunshine. i look over my shoulder, instinctively and without thinking. you’re not following of course, and i’m sobbing again. outside. within earshot of the neighbors, but i can’t stop.
i’m on my second bag of cheese curls.
another day without puddles, pills, and baby gates to keep you in the kitchen….but i would give it all up in a heartbeat to have you back for a few moments. i miss your warm furriness, the way you would squirm when i would pick you up for a hug. images of you keep popping up, unwilled, in my mind, and i find myself making a list of things that i miss about you already: your little head sticking out of the dog door; your open mouth coming towards my hand regardless of whether there was food in it; the way your little leg would cock out at a jaunty angle.
you should know that molly is doing well. i am both surprised and relieved, and can only figure that she knew something we didn’t. maybe she could smell your failing systems and it stressed her out. at any rate, she is calmer than she has been in a long while. don’t worry, she still gives the mailman hell. i am glad to have her now, as always, and even though she is as unsure of the future as i am, when i am with her i think that everything will be alright. just as you followed her around in darkness because her bright white coat was the only thing you could see, i am clinging to her now.
you are not in the kitchen, in your little spot. you are not in the house. the birds are singing; don’t they know? you are in the garage, cold and alone. they are coming to pick your body up soon, and i’m not ready to let you go, even though nature is starting to take its course. you are less yourself than you were last night; even molly knows that.
i hit the store, super puffy eyes and all. i buy flowers. i buy candles. i buy a huge box of junior mints. i eat a whole bag of cheese curls. nothing helps much: you are still gone. i still miss you.
alcohol helps a little. when we come back from dinner, though, we are faced with the fact that you are still gone. i notice the first upside, which is that we don’t have to watch where we step. it’s also awfully quiet without your night-time pacing. who would’ve thought i’d miss that?
on sunday, february 20, 2011, my husband and i put our sweet old beagle to sleep. we were blessed to be able to have our vet come to our house, so sadie passed away in the comfort of her own living room, surrounded by her family: myself, jason, and our other dog, molly.
poor sadie was 14 (give or take a few years; we never knew because she was a rescue) and had lived through a lot of crappy medical issues. in chronological order: chronic urinary tract infections–that had to be managed over the course of her life with expensive prescription food and antibiotics when she got stressed out—she must’ve had at least 40 over her little lifetime; she had a malignant mammary tumor that required two surgeries; she had cataracts; rocky mountain spotted fever; she was basically deaf and blind; she had a stroke that preceded a year of canine dementia, aka pacing all night long and getting stuck under chairs and in cabinets; a malignant melanoma on her eyelid; and old lady bumps that weren’t healing. and—oh yeah—she had been incontinent for about 5 years. most recently, she was going to the bathroom inside right in front of us, meaning we couldn’t walk safely through our house without checking for bombs and puddles. she was taking a very strong opiate paint killer twice a day and she was maxed out on prednisone. in other words, we were out of reasonable interventions.
when she started having trouble lying down, sometimes whimpering in pain or confusion, we decided it was time. as anyone who’s ever contemplated euthanasia will know, this was not a decision we came to easily. for anyone who’s struggling with an older dog, i highly recommend the book good old dog: expert advice for keeping your aging dog happy, healthy, and comfortable, edited by nicholas dodman with lawrence lindner, written with input from faculty of the vet school at tufts university. the advice we got from the book helped us eke out three more months with our little lady.
you don’t always get to choose when, where, and how your dog will go, but we knew things were headed downhill, so we were able to give sadie a great last weekend. lots of chicken–something she normally couldn’t have–pancakes for breakfast, and lots and lots of treats.
the letters that follow are my way of dealing with what has surprised me as a heartbreaking loss. i really thought i was more psychologically prepared, as we had already started to grieve her loss before we made our end of life decision. but as it turns out, all the crying in the world couldn’t save me from even more crying. my eyes have never been so puffy and raw.
immediately i want you back. i’m sorry, i’m so sorry. i thought it was the right decision; i thought it was time, but i was wrong. i want you back. you left so quickly and now you’re just gone.
i cling to your little paw, i stroke your still-warm muzzle, expecting you to open your eyes and regard me with irritation, but you don’t. i want your small chest to rise and fall so much that i imagine it, my brain tricks me into seeing it, but it doesn’t come. you are really gone.
when i go to lift you, to put you in your bed, i can’t take that you’re so floppy. even though i have prepared myself for this reality, i am now sobbing uncontrollably, bent over your little body.
after hours of just staring at you and crying, we have to get out of the house. we are going to take molly for a walk and i just don’t think i can come back to the house with you in the living room, so we put you in the garage. omigod, it’s terrible. you look so small and alone and it’s awful, just awful. i finally pull myself together and we take your sister for a walk. the cold is clarifying, and i can focus on that instead of my grief, but then i don’t want to come home, because i know your body is waiting.
back in the garage, i struggle with wanting to bring your body back inside and knowing that you need to stay cold. jason suggests putting you in your spot in the kitchen, and i lose it again, mostly because i want you back so bad. i compromise by taking a blanket to you. somehow it makes you look so snuggly, like you’re sleeping; even though you never would have let me cover you with a blanket in life.
you have soiled yourself and i feel a strong desire to clean you up. i suddenly understand the desire to groom the dead, something i’ve always thought of as weird. upon cleaning you up, i realize that on top of everything else you were suffering from, you are also raw. oh baby, i’m so sorry. i had no idea.
we sit with you; me clinging to your little paw, which is slowly growing cold. jason brings out the grand marnier and we stay until we are so cold i can’t feel my legs. we debate reincarnation versus heaven for you. i hope you get a healthier body if you’re reincarnated. for your heaven, i hope it involves chicken pizzas strapped to the backs of three-legged rabbits.
somehow it helps me to watch the beginning of the decay process. you are growing cold, stiff, and stinky: going from my little girl to a dead thing. don’t ask why this is helpful, it just is.
somehow i sleep soundly. i hope you do, too.