I want to say thank you to Mimi. That was the most reassuring hour I spent Friday morning confirming that the decision I was making was the correct decision for Gabi.
Thank you to everyone who emailed, texted, posted something and called yesterday. It was uplifting and shocking how many people took time out of their day to expressed their sympathy.
Having to make an end of life decision is never easy. You leave the vet on Thursday night with your dog with the reassurances that if the blood work turns out well, the surgery will be short and easy back by 4:30pm for a few days recovery. Friday morning I dropped her off and an hour later got a phone call. I saw the vets number pop up on my cell phone and before I could answer I knew the world I had know with Gabi was starting to implode.
Gabi somehow swallow a bottle cap. We are not sure if the bottle cap was the catalyst that caused her to eat only 10% of what she normally would and then the blood work found the liver disease or if the liver disease had progressed and the bottle cap was an incidental finding. There really was no great option to solve the problem. In fact solving the problem wasn’t a viable option.
I’ve always told myself that there is no reason to make my dog that has brought me so much joy and happiness through the years suffer. It’s not fair to the dog just to allow me to have a few more days or a couple of weeks more with her, especially since she wouldn’t be eating and might have some stomach discomfort.
How do you tell a dog in 5 hours thank you for 12+ years of happiness? As usual we walked in the morning before going to the vets for her soon to be cancelled surgery. After I got her from the vets late Friday morning to spend time with her and her to spend some time with Bridgette and Gravey, I took her and Bridgette to the wash to walk. They could chase lizards and birds, although now they are both much older and more interested in sniffing then chasing. I was remembering all the times Gabi tried to catch lizards, how she would run after them, whining because she couldn’t catch them. How do you compact 12 years of love and try to convey that in 300 or so minutes. I ended up pacing from the kitchen through the hallway to the bedroom back down the hallway to the kitchen where I made a U turn and repeated the process for a bit. I think I was freaking her, Bridgette and Gravey the cat out and I was freaked out.
Ultimately I brushed her, scrathed her hips since it made her wiggle to what ever side I was scratching. If I did it long enough she would let out a bark of delight. We, all the animals and I, sat on the floor for about 30 minutes in a little group. It’s pretty rare that the four of us would just sit there all touching each other for that long. I fed them some extra bones, then I gave her a rawhide to chew on which she loved doing. After a few hours she tired of that so she laid on the floor, licked her paws incessantly to get all the rawhide off of them and I cuddled up next to her, her body resting against me, my arm over her and I cried while she licked then slept for the next 75 minutes.
Finally I couldn’t stand being in the house anymore. I grabbed her leash, whistled for her come and she jumped into the backseat. I drove her around a bit then made the turn towards the vets office.
I don’t know if she knew we were driving around so I could go put her down. I suspect she realized I was really, really upset. But the process is fairly quick and seemed really quiet for her. I walked in to the vets and they immediately put me into a room, no waiting or even stopping at the front desk. They told me to take as much time as I wanted. She walked around sniffing the room, trying to open the door into the back of the office where the kennels and work areas are. I just pet her, buried my face into her neck and sobbed. Eventually I called the vet back. After picking her up and putting her on the table, the vet explained how it would happen and asked me if I was ready.
Am I ready to put her down? This is 12 years of having a foot rest while I sat at my desk, or if not petting her with my feet having to dodge her to get up from the chair. This is the dog that was never more then 6 feet from me. I still find myself looking down first before getting up so I don’t step on her. 12 years of walking, feeding, poop scooping (although she was a ferocious poop eater so maybe really just 8 years of pop scooping in aggregate), hiking Mt. Lemmon, watching her bounding through the farm field next to the house in Laveen chasing birds seeing her disappear under the brush then explode over the next row and disappear again, snuggling with her, playing tug of war, wrestling. Knowing I’d have someone to greet me at the door every time I came back from a run or came home from work or her wanting to be with me where ever I was in the house and yard, remembering how she would lay on top of the couch in the first house staring out the window once I left until I came home, thinking about the two weeks it took for her to actually bark after we adopted her. Remembering her whining when she was younger while failing to catch lizards in the wash, bounding through the bushes chasing birds, the battle of wills when we walked. She was always straining against her leash with Bridgette snapping at her because she was getting tugged along as well. 12 years of petting her everyday, of her playing with her bone flipping it in the air then pouncing on it at night. Her and Bridgette wrestling, swimming after ducks, how she leaped out of the car, off the shore into water or off the bed. The way she breathed, the hu-hu sound of it, the way her ears flopped up and down when she walked and the way the tip of her tongue stuck out of her mouth just a bit. How do you compact all those wonderful memories into a few short hours. Am I ready? Never, I’m still not. I wanted her to live as long as I did so we could be put down at the same time.
The process goes quick, first they give her a sedative which puts her under like she was going for surgery. I could feel her relax into me, as she slid onto her side. She started to snore a bit and her eyes were not tracking movement, her breathing was steady and peaceful. Then they administer the final shot. In about a minute she stopped breathing, I’m not really sure when or how. Suddenly I realized I couldn’t feel her chest rising up pressing into my body as I cradled her head and was halfway laying on top of her. The vet put a stethoscope to her chest and said she has gone. I don’t know how long it took for me to let go of her, so I could pet her a little bit more for the last time. Eventually I rang the buzzer so they could come get her unresponsive body, walking out, I touched the tip of her tongue one last time, gave her a rub on her neck, a kiss and rubbed her belly.