Sunday, May 06, 2007

The reprieve is over

I wrote the other day about my dog's problems. After I wrote that, my wife and children took the dog to one of his favorite places for a walk. He lifted his leg on a plant and... watered it! Oh joy!

They called the vet and canceled his euthanasia appointment for that afternoon. He greeted me with joy Thursday evening. Friday passed uneventfully. He took his pills. I did not see him urinate but he did not seem uncomfortable. Saturday he wasn't feeling very well. I watched him carefully and I did not see him pee at all -- all he could do was strain.

He took his medication but needed a lot of encouragement. I said something about how I didn't want to do the catheterization again, and as soon as he heard the "C" word, he went and hid in the corner. We could hardly get him to eat anything.

This morning, I took him out the gate and he headed left; we usually go to the right, but seeing as this was his last walk, I let him go where he wanted. We walked a few blocks and then turned around. I kept hoping and praying that he could manage to pee on something -- or on nothing even -- so he could live a few more days without being so miserable. But it was not to be.

Our schedules this morning were kinda disparate -- the girls were sleeping when Carol and I left for a meeting; they were gone by the time we got back. I called the veterinary office and wept as I told the receptionist about Duke's downhill slide. She asked if I wanted to come right away and I said yes.

I asked Duke if he wanted to go for a ride. He did, but he wasn't nearly as enthusiastic as he usually is -- was. I took him to the vet's office, turning on "Car Talk" for a while so I could stop crying long enough to see where I was going. I parked the car and took Duke over to where some plants were. I almost went over to the "No Dogs Allowed" area, thinking maybe the vibes over by the tomato plants might somehow stimulate him to pee on them. But I had actually given up -- or resigned myself.

They were, of course, expecting us. The receptionist left us in room#1 and gave me a Kleenex box. A tech came in, and she talked with me to make sure this was what I wanted to do. She explained how this all worked, and I signed the form. The doctor came in -- she had seen Duke last Sunday -- and I held Duke's head in my lap. "You won't feel uncomfortable any more," I told him, feeling like I was betraying him even as I said it. The doctor gave him the required drugs and in a few seconds his breathing, and his heart, stopped.

I cried like a baby -- no I didn't. A baby has no concept of losing a companion of nearly eight years, one who grew up with his children -- a faithful if quirky guardian of his house and family. A baby doesn't make the decision to end the life of a friend like that, and a baby cannot anticipate the grief and pain of the days ahead.

A baby does not know that dreams will come in the nights ahead, dreams of the departed friend that end -- and then the awful realization that the friend really has not come back, that he is gone forever.

No, I didn't cry like a baby.

And that's not how I'm crying now.

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