I’ve been an early riser for quite a while, often waking up several hours before everyone else in the house. It feels very different this morning now that Casey is gone. Finnegan the cat tries to fill in but he doesn’t really get it. He doesn’t really need me to do anything for him. Sure, he’d like me to feed him but he still has some left over from last night. He’s got a litter box so he doesn’t need to go outside. He likes to be around us but it’s not really the same. Casey needed her pack and would always try to be in the same room with us, at our feet, getting in the way. Cats are more content to go off and do their own thing.
The picture I posted of her was taken a few years back when we went to Sharon’s parents in Sudbury. We’re both early risers so we would go for a walk in the morning and take some pictures. It’s kind of sad in a way because that was the beginning of the end. She hurt something on that long walk through the deep snow. The vet thinks she twisted her knee but either way, it was the first sign that she wasn’t a young dog anymore.
After that, we didn’t walk as much. She was game to keep up but then she would be sore and limping for days afterwards. We kept her on anti-inflammatories which meant that she wouldn’t wake up so stiff and sore but her exercise was very limited. The last year or so she was really just a house dog and I feel bad for that because she really loved it outdoors.
The last few weeks have been a little different. Casey had a bad seizure at Christmas, the first evidence that she wasn’t going to live forever, once again being disobedient to our telling her that she was supposed to. Seizures in dogs are fairly traumatic for the owners to see and the dog takes a while to recover so we had thought that we would have to put her down at that time. Within a day or two, however, she was much better and seemed pretty much like her old self. Every now and then, in the six weeks following, she would have a bad day and we would suspect that she might have had another seizure but she seemed mostly content.
Not in every way though. She often seemed a little sad. She seemed to spend a bit more time by herself, often lying on the cool floor in the basement or upstairs in the computer room while Sharon and I were on the main floor. As the early riser, I noticed that she wouldn’t get up right away in the morning with me but was content to sleep in. “Just being like her mommy,” I thought and didn’t worry too much since she was getting old.
The beginning of the end came only a few days ago on the weekend when we noticed a little lump or blister on her belly. In a way, it’s a mercy that whatever happened to her advanced so quickly. The seizures would have gotten worse and worse but the fact that she would recover each time would have made it very hard for us to make a decision perhaps prolonging her suffering. This cancer or whatever it was didn’t give us a choice, spreading so fast and causing so much discomfort that we had to do the right thing and couldn’t even keep her long enough for one last visit with her Aunt and Cousin who are visiting this weekend. She stopped eating normal food and the only way we could get anything into her was with cookies and cheese. That and carrots. That dog loved carrots. And broccoli stems and almost any other crunchy vegetable other than celery.
We wanted to make her last day a good one. We promised ourselves not to cry at the vets until she was gone so her last vision wouldn’t be of us wailing for her. I got her a nice raw steak and a bunch of bacon which she ate like she was starved. We stuffed her full of cookies and brought her down to the truck. For the last couple years, she hasn’t been able to jump up in the truck anymore so I would always have to lift her up. She used to weigh 80 lbs but was down to 70 now. Somehow, to me, she felt as light as a baby when I picked her up and put her on her bed that we kept in the back.
We took her to the dog park. It was a cold day and her circulation wasn’t very good anymore so she couldn’t take it for long but she walked around and did her business and got to sniff a few other dogs. Got to see the forest and remember that she’s a part of the natural world. Got to be outside in the wild again, if only for a little while.
She always enjoyed riding in the truck and we still had some time before our appointment so we just drove around. This is the last photo that will ever be taken of her. She looks comfortable. In a way we’re lucky. I think that we did this soon enough that she was still able to enjoy her last day at least a little bit. So many people wait too long until there is nothing but pain and suffering.
We got to the vet a bit early but I didn’t want to wait in the office for too long so we walked around the parking lot. She had another couple of pees…she had been doing that a lot in the last day or so. Drinking and peeing constantly, showing us that her organs were shutting down. I wanted to give her something else so I went into a pizza shop and bought a little box of the half cooked bacon that they put on pizzas and let her have that before we went in. Still eating bacon, even at the end.
Other people who put their pets down might tell you that it’s quick but it didn’t feel that way to us. The last hour at the vets was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. We kept our word though. We held her and told her she was a good dog and tried to keep our voices as cheerful as we could so she wouldn’t be scared. I was looking into her eyes when the final dose was given and I saw the precise moment when our dog went away. Some light in her eyes, that spark that was her, just vanished and she was gone.
The vet gave us some time with her, a private moment for us to howl for our lost pack member, pour our hearts out for this animal who had loved us more than we can imagine, given us more than we could ever have repaid. She didn’t look dead. She looked like she was sleeping and leaving her lying there on a blanket felt so wrong. I know she was gone but I feel like I deserted her into the hands of strangers who could never know what she meant to us. We had to walk away because there was nothing there for us anymore. Just an empty collar and a leash with nothing to attach it to.
And now I’m sitting her, wishing Sharon would wake up because this house is just so quiet and I’m so very lonely.