Tuesday, September 27, 2016

In Which I Had To Say Goodbye

Loving dogs is a hard thing.

I mean, it's really easy, actually, and I know that contradicts what I just said. But we're hardwired to find puppies cute, to want to take care of them.

And they're hardwired to love us in return, to crave human affection.

And so we take them into our homes, and they love us, and we love them so much. Just as much as the people in our lives, science says.

But the thing about dogs is, they don't live as long as us.

Every dog owner knows the moment they take that puppy or dog into their home, they have issued an invitation to heartbreak and grief, who has rsvp'd for a future date.

George was going to be 11 next month.


He was my healthy dog. Rarely sick. Never injured.

Until last week, when we noticed he wasn't feeling well (licking his lips (nausea) and shaking)

We took him to the ER Vet, but after an hour and a half wait, he was back to normal, even playing with the vet tech, so we took him home.

He got sick again that night, and all the next day. But after that, he got better, and was back to normal for a few days.

Then it happened again.

The vet discovered he had low platelets, which besides causing his problems, also contributed to a growing lethargy we had noticed with him (he didn't really enjoy walks anymore. We thought maybe he was just getting a little too old for them.)

The treatment was steroids to build his platelets back up, and antibiotics, in case this was a tick borne illness.

And George got better again. For 4 days.

Sunday, we were gone most of the day and when we came back he was in such a good mood. We wrestled with him a little, he played with his tennis ball. He scarfed his dinner, including the delicious canned food his meds were stuffed into.

Then, before bed, he started feeling sick again. He couldn't get comfortable in bed. He spent the whole night pacing around the house, laying down for 15 or 20 minutes, coming into the room to check on me. I heard him scratching the chair a few times, trying to fluff it up.

When I got up in the morning I found vomit. And he was so sad.

I picked him up to carry him outside (and he didn't even grumble at me) but outside he fell over, onto his butt.

I called the vet. He needed to have his platelets checked anyway.

This time Anne came with and we got our usual vet, whom we love.

She told us some of the possibilities, none of them great. And then they took him to run some tests.

And the tests came back as a tumor on his liver. Probably more than one. He was anemic, which meant he was bleeding, most likely into his stomach. It was inoperable.

He was uncomfortable. He didn't want to eat anything. He no longer enjoyed walks. He didn't want to really sniff any sniffs at the vet office. The things he found good in life were no longer good.

So we called our family. And our brother and mom came over and we held him and told him we loved him and I kissed him so many times.

Then the vet came in and I held his head while we put him to sleep.

And he looked the same. He didn't look like he had just died. And so I kissed him again and told him I loved him and we left.

And that was the hardest part, leaving him there, when he looked like he was just resting, still.

I'm not a religious person. There's a study that shows faith is actually about 50% genetics, and I've often thought I'm just not built that way.

Sometimes I wish I was.

Because it's hard to ignore the idea that we are alone, here on this little planet in an endless universe. We are unique in our ability to reason, to build and think and create art.
But it's that uniqueness which brings about our loneliness. We are aware.

And so we are alone, here on this planet. Except, not really. How lucky are we, that we can bring dogs into our homes, and we can love them, and they love us in return? This entirely different species, sharing our lives, happily. It's a gift, maybe. A miracle.

George liked to pee on things so we couldn't have carpet. He hated other dogs so we couldn't go to dog parks. He was a runner, and would escape if given the chance. And he liked to steal seats, if you got up for a bathroom break.

But he loved tummy rubs and face massages. He gave the best kisses and he always smelled so good. He loved sunbathing and eating good food and taking walks where he could sniff all the sniffs and pee on all the things.

I was going to turn on the heated blanket for him when we got back from the vet. I was going to buy him some new toys for his birthday in a few weeks, even though I knew he'd just destroy them. I'd bought him a new fall coat, but he'll never get to wear it.

I loved him so much. I would spend the rest of my life cleaning up pee if it meant I could have just a little more time with him, where he was healthy, and happy again.

It is a hard thing, to love dogs.
It's a harder thing, to let them go.



Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I'm glad you went through this catharsis. It hurts, but is good to get out. I still miss my Corky, Murphy, Gracie, and Lucy. They remain deep in my heart. My Molly will be 16 in December and we won't have her long. It will break my heart. But I can't imagine never having any of them in my life. Would do it all over again, as I know you would too.

Hugs and prayers...or at least best wishes. We all understand your pain. -Mac

Hart Johnson said...

I'm so sad for you. Your heartbreak is visceral. He sounds like such a great dog.

Stacy McKitrick said...

You got it wrong. It's EASY to love a dog. That's why it's so hard to let go. I'm so sorry for your loss. George sounded like a great friend.

KellySG said...

Tears. I know he felt your love, because I feel it through your words. Thank you for sharing them along with the fantastic photos of George.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sarah, I'm so sorry. You're right, we know the moment we bring them home they will one day break our hearts. It's a tough choice and sucks they don't live longer.
When I was in college, I lost my grandfather, and right after that, my dog had to be put to sleep. I then had a dream that I was walking with her and we came to a bridge. On the other side was my grandfather and she ran to him. It still hurt, but I knew they were both all right then.

Austin Gorton said...

Very well said. I hope writing this provided some catharsis for you. Even if it didn't, it's a wonderful tribute to George and a great reminder of both the tremendous and bittersweet love we feel for our pets.

Again you guys, so sorry. :(

Maria Zannini said...

My greatest fear is that I won't have the courage to put my dog to sleep when it's time.

You did the right thing. More importantly, you gave Georgie peace and took away his pain. There is no greater love.

Hugs, my dear friend. Now go and rest. Grief saps all your strength and energy. It's time to take care of yourself.

Rena said...

*Hugs* it's so hard to lose someone close to you. Take care

mshatch said...

Oh, Sarah, you brought tears to my eyes reading of your love for George which of course reminded my of the love I have for my dog and all the dogs and cats that are no longer with me. I am so so sorry George is gone and like you, not very religious (though I really sometimes wish I could be) but if there is any kind of afterlife I hope we all get to be reunited with our pets. Otherwise, I'm not going.

Crystal Collier said...

My heart breaks for you. There's nothing worse than losing a loved one. Not even cheese makes it better, but I'll leave you some anyway, because then at least your mouth can be happy. And maybe your tummy too.

Melanie Conklin said...

"And he looked the same. He didn't look like he had just died. And so I kissed him again and told him I loved him and we left."

Oh this. So much this. My heart is with you, my friend.

DL Hammons said...

You penned a beautiful tribute to George, and in doing so you showed us the depth of the love you had for one another. Treasure those 11 years!

Rest in Peace George.

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