Sunday, September 24, 2006
Saying Goodbye: A Dog Day Sunday
I started Sunday by reading how a wonderful Weimeraner named Max had left his people after many happy years. And then I came across Becky's Carolina Journal with a cute YouTube video of her daschund playing ball.
I thought about my own dear Samantha. She's been gone since February, but it seems so fresh in my mind. I had written about what happened when I said goodbye, and what follows is that recollection.
IN MEMORY OF A WELL-LOVED DOG
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
All day Sam followed me around. She didn’t sleep soundly if at all, almost afraid to shut her eyes for fear that I would be gone. I looked at her hoping to get a sign that what I contemplated would be the right thing. She only continued the labored breathing, panting loudly.
Back in August when we returned from our trip to the mountains and found her at death’s door, I was sure it was her time. I had talked with the vet about putting her down and had even planned to take her in. Yet, with a little pampering and human food, she perked up and almost overnight, she was nearly as she had been before our trip.
I concluded that she had gotten a double dose of heartworm medicine by mistake—with us before the trip and at the vet’s while we were gone. I never talked with the vet. That was my own conjecture.
But she grew progressively more annoying and aggressive when it came to food. Human food that is. She could never get enough of it. She whined when we were eating and demanded some of our food. Years of lax discipline we figured. Once, she even grabbed a take-out salad from my hands.
By January she was struggling more. I began to think that the climb up the stairs was too hard. Yet she continued to follow me about from room to room, searching almost frantically when I left while she dozed.
As Bill prepared for a trip to Nashville, I told him I was going to take her to the vet and that I might put her down.
Monday came and went. On Tuesday I stood with the phone in my hand while Sam looked at me. I felt disloyal and full of guilt. And yet I knew she was having a hard time breathing. I knew it wasn’t going to get better. We finished off the Christmas dog cookies Jeff and Natalie had given her. I fixed her a bowl of oatmeal. Gave her a carrot—her favorite treat. She still had an appetite. I almost wish she hadn’t for then it would have been easier.
On the second attempt to call, I did it, leaving a message that I wanted to talk with the vet about Sam. He called back in about an hour and told me that it sounded like either the Cushing’s or the tumor was causing her distress. We talked about what to do with her remains, and I opted for an individual cremation although I could have gone the cheaper route. I felt wrong to do it that way. After all, we had been together over 13 years and I she deserved better. The time was set. I called Bill to let him know. Scott had stayed late at school but made it home to stay goodbye before we left for the vet. Sam eagerly took the doggie treats Scott offered.
She climbed a little reluctantly into the red car. She never liked going in the car since it usually meant a trip to the groomer’s or the vet’s. Today, she didn’t quiver as usual.
I settled the bill as soon as we walked in while the receptionist showed me how the remains would be returned. Just a tiny little tin. All that love and devotion reduced to that.
We went into the exam room and the vet came in and talked with me. He kneeled down and gently ran his hands over Sam’s bony back. He said, “I’m sorry.” I knew he hated what he was about to do. We talked briefly about how she’d been and what the process would be like. The assistant lifted Sam quickly onto the table and put a towel under her. I held her as the vet shaved a place on her back leg. They helped her to lie down as I held her and rubbed her head. He injected her and after a few seconds she slowly relaxed, and it was like she was asleep. All very peaceful. After checking for a heartbeat, he said, “She’s gone.” I mumbled, “It’s hard.” And he said, “I know.”
The vet’s final words were, “You did the right thing. The mass was huge.”
While I could have stayed longer, I left immediately.
And today, I still find myself in tears. Last night there was the empty spot where she slept. Today I will move the comforter and dishes, toys and other reminders of my dear friend. The sweet dog who would come put her head on my knee when my tears overtook me. All though my illness she was with me. I never felt alone with Sam by my side. Today, I do.