Monday, September 28, 2009

It Only Hurts When I Think About Him

Once upon a time, we had four pets. Two dogs and two cats. Sweetie Pie and I were like the Brady bunch, I came into the relationship with the two cats, he came with the two dogs, and when we moved in together, we made everyone learn to get along.

Eventually, we lost Sweetie Pie's lab to cancer, a horrible disease that meant that I had to hold that big yellow head on my lap, whispering how much I love him as the vet injected him with poison to stop his heart and his suffering.

Then, a year or two ago (time seems so fluid to me since I've had children, where the years all seem interchangeable and the only change is how big my children are getting), my younger cat (then 8 years old), suddenly disappeared. Either he headed for a better home where he'd be fed filet mignon every day, or he was snatched by a coyote who's first name was definitely not Wile E. since this cat, albeit fat, was quick.

Then there was Satan's Dog, our first lab's replacement and the dog that still can not be spoken of without dismay, the dog who loved with all his heart, when he wasn't leaving a path of destruction. The dog that I finally got rid of when he attacked our Old Dog so badly that the poor old dog was left missing a piece of his lip. And I became frightened for my children, my toddler and my then brand new baby, because if the dog was willing to turn on his best friend who he adored, why wouldn't he do the same to one of my kids? So I made the devastatingly difficult to give the dog up to a non-kill shelter, who looked for a new home for him without kids or other dogs.

Earlier this year, my old cat, the one I'd had since I was 14, the one who saw me through gawkiness and acne, the slutty years and let me feed her hot dog when we were stranded in Atlanta on our way to moving to Dallas, the one who saw me grow up and then saw my children be born (not literally, obviously, I don't know of any hospital who'd allow a cat to serve as your doula).

And then there was one. His name was chosen by me, and I'd known him since he was this little fur ball of a few months, a little ball that would lay on my lap, his head tucked between my chest and my arm. He was sweet, he was loving, he was quiet, and I loved him to pieces because despite being a dog, he had the personality of a cat. He didn't need to be in your face all the time, he was perfectly content laying in the same room as you for company. Or not, as he often chose to sleep on our bed while I worked in the living room.

Old Dog didn't care about most people, really, not disliking them, per se and greeting them so that they would know he was a dog, but he just rocked, is all. When I brought Little Man home, Old Dog, every time I'd let him in would run right for the bassinette, climb carefully with his front paws on the window sill and look in the bassinette to make sure the little human was ok. Once, Little Man had actually accepted to sleep in his crib, and when the dog ran in and saw that the child was missing from the bassinette, he practically freaked out and ran over to make me aware that the baby was missing. I think this might be the one and only time he pulled a Lassie move. It was unlike him and reminded me that he cared more than his aloofness would let on.

When Tiny Man came, Old Dog didn't care, as he'd long learned that infants grow up to be children who love to throw bouncy balls at his head. Tiny Man, however, was completely enamored with the dog, his whole little face lighting up, grabbing the dog's nose, ears, fur, whatever was in reach while squealing in his ear to show his love and adoration. Not once did the dog growl or even sigh as he was tortured by the baby. He considered it his duty to be a baby punching bag apparently, and he did it so well.

A few months ago, the dog began to have issues. He would pee all the time, sometime couldn't wait until he got outside and he would drink like crazy. A trip to the vet found him to be diabetic. I learned to give insulin shots, he was put on a special diet and life went on. Then in August, while we were in Canada, the dog, while staying at the vet's had three seizures. The vet asked me if I'd seen him having a seizure and I felt horrible, thought maybe I hadn't been observant enough, since really, I hadn't noticed anything. The dog was put on an epilepsy drug as well, and life went on.

Except that it didn't. The dog began to have more and more seizures. The medicine was supposed to take two weeks to regulate his system, but at week three, he was having multiple seizures a day, pooping in the house, having issues with his back legs and my husband demanded answers from the vet, but none that could be provided without spending $2,000 in full body scans. Money that we didn't have, nor were we willing to spend on a 10-year old dog.

This morning, I came home from dropping off the kids at school and found the dog tangled in our swing bench in the backyard. His collar was caught on a rod and he was howling in pain or from an epilepsy attack. His whole body was wedged between two parts of the bench, his paws caught in different parts. As I tried to free him, I either hurt him or he got scared, and he bit me. But even at his worse moment in life, my sweet, sweet dog didn't even bite hard enough to break the skin. I somehow freed him and he began to flop like a fish, a horrible sight that will remain burned in my brain for a long, long time. I rushed inside the house and called Sweetie Pie in hysterics, who jumped in his truck to head home. I called the vet to make them aware of the situation and then headed back out to be with my dog, who was now laying in the grass, panting heavily and whining in pain, his back legs stretched out in a distorted manner.

I rubbed that dog's head, a head that I've rubbed and kissed probably 10 thousand times during the past 10 years. I told him how sorry I was that I put him outside, because I'd done so to prevent yet another accident on my cream carpets. I cursed myself for my selfishness and cried. And then I held him some more. When Sweetie Pie got home, we placed him on a blanket and carried him to the truck. When we got to the vet's office, they brought my sweet dog to the back and I could see them testing his reflexes, and I could see his paws not responding. When I saw this, my brain knew that it was over and my heart broke in so many pieces that it will be a long time before it's whole again.

The vet confirmed the paralysis for us and told us that either the dog had a severe seizure that caused it, or else an undiagnosed spinal tumor is the cause of everything the dog has gone through these past months.

He then told us it was time to let the dog go. And I cried some more, and Sweetie Pie, for the third time in all of our years together cried too. I told the vet I needed to be with Old Dog when he died, because no matter how much it hurts, I cannot have one of my pets die alone on a cold veterinarian table.

And so they brought him in and he wailed in my lap and I told him that he was a good dog and sorry I was that I couldn't take his pain away. I told him how much we loved him and how much we'd miss him. How much he lit up my children's lives and how grateful I am that they got to know him.

Today I grieve. I grieve for my favorite dog. I grieve for the fact that I'm writing this in a pet-free home,something I haven't know in 25 years. I grieve for the fact that his collar is the only thing I have of his. I grieve for the fact that I need to explain to my four-year old that he's lost yet another pet. I grieve for Tiny Man who's too young to understand what happened and will more likely look for his dog when he gets home tonight.

But most of all, I grieve because tonight, there won't be a giant ball of fur with the softest ears ever made laying in my spot in bed. There won't be a dog there for me to snuggle, who'll just sigh and get up to leave because he doesn't like to snuggle.

I miss you Old Dog.




wherewiller said...

Damn, you just made my cry at work.

I'm so sorry.

wherewiller said...

See, I can't even type straight through the tears. Made ME cry.

Burgh Baby said...

I'm so sorry. As much as The Four Crazies make me, well, nuts, I can't imagine losing them all within such a short time frame.


jempress said...

oh, catwoman, i'm so sorry! i'm crying at your loss - *hugs* to you and your family during this time of tears.

susan said...

I'm so, so sorry!!! *hugs* ~bawl~

ccr in MA said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It just sucks, no two ways about it. Sniff.

Anonymous said...

You know I went through something similar almost a year ago with Baylee. You know what a wreck I was and how I still struggle.

I KNOW how you feel. I KNOW how your heart is broken and your stomach aches thinking of what is no longer. I KNOW that the sadness will be there for a long, long time.

I'm thinking of you and your family. Big, huge hugs to all of you!

Nina Diane said...

oh man....I hate that. I'm so sorry. it hurts terrible...I wish those pets of ours had longer life spans. hugs to you....

CPA Mom said...

oh honey, as I struggle with the age and health of my own dear dog (10 years) and have to likely make the same decision any day now, my heart breaks for you. Absolutely breaks. I am just so sorry. My love to you all.

Haphazardkat said...

My insides hurt for your loss. :(
I'm so sorry, Catwoman.

Ms. Porter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the planet of janet said...

i'm so sorry, honey.


Helen said...

I'm so sorry. I had to have my dog put down twenty-something years ago and I was with her at the end. Like you, I told her how much I loved her and how much I would miss her. I still do.

And now I'm crying again.

And she didn't like snuggles either.

Thanks for writing this.

Karen - Mommy to four sweeties said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

He knew you loved him until the very end. He is okay now.

I know exactly how you feel. I lost(she had to be put to sleep) my 16 year old cat 2 and a half years ago and still get all choked up when I think of her.

Emma in Canada said...

Well, it's been a few days since I cried, so thanks for letting me get the waterworks going.

I am so sorry for you.

Anonymous said...

: (

I'm so sorry for your loss!

A's Mom said...

He sounds like he was a wonderful part of your family. It's amazing how much they fill up our lives. I'm sorry for your loss.

Susan said...

My daughter just asked why the computer was making me cry. I'm so sorry.

If cats could be doulas, they could be doggie hospice workers, too, right?

He was a lucky dog.

rachel said...

I'm so sorry. clicked through from blogher. I've lost too many pets, and know how much it hurts. I'm so sorry for you and your family.

Betsy Mae said...

i've moved blogs...i didn't have your email in my contact info.

i hope you are doing okay, i sure know how hard it is as i've been through it. it takes a long time before you can walk through the front door and not feel that empty feeling.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss...