The Hard Part (remembering our dog, part 3 of 3)
She Was An Old Dog After All
Angel’s health started to fail her. She was already old when we got her, but in her last months walking got even harder. Walks got shorter and shorter, replaced by yard time instead. She needed to be carried more often. There were accidents in the house and she couldn’t sleep through the night.
Still, she didn’t seem to be in pain and her life could have continued on this way. We really wished that she could have stayed longer.
Then one day something else went wrong.
Angel Had A Brain Event
We don’t know what it was exactly. It could have been a tumor, a stroke or a lesion. One evening walk in the yard we saw that Angel was making left circles. It seemed like an inner ear thing. We took Angel to the vet but the vet told us that it’s something else. Plus Angel was presenting pain.
No MRIs were done. How could we? This dog was 15, she would need to be sedated. That alone could kill her. And if it is a brain tumor, then what?
The emergency visit was the beginning of the quality of life conversation and ultimately the big decision.
Angel needed a lot of care the next two weeks, but it wasn’t about that. We were watching to see if she was in pain. Some days were good. She’d get up just fine, maybe even run around. Other days were bad. She couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t walk in the yard. In the end she couldn’t even lay down on her side to sleep.
Dogs mask their pain but after a while we could see it on her anyways.
Soon there were more bad days than good. Angel could no longer get out of bed without help. She became incontinent. When she slept she always slept upright instead of on her side. Towards the end I don’t know if she even had a good night’s sleep.
The last resort was pain management. Maybe if there was a pain med that could help her, then she could be with us a while longer.
The vet gave us Tramadol. As it turns out dogs find it disgusting. We tried every trick. Compounded liquid version in chicken, in treats, in rice. Pill version in treats, in fish, in chicken, with and without a piller. She would just spit it out. Then she would freak out. Then she would no longer trust us and skip her meals.
We went to the vet to have the vet tech show us how to pill Angel. She showed the tech who’s boss. The tech called in a senior tech. The senior tech tried a few times but Angel had her way anyways. Just food flying everywhere and little white pill on the floor. Finally, one last try, the pill made it down Angel’s throat.
Two vet techs, every trick in the book and a traumatized dog just to get one of her three daily pills down. Plus the Tramadol that she did take wasn’t much help. She was still hurting.
This was not going to add to her quality of life. She was hurting more and more often.
We made the decision to let her go.
We spoiled Angel as best we could for her last week. Her meals were chicken and fish. She met all her dog friends. People visited the house to say goodbye to her with lots of pets and hugs.
Halfway through the week we went to Carl and Annie’s house. Angel, this hurting dog that could barely walk, ended up walking for three hours straight. Then she lay down briefly only to get up and run around with the pack. At the end of the day she went to the kitchen to watch Carl cook.
When we got home she was so tired that she wouldn’t get out of her car crate. We just carried the whole thing into the house.
Angel’s last day was Saturday, February 14, 2015. We got up early in the morning. Gave Angel her fish and chicken meal, then got in the car and drove to the vet.
Usually Angel is in the crate for car trips, but on this trip she was in the back seat with me. Nady drove.
I held her for the whole car ride. We hit traffic so our drive went from an hour and a half to two hours. I love traffic.
Angel cuddled up in the back seat and patiently accepted my overbearing pets, hugs and kisses. I wanted to remember her soft fur, her little bones, her bad breath. Then she got sick of me and got up to sit by the window by herself. Eventually she came back for more hugs.
When we got to the vet I was hoping there would be another delay, but they had the room ready for us.
We walked into the room. There was a soft blanket on the floor. Angel knew something was up but not for the reason you might think. This was the same room we used to try to give her Tramadol the week before. She was not looking forward to more meds.
We sat down on the floor with her. The vet explained what would happen. Then the tech took Angel away to put in an IV. In the meantime we signed paperwork.
Then they brought Angel back and she got into Nady’s lap again.
The vet came in but Angel was still a little freaked out from the IV. While we waited for her to calm down Angel got out of the lap and went to the door. Even with all the stress and pain she still asked to be let out to go to the bathroom.
Angel went outside, did her business, then came back in. She got back into Nady’s lap, now more calm. This was it.
It would take 15 seconds. She wouldn’t feel anything. It’s an overdose of anesthesia.
The vet put the syringe into the IV. Nady had Angel in her lap. I was holding Angel’s head. Angel was looking out the window. The vet pressed the plunger.
She still looked the same, felt the same, smelled the same. It took some time for her eyes and tongue to change. We stayed in that room for an hour and a half.
I kept hoping that it didn’t take and she would pop up and run around the room. I wanted to take her body back home with us. This was the right decision for her. There would be no more pain. She lived a full life and we gave her a good last year.
But screw all that. At that last moment I was selfish. I knew why we were there and I still wanted her back. I still wished we hadn’t made the right decision. I sometimes still do.
When we were ready the tech came in and carried her body out to another room. It looked like a teddy bear.
(Edit: I had this song on repeat as I wrote this)
We’ve never lost a dog before. We tried to prepare ourselves for it once the decision was made. We had talked to many people, dog owners, who had gone through this. We just didn’t understand until now.
This is the worst (and yes, there are other pains in the world that could be worse, but I’m not writing about anything else).
The house is empty now. For a small dog that mostly slept all day she occupied a lot of spaces in the house. There are many beds and crates. There are bowls and towels. There are harnesses and leashes.
I don’t want to touch any of it. The brush and shampoo bottle are still on the sink from when I washed her a few days before. Her empty bowl with some rice left over is still on the kitchen table. Her pill minder, with all the doses finished except Saturday night is still there too.
We didn’t want to keep her ashes. But I have her collar and I wear it on my wrist when we take Luna out.
Seems like there’s time now to do other stuff, to move on with our lives. Go back to work, do projects, go out in the evenings. But I don’t want any of it. I just want to be stuck in the house with her again.