I’ve been spotty on social media lately. Blogs have been sporratic and usually relating to me documenting my writing challenge this month. My not-so-cryptic “No camping, spending one last day with my best friend” tweet was as bad as it sounded. As we were preparing to leave for the weekend to go camping and to the Ren Faire, we realized the tumor on our dog’s hip was growing really fast. A lot since this past Saturday when the vet told us he had cancer.
But let’s back this train up a bit. Three months ago he was incredibly sick and we thought we were going to lose him. We were able to curb the infections he had going on to bring him back to healthy as a sixteen year old black lab can be. His hips were going, and he had trouble getting up. He did get three more good months with us. When the bump on his hip showed up were were concerned he broke something or dislocated his hip. X-ray showed it to be a tumor with one just as big in his belly.
I made the call in to a house service that deals only in home euthanasia. You’ve likely seen the photo journal that went viral of a similar service being done for a lab named Dutch in the news. I know I did, and it helped a lot in making the decision. I didn’t want to be the one to call, but I knew I had to be. Aladdin wasn’t in significant pain, but he wasn’t comfortable, and all he could do was sleep, eat and go outside once in a while. It was time, just about the perfect timing, before he started to really suffer.
Note: I cannot reccommend Dr. Hilst (JourneysPet.com) enough. She made his last day comfortable and provides an awesome service I hadn’t even been aware was available three months ago when we thought it would be time.
We’d been spoiling him for the last few weeks to a month. He took a drive by the apartment my son just signed a lease for. We went out for burgers. He was given some of most anything we had for supper on any given night (and we avoided dog unfriendly food because of this). And our son spent the last month or so sleeping downstairs with him since he couldn’t do the steps anymore. Still, that photo journal of Dutch’s last day gave me what I needed to know. We scheduled the vet to come in at 7:00 that night. We had the whole day to spend with him doing all his favorite things he could still do.
Our son stopped in to work for a couple hours to get things in order and get the rest of the day off. I told my parents what was going on and gave them the option to come say goodbye. I asked my mother to call my sister as I couldn’t talk about it on the phone any more. I had to drive over to tell my parents.
They all came to visit, give him pets, and said goodbye. We told stories and laughed. Particularly about the time when he was staying with my parents while we were on vacation and stood at their bedroom door staring in at them. My father told him to just come on in. He then shouted and did a ducking roll off the bed and onto the floor as the dog sprung from four feet to launch onto the bed. I’m pretty sure he stole my fathers spot too.
We dressed him up in his pirate gear, that he hasn’t worn for a while. With the health problems we left it off so it wouldn’t bother him. But he loved his bandanas. Probably five or six years ago after the groomer first put one of those cheap ones on him after a bath he just strutted around with it on, showing it off. After that we started picking him up cool ones. The pirate one was the last one we gave him, and it was by far the coolest. And if he was going out, he’d do it as a pirate.
Aladdin was a fan of burgers, just like Dutch was, but he was a fan of anything I was cooking that night. Particularly he was a fan of steak. I had a package with the two round steaks we had picked up for camping. I made them both, and baked the chicken breast as well. I knew that I’d have to feed my family too. They had the chicken. I made both steaks out to a medium rare with criss-crossed grill marks on it. I sliced the first one up and he inhaled it. Which meant I was totally going to save the second one for a while before cutting that one up for him. He savored the second one a bit more.
I’d considered making a batch of the Snugglepumpkin cupcakes for him. The ones themed from Oberon the Irish Wolfhound from the Kevin Hearne books. I decided against it since I didn’t want him overdoing it. He did eat both steaks after all. Also it gave me more time to spend with him.
We watched television and gave him pets. Robin took him out for a walk around the condo development. The entire time he’d look up and I could tell he was having a great day. All his people were with him, and he craved being around his people. That’s why his boy staying with him in the living room these past weeks was so good for him. He just looked up every now and again with his wide doggie grin.
After the last visitor was gone and he was with us, he napped. He took one last nap with his boy, using him as a pillow. It was the most comfortable sleep he’d had in a while. He didn’t stir much at all and just relaxed into the pets and snoozed. It felt like the best way to spend some comfort time with him. And it was something I think we all needed.
The vet came in and took care of everything for us. She explained the process and even told us where he would be going after leaving us. It was something we’d never had explained to us before and it was kind of a relief.
He had a relaxing end and we were given as much time as we needed to be with him. The vet made a pair of clay paw prints for us (one for my son to take to his new apartment), and left us with instructions to bake them. My son even helped her to take the stretcher out to her car. Aladdin was to big a dog for her to handle alone and her assistant was pregnant and not supposed to be lifting. My son said it felt right, taking him out one last time.
This morning it was quiet in the condo. Once my son fully moves out, the condo will be really quiet. Especially on the nights my wife is in Milwaukee.
I woke up several times during the night. There was something off in the house. A stillness to it. There was one less breath in the condo making the hum of background that made it a home. Soon, there will be another breath gone from the house. This coming Tuesday, when I get home from my writers group to be the only one in the condo, the silence will be deafening.
Even then, I will have a clay paw print sitting next to a pirate bandana. A reminder that the condo will never be truly empty. That he will never be fully gone. And that no matter what farmer’s field his remains were sprinkled over, I know he is back at that beach in Door County where he loved to go rock climbing. He’s still chasing off the gulls from the shore, splashing through the water. Turning to look back over his shoulder when they were all gone as if to say, “What’s taking you so long? Come on!”
And I will remember that day. It was a good day.