Warning: potential man tears ahead.
Every Trad Family has a loyal companion and dear friend.
Two weeks ago, my mother noticed our family dog was acting differently. He stopped eating and drinking quite suddenly on Saturday, and his hind legs became very weak. He had been suffering from Chronic Heart Disease for the past two years. We’ve had our fair share of scary CHF episodes and emergency trips to the Vet, but this looked like the journey’s final end. My older brother happen to be planning a visit soon anyway, so he took the early flight on Tuesday to say his goodbyes (we had gotten our dog for his 15th birthday as an awesome present all those years ago, so he was the “official” owner, and probably felt the closest out of all of us.) My brother was definitely an emotional wreck to see how skinny our dog had gotten in just the few months between his last visit. We were all hoping he would pass peacefully in his sleep, but he sadly started to get violent seizures that Tuesday evening.
I ultimately made the push. No reason to make him suffer any longer, and followed the backup plan accordingly. I drove us in the rainy night. Very surreal experience.
My mother wrapped him up in the same blanket that my sister had when she passed from SIDS (before my time, but she was smart to sell her position and get out, before my brother and I got to play up her middle child syndrome. Ain’t that right Big Sis )
Amazing to have a nearby 24-hour animal center built just before our dog became ill. The amazing facility, staff, and doctors all heroically served as our safe landing zone in the following years, time and time again (just recently received a beautiful card and handwritten condolences to prove it.)
Thankfully we were the only visitors at that late hour. We all each held him in the hospital patient room as we waited for the Vet. I was petting his head as the Doc injected the serine. My brother and mother were crying of course, but I told them to face the back of him. I didn’t want him to see his family being sad in his last moments. I kept strong in front of his lying head; softly rubbing behind his ears as all dogs do seem to enjoy, just as his eyes drifted to sleep. Mom soothed his stomach, my brother held his paw. It goes very quickly. They each carried his now-limp body one more time, but I refused because my last memory with him was when he was alive. That’s how I wanted to remember his vessel. We left him wrapped in Big Sis’ blanket on the table. My brother and mother stepped through the hall door back to the lobby. I grinned at our little guy through the patient room’s door window. He seemed peaceful.
Very somber, but it was exactly how I wanted it to go. My brother in town and all of the people who loved him surrounding as he passes. The house feels weird now and I still catch myself not opening the garage door too fast since he used to sleep on the carpet waiting for us to get home, or wondering if I had brought him outside before his bedtime, or had given his medications this afternoon, or why I didn’t hear his claws on the hard wood this morning. But it’s been getting easier to adjust to the thought. My mother picked up his ashes and our family blanket this past week. He is currently snoring away on the dresser beside her rosary. Still keeping her company bedside, as he had done faithfully for his last tour of duty in these recent years.
As mentioned, it was a rainy night and I had drove. Exactly how it was when my father passed, when I drove my brother and I to the hospice on that rainy late night to meet my mother and grandmother. My father, who passed away 2 years ago from cancer, was very adamant against having a dog at first. He didn’t even fully adore him the way my brother and I did. Yet, Dad happened to give our dog his very namesake. And what is even more ironic? The lovely couple shared the same birthday. My brother and I used to joke with our father that we’d forget his birthday in place of the dog’s. Just like with Homer Simpson….our oddball nuclear family mirrored America’s most famous, to a tee!
Both Dad and dog learned to live with each other in a classic love/hate dynamic, or at least; Dad didn’t get as furious when he took him out to pee, and our sometimes frustrating-but lovable and enduring canine thanked him by pooping on our expensive Arabian carpet (for the fiftieth time.) And that weird bond between them kept going even after my father departed, with our dog getting his very first episode and ensuing CHF diagnosis on Dad’s one-year anniversary. Getting the last laugh in both birth and death. Although my Mom was not immune either; having his last attack on her 60th birthday. Forcing me to whisk away from the festivities and making her momentarily anguished on her own day of joy (got the Vet’s okay just shortly after I arrived, kept over for only a night.) Swear life is like a staged television comedy sometimes! “End of an era” I like to think, because our dog’s passing is sort of like a middleman point of reference between fond memories and hopeful, upcoming new chapters. The next dog I own will be shared by my children.
My brother and I were thinking of sneaking in and burying our buddy’s ashes alongside my father to keep him company, where eventually my mother will rest too. Sometime during a foggy moonlit midnight probably: we want to be sure graveyard spirits haunt our wretched souls forever after.
We like to think our dog was waiting for my brother to come home one last time. He had it in him too, since he lasted longer than all of the life expectancies my Vet gave him. Maximum was a year. He gave us two, like a Champ!